Ambitious West Suffolk College forms partnership with biggest sixth form in Ipswich, One, which is overhauling its finances

One sixth form in Ipswich

One sixth form in Ipswich

West Suffolk College is forming a partnership with the biggest sixth form in Ipswich in a move which brings together two of the counties “strongest” education providers.

West Suffolk College

West Suffolk College - Credit: Archant

The Bury St Edmunds college is forming Suffolk Academy Trust with One, formerly Suffolk One, at a time when the sixth form is in the middle of a major overhaul of its finances.

It means the sixth form will become an academy in September – giving it more power to control its budget and staffs’ pay.

Last night a spokesman for the sixth form said the partnership would help secure its long term finances.

It was announced last month that 30 members of staff would lose their jobs at One to help save £2million.

Alan Whittaker, One’s principal, said, “An academy order has been issued for Suffolk One to become an academy as part of the newly formed Suffolk Academy Trust.

“Suffolk Academy Trust brings together two of the strongest educational organisations in the county with complementary strengths to provide sustained high quality education in Suffolk.

“Further work by the school, trust and local authority will take place with a view to the school being able to open as an academy on September 1.”

As well as saving £2million in the next academic year, the sixth form has been working to pay off a £2m loan from Suffolk County Council.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council, said: “The funding situation for all post-16 providers is a very challenging one and it is important for Suffolk One to continue with its current round of cost efficiencies to ensure that they are on a sound financial footing for the future.

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“This new partnership will provide a more secure future for Suffolk One in the longer term.

“As with any start up institution in their early years, Suffolk One does have some debt that it will need to repay in time. All partners involved have worked together to develop an agreed plan to manage this situation while at the same time enable Suffolk One to continue to offer high quality programmes for local young people.”

Ipswich MP, Ben Gummer, said he was “delighted” by the partnership. “It’s an excellent result for which I have worked very hard and I am delighted that Suffolk One is becoming an academy with such a strong sponsor,” he said.

“This deal provides a very firm foundation for the school to build on its considerable success, it provides opportunities for One to broaden its provision of courses in our county town.”

Discussion about One becoming an academy first started in 2011, Mr Whittaker added.

“This is a positive move to secure the independent future of the sixth form thus allowing us to progress,” he said.

“It will also allow us to maintain our extremely high standards and the decision has been taken in the best interests of all concerned.”

Yesterday the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) announced it had balloted its 30 members at the sixth form. If the vote is a success strike action will take place in the summer term.