Low marks, high cost spell closure

SMALL school sixth forms could face closure after government figures showed that their students achieve the worst A-level results.

Pupils in sixth forms with fewer than 50 pupils gain A-level grades 40 per cent below the national average for schools.

Sixth-form colleges and school sixth forms with more than 200 pupils achieve the best results. Small sixth forms are even outperformed by FE colleges, traditionally seen as the Cinderella of post-16 education.

Ministers are known to be concerned about the high cost per

pupil in small sixth forms, as well as their narrow range of course options.

The Government defeated an Opposition amendment to the Learning and Skills Bill which would have stopped the closure of small school sixth forms on cost grounds. However, local sixth forms remain popular with parents, and the Government does not want to upset middle England in the run-up to a general election.

Teenagers who attend sixth forms with fewer than 50 pupils are clearly outperformed by their counterparts in lager sixth forms. A typical pupil gets just two Ds at A-level and an E at AS-level - a points score of 9.2. This is lower than the results achieved by general FE colleges.

The national average points score for 17-year-olds sitting at least one A or AS-level at school was 15.3, equivalent to two Cs at A-level and a C at AS-level.

Sixth-form colleges and school sixth forms with more than 200 pupils did even better. On average their pupils gained grades worth one point above the national average for schools - equivalent to an extra grade at AS-level.

The figures were revealed in parliamentary answers given by Malcolm Wicks, minister for lifelong learning. Although the data are only for sixth forms of fewer than 50 pupils, sixth forms with no more than 100 pupils could also be at risk. There are 115 secondary schools with sixth forms of fewer than 50 pupils and a further 319 with between 50 and 100 pupils. Currently, more than half of secondary schools have a sixth form.

Sixth-form pay deal, 5

FE Focus, I

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