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No monopoly

The denigratory unsupported comments made by Joe Boone of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers in your front-page story (TES, October 17), implying that small sixth forms have a monopoly in pastoral care and guidance, cannot go unchallenged.

Not only do colleges in the further education sector now have a good record for such provision, they are usually able, because of their size, to provide a variety of support mechanisms including the kind of specialist advice which is so important to the fullest range of young people.

No doubt small sixth forms are popular with largely middle-class parents. They attract a disproportionate share of resources often with a further subsidy made at the expense of younger pupils in the schools. If all 16 to 18-year-olds attracted the same level of funding regardless of their institutions then true and fair comparisons could be made.

The policy of creating small and unviable sixth forms with no thought of their effects on other institutions and the majority of 16 to 18-year-olds has been extremely damaging.

In the pursuit of a dogma of institutional choice in isolation from other factors, substantial restriction to curriculum range and variety has occurred in many areas of the country. In most cases diversity in institutional choice already existed and a few people have been allowed to benefit at the expense of the majority, as so often seems to be the case in our education system.

The sooner some kind of strategic planning is introduced for post-16 provision on a sub-regional basis, the better. Furthermore, when this happens, Joe Boone's concerns over job losses will prove to be illusory. In a more collaborative less competitive context, participation will rise, retention rates improve and more, not fewer, jobs will be created.

DAVID EADE Chief executive Barnsley College Old Mill Lane Site Church Street Barnsley South Yorkshire

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