Education & Family

Knowsley planning return of A-levels after shut down

Exam hall
Image caption The last academy in Knowsley teaching A-levels announced the closure of its sixth form last year

Knowsley is planning to offer its young people A-levels again, with government and local representatives holding meetings over a new A-level centre.

The last school in the borough to teach A-levels, Halewood Academy, announced last year that it could no longer afford to offer the qualifications.

It prompted complaints from parents in a borough that already had among the UK's lowest rates of university entry.

The plans would see the building of a new dedicated centre for A-levels.

A delegation from Knowsley Council has held meetings with the Department for Education, the Education Funding Agency and local MPs.

New building

The councillor responsible for education, Joan Lilly, was "very hopeful" about plans for building a new A-level centre in the borough, with a final decision expected in May.

The loss of A-levels in an entire local authority became a high-profile issue, with claims that it showed social mobility was going into reverse.

Since A-levels were introduced in the 1950s, it was unprecedented for a borough not to be able to offer the qualifications.

It means that teenagers from the borough, wanting to take A-levels, have to try to get places in schools in other authorities.

It also raised questions about how schools were organised locally - as the council had no control over an academy being able to decide to stop teaching A-levels, even though it ended all A-level provision in the borough.

The decision to allow the closure was then approved by central government.

Financial pressure

Halewood Academy's decision also highlighted problems with funding - as the academy said that it was not financially viable to deliver A-levels, once its sixth form had fallen below a "break-even" point of 155 students.

Vanessa Pointon, part of a parents' campaign against shutting down the sixth form, had said: "This is letting down the children of this community. There are people who want to go to university, lots of kids who want to do well."

Joan Lilly, the council's cabinet member for children's services, said there seemed to be confidence in plans for a new place to study A-levels.

"The council has been working hard to raise standards in all our secondary schools, and with the establishment of the Knowsley Education Commission the Department for Education seems confident that these efforts will begin to have an impact in the near future.

"It is only right, then, that we work together to ensure that pupils have a top-quality centre in which to study A Levels here in the borough - and that is what we are very hopeful that we will achieve."

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