Sixth form College in the UK

By selecting a course that defines your career path, the Sixth Form College can provide you with more opportunities that will add to your knowledge and give you an edge over other students.

The first all-inclusive intake sixth form college was founded in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, England and admitted its first group of students in September 1964. Since then sixth form colleges have mushroomed across the UK and have become a darling of students and parents alike.

Sixth form colleges were introduced, in order to improve the standard of education post-16 in England. State sixth form colleges are now monitored by the Learning and Skills Council. A sixth form college is an education establishment for children generally aged 16-19 in the UK (school years 12-13 in England). The colleges prepare students for various qualifications, most commonly GCSEs and A Levels.

The colleges take students after students finish their compulsory school attendance at year 11. Therefore attendance at a college sixth form is entirely non-compulsory. Students face three choices if they wish to continue studying after year 11 and GCSEs: either stay at their school if it has an attached sixth form college, transfer to a local sixth form college, or attend vocational education centres.

The vast majority of private UK boarding schools will have a sixth form within the school, although this may be closed to entrants at year 12 except for a limited number of places. There are a number of specialist private sixth form colleges which fill the need for students to find top colleges in order to get good A Level exam grades and achieve a place at a top university. Year 12 is the first of two years of study. Students sit AS examinations in year 12, and A Level (A2) exams at the end of year 13 to complete their A Levels.

After final A Level results at the end of year 13, students can go on to university if they have been offered a place based on their A Level results, or look for other paths. The best sixth form colleges, particularly the top private colleges, produce strong to outstanding examination results in the A Level league tables. However, it has been argued that the excessive focus on examination results, as prompted by the excessive publishing of examination league tables, does not produce the correct behaviour and teaching principles at schools.

The education system operates slightly differently in Wales and Scotland compared to England. There are generally no sixth form colleges in Scotland. Instead, most students simply stay at school right through until the end of Advanced Higher examinations at the age of 18. Students then go on to do four year degrees in Scotland as standard, whereas degrees in England are generally three years.

In Wales, education is monitored by the Welsh Assembly. Rather than preparing students for A Levels like in England, sixth form colleges generally prepare students for the Welsh Baccalaureate and Key Skills qualifications.