A SOUTH Tyneside school is pushing ahead with plans to open a sixth form.
Whitburn Church of England Academy was granted permission to extend the age range of its pupils up to 18 by the Department for Education almost two years ago.
This was subject to the school gaining the necessary funding to expand its building to accommodate the additional pupils.
Parents, carers and residents will be updated on its bid at a public meeting tomorrow night.
Principal Alan Hardie said: “The purpose of this meeting is to provide an update on our bid for capital funding, and our plans to extend the building to accommodate our sixth form.
“The school is preparing a bid for funding to be submitted ahead of the January 31 deadline. We are very grateful to the many parents and carers who wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove in support of the bid, and hope many more will also write.
“The school has permission from the Department for Education to extend the age range of our pupils from 11 to 16, to 11 to 18.
“This permission was gained after undertaking the full legal consultation process, where we were able to demonstrate the very strong support of parent/carers (98 per cent in favour), South Tyneside Council, Diocese of Durham and many other organisations and local politicians.
“In order to ensure that we can start the building process as soon as we gain the capital funding, we have already commenced the steps required which will allow us to make a formal planning application.
“We have served the notices required, which will allow us to make the application in early February.The meeting tomorrow night will be held to share our building plans with parents, carers and members of the public.”
The meeting will take place in the Septimus Hall at the school in Rackley Way, Whitburn, from 6pm.
In its initial consultation pack, published in June 2011, the school said the sixth form would cater for up to 280 students – 140 per year group.
The majority of its pupils stay in education after leaving Year 11, with the vast majority travelling outside the borough.
There are no Anglican sixth forms in South Tyneside or its neighbouring authorities.
Choice has been further reduced by South Tyneside College’s decision to scrap A-levels and focus on vocational courses.
If funding is secured, Whitburn C of E Academy will follow Harton Technology College in South Shields and St Joseph’s RC Academy in Hebburn in establishing a sixth form.
A number of other secondary schools offer post-16 provision in partnership with other schools and colleges, but they are not fully-fledged sixth forms.
Whitburn C of E Academy was the first school in the borough to become an academy in January 2011.
Previously known as Whitburn C of E School, it was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2009.