Parents and pupils at Wixams Academy have expressed their feelings of betrayal after receiving a letter from the school’s principal saying that it would be withdrawing sixth form provision.
The school, which opened in 2017 and is part of the Bedford College Academies Trust (BCAT), was due to launch its sixth form in September 2022 to accommodate the first cohort of students who have been at the school since Year 7.
However, in a letter to parents and students dated 22 April, headteacher Paul Spyropoulos, confirmed that the school does not “have sufficient space within our existing buildings to open a Sixth Form.”
A somewhat contradictory statement from the Bedford College Academies Trust, received by the Bedford Independent today (27 April), says that in March this year, the Board of the Trust “reaffirmed its commitment to have a sixth form.”
Beyond BCAT’s control
The statement goes on to say: “However, it was also recognised that there were factors beyond the control of the Trust, such as pressures caused by Covid and coordinating with outside agencies, which raised time scale risks around the opening of the sixth form.”
“>BCAT is recruiting for a new Chief Executive Officer, one of whose key roles will be coordinating the delivery of a sixth form for the school.
While BCAT confirmed that they would begin recruiting for the post this week, they were unable to say when the sixth form would open to students.
Founding students betrayed
One parent described the news as a “kick in the teeth” for the founding students who joined the school, safe in the knowledge that they would be able to stay until Year 13.
Speaking to the Bedford Independent, parent Paul Pantony said: “We the parents of year 10 students at Wixams Academy feel massively betrayed and let down by the decision to withdraw the provision of a sixth form.
“Because Bedford College Academies Trust has repeatedly accepted more students than the school was designed for, now the longest-serving pupils are being told they must leave after they have taken their exams because there is no room for them.”
This view was shared by parent Tracey Arnaud. She said: “The sixth form has always been included in the Academy, and it seems that their over willingness to accept any child in their admissions has meant our older children will suffer, due to larger classes for lower years.”
Tracey, who has lived in Wixams for over 11 years, has a son with High Functioning Aspergers. She said that one of the main reasons to choose the school was that he could continue his education into the sixth form on the same site.
She is worried he is not going to be able to cope with the change of moving to a completely different environment.
“I was dumbfounded to read that BCAT actually blamed Covid for us not having the sixth form,” said Tracey. “The sixth form was always going to be the top tier of the school. That now has been taken over by oversubscribed classes. Their reasoning is unfounded, to say the least.”
“The rug has been pulled from under us”
David Forsythe’s son, Damon, has been at the school since 2017.
“As part of this group he proudly wears his “Founder Member” badge…and loves the school, the pupils and teachers,” said David.
“The pupils mostly have all come up from Lakeview from reception through to year 6 and then to Wixams Academy.
“To say I feel like the rug has been pulled from under us would be an understatement. The school has decided over the years to take additional classes due to demand and basically taken the places from our kids (the founder year).”
David said the school owes it to the founding students to protect their education and the school’s legacy. “It is on the brink of badly letting down its first-ever students,” he said.
“I doubt my son will wear his founder member badge with pride anymore and I don’t blame him.”
Time to consider their options
Recognising that students will need to plan for their futures, BCAT said: “For that reason, it was decided to advise parents now, to provide the maximum time for those involved in the GCSE courses, to consider their opportunities and options for post-16 education.
“Wixams Academy will actively support these students in promoting other sixth forms and post-16 options as part of the school year programme.”
BCAT was set up by Bedford College which also runs Bedford Sixth Form College.
As of today (27 April), Wixams Academy’s sixth form is still mentioned on the school’s website and also on BCAT’s website.