Sixth forms spared axe

SUFFOLK'S sixth forms are set to be spared the axe hanging over other counties.A nationwide survey of post-16 education has resulted in school culls as some authorities move towards a collegiate system.

SUFFOLK'S sixth forms are set to be spared the axe hanging over other counties.

A nationwide survey of post-16 education has resulted in school culls as some authorities move towards a collegiate system.

But the man leading Suffolk's survey predicted no revolutions, despite the county being below the national average for teenagers staying on.

Nick Fisher, executive director of Suffolk Learning and Skills Council, said forming sixth form colleges was unlikely to buck the trend of youngsters dropping out.

He said: "The general problem is that too many people in Suffolk have settled for lower aspirations in terms of going into work at 16 or 17.

"Our job, with the local education authority, is to encourage more to see the benefits of having the qualifications which then mean better jobs and a better working life, with better career prospects and better money."

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Mr Fisher said part of the answer could come with the end to Suffolk's long search for its own university.

He said: "The profile of a university does seem to act as a symbol of encouragement.

"Suffolk College has done tremendous work in developing university level education, but it's never going to be the same as having a full university."

The LSC's study of post-16 education comes hot on the heels of a full OFSTED inspection of all teaching between 14 and 19.

Mr Fisher said the September study would provide a useful "health check" for his organisation in its 18-month in-depth study.

And although the studies will see education come under the microscope twice in quick succession, Mr Fisher believes it will be a gradual process of change.

He said: "The answer in Suffolk is not to look at structural change.

"It's looking to get collaboration between schools and colleges and devising programmes that meet the needs of all young people.

"It's about evolution. Suffolk has always taken a careful and systematic approach and it pays off very well."

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