Chapter 1 – What is a sixth form college?

Also known as tutorial schools or cram schools, private sixth form colleges are an alternative to traditional end-of-school education. Without having to cater to all different ages, they offer more focused teaching, typically between the ages of 16 and 19.

There are only around 70 independent sixth form colleges in the UK, mostly in the south of England. As opposed to state sixth form colleges, which usually have over a thousand pupils, they only have a few hundred, resulting in a very high staff-to-pupil ratio.


How do they differ from school sixth forms?

Sixth form colleges are unique in many ways, but here are their most important characteristics

Small classes:

With more staff members, classes in independent sixth form colleges tend to be much smaller than those in schools.


Much like one would find at a university tutorial, the number of pupils in a class is usually in single figures. This means that students get a great deal more attention from their teachers, and it can allow them to engage more freely in the lesson.

Sixth form head on the benefits of smaller classes –
more attention to pupils


This also grants additional freedom to the teachers, who are able to spend more time on the course instead of controlling a large class.

Relaxed atmosphere:

Perhaps the most apparent difference is that sixth form college pupils dont wear a uniform.


For some, uniforms eliminate the hassle of having to choose an outfit each morning, but for others they can stifle individuality and create a stricter atmosphere.

This speaks for a more general difference between independent sixth form colleges and schools: the vibe at a college tends to be more relaxed. In some ways similar to life on a university campus, pupils are treated like adults, with a greater deal of independence.

More choice:

Independent sixth form colleges also tend to give greater academic choice to pupils.

While independent schools often have to look after the interests of over a thousand pupils of all different ages, sixth form colleges cater to the individual. This usually comes in the form of a wider scope of subject choices.

Depending on the college, there are often more vocational options, such as media studies and sports science, which may not be addressed as specifically in traditional private schools.