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Exeter academy is model for future

Labour plans to send pupils to schools and colleges. Warwick Mansell reports.

A CITY's plans for a "virtual academy", where some pupils attend both school and college, is being held up as an example of Labour's vision for secondary education.

In a forerunner of a national re-alignment of vocational education involving closer links between schools, colleges and workplaces, Exeter this week unveiled plans for a tie-up between the city's tertiary college and its five high schools. The plan would see the schools working with the college to devise joint programmes for 14 to 19-year-olds.

Pupils would have the chance to study part-time in college before age 16 on vocational courses, while the college could put on "outreach" courses at schools for over-16s.

Teachers would be given the chance to teach in the college and at schools, pre and post-16. A "staff college" would be set up, running joint training days for teachers and promoting job swaps between the sectors. The project would ned Learning and Skills Council funding.

The idea is one of the recommendations of a six-month inquiry into the future of education in Exeter, chaired by Ted Wragg, professor of education at Exeter University.

Heads and governors complained that none of the high schools currently has a sixth form, so all post-16 students attend the college. This led to complaints of a lack of choice. Heads were also concerned they could not offer teachers the chance to teach sixth-formers. It was felt that one or two schools developing post-16 courses would be too divisive.

Prof essor Wragg said the move would allow 14 to 16-year-olds to take advantage of the college's superb facilities. He added: "Currently schools can do very little on the vocational side, and colleges very little pre-16. It makes sense that schools and colleges work together."

The inquiry also recommended replacing the city's middle schools with a primary and secondary system, and rebuilding two of the high schools.

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