Yorkshire parents: how to choose the right sixth form

The Head of a Harrogate school Sixth Form has emphasised the importance of attending open evenings before applying.

Choosing the right subjects is vital, says Harrogate Grammar's Neil Renton

Neil Renton, 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 Renton 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 100 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 Renton.

“I think it is particularly important for those students to attend open evenings.”

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 61% of A Level grades being A*-B over five consecutive years.

4. Look at the subjects on offer

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 Renton 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 35 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 Jem Reaney attended an open evening at The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School it set her on an entirely new academic path.

“I ended up choosing a subject I had never considered before,” she said. “I went to a talk and I was just infatuated with it.

“That was psychology which is now what I am going on to study at university.”

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?

Jem 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?

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 Renton said a key thing to 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 encourages excellence for all its students across 35 subjects, taught in world-class facilities.

An open evening on November 15 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.