Colleges stand to benefit at the expense of school sixth forms under new funding arrangements. A survey by FE Focus in The TES shows that a significant minority of schools fear losing students after April 2001.
Rural schools feel the least threatened, since the difficulties of travel and consortium arrangements with other post-16 education and training providers will give grounds for special pleading.
Survival is already in doubt for many schools following the introduction of Curriculum 2000 this academic year: it demands a wider range of studies and more attention to basic skills training for all 16 to 19-year-olds.
But new quality assurance measures, to be imposed by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC)when it takes control of the funding of school sixth-forms next April, will add to schools' problems, they fear.
Under existing local education authority funding, schools often subsidise sixth form spending with lower-schoo cash. This opportunity will disappear under the new funding arrangements. Spending will have to be targeted to meet more specific needs.
Schools admit that there will be problems maintaining the range of minority subjects and predict that many AS-levels will "die". Respondents to the survey said the various pressures would lead to a growth in consortium arrangements with other providers. But there were serious doubts as to whether such schemes would work in the long-term.
The most likely effect is a drift towards larger tertiary colleges - institutions that could handle both purely academic education and industry-training links morecost-effectively.
The over-riding fear expressed in the survey (which will appear in FE Focus on Sept 8) is that class sizes will increase at the expense of quality. This is despite the last-minute assurances from ministers that the cost of implementing Curriculum 2000 would be met in full.