STUDENTS have found themselves frantically searching for alternative education arrangements after St Joseph’s Catholic College announced plans to cut its sixth form.

The news was made public this week, much to the dismay of parents and Year 11 pupils – many of whom only have two months left to find a different sixth form or college to attend in September.

The Ocotal Way school said while the college is heavily oversubscribed in the lower year groups, it had no choice but to make the difficult decision to cut its sixth form due to dwindling numbers of students staying on to study in recent years, with 70 per cent of students moving elsewhere.

Currently there are only 131 students in Year 12 and Year 13 combined and it is understood that up to 100 Year 11 students will be affected by the withdrawal of the sixth form, which would close at the end of August 2018 to allow current Year 13 courses to proceed.

One 16-year-old Year 11 student said they were devastated by the announcement.

“We found out on Tuesday and it has come at really short notice,” she said.

“It was a big shock and we had no idea it was happening. We had all been offered a place but now we are having to try and look for other colleges or sixth forms to take us but their deadline for applications was last year.

“I think the fact it has been delayed will affect us getting into somewhere else. The school have said they will offer support but they haven’t done much at all.

“We have mock exams coming up and having the stress of trying to find somewhere else to study doesn’t help.

“Some of my friends have said it has really knocked their confidence.

“I’ve been at St Joseph’s for my entire secondary school education and I wanted to stay because I like the environment and teachers and we have formed a family.

“It is extra stress and I know people are devastated because this is where we want to stay.”

Governors at St Joseph’s are now consulting with parents and pupils on the proposals which will run until May 2.

The school is also holding two parents information sessions on March 27, between 5pm and 5.45pm and 7pm to 7.45pm.

In a joint statement between the governors and principal Paul Hughes, the school said: “Due to declining numbers and changes in funding in recent years it has becoming increasingly difficult to sustain a stable sixth form.

“The Department for Education recognises that sixth forms with fewer than 200 students are at risk of not being viable.

“St Joseph’s sixth form currently has a total of 131 students in Year 12 and 13 combined.

“Current projections for September reduce this combined number to less than 100.

“The college has worked extremely hard to recruit, working with the other sixth form providers to increase the admission numbers, but to no avail.”

Parents can submit their comments on the proposal by using the form available on the St Joseph’s Catholic College website or by requesting a paper copy from the school reception.