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sixth form versus college

In the realm of post-secondary education in the United Kingdom, the terms “sixth form” and “college” are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion among students and parents alike.

Often times colloquially, ‘college’ is used as an umbrella term to mean a host of different types of institutions.

However, despite their similarities, there are some differences between the two.

What is sixth form?

Sixth form refers to the final two years of secondary education in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, typically catering to students aged 16 to 18. Sixth forms offer a continuation of education for students who wish to pursue A level qualifications or other advanced courses.

Sixth forms can be attached to a secondary school, and many may choose to transition to sixth form from the secondary school they attended in their earlier years of education.

Sixth form college usually refers to an institution that is separate from secondary school.

In sixth form, students have the opportunity to specialise in subjects of their choice, typically focusing on three to four A level subjects or equivalent qualifications.

Sixth form curriculum often revolves around preparing students for university admission or entry into the workforce by providing rigorous coursework and academic support.

what is college?

College in the U.K. can refer to a broad spectrum of education institutions and can offer a variety of academic and vocational courses.

While some colleges do provide A level courses similar to that of sixth form/sixth form college, they may also offer access courses, vocational study, and apprenticeships.

Colleges are known for their flexibility, catering to a diverse range of students, including school leavers, adult learners, and those seeking to gain practical skills for specific careers. They are usually separate institutions from secondary school.

what does it mean to say year 12 or year 13 versus lower sixth and upper sixth?

When describing their year of education, students may refer to themselves as being in ‘year 12’ or being in ‘lower sixth.’ What is the difference? Students study their A level subjects in year 12 and year 13 or in lower sixth and upper sixth.  Simply speaking, they mean the same thing.

In British education up until the mid-twentieth century, all years were referred to in terms of their ‘form.’ Year 7 was considered to be third form, Years 8 and 9 were lower and upper fourth form, years 10 and 11 were lower and upper fifth form.

Later, the British education system changed to being the numbering system you commonly see now.

However, in many instances, the final two years of school, year 12 and year 13, retained their original form structure name.

Some schools do continue to use the form structure naming for all of their years of education although this isn’t very common anymore.

so what is the difference between college and 6th form?

Sixth form refers to an institution that offers further academic study such as A levels and other advanced qualifications. They can be independent institutions or a part of a secondary school.

Alternatively, colleges have a diversity of options such as vocational qualifications and apprenticeships to cater to varying career paths. However, often in popular British culture, these terms are used synonymously in conversation.

Year 12 and lower sixth are interchangeable terms. Year 13 and upper sixth also refer to an equivalent level of study.

Greene’s college oxford

Greene’s College Oxford is a sixth form college that specialises in bespoke tuition. Using the University of Oxford’s Tutorial Method of Learning, we provide one-to-one teaching that can help students to stay focused and engaged in their studies. Interested? Contact us today.

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