Writing in the Guardian, Peter Wilby argues it is time to move beyond having sixth forms in schools and focus instead on dedicated sixth-form colleges.
…To this day, many parents, teachers and politicians feel a secondary school isn’t a proper school unless it has a sixth form. The feeling dates back to the time when grammar and fee-charging schools had sixth forms but secondary moderns didn’t. Many of the comprehensive pioneers insisted that sixth forms were essential to the new schools if they were to be taken seriously. Schools for 11- to 16-year-olds, they argued, would lack status and confidence. Younger pupils would be deprived of role models and perhaps also of the best teachers.
The same attitudes dictate that nearly all newly created academies must have sixth forms. Ministers do not want these to look like second-class schools, lacking prestige and pulling power. “A successful school almost always has a sixth form,” said Andrew Adonis, Labour’s godfather of academies.
One result of the proliferation of school sixth forms, many barely sustainable economically, is that England still has only 93 sixth-form colleges and only one in five teenagers live within five miles of one. Colleges such as Portsmouth are starved of funds, having on average 18% less to spend on each pupil than a school sixth form.
Yet by most standards, the colleges are an unqualified success. Their A-level results are on average 10% better [pdf] than those of state school sixth forms and their pupils more likely to progress to Russell group universities and to universities generally. The colleges account for nearly a third of the most disadvantaged students entering university. Moreover, many (probably most) pupils welcome a fresh start at 16 in an institution designed specifically for older teenagers, allowing them to shake off the constraints of a school that (as they see it) deals largely with little children…
As ever, read the full article for Peter Wilby’s complete argument, but do you agree with him that it is time to get rid of school sixth forms in place of sixth-form colleges?
Please let us know why/why not in the comments or via Twitter…
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