Pupils ‘devastated’ as school near Aylesbury and Buckingham announces plan to close sixth form

Headmaster cites 'financial challenges’ as reason for decision at Sir Thomas Fremantle School situated between Aylesbury and Buckingham in Winslow
Classroom editorial image for illustration purposes onlyClassroom editorial image for illustration purposes only
Classroom editorial image for illustration purposes only

Pupils were stunned this week to learn that Sir Thomas Fremantle School near Aylesbury and Buckingham is to close its sixth form in 2023 due to “financial challenges”.

The shock news was announced to parents in a letter from headmaster Neale Pledger on Wednesday.

He said the sixth form at the Winslow school would close at the end of 2023. It will not affect the current crop of sixth form students, who will be able to complete their studies.

But no applications will be accepted for 2022-2024.

One Winslow parent of a Year 11 child said: “My daughter is devastated. She was looking forward to the sixth form at Sir Thomas Fremantle School. She doesn’t know where to go now.”

Mr Pledger said: “Budgets remain a significant challenge for schools, especially stand-alone academies such as ours.

“Having accountability for public funds means we need to ensure that every aspect of our expenditure has to be cost effective and offer the public value for money at every level.

“Our sixth form is small in comparison to other local schools in MK and Bucks. We run classes with fewer than five students and this becomes incredibly challenging when we are trying to provide a cost effectiveness for our sixth form.

“As a result of this, the governing body has taken the decision to close the sixth form at the end of 2023. This does not affect any of our current students in Year 12 and Year 13. Both year groups will complete their programme of study and sit their examinations as expected.

“This has been a huge decision for the school, and while it is one that we are disappointed to make, we do recognise that the financial commitment a sixth form brings is no longer sustainable.

“Despite our best attempts to make the sixth form financially viable we have found it impossible to break into the established sixth form market within Buckinghamshire.

“The lack of certainty around student numbers at post 16 is always a challenge and it is impossible to accurately budget for and ensure that we can run cost effective courses.

“While this decision has been tremendously difficult to make, we do feel that it is the correct one for the future of Sir Thomas Fremantle and the student body as a whole.

“I want to reassure those families with students in Year 12 and 13 currently that our expectations and passion will remain.

“We will ensure that the students leaving sixth form at the end of Year 13 this year and next will do so with the security to go on to their next phase of learning, whether that be an apprenticeship, university, college or work.

“Our standards will not drop, and students and families can still expect the very best in teaching and learning while their child remains in our sixth form.”