By Kelly Wickham
Chichester Free School will be applying to the Department for Education (DfE) at the end of January for its agreement to begin the phased closure of its Sixth Form from September this year.
This application follows a period of public consultation that ended on November 25, 2019 and generated 24 replies, 13 against the proposal and 11 supportive. Current Sixth Form pupils at the school will not be affected by this proposal.
If the application to the DfE is granted, the school will not be recruiting any more pupils into its post-16 provision. Current courses will continue without any disruption, with the Sixth Form finally closing in August 2021.
Principal Louise New said: “We are absolutely committed to all of our Year 12 and 13 students and are proud of their progress and achievements. They are thoroughly enjoying their experience here and their education has been further enhanced through international visits and a wide range of activities.
“But we have to take a long-term view with all our students at the heart of any decision we make, and, sadly, keeping the Sixth Form open would have a disproportionate impact on the rest of those students.
“Post-16 funding for school Sixth Forms has substantially declined over recent years and these cuts in funding levels make it difficult to sustain our Sixth Form in the manner envisaged when the school first opened. Overall, the school is increasing in popularity and is over-subscribed in all year groups.
“However, we currently have less than 50 students in the Sixth Form. The opinion of many in education, including the DfE and West Sussex County Council, is that sixth forms with less than 200 students are just not financially viable, and our best-case projections show that we would be unable to recruit anywhere near those numbers even in the longer term.
“We will continue to boost investment in developing the quality of education our Year R to Year 11 students receive, and this proposed closure will mean that we can further focus on our rapidly improving offer to all of our students whilst maintaining our robust financial stability.”
Currently, the school is investing in an on-site Forest School, new design technology equipment and enhancing both Pastoral support and performing arts facilities.
“Clearly one of our prime considerations when reviewing this issue was how to ensure our Year 11 students get the best opportunity to fulfil their potential,” said the school’s chair of governors, Howard Oyns.
“In that, we are lucky as Chichester has a number of established providers for 16-19-year-olds with whom we have built strong relationships, and all Year 11 students will be supported in securing an appropriate post-16 learning pathway for September this year. The school has secured an arrangement with local headteachers and principals to guarantee every Year 11 student who achieves the entry requirements in this summer’s GCSE exams a place of their