Hunstanton secondary school’s sixth form to close

Smithdon High School Exterior ENGANL00120121217142029
Smithdon High School Exterior ENGANL00120121217142029

The sixth form department of Hunstanton’s Smithdon High School is set to close under plans announced by officials this week.

Pupils who are currently studying for A-level and other sixth-form qualifications will complete their courses at the Downs Road site.

But no new sixth-form students will be admitted to the school after the current academic year.

And one local politician has suggested the decision, which will see students transfer to the Springwood High School in Lynn instead, puts the school’s entire future in doubt.

The move is part of plans for the school to become an academy, under the sponsorship of the West Norfolk Academies Trust, in December.

In a letter to parents, dated Monday, headteacher Paul Marsh said: “The trust has indicated to us that it will operate a single sixth form for its four member secondary schools, based at Springwood High School.

“Those Year 12 and Year 13 students currently in the Smithdon High School sixth form will complete their studies at Smithdon.

“But, under the trust, there will be no future post-16 cohorts on this site.”

Mr Marsh said the decision had been taken in the expectation of further cuts in funding for post-16 education, which he said had been reduced by 14 per cent in real terms between 2010 and last year.

He added: “In order, therefore, to maintain cost-effective quality provision for post-16 students in the area, the Trust will centre that provision at Springwood High School from September 2017.”

Parents were also encouraged to attend last night’s Springwood sixth form open evening.

Town councillor Richard Bird, who also represents the resort at borough and county levels, said he was “shocked” by the announcement.

He said: “I have been working hard with others trying to extol the virtues of the north west part of county and growing opportunities for young people to work in the care home sector and tourism and hospitality.

“The Hunstanton Prospectus is a 10-year plan, running to 50 pages and all of this was pivotal with Smithdon High School looking to be a high school continuing to have a sixth form.

“The whole future of the high school is now threatened.

“I’m concerned that we will have a lot of young people having to suffer a 32-mile round trip to get to school.”

Meanwhile, North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said he would be seeking talks with senior trust officials in order to see whether an alternative solution could be found.

He said: “I’m disturbed by this news . I need more detail and I want to be satisfied it has been gone through in detail and there is no obvious alternative.”

The school, which first opened in 1954 as the Hunstanton Secondary Modern School, has offered sixth form courses for the past 23 years.

County councillors approved the establishment of a sixth form department in December 1991.

The first sixth form programmes began there two years later.