Sixth-form colleges rank alongside some of the most elite public schools in exam league tables. Their success has so impressed Prime Minister Tony Blair that he now sees them as a model for rescuing costly, small school sixth forms through consortium arrangements.
However, surveys of all 110 sixth-form colleges in England show that teachers do not want the prestige of top A-level results without proper rewards in terms of both pay and conditions.
Seven years ago, when the colleges were under local authority control, they were seen as offering plum teaching jobs. They attracted four times more teachers from schools than they lost to them.
But in 1993, when they were made independent of local authorities, the Conservative Government imposed "efficiency cuts" leading to worse pay and conditions.
Recruitment has stagnated and colleges are now net exporters of teachers to schools. Last year 158 teachers quit the sector for schools, while 120 went from school to college.
Initial indications from the Sixth Form Colleges Employers' Forum is that this year will be worse still. Lecturers now teach up to 200 hours more a year, including evening classes, and earn pound;600 less than school teachers.
College class sizes are larger as schools spend an average of pound;1,500 a year more than colleges on three-A-level students.
The Government has promised to level the playing field but is yet to give any clear indication of how it intends to achieve this.
FE Focus, I, centre pages