No sixth forms will be closed as part of a long-awaited reorganisation of post-16 education in Powys, which is set to begin this month.

On Wednesday, May 12, Powys County Council’s learning and skills scrutiny committee will discuss the second phase of the Strategy for Transforming Education in Powys, which focuses on sixth form education.

The proposals suggest a big change in the way pupils receive their courses, with more emphasis on web-based learning from a "home" base – most likely the school where pupils did their GCSEs.

But with less duplication of courses expected across the county, pupils could receive their lessons at another school in the cluster or online.

By having their “home” school these pupils will still be able to participate in school life such as being part of sports teams, choirs, orchestras or clubs which is good for their mental health.

Meanwhile two extra layers of bureaucracy will be introduced to centralise decisions on what courses a school provides.

County Times: Caereinion High School in Llanfair Caereinion - pic: Google StreetviewCaereinion High School in Llanfair Caereinion - pic: Google Streetview

A strategic management board made up of council officers, heads, governors and representatives of pupils and additional learning needs students, will decide where the money received from the Welsh Government goes.

According to the report: “No sixth form will be granted post-16 funding to run any course which is not commissioned by the SMB.”

Beneath this board will be two operational management boards for both north and south Powys, which will deal with the logistics of running education in the two parts of the county.

These boards will be made up of either the head or deputy headteacher from each school in the cluster, an ALN representative and a “challenge” advisor from PCC’s education service.

The report said: “Underpinning the proposal is the concept that there is a whole-Powys Post- 16 provision on offer for learners.

“The provision on offer will also be county-wide and where learners are geographically unable to travel to attend a course they would be distance learners taking the course via e-sgol from their home base.”

County Times: Welshpool High School.Welshpool High School.

Other options on the table include maintaining the status quo, or a more radical approach of having one post-16 education provider across the whole of the county.

The report said: “Moving to a funding delivery model under the direction of the SMB will minimise duplication which will in turn lead to more choice for learners and better value for money.”

The report adds that consultation requirements needed in “disruptive school reorganisation proposals” won’t be needed if this option is approved.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also seen more “appetite” for headteacher and schools to work together.

According to the report, online learning, using the e-sgol platform has also accelerated due to the pandemic.

The need for change has come around after a decade of falling pupil numbers, and the corresponding fall in post-16 educational grant funding.

From 2010, sixth forms across the county have seen 33 per cent decline in pupil numbers  – falling from 1,445 to 978.

This means that funding from the Welsh Government based on pupils numbers has dropped from £6.5 million to £4.4 million

It has been also estimated that up to 500 youngsters from Powys could be leaving the county daily to continue their education in Shrewsbury, Hereford, Cheshire, Denbighshire and elsewhere.

The figures for this year show a slight increase of funding of £4,691,633, this is due to more pupils staying at Powys schools.

After this week's committee meeting, the proposals will go in front of the council's cabinet on Tuesday, May 18.

  • Schools in Cluster Group North are: “Bro Hyddgen (Machynlleth), Brynllywarch (Newtown)  Caereinion, Cedewain (Newtown), Llanfyllin, Llanidloes, Newtown, and Welshpool.
  • Schools in Cluster Group South are: Brecon, Calon Cymru, Crickhowell, Gwernyfed, Maesydderwen and Penmaes.