Royston schools merger: Questions raised about consultation after Meridian’s sixth form closure announced

The consultation into the schools merger has been criticised by some since the plans to scrap Meridi

The consultation into the schools merger has been criticised by some since the plans to scrap Meridian's designated sixth form centre were announced the day before the feedback window closed. - Credit: Archant

Questions have been raised about the consultation into the Royston school merger proposals, since plans to scrap sixth form provision at the town’s only designated centre were confirmed a day before the feedback period into the joining of three schools was closed.

On Thursday, the Royston Schools Academy Trust announced plans for an alliance with Baldock’s Knights Templar School, which will mean A-levels will be delivered there instead of Meridian Sixth Form College or the proposed new ‘through school’ – which would come into being if the merger between Roysia and Greneway middle schools and Meridian upper goes ahead.

The consultation period for the merger proposals for the new school – at the Meridian and Greneway site – ended on Friday.

After the sixth-form plans were unveiled, members of the community took to the Crow’s Facebook page to express their concerns about the consultation, considering the timing of the announcement.

One said: “How the hell can they announce such a decision before the consultation ends and the comments are considered?

“Consultation? More of an ‘insultation’.”

Another said: “They’d decided ages ago! The consultation is a waste of time. They should’ve spent time improving the sixth form rather than closing it.”

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An RSAT spokeswoman told the Crow: “RSAT has experienced significant funding pressures at all levels but particularly around cost effective delivery of post-16 education. RSAT have progressed plans for an alliance rather than closing the sixth form – supported by early feedback from the public meetings and drop-in sessions.

“The planned alliance information has been shared during this term to ensure current Year 11 students are aware of options open to them.”

A-levels and other courses would be delivered at Knights Templar, which is 9.7 miles from the Meridian site in Garden Walk.

However, certain courses will still be delivered at other venues in Royston under the umbrella of the new RSAT Sixth Form Centre.

These are the BTEC Level 3 extended diploma performing arts (dance) which would be delivered at Stage Right Studios, and CTEC extended diploma sport & physical activity, which would be held in partnership with Royston Town Football Club.

Knights Templar headteacher Tim Litchfield said: “I am delighted that we will be forming an alliance with the schools in Royston to provide their A-level provision.

“Given the change of circumstances for Meridian students, we are committed to providing transport to Baldock for those students who will join the KTS Sixth Form. We are delighted to be able to support a neighbouring community in this way to ensure the provision of a first-class sixth form education for both Royston and Baldock students.

“Furthermore, this will increase the total number of students based at our new sixth form centre and will support the continuation of a wide curriculum offering with the possibility of additional courses to be added.

“Knowing that RSAT shared information regarding sixth form provision on November 30, I communicated this information to the parents and carers at KTS to ensure that everyone was given the latest information on the same day. This is directly in line with the commitment made in the RSAT consultation document, published in October.”

In light of travelling to and from the Baldock site from Royston, A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said:

“The Royston Schools Academy Trust has made it clear that travel costs for students moving to Knights Templar will be met by the trust for at least two years after the transfer.

“Hertfordshire County Council is not responsible for providing sixth form transport between schools operating in a consortium or alliance, such as this. However, we would consider any application for transport in accordance with our published 16 to 18 policy.

“Travel guidance provided by the Department for Education for 16+ students suggests that journey times to school should not exceed 75 minutes.

“Although there is no legal requirement for schools to offer 6th form provision we would always welcome further opportunities for students to learn in Hertfordshire.”