Throughout the UK, there are over 200 colleges, around 90 school sixth forms, and about 50 sixth form colleges. The three main institutions that provide further education include:
• Further education colleges
• Sixth form colleges
• School sixth forms
Typically, sixth forms provide academic education to students between the ages of 16 and 19. In contrast, FE colleges offer vocational and academic education to anyone above 16 years who wants to study. If you’re looking for a comprehensive understanding of what is sixth form, here is everything you need to know.
Sixth Form – Everything You Need to Know
Sixth form refers to the last two years of secondary education in the UK. In this setup, students move to sixth form from 16 years old and stay in the system until the age of 18. In sixth form, students prepare for International Baccalaureate or A-level exams. One can be in sixth form in a private or state school.
At most schools, sixth form is divided into Upper Sixth and Lower Sixth, which is abbreviated as U6 and L6, respectively. The term comes from an early system of education used in England. While the system was altered in 1990 – 1991, the term sixth form remained.
It’s not compulsory to go through sixth form as children can choose another type of secondary education. Regardless, this is the most straightforward option for children preparing to study at British universities, because other end-of-school education options like BTEC can take longer.
Children transition into sixth form after completing GCSEs. After passing the GCSE exams, they can remain in the same school if there’s sixth form, or they can move to a sixth form college. With exception of few schools, most secondary schools offer sixth form. Schools typically require at least all Cs or 6s under the new system. Prestigious schools ask for at least six A marks (in the old system), including Maths, English, and other subjects taken for A-level. Those who don’t score enough marks are can move to a different school that offers a lower threshold, or they can enrol in a sixth form college. The other option is to continue with studies to earn a BTEC qualification.
What is Sixth Form College?
Sixth forms colleges accept children from 14 to 19 years old. Generally, most 6th formers fall within the 16 to 18 years old bracket. However, you can get a flexible form of education, including a broader range of subjects from the age of 14 to 19. Students can be older in some special cases.
Differences Between Sixth Form Colleges and Sixth Form Schools
In private sixth form colleges, students begin at 16 years old. However, some students can come in at 14 to prepare for GCSE exams. Sixth form colleges that offer boarding facilities may have sports and after-school events. Often, those facilities are more limited than in a school, and they are often outside the campus. Emphasis is made on academics as the goal is to score the highest marks on the exams.
What Should You Choose Between a Sixth Form School and College?
• Benefits of staying in the same school after your GCSEs: This gives you a familiar environment where you have close friends and teachers. The schools offer a defined timetable, and there are resources for support when students need it.
• Benefits of joining a sixth form college: Typically, colleges are bigger in size and offer a broad range of subjects. Students have various opportunities to make friends and meet new people.
Admission to Sixth Form College
Each sixth form college offers a unique admission policy. Some will ask for marks scored on GCSE exams, while others are more flexible. You can find sixth form colleges that specialize in taking students who had low GCSE grades. As a part of the review process, the college will ask for a report from the current school. If English is not the the child’s native language, the college would like to confirm they have a sufficient level, so they will ask for an IELTS certificate. For international students, most colleges will perform interviews via skype if the student is not available in person.
The main documents needed for international students entering the UK to join a sixth form include a Tier 4 Study Visa. To get the visa, one needs to score 40 points, 30 from a college or school with ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor status’ and 10 points for proving sufficient financial means to cover school fees. The CAS, an electronic document provided by the sponsor, is an important part of the visa application process.