The meeting on the evening of Wednesday 23 April was unsatisfactory. Not one parent who spoke from the floor supported the closure, and none of the questions we raised were answered.
The school deployed a large panel to defend their decision. As well as Bob Brandley, chair of the governors, Lynton Golds, the head, and Carolyn Lambert, who chaired the meeting, there were the head of sport, a minute taker, two teaching assistants, a former parent, a tame pupil and Sheila Wiffen, head of the sixth form, but not for much longer. I’m not sure all the staff members were there willingly; several looked markedly uncomfortable and it was significant that they could not find a parent with children in year 11 to sit with them.
We were treated to a mind-bogglingly irrelevant presentation by the head of sport on plans for a sport diploma and a football academy. This, it seems, is the only post-16 activity there will be from this autumn onwards; the school has given up any hope of offering academic subjects, but hopes to save itself by offering what they inelegantly dub ‘niche’ courses. As one parent pointed out from the floor, other schools and colleges in the area already offer sport and football, so, bearing in mind Seaford Head’s lamentable failure to promote their existing courses, the initiative seems doomed. Another parent asked, but got no answer, what had happened to the school’s specialist status, which was supposed to include not only sport but also science.
There is no intention to offer anything to students who want to pursue academic subjects beyond GCSE. Students who want to go on to higher education will simply be ignored. Indeed, one of the panel, displaying the small-town philistinism that lies behind the closure, spoke disparagingly of what she called the ‘Oxbridge model’. No wonder Oxford and Cambridge have difficulty in attracting a broader range of applicants, faced with such attitudes.
Other questions included what effect the loss of the sixth form would have on teacher numbers, how the school’s ability to recruit and keep good teachers would be damaged, why the school had failed to market the sixth form in previous years, and what damage the loss of the sixth form would cause to the school’s academic and cultural life: productions such as the highly successful production of Oliver were unlikely to be possible in the future.
I questioned why the consultation had not taken place last autumn, when the important decision was taken, with no reference to parents, but got no real answer. The truth is that the school will only talk to parents when forced to.