(e) require the YPLA to support the successful establishment of Academy sixth forms..
The amendment reflects the concern of academy principals and sponsors that the new arrangements for funding established under the Bill might result in discrimination against academies that want to establish sixth forms. In a letter to the Minister from the Independent Academies Association, Mike Butler, the chairman of the IAA, wrote:
Given the force of numbers likely to be brought to bear in many debates regarding post-16 commissioning, particularly where the commissioning power rests with groups of local authorities, and/or there is a strong FE sector contingent, there is genuine anxiety that academy sixth forms will lose out. Despite verbal assurances, there appears to be nothing in part 3, chapter 4 of the Bill that would suggest that the YPLA can safeguard an academys post-16 funding should local agreements be to its detriment.
He goes on to say that
the presumption for academy sixth forms is based on a sound rationale, namely that of raising student aspirations and being able to recruit the best teachers. New academy sixth forms need time to build up, and are critical to developing academic work throughout the academy, and thus to raising community aspirations and contributing to regeneration and community cohesion.
The amendment seeks to give legislative backing to those verbal assurances, by requiring the YPLA to support academies at which to establish sixth forms. That support should be forthcoming notwithstanding other sixth-form provision in the area. Choice and competition as a lever to force up standards can work only if new providers are given the freedom to establish schools, without restrictions based on the number of surplus places that already exist.
The areas with the most surplus places are where there is greatest need for new providers to establish the type and quality of education demanded by those very parents who are avoiding the schools with the spare capacity, whether that be sixth form or secondary education more generally. If the Minister believes in choice and diversity provision, he should have no problem in supporting the amendment.
I shall speak briefly to amendment 27, as I have already made a similar point about an earlier amendment. I am sure that the Committee can refer back to what I said then for a fuller argument. I reassure the hon. Gentleman and others that the size of a proposed academy, and whether it should have a sixth form, will be decided long before it opens and while the Secretary of State retains direct involvement. Appropriate admission arrangements are determined to reflect that. After an academy is open, if there is disagreement locally about the number of places to be funded, the matter would be referred to the YPLA, which would act on behalf of the Secretary of State. The YPLA would reach any decisions on academy sixth-form places by having regard to the policy guidance provided by the Secretary of State. For those reasons, I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.