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Views shared on potential shake-up of post-16 education

A potential shake-up of post-16 education in Bridgend County Borough will involve the retention of school-based sixth forms in some form.

An extensive public consultation over six possible concepts for the future of post-16 education has concluded, with local residents making it clear that they are against any options which would include the closure of school sixth forms and the development of a county-wide sixth form centre.

Instead, the thousands of pupils, teachers, parents and governors who took part in the three-month consultation carried out by Bridgend County Borough Council indicated that their number one preference would be to keep the current school sixth form system.

But, accepting that the current system wasn’t without its limitations, respondents said that they would welcome improvements to help to make the provision more efficient and effective.

The next most popular concepts in the consultation also involved sixth forms being retained, but for there to be some mergers to create one or more new sixth form centres that could be governed by either the local authority or by a further education college.

There are currently sixth forms at every secondary school in Bridgend County Borough, varying in size from 76 to 347 pupils.

After considering a report into the consultation results this week, Cabinet Members from the council have agreed to discard the least popular concepts and instead carry out a further analysis of the options which were most supported by consultation respondents. Those options are…

Option A: The retention of sixth forms in all secondary schools.
Option B: A mixed model with some school-based sixth forms and one, or more, sixth form centres.

Fifty nine per cent of the 322 online surveys that were completed during the consultation came from parents, while the workshop sessions held in each secondary school gathered the views of more than 2,000 students.

I’d like to thank everyone who filled in the online survey, took part in workshops or attended public meetings to discuss this important topic. We’re reviewing whether the current provision should be altered to ensure that young learners have the best opportunities to excel, and we want to include learners, staff, parents and governors in each step of the process.

Funding for sixth form education is provided by Welsh Government as a single post-16 grant allocation each year. Unfortunately, due to national austerity, this funding pot is gradually dwindling, so it’s imperative to use our limited resources as boldly, efficiently and creatively as possible. Interestingly, although most respondents in the consultation were in favour of retaining and refining the current sixth form system, two of the most popular ambitions for post 16 education were to have a greater breadth of subject choice, and equality of resourcing across all subjects.

Both of these outcomes would be better delivered by alternative sixth form models due to the potential for providing some economies of scale. So, in the next phase of our review we’ll be exploring the various permutations that the most popular concepts offer before making further recommendations which will then be the subject of another public consultation.

Councillor Charles Smith, Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration

Councillor Smith added: “Whichever model is eventually chosen, the use of ‘blended learning’ which includes a mix of online learning and traditional classroom methods is likely to be expanded as there were many positive responses to this suggestion in the consultation.

“In the 21st century, a ‘sixth form centre’ can be a physical space, but it can also be a virtual space. I think Bridgend County Borough will continue its long tradition of providing sixth forms, but will provide them differently. Our schools will be working highly collaboratively in partnership with each other and with other post 16 providers.”

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