16 November 2022

Having to think about your future before you’ve even finished your GCSEs can seem pretty daunting. Yet, it’s also a hugely exciting time and you’re firmly in the driving seat when it comes to the decision-making process. We know that for some, the desire will to go straight into work will be strong but for others, the opportunity to take on further studies will be preferred. It’s all down to the individual after all.

Yet if you wish to continue your education, and explore more subjects in-depth, attending Sixth Form may be the best option for you, whether you want to stay and study at your high school or opt for an independent Sixth Form college.

Whatever your interests and future ambitions, if you do decide to continue your education beyond your GCSEs, here are some useful things to consider when choosing your Sixth Form.

What can you study?

This sounds obvious but sometimes students have a certain Sixth Form college in mind that they’ve heard about through the grapevine or maybe because their friends are heading there. It’s good to have options in mind but think carefully about what your specific interests are. If you can’t study your preferred subject(s), you won’t be motivated or achieve the results you hope for, no matter what the college’s facilities are like or who’s sat next to you in class.

As well as thinking about the subjects that are on offer, consider what type of qualifications you can study for. Some Sixth Form colleges will focus on traditional qualifications required to go onto university like ‘A’ and ‘AS levels while others might specialise in more vocational BTEC courses. If you’re already thinking about a career pathway or specific university course, don’t forget to also check the entry requirements for the route you’re interested in.

More progressive Sixth Forms like LHS will offer a combination of both academic and practical routes to work. That’s because we recognise the diversity of our students’ aspirations and the validity of both routes.

For example, students at LHS Sixth Form study everything from traditional A-level subjects such as Maths, English and Sciences to newer subjects such as Criminology, Fashion Tech and Philosophy. Other members of the student community are working towards BTEC qualifications in everything from Engineering to Sports with vocational courses in Hair and Beauty and Hospitality also on offer.

What support will I get?

“Whenever you need help you can always rely on them (teachers) to reply as soon as possible and you can go and visit them in their room,” Fanairetti, an LHS Sixth Form student.

When you’re attending the Sixth Form, you’ve chosen to be there and will be expected to be self-motivated throughout your studies. However, the transition from Year 11 to becoming a more independent learner during Sixth Form is a process and a strong support network makes all the difference. Before committing yourself to a college place, find out what support the teaching staff provides and any tutorial or pastoral care on offer.

Most good Sixth Forms will have a well-established tutorial system, where you are allocated a learning tutor who will help to guide and support you through your college journey. If choosing to study for A levels and considering the university route, they should also be able to help you with the application process.

Of course, emotional well-being and understanding how to recognise and manage stress levels are also essential to being successful in your studies. Be sure to ask any Sixth Form college you are considering what pastoral care support they have in place. And remember, at LHS there is a dedicated school counsellor and well-being centre open to all Sixth Form students.

What are the facilities like?

“Sixth Form at Llanishen High School is very balanced. We have the Sixth Form common room where students can relax, chat and have some food and a break from their work. But also there’s the personal study area where it’s silent and you can study.” Alfie, Sixth Form head boy.

We’ve already talked about study options and available support, but the overall learning environment and facilities also shouldn’t be forgotten. A quiet area to study, access to computers and technology, and dedicated group work areas are all on the list for most students. Plus where courses are taught (including any off-site requirements), the number of students sharing the facilities, and how you’ll get to your classes should all be key considerations.

Areas for relaxing and socialising for a break from your studies are equally important. Check whether your preferred college option has a dedicated space for Sixth Formers to meet and unwind and what the provision is for snacks, meals and refreshments.

What else do I need to know?

“One good thing about Llanishen High School is that when you come in, you always see a friendly face” Molly, Sixth Form student.

Even if a college ticks all the boxes on paper, you should still trust your gut instinct and choose a college that feels ‘right’ for you. Often this can come down to a feeling you get about a place and what the culture is like.

Find out what extracurricular activities are on offer, from sporting clubs to charity and community initiatives. Also, attend open days and events and talk to existing and past students. Seeing and experiencing something in real life will always give you more of a sense of a place than just looking at the website or reading a brochure.

At LHS, our culture is driven by a sense of community, where together with our students we have built a safe, fun and nurturing environment within which we all thrive. This community feel extends beyond studies, with charity fundraising, volunteering schemes and other opportunities to contribute to the college and wider community wide-ranging.

No matter your background, area of study or future ambitions, we aspire to help all of our students to succeed – whatever that means to them.

If you’d like to speak to us about Sixth Form, please contact Mrs Julie Jones on 02920 680 840 or via email: jjones@llanishen.cardiff.sch.uk