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Axe falls on Calder High sixth form centre

Calder High School's Sixth Form will close from September 2019
Calder High School's Sixth Form will close from September 2019

Changing times have led to the end of a Calderdale school’s sixth form centre.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet approved Calder High School governors’ request to close the sixth form from September 2019.

Key to its decline was falling rolls at a time when specialised sixth form colleges were able to draw on bigger numbers.

Government thinking, and that of increasing numbers of headteachers, is that sixth forms with a roll of less than 200 are not viable.

Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot), in whose ward the Mytholmroyd school is, said it was sad but paid tribute to Calder High for choosing to do what was “absolutely the right thing” as for some time the school, which was very successfully providing education for 11 to 16s, had effectively had to subsidise the sixth form from that part of its budget.

Council leader Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said this was the final stage of the closure process for Calder High’s sixth form and no formal objections had been received.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Coun Ashley Evans (Warley) was invited to speak and asked “are there any others (sixth forms) now in danger of disappearing down the same plughole?”

Calderdale is planning its own sixth form college but he asked if there were intentions to re-energise post-16 education.

Coun Swift said it would be helpful to councillors if officers prepared a briefing note regarding the numbers at other schools.

The Trinity Academy proposal – working with Rastrick High and the council on a specialist centre – would cover issues around Sowerby Bridge High School’s sixth form which had low numbers, he said. Rastrick High’s sixth form numbers were below 200.

“The issue going forward is about sixth form provision rather than sixth forms,” he said, adding the council was largely in the hands of academies and academy trusts.

These are independent of council control and are directly funded by the Government.

Earlier in the year, Calder High’s head Tony Guise, explained that it cost in excess of £250,000 more to run Calder VI against what the school actually got from Government for its sixth form education via the schools agency.

Having to fill the funding gap meant diverting funds away from pupils aged between 11 and 16, where it was one of the best performing ten per cent of schools in the country.

“We have been running it at a deficit for the last four years,” he said in January.

“The longer it goes on it will be at the expense of what we do really well from ages 11 to 16. Money would have to be diverted away from the 11-16s.

“Having brought that to where we are in the top ten per cent, I don’t think anyone wants to see that diminishing. Every single year we have tried to raise numbers in the sixth form but without success.”

The news upset some parents who expressed anger at the proposals but in March the school’s governors agreed it should be closed from August 31, 2019.

Calderdale Council plans to create a sixth form college on the former Central Library and Northgate House site in Halifax town centre.