Sixth form centre move from Rutland County College to Great Casterton going ahead

Principal of Casterton College, Carl Smith.

Principal of Casterton College, Carl Smith.

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Plans to create a sixth form at Casterton College, relocated from Rutland County College, have been formally approved by the Department of Education.

Principal of both colleges, Carl Smith, announced this week that they will start admitting sixth formers at their Great Casterton site from September 2017, while also compensating those joining Rutland County College next year who will have to travel further.

“It’s a long-held dream of the community in this area to have a school sixth form,” said Mr Smith. Casterton College is a member of the Stamford Alliance of Schools, alongside the Stamford Endowed Schools, Stamford Welland Academy and New College Stamford. “Students wishing to follow vocational and apprenticeship routes are encouraged to access the excellent range of courses on offer at New College Stamford,” Mr Smith added.

He emphasized that Casterton’s sixth form, which aims to provide places to around 300 students in new, purpose-built premises, will be open to not only Casterton College pupils, but to those applying from across Rutland, Stamford and the surrounding area.

“We are aware that there are a small group of young people for whom there will be an additional travel cost in their second year. For example, if you live in Oakham and walk to the college, now you might have to get a bus. We will reimburse all the students who will be starting with us next year, who have additional costs,” said Mr Smith.

With 70 per cent of their cohort coming from Stamford, Mr Smith has highlighted that for the majority it will reduce travel time and expense. A three-month consultation last year saw more than 600 people give their views on the plans, with just over 88 per cent of respondents in favour.

Mr Smith added that by operating from one site it will release up to half a million pounds in funding, make it easier for staff who currently travel across two sites, and help attract new staff interested in both secondary and sixth form teaching. They would continue to provide a range of A-levels, and build on extra-curricular opportunities, including offering the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award for the first time.

The principal also believes that by having older students at Casterton they will act as ‘aspirational role models’ to the younger years.

The decision over their premises in Barleythorpe, lies with owners Rutland County Council, but Mr Smith hopes it will continue to be used for education. He said it would be a ‘seamless transition’, adding: “The current students of Rutland County College will remain at Rutland County College, there is no disruption to them.”

A planning application has been submitted for the new sixth form buildings at Great Casterton. In relation to the Oakham campus, a county council spokesman said: “The Rutland County College building at Barleythorpe will be re-used following the academy’s decision to move to Casterton after the opening of Harington Free School. We are currently in the early stages of preparing plans that consider how we can make best use of the building.”

Since the abolition of the Stamford Endowed Schools scholarship scheme in 2012, no Stamford school has offered a full A-level state education, but A-levels can be studied at New College Stamford.

Janet Meenaghan, principal and chief executive of New College said: “New College Stamford has a long and successful history of delivering high quality A-levels, as well as a thriving vocational and apprenticeship offer.

“We attract over 2,000 full-time students each year who enjoy the friendly, supportive and more adult learning environment of our college setting, and we have an extensive choice of subjects available at all levels, from pre-GCSE through to degree level.

“An increasing number of students start with us on our A level and vocational courses and progress to higher education at the college, saving considerably on the cost of degree-level study.

“The College has always enjoyed the support of the local community in Stamford and our reputation within the town and the wider locale is excellent.

“We will continue to work in partnership with all of our local schools to provide progression opportunities for 16 year olds, both A Level and vocational.”