Fact or Fiction: What's it like studying A Levels at Harlow College?
Common Myths about Sixth Form:
You'll get better results if you study in a secondary sixth form
When considering the starting point of each learner (their GCSE results) learners do significantly better at Harlow College Sixth Form compared to any of the state secondary sixth forms in the local area. This information is calculated as a student progress score or 'value added' and can be found for any educational institution here: https://www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/find-a-school-in-england
The score is generated by looking at how well learners do compared to the target grade they have for each A Level subject, which is generated by the government and is based on a learner’s GCSE results.
If learners achieve their target grade, their progress score is 0.0 (they are no better, but no worse, than they should be based on their starting point). If they achieve results that are higher than their target grade, their progress score is positive and if they achieve lower than their target grade, their progress score is negative.
A table of the progress scores for all the local sixth forms is included at the end of this document for local state sixth forms and colleges that offer A Levels.
You'll be left to 'just get on with it' instead of having the support you'd get in a secondary school sixth form
Learners get between 5 and 6 hours of teacher contact time a week for each subject, divided between two sessions (one morning and one afternoon). By having two long lessons instead of multiple short sessions, there is less wasted time getting learners settled, taking the registers and learners packing up at the end of the session.
These nice long lessons (approximately three hours in the morning, two to three hours in the afternoon) enable teachers to really delve into the subject, exploring the detail of the topics with the learners far beyond that which is possible if sessions were shorter. We call this deep learning.
In addition to receiving more direct contact time than learners generally get on a timetable for a secondary school sixth form, the open door policy to the staffroom (see below) means that learners can often be found having one to one sessions with teachers to enhance their learning.
Studying at a college sixth form is more relaxed than studying in a secondary school
TRUE AND FALSE
How we are different from a secondary school sixth form:
Harlow College Sixth Form does not have a uniform policy. We would much rather focus on the things we believe impact on a learner’s achievement, such as whether they are happy, on the right subject combination, and coping with the work load, rather than focusing on whether they have on the correct shoes or have done their tie up properly.
At Harlow College, learners call their teachers by their first names. We see the relationship between learners and staff as a collaboration designed to support learners to get the highest grades possible rather than the traditional hierarchical system found in schools. We feel the development of strong relationships mean the learners are happier and, therefore, are more likely to be successful.
We have an open door policy to the staffroom and to the Head of Sixth Form’s office. Some secondary schools don’t encourage (or even allow) learners to go into the staffroom. We actively encourage learners to seek out staff to discuss their studies and progress, and to talk about any concerns the learner may have, whether academic or personal. This comes back to the strong belief we have that happier learners are more likely to be successful in their studies.
How we are just like a secondary school sixth form:
All sessions are compulsory. Illness is inevitable and cannot be helped; just like school, we would appreciate a phone call to explain the reason for the absence. However, unauthorised non- attendance will result in a phone call home, discussions with the learner and parents and possible additional consequences, such as the need for the learner to attend additional sessions.
All homework needs to be completed. Failure to submit work or handing it in late will have consequences. The same goes for homework that is submitted that is far below the quality expected. Homework is essential if learners are to be successful on A Levels.
We have Parent’s Evenings in trimesters 1 and 2 for both AS and A2 year groups, during which parents and guardians can discuss learner progress with each of the subject teachers.
Reports are sent home to parents charting learner progress and providing specific feedback from the subject teacher. These can be supplemented with additional reports (weekly, if necessary) where requested. Parents can also see tracking for subject programmes via the VLE.
Learners studying at Harlow College Sixth Form won’t have the same progression opportunities as those studying in a secondary school sixth form
We offer excellent guidance for learners from the very beginning of their AS programme to help them explore their progression opportunities. The majority of A Level learners progress to university, including to Oxbridge and other Russell group universities. Learners are supported to explore university options, including a trip to the London university fair, continuous updates on summer school and university taster day opportunities.
We also explore alternative progression options with learners including: higher apprentices, which enable learners to gain a degree whilst training on the job (having a dedicated apprenticeship department at Harlow College gives us the knowledge and expertise to fully support learners interested in this progression pathway); alternative courses, such as HNCs and HNDs; employment.
Learners studying at Harlow College Sixth Form won’t have the same opportunities to do extra-curricular activities compared to being in a secondary sixth form
We offer a range of extra-curricular enrichment activities, just like secondary school sixth forms. The key difference is that learners choose whether to do the majority of these activities rather than being made to do them.
Learners have the opportunity to join The Ambassador Scheme, for which promote student voice activities and act as liaison between the Principalship, Heads of Academy, teaching team and fellow students. In addition, Ambassadors are involved in supporting the enrichment activities occurring across campus, represent the college at public events such as Open evenings and Taster Days and act as Student Governor should they be elected. For this work, Ambassadors receive reward points based on the hours they commit to the role, which can then be exchanged for things such as Amazon or Ticketmaster vouchers.
All sixth form learners at Harlow College are expected to do the National Citizen Service (NCS) in October half term as a means of growing in confidence in their own abilities, developing team building and employability skills, as well as demonstrating social awareness through the social action project.
For those learners who have already completed NCS, they will be involved in the social action aspect of the course, enabling them to work on the community-based project along with their peers who are completing NCS.
Harlow College Sixth Form learners have the opportunity to go on a trip to Ghana, which will enable them to experience this amazing country, get involved in teaching in local schools and be part of construction projects that benefit the rural community.