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Settlement reached in judicial review over rules for new school sixth forms

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A settlement has been reached ahead of the judicial review hearing over the Government’s decision to grant permission for a new school sixth form in Hornchurch, London.

The judicial review was initiated by the Association of Colleges (AoC) alongside Havering Sixth Form College to challenge the Department for Education’s (DfE) decision to fund a new school sixth form at Abbs Cross Academy and Arts College in Hornchurch, London. The application for the new school sixth form has now been withdrawn by the Loxford School Trust and as a result, the Government has also withdrawn its decision to approve the new sixth form.   

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “We are delighted with this outcome – we did not believe that the proposed sixth form met the DfE’s own guidance or that it would be in the interests of young people. We were also seeking more clarity on how decisions using the guidance operate in practice across the country.

“The decision by the Loxford School Trust to withdraw the application for a new school sixth form is in the best interests of young people in the local area because they already have access to good quality provision in the area.

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“I am also pleased that DfE has agreed to review the guidance and how decisions are reached. It is imperative that we have robust guidance on establishing new school sixth forms that is consistently followed to ensure quality and viability of post-16 education. The decision to permit a new school sixth form is one which has significant implications for everyone involved and therefore requires clear, unambiguous guidance and careful scrutiny of the evidence of need, probable numbers and the breadth and quality of the proposed offer.

“AoC, on behalf of its member colleges and  of students, will always keep a close watch on the actions and decisions made by the Government. Initiating a judicial review was not a step  that we took lightly but we believe that that this is a very positive outcome which demonstrates that we were right to challenge the decision making process in this case.” 

The DfE’s guidance for establishing academy sixth forms, which was welcomed by colleges earlier this year, requires that proposals for sixth forms should normally only be put forward for academies graded ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. When considered by the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC), applications should be assessed against quality criteria including Breadth –a student should be able to choose from around 15 A Levels across a range of subjects; Size – there should be an expectation of around  200 students; Demand – should be considered in light of any shortage of post-16 places, assessment of the quality of level 3 provision overall in the area and the impact of the new provision on other providers and Financial Viability – this should include testing the financial resilience should numbers fall and the degree and impact on 11-16 education, of cross-subsidisation of funding from the school’s other budgets.

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