Don't knock the colleges

IT IS depressing that Richard T Ford (TES, Letters, October 30) seeks to justify the level of funding in his sixth form by implying that students in a college like this receive an inferior learning experience to that of his own pupils.

We have always acknowledged that some 16-year-olds are more suited to a small sixth form, especially in the school they have attended since they were 11, just as some thrive in the atmosphere of a large college. I do not think that anyone is claiming that school sixth forms are bad (although they cannot offer the breadth of curriculum choice of a larger institution), just that they are more expensive than colleges.

Archbishop Tenison's school offers up to four AAS level subjects to pupils who have gained five or more GCSEs at A*-C, with A or B grades preferred in the subjects to be studied. We allow students to follow an A-level course with four GCSEs at C or above, thus taking some who are not acceptable in other schools or colleges. Many of them achieve their objectives, as did our top student in 1998, who gained five A-levels all of them with a grade A.

Although colleges have been "starved of resources" since 1993, we have managed to retain those features which distinguished us as a school up to 1988, and our examination results have improved every year. I have never attacked local schools even by innuendo; nor have I ever claimed that our college is right for all young people. I cannot accept, however, that we are by definition unable to offer the educational experience to our students which they enjoy and appreciate.

Anne Smith


John Ruskin College

Selsdon Park Road

South Croydon, Surrey

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