So are you happy with the current sixth form provision in the Borough? The current arrangement, in case you were unaware, is that none of the 8 state secondaries in the Borough has a sixth form (and haven’t had for a long, long time). Instead, Richmond has one sixth form college which is based in, guess where, Twickenham. Now the Council are reviewing whether it’s viable to set up in-school sixth form provision across the Borough. You’ve got a few days left to have your say on an issue which will form a key part of the way education is delivered to 16 to 18 year olds over the years ahead.

At the moment, the theory is that you do your GCSEs, you get your 12 A* grades and you pootle off to Richmond College to do your A levels or the International Baccalaureate or another course of your choosing. And you do this whether you live in Barnes, Teddington, Twickenham, Ham or Whitton. Richmond College takes those Borough kids and builds on their GCSE results to give them additional qualifications and set them up for the workplace or for university (and a life of student debt). Twickenham’s happy, the Borough’s happy, everyone’s happy. Simples.

If only it were so simple. Richmond Secondary schools, especially “our own” Orleans Park and Waldegrave, have good reputations and good results.

Richmond College, Twickenham
But be honest, have you seen much positive feedback on Richmond College? Whoa! Let’s all just hold on a second here! Now, we’re not saying Richmond College isn’t helping kids pass their exams and get a good education. We’re just saying that most of the coverage in the local press seems to be of the negative variety relating to problems caused by college students and fellow travellers. We’re talking about news items followed by angry letters in the Richmond and Twickenham Times concerning littering, anti-social behaviour, two recent stabbings… stuff like that. And of the tiny number of people who’ve discussed the college with this site, the verdicts have ranged from “Someone might even get killed there one day”, through “It’s not as bad as people make out” and all the way to, “It was fine for one of my children because the course was exactly what he wanted, but for my other child, most of the kids in the class just didn’t want to be there so it was a waste of her time”. As we said, a tiny and possibly unrepresentative sample. Look closer at the press and you might see stories about students doing charity work or other good things in the community. Take a butchers at the College website and it shows a wide range of courses and some impressive looking stats on grades and university admissions (13 to Oxbridge, 137 to Russell Group Universities). Sounds good, but we’d need more detail and some comparisons to really understand those stats. After all, the College has 7,000 enrolled students, 4,000 of which are in full time education. Of course, Richmond College’s a big place. It’s a very big place Mr Shadrack. A student could lose himself in the College. Lose himself! Perhaps its sheer size is part of the issue?

Meanwhile we have the slightly bizarre situation of kids (aka young adults) trekking across London to attend courses in Twickenham, while a fair number of locals try their luck at the heavily oversubscribed Esher College. Some might wonder whatever happened to local education provision?

So, is Richmond College just suffering from an image problem caused by the local press and a bunch of nimbys who can’t take a bit of litter and potty-mouthed banter? Or is the current provision of sixth form education in the Borough failing to meet the needs of local kids for 2 crucial years of their education?

Either way, sixth form provision is worth another look. El Brute (aka LBRuT, aka the London Borough of Richmond) have extended their consultation on the issue to 6th May. They are looking at whether it is possible to: “Set up viable sixth form provision in the eight secondary schools and academies within the borough (by ‘viable’, we mean that the provision would be sustained by sufficient student numbers to ensure that a broad and attractive curriculum could be offered).”

So for example, if you like the idea that pupils can study for A Levels in the same environment where they passed their GCSEs then you might want to say so. Or, if you think that vocational courses could be pooled across a number of sixth forms sites in close proximity, or even the whole Borough, then you can say that too. The online survey takes just a few minutes and sets out some options along these lines. We often hear a lot about “choice” these days. Moving to a situation where the local choice amounts to more than one single option surely has to be a good thing.

You’ve got a few days left to have your say on this subject. Your views could play a role in setting the direction of sixth form education in the Borough for years to come.

1) LBRuT’s online consultation on sixth form provision is here.
Ends 5pm on 6th May.

2) Classic clip: “London’s a big place Mr Shadrack” from Billy Liar.