Exclusive: New restrictions on academies opening small sixth forms

Academies will have to prove that new sixth forms will have sufficient numbers and will be financially viable

Stephen Exley

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Academies will be barred from opening sixth forms unless they expect to have at least 200 pupils and offer 15 A levels, according to new Department for Education guidance.

The schools will now have to be rated good or better, prove that sufficient demand for their post-16 provision exists, and demonstrate its “financial viability and value for money”.

'Declining numbers'

Under the Coalition schools had been encouraged to open sixth forms, with 169 new ones opening between 2010 and 2015; a period when the number of 16-18-year-old students dropped. According to the Association of Colleges, this has resulted in 1,180 school sixth forms having fewer than 100 students.

The new guidance outlines a series of criteria academies are expected to meet when opening a sixth form. They include:

  • Only applications from schools with good or outstanding Ofsted ratings would “normally” be considered;
  • There should be “an expectation of around 200 students or more, either in the institution or through partnership”;
  • Students should be able to choose from “around 15 A levels across a range of subjects”;
  • The academy is also required to prove the project’s “financial viability and value for money, including testing financial resilience should student numbers fall".

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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