Consultation on closure of Chichester Free School Sixth Form

ks190570-2 Free School 6th Form  phot kate'Louise New, principal  of the Free School.ks190570-2 SUS-191015-201626008
ks190570-2 Free School 6th Form phot kate'Louise New, principal of the Free School.ks190570-2 SUS-191015-201626008

Chichester Free School has announced today that it is considering a phased closure of its Sixth Form, due to it being financially ‘unsustainable’.

Headteacher Louise New said the school’s finances were currently ‘extremely robust’ but she wouldn’t be doing her job as a new leader of the school if she did not ‘take stock’ of a situation that could ‘jeopardise’ that position.

The school’s Sixth Form, only in its second academic year, has just 46 students, around half the number originally expected.

Funding provision for 16 to 19 year olds was ‘exceptionally challenging’ for all schools, she said, but continuing to run the Sixth Form with a full range of courses would have a financial impact on resources for the rest of the school.

Governors and school leadership had taken the decision to consult on the phased closure ‘with deep regret’.

“There is a really strong provision in Chichester, whether you want to pursue A-levels or other courses, such as at Chichester College or other Sixth Forms.

“It wouldn’t be right for us to try and compete with that provision when it’s already there and already established,” she said.

“One of the things I’m most proud of as a school is we’re a relatively small school and that’s a fantastic thing as a secondary school but unfortunately the model doesn’t work past 16 because obviously we won’t keep all of our year 11s – and it wouldn’t be right to.”

She said the school was absolutely committed to its existing Sixth Form students, 18 Year 13s and 28 Year 12s, and if the phased closure went ahead, she would be all the more determined to help achieve the best results possible for those students.

The cohort have been allowed to pursue subjects with very low numbers, with two to three students required as a minimum for theatre studies.

“We did consider narrowing the offer,” she said. “But I fear we’re delaying the inevitable.

“It wouldn’t be right for us long term to limit the choices our children have just to keep them here.”

It follows a major building work project to create a state-of-the-art school site in Hunston. Ms New said the site would not be left with a substantial amount of empty space should the closure be agreed.

In a letter to parents, Louise New and chair of governors Howard Oyns promised that, should the closure proceed, all Year 11s would be helped to secure the place of their choice for education post-16.

It added: “We believe that the school’s focus should be on continuing to improve the quality of education in Years 7 to 11 as well as developing our all-through approach from primary to secondary.

“It is important to emphasise that no decision has yet been made and we would encourage all interested parties to participate in the consultation.”

The consultation will run from today until Monday November 25.