2022 Blogs Senior

How to Choose a Sixth Form

There aren’t many times in a person’s life as important as Sixth Form.  Adulthood is calling; university and degree apprenticeships are  beckoning, and habits and attitudes

How to Choose a Sixth Form

There aren’t many times in a person’s life as important as Sixth Form.  Adulthood is calling; university and degree apprenticeships are  beckoning, and habits and attitudes

There aren’t many times in a person’s life as important as Sixth Form.  Adulthood is calling; university and degree apprenticeships are  beckoning, and habits and attitudes are formed towards everything from work to our social lives and are notoriously difficult to break.  A solid foundation is therefore vital if we are to equip the adults of tomorrow with the tools they need to thrive, and choosing the correct learning environment to nurture this growth is the first step in achieving this foundation.

Here, we will take a quick look at the things that are worth considering when making this decision and the questions you should be asking yourself – and others – about the choices you make.

Academic Performance and Ratings

One of the first and most important factors worth checking when looking into a Sixth Form is their performance with regards to results.  They’re usually a good indicator of how well the establishment is doing.  Try to look at the past 5 years of results in your chosen subjects: this will help identify trends to see if the school has been getting better or worse or has stayed consistent.  A pass rate of 70% is often quoted as being a good benchmark.

Closely linked to its academic performance is its rating.  In England, the regulator for independent schools is the ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate); in Wales it is the WISC (Welsh Independent Schools Council), and in Scotland it is the SCIS (Scottish Council of Independent Schools). They rate educational establishments – mostly on a four-point scale – and inspect against the statutory Independent Schools Standards, which cover every aspect of school life.  Search any potential school via the relevant body to get their ratings for free any time:





Arguably, this could be at the top of the list, but however you configure the hierarchy of importance, a school’s location is at least as critical as anything else.  The distance from home and the length and difficulty of the commute can have a huge impact on the day’s learning, let alone the time it takes away from coursework, revision and other more worthwhile pursuits, so getting to know the transport links to and from any campus is an important step.

International Baccalaureate (IB) or A-levels

Most Sixth Form providers offer a range of A-level  subjects for a student to choose from but it might be worth exploring the IB avenue too.  This might be particularly true for those who are academic all-rounders or for those who struggle to narrow the list of their chosen subjects down sufficiently for the A-l evel template.  Also, make sure to double check that the schools you look at offer the specific courses you are interested in.

Structure vs Flexibility

Everyone learns differently.  For this reason, schools can differ in their approach to their timetable: some are more flexible while others are more rigid.  There is much to be said for a good work-life balance, but there is a danger that too much flexibility can have a detrimental effect on the learning environment and a person’s work ethic in years to come.  The challenge of a structured workload and compulsory obligations not only maximises the potential for academic success and satisfaction but imbues a person with a lifelong healthy relationship with the world of employment.

Independence vs Support

The years leading up to university may be times of increased independence, but the level of support required is still high.  This might be particularly true in the adjustment period at the start of Sixth Form and the congested times of exams and further education preparation later on, but in truth the need for a good pastoral care infrastructure is an important attribute to bear in mind at all times.  Workshops and student welfare programs are obvious things to look out for, but things like average class size will also provide a clue as to the level of one-on-one care you can expect.

Extra-curricular Activities

Many of the top providers, such as the Russell Group and Oxbridge universities, expect applicants to have a well-formed and balanced portfolio of experience not limited to the academic realm.  A good school will offer a wide range of co- and extra-curricular schemes.  School trips and exchange programs; competitive sports; bands and choirs are all signs of a developed infrastructure.  Access to initiatives like the famous Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme is a tried, tested and trusted way to hone key skills away from the classroom that will also look good on any employment or educational application.

University Applications

While on the subject of applications: it is a good idea to check any potential school for faculty members who might be in a specific position to guide students on various aspects of the application process, from working on their interview techniques to crafting their personal statements.  Some campuses will have a faculty member who also sits on a board of admissions or acts as an adviser at another education provider.

Open Days

It goes without saying that any school will want to shine a light on its good side.  For this reason, it’s always a good idea to take the sales pitch with a grain of salt and go and see it with your own eyes.  No amount of internet research will give an insight into what it’s like to actually be there, what the general mood is of the staff and students, or how the place feels.  Obviously, those who are there on behalf of the college will also likely want to call attention to its positives, but face-to-face communication is always easier to judge.  So, in short, attend as many open days as you can, and while you’re there be armed with questions to make the most of the visit.

Class Dismissed

With so much at stake in choosing the right school, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the task, and with the endless pages of information out there, it can sometimes feel as though we’re making the matter a lot more complicated than it needs to be; but, like any tough choice, having strong and clear priorities – and the right set of questions – will have your mind made up in no time.

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