Tim Head, Deputy Director of Admissions at Wellington College, on the changes sixth form life brings, and what students can expect

Life in the Sixth Form is very different to a student’s previous experience. Chief among the changes is their ability to choose which subjects they want to study, but smaller class sizes, greater freedom over uniform, and a collaborative relationship with their teachers create a bridge to higher education.

And perhaps that is the best way to see Sixth Form life – as a genuine bridging post between school and university and adult life beyond. Most students will find their experience of the classroom changes quite significantly, with the smaller average class sizes ensuring a more bespoke and personal involvement with a greater emphasis on discussion. At Wellington many of the classes adhere to the Harkness method, with students and teacher seated round an oval table – the students effectively running the session having researched a topic in order to answer a specific question posed to them before the lesson.

In addition to the communal areas in their boarding houses, our students are soon to enjoy a new Sixth Form Centre – a three-storey building with social space on the ground floor, spilling out onto a new courtyard. On the first floor, pods for small group study and individual workspace for up to 100 will give somewhere to study beyond the library and their rooms. The first and second floors will bring together the Careers, Universities and Higher Education Departments, as well as office and meeting space. This inclusive, multi-purpose facility, scheduled to open in 2024, will enable all Sixth Formers to meet, relax, work, receive support and plan for life beyond Wellington – all in one place.

“The two years between taking GCSEs and leaving school are perhaps the most formative of all in a young person’s journey to adulthood”

A team of specialist advisers ensure that Sixth Formers receive expert guidance in the application process – from choosing courses and universities to writing their personal statements. In the Lower Sixth, pupils undergo a full UCAS induction programme and have the opportunity to attend the annual University Fair held on campus. This event is attended by leading universities and gives both pupils and parents the opportunity to speak directly with admissions tutors. Specific days at the end of the Lower Sixth are dedicated to UCAS preparation and university visits. There is also a dedicated US University team, giving guidance on Stateside Universities and SATS, as well as welcoming Admissions Officers from a variety of institutions.

Wellingtonians are also supported in their career aspirations by a Careers and Higher Education Department that oversees work placements, careers lectures, university fairs, and gap year opportunities. The Wellington Community Office matches Sixth Formers’ career aspirations with relevant Old Wellingtonians and parents who can offer valuable advice, support and work experience.

Perhaps the biggest change for the Sixth Former is the sense that they are more actively involved in the day-to-day running of the school and a part of the decision-making process. Whether it be taking on responsibility for running student-led clubs and societies or becoming part of the pupil leadership team, they are encouraged to understand that the very best way to lead is to serve.

The two years between taking GCSEs and leaving school are perhaps the most formative of all in a young person’s journey to adulthood, and all the very best schools are alive to the need to provide a richly dynamic Sixth Form curriculum, both in the classroom and beyond.

Wellington College wellingtoncollege.org.uk

Further reading: Sibford School on cool co-learning for sixth formers