Richard Holden, Member of Parliament for North West Durham, has announced that his campaign to stop the formal closure of Wolsingham Sixth Form has been successful.
Wolsingham Sixth Form was formally moved to a suspended status in 2019 due to low pupil numbers with no expectation that any sixth form provision would return. To be financially viable, the Sixth Form would need 100 pupils in each academic year. Two years after a suspension of a school or sixth form, a formal review of any school with elements of provision takes place. Advanced Learning Partnership Trust (ALP) who are the trust who now run Wolsingham School had sought to formally close the 6th form and end the prospect of a return of 16-18 provision to the school.
Richard Holden MP has campaigned against this, given the good progress that the school has made in increasing its numbers of 11-16-year-olds and the importance of 16-18 provision to Weardale residents and their children.
Keeping a sixth form in a suspended status costs nothing and means that the sixth form could, in the future, move from suspended to open, with relative ease, avoiding a complicated process of getting a sixth form started from scratch.
Since his election, Richard has been campaigning with Will Wearmouth, a Stanhope parish councillor, and Steve Cowie, a Wolsingham resident of over 25 years to prevent the sixth form’s formal closure. Richard also spoke to the Education Secretary and the Regional Schools Commissioner about the campaign. A survey Richard ran revealed that the overwhelming majority of his constituents supported his campaign.
The Regional Schools Commissioner has now written to Richard to confirm that his campaign has been successful, stating that the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, believes that school should remain suspended for a further fixed period, set to be agreed with the Schools’ Trust. The Regional Schools Commissioner stated that the fixed period of suspension will provide an opportunity to increase pupil numbers at the school and look again at the possibility of restarting 6th form provision.
Commenting, Richard Holden, Member of Parliament for North West Durham, said: “This is a campaign I have been working since I was elected and I have been working closely with local residents in Weardale, including Will Wearmouth and Steve Cowie to make our case to the Regional Schools Commissioner and to the Secretary of State for Education. I’d like the hundreds of local people who took part in my survey for helping make this a reality.
“This is just a first step though and it is an incredibly important campaign to local residents. Keeping the school in its suspended status ensures that we keep the opportunity of re-opening the 6th form alive. I hope that ALP engages with me and local residents in order to look at how we make that possibility a reality in the future. It’s vital that young people across North West Durham and the wider North East have the opportunities to fulfil their potential. Stopping the 6th form being formally closed is the first step and I really hope to work with ALP in the coming months to look at how we can take this to the next stage.”
Education Secretary, Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP said: “The school’s success at turning round 11-16 numbers with ALP’s support has been impressive and the campaign of Richard Holden MP, really giving a voice to the views of local people, have been fundamental in this decision to stop the formal closure of Wolsingham 6th form.
“I hope now that the trust and school look again at 6th form provision. After their success in turning around 11-16 provision, I hope that ALP will work with the local MP for the good of the young people and families towns and villages in Weardale and rural County Durham to do all they can to look at re-establishing this provision.”