Pupils and teachers in shock as Suffolk New College closes its sixth form and A-level courses

Suffolk New College

Suffolk New College - Credit: Archant

Teachers and students were left in tears yesterday after they were told Suffolk New College is axing its sixth form.

Principal of Suffolk New College Dave Muller. Photograph Simon Parker

Principal of Suffolk New College Dave Muller. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

The Ipswich college is stripping away 15 A-level subjects in a move which is likely to mean teachers will lose their jobs.

More than 120 students currently study AS and A2 courses but college bosses say there has been a “significant decline” (25%) in numbers over three years.

Last night Ipswich MP Ben Gummer criticised how staff and students found out. And it was unclear whether current Year 12, AS students would be given a place at the college on an A2 course this September.

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

Mr Gummer said he backed the college’s “logic” behind the decision but was not impressed with how it was announced.

“The college’s logic is sound and I support the basis of their decision however the manner of which they have done this leaves much to be desired.

“Students have talked to me about how it was done and how they only heard about it through the rumour mill rather than officially which explains a great deal about why the college has a poor Ofsted rating.”

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

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A college spokeswoman said the reasons for the move, as well as the declining A-level student numbers, was a need to focus on vocational courses such as engineering.

There are only around 45 students on the A2 programme after a 40% decline in numbers over three years.

Roger Fern, chair of the corporation which governs the college and voted unanimously to remove the sixth form, said: “This was a very difficult decision to which our governors gave extremely careful consideration. The year by year decline in student numbers is beginning to impact on the range of A-levels which can be offered and is now limiting student choice considerably.”

AS student Rhiannon Williams claimed the college would help the 78 Year 12 students find courses at other sixth forms and colleges for September as they could not be promised place as A2 students at the college.

The 16-year-old from Ipswich said staff and students cried when they were told about the changes. Speaking yesterday, she said: “It’s been talked about all day. Students are upset as this is about our future. As a result students will be transferred to different colleges and sixth forms. It’s not good enough, teachers are going to lose their jobs.”

Graham White, secretary of Suffolk NUT, said: “I have strong reservations about it and I am absolutely shocked. It will affect pupils and their education.”

He added the move may benefit other schools in the area which need extra students.