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House of Commons Hansard
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Sixth-form Colleges
21 January 2013
Volume 557
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13. What recent assessment he has made of the success of sixth-form colleges; and if he will make a statement. [137912]

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Sixth-form colleges make an important contribution to the education of 16 to 19 year-olds. The latest data show that the sector is performing well in both student attainment and a range of valued-added measures. Nearly four fifths of sixth-form colleges are rated “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted.

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As the Minister has just said, sixth-form colleges are our most successful educational institutions, in terms of both quality of education and value for money. I suggest that the Government would do well by our young people and taxpayers if they sought to establish many more sixth-form colleges and ensured that those that we have are treated fairly and supported.

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We will certainly go on strongly supporting sixth-form colleges. I believe that an all-party sixth-form college group will be formed in the near future with the hon. Gentleman as its chairman. I will be more than happy to meet him in his capacity as chair of that group.

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There is only one school sixth form in my constituency; the rest of the sixth-form students go to Harlow college. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the poorest pupils going to sixth-form and further education colleges have access to free school meals, as school students have?

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As my hon. Friend will know, that is a long-standing injustice in how legislation treats students in colleges compared with those in schools. Obviously, resolving it would involve a considerable financial commitment, but I assure him that we are looking at it.

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Will the Minister accept, however, that funding should be equal for sixth-form students regardless of the status of the establishment they go to? With that in mind, will he accept an invitation from me to visit Colchester sixth-form college—arguably the best in the country—to see how successful it is?

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I would be delighted to accept that invitation, and I assure my hon. Friend that we are acting to make sure that there is equal treatment of students regardless of which institution they are in between the ages of 16 and 19.