Is Sixth Form Compulsory In The Uk?

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Written By Dr Shane McKeown

Are you a student in the UK, wondering if sixth form is compulsory? If so, you’re not alone.

As education systems across the world shift and adapt to new ways of learning, many students are left with questions about their future.

The question of whether or not sixth form is compulsory has been on everyone’s minds lately – and we have your answer!

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at how things stand for students when it comes to sixth form in the UK.

We’ll also explore what options are available for those who don’t want to commit to two more years after GCSEs.

So let’s dive right in and get started!

Overview Of Sixth Form In The Uk

In the United Kingdom, sixth form is not compulsory; however, it can provide an invaluable route to higher education and apprenticeships.

Sixth form typically refers to the two years of secondary school between Year 11 (aged 15-16) and 18 when students focus on preparing for their A Levels or equivalent qualifications.

The UK’s Department for Education wants young people in England to remain in education until at least 18, but there are many routes available that open up further opportunities than just a traditional academic pathway – such as vocational training or university-level study.

However, if you wish to pursue these options, then it is strongly advised that you stay in some form of education after GCSEs. Therefore, while sixth form may not be compulsory, it could certainly be beneficial for those who seek out more advanced forms of learning and professional development.

Is Sixth Form Compulsory?

Due to the ever-changing landscape of education in the UK, many students are wondering if sixth form is compulsory. Well, it turns out that for most schools and universities across Britain, the answer is a resounding no!

For those wishing to pursue higher educational opportunities or career prospects after finishing secondary school, there are plenty of options available outside of the traditional pathway of attending sixth form right away. Depending on their personal interests, ambitions and goals, some students may decide against taking A Levels straight away and instead opt for vocational courses such as an apprenticeship or diplomas from professional bodies like BTEC. These alternatives could also lead to further study at university or even paid employment with great career prospects.

Ultimately, whatever route someone chooses must be tailored to them specifically so they gain maximum benefit from it.

In other words, when it comes to seeking out post-secondary opportunities in the UK today, nothing is set in stone – leaving open plenty of possibilities for exploring various educational options before settling on one particular path. This can give young people more freedom than ever before to realise their dreams and aspirations beyond secondary school without feeling constrained by conventional expectations.

Alternatives To Sixth Form

Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular alternative to sixth form for those who are looking for a more hands-on approach to learning.

Further Education Colleges offer a range of courses for those wanting to advance their education without the commitment of university.

Home Education is also an option for those wishing to go down a different path after leaving school.

For those looking for more flexible options, online courses, gap year, work experience and traineeships can all provide valuable opportunities to gain experience and knowledge.


Apprenticeships are an ideal alternative to sixth form for those looking for a career-focused pathway. Not only do they provide an opportunity to gain valuable vocational qualifications, but they also allow individuals the freedom and flexibility of learning through distance or online courses without having to attend a physical school.

This makes apprenticeships particularly appealing for students who want more control over their educational path and need greater independence from traditional schooling systems. Apprenticeships can also be more cost effective than other forms of post-16 education as there may be less fees involved depending on the type of qualification being taken up.

Even though employers offer some financial support, it is important that prospective apprentices weigh up all options carefully before committing themselves to this route. Ultimately, apprenticeships are a viable option if one wants to start gaining skills in certain industries while still enjoying the freedom of not attending formal class sessions every day.

Further Education Colleges

For those looking for an alternative to sixth form, further education colleges can provide the perfect route into a career-focused pathway. Vocational courses are available that offer qualifications in various fields, such as business and engineering, and give students the freedom to choose when they study.

Apprenticeships also come with financial support from employers which makes them more cost effective than some other post-16 educational options. Further Education Colleges can be seen as ideal for young people who want greater independence from traditional schooling systems while still being able to gain valuable skills for their chosen industry.

The flexibility of distance or online learning combined with access to vocational courses means students have complete control over their own journey towards success. From developing key transferable skills like communication and team work, to gaining hands on experience through practical tasks – there’s something for everyone at a Further Education College.

With all these benefits packed in one place, it’s no wonder why this is becoming an increasingly popular option amongst those seeking alternatives to sixth form.

Benefits Of Sixth Form

The benefits of sixth form are many. Firstly, it provides structure to the student’s education and offers a solid foundation for their future studies. It also allows students to take courses that appeal to them, as well as helping refine their skills in areas they plan to pursue further down the line.

Secondly, there is often financial aid available for those who qualify, meaning access to sixth form can be made more affordable.

For those considering whether or not sixth form is right for them, here’s four reasons why:

  1. Sixth Form gives you a structured learning environment

  2. You get the chance to study topics that interest you

  3. There may be financial help available

  4. Refines your skillsets and prepares you for further study

It’s important to remember that taking part in sixth form doesn’t mean having to commit long term – instead it gives an opportunity to develop new interests or hone existing ones and with resources such as bursaries and scholarships out there, can provide an invaluable platform on which students can build their futures.

Challenges Of Sixth Form

Having discussed the benefits of sixth form, it is important to consider the challenges associated with this post-16 education system.

Most notably, there are questions around whether students should be compelled to attend such courses in order to reach their career aspirations. This has been a common point of contention amongst educationalists and policy makers alike, who have disagreed over the importance of apprenticeship schemes versus academic qualifications gained through sixth form study.

More recently, the rising cost of tuition fees for university entrance has increased pressure on young people to succeed academically at 16+ level – something that may not always suit their individual skillset or interests. Additionally, significant changes made by government departments regarding student funding means that parents must foot more of the bill for higher education than ever before.

With these issues in mind, it is clear why many believe compulsory attendance at sixth form would only add further strain onto already overwhelmed families and individuals.

Options For Students Who Don’t Want To Attend Sixth Form

In the UK, only one third of students go on to attend sixth form after completing their GCSEs. This leaves a large amount of talented young people with an important decision – what do they want to do next?

Fortunately, there are plenty of options available for those who don’t wish to continue in formal education.

For some, taking part in career training or apprenticeships may be the best option. These opportunities can provide hands-on learning and valuable experience which will help them stand out from others when applying for jobs in the future. Additionally, many employers offer their own schemes specifically tailored towards school leavers.

  • Apprenticeships: Offers paid work whilst gaining qualifications over 1-4 years
  • Traineeships: Short programs offering work experience and skills development
  • Gap Year: Students take a year off study to travel or volunteer abroad
  • Online Learning/Courses: Allows for flexible learning at your own pace

Whatever route is chosen, it’s important that individuals make sure it aligns with their goals and aspirations as this will set them up well for success both now and into the future.


The conclusion to this article is that sixth form isn’t compulsory in the UK, but it can offer many benefits.

It’s up to each individual student and their family to decide whether they want to pursue a formal education after year 11 or take alternative pathways.

For those who do opt for sixth form, there are some challenges they may face. But with hard work and dedication, students have a chance of achieving their goals and discovering new opportunities.

Ultimately, it’s down to personal choice – just make sure you investigate the truth of any theory before making your decision!

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