Chesterton Sixth Form College

Live Q&A recording, FAQs and Feedback

FAQs

Q > How does the proposal relate to the recent Local Authority review into the need for more post-16 provision in Cambridge?

A > LS  We are aware of the review which concluded in September 2020. We expressed an interest in engaging with the review from the outset, given the space we have available on site as a result of our Local Authority requested cap on year 6 into 7 admissions. We were told that due to that space being needed imminently for year 7 admissions, we were not able to be part of the post-16 review process. After the review took place, the Local Authority explained to us that the projected primary cohort increase which led them to exclude us from the review had not materialised, and that as such they needed to ask us to impose the year 7 admissions cap indefinitely.

We have followed the review with great interest, and received the outcomes document on 9th September 2020. Our understanding from this is that by 2030, the additional places planned in South Cambridgeshire at Northstowe, Cambourne and Impington will broadly meet the number needed in that area, according to growth figures. Also by 2030, there will be need for an additional 899 places (compared to 2021) in Cambridge city itself with this number growing steadily year on year. It seems that this need will be met partly by modest expansion at Netherhall and Hills Road (150 places) with the rest of the need being met by an extremely large expansion of Long Road Sixth Form College (where 1000+ places can be provided if necessary). Our proposal is predicated on the general need described here, and also on a pressing need for an additional option for those in the north of Cambridge city who do not currently have a smaller, local A-Level provider open to them as their peers across the county do. Our proposal still allows for the planned expansion of both Netherhall and Hills Road alongside Chesterton establishing a small A-Level offer. Even allowing for our proposal, plus the two mentioned here, Local Authority population projections show that this would leave the city with further need for significant additional places, which presumably Long Road would seek to offer.

As outlined above, we were unable to propose our 200 place cost-free solution at the point of the review taking place. We have since reconfirmed our agreement to cap year 7 admissions, despite being significantly oversubscribed year on year, to support local secondary colleagues in other schools. It is our view that the Local Authority review serves South Cambridgeshire well in that the new providers there meet the local 16-17 year old population growth, and represent a strong additional choice for young people in those areas. We do think that the expansion of places at large sixth form colleges will be needed in some part to meet city based demand for places. We do not think that the provision of over 1000 places at a sixth form college already exceeding 2000 places represents a balanced approach to city post-16 planning. Our modest proposal of adding a 200 place sixth form in the north of the city brings the choice available to young people in our community in line with those living across the rest of the county, whilst also still allowing for significant expansion across the other city providers. 

Q > How does this project lead on from the previous work on the Athena College satellite provision?

A > DHY  Athena College is sixth form provision that already exists within our trust at Downham Market – a couple of years ago we explored the possibility of satellite provision so that students at Athena could study either in Downham or at Chesterton depending on their course choices. That project did not go ahead, but as part of the exploration we were really struck by the parental support and community support for A-Level provision in the north of the city, so this proposal is an evolution of this exploration and responding to feedback.

Q > Is the space available on the Chesterton site to accommodate this?

A > REA  The main answer is yes there absolutely is space available – via the new build. The space available on our site is calculated by the Local Authority. They have recently confirmed that the space afforded by the publicly funded new build completed in 2019 is no longer needed for year 6 into 7 place planning (indeed we have been asked to continue to cap our year 7 intake at 210). As a result, we are suggesting utilising the additional space on site to house the A-Level provision, to ensure the space and buildings still serve our community in a tangible way.

In terms of classrooms: shared classroom use is a normal model for 11-18 schools e.g. science labs continue to be used by 11-16 in addition to A-Level (currently the new build rooms are not occupied all day so this is possible.) Sixth formers would have more independence in terms of moving around/off the site.

Q > Will a sixth form college of 200 students be able to offer a wide range of subjects?

A > REA  The Department for Education stipulate that sixth forms with a capacity of 200 students, as we would have, is a viable model for post-16 provision. With regards subjects, we aim to offer as diverse a range of subject combinations as possible (and at least 15 per year). We have the expertise and staff across the trust in a very large number of subjects. We are used to working in creative and innovative ways to ensure staff expertise can be shared across the trust (CCC Music & Computing teachers teaching a small part of their timetable at Athena Sixth Form are good examples of this). Cross-trust capacity and expertise means we have the potential to offer: Ancient Greek; Ancient History; Biology; Chemistry; Classical Civilisation; Computer Science; Criminology; Design Technology; Product Design; Economics; English Language/Literature; English Literature; Film Studies; Fine Art; French; Further Maths; Geography; German; History; Latin; Law; Maths; Music; Philosophy; Photography; Physical Education; Physics; Government & Politics; Psychology; Religious Studies; Sociology; Spanish; Theatre Studies.

Q > Can you say more about the selection criteria/admissions arrangements?

A > LS  The intended admissions arrangements are published on the consultation website: it has been taken by looking at admissions policies across the CAP. It is an academic sixth form, looking at grades 6 for entry, with contextual offers for disadvantaged students in line with other providers, particularly those in London. We are not seeking to add a vocational offer as we think that need is well served in the north of the city. This will be an A-Level offer in a smaller, geographically closer environment. Please do look at the admissions policy on the website for more detail.

Q > How will the sixth form provision work on the current site? Sixth formers need independence and separation from the main school.

A > CH  We are very conscious of balancing an integrated 11-18 community with the need for independence, separate spaces and freedom: we will have a focus on ensuring all common room and work spaces have a very separate feel – there are available rooms for socialising/working etc: In addition the new build contains currently under-used spaces e.g. a common room, collaborative work spaces; quiet spaces. In addition A-Level students will have access to the gym; sports field; Box Cafe etc.. We envisage students having different timings to keep to; a separate sixth form only entrance to the site; electronic passes which allow students on and off site during the college day; to allow freedom to leave as they wish when not in lessons; ability to pursue enrichment activities at off-site providers; no uniform etc. If all goes as hoped we’d be really keen to speak to parents and students about this topic to gather further ideas. 

Q > How will disadvantaged students be supported by an academic A-Level offer?

A > DHY  The disadvantaged provision at sixth form would be an extension of the work that happens currently at Chesterton: we are very proud of the progress disadvantaged students make. Parents present this evening whose children are not classed as disadvantaged may not be aware of the bespoke, individualised provision we offer to help those children exceed expectations, and we expect to continue this work for our sixth form students as well.

The issue identified by the Social Mobility Commission is that disadvantaged students locally who are ‘A-Level ready’ do not choose to study academic courses at post-16 in the numbers that their equally qualified non-disadvantaged peers do. We have no doubt that the large city sixth form colleges remain the best choice for many students, but not all. We are keen to add the choice of a small A-Level provision in the north of the city, to suit those young people (disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged) who wish to stay local, particularly those who are well qualified to study A-Levels, but are not currently choosing to do so.

Q > Does Chesterton have the staff expertise to run a sixth form?

A > LS  We try very hard to recruit excellent staff: our outcomes & Ofsted report make this apparent; our recruitment is always based on subject specialism, and all staff are trained to teach 11-18. Many staff are real experts in their field. There are already a number of staff teaching A-Level in Downham Market. Before starting this process we undertook a detailed staff survey to collate post-16 expertise: it is very interesting to see the real range of recent experience: previous employment; A-Level tutors; people involved in post-16 exam board work. One of the things we are keen to pursue the proposal for is to aid recruitment: sometimes we lose strong staff due to a desire to teach at post-16.

Q > How will Chesterton seek to match the experience at the very large sixth form colleges?

A > REA  We won’t! This proposal is about adding a different choice, not emulating the large college experience. We know that the large city colleges are absolutely the right choice for many young people locally and provide a great experience for them. Our identified concern is that they are not necessarily the right choice for all. Across the rest of Cambridgeshire, and in the south of the city, young people have the choice between the large colleges where so many thrive, and more local school-based provision. We are seeking to level the playing field, and give students in the north of the city the same choice as their peers locally. Thousands of children choose the large sixth form colleges each year and will continue to do so. We are keen to articulate that this proposal is about a different option for students rather than trying to emulate the large sixth form experience the colleges do so well. Parental and community feedback shows us that for a very small proportion of those students, a smaller and more supportive environment would be preferable.

Q > How will the proposal impact local residents/ traffic on Gilbert Road/ congestion? Can we do anything about the Gilbert Road speed limit?

A > DHY  We are absolutely considering local residents in our planning. It is our intention to stagger the start and end of the school day to capitalise on the fact that sixth form students arrive more independently than younger students, thus avoiding any additional congestion at key times of day. We will not provide sixth form car parking and expect most students to arrive on foot, bicycle or via public transport. We would be very keen to engage in any consultation or petition regarding the speed limit on Gilbert Road: this is not something that we as a school have any control over, rather it sits with the Highways Agency.

Q > Will the proposed sixth form compromise your outstanding 11-16 provision?

A > CH  No – it will complement our 11-16 provision. It is our firm view that having a sixth form would enhance provision at 11-16 rather than take away from it: benefits such as a larger staff model; refined teacher expertise; leadership structures to allow focus on particular key stages; support for careers & HE aspiration; increased possibility for A-Level bridge work & challenge as staff will have working/current knowledge of the A-Level course and resources available to help stretch & challenge students 11-16. Our staffing model will include staff teaching across all key stages, rather than teachers moving to an A-Level only timetable. In 11-18 settings, having older students on site to act as role models, involved in mentoring and outreach opportunities, and the visible presence of older students gives the whole school a tangible insight into KS5 which helps to foster aspiration and ‘seeing a way’ to FE.

Q&A Summary

Q > Where are all the yr6 that were projected to come to Chesterton yr7 in the coming years going? They were projected to be catchment for Chesterton.

A > LS When we went through the process of the build we referred to LA demographic figures as we do during every process we’re part of. They did predict some demographic growth. In discussions latterly via the post-16 process they’ve identified that those places are not needed if all schools in the north of the city are to maintain numbers at a viable rate. If you look at primary schools there hasn’t been growth within them, the university primary school is now fully open, and those children are finding their way into schools in the north of the city.That projected growth has not manifested itself as the LA predicted when the build happened.

Q > I see Ruth Jackson is hosting the consultation webinar – are all the CCC governors in support of the proposal?

A > RJ I am here to host on this occasion, but speaking for myself I am in support. I welcome it as a real added value benefit to the community, and certainly when the proposal was brought to our governors’ meeting it was well receive, but I wouldn’t want to speak on behalf of all other governors.

LS In terms of governance and trustees, none of us do things lightly, we think really carefully about what we want to do, and this had been explored really carefully at LGB and trust board level. The more we’ve thought through what this proposal can bring to the north of the city and this community, the more convinced we’ve become.

RJ I can reassure that we like to put people through their paces: rigorous questions are asked; governors ask thoughtful questions following detailed analysis.

DHY Looking through the Q&A we can see community & parent governors expressing support this evening.

Q > How many students do you expect to study Ancient Greek?

A > REA Ancient Greek is one of about 30 subjects we have the staff specialism to offer at Chesterton; we’re certainly not saying there will be a particular focus on Ancient Greek, rather that’s an example of one of many subjects we have to offer. However, speaking as of line manager of our classical civilisation and Latin department, I can say that is a thriving department with great numbers taking subjects to KS4, with a range of teachers with the specialism to offer a range of subjects at KS5 across classical civilisation/ancient language. On the consultation website feedback page there is a more extensive list of subjects we have the potential to offer.

Q > Would curriculum be A levels? How does this fit into the IVC IB offer which is in the same group?

A > LS One of the key things we’ve spoken about this evening and throughout the website is about choice: the IB offer at Impington is superb, it’s an amazing offer, numbers are looking strong for this year, we’re still attracting international students, and other students who wish the study a course covering such breadth. That’s the thing with the IB: it is aimed at a very specific audience. A-Levels are provided for those who might want to narrow their subject choice e.g. not everybody wants to continue with maths at post-16. We see the IB and A-Level as complementary. It also speaks to the post-16 experience across the trust; we will be calling upon colleagues at IVC for their advice and support. One of the things we’re keen to explore is the theory of knowledge element to the IB which we’d seek to bring across and incorporate into our A-Level provision. So we see our proposal as adding to the IB, vocational courses at CRC, and offering the whole range to students in the north of the city.

Q > Interested to know how many contextual offers you will make each year?

A > REA There’s a few parts to this answer – it’s quite difficult to quantify before any admissions processes have started. The contextual offer being referred to here is the idea that due to various barriers to achievement, disadvantaged students may not achieve KS2 or KS4 outcomes in line with their peers, and many institutions, sixth forms in Cambridge & London & universities, are seeking to make their offer more accessible to students by lowering the entry requirements for them. We know that at CCC disadvantaged students perform very well, but also know that some students don’t meet the aspirational entry requirements we are proposing, and we also know that in the city and further afield, disadvantaged students don’t make the decision to study A-Levels at the same rate as their peers. So our contextual offer is part of a package of work that would take place from KS2 onwards as an outreach programme to try and decrease the number of barriers to A-Level study at post-16. From our experience & EEF research we know that small-group, bespoke provision can help disadvantaged students to achieve well.

Q > How will disadvantaged students be supported by an academic A-Level offer?

A > The disadvantaged provision at sixth form would be an extension of the work that happens currently at Chesterton: we are very proud of the progress disadvantaged students make. Parents present this evening whose children are not classed as disadvantaged may not be aware of the bespoke, individualised provision we offer to help those children exceed expectations, and we expect to continue this work for our sixth form students as well.

The issue identified by the Social Mobility Commission is that disadvantaged students locally who are ‘A-Level ready’ do not choose to study academic courses at post-16 in the numbers that their equally qualified non-disadvantaged peers do. We have no doubt that the large city sixth form colleges remain the best choice for many students, but not all. We are keen to add the choice of a small A-Level provision in the north of the city, to suit those young people (disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged) who wish to stay local, particularly those who are well qualified to study A-Levels, but are not currently choosing to do so.

Q > Does Chesterton have the staff expertise to run a sixth form?

A >We try very hard to recruit excellent staff: our outcomes & Ofsted report make this apparent; our recruitment is always based on subject specialism, and all staff are trained to teach 11-18. Many staff are real experts in their field. There are already a number of staff teaching A-Level in Downham Market. Before starting this process we undertook a detailed staff survey to collate post-16 expertise: it is very interesting to see the real range of recent experience: previous employment; A-Level tutors; people involved in post-16 exam board work. One of the things we are keen to pursue the proposal for is to aid recruitment: sometimes we lose strong staff due to a desire to teach at post-16.

“I am in support as Parent Governor…”

“Governor Charlotte here – I am in support too!”

Q > What relationship does this project proposal have with the agreed Wave 12 Maths school? Given that Chesterton already had that agreed, they would presumably automatically be part of any post-16 place planning with the local authority?

A > CH It’s really important to recognise that the Maths School is a new free school that will open to serve the need of children in Cambridge and in the wider geographical area. The Maths School was included in the review: those students are accounted for as part of that process. It’s important to see these as two separate projects: the Maths School is being opened by the multi-academy trust (ELA) in partnership with Cambridge University: it’s a very different proposal from the Chesterton Sixth Form and they should be seen as different entities. There will be big advantages to opening further sixth forms in the trust – IVC and Downham Market will be a great support if the proposal goes ahead. The Maths School is a different proposition altogether and is a project that is running in parallel.

Q > What are your biggest challenges that you will have to address if this proposal goes ahead?

A > DHY With anything new: the biggest challenge is helping the first cohort of students to envisage the provision. Showing students what we’ve got to offer, as with anything brand new there is a bit of a leap of faith to go with it – hopefully students will be able to make some links with what we offer at 11-16 to help them envisage it, but I imagine the big challenge will be encouraging students to come to our new sixth form.

LS One of the other challenges is wanting to work alongside other post-16 providers to make sure the north of the city is represented alongside everywhere else. That is a challenge when you’re doing something different from what Cambridge is used to, particularly thinking about travel to learn.

Q > How does the proposed sixth form relate to Chesterton’s earlier plan to open a Maths Free School, which would also have sixth form provision within it?

A >(Answered above) CH They are very separate provisions: the Cambridge Maths School is a free school opening in partnership with the university, it will have its own site when it’s confirmed, and will serve a very diverse group of young people.
LS: It will serve students across the East of England, not just Cambridge.

Q > Are parents generally in support?

A >DHY Certainly from the feedback we’ve had on the website which people can go on and see, the response has been really positive, also from the comments we’ve had personally to us which we will publish.

Q > As an attendee it’s hard to gage as we can not be in the same room together – how many people are at this meeting?

A >DHY There are approximately 30 people with us this evening – we have also had lots of individual conversations too, with parents calling us to discuss in more detail which is great and has allowed us to unpick the proposal with lots of different people: the support is there.

Q > Will there be the offer of and Extended Project as offered at Hills road?

A >DHY  Yes we absolutely will.

Q > Would you look to specialise in terms of curriculum, e.g., sciences, or are you planning to cover a broad range of A level subjects?

A > DHY At the moment we’re not planning to specialise, we are planning to offer a broad range of subjects. At the moment we have a list of about 30 subjects we have the expertise to offer and that will alter depending on the cohort.


REA There is more information about subject specialisms on the website.

“I’m a governor too, also very supportive.”

Q > Will the nature reserve area be affected by the proposals, will you be building new buildings?

A >DHY  No we won’t – the nature area called ‘the Dip’ which we’re all very fond of will be protected and won’t be impacted.

Q > Are teachers at Chesterton in support?

A >DHY Yes absolutely – teachers are incredibly excited, there are some comments on the website, they’re excited about their own development – we have very minimal staff turnover but occasionally we lose people keen to teach A-Level which we currently can’t offer. There is a real community feel here, people are really invested in it and the potential to watch students move through from year 7 all the way through to year 13 would be great, and the positive impact of having sixth formers on site that we’ve already mentioned is also really exciting.

Q > Are you expecting the sixth form provision to stay small, around 200 students, for the foreseeable future or do you have a plan to expand it over time?

A > REA No, at the moment there are no plans to expand beyond that. We are comfortable as it stands that a 200 student sixth form is what the DfE stipulate to be viable. We know we have the space available and capacity to offer at least if not more subjects than we would need to offer. There is extended staff capacity across trust schools so we’d utilise that to make a vibrant and viable offer.

Q > Is the Local Authority in support of your proposal?

A >LS [the questioner] is from Long Road and will understand how the LA work with providers and schools generally. We’ve been part of lots of conversations with the Local Authority – the fact that we weren’t part of the post-16 review was challenging, but was has been agreed by us and the LA is that we both recognise that there is perceived need, obviously everybody wants to meet that need, so at the moment we’re exploring with them the need in the north of the city, and also the need to utilise a building that was funded by the LA. They are in a very challenging position which I fully appreciate, they have a perceived need for places but no capital funding to offer, so we are in constant contact with the LA and hope that they will see what we’ve articulated as a win for everybody.

“Thank you. Very exciting”

Q > How will you be looking to work with other post-16s locally? And indeed 11-16 schools?

A >REA It’s important to say we’re an outward looking school: we work with lots of schools in and out of the trust: learning from one another via staff CPD and so on. The main post-16 provider we’ll work with is obviously Impington who are part of our trust and have the amazing IB offer that they’re specialists in. We’re really excited to work alongside them with local students and I know they look forward to working with us. 11-16: this is all about the impact this will have for students in the north of the city so we’ve sent our consultation document and an invitation to an individual meeting to all local providers, post-16; 11-16; primary schools. We’ve had positive support from local primaries particularly re: outreach work involving sixth formers. This is currently limited due to the north of the city itself having no sixth formers studying locally. There’s lots of exciting opportunities to work collaboratively with local providers and know that others look forward to doing so.


DHY  I would add to that: in terms of 11-16 we play an active part in the CAP group and would be keen to build on that as well. If there are any 11-16 representatives here who would like to talk more, that invitation has been extended: we’ve had some very productive conversations so please do get in touch with us to talk more.

“Thank you very much for being so visionary!”

Q > How will this impact on how you advise the Chesterton Year 11 students from next year onwards when your additional provision would come on line?

A >DHY  This is really important as all schools have a statutory duty to provide impartial careers advice, vetted by Ofsted, that schools have to be very careful about. We’d continue as we always have done – I can speak with my own Ofsted hat on as it’s so important to do – our advice to students from next year onwards would continue to be impartial and give them the full range of options available to support them in making the best choice for themselves. As we’ve alluded to several times this evening already, the Chesterton Sixth Form won’t be right for absolutely everyone and that is the right thing; this is about choice- we want to put another offer on the table so that when we are giving that impartial advice and guidance children have every different type of opportunity available to them.

“Great stuff team!”