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Choosing the right sixth form education for your child

Education remains a top motivation for moving, with 36% of respondents citing good schools as a key driver for making the decision to up sticks [Strutt & Parker – Residential Housing Trends (struttandparker.com)]. Whilst you may have a comprehensive checklist of what you want from your future home, do you know what should be on your educational wish list when choosing your child’s next school?

To help shed some light, we sit down with James Bamforth, Head of Sixth Form at Pangbourne College, to get some top tips on how to select a new sixth form.

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Why is it so important to find a sixth form that suits your child?

Sixth form is the time when students take ownership of their own learning and shape their future beyond school. Life inside and outside the classroom should take on a different, more independent and more rewarding perspective, as students immerse themselves in their chosen subjects. Not only will this help with applications for higher education or apprenticeships and boost employability, but it’s also vital for preparing for life beyond school.

What should you consider when looking for a sixth form?

Not just about academic results

We all know that academic results are important when choosing a sixth form but it’s also important to look beyond the classroom and consider a school or college’s wider offering. Make sure you ask the right questions: Are they promoting personal development? Will they look after mental wellbeing? Will this be the best stepping-stone for preparing for life beyond education?

Look to select a school that can offer a wealth of co-curricular and enhancement opportunities

These extra activities allow children to leave school with a broader range of skills and interests and to experience things that may not be available to them in their current school.

Pastoral Support

Consider an establishment that has excellent pastoral care, so you know your child will get the support they need to see them through the pressures of sixth form life. Mental wellbeing is crucial, especially at this important milestone in a young person's life, so a school that is equipped to deal with the challenges that young people face today is essential.

Co-curricular activities

Look for a sixth form that puts emphasis on building teamwork and leadership, self-esteem and resilience, as these are the behaviours and characteristics that help to promote personal development. These skills often enhance academic performance through improved confidence which in turn, helps students achieve better results. They also prove advantageous for university or apprenticeship applications and for applying for jobs, all of which can be highly competitive.

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How do you know that a school will develop positive characteristics in your child?

Things to look out for include programmes such as:

  • Peer mentoring - This gives students a sense of responsibility not only for themselves but also in taking charge over the care of others. It also creates an ethos of care and kindness in the school.
  • Community service / volunteering - These activities enable students to develop real-world skills, such as problem solving, leadership, communication, time management and teamwork. Skills like these can be of great benefit to students both academically and emotionally.
  • Networking / careers support - This helps with communication and allows students to gainadvice from professionals in the fields they’re interested in, as well providing a chance to forge links for future work experience opportunities.
  • Co-educational learning - Moving to a co-educational environment enables students to increase their interpersonal development.
  • Teaching style – You may want to find a school that offers smaller class sizes, as it's likely to lead to more dedicated time and attention from teachers. Students will also be more likely to have the space to share their ideas and ask questions, which also benefits their peers.

There can be advantages to choosing an alternative sixth form, so it’s worth taking the time to assess your options if your child’s current school isn’t catering to their needs.

About Pangbourne College

Pangbourne College is an independent, co-educational boarding and day school for pupils aged 11-18 in West Berkshire. Our next event for families considering their options for Sixth

Form will take place during our Open Morning on Saturday 24 September. Booking is essential: www.pangbourne.com/visit


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