Giant Doncaster sixth form college could get even bigger

Brendon Fletcher and Helen Jackson at New College Doncaster
Brendon Fletcher and Helen Jackson at New College Doncaster

It's a sixth form like no other that Doncaster has seen - and its set to get bigger.

New College Doncaster opened its doors in September after the completion of the first phase of its building - with an initial 450 sixth formers filing through the doors.

L-r Adrien Mariano, 17, of Dunscroft, Przemek Szkodon, 16, of Cantley, Benjamin Fox, 16, of Auckley, Eliot Bell, 17, of Epworth, Rhys Neal, 16, of Bawtry, Latifah Chipamaunga, 16, of Rossington, pictured in the Students Union at New College Doncaster

L-r Adrien Mariano, 17, of Dunscroft, Przemek Szkodon, 16, of Cantley, Benjamin Fox, 16, of Auckley, Eliot Bell, 17, of Epworth, Rhys Neal, 16, of Bawtry, Latifah Chipamaunga, 16, of Rossington, pictured in the Students Union at New College Doncaster

So far, the building, a modern block which is now a landmark on Hurst Lane, Auckley, near Doncaster Sheffield Airport, is only half opened.

But when it re-opens after the Christmas holidays it is set to double in capacity with an extra 30 rooms, as the next wing of the college is completed.

At present, the college only has its year 12 students, so has been able to manage with the space it has had. But when then next intake arrives in the summer, its roll is expected to rise to around 950.

There could be more in the future. The building has been constructed in a way that would allow it to expand in the future.

Read more: Doncaster’s ‘first ever’ £20m standalone sixth form given go-ahead
Principal Brendon Fletcher said: "When this building was designed, it was designed so it could be expanded. As it is, it was build so it could accommodate 1,200, but we could go beyond that. That would be very much long term if it happened, certainly not for another five years.

"The building is being handed over in phases, and we got some more teaching rooms after Christmas.

"We've got a fantastic bunch of teaching staff here. We had 500 applications for teachers, and 250 for non-teaching jobs. It meant selection was challenging - we were initially appointing 26 teachers.

"We will need to do that again this year as we double in size, so there will be a recruitment drive. That means we will have to do it all again. We appointed some local teachers, but they have also come from Leeds and Sheffield. We have a music teacher who has come up from London, and a law teacher who has come from Cornwall. I think people have seen coming to work for a new college as an exciting opportunity."

Read more: Doncaster sixth-form college in progress

It is not just the teachers who have come from far afield.

The students have come from 26 different schools. The full list is Hayfield; Hungerhill; The Elizabethan Academy, Retford; McAuley; Armthorpe; Outwood Danum; Ridgewood; Sir Thomas Wharton; Hall Cross; Ash Hill; South Axholme; Balby Carr; Outwood Adwick; Hill House; Rossington All Saints;Serlby Park; Trinity; de Warenne; Don Valley; Doncaster College; New College Pontefract; UTC Sheffield; Worksop College; Mexborough; Orchard School Leverton; Queen Elizabeth's High, Gainsborough; Retford Oaks; Vale Academy, Brigg.

But to Mr Fletcher and assistant principal Helen Jackson, the new school is the first of its sort in Doncaster.

It is filled only by post-16 students, and covers A levels in a way that Doncaster College does not.

Mr Fletcher said: "It's the first sixth form college, which I think is unique in this area.

"Doncaster has a lot of schools with smaller sixth forms, which can't always offer the same breadth of subjects. Our college offers A Levels and BTEC.

"But I don't think it is just about the choice, I think it is also about culture. There are no younger students, no uniforms and no school bells. Everyone is on first name terms, including the teachers. We think it is somewhere between school and a university environment.."

Ms Jackson added: "It is the range of courses that we can offer that is not possible at some sixth forms."

Read more: Student life starts early at New College Doncaster


New College Doncaster was built on land formerly owned by Hayfield School after the school closed its own sixth form.

Hayfield had previously had some of the best A Level results in Doncaster before the closure, and the new site was developed by New College Pontefract, which had been rated as outstanding by Ofsted in 2014.

Principal Brendon Fletcher had previously worked in the leadership team at New College Pontefract. The schools also share a small number of teachers who work across both sites, including a geology teacher.

Mr Fletcher said the school had worked with a number of schools in the borough, but there had been others, with sixth forms of their own, who had been reluctant to let them give out information about the new college on their sites.

He said: "There are a number of schools that don't have sixth forms that have engaged positively with us, talking to us and sharing information. But there are some with sixth forms who have been reluctant for us to put out information to their students, which is a shame, but we understand."

"We do have our own information evenings here too."

Buses brought in

A network of buses had been set up to serve the new college, with bus firms even adjusting their routes to take its students.

The college hopes to expand the number of services this year.

Assistant principal Helen Jackson said there buses coming to the college from Thorne, Stainforth, Edlington, Armthorpe, Kirk Sandall, Barnby Dun, Tickhill, Bawtry, Rossington and Harworth.

The X4 service to the airport was also re-routed to take in the college.

Ms Jackson said: "Looking at Doncaster as a clock face, I think we now have cover from most directions."

The students

Drew Budtz travels in to college from Bessacarr on the bus each day - and reckons the journey takes around 20 minutes.

The 17-year-old has enjoyed his first three months and has enjoyed focusing on subjects he enjoys - in his case geography, PE and economics. He added: "I like the independence - you can go off and learn during your free time."

Laura Butterfield, aged 17, has a much sorter journey. As an Auckley resident, she is well within walking distance. She is studying biology, psychology and geography. She said: "I like the atmosphere and all the space here. It is very different to how it was at school in that you can come and go as you please and you're treated more as an adult, and I think I've settled in quickly.

Macauley Calladine, who is studying maths, physics and geography, said he recently went back to his previous school, Hayfield School, and it showed to him the difference between the school and sixth form environments.

He said: "We are treated more like adults. Hayfield was great, but I think this is better for the age that I am now, and for the facilities."

The 17-year-old said he had hoped to join the college football club, but it clashed with his driving lessons.