County’s least popular schools revealed

Chelmsford’s Hylands School is the least popular secondary school in Essex after filling only 60 per cent of its Year 7 capacity.

Just 108 students started at the school in Year 7 in September even though the school has the capacity to take 180 students – referred to as the published admissions number (PAN).

Hylands was rated as requires improvement in its Ofsted inspection in December 2019 after inspectors picked up there were “inconsistencies in teaching” leading to some pupils not learning as well as they should do.

The school was one of 30 schools in Essex that had places left in Year 7 at the start of September last year.

Other schools which performed badly included the Basildon Lower Academy, with 291 students starting in Year 7 even though the school has a PAN of 450,  and Brentwood County High School (BCHS), which saw 14 students start even though it has a PAN of 210, leaving 31 per cent of places unfilled.

BCHS has improved since 2018 when despite making offers to 117 students, just 100 students started school in September.

Other school in Brentwood and the surrounding area – St Martins, Ursuline, Becket Keys, The Ongar Academy – all met their quota.

Shenfield High School has a PAN of 150 but 248 students started in Year 7.

Gary Smith, headteacher of the Basildon Academies, denied staff numbers may have to be reduced due to overcapacity.

He said: “Quite the opposite. We have increased our staff numbers as we have experienced a continued growth in pupil numbers into Year 7 over the past three years.

“We currently have 303 in Year 7.

“Additionally we admitted over 130 mid-term applications into the academies during last academic year.”

A spokesman for Brentwood County High School said: “We currently have 147 children in year 7 and we have no intention to alter the school’s planned admissions number.

“The future pupil place planning document indicates larger numbers of pupils over the next few years and we are very pleased to announce that the Department for Education are supporting a full refurbishment project of the BCHS site which will allow the intake of 240 children in 2023.

“This is a very exciting time for Brentwood County High School.

“The staffing compliment of the school is always designed to suit the pupil numbers on roll and to effectively deliver the full curriculum.”

Hylands School has been approached for comment but did not respond by the time of publication.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter