Sixth Form Colleges specialise in preparing British and international students for A-level or International Baccalaureate exams. Students generally begin Sixth Form at the age of 16 and the vast majority stay for two years to complete the exams, although in rare cases bright pupils can complete the courses in one year. Generally the purpose of Sixth Form is to prepare students for university study, and most apply during their final year.
By Sixth Form, students are given more freedom to choose their subjects and narrow the focus of their education. For instance, those who are interested in pursuing medicine at university may choose Double Maths, Chemistry and Biology A-level while those applying for a degree in Literature would be more likely to take subjects like English, History, Philosophy and French. The IB is a little less focused, with most taking eight subjects as opposed to four at A-level, but still encourages students to hone their skills in a particular area of study.
Class sizes are generally smaller and assignments are more in depth, with longer essays and projects which more closely resemble undergraduate study. Students are also given help with their university application; teachers offer advice on writing Personal Statements and there are sessions to teach students interview skills.
The opportunity to focus in on their favourite subjects for their last two years of secondary education is often very rewarding for students as it enables them to explore their interests in depth, and prepares them for the style of learning they will experience at university. In addition, students are given more independence with their studying; often they have free periods for individual study, and are no longer required to wear school uniform. With this greater freedom comes the expectation that students will be more self-motivated and self-disciplined to complete their work alone.
To see our interactive graph explaining how Sixth Form Colleges fit into the entire UK education system click here.
For many families, the main factor in choosing a Sixth Form is how well they prepare students for university, which can be measured through academic achievement and the destinations of alumni. The better Sixth Forms have a higher proportion of acceptances to Oxford and Cambridge and a higher rate of students achieving the A or A* grade at A level — the Good School's Guide keeps a league table of results.
Another factor is the style of teaching offered at schools. Students who are less able to self-motivate may be more suited to Colleges which provide a more rigid timetable, or boarding schools which closely schedule pupils’ time. Furthermore, some Sixth Forms have a reputation for excelling in the Arts or Sport, and provide environments where creative or athletic students flourish.
Our consultants have years of experience in supporting parents and students in the process of selecting and applying for UK Sixth Form. They can advise you on which College will best suit your child’s needs and help you with the admissions process.
To talk to one of our Sixth Form placement consultants, call directly on 0203 397 7744 or send us an enquiry and we will get in touch shortly.