Wrexham Council’s Executive Board agreed yesterday to keep Rhiwabon and The Maelor School Penley sixth forms open.
This news comes as a surprise but is nonetheless warmly welcomed. Congratulations to all concerned, especially those students that spoke so eloquently at the meeting.
It’s a surprise because of the four options put in front of the Executive Board they had initially opted for option 4 which was to develop full tertiary provision for south Wrexham, effectively closing down the sixth forms at both Rhiwabon and Penley and centralising post 16 education at Yale College.
The argument put forward originally was that this fourth option would give students greater subject choice which, its supporters argued, was a key plank in the Welsh Assembly’s Learning and Skills Measure (2009). It was also argued that this option would be more cost effective.
I am glad however that they opted for Option 1, which is to maintain the current sixth forms but to expand collaboration between the sixth forms and Yale College.
While it is true that the Learning and Skills Measure puts greater emphasis on Student Choice as far as the curriculum is concerned, it is also important to factor the choice of establishment. Yale College is an excellent establishment, and the sixth forms would do well from the proposed collaboration. But College is not for all. The more structured approach to education provided by sixth form; the continuity in education, with familiar teachers and friends; and the ability to stay within your community are all important factors in Post 16 education.
Also, by choosing the collaborating option that educational choice, which is emphasised in the Learning and Skills measure remains open to the student.
But there are other important sections within the Learning and Skills measure which would counter any argument against centralising Post 16 Education at Yale:
(c)the amount of time likely to be spent travelling to the place at which the course is likely to be delivered would be detrimental to the student’s education;
(d)disproportionate expenditure would be incurred if the student were to follow the course of study;
Some students would be fortunate enough to have access to private travel. This in itself would be an extra burden on what are already congested roads in and out of Wrexham. But most students would have to depend on public transport which would be an added cost and the travelling time would be an issue, unless bus timetables were amended to suit individual lecture times!
Students who suffer problems at home also benefit greatly from a more structured education, which the sixth form provides. We shouldn’t forget the importance that the sixth form plays in the wider school life, creating role models for younger children and bringing prestige to the school.
However the battle is not won yet. While the Executive Board favour Option 1, it is ultimately the decision of the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews. The fight for the future of Rhiwabon and Penley Sixth form continues!