Future of Calder High School’s sixth form in the balance

Consultation: Headteacher Tony Guise has written to parents and spoken to staff and students
Consultation: Headteacher Tony Guise has written to parents and spoken to staff and students

Calder High is beginning a pre-statutory consultation on the future of the school’s sixth form, the school has revealed.

Parents of children at the Mytholmroyd school were to receive letters from today outlining the possibility of closing Calder VI and they are being invited to a January 30 meeting at the school to find out more and ask questions.

Headteacher Tony Guise said closing Calder VI was by no means a done deal but it had to be considered and after the pre-statutory consultation a report would be submitted to Governors, the local authority and Cabinet, who would have to decide whether to take the next step of a statutory consultation.

Mr Guise said it cost in excess of £250,000 more to run Calder VI against what the school actually got from Government for kits sixth form education via the schools agency.

“We have been running it at a deficit for the last four years,” he said.

“The longer it goes on it will be at the expense of what we do really well from ages 11 to 16. Money would have to be diverted away from the 11-16s.

“Having brought that to where we are in the top ten per cent, I don’t think anyone wants to see that diminishing.

“I have been here five years and we have taken the school from one of the lowest performing schools in Calderdale to one of the top performing at GCSEs, across the board.

“Every single year we have tried to raise numbers in the sixth form but without success,” said Mr Guise.

Several parents contacted the Hebden Bridge Times expressing upset and anger at the proposals.

One emailed: “As a parent whose child already attends Calder High and was hoping to continue into Calder VI I am deeply saddened and quite furious that this is happening. We attended an open evening in November where the head assured us that Calder VI was remaining open and encouraged students to pick it as their first choice. The deadline for other colleges has now passed so it’s really limited my daughter’s options.”

Mr Guise said that sixth form roll numbers had been falling in large part due to the school’s increasing GCSE success, with students departing to nearby specialist sixth form centres such as Burnley College, Rochdale College, which was one of the best performing in the country, Greenhill, Huddersfield New College and the two Halifax grammar schools.

A smaller sixth form meant the smaller the range of courses it could offer became and Calder High could not always meet the exact curriculum needs for some students to follow the further education or career path they had chosen. Calder High encouraged them to make the choices that were right for them, even if that meant going elsewhere. “We teach them to become balanced, informed individuals. We are victims of our own success,” said Mr Guise.

The school studied data from September, when Calder High students achieved the school’s best ever accross-the-board GCSE results yet lowest ever Year 12 recruitment. “We were forced to look at the situation,” said headteacher Tony Guise.

Also, although Todmorden High closed its sixth form, there was no real extra influx of potential students, many opting for Burnley College.

Another major factor was the local authority agreeing to create a central Halifax sixth form centre.

“The Department of Education are not opening new sixth forms that have less than 200 students. Currently I have 121,” said Mr Guise.