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Sixth Form College under threat of closure

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A WARRINGTON sixth form college looks set to close due to declining student numbers which are making it financially unviable.

Consultation has started on the proposed closure of Appleton College at Bridgewater High School, in order to work on a joint transition with Priestley College as part of the recently formed The Challenge Academy Trust (TCAT).

The proposal has upset former student Harry Gibbins, aged 19 who is now studying History at Selwyn College, Cambridge.

Harry, who took to social media to expres his concerns, was a pupil at Bridgewater before moving on to Appleton College. He said: “Bridgewater is one of Warrington’s best schools and this is in no small part down to its excellent teachers. Closing Appleton College means the school will struggle to recruit or retain the best teachers, who will want to be teaching A Level students.

“It’s also bad news for post-16 education in Warrington. Appleton College combines rigorous and highly-personalised teaching with excellent pastoral care and a close-knit community, which suits some students better than larger rival sixth forms such as Priestley (which leads TCAT).

“If, as TCAT claims, Appleton’s student numbers are ‘low and declining’, why hasn’t more been done to make the college attractive to prospective students?”

In a joint letter principal Tim Long and Chair of Governors Stephen Whatmore, have written an advance notice to parents on the proposal to consult on closing Appleton College in order to work a joint transition to KS4 to KS5 with Priestley College as part of The Challenge Academy Trust (TCAT).

They say the they wish to consult on the proposal to close Appleton college to new students with effect from September 2018 “after much discussion and scrutiny.”

It will not affect students currently enrolled at the college.

They say there are essentially two reasons for the proposal – – the significantly low and declining number of students choosing Appleton College as a Post 16 option, making it financially unviable. The only option would be to reduce the course offer for students, making the college educationally unviable.

Also being a founder member of the TCAT, Bridgewater High School has the opportunity to forge a collaborative transition structure with Priestley College “to the benefit of our students.”

If it goes ahead it will mean Bridgewater will no longer provide post 16 education for current Year 11 students onwards.

The formal consultation will begin later this month. A planned Appleton College Open Evening for October 12 has been deferred until the consultation is concluded.

The letter concludes: “We would like to say that whilst this porposal is tinged with a sense of genuine regret and sadness, it is nonetheless a proposal we firmly believe will be in the best interest of Bridgewater students in the future.”

In addition to Priestley College and Bridgewater the Trust also includes Penketh High, Sir Thomas Boteler CE High, Beamont Collegiate Academy, Great Sankey Primary and Penketh South Primary.

TCAT is described as one of the most inclusive trusts in the country as it will include Priestley College, high schools and primaries as well as a faith school.

It has an ongoing commitment to only employing qualified teachers and providing the best education possible for all young people.

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Experienced journalist for more than 35 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with six in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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