Is Year 12 & 13 Sixth Form?

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When it comes to post-16 options, there are so many new and unfamiliar terms that can really confuse students. Sixth form? College? Sixth form college?

With all of these, it can be difficult to know what’s what and how they relate to the stages of education and other things, such as school years. In this article, we’ll clear all this up, so you’ll properly be able to understand how Year 12 and Year 13 relates to sixth form.

In short, Year 12 and Year 13 are the year groups of sixth form in England and Wales. However, the equivalent in Northern Ireland is Year 13 and Year 14 and the equivalent in Scotland is S5 and S6. While sixth form is mainly Year 12 and Year 13, there are alternative institutions, such as colleges, where Year 12 and Year 13 students can study, as well as alternative for the same age group to Year 12 and Year 13 altogether.

In the rest of this article, we’ll look more at what sixth form actually is and how this relates to Year 12 and Year 13. Plus, we’ll take you through what the alternatives to sixth form are and if Year 12 and Year 13 comes into these.

What is sixth form?

Before we can actually get into how Year 12 and Year 13 relate to sixth form, we first need to clear up what sixth form actually is.

In the UK, sixth form refers to somewhere that young people can study after they have finished their GCSEs or alternative qualifications in Year 11. This type of institution will generally offer A-Levels but may also offer vocational qualifications as well, such as BTECs.

Sixth forms will either be in the form of an extension to a secondary school or as a sixth form college. A sixth form college is where the sixth form is essentially a college and is independent of any school.

Regardless of the type of sixth form, they are still education institutions that allow students to do forms of further education. You can learn more about this by checking out this Think Student article.

For more on the exact definition of a sixth form, check out this page from the Worcestershire County Council.

What year group is sixth form?

As previously mentioned, sixth forms are a type of further education institution for students after they complete their GCSEs or alternative qualifications. Sixth forms will primarily provide education to students between the ages of 16 and 19, although under certain circumstances students may be slightly older or even slightly younger. However, the year groups that this translates to will slightly vary between the different countries in the UK.

In England and Wales, students typically complete their GCSEs at the end of Year 11. For more information about this, check out this Think Student article.

Due to this, sixth form is split into the year groups of Year 12 and Year 13. In certain circumstances sixth form students may also be in “Year 14”, although we’ll look at what this means later on in the article.

In Northern Ireland, the year groups are slightly different, so students typically complete their GCSEs at the end of Year 12, although this is the equivalent of Year 11 in England and Wales. Therefore, in Northern Ireland, sixth form is between the year groups of Year 13 and Year 14.

In Scotland, GCSEs aren’t done at all, however, their equivalent, National 5s and other National qualifications are done in S4. This means that sixth form in Scotland is between the year groups of S5 and S6. 

You can learn more about how the year groups match up across the UK by checking out this Think Student article.

Is Year 14 sixth form?

As previously mentioned, if you’re a student in Northern Ireland, your second year of sixth form will be known as Year 14, although it will still be the equivalent of Wales and England.

However, for students in England or Wales, who are repeating a year of sixth form or college, this will also be known as Year 14. How students would enter into doing Year 14 can happen in a few different ways.

You can look at the following list to see what these are and how they happen when it comes to sixth forms.

  • Repeating the first year of sixth form– If your first year doesn’t go quite as planned and either you or your teachers at sixth form don’t feel you’re ready to progress to the next year of your course, you will generally be allowed to repeat your first year. This may be due to your grades, having gone through certain circumstances, such as illness or bereavement during the year, or sometimes even a high level of absence.
  • Repeating the second year of sixth form- Once again, if this second year doesn’t go so well, you or your teachers may choose to not enter you into exams and prepare you to repeat the year, so that you’ll be ready for them in the following year. Once again, this could be due to a variety of reasons.
  • Retaking your exams at sixth form- If you did go through with your exams but didn’t get the grades you needed, you may still be able to repeat the year at your sixth form and then to retake the exams then.

Please note that this information is primarily based off my own knowledge of what I’ve seen when I was at sixth form. Due to this, it may vary slightly between different sixth forms as each have their own policies.

You can learn more about retaking your exams, such as A-Levels, by checking out this Think Student article.

Is sixth form compulsory?

No, sixth forms are not compulsory for students to go to in any part of the UK. However, for students in England, it is compulsory for them to be in some form of education until they are 18.

This doesn’t have to be done at a sixth form as there are plenty of alternatives that are still other suitable types of education providers. In fact, due to this, it is still not compulsory for students to complete Year 12 or Year 13. We’ll look at why this is more in the following section.

If students in England don’t continue their education post-GCSEs, there could be legal consequences and you may even be fined.

This is not the case for students in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, meaning that not only is sixth form not compulsory but also that no form of post-16 education is. 

For more information about whether or not sixth form is compulsory, check out this Think Student article.

What are the alternatives to sixth form?

As previously mentioned, you don’t have to go to sixth form or sixth form college. However, if you’re living in England, where it’s compulsory, or if you simply wish to stay in education, you might be wondering what other kinds of education provider you can go to.

The main alternative to sixth form is going to college. While sixth forms will generally be more academic and primarily offer qualifications like A-Levels, colleges tend to offer more vocational courses. These can vary greatly but may include T-Levels, NVQs/SVQs or BTECs, which you might not be able to study at a sixth form.

In college, students between the ages of 16- 18, will still be in Year 12 and Year 13, although it may not always be referred to as such.

Another alternative is getting an apprenticeship. With this, apprentices will be simultaneously in full-time education and full-time work, and it is officially classed as a form of education to meet the compulsory requirement.

As they’ll be in full-time work, apprentices aren’t particularly considered students and thus aren’t really in Year 12 and Year 13, even when they are between the ages of 16 and 18.

You can learn more about the alternatives to sixth form by checking out this Think Student article. For more on these alternative qualifications, check out this Think Student article.

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