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Unity Schools Partnership has today launched a public consultation into plans to increase sixth form provision at Thomas Gainsborough School.


Thomas Gainsborough School, formerly Great Cornard Upper School, is a secondary school and sixth form in the village of Great Cornard. The school was formerly a technology college which converted to academy status in January 2015.

The school is now part of the Unity Schools Partnership which is a partnership of schools located on the Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire borders. The school has an Ofsted ‘Good’ rating.
Prior to converting to academy status, the school undertook a complete rebuild of the site replacing the main teaching complex but retaining the Sports Centre and former Great Cornard Middle School. The former middle school is now used as a Sixth Form and Media Centre.
Currently, the school’s Published Admission Number (PAN) in Year 7 is:

  • Year 7: 240 (1,200 in years 7-11)
  • Year 12: 100 (200 in Years 12-13)

Population projections are predicting the need to provide an additional 180 places by 2024. To respond to this demand, the school is proposing to expand pupil numbers in its sixth form.

Significant change consultation

Under Department for Education’s ‘Making significant changes to an open academy’ guidance, multi-academy trusts must consult with their community when proposing to make significant changes to the operation of an open Academy.

Unity Schools Partnership and Thomas Gainsborough School now wants to hear the views of its stakeholders on this significant change proposal.

Details of the proposal

The proposal would enable school’s pupil numbers to increase as follows:

  • From 1,200 in Years 7-11 and 200 in Years 12-13…
  • To 1,200 in Years 7-11 and 350 in Years 12-13.

In summary, this would require an expansion of the current accommodation to provide 150 additional sixth form places.

The proposed increase in pupil numbers would require a remodelling of the present sixth form and media centre to provide:

  • Two new science labs
  • A new drama studio
  • New sixth form common room
  • New sixth form study area
  • New library
  • Light refurbishment of classrooms, toilets and communal spaces


Demand for school places arising from new housing will not be able to be met locally if Thomas Gainsborough is unable to expand.

Ormiston Sudbury Academy has recently closed its sixth form and we know that more students will apply to Thomas Gainsborough School as the local population grows through new housing.

Rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, the school is in an ideal position to offer high standards of academic learning and progression opportunities for students with appropriate GCSE qualifications.


The total anticipated cost of the building project is expected to be in excess of £2 million.

A Post–16 Capacity Fund application has been submitted to the Department for Education to fund the cost of the works.

How can I take part in the consultation?

The consultation runs from Wednesday 14th December 2022 until Wednesday 25th January 2023. You can:

  • Attend the public meeting on Wednesday 11th January 2023 from 6pm, at Thomas Gainsborough School’s Sixth Form block.
  • Send your comments by email to projects@unitysp.co.uk.

What are the next steps?

The Trust will consider the outcome of the consultation, addressing concerns where appropriate and apply to the Regional Schools Commissioner for approval.

How can I find out about the outcome of the application to the Regional Schools Commissioner?

Please continue to refer to our website for an update.