YOU made a serious misprint in the text of my letter of September 5, and did not correct it despite my protest. To my next letter was added a headline implying criticism. Kevin McGinnell quoted it without proper attribution; he also confused the evidence I have on sixth forms generally with the as yet little evidence available to anyone on sixth form colleges.
I note his hopes for the future of the college. However, for a student to have to neglect twenty-two or more desirable courses out of 30 or more may result in too early a specialisation for 16-18 years olds — the fault of the English A Level system.
"Rational or emotional" is a false dichotomy, as is evident in the contributions to this discussion. No reliable order of achievement at A Level, properly weighted by ability levels at intake, has been established.
The statement "sixth form colleges . . . taking an increased percentage of places in higher education" requires clarification: every college or the total number of them. An increased percentage from an increased number of colleges need not be significant.
Too much can be made of relevance to the needs of today (yesterday?); tomorrow's needs may be better met by a more general education, practical and academic. The quality of the teaching is a more important factor. Fully relevant knowledge is better learned on the job.
That 11-16 schools try to make a success of the arrangement in Inner London south of the Thames tells us more about their regard for their pupils than about their regard for the system imposed on them.
How will 11-16 schools fare in the future in the face of the difficulty of keeping highly qualified teachers whose influence, by example, supervision and setting of tests, extended to the 11-18 schools?
Desirable standards and uniformity are better achieved in sufficiently large 11-18 schools.
Retaining the efficient and fully comprehensive schools (enlarged if necessary) would allow desirable competition and parental choice. It would be a better solution than gambling on a monolithic college without the spur of competition and with no choice for poorer parents who cannot afford independent sohooIs. Surrey Ian Gaffney