Schools unite in sixth form row

David Bowes
David Bowes

SHEFFIELD’S sixth form schools have taken the unprecedented step of joining forces to campaign against cuts in funding.

Families are being urged to write to local MPs and to Education Secretary Michael Gove, protesting against the withdrawal of finance.

Headteachers fear this will mean fewer courses, larger classes and less teacher contact time.

In a letter to parents, eight secondary heads say: “This is a serious set of circumstances; we have never been subjected to cuts of this magnitude.

“Our sixth forms are highly effective and our students achieve excellent outcomes, therefore, we are very concerned that all this is being put at risk.

“We would urge you to support your son or daughter by making your feelings known to your MP and to the Secretary of State for Education.”

The Government plans to reduce financial support by 20% over the next three years, to bring school sixth forms into line with colleges.

It means a 3% cut will be made from this month – amounting to tens of thousands for each sixth form – with further cuts in 2012 and 2013 of between £120,000 and £457,000 per school.

Tapton, at Crosspool, which will be the worst hit, is to break away from local authority control, opting for academy status in a bid to make up some of the shortfall.

Headteacher David Bowes says: “Tapton School has the largest sixth form in Sheffield and for several years it has been highly successful. However, Government policy is putting all this at risk.”

The other city heads who are campaigning against the move are: Lesley Bowes from King Ecgbert; Helen Storey, Silverdale; Robert Sawyer, All Saints RC; Ian Gage, High Storrs; Beverley Jackson, King Edward VII; and Jane Willis and John Martin, Notre Dame RC.

However, if it goes ahead, they aim to lessen the impact by working together to share certain courses.

“We wish to reassure you that, though changes to the way in which we operate may be needed in order to improve efficiency, we will ensure high quality teaching and learning remains at the heart of what we do,” they say.

“We will use all our expertise and professionalism to ensure that teaching and learning of the highest quality is maintained and our students are not placed at a disadvantage by these reductions in our budgets.”

Dr Sonia Sharp, director of children’s services, said: “We are sympathetic to the difficulties faced by schools with sixth-form pupils in the city.

“The DfE’s position is to bring sixth-form funding into line with other post-16 funding in the college and training sectors. However, they are doing this by reducing the funding by 20% over the next four years.

“We would have liked to see an increase in funding for the college and training sectors to match schools with sixth forms as there is no doubt this is removing more funding from all of our young people who wish to attend schools with sixth forms, now and in the future.”