A sixth form profile for the ‘Local London’ area.

Local london mapLocal London‘ is one of London’s subregional local authority groupings. It consist of 8 boroughs and corresponds roughly to the East London sub-region for the post-16 area review. School sixth forms will not be part of the reviews but the overall pattern of provision will need to be taken into account when developing recommendations.

This is a first attempt to provide some key data on sixth form provision for the area to help inform the East London area review. This first post outlines the scale and type of provision and some performance data. All data have been derived from the published performance tables for 2015. Further posts will look at other aspects, such as university progression – drawn from earlier years.

The Local London boroughs are: Barking, Enfield, Greenwich, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. As a relatively disadvantaged area, one key aim is to promote opportunities for education to help the boroughs converge upwards in all the key measures of success. Among the aspirations of Local London is a wish to play a planning and strategic role in the use of Education Funding Agency spending in the subregion and to develop effective collaborative networks between providers.

Overall summary:

A total of 45,181 sixth formers were studying in the area, not all will have been residents of the 8 boroughs as post-16 students are not limited by borough boundaries when they travel to learn.

48% of these students were studying in 85 school sixth forms and 52% were studying in 12 Further Education or Sixth Form Colleges and 4 16-18 academies or free schools.

Size of sixth forms:

The average size of school sixth forms across the area was 257 students per school with borough averages ranging from 206 per school in Tower Hamlets to 337 per school in Redbridge. 47 of these sixth forms has fewer than 200 students on roll and 17 were below 100. 200 is generally regarded as the minimum size for a viable sixth form. Tower Hamlets has 8 of these smaller school sixth forms, Barking has 6 and Waltham Forest has 5.

The average cohort size of the area’s other sixth form providers (16-18 year olds only) was:

Sixth Form Colleges:                      2,347 each

Further Education Colleges:       1,563 each

16-18 academies / free schools:    369 each

Level of study:

The proportion of learners who are following advanced (level 3) courses varies from borough to borough. The performance tables only provide data on final year students so the number has been doubled to give a rough estimate of the total advanced cohort. This gives an average of 64% of sixth formers across the area studying at advanced level and this ranges from 81% in Redbridge to 48% in Greenwich. This proportion may be related to the proportion of the cohort who complete year 11 with the necessary grades to progress to level 3.

Take-up of vocational courses:

The proportion of these advanced level students who were studying vocational courses also varied considerably, with the area average standing at 37% and borough rates ranging from 22% in Redbridge and Enfield to 58% in Barking. It is hard to know what the right mix should be but it is clear that young people in some boroughs have more diverse and comprehensive vocational options to choose from. The aim should surely be to offer the full range of ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ options to all sixth form students within reasonable travelling distance.

Borough Total 16-18 % Adv % Voc
Barking 5,253 49.8 58.4
Enfield 4,782 71.4 22.4
Greenwich 4,452 48.4 39.5
Havering 6,636 64.6 34.1
Newham 5,638 62.6 47.3
Redbridge 6,991 81.0 21.5
Tower Hamlets 4,507 62.4 41.9
Waltham Forest 6,922 61.4 46.8

%Adv: estimated proportion of sixth formers on advanced programmes

%Voc: proportion of advanced level students on advanced vocational courses

Size of academic and vocational cohorts:

If school sixth forms are much smaller than colleges, this differential is even more marked when it comes to comparing academic and vocational cohort sizes. The average final year ‘academic’ cohort is 84 in the area’s school sixth form and 433 in the area’s sixth form colleges. For vocational courses, the figures are 28 students per school and 395 per sixth form college. FE college cohort sizes are in the middle at 98 for ‘academic’ courses and 209 for vocational’ ones. In all cases, only those providers offering courses are being counted.

The smallest cohort sizes are to be found in schools with average final year ‘vocational’ cohort sizes of 13 and 14 in Havering and Waltham Forest and average final year ‘academic’ cohort sizes of 51 in Tower Hamlets.


Advanced vocational achievement is a big success story in the subregion. For advanced vocational courses, points per student are well above the national average in 5 of the 8 boroughs: Tower Hamlets, Enfield, Greenwich, Newham and Waltham Forest. Raw achievement is below the national average in all 8 boroughs at A-level, ranging from 89% of the national average for academic points per student in Greenwich to 99% in Redbridge. Students in sixth form colleges perform consistently above their local borough averages on vocational courses but not always for academic courses where they are in competition with more selective school sixth forms aiming to attract high achieving school leavers.

Borough Academic PPS Vocational PPS
Barking 94.7 97.6
Enfield 95.0 111.2
Greenwich 88.8 110.4
Havering 91.7 88.8
Newham 95.0 104.3
Redbridge 99.0 88.6
Tower Hamlets 92.5 117.5
Waltham Forest 91.2 103.6

PPS: Points per student (as a percentage of the national average)

Minority / endangered subjects:

As shown in the analysis of minority subjects in previous posts (see below), the range of provision is patchy across this area. A-level Music is healthy in 3 boroughs (Enfield, Havering and Redbridge) but has very low numbers elsewhere, A-level Dance is not offered in 3 of the 8 boroughs and A level Philosophy is not offered in 2. A-level language provision is particularly low in Barking and Tower Hamlets. Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) numbers are in the bottom half of London boroughs, except in Waltham Forest with its 149 entries and the IB Diploma is non-existent in all but 2 boroughs with 2 centres providing barely 19 candidates out of 419 across London.


This initial case study shows that there is plenty of scope for rationalisation and consolidation across this part of London as long as school sixth forms are considered as part of the pattern of provision.

See also:

A level languages in London (February 2016)

Accessing the IB Diploma (February 2016)

A level minority report: Dance, Music, Philosophy (February 2016)

More sixth formers doing research projects (February 2016)

About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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