Virtual open events ‘vital’ to choosing right Sixth Form

4 November 2020

The Director of a Harrogate school Sixth Form has emphasised the importance of attending virtual open events before applying.

Ben Twitchin, from The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School, said attending virtual open events gives students the chance to make informed decisions.

Ben Twitchin, from The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School, said:

“This is the first-time students have a really free choice in what they study. Despite the fact that students will not be able to visit Sixth Forms in person this year, it is really important they engage in virtual open events. This is the best way for students to develop an understanding of the culture of a Sixth Form, and to find out crucial information about courses and facilities on offer, in order to support them in making the right decision about their next steps.

Ben Twitchin has been appointed as Assistant Headteacher and new Director of Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School
Ben Twitchin has been appointed as Assistant Headteacher and Director of Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School

Whether you are a parent or a student applying to Sixth Form there are several ways you can make the most of virtual open events.

Here are some of our top tips on what to ask and what to look out for.

1. Do your research

Before watching virtual open events, do your research and make a list of any questions you have, as well as a list of priorities that you are looking for in a Sixth Form. This will be useful if you talk with staff online about your course.

While it is important to keep an open mind, being prepared will help to ensure you make the most of the virtual open event.

2. Don’t be afraid to move

This year The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School welcomed over 130 students who had previously attended different schools.

Mr Twitchin said:

It is really common that students join us in the Sixth Form, they add to the vibrancy and diversity of the school. The Sixth Form provides a fresh start for all of our students, and students quickly feel settled within our community.

Transport doesn’t have to be a barrier either – The Sixth Form at Harrogate Grammar School is well serviced by public bus services and also offer specific bus services 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 60% of A Level grades being A*-B over seven consecutive years.

4. Look at the subjects on offer

As noted, Sixth Form is the first-time students have a true choice in what they are studying so it is important to look at the range on offer.

Mr Twitchin 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.

Harrogate Grammar School’s virtual open event features video introductions from subject teachers, covering all 40 courses on offer. The videos provide all of the key course information, and also feature current students speaking about subjects in order to give prospective students a really strong insight into each of the courses on offer.

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?

Head Student, Matt Roberts commented on the range of opportunities open to him and others at Harrogate Grammar School: 

No matter where your passion lies, whether it be in sport, art, drama, music or the academic side of school life, there is always something extra to take part in.

6. 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 Twitchin said a key thing to also 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 has this careers award and encourages excellence for all its students across 40 subjects, taught in world-class facilities.

7. Look for strong pastoral and academic support

The step from GCSEs to A Levels can sometimes be challenging. It is important to find out how students are supported in developing the strong independent study skills that are crucial to success in the Sixth Form.

A strong pastoral team and a clear commitment to student wellbeing are also essential elements to look out for when selecting your destination of study.

Head Student, Iris Eastaugh, commented:

The Sixth Form’s outstanding pastoral system at Harrogate Grammar School provides consistent support for our whole community. It is so reassuring to know that there are friendly faces that we can approach to talk through any questions or concerns.

Harrogate Grammar School holds the Carnegie School Mental Health Award, and the Sixth Form has an experienced and specialised team of staff in place to support students throughout their Sixth Form journey.

A virtual open event on 12 November 2020 will give potential students and parents the opportunity to hear a welcome video from the Headteacher and the Director of Sixth Form. You can also watch videos about each course and experience the recently extended Sixth Form facilities through a walk round 3d tour.

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