GCSE students have been left disappointed after a move to axe sixth form places at a school in Tiptree.

Year 11 pupils at Thurstable School were told yesterday the school will not be welcoming any students to its sixth form in September.

Headteacher James Ketley told parents the decision was made because of financial pressures and “historical and projected small class sizes of Year 12”.

A formal consultation on the future of the school’s sixth form will be launched once the outgoing Year 11 pupils have secured new potential destinations for September.

Gazette: Education - Thurstable School in TiptreeEducation - Thurstable School in Tiptree (Image: Google)

Current Year 12 pupils will be able to stay on to complete their final year of studies at Thurstable.

'Very upset'

Zandra Ndulue, whose daughter was hoping to stay at Thurstable to study public services and criminology, said the decision has left many pupils worried.

“My daughter is very upset and doesn’t even want to go to school anymore,” she said.

“She applied for the sixth form at Thurstable last year, went to the open evening and was told she could go. She asked what the point is in doing her GCSEs if she can’t stay on and do the courses she wanted to do.

“She didn’t apply to anywhere else because we live in Tiptree and don’t drive.”

Gazette: GCSEs - exam season is just around the cornerGCSEs - exam season is just around the corner (Image: Unsplash)

In a letter sent to parents yesterday, Mr Ketley explained the sixth form’s current average class sizes are “well below” benchmarks set by the Department for Education.

“The same DfE guidance recommends a minimum of 200 students in a sixth form whereas we have 135 at present,” he wrote.

He added the low numbers mean the sixth form’s staffing bill is costing “significantly more” than the funding it receives from the government.

'Students are rushing around'

Another parent whose child was hoping to stay at Thurstable said this was another kick in the teeth for Year 11 pupils who had to work online through the coronavirus pandemic and more recently disruption to their learning because of strikes and crumbling concrete.

They said: “So many students had put Thurstable as their number one choice for sixth form. Their mental health has definitely been dented.

“Parents and students haven’t looked at local colleges because they were set on the sixth form. Students are now rushing around trying to find somewhere else to go in September.

“All the local students are now having to find ways to pay for transport to whatever further education place they can find.”

The school notified Year 11 pupils, who will be sitting GCSE exams in the summer, of the decision in an assembly yesterday, with students who had applied to the sixth form offered extra meetings to discuss their options.

The school will notify nearby colleges of the move and has already liaised with Colchester United about pupils who have applied to study on Thurstable’s football programme, Mr Ketley added.

The school declined to comment further.