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Concerns mount over teaching plans at Abbeygate Sixth Form College in Bury St Edmunds

About 170 students have signed a petition over teaching arrangements for the new Abbeygate Sixth Form College in Bury St Edmunds following construction delays.

King Edward VI School students, who are due to transfer to the new college in September, will be taught at West Suffolk College’s university building rather than a new £32 million site, off Beeton’s Way, which will not be ready until 2020.

Concerns were raised in last week’s Bury Free Press that students from King Edward VI may not be taught by the same teachers when they transfer to Abbeygate.

A concept of Abbeygate Sixth Form College.
A concept of Abbeygate Sixth Form College.

Since then another student has voiced their objections.

On behalf of all the sixth formers they had spoken to, the unnamed student said: “Before moving into the ‘Kegs’ sixth form, we received pamphlets of this so called ‘Abbeygate Sixth Form College’.

“We all agreed to this new sixth form on the basis that we would be entering a ‘new site’ which would be Abbeygate.

“We have also been told that some of our teachers from Kegs would move over to Abbeygate Sixth Form. However, personally I know that none of my teachers will be moving.

“This won’t only be a massive interruption half-way through arguably the most important years of our careers, but we also won’t be taught by the teachers who for most students at King Edward have taught us for at least four years.”

Sixth form student Ben Turner spoke to the Bury Free Press last week and had launched a petition with other students to stay at King Edward VI with the same teachers.

He said as of last Friday about 170 students had signed the petition and there was another for parents to sign.

Ben said: “There’s no guarantee at all we will get the same teachers we’ve had this year.”

The 16-year-old said he had also been told that although students will have to register for lessons, there will not be the same requirement for study periods.

“That’s what annoys me because there’s no structure to it,” he said. “There’s no motivation for the students to stay there. You could just go home.”

We understand this is may be an apprehensive time for some, but we want to reassure all that we are putting our students at the heart of all the decisions we are making - David Gartland and Lee Walker

In a joint statement, David Gartland, principal at Abbeygate Sixth Form, and Lee Walker, headteacher at King Edward VI, said Abbeygate is ‘more than its proposed new building’ and, like King Edward VI, will ‘have a philosophy of excellence and an ambition for greatness’.

“The Abbeygate day will be very structured but we also strongly recognise our role to foster independence in a supportive and encouraging environment,” they said.

“Each student will be allocated an hour per subject of Directed Independent Learning, which will give them the protected opportunity to go beyond the syllabus and research their subjects fully.”

They have been running a series of tours and Q&As, which ‘have been extremely well received’, with more dates added to ensure Year 12 parents can attend.

Mr Gartland will continue to regularly attend King Edward VI to meet students.

They added: “Everyone at King Edward VI School and Abbeygate Sixth Form College are completely committed to ensuring the transition for students is as smooth as possible.

“Since September 2018, the head office of Abbeygate Sixth Form College and David has been based at Suffolk House, the bespoke university building.

“Collectively we all believe it is better to have all students and teachers on the same site and our vision has always been to create a bespoke building and provision which houses all sixth form students together.

“In addition, all of the support services, information and guidance and extensive pastoral care will be located exclusively at Suffolk House.

“We understand this is may be an apprehensive time for some, but we want to reassure all that we are putting our students at the heart of all the decisions we are making.”

Plans to build the sixth form were approved by St Edmundsbury Borough Council's development control committee on Thursday.

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