Letter: A-levels under one roof

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The Independent Online
As an A-level student who has just completed my studies in the Oxford City area, I would disagree that the system operating in Oxford is successful. ("Are sixth forms on the way out?" EDUCATION, 8 July.) The six upper schools in Oxford all have small numbers of students in the sixth form (under 50), so along with the local further education college and another teaching centre, all eight institutions try to offer a wider range of A-levels.

However, as you might imagine arranging timetables to suit eight institutions, with different lesson times and school hours, is problematic. In fact, only about 20 courses can be offered in total, about 10 at each school. This year at one school, English and maths cannot be offered together, and common subjects nowadays such as media studies, law and politics are not offered at all. The system results in pupils travelling around the city numerous times each day in order to make lessons. Timetables can easily clash, and often break and lunchtimes have to be missed. I would be very interested to know how the drop-out rate for A-level students under this scheme compares with other schools, larger sixth forms, and sixth-form colleges.

I have completed three A-levels under this scheme at three different institutions. Although going to three different institutions is not encouraged, it is the only way for some people to study the A-levels they want. With the demise of the tertiary school system in Oxford imminent, and the option of doing five A-levels in the future, I can see a sixth-form college as the only viable option.

All courses should be available on one site, with unbiased guidance over what subjects to take. Communication also needs to improve because currently the further education college and the schools seem to have different agendas, with the latter discouraging students from attending the college, where the less traditional subjects are offered.


Kidlington, Oxford