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Post-16 centres on the way

GREENWICH council aims to become the first local authority using new powers to replace ailing sixth-forms with post-16 centres.

The south London borough has put forward plans to close half of its sixth forms and reopen the remaining five as Centres for Advanced Learning and Skills. The radical plans are in response to a critical inspection which said Greenwich had too many sixth-forms with too few pupils.

Out of the 12,000 16 to 19-year-olds in full-time education in Greenwich, only 2,500 actually study in the borough.

The centres would open in September next year, offering a mix of academic and vocational subjects, with special needs provision and adult education courses. The preferred optin is for the five centres to be run as a "federated" network.

Greenwich's director of education, George Gyte, said: "We need to be better at keeping youngsters in the school system and attracting more people from that age range." The council is aiming for a 50 per cent staying-on rate in the borough within five years.

The new powers allowing local authorities to open their own 16-19 institutions are in the Learning and Skills Bill, which received its third reading in the House of Lords yesterday. They will help to regularise the position of the William Morris Academy, the sixth-form centre run by Hammersmith and Fulham council, which has had good results but an uncertain legal status.

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