Parents and former students lead fight to save Burnley's Thomas Whitham Sixth Form

Thomas Whitham Sixth Form
Thomas Whitham Sixth Form

A petition has been set up in an attempt to save Burnley’s Thomas Whitham Sixth Form, which is under threat of closure.

The Burnley Express revealed the shock news last month that Thomas Whitham Sixth Form had approached Lancashire County Council in July to say it was worried about its future due to 'concerns about financial viability.'

In response, parents have set up a petition which hundreds of local people have already signed and offered their support, believing Thomas Whitham offers something different from the traditional college environment.

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

They added that the sixth form means more to its students than just a good quality education, and cited smaller class sizes and a community atmosphere as integral to their success.

However, despite the school's successive Good Ofsted Inspection ratings, low student numbers have continued, particularly since 2016/17.

Gemma Swift, the mother of a Year 13 student, said: "The closure will be consulted on by Lancashire County Council shortly, and the aim of the petition is to try and influence that process and do everything we can to ensure it remains open and continues to provide an incredible education for students in Burnley and beyond.

Support has also come from former students including Charlotte Rigby who said: “Thomas Whitham provides individual support for each of their students, something which some of the bigger colleges sometimes lack.

"I owe my veterinary nursing degree and my status as a registered veterinary nurse to the teachers at Thomas Whitham who not only provided me with the knowledge but also helped to solve other logistical problems which may have stopped me going to uni. I hope this place can be saved as it offers something in education to this community which is not available elsewhere.”

Colin Brown said: “Thomas Whitham Sixth Form is such a strong and successful school that offers students a quality of support and attention not found in the Burnley area. Its closure will seriously affect the educational choices of young people in Burnley and Pendle.

"This sixth form consistently achieves great results, with the vast majority of students getting into the university of their choice. It also provides a calm and supportive environment for learners who would struggle at the larger FE colleges in the area. It's a model of good practice and one which should be learnt from and celebrated, certainly not closed. We can't afford to lose schools like this.”

Worried parent Denise McGlynn, said she was concerned about her son's future.

“This is the only place locally that is suitable for high functioning autistic students that cannot cope with a busy environment. The pastoral support they provide is outstanding and each student is given a high level of individual support. I haven't seen this offered anywhere else locally at this level.

"My son is starting this year and I am so disappointed that it is likely he won't be able to finish his further education courses with there being nowhere else locally for him to attend.

"There are so many bright high functioning autistic students not given the chance to succeed when they have the academic ability and I, as a mother had found it here for my son. I'm so disappointed that they may be facing closure and he won't be given his chance to thrive and move on with his life.”

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.

"We are committed to providing the best possible educational experience for all of our young people.

"Because of this we want to ensure that all prospective sixth form students are aware of the current situation, and are able to make alternative provision, if required.

"I'd like to reassure parents and students that if a consultation is held, all of the feedback will be considered before any decisions are made."

The petition is available on change.org at http://chng.it/6QcZFDMc and a Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/savetwsf/