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UK Sixth Form: A Guide to Private Sixth Forms

The path that students follow after their GCSEs can take many different avenues. From going straight into the working world, taking on an apprenticeship or continuing their learning by enrolling at a College or Sixth Form, there are plenty of options available. Sixth Form in particular is an excellent choice if a student is looking to broaden their horizons with further education.

What is a private Sixth Form?

Private Sixth Forms provide those over 16 years of age the opportunity to attend an independent school that offers a premium learning environment with an impressive level of education, extra curriculum activities and preparation for applying to university. This is due to a fee being attached to the establishment.

What do you do at Sixth Form in the UK?

Sixth Form is the next level after studying for and completing GCSEs. It’s an opportunity for pupils to complete A Levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB) in areas and topics that they’re passionate about, and hoping to pursue a career in. It’s the transitioning phase between ending their secondary school life and attending university in the UK or overseas. Alternatively, it’s a time for students to consider their options if they are still weighing up whether higher education is for them.

How long is Sixth Form?

As Sixth Form is marked as Years 12 and 13 in schools, Sixth Form lasts for two years of a student’s educational life and is usually the same time spent at college if they prefer that option.

Public vs private Sixth Form

The main difference between public and private Sixth Form is that fees are charged from private establishments. However, it does provide access to a wider range of topics, better facilities and options for co-curricular activities. This could include impressive sports or performing arts facilities, and teachers who are true experts in their field, have much experience and knowledge to pass on to students, or are well renowned in their area. Also, the support that is provided for university applications, including coaching on interviews and exams, is beneficial. Plus, the fact that class sizes are smaller provides a better level of tailored tuition, along with the network of alumni that have gone before them to give the Sixth Form a good reputation.

Private Sixth Form Education

From the wide range of courses available to the guidance and support on offer, to equip pupils with the right curriculum and expert learning for their future careers, there are many advantages to enrolling at a private Sixth Form.

Options and courses

When looking at what subjects are best for the individual, it’s worth looking further ahead to your ideal university location or course and planning your options around those. Perhaps there are certain entry requirements for different universities that you need to think about. One of the great parts about private Sixth Form is that its experienced teachers have their finger on the pulse of what universities are looking for in their future students. Plus there is much variety away from A-Levels alone with offerings such as BTECs and Cambridge Technicals which aren’t available at all state Sixth Forms.

Sixth Form College vs Sixth Form

The main difference between Sixth Form College and Sixth Form is that it is an educational location that is completely separate from a school and stands in its own entity. In comparison, a Sixth Form is a continuation and extension of an established school. The positive note of this is that a school such as Rendcomb which has an esteemed reputation will have an already highly regarded list of accolades and alumni.

The difference between A-Levels and International Baccalaureate (IB)

A-Levels give students a wide choice of subjects to choose from when looking at their next direction with Sixth Form or College. Whatever your passion or chosen career, there are a plethora of options to choose from. Usually, individuals can select three or four to focus on as part of their time at further education, which will then form part of their application for university. The International Baccalaureate, on the other hand, is a qualification for a university that is recognised globally and features six subjects delivered in a more holistic way. Unlike A-Levels where the choice of subjects is decided by the student, the IB has compulsory items such as an Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and Creativity, and Action and Service activities. One similarity though is that they both take two years to complete.

Next steps after completing Sixth Form

It’s important when working your way through Sixth Form to think about the bigger picture. In terms of what students would like to do after completing their courses and going onto the next stage of their lives - whether that’s straight into a job or enrolling at university. If aiming for the latter, pupils will be offered either a conditional or unconditional offer to attend their preferred university based on their results, which are released in August following the completion of coursework and exams.

Is Sixth Form the stepping stone to doing a degree?

Not only is Sixth Form an opportunity for pupils to feel more grown-up and independent following their GCSEs, as they begin to enter a more mature phase of their life, but Sixth Form is also usually a fantastic stepping stone to continuing onto a degree. Alternatively, it’s a time to assess if you want to continue your education for another three years or more after Sixth Form, or go straight into the working world with an apprenticeship or other career options. It does however prepare students for university because it equips them with new skills such as time management, being surrounded by like-minded people and the chance to invest in a subject that you’re motivated about.

Picking the right Sixth Form

For some, going straight from Year 11 into Year 12 and 13 at their current school is an easy decision because of the familiarity with the location, teachers and facilities. For other schools that don’t have the option of Sixth Form available, students need to invest time into researching what establishment is best for them next. Whether that’s College or Sixth Form, which offers the right courses and prospects, as well as one that fits your personality and passions. As you’ll be spending the next two years there it’s worth going to an open day and speaking to the Head of Sixth Form or Heads of Department to get a real insight into what they can provide.

Day Sixth Form or boarding

There are a number of Sixth Forms that offer boarding opportunities for pupils that want to take that next step in independence, be a true part of the community, and immerse themselves by living on site. Or it's a good option for those who want to get a taste of adult life in advance, before going to university and standing on their own two feet. This is also a great option for parents who live or work away. Boarding is a new opportunity to make great friends and memories, as well as live in a new location which can bring its own set of excitement and experiences. If boarding isn’t for you then day Sixth Form is available too which offers the same range of subjects and facilities without the need to live on-site.

The subjects available

Deciding which subjects to continue in your Sixth Form life can be a tough decision. If you haven’t got your heart set on a particular area just yet then take a look at which areas you have excelled in during your GCSEs. Alternatively, speak to a careers advisor who will be able to guide you on what might be a wise choice if you’re aiming to go to a certain university or enter a particular industry. The great thing about Sixth Forms across the UK is that they offer a wide range of subjects to accommodate your aspirations.

Reputation and previous exam results

When researching what Sixth Forms have a good reputation it can be seen that private Sixth Forms in particular are renowned for achieving exceptional results, success stories, teaching excellence and facilities. If as a family you’re torn between which one is best for you, take a look at their website to see what accolades they hold or speak to others who have their own experiences there.

How to do well at a private Sixth Form

All pupils want to do their best in their studies, which is why private Sixth Forms in particular are designed to help individuals strive for greatness. This is done through tailored tutoring, smaller class sizes and leading advice to propel students to better prospects. At times, it may be hard work, but the rewards and fun you’ll have along the way will certainly be worth it.

Choose subjects you see yourself doing

In contrast to GCSEs, where students scratch the service of a wide range of subjects following the National Curriculum, Sixth Form subjects certainly have more depth to prepare you for a career in that field. When looking at different subjects the course list and synopsis will give a great insight into the areas that you’ll cover and the hands-on experience that you’ll get which will have an impact on university applications.

Perfect your time management

It’s time to take your organisational skills up to another level by getting a hold of your time management. This factor is an important one at Sixth Form because it shows that you’re being more independent, taking on comprehensive reading, and being able to prioritise your day and meet set deadlines.

Make use of your free periods

Unlike your previous school life where the day is filled with back-to-back lessons with a lunch break in between, Sixth Form has a number of free periods throughout the week which gives you allocated time to do more reading, revision and complete coursework. It’s not compulsory that you need to spend this time studying, but it’s important to have a great balance that will aid your work. Whether that’s in the library or break-out areas, the choice is yours on where to use this time wisely.

Why study at Rendcomb College

At Rendcomb College we provide a supportive and safe environment which is known for excellence. We want all our pupils to excel and succeed throughout their educational life, and Sixth Form is the next step towards adult life. Throughout the two years, we’ll help pupils become well-rounded individuals and provide them with all the skills, know-how and attributes for them to carry into higher education or life after Sixth Form. Our outstanding A-Level results and university placements are evidence of our high-achieving students.

Course on offer

We are proud of the variety of courses on offer and deliver them with the highest teaching standards and facilities on-site. Whatever your passion or drive for your future career, we’ll be there alongside you to achieve the best outcomes from our impressive developing and evolving curriculum. We also invite students to expand their horizons with the Extended Project Qualification and the Gold Arts Award, which has seen many alumni leave Rendcomb with a recognised certificate that can put them in good stead for years ahead.

Outside of lessons

Beyond the classroom, we encourage pupils to take part in a range of extra-curricular activities, from sports to performing arts as well as clubs and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award. This aims to expand their hobbies and passions whilst also making new friends and being part of the community. We’re pleased to offer state-of-the-art facilities, but also offer the chance to explore the local area in their downtime.

Sixth form boarding

Nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds, The Old Rectory is home to our Sixth Form boarding option which provides a safe and thriving space for pupils to learn, study and relax. The dormitories include every aspect you need, and we welcome you to make the space your own, plus the on-site facilities such as kitchens and high-speed internet prepare you for university life where you’ll experience independence on another level.

Sixth form fees

Depending on your circumstances and whether you’ll be enrolling on a day sixth form basis or a weekly/full boarding basis will determine the fees that are paid. You can find out more information and the full list of fees here.

A positive place to study

Rendcomb College provides a unique, innovative and inspiring location to study for Sixth Form. Our positivity in preparing pupils for their future careers whilst making lasting impressions and delivering great results is what drives us every day. We’re proud of our alumni and are pleased to welcome new pupils, or those already part of the Rendcomb College community, to begin their next journey of education with us.