Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sixth Form

First a note for anyone outside the UK who isn't familiar with the English school system (I say English rather than British because I think the Scottish system is somewhat different). In September Angel starts Sixth Form, which covers Years 12 and 13, the equivalent of Grades 11 and 12 in the US (ages 16 to 18). Sixth forms can be part of a secondary or upper school which takes students from ages 11 and 13 respectively (our local school area has upper schools, but this is unusual), or they can be a separate Sixth Form College with just 16 to 18 year olds or part of a further education college which also teaches vocational courses and takes students of any age - similar to community college in the US I think. The name Sixth Form is a hangover from an old system in which school classes ran from First Form through to Sixth - Charlotte Mason structured her courses this way and it was still used when I was at school. Under this system Star, who is in Year 8, would currently be in Lower Fourth or 4b. Logical, huh?

At 16 English school students sit a set of GCSE (General Certificate of Education) exams, usually in around ten subjects. From then onwards education takes a different tack to the US, concentrating on depth rather than breadth. After GCSEs some teens go on to jobs, apprenticeships or vocational courses (J-next-door will be starting a hairdressing apprenticeship, for example), others stay on at school to take AS (Advanced Subsidiary) and A (Advanced) Level exams. These are known as Advancecd because they used to be taken after O (Ordinary) Levels, which have been superseded by GCSEs. Confused yet? (If you are a Harry Potter fan this explains OWLS - Ordinary Wizarding Levels. Get it?). Typically those who stay on for Sixth Form take 4 AS Levels in Year 11, then drop one subject and do a second A Level year in the other three. The subjects they choose can be focused in one area (sciences, arts, languages), or can be a mixture; they can also be traditionally academic, or more vocationally orientated.

Angel is most definitely a doer rather than a thinker and has ignored the traditional academic courses and picked four subjects to study at AS Level that are practical and business oriented. Good choices for her, I think, as they use her strengths - the GCSEs for which she is predicted an A are English language, English literature, graphic products (sort of graphic design-ish) and ICT (information and communication technology). Looking ahead to careers, possibilities are things like art editing, web design or something techie-media related, and she would prefer to go straight into work after A levels rather than go to university. The four courses she has picked are:

Business Studies - the AS level course covers planning, financing and managing a business.

Media Studies - a mix of analysing media content (TV, radio, web sites, magazines, newspapers) and production. In the first year there is a project which requires producing linked pieces in two media chosen from video, audio, print or website.

Product Design - covers everything from resistant materials (wood, metal, plastic) to fashion and graphic design. For the AS students put together a portfolio of four different practical projects - the three I can remember are a sales leaflet, an art deco style mirror, and a child's chair reflecting the style of a chosen designer (they had some of these on display in the product design studio, and they varied from a mock-Lego chair, to a Rennie Mackintosh inspired one. I suspect Cherub may benefit from this project!). For the second A level year the student has to design and make a project in consultation with a client. After speaking to the teacher and her enthusiastic students, Angel was sold on this course - I think she will love it.

Photography - covers both traditional and digital photography, ranging from developing black and white film in the darkroom, to Photoshopping digital images. The course explores many different areas of photography - portraiture, documentary, photojournalism, environmental photography, still life, and experimental imagery. They get taken on trips to galleries and museums, and are given a lot of freedom to experiment. Again, I think Angel will have a ball. She is already saving for her own camera, and has started taking pictures to make a mini-portfolio to get a place on the course - they want evidence that would-be students are serious about studying photography and have at least some creative ability.

Assuming that the timetable can accommodate this combination of courses, I think she is going to have a busy but interesting couple of years, and will come out with a set of useful skills that will help her get a job in anything involving media production - or if she changes her plans, to get a place on some sort of media-techie related university course.


Pamela said...

The first couple of paragraphs took me right back to my grammar school days (with a little of Malory Towers - Lower Fourth - thrown in!). I sat my O-Levels and then went on to study for my A-Levels but left after a few months. French was one of my subjects - everyone else in my class had either had a French au pair or had been an au pair in France and I was horribly intimidated by the way they all seemed to chatter on. I think our course of study must have been heavier on the grammar than the conversation!

Anyway, I digress. I'm amazed at Angel's choices. I guess it's a sign of the changing times - I don't think we had anything that was even remotely like these courses, ours seem to have been only of the academic nature. How great to be able to pursue her last few years so focused on actual skills that will translate into today's working world. Good luck, Angel, I'll be looking forward to reading about your next two years...and hopefully seeing a picture of that chair!

Missus Wookie said...

I'm fairly certain that Princess is doing a similar Resistant Materials course to Angel - although I don't think a child's chair comes into the plan. Hope she has fun with them all.

If she wants to talk to anyone about running a business I'd be happy to do that too.

Like sunshine in the home said...

Sounds like good choices.

Like sunshine in the home said...

Oh, have you had any snow near you?

LeeAnn Balbirona said...

I am amazed at how different English and American educations are for this age! The English system seems a lot more interesting and practical than what is standard here.

Theresa said...

My Sam would LOVE those courses!