The Director of a Harrogate school Sixth Form has emphasised the importance of attending open evenings before applying.
Jonathan Powell, from The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School, said attending information events gives students the chance to make informed decisions.
“This is the first-time students have a really free choice in what they study. It is really important they attend open evenings, so they can receive support in making the right decisions” he said.
Mr Powell said recent changes to exams meant it was more important than ever for students to be sure about the subjects they want to study.
“A Levels are now linear, so effectively you have two years of learning before a final exam which makes that decision even more important” he said.
Whether you are a parent or a teenager applying to Sixth Form there are several ways you can make the most of open evenings.
Here are some of our top tips on what to ask and what to look out for.
1. Do your research
Before attending open evenings, do your research and make a list of any follow-up questions you need answering on the night.
While it is important to keep an open mind, going in prepared will help to ensure you make the most of the evening.
2. Don’t be afraid to move
This year The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School welcomed over 130 students who had previously attended different schools.
“It is really common that students join us at Sixth Form level, they add to the vibrancy and diversity of the school” said Mr Powell.
“I think it is particularly important for those students to attend open evenings so that they can get a feel for the environment, culture and ethos. Talking to students who are already studying there could help you to get a feel for a Sixth Form.”
Transport doesn’t have to be a barrier either – The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School offers a bespoke bus service to help students travel to and from the school from the surrounding area.
3. Check the results
When considering your post-16 options look for consistently excellent results rather than just one year. Harrogate Grammar School has achieved record breaking exam success with an average of 60% of A Level grades being A*-B over six consecutive years.
4. Look at the subjects on offer
As noted, Sixth Form is the first-time teenagers have a true choice in what they are studying so it is important to look at the range on offer.
Look for a diverse range of subjects with knowledgeable teachers who are available to answer questions.
Mr Powell has these three pieces of advice for future students: “Select a subject that you genuinely really enjoy.
“Select a subject that you are also good at because then you can make significant progress and develop at the higher level of study expected at A Level.
Thirdly, “Make sure you select a subject that allows you to progress after Sixth Form to the next stage in your life.”
The open evening at Harrogate Grammar School is designed so that all 37 subjects on offer are represented by the teachers who are delivering the courses. There will be a 10 minute presentation for each subject which gives students the specific information they need to make the right choice.
However, attending open evenings can also open up new opportunities.
When Year 13 head student Phoebe Kyriakopoulos attended an open evening at The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School it helped her identify the academic path she wanted to take.
“The open evening was really useful as it helped me to understand the differences between GCSE and A Level,” she said.
“Before attending the evening, I had about six subjects in mind and the evening helped me narrow these down to the four I now study. The teachers gave all the important information in a simple, succinct way so that I could make the best choice for me.”
5. Look beyond the subjects
It is also important to consider what other opportunities a Sixth Form offers to help students develop and prepare for the next stage of their lives.
Are there active, student-led societies, leadership opportunities and a wide range of extra-curricular activities on offer?
Phoebe said one of the opportunities she has enjoyed most is working with Year 7 students to help them transition into the main school – something she believes is a strength for the school.
“There is a really broad range of opportunities in leadership, work experience, enrichment and extra-curricular activities” she said.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Take the chance to chat to current students at open evenings. Do they seem passionate and engaged? What do they enjoy?
Are teachers open to questions about the curriculum and how they meet each student’s learning needs?
7. Think about progression
What happens after Sixth Form is crucial, so check that there is a clear route to university, further education or apprenticeships. Find out if successful alumni visit to inspire current students and whether there is an active work-experience programme.
Mr Powell said a key thing to also look out for is whether the Sixth Form has a Quality in Careers Standard Award which recognises excellence in careers education, information and guidance.
The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School has this careers award and encourages excellence for all its students across 37 subjects, taught in world-class facilities.
An open evening on November 14 at 6.30pm will give potential students and parents the chance to get more course information and see the recently extended Sixth Form facilities.
For more information visit www.harrogategrammar.co.uk or call 01423 535235. We look forward to welcoming prospective students to our open evening.