A SCHOOL in Pontefract credited with improving the education of over 16s in the town is preparing to open a sixth form college in Bradford.

In September, New College Pontefract was granted permission by the Department for Education (DfE) to open a free school, in the form of a specialist sixth form college, in Bradford.

The new college is scheduled to open in September 2018, and the school is working with the Education Funding Agency to try to find a suitable site.

New College Bradford will open its doors to around 400 young people at first, and is expected to grow to its full capacity of 1,200 three years later.

The college bosses are hoping to find a location in Bradford city centre and the plan is for the school to be the main sixth form college for students at the Bradford Diocesan Academy Trust’s secondary schools.

The Pontefract college has for two years been ranked by the DfE as the third most successful sixth form college in the country.

In April 2014 it became the first sixth form college to be graded outstanding in every curriculum area inspected.

In 2016 its A-level students achieved a high grade A*-B rate of 53 per cent and a pass rate of 99 per cent, whilst Level 3 BTEC students achieved a 92 per cent high grade rate.

It has 2,300 young people between the ages of 16 and 19 on A-level and Level 3 BTEC courses.

Another of the organisation's colleges, New College Doncaster, opens in September 2017, making it an academy chain.

Pauline Hagen, principal and CEO of the academy chain, said: “My senior team has taken this college from being rated satisfactory to outstanding in three years. In 2014 we were rated outstanding in every category.

“The DfE saw our success, and they approved our application to open a sixth form college in Doncaster, and soon we’ll have Bradford in our family of sixth form colleges across Northern towns. These are places where education performance is lagging behind. We want to improve standards in areas where performance traditionally lags behind.

“We’ve been very much welcomed in Bradford, by the local authority and by schools.

“A sixth form college is a bit of a different provision. It is an environment that offers them more choice and prepares them for the next stage.

“It is a different environment to schools, our staff are all on a first name basis with pupils.

“We don’t accept second best.

“The students build their own study programme, it is not like school sixth forms. We will not be duplicating what places like Bradford College are doing.”

She said they hoped identify a site in the coming months, and it could be either a new build or a refurbishment of an existing building.

She added: “The aim is for it to be in the city centre.

“It will be exciting to come into Bradford and help contribute to the city.”

In the college’s second year it will have 900 students and by its third year, 1,200 students.

The college could eventually have 60 teaching staff.

In the same round of school approvals, Bradford based academy chain Dixons was given the go ahead to open a sixth form college.