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In the English, Welsh and Northern Irish education systems, Commonwealth West Indian countries such as Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and Malta, the sixth form (or Key Stage 5) is the final (optional) two years of secondary schooling when students are sixteen to eighteen years of age and normally prepare for their A-level examinations. The term is used to describe the final two years spent in a secondary school as opposed to a sixth form college (UK use) where students start at age sixteen after leaving secondary school.

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England and Wales

The first five years of English secondary schooling were previously known as forms. Pupils started their first year of secondary school in the first form or first year, and this was the year in which pupils would normally become 12 years of age. Pupils would move up a form each year before entering the fifth form in the year in which they would have their sixteenth birthday. Those who stayed on at school to study for A levels moved up into the sixth form, which was divided into the Lower Sixth and the Upper Sixth. In some private schools, the term Middle Sixth was used in place of Upper Sixth, with the latter being used for those who stayed on for an extra term to take the entrance examinations that were previously set for candidates to Oxford or Cambridge universities. Other schools described these Oxbridge examination students as being in the Seventh Form.

The system was changed for the 1990-1991 academic year and school years are now numbered consecutively from primary school onwards. Year 1 is the first year of primary school after Reception. In Northern Ireland, the equivalent of "Reception" is "P1", and the equivalent of the English Year 1 "P2". The first year of secondary school (the old first form) is now known as Year 7 (Year 8 in Northern Ireland). The Lower Sixth is now Year 12 and the Upper Sixth is Year 13 (years thirteen and fourteen in Northern Ireland). However, the term Sixth Form has still been retained as a vestige of the old system and is used as a collective term for years 12 and 13. Public (fee-charging) schools, together with a few state schools, tend to use the old system of numbering.

In some parts of the country, special "sixth form colleges" were introduced beginning in the 1960s, recognising this as a particularly important phase of student life. A large proportion of English secondary schools no longer have an integral sixth form. This is mainly related to reforms in the later 20th century, where different political areas became a factor in the introduction of colleges instead of the original sixth forms. There are now numerous sixth form colleges throughout England and Wales.

Sixth form is not compulsory in England and Wales, however university entrance normally requires 4 AS's (obtained in the lower sixth) and 3 A2's. Students usually select four subjects from the GCSE's they have just taken, for one "AS" year, the AS exams being taken at the end of lower sixth. Three subjects are then carried into the A2 year and further exams are taken at the end of that year. The marks attained in both sets of exams are converted into UCAS points, which must meet the offer made by the student's chosen university.

Scotland

In the Scottish education system the final year of school is usually known as Sixth Year or S6. During this year students typically study Advanced Higher and/or Higher courses in a wide range of subjects. SQA exams at the end of both S5 and S6. As in the rest of the United Kingdom, pupils in Scotland may leave once they have reached the age of 16, though allowances are made. Those who reach 16 before the 30th of September may leave after national examinations in May, whilst those who are 16 by the end of February may leave the previous Christmas. In England a person must stay on until the last Friday on June in the year they turn 16 (they must finish year 11). Many England pupils are nearly 17 when they finish.

It is not essential for candidates to do a Sixth year if they wish to attend a Scottish university; so long as they have obtained adequate Higher grades in fifth year they may apply and receive acceptance, though this is conditional on being successful in the examinations. The vast majority of Scottish students return for S6 if they plan to attend university. Some English universities will also accept Scottish students who have obtained adequate Higher grades in fifth year. It was announced in December 2008 that, as from 2010, UCAS will increase the number of points awarded to those who achieve Highers and Advanced Highers. [1]

In some cases, particularly in independent schools, the term 'sixth form' is also used for the last two years of secondary education. An increasing number of independent schools are offering their students the International Baccalaureate Programme.

Other countries

In some secondary schools in India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, the sixth and seventh years are called Lower and Upper Six(th).

Similarly, the term Sixth Form is also used to define the final two years of education before entering the University in Malta.

In Singapore, however, the equivalent of a sixth form college would be called a junior college where pupils take their Cambridge GCE 'A' Levels after 2 years.

In some American college preparatory schools, such as Ethical Culture Fieldston School and The Church Farm School, sixth form refers to the final year of education prior to college. It is the equivalent of twelfth grade in the U.S. education system.

Notes

  1. ^ BBC News Website

See also

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