The Complete Guide To UK Sixth Form: What You Need To Know

uk sixth form

Table Of Contents


The Sixth Form represents the final years of secondary school, for pupils aged 16 to 18. The Sixth Form provides the academic preparation needed for university, transitioning pupils from GCSEs to an undergraduate degree.

In the UK, the 3 common courses in the sixth form are A-levels, and International Baccalaureate Diploma, and foundation programmes.

Here are some key facts about Sixth Form colleges in the UK:

  • 88% of Sixth Form colleges were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted at their latest inspection
  • 67% of Sixth Form college students progress to higher education (higher than further education colleges, academy, and school sixth forms)
  • 19% of sixth form college students progress to the most selective universities

Difference Between A Levels, IB Diploma and Foundation Programmes

In Summary:

  • A level is three subjects studied in-depth whereas IB is six. Also, IB includes a compulsory core program comprising of Theory of Knowledge, an Extended Essay and an evaluation of a student’s CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service). To get the diploma, students have to “pass” this core and secure good scores in the six subjects. 
  •  A-Level courses are discrete, while the IB is holistic.
  • A-Levels are graded A* to E, with A* being the highest grade, whereas the IB uses a numerical 1-7 grading system, with 7 being the highest.

Many students choose IB as it provides a wide range of subjects and is all rounded. This helps students to learn an array of different subjects which may be useful in choosing their degree courses.

In contrast, A-level allows students to explore a smaller range of fields in more depth, providing more specialized preparation for further study.

Foundation Programmes

In the UK, foundation year programmes are typically referred to as “year zero” or “gateway programmes”,  andare designed to develop skills and subject-specific knowledge to ensure a students get to advance to a university for their degree.

There are some programmes for weaker students who have not received suitable grades at A Level or IB while others are aimed at students who did not have the opportunity to take such qualifications. As of mid-2018, foundation year programmes were available at 97 institutions through UCAS.

Extra-curricular Activities

Besides ensuring students to get perfect grades, extracurricular activities play an important role at Sixth form colleges.

There is a wide array of activities to choose from such as sports, theatre, debating, law, and many more. 

Sixth form colleges invest in professional coaches and teachers that can bring students to greater heights in their hobbies! 

Top-notch facilities such as swimming pools and tennis courts are present to make sure students get the best learning experience.

Sixth Form Results

When choosing a sixth form school or college to study at in the UK, it’s important to take into account the academic results of the school (besides the type of sixth form course offered). This will help you choose a school which can help you or your child get into a top university.

You can check the latest results for A-levels and IB Diploma on our website:

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