It’s no secret that, with the funding rates for sixth-form students having remained frozen for the last seven years (and, in the case of 18-year-olds, they were actually cut), many colleges have been struggling to balance the books.
But never let it be said that sixth-form colleges are afraid of doing things differently. This week it emerged that two colleges in the North of England have decided to make some major changes.
At Ashton Sixth Form College, Greater Manchester, students were undoubtedly thrilled when they heard that a four-day timetable would be introduced. Like many others, Ashton has moved to an offer of three A level subjects. As a result, students were left with long breaks during the middle of the day or were coming into college for just one class.
To make the most of their contact time, the college revamped the timetable so that each student has four full days of class time, and one day on which they study at college or home.
Sheridan Lewis, the assistant principal responsible for the new timetable, said that the move was not related to recruitment or retention: “We have gone to a four-day timetable for students, but teaching staff are on the same contact time. It had nothing to do with staffing.
“On four days, students are now very busy – we have filled those for them. On the fifth day, they can come into college for independent study or they can stay at home. It is not a day off, it is a study day.”
Lewis told said that the reaction from students and staff had been positive.
However, the proposed changes at Greenhead College in Huddersfield are, we’d imagine, considerably less welcome.
In a bid to save money and ensure financial sustainability, the college is looking to increase the timetabled teacher-student contact hours.
At the moment, it’s 20 hours per week, but the plans would see this increased to 21 hours 20 minutes, or even 23 hours 40 minutes per week.
The latter would represent a rise in teaching hours of 18 per cent. This would mean that fewer teachers would be needed to deliver the timetable.
Principal Simon Lett stressed that it was too early to say whether redundancies could be an outcome of the consultation.
He said: “To ensure that the college’s financial position remains sustainable in the future, it is clearly important that we implement changes now, thereby maintaining excellent academic provision and support for our students. The senior leadership team and governors are carefully considering the options available to us and a formal consultation process involving staff and the recognised trade unions has begun.”