Why is Sixth Form Actually Called Sixth Form?

why is it called sixth form
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Most people in the UK are familiar with the phrase sixth form and understand what it refers to.

The names that the various age groups within schools have been given over time have played a significant role in how we currently refer to each school year group.

The group of students enrolled in their first and second years of A-levels is known as the sixth form. Before numerical year groups were the primary method of reference for each age group, it first appeared in the 1900s.

All of the students there who were younger than what is now known as
years 12 and 13 were divided into five separate sets of “forms,” with A-level students being the sixth of these. This is why it was termed the “sixth” form.

Continue reading to see Why is Sixth Form Called Sixth Form, and whether the form system is still in use today.

About Sixth Form College

Sixth-form colleges, also known as pre-university colleges in Malaysia, are educational institutions where students between the ages of 16 and 19 study typically for advanced post-school level qualifications like A Levels.

Business and Technology Education Council level 3 (BTEC). International Baccalaureate Diploma, or school-level qualifications like General Certificate of Secondary EducatioGCSE exams, and BTEC level 2 qualifications.

Students who enroll in a sixth-form college normally study there for two years (known as Years 1 and 2, or Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth in Northern Ireland).

Some students take their AS exams after their first year and their A-level exams after their second.

In the Caribbean, these tests are known as C.A.P.E. (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination). The curriculum now includes several vocational courses.

In Wales and England, there are currently more than 90 sixth-form colleges. The majority of these get outstanding results in national examination league tables.

What Does the Term “Sixth Form” Mean?

In the UK, the term “sixth form” refers to all students between the ages of 16 and 18 who are currently enrolled in A-level courses.

Some schools don’t offer sixth forms, while others only provide instruction to those pursuing A-Levels or BTEC credentials.

Colleges also count if they are geared toward students in the age range.
As you can see, the sixth form comes in a variety of different formats.
In sixth form, you’ll typically find that the nature of teaching changes.

Particularly in college, if you don’t show up to lessons or homework isn’t completed, teachers will not pursue this.

Lots more work is independent and more outside of lessons research is required. With this change comes some added freedom. Study periods or “frees” are typically given out.

How Come About The Term “Sixth Form”?

Years 12 and 13 (or 12 and 13 nowadays) are the sixth of the six “forms” that made up the secondary school system, which was divided into them starting approximately 1920.

As a result, students in the two A-level year groups were and are still known as sixth-form students.

The first and second year of the sixth form were separated into lower and upper sixths, which was a structure quite similar to the one in use today with distinct year groups.

Some schools still distinguish between the two by using designations lower and upper and numbered years, but this practice is becoming less widespread.

Why Has the Term “Sixth Form” Succeeded?

The ability of teachers and students to distinguish clearly between one area of the school and another is one of the key factors contributing to the nickname’s continued popularity.

Sixth-formers enjoy various advantages over younger students, such as wearing separate clothing, having free time, and wearing separate shoes. The word itself aids in this division.

The term “sixth form” also complements the names of other areas of the institution. The years from reception through year 6 are primary, whereas years 7 through 11 are secondary.

Since A-level students aren’t seen to be in secondary school, it’s more convenient to refer to them as sixth form.

How Were the Forms Divided Into the Various Age Groups?

Since the dividing line between various ages and talents has varied over time, there is some debate regarding which year groups correlate to specific types.

Some claim that Year 7, Year 8, Year 9, and so on are the first, second, third, and subsequent forms; however, upper and lower forms were an important part of the educational system, and these wouldn’t be needed if the method described above were accurate.

Many students at the time referred to Year 9 or upper fourth as the “shell year” since it was the time when students try out different subjects at an introductory level before deciding which ones they wanted to study in greater depth for their GCSE choices. Check this out: Can a Non-Student Live in Student Housing in the UK?

Years 5 and 6 were known as the second form, years 3 and 4 as the first form, and years 7 and 8 as the third form (divided into lower and higher thirds, as with the other groups).

Naturally, school begins at age 4, but all youngsters from what we now refer to as reception class onward were simply referred to as “preparatory school” age. 

This so that kids might get ready for the more in-depth knowledge offered in secondary school.

Do People Still Use the Old Form System?

As was indicated throughout the article, the word “sixth form” is widely used among students and has become ingrained in practically every school in the UK.

In general, no public school in the UK is permitted to use this format as their primary naming scheme for each age group because the government has mandated the usage of Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, etc. as the nationwide standard to make it simpler to comprehend when various schools communicate with one another.

However, since independent schools are their private institutions, they are exempt from government regulations. 

As a result, so many schools and colleges in the UK utilize the forms, one through six, and the lower and upper divisions to identify each year.

For an example of an independent school that still uses the form system to refer to year groups and how this impacts the institution’s day-to-day operations, go here.

How Much Longer Will The Current Sixth-Form System Be Used in Schools?

The real question is how long the name will stick around in the future, given that it was first used in the early 1900s.

Some independent schools still utilize the form system each year, however, there is some disagreement between them and other schools over whether or not the previous style should be continued.

Many claim these academies encourage historical truth and sustain the institution’s core beliefs.

Those opposed to the system, contend that the government’s year groups maintain continuity throughout all UK institutions. This clears up any misunderstandings regarding how public and private entities should communicate.

According to what these people have said, the term “sixth form” may be dropped in the coming years, but for the time being, it is still a common term for all students in the UK.

What Grade are They?

The term “sixth form” in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland refers to the final two years of secondary education.

Although students can enter a college and be in their first or second year as they have graduated from high school, years 12 and 13 are more generally referred to as such in educational settings.

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How Does One Pick Them?

Think about the environment that will allow you to reconcile your academic goals with your personal growth. This Choices at 16+ booklet is available for free download.

These league tables offer the most recent A-level and IB Diploma results for schools, and a separate table is available for results from private sixth-form colleges.

If you are looking at the top league standings, all it takes to access a school or college’s complete profile is to click on its name. Use the school search tool to find a school or college in your neighborhood.

Finding a private sixth-form college with the help of an expert We will be happy to give you unbiased guidance on selecting the top private sixth-form college.

Difference Between Private Schools Sixth Form and Private Sixth Form College?

Private sixth-form institutions typically place emphasis on academics and have few resources for extracurricular activities.

They are found in city centers, where there isn’t much room for things like rugby fields, concert halls, and swimming pools. Although you can choose a single-sex school, all colleges are coed.

In the UK, there are about 70 private sixth-form colleges that serve students between the ages of 14 and 20.

Majority of them once taught A-Levels, but currently many now instruct GCSEs for pupils who enroll at 14 or 15. Some colleges also provide University Foundation Programmes, the IB, or BTECs for older students.

Rarely do students at a private sixth-form institution wear a dress code; they are free to dress however they like within reason! Most colleges offer a considerably more relaxed atmosphere than a regular school, with fewer rules and restrictions and students and teachers who know one another by first names.

Most sixth-form colleges are much more lenient than schools when it comes to entrance standards.

You might be accepted with 5 or 6 GCSE grades, although schools typically prefer 7 to 9, especially in topics that will be studied at A Level. Also, registration deadlines are significantly later.

What about passing an exam? Private sixth-form college students frequently receive the highest A-level scores and go on to attend the most selective institutions, such as Oxford and Cambridge.

The international student body at private sixth-form institutions in the UK is quite diversified. Most have a majority of international students.

Is Sixth Form Mandatory

Since students have the option to pursue different forms of secondary education in Years 12 and 13, the sixth form is not required.

Nevertheless, this is the quickest path to British universities because other post-secondary options, like BTEC, could require more time.

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Is Sixth Form Mandatory in The UK?

It might be challenging for students, to determine their career goals after completing their GCSEs. Some pupils opt to continue to the sixth form. Others could think they don’t want to attend school anymore.

Due to the variety of post-16 educational and training opportunities, the regulations governing this can be complicated.

Different laws govern each of these. You may learn more about whether sixth form is required for students in the UK by reading this article.

With clear explanations for each of the components of this inquiry, along with information on your potential post-secondary education possibilities.

The sixth form is not required if you are enrolled in another type of further education, even though further education is required in England.

While continuing education is still available in other countries like Scotland, it is not required.

How Long is Sixth Form in the UK?

It lasts for two years.
After finishing their formal education at the end of year 11, young people can pursue A levels and occasionally vocational credentials in sixth form.

Due to the 2-year programs offered, most students attend the sixth form for two years. Twelve and thirteen are among them.

Sixth Form versus College

If you will soon graduate from college, it is time to consider what comes next. Choosing whether to enroll in a sixth-form college or further education college instead of continuing in your school’s sixth form is one of the most important decisions to make.

This a fantastic chance for you to choose what is best for you. Sixth forms are frequently referred to as school sixth forms since they are affiliated with a secondary school and provide a variety of A-level and BTEC certificates.

While sixth-form colleges are separate from secondary schools, they provide the same services as traditional sixth-form.

In addition to apprenticeships, access courses, higher education courses, and bachelor’s degrees, colleges provide a range of courses.

In addition to apprenticeships, access courses, higher education courses, and frequently some bachelor’s degrees, colleges provide a wider range of courses.

Why is Sixth Form Called Sixth Form Qui?

Before numerical year groups were the primary method of reference for each age group, it first appeared in the 1900s.

All of the students there who were younger than what is now known as years 12 and 13 were divided into five separate sets of “forms,” with A-level students being the sixth of these. This why it was termed the “sixth” form.

Sixth Form Age

16 to 18

The sixth form refers to the final two years of secondary education, from ages 16 to 18, in the educational systems of England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and several other Commonwealth nations.

See Also: What is the American Equivalent for GCSE and A level in 2024?

What is Advanced Learning?

Any education or training undertaken after secondary school in the UK is referred to as further education.

After students complete their GCSE examinations (or other equivalent exams), it starts at the age of 16. Before enrolling in college or beginning a job, advance education must be completed.

Level 3 courses, however, can be taken at any age. It includes all education that is not at the graduate level.

The prevailing consensus is that higher education is far more in-depth and specialized than GCSEs, and other comparable credentials.

The most popular level 3 courses are A-Levels and BTECs. There are numerous more options as well. Apprenticeships and traineeships also included. This geared toward those who don’t want to go to school or want to start working.

Students frequently mix up higher education and continuing education, yet these two concepts are distinct. After turning 18, students pursue higher education, which includes university coursework (or an apprenticeship of some kind, like a degree apprenticeship).

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “sixth form” mean exactly?

The two academic years known as Lower Sixth (L6) and Upper Sixth (U6) are referred to collectively as the “sixth form.” The word is still in use today because it was previously part of the state-run and private school systems’ naming procedures.

What is the name of the sixth form in the UK?

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the final two years of secondary education are the sixth form. Students might attend a college and be in their first or second year since they have gone on from school.

Is sixth form a UK-only institution?

The final two years of secondary school, from ages 16 to 18, are known as sixth form in the educational systems of England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and certain other Commonwealth nations.

In UK, what age is 6th form?

16 to 18
The two years leading up to university studies are referred to as “sixth form,” and students are typically aged 16 to 18.


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