Brightlingsea could be left without a sixth form if a proposal to close the college at the Colne Community School goes through.
The Sigma Trust, which runs the Church Road school, says that it has had no sixth form enrollments for the last two academic years. It has now begun a consultation process that would see no new sixth formers accepted from September 2023.
In a letter emailed to parents, executive head Neil Gallagher says that it is no longer financially viable to run a sixth form in Brightlingsea. Although it once had over 150 students who were able to access a broad curriculum, national funding changes – and the absence of sufficient “athletes of the required calibre” for the sports college meant a reduction in courses and a gradual drop in the numbers taught there.
In the last academic year when there were sixth formers at the school – 2020-21 – there were only 19 students taking just two courses. The letter says the Department for Education requires sixth forms to teach 200 or more students and offer at least 15 courses to ‘break even’.
“Despite our best endeavours we were unable to recruit the required numbers to ensure viability and for the last two years have had no post-16 enrollments at the Colne,” said Mr Gallagher, who added that closure would “not impact upon any current students or staff members”.
The trust’s Sigma Sixth colleges at the Tendring Education Centre and Philip Morant in Colchester provide over 450 places, while the Sixth Form College and Colchester Institute provide places for more than 3,000.
According to the letter, around 70% of its year 7-11 pupils travel to Brightlingsea by bus, so travelling to another college outside of the town is not seen by students as a barrier – especially as there is no post-16 travel funding available.
Furthermore, students at the Colne said that they wanted a broader curriculum, dedicated teaching and social spaces not shared with other year groups, and the social benefits gained at a larger college.
The trust says that no decision has been taken about the closure. Parents have until April 19 to comment, and there will be meetings with staff, governors and parents.
“The final decision will be made by the Regional DfE Director on behalf of the Department for Education (DfE) following the submission of a Significant Change Application by the Trust,” says the letter.
“If this proposal is accepted we will also be changing the school’s nomination to The Colne Community School.”