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Government Figures Show Larger Sixth Forms Get Better Marks at A Level

Figures released by the Government show that a school sixth form’s A-level performance is directly related to its size: the smaller the school sixth form, the lower the average A-level points score.

Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins, who asked the Parliamentary Question that led the Government to release the figures, said: “This confirms my suspicions that small school sixth forms can let down parents and pupils and are not good value for money. Exam results prove that bigger is better when it comes to sixth forms.”

Doubts over New Education and Inspection Bill

The statistics disclosed by Jacqui Smith, the Schools Minister, revealed that during the academic year 2004 to 2005, schools with 51 to 100 pupils aged 16 to 18 achieved an averaged A-level points score of 169 per pupil; those with 151 to 200 pupils in the same age-bracket had an average point score of 256.8; schools with 250 or more A-level students achieved an average score of 277.6.

“These figures also raise serious doubts about the Government’s ambitions to increase the number of school sixth forms, made easier by the new Education and Inspections Bill,” said Hopkins.

AoC Echo Concerns

The Association of Colleges (AoC) echoes Hopkins” concerns about the Government’s encouragement for the establishment of new school sixth forms. John Brennan, AoC Chief Executive, said: “Small sixth forms are unable to provide the quality of specialist teaching and choice of subjects which larger institutions can and these figures show that only too clearly.

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“Many colleges offer high quality teaching in up to forty different A-levels ““ small school sixth forms just cannot match that variety and often lack expertise in key areas,” he continued. “The Government should be very cautious in encouraging more small sixth forms. Doing so diverts funding and students away from existing high quality provision, shrinking the variety of courses on offer and reducing choice for pupils and parents. This is not an argument about colleges versus schools. It’s an argument about making sure young people get the very best deal.”

Limited Expansion, say DfES

A Department for Education and Skills (DfES) Spokesperson stated that only schools that meet the high performing specialist schools criteria would be allowed to expand to offer sixth form provision. They said: “All young people should have access to high quality education and choice in what they study and the new national entitlement to access specialised diplomas will provide this.

“Collaboration between schools and colleges will be vital,” the statement continued, “to ensuring these increased opportunities are delivered.” According to AoC statistics, approximately 727,000 16-18 year olds choose to study in colleges, compared with only 439,000 in schools.

Lydia Stockdale

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