Grab your second chance to shine at Leeds Sixth Form College

’It’s not the end of the world’ is a phrase we’ve all heard from well-meaning family or friends after a setback.

If you have just failed an important exam, however, the chances are that such words will be of little comfort. Instead, what is needed at such moments is practical help – for someone to tell you ‘you can try again, and here’s how’.

That is where Leeds Sixth Form College’s Step-Up Pathway comes in. The programme is designed specifically to help 16-18 year olds, who did not gain the GCSEs they were hoping for, get what they need to progress.

Step-Up provides a three-year route to sitting A levels, or a hybrid option of A levels plus a vocational qualification, and starts with a first year during which each student aims to gain five GCSEs. For some, like former Leeds Sixth Form College student Jamal Mottley, this option has represented a life-changing second chance.

An alternative route to success

Jamal used the Step-Up Pathway to re-sit his GCSEs before going on to achieve three A levels with Leeds Sixth Form College, and has now started university. Speaking in August after finding out his results, he explained how difficult personal circumstances had led to him failing his GCSEs the first time around.

He said: “I didn’t know you could re-sit them and thought it was a one-time thing.

“But then my mum got out of hospital and helped me look for somewhere to re-sit my GCSEs, and found Leeds Sixth Form College. I don’t know where I’d be without Step-up!”

Ro Elliott, meanwhile, has just started her A level courses at the college after successfully gaining five GCSEs through Step-Up.

She said: “I wasn’t really in full-time education for a lot of secondary school which is why I didn’t get the opportunity to do my GCSEs properly, so the fact the college introduced this course was really beneficial to me.”

Helping to tackle inequality

In a recently published study on education inequalities, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) argued that one of the key shortcomings of the country’s education system was the ‘lack of adequate second chances’.

Step-Up, which is especially helpful for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, allows them to develop their language skills.

Principal of Leeds Sixth Form College, Rachael Booth, said: “We are very proud of our Step-Up Pathway and the route it provides for students who want to study A levels but haven’t, for whatever reason, got the qualifications they need yet.

“Each year we hear from so many talented young people, like Ro and Jamal, about how much having this second opportunity to achieve, and excel, means to them.

“Education, like life, isn’t always a straight line, often due to things we can’t control. This pathway ensures that students can try again for the qualifications they need to progress and shine in whatever they choose to do.”

More information on the Step-Up Pathway can be found here. The IFS study can be viewed here.

A college with its sights set high

We are forging ahead into the new academic year with a ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features Ofsted rating under our belt.

Based in the heart of Leeds and driven by a belief that every student has the ability to excel, Leeds Sixth Form College impressed the inspectors when they visited earlier this year.

Our passionate and expert staff, and the partnership work they do to ensure our educational programmes meet the needs of local employers, were singled out for praise.

Our A level programme, which helps students take the next step in their educational or career journey, is at the heart of what we do.

A tailored approach for each student, full of enrichment opportunities

But our offering is much broader than that, which is why we give every new student a guidance interview before advising them on which of four pathways to follow. This ensures that their courses will help them move on to the job, university degree, or higher apprenticeship they have in mind.

And for 16 to 18 year olds who need extra GCSEs, or higher grades in those they already have, we offer the Step-up Pathway. This one-year programme helps students gain five GCSEs in preparation for taking on A levels.

The college also aims to ensure that students have an exceptional experience during their time with us, which is why we are always working to secure enrichment opportunities.

In June this year, for example, 61 of our politics, law and history students enjoyed a two-day educational trip to London. Their stay included a tour of Hampton Court Palace, a visit to the Supreme Court, meeting a High Court judge and a trip to the Houses of Parliament.

Our Principal, Rachael Booth, said: “We are fully committed to helping every student, whatever their background or field of interest, reach their full potential and excel.

“To help us achieve that we have a dedicated, expert teaching staff and top-class facilities, to give each of our students the very best chance of success.

“We are also always looking at experiences that can enrich students’ studies and bolster their confidence and self-belief.

“Education transforms lives and opens up new opportunities. We are always excited to welcome new students, and to learn how we can best help them take their vital next step. So please get in touch – we look forward to hearing from you!”

State-of-the-art facilities

Our courses are taught in dedicated, well-equipped teaching rooms in the college’s Park Lane campus. Our students also have access to a permanently staffed Independent Learning Zone, where a suite of 60 chrome-books are provided.

Keen to address the country’s healthcare skills gap and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, the college recently opened a brand new science laboratory.

This specialist facility features a private consultation room and a pharmacy practice room which have been designed to support the college’s two new pioneering courses, Pharmacy T Level and Access to Medicine.

STEM is a key focus for us and we had some fantastic success stories in this area recently among our A level students. Poppy Middleton, for example, achieved A grades in chemistry, maths and physics along with a B in further maths this year. She is now going on to study aerospace engineering at the University of Leeds.

Sporting, as well as academic, excellence

Thanks to our partnerships with some of the region’s leading sporting organisations, through Leeds Sports Connect, we also offer outstanding opportunities for student-athletes.

Under this pioneering scheme, students can pursue a high-quality education with the college, studying three A levels, without sacrificing development in their chosen sport.

The courses are built around training schedules so participants can enjoy outstanding coaching, in top-class facilities, while pursuing their studies.

Our partners include Leeds Rhinos Foundation, Leeds United Foundation, The Hunslet Club, Ultimate Football Coaching Academy, and Let’s Do More. Click here to find out more about courses at Leeds Sixth Form College.

GCSE students praised for ‘resilience and character’ after tough two years

Leeds Sixth Form College and Leeds City College students have been celebrating their GCSE and BTEC results.

This was the first time exams have taken place since 2019, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020 and 2021 students received results based on teacher-assessed grades.

Grades, nationally, were as expected, lower on average this year with the government being keen to reverse ‘grade inflation’.

But at Leeds City College and Leeds Sixth Form College (LSFC) many students were happy to have secured the results they needed to move on to A levels, apprenticeships or T Levels.

Travis Daly was delighted with his results after achieving a 7 grade in English language, 5s in maths and English literature, and 4s in business and an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification).

And he was full of praise for LSFC, where he did his exams through the Step-up Pathway, which helps students aged 16 to 18 gain GCSEs.

An amazing college full of camaraderie

He said: “These results have exceeded what I was hoping for.

“I’ve found it amazing here. I really preferred the camaraderie of the college, it was significantly better than my secondary school where everyone was just in little factions fighting against each other.

“Here, everyone just gets along. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you are, everyone’s just together – we’re all friends. I owe the college so much – my teachers were contacting me almost every day to ask me how I was getting on. I’m so happy to know I’m now going to be doing A levels, it’s the best feeling.”

Travis is planning to do A levels in history, law and politics with Leeds Sixth Form College, and then aims to study law at the University of Toronto, in Canada.

A route back into education

Ro Elliott
Ro Elliott

Ro Elliott was also celebrating some great results despite having had to sit her five GCSEs, through LSFC’s Step-up programme, while suffering from the flu.

She achieved a grade 7 in biology and chemistry, a 6 in physics and 5s in English and maths. She is now planning to study A levels in biology, chemistry and psychology – with a goal of progressing into medicine.

She said: “My time here has been really enjoyable. I wasn’t really in full time education for a lot of secondary school which is why I didn’t get the opportunity to do my GCSEs properly, so the fact the college introduced this course was really beneficial to me.

“And the fact it was only three days a week as well felt like a really good introductory step to getting back into education.”

A great alternative to school

Libby Watkins
Libby Watkins

Libby Watkins is looking forward to studying science-focused A levels at LSFC after getting the GCSE grades she needed in maths, English and science.

Reflecting on her time at Leeds City College’s 14+ Academies, which provides an alternative learning environment to school for young adults, she said: “It’s been really good, I’ve enjoyed the atmosphere which is so friendly.

“The teachers here are good too, they’re nice people – human! Going back to high school wasn’t an option for me and home schooling wasn’t getting me quite as far as I needed to be. So I joined here not realising how good it actually was at first.”

Balancing studying with parenting

Kertu Babik
Kertu Babik

Many adult learners have also been celebrating their results. Kertu Babik, whose first language is Estonian, was celebrating getting all 9s and 8s in her five GCSEs (maths, English, combined science and citizenship).

She said: “It was interesting at Leeds Sixth Form College. At first I was a bit worried because it was my first time studying in the English language. It took a few weeks but then it felt good, and the teachers were inspiring and motivating, and made me feel really welcome.

“I’ve got two kids, one aged two and one four, so one of the hardest things was to be on time for classes, and to study after they had gone to sleep!”

Kertu is now heading to the University of Leeds to study an Interdisciplinary Science with Foundation Year course, with a view to progressing into medicine.

Reflecting on this year’s results, Niki McKenna, Interim Headteacher of the 14+ Academies, said: “GCSE results day is always full of all sorts of emotions but the key thing we feel today is pride, because of how our young people have dealt with a really tough year.

“Our learners have probably been most affected by Covid-19 in terms of the amount of teaching they’ve missed, but we’re really proud of the resilience, determination and character they’ve shown to push through that. And we’re really happy with the level of progress that they’ve made.

“We’ve worked really hard to make them happy and confident individuals and spent a lot of time working on holistic skills to help them be resilient, while also focusing on their academic progress.”

More details on the 14+ Academies can be found here.

Taking strides towards medical school

Student Nicholas Sappor Charles credits strong support from his tutors for helping him take important steps towards medical school.

Nicholas, who moved to the UK from Ghana, is also grateful for the flexibility that Leeds Sixth Form College has granted him as he works towards his goal.

His first experience of the college was when he enrolled on the Access Foundation GCSE programme last year. He ended up completing that course with six GCSEs, including in Combined Science Synergy – a double qualification which combines biology, chemistry and physics.

Nicholas is now busy studying chemistry, biology and maths A levels – and is grateful for all the guidance he has received.

The benefits of a flexible approach

He said: “Leeds Sixth Form College has been a good experience so far. I enrolled on the Access GCSE course after speaking with a career advisor at college, who told me what I needed to do to get into medical school. 

“I was enrolled on a five GCSE programme but, in order to increase my chances of getting into as many universities as possible, the college also allowed me to do one extra GCSE, in business.

“That was a great opportunity which I am very grateful for. It was a bit tricky because timetables would clash, but my tutor was always there to help and explain things, plus give feedback on tests.”

An enriching and welcoming environment

Nicholas is also appreciative of the many enrichment activities that the college has arranged during his A level studies, and for making him feel welcome.

He said: “The teachers are friendly and helpful and are always ready to answer your questions. I am also highly impressed by the number of opportunities – including work experience, massive open online courses, and virtual skills development programmes – they try to make available to us.

“I was shy and a bit anxious due to the change of environment when I came to the UK, but college has really helped me grow in confidence and make me feel like I belong.”