School heads fear 'hidden agenda'

21st September 2001 at 01:00
GOVERNMENT plans to reform post-16 education and training contain a "hidden agenda" to speed-up the closure of small sixth forms, headteacher leaders insisted this week.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris today unveils the first stage of consultations on the White Paper. She will spell-out Government intentions to extend the powers of the Learning and Skills Council to put forward proposals to reorganise post-16 provision in an area.

Currently, the council is restricted by the Learning and Skills Act 2000, which allows it to make proposals about "inadequate LEA-maintained sixth-form provision" where the chief inspector of OFSTED has issued two consecutive adverse reports.

But, under planned legislation, the council can call for reforms "in certain specific circumstances" other than the bad reports from OFSTED. This includes evidence from institutional reports on students' achievement or participation rates.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "This will reinforce fears in schools that there is a hidden agenda to eliminate small sixth-forms. This will allow closure not based on the quality of courses but where they are regarded in LSC terms as uneconomic."

College leaders publicly welcomed the wider White Paper proposals. A spokeswoman for the Association of Colleges said: "Much of what the Government intends is a freeing-up of 14-19 education and training in a way we have long been calling for." However, college leaders are understood to be concerned that the extension of LSC powers could give undue and adverse central control.

Local education authority leaders say that the powers they would lose under the proposal are compensated by the extra powers they gain to open new post-16 institutions. But, they accept that the proposals are likely to cause a "frisson" among school heads.

Miss Morris said the concerns of young people had to come before those of institutions. "For too many young people, the 14-19 age range has been a period of falling engagement in learning and rising disaffection. Many serious attempts to change this have failed."

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now