Parents and students criticise Suffolk New College for “slashing courses” and “demoralising teachers” after closure of sixth form is announced

Suffolk New College A-level students are protesting against the school's decision to get rid of thei

Suffolk New College A-level students are protesting against the school's decision to get rid of their courses - Credit: Su Anderson

More than 25 teachers could lose their jobs, according to angry students who are protesting against the closure of their sixth form.

Suffolk New College is cutting its 15 A-level courses from September – a decision which has shocked staff, parents and students.

Bosses at the Ipswich college blame the move on declining student numbers and a need to focus on vocational subjects.

The college has said there are “likely to be some job losses” but has not officially said how many.

A protest group has started a petition against the closure. Jasmin Wheatley, 18, is on an AS course studying film, media, English language and communication and cultural studies.

She said: “I thought it was a joke when I heard. A lot of people in the college are extremely upset, people were crying.

“Staff were told not to discuss it with students. The original plan was for us to hear about this after our exams in two months’ time.

“We were not expecting this 24 hours ago. Parents are really angry, everyone has been on the phone to them, they are completely on our side. The corporation (which runs the college) is a business venture, devoid of empathy.”

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Students said there were “no guarantees” they would be able to carry on at the college in September.

Only about 120 teenagers are on the AS and A2 courses currently, with dozens of students having left A-level courses since last September, according to pupils. They say the students went because they were not able to meet required A-level standards.

David Burnett, 62, step-father to student Connor Smith, 16, came from his home in Thorndon, near Eye, to express his concerns.

He said: “It was the way it was done, Connor said the teachers were in tears yesterday. I don’t know what will happen now, he might have to do one day a week in Felixstowe and another in Bury St Edmunds.

“Parents do not want their children going to an Ofsted damaged school but I think people should be working together to improve the courses and improve the curriculum.

“I do not think the way to improve the Ofsted grade is by slashing courses and demoralising teachers.”

Last year the college, which has around 5,600 students in total, was given a “requires improvement” Ofsted mark.

The news comes at a time when the college has appointed a new principal to replace the outgoing long-standing boss, Dave Muller.

A spokeswoman for the college said: “All students currently on the AS study programme will be given the opportunity to progress to A2 subject to meeting the entry qualifications for the academic year 2015/16. These will be individually negotiated to ensure the study programme meets their individual needs and aspirations.”

It is not clear whether this means the course will be provided at the college or another sixth form or school.

Professor Muller, principal of Suffolk New College said: “We are committed to ensuring that those students studying AS will be able to progress to a one year A2 programme this Autumn. Our current A2 students will be supported in progressing to higher education or work.”

A website link to the petition is available through the Facebook site, Save Suffolk New College A-Level Department.