If you choose to carry on in full time education after Year 11 you will be taking part in further education. You may go to a school sixth form, a sixth-form college, or a further education college. Further education courses are generally up to the standard of A-level or Level 3.
Staying on for further education at school or college is free, unless you go to a fee-paying school. There are no course or exam fees, but there are costs such as travel, books, paper and pens, and other course related costs. You may be able to get help with your learning costs, for full details on the money available see our 16-19 finance page.
School Sixth Form
You might be thinking of staying on at school after Year 11. Lots of schools have sixth forms and you don't have to have attended the school in Year 11 in order to join it.
School sixth forms are generally quite small but can vary in size and in the range of courses they can offer you. Sixth forms can range from between 100 and 400 students. The courses and subjects on offer will depend on the size of the sixth form. Some schools will have arrangements with other local schools or colleges so they can give you a wider choice and more options.
Sixth Form College
After Year 11 you might be thinking of going to college. A sixth form college is more informal than a school sixth form and because they are usually bigger they are able to offer you a wider range of options.
At college you will be a student, so with support, you will be expected to manage your own time and deadlines. This will give you the opportunity to learn new skills that you might need at university or in the workplace.
Generally colleges offer mostly full time courses such as AS and A level programmes. But you can also study general courses, vocational courses and occupational courses (usually day-release) such as BTEC, OCR and NVQ courses.
FE colleges are usually larger than sixth form colleges. What they provide can vary a lot, depending on what else is on offer locally. Some FE colleges have more than one site and some have separate 'sixth form centres'. Most students at FE colleges are over 16, some will be adult students. All colleges publish free prospectuses that have information about the facilities and the courses on offer.
Students with Disabilities
Most schools and colleges have a Disability Statement. The statement sets out their policy for disabled students. If you ask them they will send it to you. They have to make sure that their disabled students are treated as well as non-disabled students. Visit the Skill website for more info on students with disabilities.
Colleges usually have open days that you can go to. These are great opportunities to go along, see what a college is like, meet tutors and other students and have a look around and ask lots of questions. Contact colleges or look on their websites to find out when their open days are.
This is an important decision so make sure you go along and have a good look round and ask lots of questions.
Colleges and Sixth Form Performance: Test Results and Ofsted Reports
Every year the Department for Education publishes information on the achievement and attainment of all schools, sixth forms and colleges. These performance tables provide a guide to how well a sixth form or college is doing.
Sixth form and college results are presented in Post 16 tables which include:
- AS and A levels
- Key Skills at level 3
- Advanced Extension Awards
- other vocational qualifications
Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) is responsible for inspecting and publishing reports on colleges and sixth forms, similar to those for primary and secondary schools. Inspection reports provide you with detailed information on the performance of individual institutions, pointing out strengths and weaknesses of each. Find Achievement and Attainment Tables for sixth forms and colleges.
Ofsted reports and test results will not give you a complete picture of a sixth form or college, but they may help you to form a fuller impression of the sixth form or college you are considering. It's important to go to open days, read prospectuses, and think about the courses on offer when you are choosing a college or sixth form. Find Ofsted reports for sixth forms and colleges.
The Skills Funding Agency website allows you to search for FE colleges, sixth forms and other post-16 learning providers by typing in your postcode. It will show you all the ones in your local area (a five mile radius). You can find out about their scores in four key performance areas:
- success rates
- learner destinations
- learner views
- employer views
You can compare the scores of up to 10 different FE providers.