Plans for sixth form at school are dropped

Carl Smith, the principal at Casterton College Rutland
Photo: Lee Hellwing
Carl Smith, the principal at Casterton College Rutland Photo: Lee Hellwing

Casterton College Rutland has announced that it will not open a sixth form building in September.

The school, which is closing the campus of Rutland County College in Barleythorpe in August, had previously announced that it would move its sixth form facilities to its campus in Great Casterton to provide much needed support for the Stamford community, but without guaranteed applications the plans have been reassessed.

Principal Carl Smith said: “The decision to not move the sixth form to Casterton has not been taken lightly. We’ve had to assess the situation carefully but governors decided they could not viably commit to the sixth-form without confirmed application numbers.

“There are a few members of staff who may be affected by the decision, but we were already in discussions with New College Stamford to share staff between the two campuses and we’ll continue to do so.”

He said that Casterton would have needed more than 50 students to attend the sixth form to make it viable but, following contact with all of the applicants, only 34 had indicated that Casterton would have been their first choice.

Prior to the decision to close the Rutland County College campus in Barleythorpe, consultation had been carried out that Mr Smith was “overwhelmingly in favour” of moving operations to the Casterton site.

He said it was important to make a decision so students could secure places elsewhere.

They were told of the decision not to the open the sixth form last week and are being supported to find other appropriate sixth form providers, including New College Stamford and Bourne Grammar School.

Casterton College Rutland took over the management of Rutland County College from Tresham in 2009 and in 2012 the college campus was moved from Oakham to Barleythorpe.

But the opening of Harington School at Catmose College in Oakham in September, less than a mile away, greatly affected applications and Casterton said it had no choice but to not run Year 12 classes this year, announcing plans to move the sixth form to Casterton this September.

Mr Smith had previously been head of sixth form and took over as overall principal in Easter 2015 from Victoria Crosher, who retired after a decade in charge.

He said he was personally disappointed not to be able to realise the ambition to open a sixth form on the Casterton site.

Mr Smith said: “Rutland County College has been a part of the community for generations, but there are not enough pupils to fill places at two sixth forms in the county.

“We have been victims of our own success as the GCSE results at Casterton are so high, a lot of our students qualify for scholarships or grammar school places.”

The school announced last month that both campuses had been rated ‘good with outstanding features’ by Ofsted. Ofsted has also recently written to Mr Smith apologising for a number of inaccuracies in their initial report including highlighting certain subjects as “weak” when they were not. This did not change the overall outcome of the report but Mr Smith said he was pleased the errors had been acknowleged and that a strong report was “now even stronger”.

Last year, Casterton’s GCSE results put it in the top one per cent of schools in the East Midlands and Mr Smith is confident of achieving similarly successful grades again this year. Current pupils are already working hard for their GCSEs and one Year 11 pupil told the Mercury this week that although he was “sad” at the decision not to open a sixth form at Casterton, he was confident of securing a place at the more selective Bourne Grammar School.

The building, which was being built specifically for the sixth form will now be used as additional classrooms for the school. The school received a £1m grant from the Department for Education for the building. Current classes will be moved to the new building enabling rooms to be freed up for more social space which Mr Smith would be of huge benefit because there is nowhere for pupils to go off-site during breaks and lunchtimes.

Mr Smith added: “We’d like to thank the community for their continued support of Rutland County College and we will be working with past and present students to ensure it is fondly remembered.

“For now we’ll concentrate on continuing to maintain our position as the highest performing secondary school in Stamford and Rutland and supporting our students in their post-16 applications elsewhere.”