‘An academy in Knowsley, Merseyside, is under fire after it announced plans to close its sixth form, which will bring to an end A-level provision in the borough.
Halewood academy was the last school offering A-levels in the area but is now consulting on plans to close its sixth form to new students from September as a result of financial cutbacks and dwindling pupil numbers.
If agreed, the decision means that students in Knowsley, which is the worst-performing local authority at GCSE in England, will have to travel to neighbouring boroughs if they want to study A-levels.
Labour’s shadow education secretary, Lucy Powell, condemned the move, saying it went to the heart of what is wrong with “the fragmented education system” the Tories are creating and flagged up concerns about government plans to convert all schools to academies in the next six years.
She said: “Local pupils, parents, Knowsley council and MPs want to ensure sixth-form provision for young people in the area yet no one is accountable for the decision this school is making.
“It beggars belief that this will leave Knowsley with no A-level provision, damaging aspiration and the choices of young people.”
The Halewood consultation follows a decision by two other A-level providers in the area, Knowsley Community college and All Saints Catholic High school, to stop offering A-level courses last September.
Only two other local authorities in England currently have no state-funded schools with sixth-form provision – the City of London and the Scilly Isles.
The decision at Halewood will once again raise concerns about the quality of education provision in Knowsley, which has a population of 146,000. Education in the borough has been criticised by the chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who highlighted the growing educational divide between north and south in a recent speech.’ - The Guardian
‘The Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport claimed many parents were “rightly angry and frustrated” about the potential impact, including on students midway through their studies.
There had been fears Year 12 pupils would have to finish their A Levels elsewhere, but the council said it had received assurances they will be able to stay on for Year 13 at Halewood if they wish.
Maria Eagle said: “I am deeply concerned by the proposed closure and the lack of proper consultation.
"It is not right those pupils who want to continue their education beyond 16 should have to leave the borough.
“While responsibility for schools has been removed from Knowsley council, the council must stand up against these proposals.
“I have spoken to many parents who are rightly angry and frustrated. The recent OFSTED inspection did not suggest closing the sixth form – indeed to do so will undermine the school’s future.”
She said she planned to meet the principal and had written to him and the education secretary, Nicky Morgan.
A Knowsley council spokeswoman said the school’s academy status meant it was no longer accountable to the council, but both were working together to improve standards and assist current sixth form students.
A Knowsley council spokeswoman said: “We asked for and have been given reassurances that the sixth form will be kept open for Year 12 pupils if they decide to finish their studies at Halewood, and we would encourage them to do so.”
Principal Gary Evans said the closure would secure the academy’s financial future.
He said: “Halewood Academy has had to review its sixth form provision due to a reduction in funding and student under-subscription.
“Sixth form student numbers are too low to make the sixth form viable. The governors have made the difficult but necessary decision to consult on closure.
“The consultation period has been extended to six weeks to give all stakeholders time to contribute. The academy is working hard with Knowsley Council to ensure individual pupils are catered for as a result of the proposal.” ‘ - Liverpool Echo