Bangor Mail

Future of 6th forms on line in consultati­on


- Gareth Wyn Williams

ADELAYED consultati­on on the future of post-16 education in Arfon has been launched.

Last March saw Gwynedd Council’s cabinet approve a wholesale review of post-16 education and if alternativ­es to traditiona­l school sixth forms should be implemente­d in the north of the county.

For over 25 years most schools in Dwyfor and Meirionnyd­d have not offered sixth form facilities, with pupils attending colleges such as Coleg Meirion Dwyfor’s campuses at Dolgellau and Pwllheli.

But while officers have stressed that no decisions have yet been made and will not be financiall­y driven, the review outlines challenges facing the current set-up in the more populous and northern third of the county.

“There has been no significan­t change in the pattern of post-16 education in the Arfon area for some time,” said the head of education, Garem Jackson (inset).

“With the landscape of post-16 education changing across Wales, it is therefore timely for us to take a step back to see if the current situation fully meets the needs of our young people. By conducting an open conversati­on we are keen to see what aspects of the current system are working well and what we can do better to achieve an innovative system that offers the best for all learners.

“Above all, we want to find an answer to the question ‘what needs to be done to ensure this system in Gwynedd enables all our learners to fulfil their potential?’”

Other than Penllyn, Arfon is the only area within Gwynedd where post-16 education is provided at secondary schools, with 647 pupils across six schools.

Among the challenges facing the authority is that only one of Arfon’s sixth forms meets the criteria that is currently deemed “sustainabl­e”, with Bangor’s Ysgol Friars being the only one of six that has more than 150 pupils across years 12 and 13 (219).

Numbers at the remaining schools’ sixth forms vary from 118 at Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen, Caernarfon, to just 56 at Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen and 79 at Ysgol Tryfan.

The report noted: “In 2017/18, 51% of core A Level subject classes in Arfon had fewer than nine learners. Within a year, the percentage of classes with nine or fewer learners has increased substantia­lly.

“In 2018/19, 68% of all core courses have nine or fewer learners, this is an increase of 17% since 2017/18.”

If the consultati­on had taken place during the spring as planned, the cabinet was expected to consider its findings over the summer. Due to delays caused by Covid-19, the consultati­on will now run until December 22.

The authority has already been warned against closing any sixth forms by a Welsh language pressure group, however, having urged the council to look at e-learning as an alternativ­e and following the lead of neighbouri­ng Ceredigion.

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