Just feel the quality of sixth forms in schools

30th October 1998 at 00:00
Your exclusive article on the relative costs of school sixth forms, sixth-form colleges and further education colleges (TES, October 16) fills me with foreboding as we once again have to confront those who are unable to recognise quality in education and are only able to measure its width.

As the headteacher of a successful mixed comprehensive school with a sixth form competing for students in a local education authority served by two sixth-form colleges and a college of further education, I know that many parents value the advantages which a school sixth form is able to provide. These include individual care and counselling - no student is able to hide in the way they can in the larger more anonymous world of the college.

Many have their sights raised to a higher level than if they had been left to their own devices. This year our A-level results were unmatched by any local college, but on a par with the sixth form of a neighbouring girls' comprehensive.

But it is not only academically that we have the advantage.

Our students are able to develop their interpersonal skills, including people-management and leadership, by means of their involvement in activities such as "paired reading" where they help younger pupils who have reading and spelling problems.

Experiences such as these provide the very skills which are so highly valued by industry. They also develop in our young people a vital aspect of citizenship - putting back into society in return for what you get out of it.

Younger pupils also benefit from the academic role models in the sixth form.

To destroy this kind of learning environment would be a considerable blow to the Government's drive to raise educational standards.

Moreover, destroying school sixth forms by starving them of resources is likely to impact on the teacher-recruitment drive. Highly-qualified graduates want to be able to teach the full range of pupils from key stage 3 to A-level.

Thus, while the apparent savings from cutting school sixth forms may prove attractive, in reality it is more likely that they will set back considerably the huge advances in educational achievement made in recent years.

Richard T. Ford. Headmaster. Archbishop Tenison's CE School. Selborne Road. Croydon

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