Shock as question mark hangs over future of one Burnley's biggest schools

A question mark hangs over the future of Burnley's Thomas Whitham Sixth Form.
A question mark hangs over the future of Burnley's Thomas Whitham Sixth Form.

A question mark hangs over the future of one of Burnley's biggest schools.

In a statement released today County Coun. Phillippa Williamson who is cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said that Thomas Whitham Sixth form had approached Lancashire County Council last month to say it was worried about its future due to 'concerns about financial viability.'

County Coun. Williamson said: " They asked the authority to consult on the viability of the school.

"The school, supported by the county council, has made robust efforts for several years to attract more students including restructuring the leadership and staffing and developing a clear growth plan.

"Despite the school's successive Good Ofsted Inspection ratings, low student numbers have continued, particularly since 2016/17.

"The reality is that schools with falling rolls have reducing budgets which can cause issues including reduced subject options and lower student attainment.

"Cabinet will need to consider this situation, including whether carrying out a consultation on the future viability of the sixth form is now timely.

"We are committed to providing the best possible educational experience for all of our young people.

"Because of this we want to ensure that all prospective sixth form students are aware of the current situation, and are able to make alternative provision, if required.

"I'd like to reassure parents and students that if a consultation is held, all of the feedback will be considered before any decisions are made."

The first cabinet meeting where the issue can be discussed will not take place until September when a decision will be made on the next steps to take.

Thomas Whitham is the only institution in Burnley to offer A'level courses to students apart from Burnley College.

The sixth form opened in September 2006, as part of the first wave of a nationwide 10 to 15 year programme of capital investment funded by the Department for Education under the Building Schools for the Future programme.

For the first two years of its existence, under the temporary name of Burnley Schools' Sixth Form, it occupied the site of the former Barden High School, before moving into purpose built premises adjacent to the old site.

It is named after Thomas Whitham VC who served during World War I and has received consistently good Ofsted reports since then.

Ironically earlier this year the sixth form was celebrating after receiving the Gatsby Benchmarks award which is a framework of eight guidelines that define the best careers provision in schools and colleges.

The shock news comes a year after Hameldon Community College, one of the original 'super schools' within the Building Schools for the Future closed its doors due to falling numbers.

And last month Blessed Trinity RC College, another so called 'super school' announced it would be bidding to become an academy.