2020 Summer Term

The know zone

  • Care-takers
    Cait Cooper from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families highlights four ways school and college leaders can support staff wellbeing. More
  • Primary focus
    Throughout the lockdown period, ASCL's engagement with civil servants at the DfE and with other stakeholders has continued. Tiffnie Harris provides an update on some of the key issues affecting the primary education sector. More
  • Lessons learned
    Hayley Dunn highlights the lessons learned from implementing emergency plans in response to the current health crisis. More
  • September's Sixth Form
    As schools and colleges plan for their new cohort of sixth form students in September, Kevin Gilmartin examines the key areas that will impact on provision. In a time of such uncertainty, what should schools and colleges prepare for? More
  • A helping hand for further education
    Anne Murdoch highlights a new ASCL and AoC mentoring scheme to help develop personal resilience among college leaders and to empower them when faced with difficult circumstances. More
  • Weather the storm
    Before schools began to open more widely, we asked members to share their experience of the health crisis and here's what they had to say. More
  • Hitting the right note
    Principal Andrew Parkin joined ASCL Council five years ago and is a member of the Funding Committee. Here he tells us about his dedication to education and his love for music and singing. More
  • Rites of passage
    Seasons, traditions and rituals are important markers in our development as humans, but the lockdown means that - for some of our young people - the rhythms of life will skip a beat. More
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As schools and colleges plan for their new cohort of sixth form students in September, Kevin Gilmartin examines the key areas that will impact on provision. In a time of such uncertainty, what should schools and colleges prepare for?

September’s Sixth Form

The start of the new academic year in the sixth form is always exciting, hectic, perhaps a bit manic and always highly challenging. And that is in ‘normal’ times. This September will be different from any previous year, but it is still up to schools and colleges to ensure that the students (and staff) can navigate the start to this crucial phase of education. Unfortunately, there is no ‘how to’ manual that can be dusted down and referred to. However, understanding the national policy changes that have occurred will help, as well as a recognition that this cohort will need an induction programme that goes far deeper than a guide to their new teachers, subjects and timetable.


At least there is a bit more money in the system. An extra £400 million means the base rate will increase from £4,000 to £4,188. The new High Value Courses Premium (HVCP) of £400 per student will be allocated for subjects (including nine STEM A levels (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)) that the government wants more young people to study. Additional funds for GCSE English and maths resits (£750 per subject per Level 3 student) will be hugely welcomed. All of this will not be enough to address years of underfunding, but it will help. It will mean fewer sixth forms are being cross-subsidised by 11–16 budgets and may just make the difference to running a marginal subject that may have been unviable in the past.

Student enrolments

Student numbers should be higher as well. Demographic changes mean that an extra 50,000 16 year-olds will be in the system this year. Presently, there are 125,000 young people aged 16–17 in jobs outside of full-time education, with 55,000 in apprenticeships. Covid-19’s economic impact will undoubtedly reduce these opportunities and more young people may decide to stay in education. The only uncertainty is the scale. A scenario where young people drift back to their old school in late September, or wander into a college after realising that the jobs and apprenticeships just aren’t there, seems very real.

Another scenario could see the demand for state-funded sixth form education increase from the parents of the 88,000 sixth formers in private education who have been economically impacted and can no longer afford fees.

Curriculum changes

T levels are the biggest change to the curriculum landscape. Despite Covid-19, it does seem as if it is all systems go for a September start across 50 schools and colleges. However, the three new T levels will only enrol a few thousand students and some parts of the country will have no access to them. There must also be doubts about some firms’ capacity to still offer the crucial 45-day work placement. Of course, the future of the Applied General Qualification (AGQ) has been tied in with the introduction of T levels (and the associated stepping-stone Level 2 Transition Year).

The government consultation on this was due to report in June and may now be delayed. What seems certain though is that centres can safely enrol students on a two-year AGQ this September and almost certainly from September 2021 as well.


This may be the most difficult area to plan for. How will students be feeling after up to six months away from an educational environment? What needs to be built into the induction programme to address their feelings of disorientation, anxiety and potential dissatisfaction with their centre-assessed grades?

Will this dissatisfaction spill over into huge demands for a resit autumn series? Will students have an expectation that their teaching can now be done differently – should you plan to try more online learning now the genie is out of the bottle? Just how far will the most disadvantaged have been left behind? How can teachers build in appropriate content catch-up?

But we also know that our schools and colleges are the best places for these young people to be. Both for their mental wellbeing and for their sense of returning to ‘normality’. The enormity of the challenge is obvious. ASCL is here to help you in any way we can.

Kevin Gilmartin
ASCL Post-16 and Colleges Specialist