A new partnership of sixth-form colleges is determined to pursue high performance, innovation and creativity, says Simon Jarvis

Ten of the country’s leading sixth-form colleges have formed a partnership The Maple Group, to maintain and promote outstanding teaching and learning.

Group colleges make a significant contribution to the nation’s economy: together, more than 20,000 youngsters are enrolled at a member college. More than 80 per cent will go on to higher education; about one-third of those will accept places in  Russell Group universities.

About 8,000 youngsters currently studying in Maple Group colleges are taking A-level mathematics; more than 15,000 16 to 19–year–olds — three quarters of the student cohort enrolled at group colleges — follow at least one science, technology or maths (STEM) course. Currently, six group colleges are in the top 10 in the table of colleges and schools with the largest number of students achieving high grade A-levels in ‘facilitating’ subjects.

The rationale for The Maple Group is simple: our colleges represent all that is excellent about post-16 education. Working together in partnership enables us to share expertise and ideas; to disseminate superb practice; to provide a commentary on educational developments.

We often see students with AS grades that are far higher than would have been predicted by GCSE performance”

This initiative reinforces our shared commitment to providing the highest quality educational opportunities to thousands of youngsters.  In the coming years, members of the group will continue to be respected advisers to the country on all matters relating to post-16 education.

The debate on A-level reform is a good example: Maple Group colleges oppose the removal of the AS in its present form as we feel it will lead to students studying only three subjects at A-level, a lack of breadth in the post-16 curriculum and a return to the imprecision of predicted grades.

Such a narrowing of choice at 16 will force our students to specialise much earlier than their counterparts in Europe, and prevent them selecting which of their courses to take forward to A-level to maximise their achievement.

Moreover, as a group of sixth-form colleges with a comprehensive mix of students, we often see students with AS grades that are far higher than would have been predicted by GCSE performance. The removal of AS-levels will destroy this possibility for thousands of students, thereby reducing social mobility.  In addition, students who leave education at 17 will do so without formal qualifications — with nothing to show for a whole year of A-level study.

Maple Group colleges expect to play a leading role in supporting the future success of government initiatives such as the academies programme, specialist maths schools and reforms of the examined curriculum.

The member colleges are a trusted group, widely acknowledged by students, parents, teachers, universities and ministers as being amongst the very best. Maple Group colleges have an unrivalled lengthy track record of high performance, respected for innovation, creativity and leading the development of post-16 pedagogy.

We are beacons of excellence in the country, sharing a passion for learning and an undiluted vision of what constitutes an outstanding education.

Simon Jarvis, principal of The Sixth Form College, Farnborough, is chair of the Maple Group 

Members of the group are Cardinal Newman College, Preston; Greenhead College, Huddersfield; Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge; Holy Cross College, Bury; King Edward VI College, Stourbridge; Peter Symonds College, Wincheste, Sir John Deane’s College, Northwich; St Dominic’s Sixth Form College Harrow; The Sixth Form College, Farnborough and Winstanley College, Wigan

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