Sixth form

Sixth form

The sixth form, in the English, Welsh and Northern Irish education systems, Commonwealth West Indian countries such as Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and Malta is the final (optional) two years of secondary schooling (when students are about sixteen to nineteen years of age), during which students normally prepare for their GCE A-level examinations. The term is used to describe the final two years spent in a secondary school as opposed to a sixth form college (UK use) where students start at age sixteen after leaving secondary school.

The first five years of English secondary schooling were previously known as forms. Pupils started their first year of secondary school in the "first form" or first year. The first form was the year in which pupils would have their twelfth birthday. They would move up a form each year before entering the fifth form in the year in which they would have their sixteenth birthday. Pupils who stayed on at school after sixteen to study for A levels moved up into the sixth form, which was divided into the "Lower Sixth" (Lower VIth) and the "Upper Sixth" (Upper VIth). In some private schools, the term "Middle Sixth" was used in place of Upper Sixth, with the latter being used for those who stayed on for an extra term to take the entrance examinations that were previously set for candidates to Oxford or Cambridge Universities. Other schools described these "Oxbridge" examination students as being in the "Seventh Form"

The system was changed for the 1990/1991 academic year and school years are now numbered consecutively from primary school onwards. Year 1 is the first year of primary school after Reception. In Northern Ireland, the equivalent is "P1" with the equivalent of the English Year 1 being "P2". The first year of secondary school (the old first form) is now known as Year 7 (Year 8 in Northern Ireland). The Lower Sixth is now Year 12 and the Upper Sixth is Year 13 (years thirteen and fourteen in Northern Ireland). However, the term Sixth Form has still been retained as a relic of the old numbering system and is used as a collective term for years 12 and 13. Private schools (and a few state schools) still use the old numbering.

In some parts of the country, special "sixth form colleges" were introduced during the decades from 1960 onwards, recognising this as a particularly important phase of student life. A large proportion of English secondary schools no longer have an integral sixth form.This is mainly related to the liberal reforms in the later 20th century, where different political areas become a factor in the introduction of colleges instead of the original sixth forms.


In the Scottish education system the final year of school is usually known as Sixth Year or S6 (Secondary 6). During Sixth Year students typically study Advanced Higher and/or Higher courses in a wide range of subjects. They sit SQA exams at the end of their Sixth Year.

Sixth Year, like fifth year, is optional. It is not essential for candidates to do a Sixth year if they wish to go to a Scottish university, if they have obtained adequate Higher grades in fifth year. Some English universities will also accept Scottish Students who have obtained adequate Higher grades in fifth year.

In some cases, particularly in independent schools, the term 'sixth form' is also used for the last two years of secondary education.

Other countries

In some secondary schools in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, the sixth and seventh years are called Lower and Upper Six(th).

Similarly, the term Sixth Form is also used to define the final two years of education before entering the University in Malta.

In Singapore, however, the equivalent of a sixth form college would be called a junior college where pupils do take their Cambridge GCE 'A' Levels after 2 years.

In some United States College Preparatory schools, such as Ethical Culture Fieldston School, sixth form refers to the final year of education prior to college. It is the equivalent of twelfth grade in the American system.

ee also

* Sixth form college
* Plus Two
* Education in the United Kingdom
* High school junior and High school senior - Equivalent American grades for this age range.
* Ontario Academic Credit

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