Letters: Gove's £45 million sixth form college

These letters appear in the Tuesday 1st April edition of the Independent

Share

As principals of the 12 sixth form colleges in London, we are writing to express our dismay at the Government’s plan to spend £45m on the Harris Westminster Sixth Form (“The most expensive free school in Britain?”, 29 March).

Our colleges have experienced three budget cuts in three years, and we expect the Government to attempt to make a fourth cut to our funding later this year. As The Independent reported in February, this has led some institutions to cut courses and increase class sizes. In January, the Government said it could not introduce a VAT refund scheme for the sixth form college sector (to mirror the arrangements in place for free school sixth forms) as the £30m cost was unaffordable.

So it is entirely unjust that £45m has been found to establish an institution that will educate less than a fifth of the number of students currently enrolled at some of the existing sixth form colleges in London. The total capital budget for all 93 sixth form colleges in England last year was less than £60m.

Michael Gove is establishing institutions like the Harris Westminster Sixth Form to break down what he has described as the “Berlin Wall” between the state and independent sectors. He has only succeeded in creating a new divide – between new, generously funded and often highly selective free school sixth forms and the very successful network of state sixth form colleges they are modelled on.

The sixth form colleges in London have an excellent record of supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress to top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, and we do so without highly selective admissions policies. It does not make educational or economic sense to divert scarce resources away from the 20,000 16- to 18-year-olds currently studying at a sixth form college in London to benefit 500 young people at a highly selective institution in a very expensive part of the city.

We urge the Secretary of State to rethink his decision to spend £45m on this new institution, and ask that he redirect the investment to address the growing crisis in sixth form college funding.

Ken Warman, BSix Brooke House Sixth Form College

Eddie Playfair, Newham Sixth Form College

Jane Overbury, Christ the King Sixth Form College

Paul O’Shea, Saint Charles Catholic Sixth Form College

Brett Freeman, Coulsdon Sixth Form College

Andrew Parkin, Saint Dominic’s Sixth Form College

Paul Wakeling, Havering Sixth Form College

Stella Flannery, Saint Francis Xavier Sixth Form College

Tim Eyton-Jones, John Ruskin College

Paolo Ramella,  Sir George Monoux Sixth Form College

Kevin Watson, Leyton Sixth Form College

John Rubinstein, Woodhouse College

 

Your story “The most expensive free school in Britain?” contained inaccuracies and did not present a complete picture.

Westminster Sixth Form is an exciting and innovative project focused on the poorest in society that has never been tried before. At full capacity it will offer 300 places in each year group, giving hundreds of children from low-income families the kind of top-quality sixth form previously reserved for the better off. Westminster Sixth Form was assessed for value for money using standard Treasury tests and it passed precisely because it will open up opportunities to disadvantaged young people and their families.

Free schools offer good value for money and are opening at a fraction of the cost of previous programmes – new schools are now being built around 40 per cent cheaper than under the former government’s Building Schools for the Future programme. So far we have opened 174 free schools for 80,000 pupils, with the vast majority in areas facing a shortage of school places or in deprived communities.

It is also wrong and irresponsible to say that “there is expected to be a shortage of 240,000 primary school places by 2015”. We are giving councils £5bn to spend on new school places over this parliament – double the amount allocated by the previous government over a comparable period. This has already created 260,000 new school places, and many more are due to be delivered by 2015.

Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, Department for Education

 

Black box that would stay afloat

The “black box” of the missing Malaysian airliner has not yet been recovered. We are told that it emits a locating signal once the aircraft crashes, but that it is difficult to detect if the aircraft has sunk into deep water, and furthermore is only emitted for about 30 days while the batteries contain sufficient charge. 

Would it not be possible to incorporate an additional device into aircraft that would be designed to break free and float in the event of the plane landing in the sea? Such a device would emit a locating “ping” detectable from satellites and could incorporate a solar charger in order to maintain battery power indefinitely until the device is retrieved. Surely this is within the capabilities of aviation engineers. 

Jonathan Wallace, Newcastle upon Tyne

 

We need more Tories like Tapsell

I wish a very happy retirement to Sir Peter Tapsell MP, who is standing down at the next election, but it will be a great shame to see him go.

He has been a Keynesian and pro-Commonwealth opponent of the Euro-federalist project from the start. He was scathingly anti-Thatcherite, to the point that, in 1981, he became the first Conservative to vote against a Conservative Budget since Harold Macmillan in the 1930s.

He has consistently opposed the neo-conservative wars all the way back to Kosovo, and only in the last fortnight he was asking on the floor of the House why, if Scotland could have a referendum on dissolving constitutional arrangements that went all the way back to 1707, Crimea could not have one on those which dated only from 1954.

He has called for a return to the division between retail banking and investment banking.

He has identified, in their seasons, the money markets, the media moguls and the intelligence agencies as the heirs of the nabobs and of the Whig magnates whom past generations of Tories had made it their defining cause to cut down to size and to subject to the sovereignty of Parliament.

Regardless of party, some other such figure must be elected in 2015. But who?

David Lindsay, Lanchester, Co Durham

 

Crimea: dangerous precedents

President Putin should bear in mind the adage about people who live in glass houses. The Russian Federation is a patchwork of nationalities and ethnic minorities whose disgruntled separatist elements must have learned something from the Crimea situation. Former Soviet allies may now see their Russian connections and Russian communities as potential pretexts for Anschluss and persuade them to seek better protection.

Hamid Elyassi, London E14

 

The UN has set a dangerous precedent in declaring the referendum in Crimea illegal. It was a secret ballot, and with 96 per cent voting in favour with an 80 per cent turnout, the result must be democratically safe.

If the argument is that the whole of Ukraine should have voted, then we need a referendum to establish whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK or become part of a united Ireland, with the whole of Ireland voting.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey

 

Russia has annexed Crimea illegally but in accordance with the wishes of the majority of the people who live there. Israel annexed East Jerusalem illegally and contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people who live there.

Why are we applying sanctions against Russia but not Israel?

Gordon Broadbent, London SW15

 

Where is our pension compensation?

While Osborne may have decided to change the rules about how people coming up to retirement can use their “pension pot”, he was carefully silent about the millions of us who were constrained by the previous regime. If it is true that pensioners have lost out on the purchase of their annuities, should there not be some form of redress similar to the repayment of PPI. Perhaps it is time to refund some of the excessive fees and review the parsimonious interest rates that have condemned so many of us to a “baked beans” old age.

Simon Piney, Stroud, Gloucestershire

 

Reasons to boycott robot checkouts

All those readers who find automated checkouts distressing should note that the evidence of many studies suggests that the process of using one is also slower than using a manned till. Their sole purpose is to save on staff salaries, thus putting people out of work. If we all refused to use them (as I do) and insisted on using manned tills not only would they disappear, but the time we spend in queues and at the checkout would be diminished.

Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Assessor

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Sustainability Assessor...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Science Teacher

£110 - £150 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: This sch...

English Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Ilford: English teacher wanted in a school in R...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: second languages, the secret of love and is it all right to call someone stupid?

John Rentoul
High and mighty: Edinburgh Castle and city skyline  

i Editor's Letter: We're coming to Edinburgh

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?