High Peak sixth form centre moves a step closer to closure

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Governors at New Mills School are to press forward with plans to close their sixth form centre by July 2018, despite protests from hundreds of people.

A consultation into the future of the further education centre on Church Lane ended last month, with 461 responses being received.

Headteacher Debbie McGloin said: “We believe we have made the best decision to support the school’s future, in the difficult and uncertain political and financial times in which we find ourselves.”

The school wants to close its sixth form centre because it believes it is no longer financially viable, however the final decision rests with Derbyshire County Council’s (DCC) Cabinet.

A DCC spokesman said: “The county council’s cabinet will review the consultation responses and the views of the governing body before deciding whether to go ahead with the proposal.

“If the council decides to go ahead, it will carry out a formal consultation before deciding on the proposal.”
Mrs McGloin said: “We have regretfully come to the conclusion that we are unable to provide the breadth of courses, including a wide range of vocational and A level subjects, that sixth form students need.”

The average sixth form college has around 1,700 students, while the average school sixth form has a little over 200. In January 2016, there were only 87 students on the roll at New Mills School’s sixth form.

The highest number of students was 111 back in 2011. Changes to the way post-16 students are funded in schools and colleges is said to have had a particular impact on small sixth forms.

High Peak MP Andrew Bingham said: “I have met with the headteacher and some parents and I am very concerned over the possible loss of a sixth form provision in the High Peak.

“I am aware that numbers are declining for students but as the sixth form is not closing yet I really do hope something can be done to keep it open.”

Should DCC follow the advice of governors and decide to close the facility, there would be a phased reduction in sixth form provision ahead of its eventual closure in July 2018. This would allow pupils who are now in year 11 to continue on at the sixth form. However, the phased closure would mean this would be the last full intake of pupils.

The closure of the sixth form would not impact on high school students’ education at New Mills School.

Mrs McGloin added: “Our aim is to become an outstanding 11-16 school, and to do so we believe that we must concentrate our energies and expertise on that age range.”