A college in West London has partnered with a neighbouring secondary school to launch a new sixth form, in what local leaders claim to be a sector first.
Richmond upon Thames College and neighbour Richmond upon Thames School will launch Sixth Form Plus next September, which aims to enrol 50 students who will experience a hybrid teaching model offering a mix of A-level and vocational courses.
Revealed at an event to mark this year’s Colleges Week, the aim of the “ambitious initiative” is to boost admissions into Richmond upon Thames School and provide a clear pathway to sixth form, and to add additional learners onto the college’s roster.
It is part of efforts to build collaboration instead of competition between schools and colleges.
Although the partnership will be funded the same as a 14 to 16 school links programme – a part-time vocational taster programme – leaders said they believe it is “the first partnership of its kind in the sector”.
“There are a lot of school link programmes, but these end at year 11 and 12 and there is no continuation of support or cross teaching,” said a spokesperson for Richmond upon Thames College.
“The partnership will enhance the local educational landscape by offering an unrivalled sixth form experience and support students’ prospects,” they added.
Richmond upon Thames School headteacher Kelly Dooley added: “[It’s] almost like a commissioning arrangement with the school, where we the school provide particular aspects of the education so the pastoral care and the some of the structure of the school.”
How it works
Sixth Form Plus will offer students 21 A-level options and 27 vocational courses, taught by teachers from both the college and school.
Both the college and school will be responsible for the students and will merge safeguarding and pastoral care policies, but the college will have the additional students on its roll and will commission and cover the operating costs.
Gavin Hughes, principal of Richmond upon Thames College, said: “We’re already sharing facilities. We’re close to sharing staff already as well and if we do, I’ll pay that proportion of that staff’s timetable if they’re delivering there.”
Students will have access to the two neighbouring buildings and although the sixth form will be primarily located in the college, students will receive some elements of college learning at the school, such as morning registration.
The sixth form students will also access the school’s enrichment programme – a compulsory extracurricular programme for all school pupils.
“Students have a menu, and every single student must choose, and they change those three times a year. That applies to students in year seven through to year 10. What we see is our sixth form students participating in or even leading some of the opportunities,” Dooley explained.
“We’ve all got these resources, but it works going the other way because the opportunities that the school put on are through the roof,” Hughes added.
Richmond upon Thames School opened in 2017. A spokesperson said it will benefit from the college’s physical facilities and staff resources and parents will be “reassured” that they won’t have to look elsewhere when their children are in year 11.
“They are also able to offer a much larger range of Level 3 courses and careers guidance than a standalone sixth form would be able to,” a spokesperson added.
The sixth form will operate under a co-ownership model, overseen by an executive management board, co-chaired by Hughes and Dooley.
Both organisations’ trustee boards have signed a memorandum of understanding, which entails how the sixth form will monitor its progress and review its processes.
Richmond upon Thames College merged with Harrow and Uxbridge Colleges earlier this year.