Axminster sixth form consultation extended

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THE consultation period for the proposed closure of Axe Valley Academy’s Sixth Form in August 2019 has been extended, and MP Neil Parish is hoping to meet the regional school commissioner this week.

The bombshell proposal to close the sixth form was announced in late September along with a public consultation exercise that was set to close in early November

But Vector Learning Trust (which comprises Axe Valley Academy and Holyrood Academy in Chard has decided to extend the consultation exercise until December 19th.

A statement issued on November 9th said: “Following the information evening held on October 10th, the trust wants to assure the community that it is exploring every avenue possible to keep the Axe Valley Sixth Form open.

CEO Martin Brook explained: “The feedback we have received since the meeting has been extremely valuable and we are delighted at the level of engagement we are experiencing from the community. We are continuing our ongoing talks with the local MP and are in discussion with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to explore all our financial options.

“We want to assure everyone concerned that we will consider every option we possibly can before this decision is made.”

Shortly after the public meeting, a delegation consisting of Axminster mayor Jeremy Walden, county councillor Ian Hall, Axe Valley Academy headteacher Steve Green and Vector Learning Trust CEO Martin Brook and two students met with MP Neil Parish.

It was decided that Mr Parish should seek arrange a meeting with government ministers in Whitehall.

Mr Parish’s office said that remains the aim, but he has been advised by the Department of Education to first meet with Regional Schools Commissioner Lisa Mannall because it was her office which signed off the school’s conversion from Local Education Authority-maintained school to an academy trust.

It is hoped that Mr Parish can meet with the commissioner this week and then set up a meeting with ministers.

The reason for the proposal to close the sixth form is “increasing financial pressure from government underfunding”.

There has been a particular reduction in the amount received per sixth form student, so many schools with small sixth forms have supplemented post-16 provision from budgets allocated to 11-16 year olds.

In Axe Valley Academy’s case the figure is about £500,000 a year, and is expected to increase, according to Mr Brook.

At the time of the announcement, Axe Valley Academy headteacher Steve Green told Pulman’s Weekly News: “Over the last five years, the maximum amount that a full-time student is funded has fallen from £4,816 to £4,000.”

Consultation papers are available online at http://axevalley.devon.sch.uk/parent/consultation

Chief Reporter | Started his working life on a farm before becoming a screen printer, both in Sweden. Had another career change and turned to journalism in the mid1990s. Enjoyed an internship with Alexandria Gazette Packet, Va, USA, before moving to the UK. Got a job with The Clarion in Yeovil in 1998, but moved to Axminster in 2006 and has worked on the East Devon beat since.

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