Letter: Exceptional, but behind on points

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The Independent Online
Sir: Sixth-form colleges are doing a lot better than the your report by Fran Abrams suggests ('Patten signals wider sixth-form choice', 26 November).

Colleges in the further education sector are generally large, and open access. They can provide an unrivalled breadth and quality of education for students having a wide range of academic ability. But if you use the raw A-level points score to measure them by, they seem to come off badly.

To use the example closest to me, Peter Symonds's sixth-form college scored 17.7, while Winchester College scored 26.6. But Winchester's sixth form is highly selective, and much smaller than Peter Symonds'; the best 129 students at Peter Symonds's (the number that took A-levels at Winchester) scored an average of 32.2. Not only did they do better than Winchester, but it cost their parents a lot less, too.

The same analysis applies to many other colleges in the state- funded further education sector. But to appreciate just how exceptional the best of them are, you need to look a little deeper than the league tables.

Yours faithfully,


House of Lords

London, SW1

26 November