Hertfordshire has long been in the vanguard of co-operation between schools and colleges. There is no tradition of large sixth forms. Schools were limited to five-form entry to have a closer sense of community than larger schools.
"Our focus is the perceived needs of the students rather than the needs of the college or school," says Mike Griffin, former head teacher of The Cavendish School, Hemel Hempstead, seconded to encourage all schools to join consortiums. "The emphasis is on collaboration rather than competition between intitutions."
In one St Albans consortium, three schools and the local college run a single sixth-form timetable. In another area, English and geography are scheduled at the same time so that students can swap between these popular subjects in the timetable carousel. Students are transported between different sites by buses supplied by the University of Hertfordshire. In Harpenden, there is a taxi service to run students between sites.
Two factors have given the move to collaboration a greater urgency. One is the finding, highlighted in last year's Ofsted report that GCSE results - 55.4 per cent gained five top grades or more-are not being matched at A-level. The other is the way sixth-form studies are paid for - from next Easter, all students, in schools and colleges, will be funded by the Learning and Skills Council with the aim of equalising costs.