A sixth form college is an educational institution in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Belize, The Caribbean, Malta, Norway, Brunei, among others, (and until 2012 in Hong Kong) where students aged 16 to 19 typically study for advanced school-level qualifications, such as A-levels, BTEC and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, or school-level qualifications such as GCSEs. In Singapore and India, this is known as a junior college. The municipal government of the city of Paris uses the phrase "sixth form college" as the English name for a lycée.
In England, The Caribbean, and Wales, education is only compulsory until the end of year 11, the school year in which the pupil turns 16 (although this is changing in August 2013 to compulsory education until year 12 and by 2015, education will be compulsory until year 13) In the English and Welsh state educational systems, those wishing to continue may either stay on at a secondary school with an attached sixth form, transfer to a local sixth form college, or go to a more vocational further education college, although, depending on geographical location, there may be little choice as to which of these options can be taken. In the independent sector, sixth forms are an integral part of secondary schools (public schools), and there is also a number of smaller-scale independent sixth form colleges.
Students at sixth form college typically study for two years (known as Years 12 and 13, Years 13 and 14 in Northern Ireland and/or lower sixth and upper sixth). Some students sit AS examinations at the end of the first year, and A-level examinations at the end of the second. These exams are called C.A.P.E (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination), in the Caribbean. In addition, in recent years a variety of vocational courses have been added to the curriculum.
There are currently over 90 sixth form colleges in operation in England and Wales. Most perform extremely well in national examination league tables. In addition, they offer a broader range of courses at a lower cost per student than most school sixth forms. In a few areas, authorities run sixth form schools which function like sixth form colleges but are completely under the control of the local education authorities. Unlike further education colleges, sixth form colleges rarely accept part-time students or run evening classes, although one boarding sixth form college exists.
In the English-Speaking Caribbean, there are many sixth form colleges, usually attached to secondary schools. Students must usually attain a grade A-C in 1-3 in the Caribbean Examinations Council (C.X.C), examinations. Students that fail these exams are not accepted into the sixth form program and either can do courses in other tertiary facilities, or begin working with high school degrees. After sixth form, students are presented with an Associate Degree.
Scotland does not, in general, have separate sixth form colleges (or, indeed, the same concept of the terminal two years of secondary education as being distinct from the other time spent there); as such, Scottish students who opt to remain in full-time education will typically remain in the same school for fifth, and possibly a sixth year (the equivalent to the English lower- and upper-sixth forms), studying Higher Grade and Advanced Higher qualifications.
The first comprehensive intake sixth form college in England was established in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, and took its first intake of students in September 1964. Since then sixth form colleges have spread across the UK and have proved popular with students, their parents, and other groups in the community. Until 1992, these colleges were controlled and funded by local education authorities (LEAs), but the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 transferred all institutions within the sector to the Further Education Funding Council for England (FEFC), a national agency with strategic responsibility for the operation of general further education (FE) colleges. Later the FEFC's functions were taken over by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), a reorganisation that included changes in the funding and supervision of sixth form colleges.
Sixth form colleges take responsibility for their own employment, pensions and pay arrangements with the support and advice of the Sixth Form Colleges' Association (SFCA, formerly SFCF). The SFCA is made up of representative principals from SFCs across the UK. The SFCA sets up several Committees to deliver its range of support services for SFCs as well as facilitating lobbying work with Central Government. Colleges for the most part do not charge full-time daytime students; however, adult students (most of whom attend evening classes) may have to pay a fee (for examinations, tutors' time and other costs).
There are also some sixth form colleges in the independent sector, specialising in A levels for which fees are paid; these are unconnected with the SFCA.
In Wales, sixth form education falls under the remit of the Welsh Assembly, and sixth form colleges are sources of further education alongside FE Colleges and sixth forms integrated into secondary schools. They typically offer the Welsh Baccalaureate and Key Skills qualifications.
Even though Hong Kong had changed from having two public examinations to one, its first sixth form college, PLK Vicwood KT Chong Sixth Form College, remains in operation as an upper secondary college.
- College (an equivalent in Quebec)
- Junior College (the equivalent in the Indian Education System)
- Junior College in Singapore
- Sixth form colleges in Hong Kong
- Sixth form colleges in the United Kingdom