A-level move timing 'unfair'

By Mark Elson in Local People

GLOUCESTERSHIRE college has been criticised over the potential axing of its A-Level programme in the Forest which emerged just weeks before GCSE exams.

The college says the low numbers of students taking up A-Levels at the Five Acres campus has led to the proposal not to take new A-Level students in September on both financial and educational grounds.

But the move has been criticised by one parent who said it was ‘unfair’ that news of the potential dropping of A-Levels at the college came just weeks before the start of GCSEs.

The Cinderford parent, who did not want to be named, said: “The kids have got enough to worry about without the added stress of wondering what might happen in September.

“If the college had said earlier in the year that A-Levels might be dropped then you would have more of a chance to find an alternative.

“We went to an open day and there was nothing about A-Levels not going ahead.

“If they have to go to Gloucester or wherever, will they have to pay for travel? That could mean some not being able to go at all.”

In a letter to applicants, the college’s head of sixth form, Sarah Perryman, apologised for the news having come out through newspapers rather than from GlosCol itself.

The college had planned – in accordance with the requirements of a statutory consultation process – communication with applicants would take place after staff had been consulted.

She said that as the move is still only a proposal, applications for A-Levels are still being taken.

The decision to consult on ending the A-Level programme comes in the light of a significant drop in the number of 16- to 18-year-olds in the county and which is expected to be the case for several years.

There are also more sixth form places available in Gloucestershire – although only Newent School and Wyedean at Sedbury have them in the Forest – and increasingly pupils are being encouraged to stay at school after GCSEs.

The college’s vice-principal, Peter White, said the college currently runs 15 A-Level courses but there had been just 70 applications – and not all them are guaranteed to take up places.

He said: “I completely understand that parents are not going to be happy about this but we have been trying to avoid getting to this situation.

“It is not just about financial viability, low numbers have an impact on the educational experience for students – class discussion is an important part of A-Level.”

A-Level courses that are already running will continue and the college will maintain its programme of vocational education.

At the meeting of the Forest of Dean District Council tomorrow (Thursday), Cllr Bruce Hogan (Lab, Lydbrook and Ruardean) is due to propose that the authority “commits to do everything within its powers and influence to ensure the continuation of A-Level provision and post-16 technical and vocational education accessible to students in the central Forest of Dean area.”

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