This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
Pros and cons of sixth form in a school vs a college??(15 Posts)
Family is moving to Surrey from Canada over the summer and DD will be starting year 12 next September, but we can't choose between her attending sixth form at a school, or her attending a college.
To be honest, we don't know the difference between the two, let alone the pros and cons of each option, so any information you guys could provide on this topic would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
You haven't said what she would like to do career wise as that will affect whether she's best to enrol at a college or a sixth form. College courses tend to offer vocational courses where students often have "placements" in the industry they're aspiring to work in and are also attended alongside an apprenticeship. For example if a student was looking to become a hairdresser, college would be appropriate. However, not always the case but often, students wishing to go on to university will complete A-levels at a sixth form. Sixth form tends to be more guided by teachers from my knowledge whereas a college would expect students to be more independent as it is not just post-GCSE students attending.
There are 2 basic types of 6th form college. Vocational and Academic.
Always read the prospectuses and then visit.
My 3rd dc chose a sixth form college over the sixth form in their selective state school.
It was fantastic in every way.
A brilliant stepping stone between school and university.
The best thing about sixth form college is that everyone is "new", so a level playing field for forming friendships.
We also found that there was a lot more extracurricular stuff going on and the library and tech support was excellent.
The support for University applications, particularly Oxbridge, was outstanding.
Colleges are often bigger and offer more courses and activities. My DC all went to a college for their A'levels and enjoyed the freedom they got there. There were no uniforms and they didn't have to be in college if they didn't have lessons. It depends on the kids a bit and whether they are self motivated or not.
My kids were offered places at the nearest grammar and have no regrets about choosing the College.
Every college and school is different so it would be best if your friend could visit.
DD elected to stay at school for Sixth Form. The style of teaching was definitely different from Lower School; independent learning and self management greatly encouraged. But she was undoubtedly better supported (both pastorally and academically) than her friends at the local Sixth Form College, so those who say that college is a good stepping stone between school and Uni do have a good point to make. DD would agree that staying at school kept her slightly more sheltered from drug usage; that was a shock to the system during Freshers' Week! However she doesn't regret a single moment of her time at school sixth form. She is finding the techniques and discipline she was taught at school invaluable on her course and has "manned up" re dealing with the wired/stoned students in the flat opposite!
I agree with PinsPegs; is there any way you can get over to visit some selected schools and colleges?
Another aspect of a school sixth form is that it IS part of the school!
Sixth formers are given roles of responsibility and leadership - mentors, prefects, assisting in running extra curricular activities and clubs etc which can be helpful for those lacking self-confidence.
Well, one difference tends to be size!
Around here, school sixth forms have 200-400 students. The major sixth form colleges have 2000-4000 (they all offer A-levels here, though some also offer more vocational courses as well).
DS went to a school sixth, DD chose a sixth form college. Both think (so far) that it was the right choice. DS wanted the continuity and the feeling that some of the and students staff already knew each other. DD wanted a fresh start!
Where in Surrey are you moving to?
My DD went to sith form at the Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Redhill/Reigate. Its a state school but has a lot of private funding and is located on an old estate house. The sixth form school there is very well put together and there is a large community of students as it also has boarders. There are 3 large sports fields with a range of sports programmes (rugby,football,hockey, tennis, horseriding, etc) as well as a chapel.
The school runs the A-level programme but also encourages students to get involved in the local community.
I think the other posters have mostly covered it, but I will reiterate that size is one of the main differences. The school my DS attends has 250 in 6th form whereas the two local colleges have 2,300 and 3,700 which he feels is too big.
I think in a smaller school environment it will be easier to make friends and also pastorally there's a tutor/head of house to lend an ear/give a nudge in the right direction if needed.
My Ds's are at Churchers College in Petersfield which if you are moving to that side of Surrey is well worth considering - 15 mins by train from Haslemere.
Normally I would talk about knowing the teachers already etc, but this is relevant. I know nothing about education in Surrey, here in Hants there aren't (on the whole) school 6th forms.
6th form college - wider choice of subject, more freedom, less of a step to university
School 6th form - better pastoral care in schools v 6th forms, school surrounding may be more 'familiar' when everything else has changed
So my view:
Less academic, don't want A levels -> 6th form college
Confident, outgoing -> 6th form college
Need of pastoral care, less self-assured -> school 6th form
What subjects does she want to do?
If it is one of the less popular ones she would probably be better at a sixth form college as they can offer more. For example I did Further Maths at a sixth form college and was in a class of 20, most of the people I met at University who had done further maths at a school had been in classes of 2 or 3.
Pros - Usually smaller so class sizes may be smaller and you are a name not a number
Familiarity with teachers
More of a school environment - may suit some better
Some, not all schools may be seen to be more academic
Usually a limited range of subjects offered in limited combinations. May not have enough students to run some courses
A wide range of subjects offered at both A level & vocational
Teachers are usually specialist in further education and in their specific subject.
In some subjects you may be able to choose pathways eg history dept might run different A levels for those wanting to opt for different periods
Ofetn highly experience in university applications etc
More of an adult environment
Often specialist facilities can be better and more geared towards FE
Stepping stone towards uni
Can be very large and large class sizes
Independent learning does not suit everyone
More mixed ability
It is so hard to generalise.
In our case -
School sixth form:
Zero pastoral care
Limited extracurricular activities
Teachers covering age 11 to 18
Limited space / facilities
Sixth form college
Complete focus on A levels
Excellent pastoral care
Plenty of extra support for learning/ revision
Very good sports/ music/ library.
Also small classes and teachers knew students very well. Honestly couldn't have been better if we had paid for private education.