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Major overhaul of local sixth forms expected

Created on 11/09/2019 @ 12:07
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Post-16 education in Newtown and throughout Powys is in need of urgent review, the county council’s Cabinet is to be told.

It comes as a scathing Estyn report criticised the council’s education services.

The council said that nine of the county’s sixth forms had 100 learners and they considered 180 to be a minimum, suggesting a major overhaul that could affect sixth forms in Newtown, Llanidloes and Llanfair Caereinon, as well as elsewhere.

In a statement, the council said:  “Powys County Council’s Cabinet commissioned an initial review of the county’s existing post 16 education services and will consider the findings and possible future options at a meeting on September 17.
The report has already been considered by the Council’s Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee and their comments will be included in the cabinet discussion.”
The stage one review shows that although the service is well-regarded providing high quality service for 16-18 year olds it is facing a huge education and financial challenges.

Councillors have already urged a motion of no confidence in Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language, who overseas education.

In a statement about post-16 education, Cllr Alexander said: “We have a duty to look after our learners, including those who are over 16 and it is clear that we need to remodel our provision to ensure that we can ensure all our young people are helped to fulfil their ambitions.”
The report 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.
Secondary pupil numbers attending Powys schools have fallen 20 per cent since 2010 from 8,998 to 7,244 with the trend showing little improvement. The position for post-16 pupils is even worse with a near 33 per cent decline during the same period - falling from 1,445 to 978.
Nine of the county’s 11 sixth forms now have fewer than 100 learners, the county council considers that 180 learners are needed for a sixth form to be financially and educationally viable. 
Sixth form funding which is provided directly by the Welsh Government has fallen as a result, with the total received by the county cut from £6.5m in 2013-14 to £4.4m in 2018-19. A number of schools are already experiencing severe budget deficits and are being forced to take difficult staffing and curriculum decisions as a result.
Short-term measures to be considered by the cabinet include developing a new brand for post-16 education, launching a new marketing campaign to attract learners, developing digital learning opportunities to broaden choice and reduce travel and revising the post-16 funding formula.
The Stage one review also acknowledges that more ambitious longer term solutions are need to provide a critical mass and provide high quality sustainable post-16 provision in the county.
Any model will need to be considered carefully, with a detailed business considering the cost-benefit implication and impact of any structural change.
Proposals will have to be discussed with all interested parties, with any final plan taking account of the financial impact on learners, communities, the economy, environment and the Welsh language.
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