SCHOOL sixth forms in Hastings took another step towards closure this week after a report was published favouring a multi-site college.
It also revealed that a new tertiary college, which would include a new building in central Hastings, would cost a massive 25million — to be paid for by central government money.
The highly-confidential report containing this information was sent to heads and governors last week, but the document was leaked to the Observer on Wednesday.
It was due to be shown to the general public after it had been discussed by education professionals in the area next month.
The 180-page report was completed by consultants KPMG on behalf of the Sussex Learning and Skills Council as part of the post-16 review of education in Hastings and Rother. It mainly looks at curriculum and financial issues around the options.
It comes a week after some heads said they had no faith in the review process because they felt it favoured opening a college and closing sixth forms.
The report includes a feasibility study of the three options under discussion, as well as a fourth option looking into a possible sixth form centre in Battle. It also looks at the responses from the last public consultation.
One source who has read the document, said: "It is obvious that the intention is to push ahead with the tertiary college and close school sixth forms.
"Although strictly speaking Henry Ball (executive director of Sussex LSC] is correct in saying no final decision has been made, the way the documents present the proposals leaves no doubt that the only option being considered is the tertiary college."
Advantages and disadvantages are listed with each option.
It says a new multi-site college would be innovative and inspire students.
It says it would be cost-effective, would give students more choice and may encourage more young people to study.
The report criticises the federal sixth form option, which would see school sixth forms retained, saying it may be costly in the long-run and would not inspire students.
A single site college option is also reviewed.
Melanie Hunt, director of strategy and standards at the LSC, said the report would help choose the right option but would not provide any definite conclusions.
She said: "Strengths and benefits have been identified with each option.
"The tertiary college does look more cost-effective than the other options and that is an important factor, but there are other factors.
"The report is the first stage on the way to finding out what is the best solution for learners in the area."
Heads and governors are meeting with the Education Authority next week to discuss the report.
There will be a stakeholder conference on June 23 at the Cooden Beach Hotel in Bexhill where the report will be discussed in full. A decision is set to be made by the Secretary of State for Education in January next year.
THE man at the head of the post-16 education review has hit back at criticisms in last week's Observer.
Henry Ball, executive director of Sussex Learning and Skills Council, which is running the review, said there was nothing wrong with how his meeting with Bexhill College principal Tom Espley was conducted. Mr Espley subsequently withdrew from the post after the meeting after seeing details of the KPMG report into the various options.
Mr Ball said: "It is a pity that a number of people have been quick to make public comment about our processes and activities based on partial information and without first checking the accuracy of their sources.
"As the facts and data in the review become
available and are digested, I hope people will
concentrate on genuinely achieving the best outcome in the interests of the students and the local community."
Meanwhile, Norman Boyland, chairman of the LSC, has reiterated that no decision has yet been taken on the review.
He said: "The next stage is for the project board to listen to stakeholder views on the merits of each of the proposed options at a conference for the local education community to be held in June.
"When we do come to our conclusions, it will be after full consideration of all the data and consultation feedback at a full Sussex LSC Council meeting. People should remember that the Sussex LSC's policies are determined not by individual officers but by the council as a whole, which includes representatives from all sectors of the community.
"Unlike a number of other commentators, we have no vested interest except to ensure the best possible improvement in the local provision."
He said the Sussex LSC Council has been working alongside the county council so they can agree on what option to choose. The LSC Council has the responsibility for making any recommendations to the Secretary of State, who takes the final decision.