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Parents make the most of Norwich schools choice

PUBLISHED: 18:30 07 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:06 01 July 2010

Steve Downes

Norwich parents are voting with their feet as falling pupil numbers mean a greater choice of schools, the Evening News can reveal.

Norwich parents are voting with their feet as falling pupil numbers mean a greater choice of schools, the Evening News can reveal.

The most popular city schools are cashing in on the countywide pupil downturn, while others look set to see a significant fall in pupils from September.

Many will also have scores of empty places because of the reduction in students, which is happening because of the small number of babies born in Norwich and Norfolk 11 years ago.

The situation means tens of thousands of pounds are being wiped from some school budgets and teachers are being made redundant to make ends meet.

But the situation has an upside for parents, who are finding it far easier to get places for their children at their chosen schools.

In Norwich, it is illustrated by the way in which parents have turned on to City Academy Norwich (CAN) since it replaced Earlham High on Earlham Road in September last year.

The number of youngsters joining year seven last year was 84, but the figure has almost doubled to 163 for this September.

Principal David Brunton said: “Over the last few years people in our community lost a bit of faith in the school and I think they are starting to get it back.

“We are absolutely delighted, but it's now up to us to deliver on our aspirations.”

While CAN is booming, it appears to be at the expense of near neighbours Costessey High - which will become an academy in September - and The Hewett School on Cecil Road.

At The Hewett, 143 pupils will join year seven in September, compared with 189 last year. At Costessey, the number is down from 154 to 108.

However, City of Norwich School, which has long been seen as the most popular in the area, has filled its allocation again, with 242 pupils signed up.

Richard Snowden, head of pupil support at Norfolk County Council, said: “From the parents' point of view, if there are more places in the system there are greater prospects of them getting their first preference.

“That is illustrated by the fact that this year 95pc of people got their first choice schools, compared with 92.5pc last year.”

The Evening News has year seven numbers for every state secondary school in the county for 2008, 2009 and 2010.

They show how overall numbers in the year have fallen by more than 600 in two years - from 8,867 in 2008 to 8,570 in 2009 and 8.262 this year.

The empty spaces are a headache for schools because each pupil is funded by the government at an average of £3,955 per year.

Norfolk was hit by low birth rates from 1994 to 2002, and the lower pupil numbers have been affecting schools for the last few years. The downturn is expected to hit high schools until 2013, when improved birth rates from 2002 onwards will reverse the downward trend.

t Did your child miss out on his of her first choice school? Call Steve Downes on 01603 772495 or email steve.downes@archant.co.uk.

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