A preperation for Higher Education - CIFE

Anthony Morris Chairman of CIFE (Council for Independent Education), the association of sixth form colleges, outlines the role of CIFE Colleges

The 24 CIFE colleges come in all shapes and sizes and range from residential colleges sited in many acres to day colleges in the suburbs of our largest cities. The colleges vary in size from below 50 to over 400 students and all have very high teacher to pupil ratios. We are all dedicated to attaining the best academic success and personal development for each and every one of our students. We believe teaching programmes designed for the individual coupled with teaching by experienced enthusiastic graduate teachers, many of whom examine in their subjects, is the only way that education will successfully move forward into the future.

CIFE is an association of independent colleges able to take the best practices from both the maintained and independent sectors and then implement these for the benefit of both our students and our teachers. The concentration on teaching, in terms of quality and quantity, is a fundamental ‘best practice’ which enables us to gain exceptional results at A level, often for students whose GCSE grades are only average. Increasingly CIFE colleges also offer a full range of GCSE courses. It is this commitment to enthusiastic teaching that inspires our students, is our hallmark, and enables our students to gain both the grades and the self-confidence necessary to take up places on prestigious courses at the very best UK universities.

CIFE colleges offer lively and happy environments for learning. Formal class teaching is extended with parallel tutorials that give the individual contact with the tutor that is so necessary for complete understanding of a particular topic or where homework can be fully discussed. By using these and other methods, CIFE colleges are becoming more and more sought-after for their unique one-year A level courses. It is these courses that are most popular with many applicants from the big cities applying because of the success gained by their friends. Yes, the student grapevine is our best form of advertising and at the last count there were over 6000 students studying at CIFE colleges nationwide.

Although all CIFE colleges are very different in style and approach we are all united in responding to the needs of the students who apply to our colleges. Hence some colleges have developed into A level re-sit specialists for students who wish to enter competitive degree courses such as medicine, dentistry and law. These colleges have gained incredible successes with both grade improvements and numbers of A grades which are quite astonishing. Every year CIFE students are among the top candidates to achieve success in the British Maths Olympiad and our Richard Smart Prize list records those students scoring the top results in A level examinations, especially for science subjects. Whether you are a natural high flyer destined for such national successes or an average student requiring support and good teaching to bring out the best in you then a CIFE college will provide a sensible and secure base for you.

All CIFE colleges are bound to the Association by both the Code of Conduct and the Constitution. CIFE colleges must undergo a rigorous three-day inspection, every five years, by the British Accreditation Council (BAC) or by the ISI.  BAC was founded in 1980, principally by British Council initiatives with the government of the time.  BAC have their own inspectors the majority of whom are experienced school or further education inspectors. Each college is re-inspected on a mid five-year cycle basis and can only publish examination statistics after BAC accreditation has been granted.

Increasingly, numbers of young people are deciding to move school at the age of 16, not because they are unhappy with their school, but because they see the need for a change at this stage. They may well feel more comfortable in a more adult environment where there is the expectation of good manners and an enthusiastic attitude, and where they can, to some extent, be treated as equals by their teachers. They may wish to study subjects that their schools do not offer or they may wish to have a greater concentration on their academic studies. They certainly would be given a greater academic choice and then taught in small groups focused on the examination curriculum. Extracurricular activities tend to be centred around useful work experience more than the games field. That is not to say sporting, social and creative activities do not have a place at CIFE colleges for they most certainly do.

Choosing the right college for you needs careful research. When you have made your shortlist then ensure that you visit each college. You should have your interview with the principal on a working day, for then you can look around the college. If you are impressed remember that many day colleges will allow you to ‘sit in on classes’. This is an invaluable way of meeting students and staff and will enable you to make a more informed choice. Although all CIFE colleges represent the vanguard of modern sixth form education they all have their own individual character. So make the right choice for you and you should enjoy the superb preparation for higher education that many thousands have enjoyed before you.

To obtain a copy of the CIFE Members Guide or to get advice to help you make the right choice, contact:

Dr Norma Ball, Secretary of CIFE, on the CIFE Help Line – tel: +44 (0) 20 8767 8666,
or email: enquiries@cife.org.uk

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