John Russell, Headmaster of Colchester Royal Grammar School, discusses why joining a new school in the Sixth Form is a good idea

Joining a new Sixth Form might seem a challenge, but it is also an exciting opportunity and could have huge benefits. Importantly, it will be the first time that your child will have made their own decision about where they want to study and be fully invested in the opportunity; possibly as a result of their own research, their own visit and via conversations with current and former students. At Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS) we have single entry in Year 12 to our Sixth Form and welcome around 50% of new students, joining from both local and international schools. A third of all Sixth Former students here at the school are female.

Starting Sixth Form at a new school is an exciting prospect, and here at CRGS the school becomes co-ed and offers quite a different dynamic. The Sixth Form areas are separate, the uniform is business attire, and this stands out against the sea of purple blazers worn by the lower school. We encourage a work hard: play hard mentality and, while there is a huge focus on academic studies, there are plenty of opportunities for ‘play’ including producing school productions, performing in orchestra and musical ensembles, representing the school in debates, on the sports field and light-hearted events – including the aptly named ‘Fun Fridays’. These timetabled breaks see Sixth Formers take part in a range of non-academic activities including karaoke, salsa, ballroom dancing, dodgeball, ‘just dance’ fun and countdown-style competitions.

All Sixth Formers should have an active voice in how a school is run, be able to voice new ideas, to organise and lead school societies and be ambassadors for the school. Our Senior Prefect Team is comprised of 15-20 Sixth Formers chosen via interviews with the school’s Senior Leadership Team in the Spring Term. The prefect team is led by the School Captain, supported by Head students and prefects. These students have regular meetings with me and are not only a voice for the Sixth Form but also support the running of the school, with working roles at open evenings and other public-facing events.

“The Sixth Form areas are separate, the uniform is business attire – we encourage a work hard: play hard mentality”

Many Sixth Formers lead school societies and fundraising and outreach campaigns. One hugely successful fundraising campaign was our ‘Cultural Day’. All students and staff wore their cultural dress in exchange for a small financial donation to the chosen charity, and the school was transformed for the day. The event broadened friendships, raised money for good causes, as well as helping our students to have a better understanding of the world. 

We are in a unique position as a leading state grammar school to accommodate boarders in two family-style boarding houses on our grounds. Pupils come from varied backgrounds and our boarders have a worldwide outlook, with many arriving from as far afield as Hong Kong and Dubai. One boarder who has recently left to study at Cambridge University, said, “I think boarding has amplified my potential, and set me up well for the next stage of my life: university. It feels less daunting living in a new city, new people and all by myself, well I’ve done that once so I can do it again”.

All schools endeavour to support students in a broad range of extracurricular activities because it’s a great way to encourage existing and new students to mix. While CRGS prides itself on outstanding A level results, in the Sixth Form we focus on dovetailing academic success with extracurricular endeavours. These bring the school community together, and encourage independence, resilience and ambition in the individual.

Colchester Royal Grammar School

Further reading: Forward College on studying abroad