New sixth form college proposed for west Suffolk

Alan Whittaker, Principal of Suffolk One, Dr Nikos Savvas, Chief Executive of the Suffolk Academies

Alan Whittaker, Principal of Suffolk One, Dr Nikos Savvas, Chief Executive of the Suffolk Academies Trust, Geoff Barton, Headteacher of King Edward VI School and Howard Lay, Chief Executive of the Samuel Ward Academies Trust. - Credit: Photo: Keith Mindham

A multimillion-pound plan for a new “world-class sixth form centre” in Bury St Edmunds is unveiled today.

Two academies and a third local authority school are teaming up to create a “learning village” at the King Edward VI School site, close to West Suffolk College.

This week, an application was sent to the Department for Education, with the sixth form centre proposing to open its doors in September, 2018, to west Suffolk students.

King Edward VI head teacher Geoff Barton said they “couldn’t me more excited” at the plans.

“Everything we believe to be essential in sixth form education can now be developed on a larger scale – including a rich range of extra-curricular opportunities in music, the arts, sport, debating and international leadership,” he said.

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The school has joined forces with the Suffolk Academies Trust – a collaboration between West Suffolk College and Suffolk One – as well as the Samuel Ward Academies Trust, which is behind the soon-to-open Sybil Andrews secondary school in Moreton Hall.

Sybil Andrews will no longer have a sixth-form, as originally proposed, with pupils now having wider options at the new centre.

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“This proposal will be fantastic news for students and their parents across west Suffolk, providing a strong sixth form ethos, making available a huge range of courses and signalling to everyone that here in Suffolk we can compete with the best sixth form centres in the UK,” said Samuel Ward Academies Trust’s chief executive Howard Lay.

Dr Nikos Savvas, chief executive of the Suffolk Academies Trust, said the support gained from sixth forms in the area added “credibility and momentum to this exciting new project”.

“We want to ensure that all 16-18 year old academic students in this area benefit from world-class A-level teaching,” he said.

A name for the new centre has not yet been decided upon, but a spokeswoman said it would be an individual centre in its own right.

After consultations with other schools in the area, the business case and rationale for the scheme is now with the government, which will decide the exact amount of funding for the project if it chooses to give it the green light. At that stage more detailed plans and designs would be created.

Around 500 students would start at the sixth-form centre in its first year, with a further 1,000 to join in its second year if all goes to plan.

According to a joint statement released by all the schools this morning, their ambition is to locate the new centre on the King Edward VI site in order to create “an innovative learning village”.

“This will enable greater flexibility of timetabling and shared staffing between the institutions,” said the statement.

The aim is to offer more than 40 A-level courses to young people across west Suffolk, helping students gain places at top universities and jobs in the UK’s highest-performing businesses, said the schools.

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill said she was thrilled at the plan.

“I am delighted to be supporting the proposal for a new Bury St Edmunds sixth form school,” she said last night.

“This move will build upon the already excellent reputation Bury St Edmunds has for delivering high-quality education through its primary and secondary schools.

“Most importantly, this prioritises the needs of young people and will enable students to access local, high class, specialised teaching.”

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