New Orleans style 'funeral' for under threat Thomas Whitham Sixth Form

Emotional students performed a mock funeral for a First World War hero and their namesake sixth form, which is uder threat of closure.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 2:42 pm
Thomas Whitham students performing a mock 'funeral' for the sixth form in Burnley town centre
Thomas Whitham students performing a mock 'funeral' for the sixth form in Burnley town centre

The A-Level students from Thomas Whitham Sixth Form paraded down a rain-sodden St James's Street in Burnley town centre, in a New Orleans style funeral, which ended with a short sombre performance.

Drama students Gary Lord, Millie Tipping, Lauren Parkinson, Lewis Naylor and Emily Greenall with teacher Russell Lane wrote and performed at the 'funeral'.

Acting principal Dionne Swift said: "The students feel very passionately about wanting to save their sixth form. They came up with the idea of the funeral which mourned the passing of our namesake, Thomas Whitham who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, and the possible closure of our sixth form.

Thomas Whitham students and supporters in Burnley town centre

"They wanted to do something that would express how passionately they feel about the situation. It will also form part of their A-Levels. I would urge all parents and local councillors to complete a consultation questionnaire by November 1st."

Worried parents, meanwhile, have said they believe the closure of the sixth form will severely compromise options for post 16 students in the Burnley area.

However, low student numbers, the sixth form had just 30 new entrants in September, has cast doubt over its long-term viability.

Mother Gemma Swift, whose daughter Shannon Cartwright is a Year 13 A-Level student at the sixth form, has been co-ordinating a campaign to keep it open.

Gemma said: "We now have 1,600 signatures on our petition to keep Thomas Whitham open. It's a good sixth form and the only issue with it is financial. However, it is so valuable to local students, particularly who would struggle to cope in larger colleges.

"There are a lot of autistic students who feel more comfortable at Thomas Whitham. Burnley MP Julie Cooper has been very supportive and we are due to meet Lancashire County Coun. Cosima Towneley who we are hoping will help us also."

Lancashire County Council is now consulting on the future of the sixth form.

County Coun. Phillippa Williamson who is cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said last month: "The reality is that schools with falling rolls have reducing budgets which can cause issues including reduced subject options and lower student attainment.

"Cabinet will need to consider this situation, including whether carrying out a consultation on the future viability of the sixth form is now timely."