New 16-19 free schools: SFCA responseBack
Responding to the outcomes of the Wave 15 free schools bidding round, including 9 new 16-19 free schools, Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said:
“There are two related issues to address here. Firstly, we are concerned about the extent to which decisions by government about which sixth form free school bids to approve are based on evidence. We have pressed DfE throughout to ensure that decisions are based on detailed evidence demonstrating local need for additional places; it doesn’t make sense to double up on what is already available and successful. However, we are aware that some high-profile examples announced today were trailed in the media before applications had even opened, and long before evidence could be gathered. In some cases, what evidence is available does not point to an established track record of success in sixth form provision. The result is that some new, untried and untested, free schools are set to open in communities where there is already sufficient, high-quality provision, while areas with much greater need of additional high-quality sixth form places continue to be neglected. This presents the risk of existing and high-performing sixth form provision being unnecessarily disrupted.
“Secondly, however, in the context of a 27% rise in the 18-year-old population this decade, and in areas where there is an identified need, we welcome the establishment of new comprehensive 16-19 free schools, alongside the ongoing expansion of existing providers. These new schools will play an important role in the national family of dedicated sixth form providers, representing an important additional opportunity for young people.”.