Sixth Form…Time for a Change?

Choosing the right sixth form for a teenager can present a real challenge! Although they probably have a good idea of the direction they wish to travel in, where they can to go to continue their education will undoubtedly be a topic with some bones of contention! Here, Nicky Adams from The Good School’s Guide offers some advice on how to make a switch for Sixth Form.

Picking a primary school for your toddler is tricky enough, but factor in a teenager with his or her own ideas, and choosing a Sixth Form can be a parent’s nightmare.

However, a change at 16 can be the making of a young person and great preparation for the challenges of university or college ahead, so well worth considering.

It’s now the law that young people must remain in education or training until they’re 18, so, without the option of joining the workforce, choosing what to do for Years 12 and 13 has become a major decision. Some of course are happy to continue at their secondary school beyond GCSEs, though these days many schools offer only a limited Sixth Form programme, or don’t offer a Sixth Form at all. Discussing with your near-grown-up child whether his or her ambitions are for university, an apprenticeship or a job at 18, will give some valuable clues as to the best use of the Sixth Form years, and choosing where to go for the ideal preparation must be a joint effort. Certainly, parents who don’t take notice of their son or daughter’s preference could be heading for disaster when the time comes to motivate a disaffected teenager to get up in the morning and get studying.

Moving school at any age can be disruptive -new friends, new teachers and a new way of life to fit into – so it just isn’t worth the upheaval unless there will be serious benefits, so here are a few of the main reasons for making a switch at sixth form:


A Sixth Form move may well be prompted by the subjects on offer – or not – at A Level, or perhaps an interest in pursuing the IB, or a more vocational qualification. Smaller schools in particular can’t offer all the subjects under the sun and if your child has a penchant for astronomy then a larger institution with a fatter courses book may be in the stars.


This is one of the most popular reasons (among students, at least) for making a Sixth Form move. By the age of 16 many girls and boys feel they would have better preparation for the real world by mixing with the opposite sex on a daily basis (and by association, perhaps be invited to better parties!) A valid argument perhaps, but one parents will want to consider carefully. This works the other way too, from co-ed to single-sex, for those who feel they would find it easier to focus.


Some students feel it’s time to spread their wings and perhaps have a gentle introduction to university-style independence. Those who are committed to their sport, drama, art or music may also find it gives them more school time to devote to their interests and those who crave a change of location may be able to move further afield and establish themselves away from the parental home.


16-year-olds desperate to break away from the tyranny of school bells and rules may be dazzled by the apparent freedom offered by Sixth Form colleges. Undeniably, colleges give sixth-formers valuable experience in developing their skills as independent learners and expert time managers ready for higher education, but this freedom is usually within reasonable limits. A good stepping stone for those equipped to make the leap, nevertheless.

However, a switch at sixth form can give youngsters a valuable opportunity to re-invent themselves, make new friends, pursue different interests and develop their independence before stepping out into the adult world.

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