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Protest as Hutt backs sixth-form closures

There were growing fears this week that Wales is rapidly moving towards a German-style tertiary education system - but without sufficient consultation on the changes.

It follows support from the education minister Jane Hutt for the closure of two sixth forms in Denbighshire and the transfer of students to Coleg Llandrillo, the local further education college.

In a statement, Ms Hutt backed the county's controversial reforms, despite opposition and a further consultation period.

Catherine Britton, head of Blessed Edward Jones High School, in Rhyl, called the statement "draconian". The school says the proposals could mean the end of faith provision as well as the loss of the best education for the school's brightest pupils.

Ms Britton told TES Cymru that sixth formers were furious about Ms Hutt's support for the reforms.

"Every sixth former is to write to the minister," she said.

"I have also sent a letter to all parents asking them to fight against this in the time we have left to oppose the plans - this is not a done deal yet."

A three-week consultation will now take place on the Denbighshire proposals, which will be agreed locally.

But other local authorities in Wales appear to be following the same route as the vocationally led 14-19 learning pathways initiative beds down.

In Carmarthenshire, there are plans to close five secondaries and build three learning centres that will combine academic and vocational learning. Under the proposals agreed with the Assembly government, the local college will remain open.

The local authority has said this is the best way to help small sixth forms that are struggling financially as pupil rolls decline.

Vernon Morgan, the county's director of education and children's services, told TES Cymru last month that change was vital. He also pointed out that Germany had successfully combined academic and vocational learning.

A 7.43 per cent cut in post-16 funding has caused some education unions to suggest that sixth forms are being purposely "bled dry".

Fears of job losses, pages 16-17.

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