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Study shows sixth form colleges achieve better results at A-level than traditional school sixth forms

Published: 16 August 2012

Study shows sixth form colleges achieve better results at A-level than traditional school sixth forms

Research undertaken by the University of Southampton has shown that the sixth form college model of A-Level provision is more effective than school sixth forms and general further education colleges.

In collaboration with the Wessex Group of sixth form colleges, Professor Daniel Muijs and Dr Natasha Rumyantseva have established that students who attend specialised sixth form colleges could stand to achieve better results at A-Level than if they were to attend a school sixth form or general further education college.

The research undertaken compared the Wessex group of sixth form colleges 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 terms of prior attainment, special needs status, Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index score (IDACI), 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 says: “With these factors accounted for, the results have shown that students in 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.

“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.”

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