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School’s sixth form to close as student numbers fall

    By Nicki Jakeman  

WITHERNSEA High School is to phase out its sixth form from September 2020. It follows falling numbers of students wishing to stay after their GSCEs.

Now, in the wake of a decision by the school’s governing body, headteacher Mark Crofts informed staff and sent letters to parents and carers on September 25.

Over the last year a consultation was carried out by members of the school’s governing body and the senior leadership team due to a decrease in the number of students entering years 12 and 13, which make up the sixth form. The review was undertaken to ensure sustainability of Key Stage 5 provision, whilst meeting the needs of learners across the whole school.

Parents have been reassured the change will not affect students currently enrolled on Key Stage 5 courses. Those who joined the sixth form last month are still due to complete their studies as intended in June 2021.

The school has reassured parents of students in Years 7 to 11 their children will have access to career guidance and advice on what to do after their GCSEs.

In the letter to parents, Mr Crofts said in the last two years, 80 per cent of Year 11 students have decided to head elsewhere for studies. This has had a knock-on effect on courses available, reducing the range of subjects on offer at the school.

Mr Crofts said: “The decision to phase out Key Stage 5 courses has not been taken lightly and has come after an extended period of reflection and evaluation. We, as a school, have taken various steps over a number of years to counterbalance a decreasing uptake for sixth form study, such as combining Year 12 and 13 classes to enable a wider range of courses to run with fewer participants.

“Changing trends over recent years, including the accessibility of a widening variety of courses at local colleges and an increased focus on apprenticeships, meant there have never been more opportunities for our young people in the surrounding area.”

He added the change will enable staffing and resources to focus on the growing number of Year 7 to 11 students, offering them increased opportunities.

“Our aim is to ensure when students leave us at the end of Year 11, they do so with excellent results, fully prepared to take a step into a wide world of great opportunities, and to realise their potential.”

Caroline Heaton, chair of governors said: “I have been a governor for many years and the decision to phase out provision from 2020/21 has been the most difficult we have had to make. Each of my four children attended Withernsea High School, so as you can imagine I have great affinity for the school. Over time it has become apparent that it was going to be difficult to maintain the sixth form provision. This has been due to falling numbers of students applying to join which has led to a reduced suite of subjects we could offer. Last year only 23 students were recruited, with other students having chosen to attend other providers. These other providers are able to offer a much wider suite of subjects and a different student experience.

An East Riding of Yorkshire Council spokesperson said: “Schools have to look at the size of their sixth form in relation to the breadth of courses they are able to offer and the best interests of the students. Sometimes, governors have to make difficult yet pragmatic decisions. Governors at Withernsea have decided that it is in the best interests of the students to phase out their Post-16 offer. Such decisions relate to specific circumstances at an individual school rather than a wider trend.”

*Six people attended a presentation about the changes by Mr Crofts on October 1. They have also been invited to an open evening at the school later this month to speak to Mr Crofts and the school’s partner sixth form providers.

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