PHOTOGRAPHS show how a multi-million pound extension is shaping up as demand for the town's only specialist sixth form grows.

And the extension to the building is not the only change taking place at Bolton Sixth Form College, which has now been rebranded as The Sixth Form Bolton, to give it a distinct identity in Bolton's education zone, which also includes Bolton College and the University of Bolton.

The expansion, being carried out by Seddons, will mean an extra 200 students will be able to enrol for the new academic year.

Demand for places has steadily increased over the years with the college's results place it 5 per cent above the national rates for post-16 advanced level providers.

Principal Stuart Merrills said: "The current purpose built campus opened in August 2010 with a fourth floor extension completed in 2013 to address the increase in demand for places at the time.

"This included a large restaurant with social area and additional classrooms.

"Due to our success demand for a place at The Sixth has continued to increase over the years and work has now commenced on a £6.4 million extension which will allow room for a further 200 students to enrol in August 2020 and beyond.

"The extension will provide our students with more social space, additional classrooms, private study areas and a new gym and fitness suite for teaching purposes."

He added: "The Sixth Form Bolton rebranded due to it becoming known as The Sixth Form amongst students and schools. The expansion was another great reason for the rebrand as the new build will welcome new students with a new image that will have the same identity, core values and mission to provide educational excellence.

"I think we offer a unique environment. We’re not a school with bells, uniform and playgrounds for the younger years, The Sixth Form is a more mature and adult environment.

"However, we also don’t have any students over the age of 19.

"This means that we are able to offer high quality specialist advanced level education, but also focus fully on the personal development of our students across the ages 16–19. This means The Sixth Form can offer a range of specially designed additional programmes.

" The majority of our students achieve the grades they need to go on to secure places at top universities across the country. These successes rank our Sixth Form alongside the highest performing schools and colleges in the country."

The Sixth is now working to open safely to students in September, drawing up a number of models for scenarios that include everything from a full unrestricted re-opening and partial re-opening with restricted numbers.

But said a spokesperson: "The underlying ethos in all our modelling and approaches is that under any given set of operation restrictions/parameters students should receive as much face-to-face learning and contact as possible."

During lockdown The Sixth has been keeping in touch with its 1,600 students helping them continue their education at home using the latest technology, in some cases students have been provided with the equipment needed and support to cover the cost of broadband and data.

A small number of students have been also been able to study on campus, with staff making regular phone calls to their students, with home visits by the pastoral team when needed. The careers team have also been working with students in both upper and lower sixth.

Students who should have been sitting exams have been supported as they look to take their next step, and staff have been in touch with this September's cohort ­— organising a virtual new student day where they could speak to their tutors.