Thank you very much indeed to all the individuals that have already responded to this consultation. Your views are important. Although we don’t intend to reply to every comment and will not routinely be able to provide comments based on the responses, there are a few initial responses that we feel it might be worth us offering a little more information or clarification about, to help respondents understand our proposals and thoughts a little more.
Class sizes and quality of education
A small number of respondents have questioned whether class sizes might increase if student numbers increased. This would not be the case. If the college were to grow, the college would recruit the additional staffing needed to be able to provide additional classes where required. Numbers in classes will always be limited to safe and appropriate levels.
In the event of oversubscription, where demand for course places exceeds the number of places we are able to provide, the college has criteria in place to determine which students places will be awarded to (within the Trust’s admissions policy). A modest and managed increase in student numbers, coupled with an expansion of the building, means it is less likely that students will be turned away from courses they are wanting to study due to oversubscription as we are more likely to have the staffing and classroom space to accommodate the demand.
We do not believe that a modest increase in student numbers would in any way undermine the quality of education. Rather, an increase might potentially improve the quality of education by allowing the college to develop an even broader curriculum and enrichment offer. New College Pontefract, Greenhead College, Huddersfield New College are all examples of sixth form colleges more than double the size of New College Doncaster, all rated Outstanding by Ofsted, and all achieving consistently strong results.
One respondent commented that teachers might be less accessible to students if there were to be an increase in student numbers. This is not the case. Teachers would continue to teach the same number of classes they currently teach, there would not be any change to the numbers of students we allow to enrol within individual classes, and there would not be any change to teacher workload or accessibility.
Congestion at lunchtime and breaks
Some respondents have commented that the college is already busy at lunchtimes and breaks and questioned whether further growth would exacerbate this issue.
We recognise that lunchtimes and breaks are currently busy in college due to a large Year 12 enrolment and we are looking at a number of options to alleviate this next year, irrespective of plans to increase student numbers. For example, we are considering adaptations to the timetable by reintroducing a staggered lunch, and considering the length of the lunch break. We introduced a staggered lunch model in 2020-21 as a response to covid, and this was intended to be a short-term measure. However, it did bring a huge benefit in terms of making social and dining spaces much quieter at lunchtime. This is under consideration for next academic year.
If we did increase student numbers, the college would look to build an extension to the college building, and we would take into consideration the additional classrooms, study space, social space and dining space needed to comfortably support growth.
During lesson time, rather than lunchtime and breaks, social, study and dining areas in college are generally quiet with lots of space available for students. We recognise that lunchtime will always be the busiest time of the day in social and dining areas.
We believe that a combination of changes to the timetable structure and additional space in college can comfortably accommodate modest growth in student numbers.
Travel to and from college
A small number of respondents have commented on the need to ensure sufficient transport to the college. The college recognises that transport provision would need to grow in order to support the proposed growth in student numbers.
College transport continues to be reviewed on an annual basis and every year since 2017 we have made adaptations to college transport arrangements to support students accessing the college either via a college bus or via public transport. The number of college buses has increased considerably since 2017 in response to the college’s growth, and this would continue to be reviewed and adapted as necessary. Following record enrolment in September 2021, the college made further adjustment and increase to its provision to reasonably meet demand at the start of term. We would also continue to engage with public service transport providers about provision if there is further growth.
One respondent commented on traffic generated by parents collecting students from the college and from Hayfield School. Both providers have deliberately introduced different start and finish times to address this. We recognise that there is an increase in traffic in the area usually between 3.45pm and 4.15pm, as there is outside any educational provider at the end of the college day, but that this is workable and that traffic clears quickly after students have left at 4.00pm. It is likely that considerations such as traffic will be taken into consideration as part of any planning permission application at a later stage by the Local Authority.
Thank you again for all the input into this consultation, and we hope that these comments, in response to some of the early consultation responses, will be of help.