Portslade sixth form could close for two years

Mark Poston, principal at PACA
Mark Poston, principal at PACA

Councillors have spoken out after Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) announced its sixth form could be set to close for two years.

PACA's principal said he hoped to reopen the sixth form in 2022 with a new and improved offering, but said as it stands with fewer than 100 pupils it is running at a financial deficit.

Cllr Peter Atkinson, Labour councillor for Portslade, has spoken out on behalf of his ward colleagues Cllrs Penny Gilbey, Les Hamilton and Alan Robins.

He said: “We were surprised and extremely disappointed at this news. It leaves Portslade with no sixth form of its own.

"We would ask the Aldridge Academy to urgently look again at their decision and would encourage all parents and local people in general to respond to the consultation that the school are running. None of this should take away from how far PACA has come in the last few years in terms of educational results but we are very worried at the prospect of losing the sixth form, even on a temporary basis.”

This comes as Blatchington Mill's sixth form closed to new students in September 2018.

In an announcement to parents yesterday (January 9), Mark Poston, principal at PACA, explained the school would be consulting on closing the sixth form from September 2020 to 2022.

He added that existing Year 12 students would be able to continue their studies at PACA.

Mr Poston said: "Our goal is to relaunch a PACA Sixth Form in 2022, providing unique options to our students, matching the success of our sister Aldridge Education school BACA in partnerships with leading employers, sports and arts organisations and building on our success at GCSE level.

"Our focus in undertaking this review has been the best interests of our students. We have been conscious of the decision taken in 2017 to end sixth form provision at nearby Blatchington Mill School, and are working with colleagues in the local authority and neighbouring schools on this.

"A successful sixth form requires an ambitious combination of breadth and depth of subject offer which we aspire to deliver at PACA from 2022. It also requires student numbers that balance the costs of provision.

"The media has highlighted education finances over recent months. This is particularly the case for post-16 where funding has declined.

"Within Brighton and Hove local authority the average size of the sixth form colleges is around 2,500 students, while the average size of school sixth forms is approximately 200. The Department for Education recognises that sixth forms with less than 250 students are at risk of not being financially viable.

"PACA Sixth Form currently has less than 100 students on roll. The predicted levels of enrolment into PACA’s sixth form until 2022 are not high enough to see an increase from this level. We believe that we could not offer the range of courses or the social aspect of larger colleges, and continuing to operate a small sixth form at a deficit would then impact the resources available to all students at the academy.

"The dates for consultation meetings and the consultation process will be announced shortly."