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Friday, 29 May 2015

Head: I’ll rip down sixth form posters

DIRECT ACTION: Alan Mottershead, head of Trinity School, Carlisle

By Pam McClounie

ALAN Mottershead, the head of Carlisle’s Trinity School, has warned he will rip down public notices due to be posted at the school today announcing proposals to close its sixth form, along with six others, and open a single sixth form centre instead.

The Learning and Skills Council, the body behind the proposal, has also been eyeing Trinity’s sixth form building, with a view to buying it and turning it into part of the new sixth form centre, he said.

The LSC, the Government body responsible for planning post-16 education, wants to build a new 1,150-pupil sixth form college in Carlisle city centre and close the sixth forms at seven secondary schools: Trinity, William Howard, The Morton, Caldew, Newman, St Aidan’s County High and North Cumbria Technology College.

It claims the change is necessary to improve retention rates and exam results.

The merger of the city’s sixth forms would mean the closure of two Carlisle secondary schools and job redundancies in every school.

The LSC today publishes preliminary proposals for the centre and is planning to pin them to the gates of the schools affected. A three-month consultation period will follow involving parents, pupils and staff.

Mr Mottershead said: “The preliminary proposals are published today – the last day before half term. A lot of my staff are unhappy and unsettled by what the LSC is proposing.

“Some of the data and figures which the LSC have quoted are not true. I will take the sign down until my staff have gone home and then put it back up. The last thing they need in their holidays is to worry.”

He added that the LSC asked Trinity’s governing body if their architects could view the school’s Carliol Building to see if it could be adapted for sixth form centre use.

“There have been rumours flying around that the LSC are interested in adapting the derelict end of Carlisle College on Strand Road,” said Mr Mottershead. “That site alone wouldn’t be big enough, so they were obviously interested to find out what the Carliol Building – home to my current sixth form – was like.

“The governing body said they did not want the LSC architects to look round the building, and in any case they’d have to buy the building off us first.”

The LSC declined to name its proposed sites.

Meanwhile, around 40 delegates at the Lakes Court Hotel this week heard the argument for a new sixth form college outlined by Mick Farley, chief executive of Cumbria LSC, and the arguments against from Mr Mottershead and Roger Alston, head of Brampton’s William Howard School.

Mr Farley insists he is not launching a personal crusade against the seven schools, and that the work the LSC is carrying out merely comes after an independent review revealed that the pass and retention rates of Cumbrian pupils at GCSE and AS/A-level are lagging behind the national levels.

Mr Farley said: “The independent review provides irrefutable evidence that the learning needs of each and every young person in the Carlisle area are not being met.

“Fifty per cent of 16-year-olds in Carlisle leave school with fewer than five good GCSEs, 33 per cent leave full- time education at 16, and leaving rates for students in lower sixth forms in Carlisle are almost double the national average.”

Mr Alston disagreed. He said 73 per cent of his pupils left school with five or more A* to C grades and that retention rates in the sixth form stood at 84 per cent. The heads also believe their schools would lose their identities if their sixth forms were taken away.

It is not yet known when the sixth form centre would open, but the final decision rests with the Secretary of State for Education, Charles Clarke.

Education: p16 & p17