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As it happened: Decision to close Culcheth sixth form to be scrutinised
Updated 8:34pm Wednesday 9th July 2014 in News
This live event has finished
- The decision by the council to close the sixth form at Culcheth High School will be discussed at a scrutiny meeting at the Town Hall at 6.30pm.
- The sixth form was due to close its doors for the final time on August 31.
- The decision to close the sixth form was linked to dwindling pupil numbers and financial implications for the school.
That's all for tonight. Thanks for staying with us.
Speaking after the meeting, Clr Vobe said:
"We are very grateful to the scrutiny committee for referring this matter back to the executive board.
"We thank members of all political colours for listening to our arguments and putting the best interests of our young people at the heart of tonight's decision."
To summarise, all three concerns 'called in' by Clr Vobe will now be referred back to the council's executive board for advice.
The meeting has now come to a close.
The two other issues will also be referred back to the council for advice.
Professional advice was not given due consideration.
Three in favour. Two against. Two abstentions.
The decision lacked clarity of aims and desired outcomes.
Five in favour. Two against.
Clr Walker says he would like to refer the decision back to the executive board for advice.
This has been seconded.
Six have voted in favour of this action. One against.
This is on the grounds that alternative options and their likely effects on the social, economic and environmental well-being of the town were not considered.
Clr Walker said it should be referred back to the executive board so that they can look at ways that might help the school improve its offer of a sixth form to increase numbers.
I am not convinced enough help was given to the sixth form to remedy the situation, claims one committee member.
The debate has now begun.
The first point being discussed is that professional advice was not given due consideration.
Clr Froggatt said this did not happen.
Clr Higgins has now backtracked and said he will allow a debate.
Clr Froggatt has consequently withdrawn his proposal to remove the chair.
'Unbelievable' 'outrageous' are some of the comments coming from the public gallery.
Clr Froggatt has proposed to move the chair. This has now been seconded by Clr Vobe.
This is over chairman Clr Higgins decision to take a simple yes or no vote without discussion.
Clr Froggatt said concerns have already been raised about transparency and by refusing to allow a debate will only add to this.
"I want a debate before I have a vote," Clr Froggatt added.
A council representative has claimed it was 'a responsible approach' to make school leavers aware that the sixth form could potentially closure.
It was again claimed that Ofsted highlighted that the governing body understands the school 'well'.
It was the governing body who proposed the closure of the sixth form.
Clr Vobe said: "When did we as a local authority first become aware that there was falling pupil numbers at the sixth form?"
It has been stated that it was about two years ago.
With regards to the council supporting UTCW, Clr Froggatt said: "This council has supported a competitor but has not supported one of its own."
Clr Froggatt has now raised concerns about the school's marketing strategy - in particular the lack of to investigate how it could attract more pupils to stay on at the sixth form.
Officers did get involved with supporting that, said the council representative.
Clr Froggatt has questioned some of the points made by the council with regards to subsidies to post 16 education.
He said money is being given to open a sixth form but no money is being given to protect sixth forms.
This is in reference to the UTCW.
The council representative said that this was not comparable.
She also outlined an Ofsted report which praised the governing body for making tough decisions in reference to the decision to propose the closure of the sixth form.
She denied that the executive board had not considered the proposal fully.
The executive board supported the governing body's decision to use the limited resources to benefit a large number of pupils aged 11 to 16 at the high school rather than the small numbers that exist at the sixth form.
The complexities of the decision were considered fully enabling the executive board to make an informed decision, she said.
She said the decision was 'not taken lightly'.
The decision was made after hearing evidence of declining pupil numbers - there are currently only 58 pupils at the sixth form and half will be leaving at the end of July.
It is no longer an effective use of financial resources, she added.
Executive board member for children's services Clr Jean Carter will now be responding to the case put forward.
Clr Vobe says there has been a 'cycle of decline' which has caused courses to be dropped and numbers to continue to drop.
But the drop has also been fuelled by the freeze in admissions, he added.
When prospective students at the school were asked if they would stay on at the sixth form, 56 answered 'maybe'.
Clr Vobe added that 63% of those who objected to the closure expressed dissatisfaction at the way dwindling pupil numbers were dealt with.
Clr Bretherton is now speaking about the decision and how this will affect neighbouring areas.
He said this will provide 'logistical difficulties' to students who will need to travel further at an increased cost.
There has been a significant amount of objections that must be taken into consideration, he added.
Clr Matt Smith is now putting forward the case.
"We should be working to improve post 16 education and not reducing the availability'" he said.
Clr Vobe has now brought up the decision by the council to give the University Technical College Warrington £115,000 worth of land.
The council has also spent £50,000 in staff time.
Chairman Clr Higgins has questioned the relevance of this information.
This appears to have hit a few nerves with members of the public, who clearly disagree with Clr Higgins quizzing Clr Vobe on the issue.
Clr Vobe has argued that these figures are relevant to his case as it outlines how other post 16 education facilities have been aided by the council.
All educational establishments in the town should be treated equally, he claimed.
Clr Vobe said there is 'a depth of support' that exists to keep the sixth form open.
He has also raised concerns about the validity of the consultation.
He also questioned the decision to suspend applications to the sixth form, which would naturally fuel the decline in pupil numbers.
It was also stated that this will not just affect the community in which the school lies but neighbouring areas such as Winwick, Rixton, Hollins Green and Glazebrook.
Clr Chris Vobe, who 'called-in' the decision, is now outlining his case.
To summarise, the decision was 'called-in' following a meeting by the council's executive board on June 10.
All concerns raised will be heard at the meeting.
The meeting has now started. The meeting will be chaired by Clr Tony Higgins.
Clr Chris Vobe is expected to open proceedings.
Don't forget to let us know your views by commenting below or tweeting us @warringtonnews.
Committee members are currently taking their seats.
The public gallery is also starting to fill up.
5:59pm Wed 9 Jul 14
That figure of 20-30 pupils who would attend is rubbish. I know that all 22 members of my childs form were planning on using the Sixth Form and thats just one class in year 11 alone. They didn't consult early enough and teachers were telling the kids to apply for colleges before the consultation even started. Smoke and mirrors. Nothing more.
The meeting will start at 6.30pm. Stay tuned for live coverage.
Let us know your views by commenting below or tweeting @warringtonnews.
Click the links below to have a read of some of our earlier coverage.
Culcheth High School launches consultation to close sixth form, click here.
Community fights Culcheth sixth form closure proposals. An 850-signature petition has been handed to Town Hall bosses in a bid to save Culcheth sixth form, click here.
Culcheth sixth form to close following years of dwindling numbers, click here.
But in the executive board meeting on June 10, it was decided that the school’s governing body would be able to use its financial resources more effectively should the sixth form be closed.
The council received hundreds of objections – with some sent in before the consultation period was even launched.
The vast majority of responses were as a result of a Save Culcheth Sixth Form campaign which had 829 objections.
The council also received 179 objections via email and post.
A further list of 158 names was also submitted.
The primary reason for closing the sixth form was down to dwindling pupil numbers.
In the academic year 2013 to 2014, only 57 students attended the sixth form - despite 200 places on offer.
It has also been claimed that only 20 to 30 year 11 pupils were likely to choose Culcheth High School Sixth Form in September 2014.
The decision was ‘called-in’ as it is alleged that:
• Professional advice has not been given due consideration
• The decision lacks clarity of aims and desired outcome
• Alternative options and their likely effects on the social, economic and environmental well-being of the town have not been considered
Speaking before the meeting, Clr Vobe said: “Ward councillors from Culcheth and Rixton will use the scrutiny process to present detailed evidence regarding the proposed closure of Culcheth Sixth Form.
“We believe there are a number of important points that deserve greater consideration, particularly in respect of the governance of the school and the way in which the sixth form has been marketed.
“It is important to stress that scrutiny does not have the power to overturn a decision, but it can refer the matter back to the council’s executive board.
“I look forward to making the case on behalf of residents tonight.”
The sixth form was set to close on August 31 following years of dwindling pupil numbers.
The closure was given the green light at a council executive board meeting on June 10 where members voted unanimously in support of the governors’ decision to shut down the sixth form on Warrington Road.
But the decision was 'called-in' as part of the overview and scrutiny process by Clr Chris Vobe (Culcheth, Glazebury and Croft - LAB), who strongly opposes the closure.
The decision by the council to close the sixth form at Culcheth High School is to be discussed at a scrutiny meeting at the Town Hall at 6.30pm.
At tonight’s meeting, its members will decide if the executive board adhered to all of the ‘decision-making principals of the council’.
It is worth noting that the scrutiny committee cannot overturn the decision but could refer the decision back to the executive board.