New sixth-form hub for Thornbury?
6:02am Thursday 17th October 2013 in News
A PAIR of secondary schools is forging ahead with plans to take over Thornbury’s vacated council offices and transform it into a joint sixth-form centre.
The Gazette reported exclusively in March that The Castle School in Thornbury and Alveston’s Marlwood School were considering moving their respective post-16 departments into South Gloucestershire Council’s Castle Street headquarters.
The new education hub at the civic centre would accommodate around 600 students.
Andrew Bethell, deputy head teacher of Castle School, said: "Governors of both Castle and Marlwood schools are continuing to explore all possible ways of securing a long-term future for high-quality sixth-form provision within the Thornbury and Alveston area.
"One of the avenues currently being explored is the possible use of the civic centre buildings on Castle Street, which South Gloucestershire are keen to transfer to a different user. There are no concrete plans for any future provision, but both schools welcome any support which may help to move these explorations forward."
The town council has strongly backed the scheme seeing it as the answer to many of the issues which have plagued Castle School’s increasingly inadequate sixth form building.
The facilities have been in need of serious repairs for years. So far head master Melanie Warnes’ bid for a share of the government’s Schools Building Programme to bring the centre up to standards in 2011 and subsequent visit to Whitehall to make her case to ministers have both failed.
The setback led the school to look closer to home for a long-term solution.
Reduction in post-16 funding was also a leading factor in the schools' joint venture to maximise pupils' opportunities.
Cllr Clive Parkinson said: "Both schools have been looking at how to provide the best possible sixth-form education for young people in our community into the future as funding reduces and the town council looks forward to seeing the outcome of this collaborative work."
His colleague Cllr Maggie Tyrrell added: "The Castle School’s sixth-form buildings are in a poor state of repair despite the best efforts of all concerned to maintain them and the school has had aspirations for some years to replace them.
"We know that both schools and South Gloucestershire Council have been working on the feasibility of the project for some time and are hopeful that they are close to a final decision. We understand that negotiations have to be confidential at this stage while funding options are considered and it is frustrating having to wait for news but if we get the result we want then it will have been worth the wait."
The future of the building is however far from decided.
Council staff was redeployed to South Gloucestershire Council’s Kingswood and Yate headquarters last year.
The council’s one stop shop which had remained at the Castle Street office relocated to Thornbury Library this month, while the police neighbourhood team moved into the building.
Officers were forced to find a new base after the station was sold and earmarked for demolition to make way for a sheltered housing complex. The arrangement is only temporary however as police look for permanent premises.
A council spokesman said: “We are currently in discussion with the schools regarding their potential plans to locate a sixth form centre at the Castle Street offices. We are still considering all other options.”
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