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The Purpose of Sixth Form and College

After completing your GCSEs, the next step for thousands of students across the nation is to go to sixth form or college. This in itself can be a daunting move, and it can be unclear what exactly students can expect from this next stage of their education.

Many schools in the UK offer sixth form provision as a continuation from Key Stage 4, running courses which are designed to follow on from GCSEs after Year 11. Some students however may move on to a sixth form college instead, which can be a different learning environment entirely.

What to expect with sixth form and college

Both college and sixth form offer two different experiences but with the same fundamental goal – to better your education. Many student choose to stay on after their GCSEs and take their A-levels or additional qualifications in the traditional school setting, while others opt for a new college environment.

Sixth forms can prove to be an excellent continuation of your existing education, allowing you to deep-dive further into the subjects you are most interested in. This ability to pick specialisms can provide a solid foundation for the future, whether that’s university, an apprenticeship, or work experience.

Like sixth forms, most colleges offer A-levels, but also offer a number of other qualifications available in different subjects, and at different levels. These are often accompanied with practical, hands-on sessions, away from the more formal schooling methods.

The difference between sixth form and college

One of the main differences between sixth form and college is usually the timetable. At school, you may not have much free time, although there are often ‘free’ periods where you can spend time researching or studying. In other instances, you can use this time to further your CV through a work experience placement, allowing you to gain insight into the world of work.

At college, depending on your course, things may be organised differently – with several hours between lessons/workshops. There is also the potential to have days off during the week with no lessons to attend, however, these are intended for homework or study. Furthermore, at college, it’s sometimes possible to study on a part-time basis, allowing greater flexibility between free time and education. Keep in mind though that this may mean courses take longer to complete.


You will find that at college there is a wider variety of students from a greater range of ages, backgrounds and interests, creating quite a different learning environment. In sixth form, students all tend to be the same age, between 17-18 years old, and studying a similar group of subjects.

Tutors and teaching staff are likely to be different too. In sixth form, you will likely already be familiar with the teaching staff, having built a rapport with them in the years leading up to your A-levels. College staff will be new to you and can take a more relaxed approach; it is not uncommon to be on a first name basis with course tutors.

Fundamentally, the purpose of both sixth form and college is the same – to prepare, predominantly young people, for the world of work by bettering their skill set or preparing them for higher education.

So what is the right choice for you?

As always, talk to family, friends, school staff and your careers adviser, and make sure you have all the information you need before making any decisions. Attend college and sixth form open days, and ask questions to find out what it’s really like to study there.

Colleges tend to treat students more like young adults; you won’t be told where to be all the time or what to wear. However, this form of learning doesn’t suit everyone. Some students prefer a more structured learning environment, rather than have the added pressure of being left to organise themselves.

It is most important that, wherever you do choose to study, you apply yourself to the very best of your ability. If moving up to higher education is still a long way off for you, or your child, then why not come and visit us at North Bridge House on one of our upcoming open mornings? We would be delighted to welcome you and help answer any questions you may have.

There are many advantages to choosing to study your A-levels at our senior school and sixth form campus, North Bridge House Senior Canonbury. Our staff are dedicated to understanding teens, and to adopting research-informed teaching methods to get the best out of them. With our excellent pastoral care team and enrichment opportunities, as well as programmes like World of Work, we enhance pupils’ academic and personal development and help shape their futures. If you would like to learn more, you can get in touch by visiting our contact us page.

North Bridge House Schools

Nursery & Pre-Prep School Contact Numbers

Nursery general number
020 7267 6266 Option 1
Pre-Prep general number
020 7267 6266 Option 2
Admission number
020 7428 1520

Prep School Contact Numbers

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020 7267 6266 Option 3
Admission number
020 7428 1520

Senior Hampstead Contact Numbers

General number
020 7267 6266 Option 4
Admission number
020 7428 1520

Senior Canonbury Contact Numbers

General number
020 7267 6266 Option 5
Admission number
020 7428 1520

North Bridge House Schools

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