Grantham Journal Column: College v Sixth Form
With so many options for teens to choose from when it comes to picking an education provider after GCSEs, it makes it harder to decide which is best. As a parent or guardian, you want your teen to be happy as well as making sure they’ve made the right choice educationally. From the teen’s perspective, high on the priority list is where their friends are and having independence.
Having experienced parts of my education at both a grammar school sixth form and college myself, I am able to tell the vast difference between them both; from not wearing uniform anymore or calling the tutors by their first name to managing my own time and gaining independence and freedom in an adult environment. All of the above contribute to the experience, success and the enjoyment of your education. Finding the best combination for you is what’s difficult.
One of the main differences between a school sixth form and college is the timetable. At school, every moment is usually accounted for with the occasional free period. At college, the scheduled hours in class are much lower but you are of course expected to continue with your work outside of the contact hours.
A college will offer you a different learning environment to that offered at a sixth form which is one of the reasons why many students choose college after finishing their GCSEs. Colleges usually offer more vocational subjects, have a wider range of courses and have other paths to take such as BTECs, apprenticeships and distance learning.
At school, every class has students of the same age, whereas at college, you could be studying with anyone from age 16+ and your classmates may have come from different parts of the county or even different parts of the country. They will all have different stories to tell and different backgrounds and life experiences which makes the new beginning even more exciting.
Perhaps an old-fashioned way of deciding for or against something, but nevertheless, still useful is writing a pros and cons list. What are the benefits of studying at college over a local sixth form and vice versa? To make your decision easier, ask questions at any opportunity you get; at your interview or at open days. Ask friends and family what their experiences and views are, speak to a careers adviser and ask current students what they think as they will give you the most honest answers. By finding out about student life, pass rates and more detailed course information, it will help you make the right decision about your future in education post-GCSEs.