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5 min read

24 Apr 2023

Carfax consultant

Sixth Form – Do they stay or do they go?

For many expatriate families, one of the big dilemmas is whether their child should finish they education in their current country of residence, or move back to the UK for the final two years. Quite often, parents will consider a British boarding school for the 6th form and there are several sound reasons for this, as our Education Consultant, Fiona McKenzie explains.

Before we begin, please note that it's not too late to apply for 6th form this September, some of the most selective schools still have late availability.

There are a huge variety of British boarding schools, many of which have an excellent reputation for academic excellence and extracurricular activities. The most academic of these schools will offer a highly stimulating and ambitious programme designed to stretch the most able of students and prepare them for entry into Oxford and Cambridge, or Ivy League Universities, among others.

As the home of A Levels, the range of subjects on offer in a UK sixth form is typically much broader than in other countries. Alongside all of the facilitating subjects (see article on choosing a 6th form curriculum) many schools will offer subjects such as Philosophy and Ethics, Art History and Greek or Latin or Classical Civilisation, which are not commonly found in an international environment.

Other schools are well known for their specialisations and have dedicated programmes in Sport, Art, Drama or Music. This can expose students to a range of professional support and really allow students to hone and develop these talents and experiment with whether this is something that they would like to take further.

The Extra Curricular offering at a boarding school can be significantly enriched both because of the additional time available in a full boarding environment and because of the facilities available in terms of perfoming arts centres, technology departments and because of their access to top professionals to come in and support their programmes. For many schools near to big cities they have access to theatres and galleries and lectures to support their studies and a ready stream of interesting people to give talks or help support careers counsellors.

The core values of British independent schools are centred around leadership, service and building resilience. There are multiple opportunities to develop in these areas whether it is taking responsibility in leadership roles in the school, captaining a team, taking the initiative and forming a band or putting on a drama production or maybe setting up a Society or Club. The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) gives students a chance to experience skills acquired in the military whether this is flying with the RAF, doing an assault course with the Army or learning to sail with the Navy. Duke of Edinburgh is a popular choice for developing resilience and leadership skills with its emphasis on learning new skills, being involved in the community and taking part in expeditions.

Whilst the primary focus for the final two years of school for most students is academic, it is important to remember that the ‘soft skills’ will be equally important for their life in the ‘real world’ so finding a 6th form where they can grow and flourish in every aspect is important. Being in a supportive environment with ambitious peers, encouraging teachers and access to wise career counselling can make all the difference.

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