Specialist Sixth Form Colleges 'Better' For A-Levels

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Specialist colleges have developed high levels of expertise in teaching A-level subjects
Specialist colleges have developed high levels of expertise in teaching A-level subjects

Specialist sixth-form colleges are more effective than school sixth-forms and general further education colleges at achieving top A-level grades, research has claimed.

The University of Southampton study found that sixth-form colleges are 7.2% more likely to get a grade A or A* than equivalent students in school sixth forms, and 8.9% more likely to get a grade A or A* than equivalent students in general FE colleges.

The university compared a group of 11 sixth-form colleges in Hampshire with a matched national sample of general further education colleges and a matched national sample of school sixth forms between 2007 and 2010.

Each group consisted of students with similar backgrounds in such terms as prior attainment, special needs status, income deprivation, free school meal eligibility and ethnic background.

Each of these background characteristics were shown to have some impact on a student's likelihood of achieving A-A* grades at A-level, with prior attainment the strongest indicator.

Professor Daniel Muijs who led the research said: "Although the reasons behind these variances are not definitive, we believe that sixth form colleges may produce better A-level results due to a number of factors.

"These include the breadth of provision, the specialised teaching expertise and the fact that a sixth form college creates a campus-like environment, in which students have an experience of freedom and scale that is closer to university life.

"Due to their specialised nature, sixth form colleges have developed high levels of expertise in the teaching of A-level subjects.

"This specialisation may result in improved teaching quality and in turn, improved performance. Additionally, sixth-form colleges' scale allows them to provide a broad range of subject options, making it more likely that students will be able to study subjects that fit both their interests and their abilities."