We recently had our Sixth Form options evening at school and I started my introduction to pupils and their parents with an apology. It does seem a little hard, when pupils have just started the second year of their GCSE courses, to launch into presentations about what lies ahead of them in Sixth Form. However, the reason we start so early is because of the range of options to choose from. We take the view that the sooner this process starts, the better informed our young people can be about the courses available and, therefore, the more successful the route they choose through the final two years in education. It is also worth bearing in mind that this year’s cohort of Year 11s are the first that will be required to stay in education or training until they are eighteen under the Government’s new school leaving arrangements that came into force this September.
Arguably then, the choices being made by this year’s group of students are the most important to date. And there is a sometimes-bewildering range of options to be considered. Our school offers the traditional set of A Level subjects alongside the International Baccalaureate Diploma. A Levels give the opportunity for depth over three or four subjects, whereas the IB encourages breadth over six and will appeal to those who would like an international outlook to their learning during sixth form. Other schools may offer a combination of A Level and BTEC courses, where colleges are likely to teach a range of vocational courses, ideal for those who want a practical emphasis to their final two years of study.
The best course of study is undoubtedly out there for all students and schools and colleges are expert in helping to give the right advice to students and their parents to make sure they get the very best out of their Sixth Form experience. We offer psychometric profiling to our students, which helps them to concentrate on the subjects that best suit their personality traits as well as academic strengths, and all schools will have dedicated careers staff to provide further advice.
However, Sixth Form is as much about developing character as building on the academic success of GCSE. Whether a young person wishes to continue their education to university or go straight into the workplace, they will take with them the values they established during their days at school. The Sixth Form gives rich opportunities to take on leadership roles, acquire the soft skills of self-awareness and care for others that will hugely influence them throughout the rest of their lives. For the pupils leaving our school I wish two things: a good set of academic results, which will be their passport to whatever they choose to do beyond school, but also a sense of purpose borne from their moral integrity, giving the confidence to challenge orthodoxy and play their part in making the world they go into a better place.
IWK – November 2015