Established in 1988, Oxford Sixth Form College sits in central city splendour, taking up a row of grand-façaded Victorian houses close to Oriel College and spitting distance from Oxford’s High St.
Previously known as Oxford Tutorial College, the academically non-selective Oxford Sixth Form College is busy shrugging off its ‘crammer’ reputation of the past, offering a range A-level courses and B-TECS to overseas and UK students. Taking students from 15-19 years via September and January intakes, it also offers GSCE courses to returning expat kids, or those who need schooling in a hurry (though be warned expelled kids with bullying or drugs on your CV – they won’t accept you).
Of its 200 students, just shy of 40% are British, and though the two boarding houses are mostly populated with foreign students, I suspect the BSA and ISA membership will increase UK numbers.
Oxford Sixth Form College isn’t pretending to be a traditional school – it kind of pitches itself as the halfway house between school and university – so expect no explosions of glorious facilities. The interior of the college is, I’d say, serviceable – a class room is pretty much a class room, and there’s a supervised library, decent sized art room (Art is a strong subject here), two science labs, plus a dedicate biology lab, ITC suite and common room. That’s kind of it!
Being so utterly central, there are no sports facilities on site, though a sports hall is booked each week for basketball and badminton, and soccer nuts have access to a floodlit pitch for five-a-side football. Swimming, squash and tennis are all available also, but the head believes that by 15 years old, kids can choose what they want (or don’t want) to take part in so exercise is not enforced here.
The big calling card here is the class size – it averages just 10 students for GSCE and B-TEC classes, and no more than six students in any A-level course, so what it lacks in facilities it certainly makes up for in attention. There’s also a degree of flexibility here that’s not available at mainstream schools, with variable course lengths and start dates, plus over 30 subjects on offer across A-Level, GCSE and BTEC.
Results for 2019 for A level were 30% A*-A with Chemistry, Mathematics, Art, Psychology and Physics being the best performing subjects. BTEC results are excellent for 2020 – 95% Distinction/Distinction* (equivalent to A/A* at A-Level). University destinations included Cambridge, Durham, UCL, Manchester, Warwick, Newcastle, Lancaster.
The boarding provision is be upped substantially, with accommodation for 15-18 year olds across two locations, staffed by house ‘parents’ seven days a week with breakfast and dinner thrown in, and there’s also host family accommodation available. For those 18+ who can’t think of anything worse than a house or host parent, there’s also fully fledged DIY indie accommodation on offer.
Mark Love has been busy since he took over the helm at Oxford Sixth Form College. Energetic and open, he’s spent his time taming the chaos, taking on new staff, upping the number of kids who are full time (90% this year) to give the school what he calls its ‘heart’ and also introduce stronger pastoral care with a dedicated pastoral senior tutor role. Love has a slightly maverick air – you kind of feel that the school has craved his brand of energy that’s now seeing through some developments such as money for new science labs next summer and enhanced boarding.
It’s strictly first name terms for teachers here, plus there’s no school uniform, even for those doing GSCEs – not unheard of in Oxfordshire but still quite unusual. The lack of extra-curricular emphasis is rare, though perhaps not surprising in a college that has to adapt to children joining at different times of year and at no fixed length. The emphasis on B-TEC here is not so much quirky as smart, offering less traditionally academic kids the chance to stay on and gain a qualification that’s the equivalent of three A-Levels.
I’d say on the expensive side given the lack of facilities, except for the fact that really you’re paying for the super-flexibility and the central Oxford location. A two year course taking three A level subjects or the five term B-TEC course is £8395 per term; the single GSCE year is also £8395 per term. Retakes are is £3,050 per subject per term. For the full flexible price list read here.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The reception area
In the past Oxford Tutorial College had a reputation for being a bit chaotic, but the rebrand as Oxford Sixth Form College, a new head and more focused approach appears to be working. Its respectful first name interactions with the children goes down well, and the results are good when you consider the vast breadth of ability at this academically non-selective school. A few grumbles about lack of facilities, and it’s agreed by everyone I spoke to that the buildings inside could do with a more personality and TLC.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those needing flexibility with schooling – kids can come here for retakes, single year GSCEs, A levels and B-TEC. It’s a viable option for children who struggle in traditional schools or who want more of a halfway house between school and university.
Not for: Anyone in love with the halcyon idea of bucolic private schools. Behind the grand facades, this is a working college, with none of the bells and whistles you might expect as a fee-paying parent.
Oxford Sixth Form College, 12 King Edward Street, Oxford, OX1 4HT. Tel: 01865 793333.