Students and parents have given a positive welcome to a collaboration which will help to secure the provision of sixth form education in Bridgnorth.
Telford College is working with the town’s two secondary schools – Oldbury Wells and Bridgnorth Endowed – to explore ways of ensuring the continuation of post-16 provision.
Oldbury Wells is currently the only school in Bridgnorth offering sixth-form courses – but has announced the potential closure of this service at the end of the 2024-25 academic year.
Staff from all three sites now have met with parents and students to discuss the plans, saying it has generated ‘good conversations and some nice feedback’.
Full details of the curriculum have yet to be confirmed, but it is hoped that the new-look provision will begin from September 2024.
“We made a decision earlier this year to go out to consultation about what the long-term future could be for our sixth form,” said Oldbury Wells School head Lee Tristham.
“Five or six years ago we had a joint sixth form across both schools in Bridgnorth, but changes were made after looking at the number of young people in the town, and finances available.
“We are now in the same situation again. We are very proud of our sixth form, but we have seen a reduction in numbers, and young people attracted by a wider variety of courses offered by some larger post-16 providers.
“We felt the time had come to consider what the next steps would be, including exploring a new partnership way of working, which would continue our offering going forward.”
He added: “Lots of our students talk about the fact that they see an involvement with a wider organisation as a stepping stone to the next stage of their education, employment or training.
“The hope is that the outcome of this partnership would give the best of both worlds – it would still give students chance to be based locally, but also provide access to a wider range of provision and resource which is a really positive outcome for everybody.
“It just feels the right thing to do. Feedback has been really positive so far, and people are now keen to know more of the detail which will start to become clear as we move forward.
“We want to make sure that whatever we are able to offer in partnership with Telford College and Bridgnorth Endowed meets our young people’s needs.”
Janet Stephens, deputy chief executive of Telford College, said it was clear from initial meetings that there is a shared ethos and ‘lots of common ground’ between the college and Bridgnorth’s two secondary schools.
“We would be planning to deliver this new sixth form provision from Oldbury Wells – we would like to create a bespoke sixth form centre here for the Bridgnorth area. But we would also be looking to link it to Telford College’s new sixth form centre which will be opening in September 2025 in the town centre.
“What we would really like is to have our new Telford town centre base, plus a locally-provided centre in Bridgnorth, to ensure we can make the sixth form provision as accessible as possible.”
She added: “We have appointed a project manager to begin a feasibility study for this project. A key part of this will involve consulting with parents and young people.
“We will be sending out surveys, gathering views, and collating people’s suggestions and ideas, working closely with the two Bridgnorth schools. We recognise that transport is going to be one of the key talking points.”
Michael Penn, headteacher at Bridgnorth Endowed School said: “It has been several years since both schools in the town have worked formally together to provide post-16 provision in the area.
“Both schools have excellent partnerships working with a range of further education providers and we see this opportunity as a chance to develop a further pathway, which will support young people and their families directly within the community.”
Telford College is the largest further education centre in Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire, and is recognised as a major training hub for employers across the region, contributing more than £226 million a year to the local economy.
It delivers a broad range of courses, including A levels, T-Levels, apprenticeships, degree-level higher education programmes, blended and virtual learning, and sector-specific specialist training hubs to help plug skills gaps.
Pictured above: At Oldbury Wells School during a community consultation event are, from left, Janet Stephens, Michael Penn, Telford College chief executive Graham Guest, and Lee Tristham