Birkdale School

Oakholme Road, Sheffield, S10 3DH

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About us

Welcome to Birkdale Sixth Form

As you contemplate the prospect of entering the Sixth Form in September, you will realise that this is a highly significant and exciting moment in your school career. It is the final step en route to university or to some other form of higher education or employment; at the same time you will be occupying a position of status within the school which affords the opportunity of fulfilling an influential leadership role. This is the stage when you can concentrate on a few subjects that you have chosen to study, while being taught in smaller groups and in a more informal style than you have experienced up to now.

Students take three subjects to A level giving them chance to focus in depth on what they need and enjoy. You will be given more responsibility for the organisation of your time and of your work, acknowledging your increased level of maturity and preparing you for still greater independence once you have left school. The co-educational environment in itself enriches the Sixth Form experience. A wide range of extra-curricular activities offer the chance to develop skills and new interests.

The Grayson Sixth Form Centre at Birkdale incorporates working and recreational facilities to help you benefit from your two years in the Sixth Form. You will find that plenty of sound advice and support is available to you when you need it, including, of course, expert guidance when decisions have to be made (as they soon will) about the future.

There will be much hard work to be done as you aim towards what may well be a challenging set of A level grades, but I am sure that you will greatly enjoy your Sixth Form career. We look forward to welcoming you into the Birkdale Sixth Form.

Student support

The Sixth Form Team

Mrs Parsons as Director of Sixth Form has academic and pastoral oversight of the Sixth Form. She is supported by two Heads of Sixth Form, Mrs Pickford and Mr Jones who each have particular responsibility for one year group.

They lead a team of fourteen experienced Form Tutors. Form Tutor Systems In order to provide careful counselling and guidance, students are allocated to small tutor groups under the supervision of a Form Tutor. Daily contact at registration, weekly Form meetings and regular contact in the classroom allow tutors to establish a close relationship with tutees and to provide a programme of pastoral support.

Early in the Lower Sixth emphasis is placed on study skills. During the Easter and Summer terms Form Tutors offer guidance in applying to Higher Education. This culminates in the preparation of the first draft of their tutees’ UCAS reference. The Sixth Form leadership team support Form Tutors by seeing all members of both year groups regularly. Early in the Christmas term of the Lower Sixth there is an opportunity for parents to meet Form Tutors and discuss a range of issues related to life in the Sixth Form.

Methods of Study and Work The emphasis in the Sixth Form is on supported learning. By the end of the Lower Sixth students should be developing their interests within the context of their chosen A level subjects. They should be able to identify difficulties, and work on these areas with their subject teachers. The best university students are those who have learned to ask for guidance and do their own background work. Subject teachers will offer guidance on appropriate work for study periods and homework. Students can use the excellent study facilities within the Sixth Form Centre, the Library and subject departments, and work at home in proportions which suit their individual programmes. If work starts to slip, more guidance is given.

All Lower Sixth Formers are expected to devote a minimum of twelve hours per week to their studies, over and above any work completed in school. It is expected that Upper Sixth Formers will spend about fifteen hours per week working at home in addition to their study periods in school. Studying Arts Subjects Some subjects available in the Sixth Form may be new to students and will pose their own challenges; others, though more familiar, will be studied in a much more sophisticated way. An important feature of study on the Arts side is the premium placed on individual research and reading. Below the Sixth Form, homework is often set for a specific length of time on a particular evening.

At A Level, most work is much more long-term and this requires self-discipline and organisation. It is also a useful introduction to the study techniques and exercise of initiative vital in Higher Education. Class size is smaller than in GCSE groups, giving many more opportunities to contribute to discussion and debates and ample time for detailed analysis of work produced in essays and written assignments. In most Arts subjects the willingness of Sixth Formers to undertake background reading and to think for themselves will directly affect A Level performance.  

Studying Science Subjects

These are essentially experimental subjects and practical work is central to their study. This work is very time-consuming and takes up much of the allocated school time. It follows that Sixth Formers will need to study extensively at home. As far as possible, the practical work is integrated with the theoretical studies so that students develop an insight into scientific methods of investigation and enquiry. Experimental observations lead to the development of ideas, theories and models which must then be tested by further, carefully designed experiments. Carefully chosen texts support the courses but reading beyond these is of great importance. Well motivated students who are prepared to work consistently hard will find the courses stimulating and enjoyable.

Out of them will develop a knowledge and understanding of the subjects and an appreciation of the ways in which they are usefully applied. If a student continues to study Science in Higher Education, either as a principal or subsidiary subject, the courses will provide a sound foundation but, whether or not he/she undertakes such further study, the courses should develop an understanding of the usefulness of scientific knowledge and processes. Assessment and Target Setting At approximately half-termly intervals the academic progress of each student is assessed in terms of effort and attainment, and grades are published via BirkdalePost to both parents and students. If we are concerned that a Sixth Former is experiencing difficulty with any subject, discussions will be arranged with subject teachers, the student and parents in order to remedy the situation. Following the publication of November grades for the Lower Sixth, target setting is introduced * the setting of challenging yet achievable long and short term academic targets. The long term target is given in terms of a range of aspirational A Level grades, and short term targets are set by subject teachers to correct areas of weakness.

Regular half-termly interviews with the Form Tutor or Director of Sixth Form allow consistent monitoring of targets, and provide an opportunity to set new targets when appropriate. We expect students to take increasing responsibility for their own academic progress. Internal examinations take place in the summer term of the Lower Sixth. The results of these exams will be used by subject teachers to assist them in estimating likely A level grades for university applications. Follow up for parents takes place at a Parents’ Evening when any difficulties can be discussed.

Mock examinations take place in the Easter term of the Upper Sixth followed by a Parents’ Evening to assist parents and pupils to focus on progress in the context of university offers. Planning for Higher Education and Careers From the age of 14 students at Birkdale receive group tuition and individual counselling to enable them to make informed option choices and post-GCSE decisions with smooth transitions at both stages. At Sixth Form level careers guidance becomes even more personalised. The students have access at all times to the Careers/ICT facilities in the Grayson building, which include a host of reference books and university prospectuses. They may also use the careers guidance programmes, Kudos, Discourse and Ecctis.

Individual counselling and advice are available from the Head of Careers, Careers Adviser, Form Tutors, Head of Year and Mrs Parsons who co-ordinates and oversees the UCAS/HE process.  

What makes us different?

The Sixth Form Experience


Embarking on a Sixth Form career marks a milestone both academically and personally. New challenges lie ahead and these are accompanied by a series of privileges and responsibilities.

During the next two years, staff hope to encourage each Sixth Former:

1) To achieve their personal best academically.

2 To establish a clear goal for life beyond school. In most cases this will be a place in Higher Education; for some it may be an opportunity to broaden their horizons with a GAP year, embark on an apprenticeship or a career in employment.

3) To develop their potential as an individual; to grow in confidence, maturity and wisdom and be better equipped to face life as an independent young adult.

4) To take, where possible, a leadership role and assist staff in the smooth running of the school.

5) To maximise their involvement in extra-curricular activities and play a part in shaping the life of the Birkdale community.

Hopes and Expectations Sixth Formers will be expected to work hard and meet deadlines, increasingly taking responsibility for their own learning. Staff will be keen to build a new partnership with students based on a commitment to academic success and the support needed to achieve it. Underpinning this, more open discussion is encouraged where Sixth Formers can express their opinions and views. Staff are on hand to offer advice and to listen to individual needs. A greater flexibility of approach emerges out of this relationship of mutual trust and co-operation. Sixth Formers are key members of the Birkdale community and are expected to set an example to younger members of the school. In return, they receive a number of privileges including the facilities offered by the Sixth Form Centre in the Grayson Building.

Academically, it is expected that students entering Birkdale’s Sixth Form will have achieved a minimum of 5 passes (9 to 5) at GCSE, with at least 4 at grade 6 or higher; we would expect 6 or higher GCSE grades in those subjects being studied to A level. A grade 6 is required to study A Level English and Mathematics, although a grade 7 is preferred in Mathematics. Prospective Further Mathematicians should achieve a grade 7 in GCSE Mathematics although a grade 8 is preferred. In addition at Birkdale we look beyond the academic and would wish applicants to become fully involved in the life of the school, offering their skills and abilities in one or more of a number of areas (e.g. drama, sport, music, clubs and societies, etc).

A Level Structure

All A Level courses are linear with all assessment being made at the end of two years of study. Choosing a programme of study The Sixth Form provides an opportunity for post-16 students to continue more of the subjects they have studied up to 16 and/or to commence some new ones.

The choice of contrasting A levels – say, English for Science students or Mathematics for Humanities students – will be of particular value in broadening the range of subjects studied. Studying complementary A levels – Computing for Science students, for example – offers opportunities for broadening a particular area of study. A key factor in decision-making should be to play to academic strengths to ensure success at A level. Most Sixth Form students will study three subjects to A Level (those taking Further Mathematics will study four A Levels). Each subject is taught for eight periods per week. It is important to note that as a result of the linear course structure, and in the absence of AS examinations, students will be expected to sit an internal exam in each of their subjects at the end of the L6 year in order to demonstrate they have made sufficient progress to ensure success at A Level.


To complement academic study, there is a comprehensive Enrichment programme which will provide students with the chance to cover a range of skills, values and practical experience to enhance their learning and equip them for life beyond school.

Across four terms from January of Lower Sixth to Easter of Upper Sixth pupils will be able to select courses which will help them to develop the following skills and values: • Skills for the future (to include: Life Skills and Creative Expression: Art History, Creative Marketing, Music Appreciation, Photography or Theatrecraft) • Leadership/Responsibility (e.g. Sports leader, House activities, 6th Form Committee) • Independent Learning (e.g. Study Skills; London Research, etc.) • Citizenship (Politics/Democracy, Environmental Stewardship, Charities Work) • Preparing for Work/Higher Education (Higher Education & Post-18 Planning/Work Experience/Gap Years, PSHE, Admissions tests, etc.) In addition to the above all pupils will be able to undertake an Extended Project Qualification to complete a piece of independent research of their own choosing, if they wish. Beyond the curriculum there are also a large number of extracurricular opportunities for pupils to get involved with including Sport, Music, Drama, Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, Community Action and many more. Choosing the Right Course Provisional choices of subjects will be sought in the Easter Term of the Fifth Form/Year 11, and the timetable will be constructed to accommodate subject options. Consultation with potential Sixth Formers and parents will ensure that the choice of subjects is in Sixth Formers’ best interests, bearing in mind career requirements and those of university entrance. Birkdale does not have a rigid blocking system * this allows timetabling of courses tailored to the individual needs of our students.