Staff to be cut at Ipswich’s One sixth form as part of £2million savings drive
PUBLISHED: 12:25 27 January 2015 | UPDATED: 12:25 27 January 2015
The largest sixth form centre in Suffolk needs to make £2million worth of savings in its next academic year which will see staffing cuts across the school – the Star can reveal.
One, formerly Suffolk One, on Scrivener Drive in Ipswich has been running in deficit for the past four years and as a result it has to make cuts to all areas of the business, taking effect from September.
Principal Alan Whittaker said: “We are in a very strong position, we’ve got a really strong staff team, and we know that the ethos and the teamwork here will see us through and the focus is always on the outcome of the students.
“We are in tough times but that tends to happen and people respond and they get through it stronger.
“The level of savings we are looking to make is probably about £2million, which represents 20% of our budget, so it’s a significant number and obviously on that scale we are looking at all areas of staff and all areas of the business.”
The institution was formed in September 2010 and replaced and combined the sixth form provision of many secondary schools in the area.
The school, which has 196 full-time equivalent staff, was one of the most expensive in the country to be built - with the overall project costing £72million.
The construction of the building, which cost £60million, was funded by a grant from The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and was one of the last projects it funded before it was replaced by the Young People’s Learning Agency.
One did not receive any funding for the land, and did not receive a start-up fund, which is used to fund teachers and associated costs ahead of recruiting pupils.
“We were built as a school and so the LSC felt that the start-up grant should come from the local authority, so we were caught between two funding agencies,” Mr Whittaker said.
“We didn’t get a start-up grant, and obviously with all the costs associated before you open, in education the funding is linked to learners, and until the learners are on site you don’t get funding, so that was a big issue.”
The school has the capacity to accommodate 2036 students, and in the year 2010/11 it enrolled 702 pupils, which Mr Whittaker said had a negative financial impact.
Suffolk County Council gave One a loan of £2million to buy the land and Mr Whittaker said that paying off this debt was an added pressure.
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We believe One has an important part to play in the future of post 16 years’ education.
“They are taking the correct course of action and we will support them wherever we can.
“Discussions are taking place regarding the ways in which we may be able to help One alleviate financial pressures.”
Next month, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer will meet with the education minister to try and secure a government grant for the school.
Mr Gummer said: “One has unique funding problems which go back to when it was set up in 2008/9.
“They are proving extremely difficult to untangle, although the county council has made a number of important moves in the last few months so that the school can re-structure its debt.
“I have arranged a meeting with David Laws in the next few weeks to see if we can get a final settlement so that One can have the confidence to continue the success it has already shown.”
The sixth form sits in the South Suffolk constituency, and its MP Tim Yeo said he would support anything that could be done to make sure as many people as possible could continue to benefit from the school.
Mr Yeo added: “I’m very happy to support any effort he is making to convince the minister to be generous.”
Despite its financial struggles, One has seen its student numbers grow significantly year-on-year.
Last summer, graduating pupils achieved better results on all types of study programmes than the UK average, according to vice principal Jenny Milsom.
She said over the last three years college student progress was in the top 5% of all schools and colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to a report commissioned by Suffolk County Council using Department for Education data.
Chairman of governors at One, the Venerable Ian Morgan said: “Our plan for change has been put together in a way which continues to put students first and will continue to prioritise high levels of achievement.
“Our main focus at the moment is on supporting staff and also seeking ways of minimising the impact of this need for change.
“We also would like to reassure our students, their parents and guardians that studies will not be adversely affected by this situation.”