A second sixth form in Brighton and Hove looks likely to close – but only for two years, bosses said.
The Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) is holding a consultation on whether to close its sixth firm from September next year until September 2022.
It follows the decision to shut the sixth form at Blatchington Mill, made in collaboration with neighbouring Hove Park School which still offers A levels.
The changes, which took effect last September, were presented as a merger of the two schools’ sixth forms.
Yesterday (Wednesday 9 January) PACA principal Mark Poston wrote to parents. He said: “I wanted to let you know that following a detailed review by the academy, with our local governing committee and the Aldridge Education Multi-Academy Trust, we have agreed that:
“We will be undertaking a consultation on a proposal to temporarily suspend the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) sixth form offer from September 2020 until 2022.
“In view of this, we will be working with existing PACA students who may be considering PACA as a sixth form option to identify alternatives to the PACA sixth form in 2019.
“Our existing year 12 students will be able to continue their studies at PACA through to the completion of their courses in 2020.
“Our goal is to relaunch a PACA sixth form in 2022, providing unique options to our students, matching the success of our sister Aldridge Education school BACA (Brighton Aldridge Community Academy) in partnerships with leading employers, sports and arts organisations and building on our success at GCSE level.
“Our focus in undertaking this review has been the best interests of our students. We have been conscious of the decision taken in 2017 to end sixth form provision at nearby Blatchington Mill School, and are working with colleagues in the local authority (Brighton and Hove City Council) and neighbouring schools on this.
“A successful sixth form requires an ambitious combination of breadth and depth of subject offer which we aspire to deliver at PACA from 2022. It also requires student numbers that balance the costs of provision.
“The media has highlighted education finances over recent months. This is particularly the case for post-16 where funding has declined.
“Within Brighton and Hove local authority the average size of the sixth form colleges is around 2,500 students, while the average size of school sixth forms is approximately 200.
“The Department for Education recognises that sixth forms with less than 250 students are at risk of not being financially viable.
“PACA sixth form currently has less than 100 students on roll. The predicted levels of enrolment into PACA’s sixth form until 2022 are not high enough to see an increase from this level.
“We believe that we could not offer the range of courses or the social aspect of larger colleges, and continuing to operate a small sixth form at a deficit would then impact the resources available to all students at the academy.
“Our Ofsted ‘good’ rating and success in examination results has meant that PACA has become an increasingly popular choice for year 7 entry in recent years.
“By 2022 the larger year groups we have seen will have progressed through the academy, giving us the foundation to reopen the PACA sixth form.
“No current students will be affected by the proposal. Irrespective of the outcome of the consultation all current year 12 courses at PACA will be taught until their completion; which is up until July 2020.
“PACA and BACA, as part of Aldridge Education, jointly offer a sports academy pathway for students at both academies. We are keen that we maintain and develop this offer.
“BACA will continue to offer a range of courses to meet the academic interests of students who want to pursue a sports academy route.
“The academy will be hosting a parents evening on (Monday) 21 January for parents who want to know more about this change. Our principal, staff and head of sixth form are available to answer student and parental questions on this. The dates for consultation meetings and the consultation process will be announced shortly.”