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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Extra places after popularity of Cumbrian academy soars

The popularity of West Cumbria’s first academy school has soared over the last 12 months.

Governors of West Lakes Academy in Egremont have decided that an additional 30 new pupils can be accepted in September on top of the 180 originally agreed to meet the increased demand for places.

It is understood to be an ‘exceptional arrangement’, for one year only.

A total of 201 people had put the academy as their first of three preferences - in previous years it was about 160.

Mrs Vanessa Ray said: “In the end governors decided they would offer 210 places instead of 180 because so many parents had put West Lakes Academy as their first choice of school and the governors did not want to disappoint them.

“The academy has become more and more successful over the years and now had very good examination results. Governors believe this is one of the reasons parents are now making a positive choice to send their children to the academy.”

The existing year seven intake is also oversubscribed. Applications to join the sixth form later this year are already at a record high too.

Governors have had to refuse applications for places during the year and are keen to avoid a similar situation in the September intake.

Karl Connor, councillor for Egremont North, said: “The turnaround at the academy in the last couple of years has been tremendous.

“The standards are really good and the building is fantastic – it’s great that so many people want to go there.”

It is the first time in five years that the academy has been oversubscribed and comes just months after confirmation of the impact it is having on pupils’ levels of progress and achievement.

The academy is ranked in the top two per cent of schools in the country for the progress pupils make over the course of their secondary education. Its GCSE and sixth form exam results have also improved steadily over the last five years.

West Lakes Academy opened in 2008, created from the merger of Wyndham School in the town and Ehenside, from nearby Cleator Moor.

It was one of the county’s first three academies to open under the previous Labour government.

Details of the academy’s gaining popularity emerged in figures released by Cumbria County Council.

It comes after more than 4,770 children were allocated places to start in year seven at secondary schools across Cumbria in September.

Almost 96 per cent of all applications won places at their first-choice schools.

Only seven children across Cumbria failed to get a place at any of the three schools their parents had bid for. In west Cumbria, according to the figures, Keswick School continues to be oversubscribed with several first-choice applications missing out.

Everyone who put Southfield, Stainburn or St Joseph’s Schools in Workington as their first choice have been allocated places at their favoured option.

Cumbria County Council is urging any families offered a place and have since had a change of mind or circumstances to get in touch with its schools admissions unit.

Families unhappy with the place they have been allocated for their child this week must lodge appeals by March 28. Applications had to be submitted last autumn.

The deadline fell before Ofsted inspectors arrived in the county to carry out a blitz on 17 different schools.

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