5 Attributes of a Successful Sixth Form that Prepares its Students for the Future
Who will best prepare your Sixth Form student for life beyond school? St George’s, Ascot, an independent all-girls’ boarding and day school in Berkshire, UK helps families to work out what to look for if you have a bright future in mind.
1. Choose a Sixth Form with Strong Value Added
This may seem like a no brainer but it is amazing how many students choose A Level subjects on the basis of perceived future benefit rather than on either interest or capability. What is worse is when schools encourage and allow their students to do so! Students need the best grades to access the right qualifications for them as individuals, so, given the direct correlation between enjoyment, motivation and learning efficiency, look for a Sixth Form with a strong value added percentage that focuses on individual academic improvement rather than on their potential contribution to a school statistic
At St George’s, students benefit from small class sizes and strong relationships with their teachers. With an incredibly wide choice of A Level subjects for a school of its size, students are able to select subjects to suit their future ambitions. With post A Level choices as varied as Interior Design through to Medicine, the world is certainly these students’ oyster. One Sixth Form student explained, “No-one is pushing you to be someone you are not or apply to somewhere you don’t want to go. Teachers say to us ‘You tell us what you want and we will help you to get there.” St George’s, Ascot is consistently in the top 5% of the UK for value added, a percentage to look for if you’re looking for Sixth Form success.
2. Choose a Sixth Form that Provides Good Information on Post A Level Options
Post A Level options are constantly evolving so look for a Sixth Form that provides information on every available option in a timely manner to allow students to make an informed choice.
The Sixth Form team at St George’s provide a thorough ‘SGA Prepared’ programme to ensure students have explored every avenue before their UCAS form, or overseas or alternative application, is submitted. Teaching experts in a wide variety of subjects advise on further education opportunities within their specific fields. GAP providers such as Raleigh, GAP 360 and Mercy Ships speak to students about national and international opportunities for service. Specialists from UES Education help students engage with applications to study in the US and at international universities and the School makes full use of Unifrog, an online platform that guides students through the university application process. A wide range of alumnae are invited back to St George’s to speak to students both to give insight into university life but also to talk about opportunities in the workplace. As one Sixth Form leaver put it “there was no stone left unturned when it came to our UCAS applications”
3. Choose a Sixth Form that offers a Balanced Education
Students commonly fixate on grades and perceive their worth in terms of the letters A*-U. Yet, with the academic differential between students narrowing with each year, our Sixth Form graduates need to stand out as individuals rather than merely as academic automatons. Life is more than study and a successful Sixth Form will work as hard to build skills and experiences outside of the classroom as it does within.
Balance is central to a St George’s education. Deputy Head (Co-Curricular and Connections), Alex Wright explained, “We want to provide our girls with experiences and opportunities that will give them more than just an academic grade but also the tools to create their desired future.” In a recent interview with leavers from 2020, one student agreed that being able “to balance all aspects of life ranging from work to hobbies, relaxing time to co-curricular involvement; this was how St George’s prepared me for life!”
The school offers anextensive co-curricular program within its school day; from Acro to Futsal, Dissection Club to Modern United Nations, whole school performing arts productions to Life Drawing, there is vast opportunity for Sixth Form students to explore new interests and develop as individuals. A current Lower Sixth student observed;
“The Sixth Form (at St George’s) is not only about being academically successful, it’s about taking advantage of the opportunities you are provided with and leaving at the end of Sixth Form with skills and qualities that will stay with you for the rest of your life.”
Lower Sixth Pupil
4. Choose a Sixth Form that Connects Students with the Real World
Independent schools are commonly accused of ‘bubble wrapping’ their students so look for a Sixth Form that helps its students to constantly think outside of themselves and their current experience. Opportunities to think ‘up and out, not down and in’ are invaluable preparation for further education.
The Diversity & Inclusion work at St George’s is strong evidence of a culture that lauds individuality and incorporates inclusion within every aspect of school life. The pupil-led Diversity and Inclusion group is one of a number that give students from all years the opportunity to engage with the world beyond school. Students from the Environmental Committee contribute to the school’s environmental strategy and have petitioned the local council to protect woodland bordering on school grounds, and students annually vote on a local, national and international charity to support, organising a programme of fundraising events in support of these throughout the year. With a healthy programme of local and community-based service available to each year group, students are constantly challenged to think beyond school boundaries.
As one 2020 leaver reflected, “Sixth Form at St George’s gave me the opportunity to realise how the real world would be even though I was in a small school. It’s given me independence whilst also giving me support.”
Recent Sixth Form Alumna
5. Choose a Sixth Form that Works on ‘Soft’ Skills
When making a decision about a Sixth Form, many families speak of a ‘gut feeling’ often based on a collection of personal interactions with the students themselves. As one parent put it, “When we were shown around St George’s by one of the girls we were struck by a sense of this school being quite special. The girls seemed so self-assured and confident, they were friendly and happy. This is what we want for our girls.” The proof of the pudding really is in the eating so make time, if you are able, to visit your short list and get beneath the surface of a school’s prospectus to discover the character of its students.
TJ, a Sixth Form leaver from 2020 reflected, “the greatest gift St George’s gave me was confidence. There are a million opportunities at university and coming from the school that I did has given me the confidence in myself to try new things and go for any role.” Leadership opportunities are woven into school life from the early years and develop through a strong House system and also in positions of responsibility within the Arts, in Sport and ultimately within the Upper Sixth Prefect body. Students at St George’s perform in Open Mic Nights, they work alongside local primary school children to help with literacy, they stand up in court in Mock Bar Trials and debate at Modern United Nations conferences. Building confidence alongside capability is at the core of the school’s ethos and Head, Liz Hewer, believes is one of the significant benefits of an all girls education.
Resilience, diligence and tenacity are all qualities students need to be well prepared for the future. Look for a Sixth Form that is not frightened to allow its students to fail. Look for one that has a tried and tested network of support to help students get back up again. For St George’s this is found in the tutor room, the classroom, the Health Centre, with the peer group mentor and in the strength of connection between students.
“Girls don’t fall through the cracks at St George’s. Our provision is not a safety net with loads of holes in it, it’s a trampoline that bounces our students straight back on track.”
To find out more about the Sixth Form provision at St George’s, Ascot and to meet our students in person, do email our Admissions department.