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Sixth Form Schools


“I didn’t do very well at my old Roedean is especially proud


of its international students


school,” she says. “But this year my results were much better and I think just having the freedom has made me manage my time better.” Yet a more adult approach is not


exclusive to sixth form colleges; many mainstream schools treat their sixth form students differently from the other pupils in the school. “There are a lot of status things


whereby they’re treated differently,” says Robert Taylor of Harrow. “I certainly treat a lower sixth class differently from how I treat a fifth form class.” However, not everyone is


convinced that changing schools after GCSEs is a wise choice. “I think it’s a terrible move to


make,” says Dr Helen Wright, President of the Girls’ School Association and headmistress of St Mary’s Calne in Wiltshire. “It’s a very bad time to move because


The


students who come from schools out in the home counties. In general they are very happy in their schools – they think they’re brilliant for many things - but they think, ‘I’m now that little bit older; I have a group of friends in London and I’m stuck out here in the back of beyond’.” For any student wishing to focus


on retakes, colleges such as the Oxford Tutorial College may be the answer. According to its Principal, Joel Roderick, “in mainstream schools they are focused on A levels and it’s very difficult for them to give any kind of revision guidance or teaching for students who are coming back. That’s why you have retake colleges. We provide a very bespoke course.” Even for those wanting to go straight


on to A levels, there is an important distinction between dedicated sixth form colleges and mainstream schools. Sixth form colleges claim to offer a more adult world, as Stuart Nicholson, Principal of Cambridge Centre for Sixth Form Studies (CCSS), explains. “Some students have outgrown


the constraints that a typical school generally operates”, he says.” I


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know that for most schools those constraints are seen as structures and supports, but for the more independent students, those school structures are starting to seem babyish.” According to David Lowe at


goal of


the school is to have women that


DLD the main difference is, “being able to treat people as young adults – as a putative university student.” Emily Brown, 18, now in her


second year at CCSS, found that the greater independence at sixth form college helped her with her studies.


are as comfortable living here as they are in Dubai or Australia


you have already embarked on this three-year programme of exams and you’re thinking about moving one year into it. You’ve built up relationships with teachers; you’ve established good working styles; you’re embedded in the wider life of the school; you’re going to be taking on more responsibility. Your life at the school is enriching and coming to fruition and then you uproot and move.” Certainly the increased rigour required by AS courses can be a challenge when combined with the social challenges involved in changing schools. As Rosario Freire


says: “At the beginning the academic part was terrible, really frustrating, plus all the emotional issues were a hard experience, but I think also one of the biggest challenges.” Anyone considering a move after


GCSEs should think hard about their reasons for wanting to move and what their expectations are of sixth form. Laura Hendry, 17, who moved


from Gordonstoun to Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls for sixth form, gives wise advice. “I would urge those thinking of


DLD offers students bespoke courses


changing to consider what it is they want to get out of sixth form. It is a decision that needs to be thoroughly thought through and it’s important to acknowledge all the advantages (and potential disadvantages) in doing so. Personally, it’s a decision that I do not regret at all.”


Autumn 2011 FirstEleven 25





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