THE FIRST steps on the long road of reorganising sixth forms in schools across Powys has been taken.

Powys County Council’s  (PCC) Cabinet agreed on Tuesday, September 17, to go ahead with a review of sixth form provision.

This is because of the fall in numbers of sixth formers in Powys’ schools.

Since 2010 the 11 sixth forms across the county have seen 33 per cent decline  – 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 is 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.

Education portfolio holder, Cllr Myfanwy Alexander (Independent – Banwy), said: “I don’t think the need to review sixth form provision will come as a surprise to anyone who comes into contact with education in Powys.

“The decline in sixth forms remains remarkable and is probably accelerating.

“We know that the our sixth forms as they are, are unsustainable financially and do not provide learners with the options they need.”

“A large number are travelling outside the county to receive their tertiary education.

“In order to get this right it’s essential we understand the reasons for this.

“However, while we are obtaining the data set we need for a more thorough transformation we need to do something.”

Cllr Alexander proposed immediate action by strengthening what is being offered digitally and to do more to promote PCC’s post-16 learning with a new website providing more information.

Cllr Alexander added: “It’s the beginning of the solution.

“The danger with projects as complex as this is that you do nothing, until doing it all.”

Portfolio holder for adult services,  Cllr Stephen Hayes (Independent – Montgomery): “We have to accept that the evidence in the paper is pretty conclusive that you have to do post-16 education differently.

“The really worrying statistic is the retention rates of pupils going to sixth form and we need to understand as best we can why this is.”

Senior education service manage, Marianne Evans, said: “We’ve been criticised about the pace of this, but we need to consider all the aspects as it’s not a solution for next year but long term and we have to make sure everything is right.”

The next stage will see engagement meetings with sixth formers  and follows on an online survey which has asked people and students about their decisions and experiences of post-16 education.

The results of this will be back in front of the cabinet in the spring of 2020 as well as a detailed business case on the restructure options for the sixth forms.