Recruitment figures deal a fresh blow to Hewett School and Sewell Park College

Sewell Park College. Picture: Denise Bradley

Sewell Park College. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

The challenge facing two troubled city high schools have intensified after it emerged that more than half the places for new pupils are likely to be unfilled next September.

Hewett School sign and entrance on Hall Road. Picture: Denise Bradley

Hewett School sign and entrance on Hall Road. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

Both the Hewett School and Sewell Park College have suffered disappointing GCSE results in recent years, and are reeling from Ofsted reports which put them in special measures last November.

Although monitoring inspections last term noted real improvement at the schools, the news that Sewell Park has only filled one third of its places for new the Year 7, and the Hewett filled less than 40pc, will add to their difficulties.

Their vacancy rates are the highest in Norfolk, and the numbers are particularly stark for Sewell Park, which saw its number of Year 7 vacancies rise from 96 last September to an anticipated 139 next September.

The figures, supplied by Norfolk County Council, are based on high school places offered to parents and pupils on March 2.

John Catton, chairman of Sewell Park's interim executive board, which replaced its governors last summer, blamed a recent dip in high school pupil numbers in the Norwich area - which is now starting to reverse - as well as its poor performance in recent years.

He said: 'That's something which we are very confident that can be worked through, and we think that within a few years, with the up-turn in outcomes of the school, which we fully anticipate this year, recruitment will turn around and that will help the school go from strength to strength.'

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Falling pupil numbers will lead to falling income for both schools, which are currently in the midst of restructuring processes which will see staff levels cut.

However, Mr Catton said the fall in pupil numbers was 'very much in line' with the planning they did ahead of the staff re-organisation.

Across the greater Norwich area, the number of places on offer, and the number of places filled, have both risen by about 50 between September 2014 and September 2015.

However, the number of unfilled places across the area remained at just under 500.

The Jane Austen College, a free school run by the Inspiration Trust, opened in Colegate in September 2014, adding an extra 180 Year 7 places to the system.

The figures for September 2015 suggest it will fill 143 places, compared to 140 last year.

Five schools in the greater Norwich area have filled all their places for incoming Year 7 pupils: City of Norwich School, Framingham Earl High, Hellesdon High, Notre Dame High and Thorpe St Andrew School.

And while Sewell Park and the Hewett are struggling with student recruitment, Hellesdon High School last month completed a consultation on increasing its number of planned admissions for 2016-17, 'in line with the school's growing popularity'.

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