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Your guide to life as a sixth former

If you decide to stay in education after 16, you may have to choose between school and sixth form college. Read on to find out about the differences and what you can expect.

After Year 11 you may be able to study at your own school’s sixth form, the sixth form of another school, or at a sixth form college.

Sixth forms may offer a wider range of course options than you’ve probably had to date, and can vary a lot in size and facilities they offer.

If you're unsure whether to stay on at school or go to a sixth form college, some schools run link courses at further education colleges where you can attend one or two days a week to see what college life is like.

School sixth forms

Lots of schools have sixth forms and you can join one even if you didn’t go to that particular school.

If your school does have a sixth form, the main advantage of staying on is that you will be in a familiar environment with the teachers and tutors that you already know.

What to expect at school sixth form

School sixth forms are generally quite small but can vary in size and in the range of courses they offer you.

Generally speaking they will offer traditional qualifications such as BTECs and A-Levels in mainstream subjects. However, some sixth forms may specialise in an area, for example performing arts or sciences.

Sixth forms are typically more informal than school in some ways, allowing students to wear non-uniform and be responsible for themselves. However, as they are still part of the school and may have a more formal and structured timetable than if you went to sixth form college. They will also have higher expectations for behaviour and the responsibility you take for your own work.

Sixth form college

After taking your GCSEs you might want to continue your education but have a change from staying on at school.

A popular option for a lot of people is to go to college. Although it might seem a bit strange leaving school and starting somewhere new, there are lots of advantages.

What to expect at sixth form college

A sixth form college is in some ways a more informal environment than a school sixth form and, because they are usually bigger, they are able to offer you a wider range of options.

You will have the opportunity to meet lots of new people and make new friends as colleges take students from several different schools.

At college you will be expected to manage your own time and deadlines. This will give you the opportunity to learn new skills you might need at university or in the workplace.

Next steps

If you’re still deciding, try talking to your school teachers and contacting local colleges about their open days.

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