False comparison behind headline

"Small Sixth Forms cost country Pounds 500m" - what a wonderful sensational headline. However, is the leaked report really comparing like with like?

La Retraite school re-established its sixth form in September 1997, and by its second year, this September, it had already attracted a student cohort of 120. The sixth-form centre is not only self-financing but some of its provision, such as the information technology facilities and access to the Internet, are available for younger pupils.

The expertise of the additional staffing recruited to teach the sixth-form students is benefiting the whole school population. So rather than the young pupils' funding supporting the sixth-form students, I would contend that it is they who have gained.

Our school sixth-form structure provides more than a range of A-level and GNVQ courses, every student follows a "community, activity service" programme on Wednesday afternoon, and general studies and theology courses which can lead to extra qualifications. In addition, the number of teaching hours each student receives far exceeds that normally provided in the FE sector.

M Howie. Headteacher. La Retraite. Atkins Road. London SW12

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