Are bigger sixth forms better?

  • There is a huge range of sixth form sizes, from almost zero up to many thousands, but among the mid-sized providers there appears to be a mild preference to have more than 250 students.
  • Larger sixth forms tend to receive less money per student, but enter them for a wider range of A-level subjects and show better academic performance. They also tend to be more affluent, so this, rather than their size, could be the source of their relative success.
  • However, the same effects persist even after controlling for disadvantage, suggesting that larger sixth forms do indeed tend to perform better, independently of the effects of disadvantage. This trend plateaus at around 200-300 students. Even the lower of these thresholds suggests that as many as 54% of sixth forms, accounting for 28% of students, might be below their optimum size.
  • These results also suggest that disadvantaged sixth-form students face a double whammy: not only are they poorer, but their sixth forms also tend to be smaller, both of which correlate with lower academic performance.

Figure 1: Numbers of sixth forms by student number
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 2: Average number of sixth form students by school/college type
Note: Sixth forms with 600 or more students have been omitted.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 3: Numbers of sixth forms by student number and disadvantage level
Note: Low disadvantage means less than 12% of students; high disadvantage means more than 24% of students.
These thresholds result in three groups containing roughly equal numbers of schools and colleges.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 4: Sixth form characteristics by size
Notes: Sixth forms with 600 or more students have been omitted.
'Selected schools/colleges' are those with sixth form disadvantage rates in the range 10-17% inclusive.
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
 

 | Copyright © 2022 |