Primary Navigation

Choosing Archbishop Ilsley Sixth Form

Choosing Archbishop Ilsley Sixth Form or a College of FE; what is the difference?

FE colleges, Sixth Form Colleges and school sixth forms are very different institutions, and they offer different opportunities. It is important to understand these differences.  

The following differences are just the tip of the iceberg, and could be seen as pros or cons depending on the individual student:

School sixth form

Teachers know students and have personal relationships that have developed over years
Smaller cohorts
Familiarity of school procedures and routines
Student free time is often more tightly bound
Discipline and disciplinary procedures are often enforced more strictly (as an extension of the lower school)
Familiar peers
The security of being a big fish in a small pond
Smaller offering of (often) more traditional courses (A Levels) as well as a smaller selection of vocational options.

FE College and Sixth Form College

Large and diverse student cohort (of background/age/experience)
A fresh start
Specialist teachers and lecturers who usually only focus on teaching one or two courses (as opposed to the many different courses/Key Stages that a secondary teacher could be delivering)
Freedom and independence
Students often expected to self-manage more/be more independent
Large range of academic and vocational courses and apprenticeships offered
Timetables and start/finish times may be different
More specialist resources and facilities available (especially for vocational courses)  
Many students will thrive in the college environment, taking more responsibility for their learning and enjoying the challenges of being part of a larger and more diverse cohort. However, other students are more likely to excel in the relative safety of the school environment, with teachers they know, and the routines they are used to.

Things to do now:

•    Use UCAS Progress – link on the School Sixth Form website
•    Speak to Mr Dougan for advice
•    Look up local institutions’ websites
•    National websites like:, The National Careers Service.
•    Go to college open days and get to know what they have to offer. Focus on:

The resources available (such as science labs, music studios, professional kitchens, sports facilities and theatres)
the courses offered, and what they consist of – use this as an opportunity to quiz the staff: how are the courses structured? How big are the class sizes? What is the contact time? How many different teachers deliver the courses? What is the balance between exam and practical work? Where could the courses lead and are they valued by employers? Have students been tracked after completing the course? In which case, what have they gone on to do? Is there a good track record of progression and retention on these courses?