Baines School sixth form faces the axe as financial hardships take their toll

Baines School, Poulton.
Baines School, Poulton.
  • College is third in a year to mull over ditching A-levels
  • Real terms drop in funding blamed
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Another Fylde coast sixth form could be set to close amid financial difficulties.

READ MORE: ‘Sixth form review’ shock at Carr Hill

Baines School headteacher Alison Chapman

Baines School headteacher Alison Chapman

Baines School, in Poulton, has today launched a consultation over plans that would see its age range lowered from 11 to 18, catering for pupils up to the age of 16 instead.

The changes, if approved, means the school, on Highcross Road, will stop taking on new A-level students from September 2018.

READ MORE: Parents must wait for Fylde school sixth form review

Current sixth formers will be allowed to continue their studies until graduation, after which the college will be permanently closed.

Following that, the local authority will discuss with the Cabinet in London and we will get the final decision by March 19.

The move comes after two Fylde schools announced similar plans in the last 12 months, in each case blaming a lack of Government funding.

Baines headteacher Alison Chapman said: “Many schools are facing financial challenges.

“Over the last few years there have been falling numbers going into the sixth form and that has contributed to budget challenges.

“This is a consultation that has opened today and will continue until January 19.

Head of Lytham St Annes High School Phil Wood

Head of Lytham St Annes High School Phil Wood

“Following that, the local authority will discuss with the Cabinet in London and we will get the final decision by March 19.”

She said she could not comment on whether job losses will occur at the school, should the plans go ahead.

Ms Chapman added: “All of our teachers teach across all age groups. We don’t have any teachers who are just sixth form teachers.”

Copies of the proposal can be found at the school, at Wyre Council offices on Breck Road, and at Poulton Library on Blackpool Old Road. They can also be accessed on the school’s website.

Carr Hill High School, Kirkham

Carr Hill High School, Kirkham

The news comes two months after Carr Hill High School in Kirkham announced a review of its post-16 education provision.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Andrew Waller said the decision has been taken ‘to ensure we can maintain our financial stability and the quality of education’.

And in December last year, Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College also announced plans to close its sixth form in September 2018 due to a ‘very challenging financial position’.

More details

Parents of Year 11 Baines pupils can meet to discuss the plans at the school from 5pm until 6pm on December 13.

Parents of Year 7 to 10 pupils can meet from 6.30pm until 7.30pm on the same day. Parents of sixth form pupils can arrange one-to-one meetings by contacting the school.

People who want to give their views on the plans should write to Sarah Hirst, Learning and Skills Service, Room C27, PO Box 100, County Hall, Preston, PR1 0LD.

Why are so many sixth forms closing?

Headteachers across the country have been calling for more money to prevent sixth forms being forced to shut.

In October, a group of unions and teaching associations signed a letter to the Chancellor warning a lack of funding would see cuts to courses and class sizes increase.

They warned funding for students drops by 21 per cent when they turn 16, saying £244m a year was needed to tackle the problem.

The letter – signed by the National Union of Students, Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association, National Governance Association, Grammar School Heads’ Association, Sixth Form Colleges Association, Association of School and College Leaders and the Association of Colleges – added: “The national funding rate for 16 and 17-year-olds has been fixed at £4,000 per student since 2013 and has not been adjusted to account for inflationary pressures or cost increases.

“As a result, there is a wide and ever-growing gap between the funding made available to educate sixth formers and the actual cost of delivering a high quality curriculum.”

And last month a survey by the Sixth Form Colleges Association was published showing the impact of cuts on colleges.

It found half had dropped modern foreign languages courses and one in three had cut back on science, technology, engineering or maths courses. Half of colleges had cut teaching hours for courses and 77 per cent had increased class sizes.

‘Difficult decisions’ for sixth forms as budgets take a hit

The sixth form at Baines School is not the only one facing closure as budgets come under increasing pressure.

The final sixth form students will leave Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College next summer after the end of post-16 education there was confirmed by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet in March.

The College, Fylde’s biggest school with more than 1,400 students and popularly known by its old name of Lytham St Annes High, reported a budget deficit of £700,000 and governors said the loss of the sixth form was necessary as they aim to make the college solvent by 2019.

Philip Wood, who retires as headteacher later this month, said at the time: “While the governing body is relieved that the local authority has agreed with the proposal, this is a very sad day.

“We are proud of the achievements of our post-16 students over many years and it is a great shame that the level of funding received by the school from central Government, allied to the reduction in the number of students opting to stay on in our sixth form, has forced this decision.

“Like all schools we face the challenge of continuing to deliver a high quality of education despite a significant real term reduction in funding.”

He said keeping the sixth form open would have had a ‘disproportionate’ impact on pupils aged 11 to 16.

The proposal to close the sixth form was announced last December ahead of a six-week consultation period that attracted fewer than 50 replies.

Marcus Pickering, a former head boy who launched the Save Lytham St Annes Sixth Form Facebook group to protest at the proposal, said he would be ‘devastated’ to see it close.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies denied the Government was to blame for the sixth form’s closure.

He said: “It saddens me to see the loss of A Levels at the High School, but I understand why the headteacher and governors have taken this difficult decision. This is about what young people want, and not Government funding.”

Meanwhile, Carr Hill High School and Sixth Form Centre at Kirkham cancelled its sixth form open evening in October after announcing a review of its post-16 education provision.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Andrew Waller said the decision was taken ‘to ensure we can maintain our financial stability and the quality of education’ and that there may well be some ‘difficult choices ahead’.

Mr Waller wrote: “The finances at Carr Hill have been very carefully managed by governors and unlike many schools we have not yet had to face being in deficit.

“However the funding situation is not getting any easier.”

Mr Waller, who said the review was likely to be concluded by the end of this year, added: “While income has remained static, costs have effectively risen around eight per cent and it is very difficult for schools like ours to sustain a broad post-16 offer and what have traditionally been quite small class sizes for sixth form students without that impacting on provision elsewhere in the school.”