The jour­ney into Sixth Form

Cotswold Life - - PROMOTION -

While start­ing Sixth Form can be an ex­cit­ing time for some, filled with new and ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, it can also be daunt­ing for both par­ents and stu­dents. Mak­ing de­ci­sions such as whether to change schools, which sub­jects to take, and con­sid­er­ing univer­sity and ca­reer op­tions can be over­whelm­ing. It’s im­por­tant to make sure that the Sixth Form you choose to study at is equipped to help you ex­plore your fu­ture op­tions and sup­port you on your jour­ney.

Is­abella Mech, Head of Sixth Form at Chel­tenham Col­lege, shares her tips for the tran­si­tion into Sixth Form and what to look for if your son or daugh­ter is chang­ing schools.


De­cid­ing which A Lev­els to take should ideally be made in line with ca­reer or de­gree as­pi­ra­tions, and this is one of the most cru­cial ar­eas to in­ves­ti­gate when de­cid­ing where to study for Sixth Form. Highly com­pet­i­tive uni­ver­si­ties and de­gree cour­ses will al­ways have spe­cific A Level sub­ject re­quire­ments but if your son or daugh­ter hasn’t de­cided what to study yet, en­cour­age them to choose A Lev­els that keep the doors open and that they en­joy. Some schools will block cer­tain sub­jects to­gether, so it is im­por­tant to check that they are able to take all of the sub­jects they want when con­sid­er­ing a Sixth Form.

It is also worth check­ing if the school of­fers any ad­di­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions like the Ex­tended Project Qual­i­fi­ca­tion (EPQ). This is worth half an A Level and is highly val­ued by uni­ver­si­ties as it shows stu­dents can un­der­take a piece of in­de­pen­dent work, guided by a men­tor. It is much more sim­i­lar to the way that un­der­grad­u­ates will work at univer­sity and so it is seen as ex­cel­lent prepa­ra­tion.


Whether they know what they want to do af­ter Sixth Form or not, a Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Ca­reers de­part­ment is an in­valu­able re­source for stu­dents. Talk­ing to the Head of Sixth Form and Head of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Ca­reers is vi­tal to find out how much im­por­tance is placed on this area over the next two years – this can vary from school to school. Not all stu­dents will want to go to univer­sity and ques­tions about de­gree ap­pren­tice­ships and ap­pren­tice­ships as al­ter­na­tives to univer­sity are im­por­tant.

An­other area to con­sider is work ex­pe­ri­ence – does the school have links with uni­ver­si­ties or in­dus­tries? Will stu­dents be able to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent ca­reers while they are un­der­tak­ing Sixth Form? Is there sup­port avail­able to stu­dents once they have left the school? Chel­tenham Col­lege’s Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Ca­reers de­part­ment is avail­able to sup­port alumni as well as cur­rent stu­dents as it has a strong alumni net­work.


Sixth Form study is about so much more than just A Lev­els. Not only do stu­dents need to have an in-depth knowl­edge of their cho­sen sub­jects, they also need to be stretched and chal­lenged out of their com­fort zones. Hav­ing knowl­edge of cur­rent is­sues and tak­ing part in ac­tiv­i­ties un­re­lated to A Lev­els will broaden their hori­zons. See if there is a pro­gramme of elec­tives that stu­dents can choose from. Chel­tenham Col­lege of­fers a mini-mba pro­gramme, mu­sic tech­nol­ogy, life draw­ing and lib­eral arts, among oth­ers, which stretch and chal­lenge stu­dents to be­come more rounded in­di­vid­u­als. In­volve­ment in ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties such as sports or drama can’t be over em­pha­sised. They can help to re­lieve stress and al­low for eas­ier in­te­gra­tion into univer­sity life.


Young peo­ple move from a rel­a­tively shel­tered en­vi­ron­ment to com­pletely in­de­pen­dent liv­ing at univer­sity. It is re­ally im­por­tant that when look­ing at Sixth Forms you con­sider this prepa­ra­tion process. A great Sixth Form will arm stu­dents with strate­gies to cope with the new chal­lenges of univer­sity life: manag­ing their time and work­load ef­fec­tively, the abil­ity to bud­get, ba­sic first aid skills and, im­por­tantly, recog­nis­ing im­por­tant is­sues and when to ask for help.


The job mar­ket to­day is highly com­pet­i­tive, how­ever, many em­ploy­ers still com­plain that young peo­ple lack some of the ba­sic skills needed for the work­place. The abil­ity to speak in pub­lic, pre­pare a pre­sen­ta­tion and com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively are im­por­tant skills that can give a first-time job­seeker an edge over their peers. Find out what plans are in place to de­velop th­ese skills. Build­ing them into lessons is a good start but com­mu­nity place­ments and vol­un­teer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties are also great ways for stu­dents to de­velop th­ese soft skills, while get­ting a more re­al­is­tic ex­pe­ri­ence of the pro­fes­sional world.

Choos­ing a school for Sixth Form is an ex­tremely im­por­tant de­ci­sion that needs to be made col­lab­o­ra­tively between the par­ent and stu­dent, once you’ve done your re­search. If you’d like to find out more about all that Chel­tenham Col­lege has to of­fer, join us for our Sixth Form Open Morn­ing on Satur­day 29 Septem­ber at 10.00am.

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