Proposal made to shut down sixth form in Haverhill

Castle Manor Academy in Eastern Avenue, Haverhill ANL-151118-133303001
Castle Manor Academy in Eastern Avenue, Haverhill ANL-151118-133303001

Haverhill could lose one of its two sixth form centres should Castle Manor Academy press ahead with a proposal to shut theirs.

The Directors of the Castle Partnership Academy Trust and Local Governing Body at Castle Manor Academy have decided to consult on the proposal not to recruit new Sixth Form students from September 2016.

The decision has been taken, said the school ‘following much discussion and with considerable regret’ and in effect, the proposal means that the sixth form would close when the current Year 12 students complete their studies in summer 2017.

Speaking about the closure the chairman of the board of directors, John Baillie, said: “It is with regret that we find ourselves needing to face this difficult decision.

“Many of our students go on to be very successful at larger sixth form colleges in Haverhill, Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds.

“It is here, or via the wide variety of opportunities that are available post 16, that we feel students will get the best outcomes.”

The future of school sixth forms has been highlighted in the media over many months, particularly in light of the budget changes for post-16 funding which have gradually declined over the last two years.

The average sixth form college has around 1,700 students, while the average school sixth form has over 200.

The Department for Education recognises that sixth forms with less than 200 students struggle to deliver a broad programme at a sufficiently high standard and are at high risk of not being viable financially.

Castle Manor Academy has 57 students in the sixth form and, in recent years, has never had more than 127, despite continued efforts to rebrand and recruit, working with the local authority, other providers, students, industry and other stakeholders.

Large sixth form colleges are only able to offer a wide range of courses because of the large volumes of students they house.

In reality this means for Castle Manor Academy students that they must either go elsewhere or pick from the limited range of courses it have been able to offer.

This limits a student’s ability to choose what they would either like to do, or would be more suited to, in preparation for higher education or employment.

Hence, in making the decision, directors and governors want the most appropriate and best options for all their students.

In changing the age range from 11-18 to 11-16, this will allow resources to be focused on improving outcomes for Years 7 to 11 whilst also ensuring that students moving on have the best access to courses.

A four-week consultation period runs from now until December 11 and provides all stakeholders with the opportunity to present their opinions.

The views of everybody will be welcomed and this can be done via the Castle Manor website by December 11.

Students wanting to stay in Haverhill for their post-16 education would still be able to apply go to the sixth form at Samuel Ward Academy.

The sixth form currently has 238 students, but head of school, Andy Prestoe, said it would be able to take more if Castle Manor closes its sixth form.

He said: “Can we take additional students? Yes. We’ve got a history of working with Castle Manor in the past and we are more than happy at looking at the option of working with them.

“The one thing that is really important, above any one school or another, is that Haverhill retains post-16 education.

“Our interest has always been to serve the community and post-16 education in Haverhill is important, and it’s important that people get the chance to stay in Haverhill if they want to.”