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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 12:57 GMT
Hundreds queue for college places
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Most placed are reserved for students from Catholic schools
A sixth form college is trying to think of a better way of handling applications than having hundreds of parents queuing overnight.

Up to 700 people queued outside Aquinas College in Stockport on Friday to get an application form for next year.

Once lessons were over they were put up in the sports hall until the admissions office opened at 9am on Saturday.

But about half will be disappointed. Now college managers are to meet to try to devise an alternative process.

Aquinas is a Roman Catholic sixth form college, described by Ofsted inspectors as outstanding in many respects.

It gives priority to applicants from its partner schools, other Catholic schools - whether they are Catholics or not - then brothers and sisters of past or present students and children of staff and governors.

students with their exam results
The college is non-selective but has good results
The remaining places - about 300 to 350 a year - are allocated on a "first come, first served" basis.

Some parents who had been at a meeting at the college on Thursday evening began queuing then but were persuaded to go home. But people were back by 0600 GMT on Friday.

Vice-principal Eddie Moore told BBC News the college always made more offers of places than were available because each year only about three-quarters of the offers were taken up.

He said some parents put in bids as a sort of insurance policy against their children not getting the grades needed to take A-levels in independent schools.

Others went to other colleges in the area.

"Other colleges are all good, they have a different niche in the market," he said.

No selection

Aquinas was determined to maintain its ethos based on Gospel values of freedom, justice and love.

And it was set against selecting students on academic ability - it currently took those with moderate learning difficulties who had no GCSEs as well as those with 10 A* grades, he said.

So quite how it is going to square the circle was not yet clear.

"In a flippant moment on the Saturday morning we were thinking of offering cash prizes for people to come up with a solution," he said.

The issue was due to be discussed at a management meeting this week.

"There must be a finite limit beyond which people wouldn't queue - but it could be Tuesday couldn't it, and that's stupid," Mr Moore said.

Photos courtesy of Aquinas College.

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