No sixth forms to close under council plan

There will be no sixth forms closed in Powys, as the the long-awaited reorganisation of sixth form education is set to start later this month.

On Wednesday, Powys County Council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee will discuss the proposals, now packaged as the 'Strategy for Transforming Education in Powys – Strategic Aim Two', 'to improve learner entitlement and experience for post-16 learners'.

The committee will be able to propose improvements to the proposals which will go in front of the cabinet for a decision on Tuesday, May 18.

The proposals explain that the way pupils will receive their courses is set to change with more of an emphasis on web-based learning.

Pupils will continue to have a “home base” which will most likely be the school they did their GCSEs at.

But with less duplication of courses expected across the county, the pupils could receive their lessons at another school in the cluster or online.

By having their “home” school. the pupils will still be able to participate in school life such as being part of sports teams, choirs, orchestras or clubs.

The other big changes will see two extra layers of bureaucracy brought in, with decision making over what courses a school provides taken away and centralised.

A Strategic Management Board (SMB) will decide where the money received from the Welsh Government goes.

According to the report: “No sixth form will be granted post-16 funding to run any course which is not commissioned by the SMB.”

They board is also supposed to oversee the quality of education.

The SMB will be made up of council officers, headteachers, school governors and pupil and Additional Learning Needs (ALN) representatives.

Beneath this board will be two Operational Management Board’s (OMB) for both North and South Powys, which will deal more with the nuts and bolts of running the educational element.

The OMB will submit proposals to the SMB of what curriculum subjects they hope teach across their schools as well as pastoral and careers guidance.

Options

The boards will be made up of either the head or deputy headteacher from each school in the cluster, an ALN representative and a “challenge” advisor from the council's education service.

The report said: “Underpinning the proposal is the concept that there is a whole-Powys Post-16 provision on offer for learners.

“The provision on offer will also be county-wide and where learners are geographically unable to travel to attend a course they would be distance learners taking the course via e-sgol from their home base.”

There were other options on the table, a do nothing status quo option, or a more radical approach of having one post-16 education provider across the whole of the county.

The report said: “Moving to a funding delivery model under the direction of the SMB will minimise duplication which will in turn lead to more choice for learners and better value for money.”

The report adds that consultation requirements needed in “disruptive school reorganisation proposals” will not be needed if the option is approved.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also seen more “appetite” for headteacher and schools to work together.

The report says the need for change has come around after a decade of falling pupil numbers, and the corresponding fall in post-16 educational grant funding.

From 2010, sixth forms across the county have seen 33 per cent decline in pupil numbers – falling from 1,445 to 978.

This means that funding from the Welsh Government based on pupils numbers has dropped from £6.5 million to £4.4 million

It has been also estimated that up to 500 youngsters from Powys could be leaving the county daily to continue their education in Shrewsbury, Hereford, Cheshire, Denbighshire and elsewhere.

The figures for this year show a slight increase of funding of £4,691,633 – due to more pupils staying at Powys schools.

Schools in Cluster Group North are: “Bro Hyddgen (Machynlleth), Brynllywarch (Newtown) Caereinion, Cedewain (Newtown), Llanfyllin, Llanidloes, Newtown, and Welshpool.

Schools in Cluster Group South are: Brecon, Calon Cymru, Crickhowell, Gwernyfed, Maesydderwen and Penmaes.

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