Should I go to college or stay on at school sixth form?

Many schools now offer courses to follow on from your GCSEs. If you’re reading this you’re most likely considering moving to a sixth form college instead.

A college offers a different learning environment to what you’d experience at a school sixth form, which is why some students choose to do their studies at college. You might notice that usually, the range of courses offered at college is much wider, including A levels and vocational qualifications (using a more practical approach than A levels). Not all colleges offer the same choice of subjects, so it’s important to check what’s available.

One difference between school and college is your timetable. At college, there could be a number of hours between your lessons, though efforts are made to avoid this. You might not have to attend for a full day every day, and some days may be longer than others. Sensible students use their free time to study!

Teachers are also different and sometimes look just like students. Some work full-time and are easy to get hold of if you have any problems; other are part-time and may only be in for their actual teaching hours. You’ll have academic tutors who can help with any study problems you have, and with any other issues to do with college life. Unlike school, there isn’t a dress code.

What do the levels mean?

Level 1 qualifications are pretty basic, providing an introduction to a subject and particular industry. Examples include BTEC Introductory Certificates and OCR Nationals, which are roughly equivalent to GCSEs gained at grades D to G. You’d need qualifications at this level before progressing to Level 2.

Level 2 qualifications, for example a BTEC First provide a deeper understanding of a subject and are roughly equivalent to GCSEs at grades A* to C. Most employers like their staff to have at least a Level 2 qualification.

Level 3 qualifications include A and AS levels, BTEC Nationals, Advanced and Progression Diplomas. This level is almost always required for entry to university and many employers want applicants to have a Level 3 qualification if they are to do technical or supervisory roles.

Levels 4-8 are classed as higher rather than further education. These include Foundation Degrees, HND/HNC courses, Honours degrees and postgraduate or professional qualifications. Stanmore College delivers some of these and has excellent links with universities and industry to help students who want to progress further.

If you’re unsure, staff at college or school will be able to advise you which level is right for you, depending on what you have achieved previously. Open days are a good opportunity to check out colleges, schools and what they offer, but you can always call up and ask questions or email to find out. If it’s Stanmore you are contacting, the email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A Level Study Programme
Vocational Study Programmes

So, is college for me?

It’s always best to check out all your options, talk to friends, family, teachers in both a college and at school, and in particular your careers advisor to ensure that you have all the information you need to make the right decision.

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