"Sixth form" refers to the two years prior to university study, where students are usually aged 16 to 18. It is a common time for students to switch school or college - perhaps for a change of environment, or sometimes in order to focus on the particular A-levels, BTECs, IB Diploma, or International Foundation Programme they wish to study. It is also a time when a huge number of students, both domestic and international, choose to board for the first time.
In the UK private school sector, these students primarily have two types of institution to choose between:
The Sixth Form of a independent school
A modern private Sixth Form college
What are the differences between a private sixth form college and the sixth form of an independent (private) school?
Private sixth form colleges tend to concentrate mainly on academic provision and usually have limited facilities for extra-curricular activities. They are mainly in city centres where space for rugby pitches, concert theatres, swimming pool and the like is limited. All colleges are co-educational, whereas you can choose a single-sex school.
There are approximately 70 private sixth form colleges in the UK, mostly catering for students from 14 to 20. Most of them started by teaching A-Levels, but now the majority also teach GCSEs for students who enter at 14 or 15. For older students, some colleges also offer University Foundation Programmes, the IB or BTECs.
A private sixth form college rarely has a college uniform – students dress how they want within reason! Most colleges have a much more informal atmosphere than a traditional school, with students and teachers on first-name terms and fewer rules and regulations.
Most sixth form colleges are far more flexible on entrance requirements than schools. You might be admitted with 5 or 6 grades at GCSE whereas schools tend to want 7 to 9 grades, especially in the subjects to be studied at A Level. Registration deadlines are also much later.
What about exam success? Students in private sixth form colleges often achieve top grades at A-Level and progress to the most competitive universities including Oxford and Cambridge. It is important to look at the individual school or college to see their results.
The majority of private sixth form colleges in the UK have a very diverse international student population. Many have over 90% overseas students.
How do you chose a sixth form?
Simply put, you will need to consider which environment will best balance your academic focus and personal development. We have written a guide on Choices at 16+ which is free to download.
Our league tables provide the latest results for schools' A-levels and IB Diploma results and there is a separate table for private sixth form colleges' results.
Find a College – if you are looking at the top league tables, then just clicking on a school or college name will take you to a detailed profile. If you want to find a school or college by area then use our school search engine.
Expert assistance in finding a private sixth form college – We will be pleased to provide you with impartial advice on choosing the best private sixth form college. Please complete an Enquiry Form ,call or write to us.