Plea to save Flintshire's sixth forms

Reporter:

Kate Forrester

FEARS are mounting over the future of Flintshire’s sixth forms.

Councillors and headteachers have raised concerns that Deeside College could dominate further education along the county’s coastal strip from Queensferry to Holywell.

They believe the college’s continued expansion could take students from high schools and threaten their futures.

One head, Pamela McClean from Flint High School made an impassioned plea to councillors at a meeting of Flintshire’s lifelong learning committee to protect sixth forms based in local schools.

Mrs McClean said: “I have worked in three high schools in Flintshire – Mold Alun and Hawarden and I am headteacher at Flint and there is a definite difference between them.

“The problem we have in Flint is that we have to really encourage pupils to continue with their education and progress to university.

“We have to work extremely hard to keep these children in school and the impact of a school losing its sixth form is significant.

“I am fearful that in Flintshire there could be a two-tier system and that really troubles me as head of a high school.”

The issue was raised after a presentation by college principal David Jones, which looked at plans to expand Deeside College’s recently-acquired Northop campus.

Flint Castle councillor Ian Roberts, who is also a teacher in Wrexham, said: “The investment in Deeside College is very clear and we can all see it.

“Difficulties can arise when students visit the learning centre at the college then return to their own school, which may be lacking in investment.

“There is also an increased amount of pressure on youngsters in my ward to get out and earn some money as soon as possible.

“It is quite clear that some areas of 14-19 education have had significant capital investment and others have not.

“My main concern is that of Pamela’s – that we are heading for a two-tier system where the coastal schools will lose their sixth forms and inland ones will not.”

David Jones said: "These are challenging times for all of us who provide education and training in Wales, as we all have to face up to the challenge of widening choice and improving the achievements of our learners against a back-drop of reducing funding and the need for capital investment. 

Deeside College is widely regarded as Wales's leading college, and our success over recent years is a result of an outstanding workforce and governing body - our funding system is no different to the sixth form funding of local schools, so to suggest that we have some of advantage over others is misleading.”

He added:  “We all need to be more efficient, improve performance, and ensure we secure significant capital investment for schools and college.

“We will only achieve this if we work together, face up to the reality of funding challenges, and put aside institutional self-interest and put learners first.
 
“Deeside College is working in partnership with Flintshire County Council and all the high schools to develop a long-term plan that will achieve this.”

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