Historic merger past first hurdle

28th September 2001 at 01:00
The first-ever merger of a further education college and secondary school won initial approval from the local education authority and post-16 funding chiefs this week.

Leaders of both the LEA and local learning and skills council see the proposal by Warwickshire college and the 750-pupil Campion school as a "pathfinder" for the rest of the country. The Government says the initiative also reflects priorities in the White Paper, Schools - Achieving Success.

If it gets the go-ahead, the merged institution will start in September 2003. It will provide new family learning opportunities, more vocational options from 14 and wider choice post-16.

The college has already become a centre for vocational excellence (COVE) in engineering. The school is strong in art, music and drama, with most pupils gaining grade As at A-level and GCSE. Both say they would benefit from concentrating on their strengths "in co-operation, not isolation".

A new surge of interest in co-operative ventures nationally has emerged in a study by the Association of Colleges. Based on a survey of 100 colleges which collaborate with schools, it shows a huge growth in initiatives.

This is despite bureaucratic blocks in the mid-1990s which scuppered many schemes, and saw the number of 14 to 16-year-olds in colleges plunge from 53,000 to 27,000 over five years.

The AOC survey and increased interest from schools (see Briefing, p26-27) suggest that the reason why the White Paper 14 to 19 proposals should succeed where other similar pushes have failed is that ministers have identified the need to open opportunities to all abilities, and not use colleges as dumping grounds for disaffected pupils.

Other collaborative decisions given the go-ahead this week include the launch of a new sixth-form college, run jointly by Milton Keynes college and the neighbouring Sir Frank Markham community school.

Sally Dicketts, principal of Milton Keynes college, said: "It offers the local community opportunities with a wider range of courses, bringing together the best of the school and the college in an environment that is stimulating."

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