Learning in the Sixth Form
Photo: The Sixth Form Library
Whatever subjects are being studied in Sixth Form, students will find that they will have to adapt to new ways of working. All post-16 courses involve a great deal more time, independence and organisation than the work done at GCSE.
They will find that staff treat them differently and that the approach within the classroom will be more interactive with students being expected to contribute to, and to lead, the learning process. The rest of the course requires students to work independently through private study.
Photo: The Sixth Form Common Room
Private study is vital and without it courses will not be completed successfully. It includes these activities:
- Acquiring knowledge of the course, its structure and assessment patterns.
- The acquisition of new subject knowledge.
- The primary analysis and accommodation of knowledge.
- The initial writing of notes.
- Preparing for practical work.
- Re-writing lesson notes.
- Personal reflection, synthesis and review of previous learning.
- Preparation for formal assessments.
- The practising of skills.
- Additional reading and research, including e-research.
- The completion of formal "homework" & coursework tasks.
- Preparing for employment and Higher education.
- Undertaking Enrichment Activities.
- Completion of Extended Project Qualification.
Although the amount of work set by staff will vary a little from week to week, students should aim to spend at least twenty hours of each week on private study. This can beundertaken in the Sixth Form Library, the Sixth Form Study Room or in the Common Room during school time when not in lessons, and also at home.
All students that enrol in the Sixth Form begin their Extended Project Qualification in Year 12. Following taught skills lessons, students use timetabled lessons to begin their project. Work continues over the summer break.
Demands of A Level Study
It must be accepted from the beginning by all Sixth Form students that hard work and regular study is essential if they are to grow as ‘young adults’, attain their best examination results and benefit fully from the opportunities that a Sixth Form career provides. Students should aim to undertake at least forty hours of study each week, including the time spent in lessons. Intelligence is needed to cope with Sixth Form work but self-discipline, determination and stamina for the day-to-day demands of academic work is also required.
One of the biggest dangers and temptations to Sixth Formers is that they take on part-time jobs for more than 6-8 hours per week, thus depriving them of valuable spare time. Anything more than this is likely to be detrimental to academic success. A full-time student is more likely to be successful than one who is a part-time student.
Regular monitoring of students' effort, attendance and achievement is made enabling students, and their parents, to know exactly where they stand in relation to their target grades. This also enables staff to detect problems at an early stage and provide support and guidance in order to help students to overcome them.
There is more to life in the Sixth Form than academic work. There is the expectation that students will engage fully with enrichment activities and opportunities to “give something back to the school community” whether this is through helping others directly or by supporting the events and activities that are available. It is the contribution in this area that will remain in the memory of those who get to know the students and who will appreciate the contributions they make.
The Sixth Form at St Martin’s School offers only Advanced Level courses leading to G.C.E. A-Level qualifications, or their equivalent and BTEC courses, within a traditional school environment. Courses in approximately 30 A-Level courses are offered each year with a wider range of subject combinations available. The entry requirements ensure that students can embark their programmes with the expectation of success (details are provided in a different section of the website).
The Sixth Form at St Martin’s School offers one programme of study for all its students:
Three subject options studied to the first year of A Level subjects with end of year mock examinations if linear. (Four subjects are only an option if students choose Maths and Further Maths)
Enrichment Programme which includes:
- Sixth Form Conferences
- Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education
- Whole school enrichment activities
- Opportunity to study Critical Thinking or Creative Writing (if numbers allow)
Preparation for the Extended Project Qualification
Higher Education and Careers activities and conferences
Insight into Management Conference
Three subject options (four if taking Further Maths) studied to full A-Level standard with examinations in the summer.
Enrichment Programme which includes:
- Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education
- Whole school enrichment activities
Completion of the Extended Project Qualification
Extended Project Presentations in Spring Term
Higher Education and Employment Applications
How to select your course
Few people on leaving school will retain their first job for the rest of their working lives. Well-educated, well-disciplined and adaptable men and women, who are willing to be retrained and to move to wherever their talents or skills are needed, will be required by society in the future.
Employers regard qualifications gained at school as a reliable indication of intelligence and an ability to work hard. They seek good references concerning attendance, time keeping and reliability. At an interview they will look carefully at the standard of dress, at the ability to express themselves on serious issues and at their ability to relate to others.
Sixth Form study gives a young person time to develop intellectually, to gain greater maturity and confidence and to develop the social skills necessary in the outside world within a secure, familiar environment. Students have the opportunity to learn how to use their own time and think about the variety of opportunities available to them.
For these reasons the experience of Sixth Form is wider than the A-Level courses at the centre of each student’s individual Programme of Study. However, the selection of A-Level subjects is important and will influence the opportunities available to young people in the future, especially as they leave school and move on to full-time employment or Higher Education.
Identifying which subjects to study is not necessarily an easy task. Ideally the subjects selected should be ones in which the student has been successful and that they enjoy. However much a student has achieved at GCSE, if they do not enjoy or, if they positively dislike a particular subject, they are less likely to be successful at A-Level.
Some students have particular career pathways in mind and will need advice as to which A-Level subjects are required, or are a good preparation, for these careers or Higher Education courses. It is a good idea to research the alternatives before making the initial subject selection.
Within St Martin’s School, advice is available to Year 11 pupils from teaching staff and the Head of Year. Similar provision will be available in other schools. The University Admissions Website, www.ucas.co.uk, provides information about entry requirements and most professional bodies will also have a website. The choice of subject should be a positive one. Students are strongly advised not to select a subject because: “their friend is studying it” or “they like their teacher”.
The ability to work independently and to take responsibility for one’s own learning is highly valued by both future employers and by universities. A core element of the Sixth Form at St Martin’s School is for all students to undertake an individual research project: the Extended Project Qualification [EPQ].
The EPQ is a piece of personal research that requires students to plan, prepare, complete and present a project on a topic or theme of their own choosing but separate to their other A-Level examination work. Students will be assigned a staff mentor to guide, support and assess their work, which will be completed between April in Year 12 and December in Year 13. The project is valued as half an A-Level but is of A-Level, standard and will be graded A* - E for a successful project.
Whilst of educational value in itself, the undertaking of the project will give students a unique experience to refer to in job and university applications and discuss at interview. Many universities are welcoming the development of the EPQ and are adjusting their entry requirements accordingly. The successful completion of the project will help universities and employers differentiate between equally strong applicants and give an advantage in the competition for university places and jobs.
The EPQ is a research project of 5000 words. A student can include the production of an artefact, or event if they wish and reduce the word count to a minimum of 1000 words. Students must also present the finding of their work to an audience of their peers. The project is therefore an opportunity to undertake a piece of serious research, demonstrate written skills, planning and organisational skills, self-motivation and presentation skills.
Students will meet with their mentor in Year 12 to allow them time to consider and agree a suitable topic and for the planning process to begin. The written work will be completed and needs to be finished before any A-Level examinations. Many students will choose to do most of the work after the AS examinations are completed and will continue through the summer.
Presentations will take place following the completion of the work and results will be published alongside A-Level results and the award of the Baccalaureate.
Last year, many students found their offer from university was altered in their favour if they had completed a relevant EPQ.
The Sixth Form at St Martin’s School is committed to promoting personal development by giving its students the opportunity to take responsibility and to demonstrate leadership and other skills that are so attractive to future employers and universities.
The AQA Baccalaureate requires students to commit themselves to other activities, above and beyond A-Level study, across areas of Work-related Learning, Community Service and Personal Development. The Sixth Form Enrichment programme encourages and supports students in achieving these aims but it is unlikely that a student will meet the requirements of the Baccalaureate solely through activities completed in school.
Studying at Sixth Form level seeks to prepare young people for the transfer into Higher Education and employment by proving a framework within which they can explore personal interests and aspirations with regard to future career choices. Early in Year 12 an extensive Higher Education programme encourages students to research alternative choices and develop personal aims. Higher Education conferences and other activities, such as university taster courses, inform students and parents of the university application process and supports students in successfully securing an appropriate Higher Education placement. Similar support is available for those intending to enter employment directly from school and the Sixth Form works closely with the Connexions Service to assist students in identifying suitable career opportunities and in making successful applications.
There are many opportunities for students to become active members of both the school and the wider community either through direct involvement or by supporting Sixth Form activities to raise funds for charities such as: LEPRA, MacMillan and UNICEF. Many students give their time supporting the work of the Sixth Form, perhaps through the Sixth Form council, or assisting younger students by working with form and teaching groups or as student-mentors. In addition, the school is delighted to support student involvement in schemes such as Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme.
Personal development comes in many forms. For some this means taking the lead in organising a Sixth Form/school, club or other activity, for others it will include sport participation and coaching or involvement in artistic performances. Developing an awareness of world issues is a key theme of personal development in the Sixth Form at St Martin’s School and young people are challenged to think beyond their personal experience and develop an informed understanding of local, national and international issues. The series of Sixth Form Conferences, or ‘Focus Days’, present students with scenarios addressing dilemmas from areas of science, the arts, politics, belief systems and industry. The annual Insight into Management Conference provides an extended experience of the work environment from within a structured, stimulating but enjoyable framework. The Sixth Form (PSHE) programme provides information for young people as they develop into responsible adults through a programme of sex and health education, economic awareness and personal safety, particularly in relation to driving.