Concerns raised about proposed closure of sixth form at Sewell Park College

Alison Cunningham, school organisation advisor at Norfolk County Council, addressing a meeting of Se

Alison Cunningham, school organisation advisor at Norfolk County Council, addressing a meeting of Sewell Park College parents - Credit: Archant

Some parents and students at Sewell Park College have raised concerns about proposals to permanently close its sixth form.

Sewell Park College. Picture: Denise Bradley

Sewell Park College. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

The interim governors of the school, which was put into special measures last November, had originally planned to 'pause' entry into the sixth form so they could concentrate on improving provision for 11 to 16-years-olds.

However, they have now launched a consultation on closure, after being told they could not legally pause entry. The closure would be phased in, and current Year 12 students would be able to complete their studies there.

About 50 parents, students and members of the community attended last night's open meeting at the school. One mother said: 'If we knew this was going to happen, we would probably have picked a different school.'

She raised concerns that, while students at other nearby high schools had the option of staying at the same institution from the age of 11 to 18, those at Sewell would have to go somewhere else after their GCSEs.

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John Catton, chairman of the interim executive board, said: 'The hard fact is this sixth form has not served young people well in recent years. The fact is that the results have been among the worst in England. The board took the view that it's not doing any service for our young people.'

Some parents said current sixth formers were 'disheartened' as they felt efforts to improve the college were focused on the school, rather than the sixth form.

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One current sixth-form student, who said she was offered a place at City College but chose to go to Sewell Park sixth form instead, said students felt neglected, and asked interim headteacher Jeremy Rowe why the school did not tell students how to help improve the sixth form, instead of closing it.

Mr Rowe said: 'I felt I had a better chance of climbing one massive mountain rather than climbing two massive mountains.'

Mr Catton said he would address the concerns of current sixth formers.

A number of parents praised the improvements since Mr Rowe joined in September, citing better discipline, more homework and higher expectations, although some said there were some problems with homework and disruption in lessons.

Mr Rowe said homework and behaviour were improving, but were still not good enough.

Mr Catton also said the school was consulting staff on restructuring. He said it would otherwise be 'very significantly in debt' because of falling pupil numbers, leaving it with more staff than it could afford.

He said: 'We have gone back to first principles. If we were to start a school in September, what would the structure look like? What staff would we need and what leadership would we need?

'We have built a structure we think is right for the school.'

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