Sixth forms threatened by Labour;Letter

11th June 1999 at 01:00
You refer to a "funding threat to sixth forms in England" (TES May 28). In Wales it is happening.

The minority New Labour administration plans to set up a new quango, the Council for Education and Training for Wales, which would control budgets for sixth forms in Wales.

Tom Middlehurst, responsible for post-16 education and training in the new Welsh cabinet, says in the same edition of The TES that there is a consensus in Wales on the principles of post-16 reorganisation. With respect to sixth forms, this is most definitely not the case.

The tertiarisation of the sixth forms of Wales would have profound implications. Education authorities, governing bodies and headteachers would cease to have full responsibility for their schools; this would steadily diminish as the council compelled schools to accept post-16 rationalisation schemes in each area.

A culture of bureaucracy would replace the educational decisions of schools, leading to frustration and demoralisation: this is hardly the basis for improving standards.

These aspects of New Labour's plans have been barely discussed to date in Wales. When Mr Middlehurst comments that he wishes to get the principal recommendations on post-16 reorganisation "on the stocks as quickly as possible", this is an ominous indication of how New Labour intends to proceed.

It is to be hoped that the Welsh Assembly will not let such a precipitate approach be followed. We need to improve post-16 provision for our young people, but the minority administration has no electoral mandate to tertiarise the sixth forms of Wales by financial stealth.

It would be a remarkable irony if the Welsh Assembly creates a super-quango which emasculates a crucial element of the Welsh tradition of secondary education: responsibility for 11-18 education as a local matter for authorities, governing bodies and heads.

Should this principle be lost in Wales, headteachers of 11-18 secondary schools in England must expect the same. Then it will be a case of, "For England: see Wales".

Paul Jeremy, 16 Marionville Gardens, Llandaff, Cardiff

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