September 2015 will mark the start of some of the new Linear A levels which will change the pattern of assessment and may make the experience of the next generation of Sixth Formers rather closer to that enjoyed by their parents thirty years ago. Yet whatever the changes in curriculum or the examination system, the Sixth Form has always stood out as special: the culmination of a school career and a whole lot of fun, says Angela Drew, Headmistress at Bromley High School

The short term imperative of equipping Sixth Form students with the excellent qualifications they require for entry to the most prestigious courses at the most competitive universities is merely the starting point for two years from which resourceful, resilient and creative adults will emerge. The Sixth Form should present a rich variety of new experiences for students at that pivotal moment when they are beginning to define themselves socially, politically and intellectually and to discover those passions and enthusiasms which will shape and inspire their adult lives.

Making choices in Sixth Form

Individual choice, independent learning and personal responsibility are all essential to a Sixth Form curriculum which will enable students to develop aptitudes which will allow them to flourish at university and the world of work beyond. Sixth Formers should not only think for themselves but also choose for themselves both inside and outside the classroom.

Musical talent and sporting skills that have been nurtured for many years will only persist into adulthood if they are driven by choice, by independent interest and individual passion. Choice is the very essence of A level study. Despite the occasional agonising in Year 11 over A level option choices, it’s difficult to overstate the sheer intellectual excitement of studying your favourite subjects in uncompromising depth and rigour.

Building relationships

In my school, having occasional lunches with the Headmistress in her study is one of the more dubious privileges of Sixth Form life. When I asked the girls to reflect over the dessert on their experience in the Sixth Form, one said, “It’s so different. When you are in Year 11, everyone tells you that the Sixth Form will be different and you think that means drinking coffee in the Common Room and wearing you own clothes but it’s the way lessons change when you are in small groups and the way you relate to the teachers that make it really special.”

The emphasis on a mentoring relationship between teacher and student reflects the focus in the Sixth Form on nurturing individual talent at a personal level. Therefore, it is unsurprising that whilst some pupils will choose to make a fresh start in a new school for Sixth Form, the vast majority students choose to build on established relationships and existing achievements finding new freedoms and new responsibilities in the Sixth Form of their own school. And by Sixth Form, students do feel a sense of ownership of their school . They are its leaders – the first violin, the Captain of Hockey, the Head Prefect – and the fierce guardians of its most quirky traditions. Visitors should not be suspicious of the cheery self-confidence and enthusiasm that all Sixth Form guides seem to exude at school Open Days: it is utterly unfeigned; they are having the time of their lives., 020 8781 7025