Six options for the future of post-16/sixth form education in Bridgend county are due to go out for consultation, as outlined in a report due to be discussed by a Scrutiny Committee tomorrow (pdf).
Post-16 education in Bridgend faces a number of challenges including surplus spaces, question marks over whether individual schools are able to provide the broad range of A-Level and equivalent courses, as well as cuts to funding in light of falling pupil numbers.
The options were drafted by an expert panel and published earlier this year. I wrote about that in April, though I didn’t go into very much detail regarding the specifics: Six options shortlisted for Bridgend sixth form shake-up
The Six Options Explained
Option One: The status quo; all current sixth forms remain as is – This is seen as the most desirable option by many schools (particularly faith and Welsh-medium schools) and is even seen as essential in some areas. However, there are concerns over the delivery of some subjects (see the recent Welsh A-Level at Porthcawl for an example) and ongoing budget cuts may make this option unviable.
Option Two: The closure of all sixth forms and the introduction of one or more local authority-run sixth form centre(s) – While it’s said this option would provide the best economy of scale, allow teachers to specialise and provide a much broader curriculum it would require significant up-front spending, increase transport costs and could unsettle existing schools.
Option Three: The closure of all sixth forms and the introduction of a Further Education-run sixth form centre – Being run by an FE provider would mean extra flexibility and curriculum breadth (as well as the combination of vocational and academic qualifications), but it would have the same problems as Option Two.
Option Four: A mix of existing school sixth forms with some merging to create a new local authority maintained sixth-form centre(s) – This would maintain the link between sixth forms and schools (including the retention of faith-based and Welsh-medium sixth forms), it would allow some schools to recruit more experienced staff and provide more efficient class sizes. However, it would also mean some schools would definitely lose their sixth-form and “more able” learners, transport cost implications and it may not address surplus places.
Option Five: A mix of existing school sixth forms with some merging to create a new FE college governed sixth-form centre – Has many of the benefits and draw-backs as Option Four, but it would provide more choice of subjects. It would also require up-front spending and will increase transport costs for those attending the FE centre.
Option Six: The closure of all sixth forms with post-16 education being provided by the FE Sector (i.e. Bridgend College) – This is a similar model to Neath Port Talbot. It would require a significant capital investment in FE facilities to accommodate an additional 1,600+ students and increase transport costs, but it would provide a much broader curriculum and lead to a “maturity” in Year 10 and 11 pupils as they become the oldest pupils in their respective schools.
BCBC prefer Option 4 and Option 5 because they scored best on whether they’ll achieve the council’s objectives, they provide the option of keeping at least some of the pre-existing sixth-forms open (which is popular with schools and pupils) and it allows different factors like geography, transport and surplus places to be taken into account.
If the Cabinet agrees next week, the options should go out for a full public consultation by the end of November 2018 with a report prepared by April 2019.