John Bingham: It's time to recognise the value of sixth-form colleges - and create more of them
Thursday 02 April 2009
Sixth-Form Colleges are a better choice than school sixth- forms for many of our young people – yet there appears to be no proactive Government policy to propel the creation of sixth-form colleges where the need is greatest. There are pockets of the country where these institutions abound, but equally in some regions they are very thinly spread.
Sixth-form colleges are proven to offer excellent academic provision for 16 to 19 year olds. They occupy seven of the top 10 positions in this year's post-16 achievement tables when compared to comprehensives, and the Oxbridge intake of students from many sixth-form colleges is as good as any independent school. Equally significant is the fact that these colleges help bridge the gap as young people grow out of the child-oriented environment of school into the adult-oriented environment of university.
My son is a perfect example. At 16, he'd "outgrown" his school. He was armed with self-discipline and motivation and was crying out for a more mature approach to learning. Our local sixth-form college offered that and he has thrived within it.
In any case, the school my son attended – like so many school sixth-forms – couldn't offer him the mix of courses he wanted. Fitting a science subject, a humanities subject and two arts subjects into the same timetable was something his school was both unwilling and incapable of doing. The sixth-form college took it in its stride.
The evidence from AoC research undertaken each year clearly indicates that this problem of limited choice affects results as students find themselves taking unsuitable courses: the smaller the sixth-form, the worse the results. Small sixth-forms are invariably school sixth-forms.
With the average sixth-form college teaching 1,500 students, it means they have the capacity to teach a wide variety of both academic qualifications such as GSCEs and A-levels, along with vocational courses, such as business, childcare and art and design.
To compound the problem, too many schools do not make their students fully aware of the other options open to them, including courses at sixth-form colleges and FE colleges, leaving them to make an uneducated choice about the next best step.
We hope that new legislation in the form of the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Bill would encourage local authorities – who will have more say in the commissioning and funding of pre-19 education – to convert underperforming school sixth-forms into sixth-form colleges.
I'm not suggesting all school sixth-forms should be closed in favour of these colleges. I'm simply saying young people aged 14 or 15 should be counselled that the next stage of their education could be spent at a different institution – one that may be better suited to their needs and abilities. I am also suggesting that Government, in recognition of the achievements of sixth-form colleges, enable more to exist.
Sixth-form colleges have been around for a very long time. It's about time they were recognised more widely for how they help shape the bright futures of so many of our young people.
Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Isis release 'Flames of War' video warning Obama of attacks troops could face in Iraq
Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked next, threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 3 'Necrophilia-obsessed' girl among double murder accused in three-way sex case
- 4 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Revealed after 75 years of secrecy: 'Fifi' the glamorous WW2 special agent who tested British spies' resolve
£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...
£100 - £105 per day + Travel Scheme plus free professional training: Randstad ...
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...
£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher - NewportKey ...