A milestone council decision safeguarding sixth-form education in Flint has been hailed as a victory for people power.
The threatened sixth-form partnership between Flint High School and St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School had been earmarked for the chop as part of a county-wide post-16 education shake up.
But yesterday it was saved from closure after council cabinet members voted to retain the facility.
The decision follows protests, almost 1,000 consultation responses and a 400-name petition calling for the partnership – called “6” – to remain.
It has only been operating since September and is yet to complete its first academic year.
Pam McLean, headteacher at Flint High School, paid tribute to the “strength of feeling in the community” which she said had helped save the facility.
She said: “Since its launch in September 2013 the sixth form students have been very happy with the provision and we have more students than ever registered for the next academic year.
“I personally have been overwhelmed by the strength of feeling in the community.
“We are very grateful to the cabinet of Flintshire Council for taking this important decision and for giving both schools the opportunity to make the partnership a success.”
Andrea Roberts, chair of governors at Flint High, said she felt relief and elation.
“Everyone involved in the campaign in both schools, including our local councillors, can be congratulated in helping secure this positive outcome,” she said.
The sixth-form partnership has been threatened by plans for a separate post-16 educational hub to be built in Connah’s Quay. It is proposed to serve pupils of sixth-form age from Holywell, Shotton, Queensferry and Connah’s Quay.
Sixth-formers from Flint had been due to go there too.
But cabinet members yesterday confirmed they thought the two post-16 centres can co-exist.
“It was important that we gave the schools more time to demonstrate what could be achieved,” said Cllr Aaron Shotton, leader of Flintshire Council.
Flintshire Council received more than 1,550 responses to the public consultation on the Flint specific proposals, which ended in January.
Despite yesterday’s landmark vote the Flint partnership will still be subject to annual review after council chief executive Colin Everett said the scheme “is not without risk”.
“It is important not to set the two schools up to fail,” he said.
“We will work with the schools to ensure sustainability.”
The council’s director for lifelong learning Ian Budd added: “Commendably, the schools have submitted aspirations for learners that are ambitious and will be challenging to achieve.
“In doing so, the two schools have also set a real and appropriate challenge to the wider community of Flint to support the schools and ensure that entry and retention student numbers are sufficient for a sustainable model.
“It is a challenge that the schools can only meet if the young people of Flint not only support their local school sixth form, but also thrive and secure better outcomes than has often been the case in the past, supported by their families and the wider community.”
Plans for the separate sixth form centre at Connah’s Quay could see the facility open in 2016 as part of Welsh Government plans to transform post-16 education in Flintshire.
That proposal will be discussed by councillors at their next planning meeting.