Fifteen years ago when I was 16 and had taken my GCSEs, I went to Salisbury College, as it was then called. I took A Levels, like most other people my age did, and my English and Communication Studies classes were so full we often ran out of chairs and desks. Granted, my History class only had seven people in it, but most other classes were well subscribed. Salisbury College was just where you went, if you didn’t go to sixth form.

A few years later, I knew of a few people who were travelling further afield for college, to do courses that weren’t available at Salisbury College.

When my younger sister took her GCSEs two years ago, Wiltshire College (same building, different name) didn’t offer the course she wanted to do, so she went to Totton, and has since transferred to Brockenhurst.

Last week, Wiltshire College in Salisbury announced that they would not be offering any A Level courses this year. Not only does this leave people hoping to start A Levels in the lurch, it’s also caused problems for people who had just completed their first year of A Levels, and were due to go back for their second year. For them, it’s not just a case of having to transfer to a new college; even if they find a place in a college that offers the same A Levels they were doing, there is no guarantee they do those A Levels through the same examination board. What will happen if they have an AS level with one board, but the college they move to offers that course through a different board? Will they be spending this academic year doing the first year as well as second in order to have an A Level this time next year?

This September, more students are having to find places in education as they are now obliged to stay on until they’re 17. But none of those extra students seem to have opted for what was, when I was 16, the obvious choice for most students.

What happened between my A Levels, when hundreds of students poured through the doors of Salisbury College every Monday morning, and this September, when only 55 students were due to wander those halls?

Of course, the college will still continue with its vocational courses; it’s not closing its doors, just dropping a part of its curriculum it can’t feasibly continue with. Their decision is sad, but ultimately understandable.

What bothers me is, how and why did this happen? At what point did the majority of students not attending a local sixth form start to feel that a long bus journey to Totton, Brockenhurst or elsewhere was a better option than the local college? Or is it that these days, A Levels are not the choice of the majority?


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