A new sixth form is being launched to offer an exciting array of options for West Cumbrian students.

The West Coast Sixth Form will see a range of new vocational subjects being taught at The Whitehaven and Workington Academies.  These will enhance the existing offer at Workington and extend study options after GCSEs.

Workington Academy is already recognised by Ofsted as a good provider of sixth form education. Cumbria Education Trust (CET), which runs both secondary schools, wants to build on that expertise and extend it across West Cumbria.

The aim is for the new sixth form, which will operate from September 2020, to better prepare students for future careers, university or training. School leaders will be presenting the benefits to students, parents and carers throughout December and January.

Mark Bedford, Deputy Headteacher at Workington Academy and the Head of the West Coast Sixth Form, said: “This is an extremely exciting time for post-16 education in West Cumbria.

“We want every student to have the opportunity to continue their education with us. We are doing that by combining the strong portfolio already offered with some new practical courses which we think will appeal to students.

“This will be different to what is currently available. On the new vocational courses, students will be able to study over four days in a week with one day in a workplace getting real life, relevant experience.”

The new qualifications will be Extended Certificates, National Diplomas and Extended Diplomas equivalent to one, two and three A Levels respectively. They will cover Applied Business, Health and Social Care, Performing Arts, Applied Science, Sports Science and IT.

Free transport will operate between the two sites for those who need to travel.

Lorrayne Hughes, Chief Executive Officer with CET, said: “This is a significant step forward for both the area and the communities’ schools.

“We believe it’s good for everybody. It offers an extended choice, builds on one of the strengths of Workington Academy and means we can offer 11-18 education at The Whitehaven Academy, which has been our ambition since we took over its running.

“We’re delighted to be able to follow through on our commitment to the community. We hope this will be just the first step and as students currently in lower year groups move up they will want to take advantage of what the West Coast Sixth Form can offer.”

The initiative was unveiled to students at both schools yesterday (Tuesday).

New branding has been designed, a website launched at westcoastsixthform.org and new social media accounts opened. Open evenings for West Coast Sixth Form will be held at Workington on January 15 and at Whitehaven on January 22.

Students will be asked for their input into future uniform options and how they see closer working developing between the schools.

Workington’s sixth form was praised by Ofsted in its 2018 inspection, noting that leaders had a clear and strong vision. Students valued the individualised study programmes, there was a comprehensive personal development programme and students had the opportunity to benefit from work experience.

CET now operates nine schools and is responsible for almost 4,000 students and pupils across Cumbria.

The Whitehaven Academy is being rebuilt in time for the September 2021 school year. Workington Academy’s new building was officially opened in September 2017.