Sixth Form – all you need to know
Sixth Form means the last two years (Year 12 and Year 13) of secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Students move to sixth form at the age of 16 and remain until the end of the school at the age of 18. Whilst studying on sixth form children prepare for A-level or International Baccalaureate exams. A student can be in sixth form in a state school as well as in a private one.
Most schools divide sixth form into Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth, which can also be abbreviated to L6 and U6. The term is coming from earlier system of education in England. Even though in 1990-1991 the system itself was completely altered the term Sixth Form remained.
Sixth Form is not compulsory as school children may choose other type of secondary education in Year 12 and 13. Nevertheless, this is the shortest and most straightforward route to British universities because other forms of end-of -school secondary education such as e.g. BTEC may take longer.
Sixth Form and GCSEs
Children move to Sixth Form after they did their GCSEs. Having successfully passed the GCSE exams students have a right to remain in the same school where they sat the exams (providing there’s sixth form) or move to Sixth Form college.
With exculsion of a few schools most of secondary schools in England will have Sixth Form. Often, moving to sixth form is conditional upon receiving good GCSE grades. Some schools will require at least all Cs (old system) or 6s (new system) and above grades. The most prestigious schools will ask at least six to eight A marks (old system) inluding English and Maths plus As for subjects taken for A-level. Some top-tier schools may have even higher requirements and/or have their own set of entrance exams to sixth form.
The students, who didn’t get enough required marks may either move to a different school with lower threshold or go to a Sixth form College. Another option is to continue studies for BTEC qualification.
What is Sixth Form College?
Sixth Form College offers education to children from the age of 14 to 19. Usually, most sixth formers are children of 16 to 18 years old. Sixth form colleges, however, may offer more flexible form of education with a broader range of subjects for students starting from 14 and until 19 years old. Sometimes, students can be even older.
What is difference between Sixth Form school and Sixth Form college?
In a private Sixth Form College the majority of students start at the age 16. There are some students though who came at the age of 14 in order to prepare for GCSE exams.
Most sixth form colleges with boarding facilties may offer sports and other after-school events. Those facilities are usually more limited than in a school and often the sports and other facilities the students from sixth form colleges may use are outside of the campus. The biggest emphasis is made on the academic part of education and the main goal is to achieve the highest marks possible on the exams.
A lot of Sixth Form Colleges offer not only standard preparation for A-levels but also intensive studies for A-level, which may take from 12 to 18 months, one or two-year GCSE course, A-level re-sit. Some of Sixth Form Colleges also help to prepare for IELTS exams and for Foundation Programmes, which are often compulsory for international students coming to study in British universities.
What to choose a sixth form school or college?
Advantages of staying at the same school after GCSEs
A familiar environment surrounded by people you know – close friends and teachers, schools also tend to be smaller than colleges, have a defined timetable and have resources to give students more support when needed.
Advantages of moving to a Sixth Form College
Colleges often are bigger in size with a broader range of subjects and studies variety. There is a lot of opportunities to meet new people and make new friends.
Boarding in Sixth Form College
Most private Sixth Form Colleges may be found in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham and south part of England. There are colleges with day option only and those that offer boarding as well. When there is boarding students may live on the campus inside the schools grounds or close by outside. Some colleges offer boarding with local families too, which is usually less expensive.
Admission to Sixth Form College
Each Sixth Form College has its own admission policy. Some ask for certain marks received on GCSE exams, some are more flexible. There are sixth form colleges whose speciality is to take students whose GCSE grades were somewhat low and work on improving them. Requesting a report from the current school is a part of admission process.
If English is not a native language for a child, colleges may like to make sure they have a sufficient level and ask for IELTS certificate.
Most colleges like to interview their prospective students and with international students they often use Skype if coming in person isn’t an option.
Documents for international students to enter the UK to study on Sixth Form
The main type of visa for international students to come to study in the UK for sixth form is Tier 4 (Child) Student (www.gov.uk/child-study-visa). In order to get visa it is needed to have 40 points in total, 30 of chich is given for a confirmation from school or college with ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor status’ of beginning to study with them and 10 points for sufficient financial means covering school fees including board. The financial means are also called ‘maintenance’ or ‘funds’
An important part of visa application process is CAS, which is an electronic document with a registration number, given to an applicant by a sponsor. The sponsor is also called Tier 4 sponsor, which means they are qualified by the British government to take international students coming to the UK to study from the countries outside of the UK and at this moment still European Union.