Hunstanton school plans defended as consultation is launched

Smithdon High School Exterior ENGANL00120121217142029

Smithdon High School Exterior ENGANL00120121217142029

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Education officials have defended their plans to close a West Norfolk secondary school’s sixth form after it becomes an academy.

A public consultation has now been launched on the planned conversion of Hunstanton’s Smithdon High School, which is due to come into effect at the start of next month.

But the West Norfolk Academies Trust, which is set to take over the running of the school, has also insisted that retaining post-16 provision there once current courses end is not financially viable.

The consultation exercise is due to run until November 25, less than a week before the school’s scheduled conversion to academy status on December 1.

Andy Johnson, the trust’s executive headteacher, said: “A consultation process will allow all interested parties to air their views and the trust to answer any queries or concerns.”

Under the current proposals, Smithdon students would transfer to the Springwood High School for sixth form programmes from next year.

The trust says it plans to provide a “student paid bus service” for pupils to get to Springwood.

And Mr Johnson said: “The key thing is that students know there are clear pathways for them in post-16 education.

“The trust has a proven track record in delivering outstanding provision for 11-16 secondary schools in West Norfolk and has an outstanding academic sixth form based at Springwood High School.”

The trust has also released figures claiming that more than three-quarters of Smithdon’s year 11 students last year chose not to carry on into its sixth form.

And, on the current A level students, who will complete their courses at Smithdon, it says there are only 25 in the current year 12, while half of the year 13 subject groups contain four or fewer students.

It continued: “The group sizes involved are too small to be economically viable and provide an enriched sixth form experience overall.

“The current numbers of students in the main school at Smithdon cannot provide enough students to produce a viable sixth form cohort.

“The sixth form has also not attracted any external candidates in recent years.”

The trust has also rejected suggestions that the closure of the sixth form potentially puts Smithdon’s entire future at risk, highlighting its management of St Clement’s High in Terrington St Clement and Marshland High School in West Walton.

It said: “These are both financially viable without their own separate sixth form provision.”

People can participate in the consultation by emailing office@westnorfolkacademiestrust.co.uk or writing to West Norfolk Academies Trust, c/o Springwood High School, Queensway, King’s Lynn, PE30 4AW,

The trust says it will publish a collective response to the comments received.