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Sixth Forms

Volume 20: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his policy towards the retention of school sixth forms; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend's views are set out in the draft circular issued far consultation on 24 November last.

Does my hon. Friend agree that sixth forms do a great deal for schools, that the pupils in those sixth forms acquire responsibility, and that if we move towards tertiary or sixth form colleges there is a risk that some of the better teachers might leave schools to go to those colleges, to the detriment of the school that they have left?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that sixth forms in schools provide a tried and tested way of educating youngsters at sixth form level.

How can the Minister know better than a local education authority how to organise its sixth form provision?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State has a duty by statute to consider the proposals put to him by the local education authorities.

Does my hon. Friend agree that education is a matter of principle, and one needs to be guided by principles? Is it not a long-standing, accepted and widely valued principle that sixth forms in schools have given leadership and other benefits to schools that cannot come to them in any other way?

Is not the pressure for tertiary colleges now developing in the educational orbit and are not sixth forms, although they have played a valuable role, now at a stage where, if they become smaller and smaller, they will become separated from life around them, while tertiary colleges will mean a greater expansion of education and a rubbing of shoulders with many people beyond the school age in the same educational set-up?

The Government are not opposed to sixth form colleges and tertiary colleges. However, when a sixth form has proven its worth it would be wrong to destroy it. I accept that there may be specific, special and compelling reasons to examine the matter, and each case must be judged on its merits.