Powys sixth form shake-up in bid to stop exodus
Sixth form provision looks likely to face a massive shake-up in Powys amid revelations that more than 250 students travel across the border into Shropshire to study.
Education officers in mid Wales say the out-of-county exodus means that the authority is losing out on at least £1.4m in funding from government.
The county council will launch a review of sixth form provision at a meeting on Monday.
This could lead to setting up area sixth forms or establishing independent sixth form centres with close links to further and higher education providers along with businesses, which would enhance the curriculum offer, not only for 16 – 18 year olds but for all.
A report to Monday’s meeting says there is a growing acceptance that the current sixth form system is possibly unsustainable in its current form – both financially and educationally with falling learner numbers leading to a decrease in funding leading to constraints on curriculum choice.
Powys has 11 sixth forms including Llanfyllin, Welshpool, Llanidloes and Caereinion.
It also operates a collaborative post-16 partnership between schools – the North Powys Post-16 Partnership and the South Powys Post-16 Partnership with the NPTC Group offering a range of vocational subjects at two campuses in Newtown and Brecon.
The authority provides transport for learners to travel between schools/college at a cost of £200,000 a year.
A survey of 16-18 years olds has shown that about 500 travel across the county border for sixth form.
They include 251 that travel to Shrewsbury Sixth Form and 11 to the Marches in Oswestry.
Analysis showed one of the reasons was that students could not access the subjects they wanted closer to home.
The number of A-level candidates in Powys fell from 624 to 519 between 2013 and 2018.
Council chief executive, Dr Caroline Turner, said: “Recent analysis has highlighted the need to transform post 16 education in Powys. Change is vital if we are to continue to provide a high quality service capable of delivering wide-ranging opportunities for learners.
“A review of the county’s existing post 16 service has been carried out and a report outlining opportunities and options for change will be presented to the Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee next week.”
At the heart of this review is the need to provide 16-18 year olds education which will allow them to fulfil their own ambitions, moving on to Higher Education, apprenticeships and the wider world of work. These young people will provide the skill employers are seeking and will underpin the growth of employment opportunities and wealth in the local economy.
The survey of young people shows that the service is generally well-regarded providing high quality service for 16-18 year olds, but needs to respond to financial and other challenges.
“Any model will need to be considered carefully, with a detailed business case considering the cost-benefit implications and impact of any structural change. Any proposals will be fully discussed with all interested parties, with final plans taking into account the educational, financial and economic impact on learners, communities, the economy, environment and the Welsh language.”