THE Sixth Form form at the Gateway Academy is set to close less than five years after it opened - and despite seeing an increase in the number of students attending.

School chiefs at the Gateway Learning Community (GLC) said the centre is struggling to entice pupils away Palmer’s and South Essex College.

But the move has left parents angry.

One mother, who did not wish to be named, has a daughter at Gateway Academy who was due to start in the Sixth Form this September after completing her GCSEs. She said: “It’s stupid. We’ve now got to find somewhere else at such short notice and while the kids are doing their exams.”

The pupils were told on Thursday that the centre would not be taking on anymore pupils in September.

The current cohort of Year 12s will, however, be able to complete their qualifications at the centre next year, with most on two-year programmes.

This year, the sixth form had 68 16 to 18-year-olds on its books. Last year, it had 44.

But the GLC’s governing body, which also looks after four primary schools and the 1000-student secondary academy, claims the numbers of students at the centre are “unsustainable in the long term” - and that changes to Government funding for smaller, post-16 sixth forms, mean the centre is not financially viable.

In a statement, the GLC added that “Post-16 provision locally is of a very high quality”.

The Gateway Learning Community chief exceutive, Kevin Sadler said: “The Local Governing Body took the view that both the breadth and quality of provision offered by both Palmer’s and South Essex College was in the best interests of the students.

“Both Palmer’s and South Essex College will be supporting students with a tailored recruitment event on Tuesday 13 May 2014 between 5pm and 7pm at the Gateway Academy, with a range of support opportunities including curriculum, finance, wellbeing, etc., to help students make post-16 choices.”

The move is likely to come as a blow to schools like Hathaway Academy, who harbour ambitions of setting up small sixth form centres of their own.