Sixth Form Admissions: Everything You Need to Know
More and more students are moving school for Year 12. As a parent, there’s a lot to consider in finding the right school for your child, so here is what you can expect from the sixth form admissions process.
The first and most important thing to remember is this:
The requirements for sixth form entry vary – sometimes significantly – from school to school, as there is no standardised entry exam, like the 11 Plus or 13 Plus. So the best thing you can do is call the schools you are considering and speak to the admissions department. Ask questions, take notes and try and gauge whether or not it’s an appropriate destination for your child. If they’re not the most academically inclined, it may not be worth considering a school that requires six As at GCSE (or six 7s, with the new GCSE grading system). Most school websites will have a detailed breakdown of their sixth form admissions process, some of which are vastly more demanding than others.
However, there are certain factors that almost all day and boarding schools have in common:
- Grade requirements: These will vary massively depending on the school, but most schools will have grade requirements for sixth form entry, and predicted GCSE grades (or equivalent for international students) can affect whether or not a place is offered. Whether it’s 6 As, 6 Bs, or 5 A*-C grades (adjusted for the new grading system) will depend on the type of school.
- A Level subjects: Schools will want to know your likely A Level subjects, and some will have achieving a certain grade in these subjects as part of the grade requirements.
- Assessment tests: The most ambitious independent schools will have their own assessment tests as one stage of the application process for sixth form entry for all students. Most schools will try and devise an admissions test that cannot be revised for, but it is worth calling to ask about the content and format, as some may have past papers available. Some will have an electronic test, for which there are no practices available, while others still will test you specifically in the subjects you plan to study at A Level.
- Report: Most schools will ask for a reference from the student’s current school, to help give a better idea about their suitability.
- Interviews: Before making an offer, most schools will require an interview, usually with a senior staff member, to see if they believe the candidate is the right fit for the school. Typically, they are looking for ‘potential’, ambition, and a student who is likely to take advantage of the facilities offered by the school. Grades alone are not enough, and the most desirable schools will look for students have something else to offer – whether it’s art, music, sport or other extra-curriculars. It can also be beneficial to have an idea of what you want from sixth form life, and beyond.
- Tours: Many schools prefer (but don’t demand) that prospective pupils have first visited the school, either independently or on an open day, and got a sense of what life there may be like from speaking to staff and students. Some even offer the opportunity to sit in on a day’s lessons and see if it feels right for the student.
- CV and Personal Statement: Most schools will expect to see some sort of CV, and some will also ask for a personal statement. Again, this will be on a school to school basis, so call the admissions department and find out.
- Application dates: Every school will have a cut-off date for applying to join sixth form, which is often final, so get in early if you’re thinking about moving schools. This date may be as early as Autumn term the previous school year (or even earlier), so it’s best to find it out early to give yourself a timeframe, and start investigating at least two years before they would start Year 12.
Does it make a difference if I’m moving from a state, independent or international school?
Yes and no.
No, insofar as every school will accept pupils from all three types of school, without preferring one over the other, instead focusing more on grades (or predicted grades)/academic potential, interview strength and what the pupil can offer the school.
Yes, insofar as the process itself can differ significantly.
International students may well have more hurdles to jump. Many schools, a list of which can be found here, use the UKiset (which also includes room for a CV/personal statement) as an entrance exam for international students, a standardised test measuring numeracy, literacy, language and reasoning skills against British pupils of the same age. You can find out all about the UKiset here, and some schools use this as their sole entrance exam. Others, however, will use it as a screening process, offering applicants interviews or the chance to sit a school-specific entrance exam based on the results.
The process for state and independent school students based in the UK is fairly similar, but there may be discrepancies. For example, some schools will only offer scholarships or bursaries to students applying from state schools, or allow slightly more leniency in terms of grade requirements against academic potential.
What can I expect?
Unlike school entry at 11 or 13, most independent schools have a very limited number of places at 16 (excluding sixth form colleges) , so it helps to keep an open mind. Some schools (such as Eton, St. Paul’s and others) may have an allotted number of scholarships for talented pupils who otherwise would not have been able to afford the fees, but places for students from abroad or other independent schools can depend on how many pupils have left in the years leading up to GCSEs. This can make getting a place at certain schools much trickier, so be willing to cast your net wide!
On the other hand, there are many previously single-sex schools which have opened up their sixth form to become mixed, or just have a larger sixth form, and therefore may have a far greater Year 12 intake. It’s always worth checking how many places/applicants the school is likely to have, as this can impact your decisions of whether or not to apply.
There’s a whole host of brilliant day and boarding schools that accept pupils at 16, so try not to have your heart set on one, as there is never a guarantee of getting a place there. So start thinking about schools early, do your research on each one and prepare yourself for what can be a worthwhile but arduous process!
If the process all seems a bit overwhelming, or you’re looking for some expert advice to ease the process, get in touch with the Temple of Minerva on 0208 819 3276, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to contact one of our education consultants.
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about everything that’s trending in education.