On the final day of our study trip, we visit a sixth form college in the east London borough of Newham.
A sixth form college is an English educational institution where students ages 16 to 19 typically study for advanced school-level qualifications, known as A-levels, with designs on achieving admission to university.
Until quite recently (2013), education was only compulsory in England until the end of year 11, the school year in which a student turns 16. And, effective September 2015, education will become compulsory through year 13. In the English educational system, students continue their education during years 12 and 13 by attending a secondary school with an attached sixth form, transfer to a local sixth form college (such as NewVic), or seek vocational training. Depending upon the scores achieved on national tests, and based upon geographic location, a student’s options may be somewhat limited.
Sixth form colleges in England are operated similar to charter schools in the US, but with supervision provided by a national agency. Students must apply and successfully interview to gain admission to a sixth form college. Our visit with NewVic Principal Eddy Playfair proves illuminating and the school campus itself a terrific endpoint on our quest for better understanding of the English system of higher education.
Throughout my work in admissions in undergrad and graduate school I have always had a specific interest in college admissions, high school preparatory programs, and the transition from high school to college. Therefore, I was looking forward to the trip to the the 6th form school in Newham. A 6th form school is basically the U.S equivalent of a high school, or the last type of schooling before students enter University in England. Upon arrival I was quite impressed with the size of the institution. I was also surprised that they had such a robust sports program considering collegiate sports are virtually nonexistent in England. However, the principal said schools use sports as a way to encourage students to participate and excel in school, not unlike in the U.S. During our walking tour I was taken aback at all of the facilities the school had ranging from your typical gym, to a weight room, to a recording studio, to a dance studio, to a clothing/fashion workroom. NewVic is truly a comprehensive academy with the resources to prepare students for a variety of careers. Some exciting things are taking place in Newham! They are in the first phase of a construction project that will renovate their library making it larger and more modern. NewVic is located in a part of London with diverse socioeconomic levels and ethnicities. Many of NewVic’s students are first generation college students. Given their demographics, they rely heavily on their alumni to return to NewVic and share their stories about university, coach sports teams, and speak about life after 6th form school. On the whole NewVic was an enlightening experience, giving our group a different glimpse into how students access higher education in England!
Also, not all of our time was spent visiting schools and studying research…several of us went to see the horror play Woman in Black, Blenheim Palace, and the Tower of London!
— Will Crawford, master’s student
On this, our final evening together, we share a meal and debrief our experiences.