RSAT headteacher: Rebuilding post-16 provision is part of our vision

New RSAT head Gordon Farquhar. Picture: RSAT

New RSAT head Gordon Farquhar. Picture: RSAT - Credit: Archant

The headteacher of Greneway, Roysia and Meridian schools in Royston has addressed concerns raised in the Crow regarding the lack of sixth form provision in the town.

Meridian School, Royston. Picture: CALLUM ALLCOCK-GREEN

Meridian School, Royston. Picture: CALLUM ALLCOCK-GREEN - Credit: Picture: CALLUM ALLCOCK-GREEN

Plans to merge the three schools into one through school for students from Year 5 to 13 in Garden Walk were first unveiled by the Royston Schools Academy Trust in September 2017, and details about plans to close Meridian and form an alliance with The Knights Templar School in Baldock announced later.

The earliest the schools would merge – meaning the sixth form would close – is September 2019, after delays in the Department for Education’s final decision.

In the January 10 edition of the Crow, we published a letter from Bob Hayzen who said that he was surprised and disappointed that there has not

been a greater reaction to what he believes is a “completely wrong decision”, and that “the continued growth of the town will result in the need to restore provision of sixth form education in Royston”.

Headteacher Gordon Farquhar has now responded to the letter.

He said: “Thank you very much for voicing your concerns about the loss of sixth form provision within our town. Like you, I believe the benefits of sixth form education as part of ‘normal schooling’ are a crucial part of local education which is slowly being worn away in order to make school budgets balance.

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“In our case this is particularly tragic as, once again, the Meridian sixth form was judged as good in our recent Ofsted report. Our sixth form students are an example to all and, as I have often stated, are the future ambassadors of the school.

“We are trying to find ways to offer provision, but my priority has to be ensuring that provision fully meets the needs for our students. This is a problem many schools are currently facing as we address increasingly tight budgets and national funding.

“I appreciate your acknowledgement that this is a situation which has been allowed to grow over a period of time and would add that our move to a through school approach in the past 12 months has brought some challenges for the community which have added to this uncertainty.

“As you will be aware, I have joined the schools to specifically lead these issues and move our system forward. I am very fortunate that, like yourself, many of those people associated with the school raise these concerns through a forum where I can respond and can try to strategically address these concerns working with them.

“I can also say our commitment to ensuring we move forward and continue to get the best for students in Royston is our key focus, rebuilding our post-16 provision is a key part of that vision. To achieve this we need to continue to develop the limited post-16 provision we have, while maintaining the quality it is recognised as having.

“I am confident we will continue to develop pupil and parent confidence in the education we provide and grow as a school. The support and appropriate challenge from people like yourself is also important in achieving those aims.

“I was able to walk our MP, Sir Oliver Heald, around the school sites just before Christmas and it was clear to me that he is aware of the issues schools face.

“Nationally there have been campaigns to raise awareness about school funding and I know many of you wrote to Sir Oliver and his colleagues about this issue. Raising awareness and challenging issues is an important part of that but, from the schools’ perspective, growing pupil numbers and continually raising standards is the first point in the future success for our young people.”

Mr Hayzen’s letter also struck a chord with others in the town.

District councillor Ruth Brown said: “I wholeheartedly agree that sixth form students in Royston should not have to travel out of town to study A-levels. However, the year-on-year reduction of funding for sixth forms by our Conservative government means that any sixth form with fewer than 200 students is no longer financially viable.

“Given the expected increase in pupil numbers in Royston over the next five to 10 years, Royston Liberal Democrats will do everything we can to support the Royston Schools Academy Trust to restart A-level provision as soon as possible.”

And a former member of staff told the Crow: “I too have misgivings about the loss. It was always a pleasure to watch students grow and mature from a platform of care, education and good fun that the once thriving sixth form engendered.

“Seeing them receiving their A-level and other results, and knowing they were set on their chosen path was very rewarding.”