Shake-up plan for Norwich sixth form education

The break up of a sixth form college has led to the creation of a new partnership which could see up to six Norwich schools working together to keep teenagers in education for longer.

The move will see young people in the north of the city given a wider choice of courses to study including A-levels, vocational qualifications and pre-apprenticeship training, without having to leave their high school. The plans, announced today by Sewell Park College and the Open Academy, at Heartsease, have come about as a result of a decision by Sprowston High School to pull out of the Kett Sixth Form College in favour of running post-16 courses on its own.

The college, which has its own governing body but saw pupils working at all three sites, will be gradually dissolved over the next two years as students already enrolled on courses complete their studies.

Today, Gavin Bellamy, principal at Sewell Park College, pictured left, said the announcement by Sprowston's governors had given him and Jon Platten, principal at the Open Academy, pictured right, a chance to reassess the sixth form provision in the area.

'There are a number of fairly small schools within the north of the city,' Mr Bellamy said. 'We feel our pupils are best placed to stay with us after GCSEs – because we know them – but sometimes, as small schools, we cannot offer all the courses they would like to study.'

The principal said that often forced students to go elsewhere to find what they wanted or could even discourage them from entering further education altogether.

The new partnership between Sewell Park and Open Academy would see both schools running their own sixth forms independently and focusing on their own strengths but working together to ensure students have access to the subjects and qualifications they want.

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A further four city schools have already expressed an interest in joining them.

It means a student could study A-levels in maths and physics at their high school but take a third course in Spanish, previously unavailable to them, at another site.

The headteachers believe the arrangement would help schools keep more students in education for longer – in line with the government's aims. Mr Bellamy said: 'There are a lot of students at my school and Jon's school who get to the age of 16 and, because we don't offer what they want, haven't in the past had the opportunity to stay on. I know through these co-operations and partnerships they would be able to do that. It's very powerful.'

The arrangement will also allow the schools to offer more kinds of qualifications - including pre-apprenticeship training and more vocational courses.

Mr Bellamy said students no longer automatically wanted to go down the A-levels and university route because of high tuition fees. 'The vast majority need alternatives,' he said.

Sewell Park College and Open Academy are now in the process of working out a flexible timetable for sixth form pupils which would allow them to move between the sites as part of their studies.

In a statement, Sprowston Community High School said governors decided back in July to begin a gradual withdrawal from the Kett partnership in order to concentrate on the creation of its own sixth form.

'The school has valued the time spent in partnership with Open Academy and Sewell Park College over many years,' it added. 'However, governors felt that the time was right for such a move.'

Kate Gooding, Norfolk County Council spokesman, said the authority was working with all the county's schools, colleges and academies to give every young person in Norfolk access to post-16 education and training opportunities.