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Schools lose out on £1.4 million as Powys students come to Shropshire for sixth form

By Elgan Hearn | Mid Wales | News | Published:

Around £1.4 million is being lost to Powys schools’ sixth forms because teenagers are going to Shropshire and beyond to continue their education.

Dr Caroline Turner

Councillors in Powys have been warned of a "vicious circle" of fewer students, then funding cuts, fewer choices of courses and then even more youngsters leaving.

Members of the county council's learning and skills committee heard that a third of sixth form pupils in the area are going outside the county for lessons.

School transformation manager Marianne Evans said the total could be more than 500, with under 1,000 staying in Powys.

Members were told the 11 sixth forms in Powys had seen funding cut by a third in five years, from £6.5m to £4.4m. The number of sixth form pupils at the county's schools had also fallen by a third in the past decade, from 1,445 in 2010 to 978 this year.

Ms Evans said: "This affects the funding we get from Welsh Government, which constrains the level of choice and number of subjects we can deliver.

"In our view this decreases the numbers again as learners choose to go to other institutions where there is wider provision and on it goes in a downward spiral.

"The current system is broken."

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A survey found 251 Powys sixth formers were going to college in Shrewsbury, nearly 50 to Coleg Cambria Llysfasi in Denbighshire, and 30 to Nantwich, Cheshire.

Ms Evans said it was thought when figures came in for colleges in Hereford, Merthyr Tydfil and Neath, they would take the total over 500.

In April, the council said it estimated the total going to sixth forms outside the county was around 200.

A decision on schools reorganisation is due to be taken by the county's cabinet in September.

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Dr Caroline Turner, chief executive of Powys County Council, said: “The Stage One review, which will be considered by the Cabinet, sets out the challenges facing the Service and recommends a range of short-term options that could be considered while longer-term solutions are developed.

“It recommends developing digital learning opportunities to broaden choice and reduce travel. It also recommends developing a new brand for post-16 education and launching a new marketing campaign aimed at retaining our young learners.

“The review acknowledges that more ambitious longer term solutions need to be developed to provide a critical mass and high quality sustainable post-16 provision in the county. We have already started that process undertaking a detailed engagement with our learners, the result of which form part of the decision making process.

“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.”

Elgan Hearn

By Elgan Hearn
@ElganPowysLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Powys.

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