A SPECIALIST sixth form college is set to move a step closer to shutting in August despite widespread opposition.

Next week’s Lancashire County Council cabinet meeting has been recommended to proceed to the next stage of closing Burnley’s Thomas Whitham Sixth Form in August.

Officers have urged senior councillors to publish an official notice of closure prior to its expected confirmation in May.

This is despite 86 per cent of 212 responses to consultation exercise ‘strongly disagreeing’ with shutting the college and a online petition of 1,636 signatures opposing the move.

Since it opened in 2006, the school has been judged as ‘Good’ at every Ofsted inspection.

A report to the Cabinet on Thursday reveals its current number of students at 139 from Burnley and Pendle boroughs was well short of the originally intended 600.

Councillors are also told that its financial deficit was forecast to rise to £4.2m in March this year and to £6.3m by March 2022.

A second report to next week’s meeting proposes expanding Burnley’s Unity College.

Petition organiser Gemma Swift said: “I am very disappointed with the content of this document.

“The headteacher submitted a viability report to the county council but there is no mention of this.”

Cllr Charlie Briggs, leader of Burnley Borough Council, said: “Obviously I don’t want Thomas Witham to close. It’s a magnificent building so what are they going to do with it?

“The same meeting is talking about closing this college and expanding another secondary school in Burnley. Where is the logic in that?”

Cllr Mark Townsend, leader of Burnley council’s Labour opposition group, said:” I am concerned about this closure. It is unacceptable.

“The school has been having problems with its roll but that is through neglect.”

Edwina Grant, the county council’s director for education, said: “The governing body of the school asked us to consult on the future viability of the sixth form. They were concerned about their financial position, and the low numbers of students attending the school. We are considering the feedback we received during the consultation very carefully.”