A Level Subjects
The school recommends three A Level subjects, or two A Levels plus Maths and Further Maths. The majority of pupils also complete an EPQ. Some students considering applying for highly competitive universities such as Oxford or Cambridge should talk to the Head of Sixth Form if they would like to consider four subjects without Further Maths. It is not possible to timetable four subjects plus an EPQ.
All Sixth Formers should be starting their A Level studies confident in the knowledge that they have properly researched the subjects they want to study, feel able to perform to a very high level in them, and will enjoy learning the subject material. A small minority of pupils start the autumn term of Lower Sixth on four subjects as a way of making a firm choice, but the choice of three subjects should be finalised as soon as possible and no later than October half term.
Requests to change A Level subjects in Lower Sixth should only be made in exceptional circumstances and certainly before October half term. A Levels are effectively a five-term course, and a significant proportion of A Level content is covered early on in Lower Sixth. Pupils should speak to the Head of Sixth Form and/or the Head of Lower Sixth as soon as possible if they are considering a change of subject. As with original A Level choices this will need confirmation from parents and from the Director of Studies, who oversees the A Level blocking system.
Independent Study Expectations and Study Periods
Students will receive six lessons per A Level subject per week, plus timetabled sessions for EPQ in the Lower Sixth. Sixth Formers are expected to complete at least 4 hours of independent study per subject per week. As well as completing set homework tasks, it is important to ‘read around’ the subject and go back through notes and materials. For a student studying three A Levels in a typical week it is possible to complete almost all of this work in study periods by using the study time effectively. All subjects should be given equal attention.
In Lower Sixth all students are expected to study in the silent study floor for all study periods until at least Christmas, to establish good study habits. Upper Sixth students should dedicate two periods per week as a minimum to work in the silent study floor. Students should sign in on the silent study floor, as a record of attendance is kept by the Sixth Form supervisors.
Heads of Year and form tutors will monitor how pupils are using their study periods, and may require students to continue to attend silent study for some or all study periods until good study habits are established.
The Library is predominantly a base for pupils in Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4, as Sixth Formers have dedicated study space in the Sixth Form Centre. The Quiet Zone outside the Library is managed by the Learning Support team as an area for those with particular permission to use it. This is not a space for social use. Any Sixth Former who wishes to study regularly in the Library or Quiet Zone should speak to their Head of Year.
Advice is available from our experienced Sixth Form team in planning and preparing for revision and also organising time throughout the year. Mr Ryan, sixth form supervisor, is available for 1:1 academic mentoring, which can either be requested by pupils, or recommended by teaching and pastoral staff. Please speak to Miss Tedd or your Head of Year if you feel this will be beneficial.
Parents’ evenings, reports and classroom performance are all used in conjunction with Exam predictions from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University to monitor progress through the Sixth Form. All students will sit a baseline test (‘ALIS’ test) at the beginning of Year 12 which cannot be revised or prepared for. We analyse pupil progress using a range of measures including these baseline tests, which offer useful indications of pupils who are making especially strong progress, and those who need additional support or a reminder about work ethic.
Tutors discuss progress at regular intervals on a 1:1 basis drawing on all of this information in this discussion.
Lower Sixth examinations take place immediately before half term in the summer term, over the course of one week.
Upper Sixth mock A Level examinations take place at the start of the spring term, normally over the course of ten days.
Students have flexibility about whether they wish to revise at home or in school during exam periods, and parents will be asked to let us know plans in advance so we can accurately register students.
Academic concerns and progression to A Levels
Students are encouraged to speak to their subject teachers directly in the first instance if they would like further clarity on particular topics or have concerns more generally about their academic progress. As soon as any significant academic concerns arise the school will contact parents, and should parents want to raise an academic concern they should contact the Head of Year or Head of Sixth Form in the first instance. We also advise that parents should contact school if there is anything we need to be aware of which may adversely a student’s performance.
Where pupils are achieving low grades at formal checkpoints – particularly the Lower Sixth exams and Upper Sixth mock exams - or have missed significant amounts of the A Level course, the Head of Sixth Form and Deputy Head Academic will make contact with parents and pupils and discuss next steps individually. This will involve academic support to improve understanding and exam outcomes, but options may also include further chances to sit practice exams. If pupils are consistently not engaging with the academic provision of the school then further conversations will take place about the best route forward for the pupil.
Balancing academic and other commitments
As a member of the Sixth Form you will have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities. We fully support such participation and would want this to be integral to your Sixth Form experience. Similarly, we are aware that many of our Sixth Formers have paid employment outside school, which is great experience in many ways. However, the priority remains your A Level studies. We expect all pupils to be up to date, to meet deadlines, and to organise their time such that they balance academic work with participation in extra-curricular activities.
We provide space in the timetable for additional elements such as Health, Fitness and Wellbeing (one double period per week), PSHEE (one period per week in Lower Sixth, one period per fortnight in Upper Sixth) and Friday afternoon activities. The school values these elements greatly, and gives regular school time to them to promote students’ sense of balance and wellbeing. We ask that parents and pupils do not request to use this time to meet academic deadlines.