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The Importance of GCSEs

Posted: 3rd November 2021

For over a decade, Cardiff Sixth Form College has excelled in delivering A Levels, achieving astonishing outcomes for students and sending them on their way to the world’s finest universities. That single sentence makes it sound so easy. Trust me, it is not, and the work that goes into this, by students and teachers alone, is quite incredible. In addition, our Careers & Higher Education staff and our colleagues who deliver IELTS tuition as well as EAP (English for Academic Purposes), the EPQ and a whole range of other courses designed to broaden the linguistic and academic skill-set of students, all play an immeasurable part in our students’ success.

As access to leading universities becomes ever-more competitive, we must constantly consider how best to facilitate an educational offer that puts our students in the best position. Sometimes it just feels as if there aren’t enough hours in the day, when trying to do this over two short years. Indeed, the number of students, nationally, we are seeing applying post-results, tells a story in its own right as they also seek the benefit from the additional time afforded them by sitting university entrance tests after they have secured their A Levels.

In ‘Back to the Future’, one of my favourite films, growing up, the lead character, Marty, is faced with a whole range of problems to solve in what seems like no time at all. Suddenly, he has a light-bulb moment: ‘I have all the time in the world. I have a time machine!’. Well, we might not have one of those, but we can look at time differently and recognise that the broad-based skills and intellectual-developed required to access world-leading universities can indeed be developed by lengthening the sixth form experience. For that reason, Cardiff Sixth Form College is developing a four-year sixth form experience, taking students from aged 14 through a two-year IGCSE programme and then on to A Levels, providing them, throughout, with the additional support and understanding of the university admissions process, work observations and adjacent intellectual development which will help them to excel.

Universities look more and more to GCSEs as a strong benchmark of an all-round education and evidence of intellectual acumen. To that end, our own IGCSE offer will be broad-based with all students studying a modern foreign language and a humanities subject in addition to the core subjects. Most will also study Further Mathematics and our Enrichment Programme will include a course in cultural literacy (Politics, Philosophy & Ethics) as well as cross-curricular researched-based skills and detailed guidance on applying to Oxbridge, US universities and leading Russell Group institutions. All of this will be provided by our own highly-skilled staff and supported by our partners at Dukes Education, including ‘Oxbridge Applications’ and ‘The A-List’.

Through studying GCSEs, our students will gain not just the benefits of breadth in their pre-A Level base, but also enhanced communication and essay-writing skills, improved use of English and a stronger grounding in those subjects that they go on to study at A Level. Indeed, the creativity, communication, interaction and development of various other life-skills will serve those students well into their futures and it cannot be denied that students joining from other education systems from around the world will benefit enormously from this ideal grounding in the UK education system.

We all know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but it is worth noting that, since we introduced our one-year IGCSE course, three years ago, we have seen a marked transformation in how the students who have embarked on that course, have gone on to perform at A Level and beyond. One student, joining from Spain and determined to become an engineer, developed not just astonishing

English language skills but also an enhanced and more mature understanding of the sciences, through our IGCSE programme. He subsequently went on to take up a place at Oxford…to read medicine!

Another student, from China, arrived with basic English skills and, having sat her GCSEs and A Levels with us went on to excel in the TSA and take up a place at Oxford to read PPE. Whilst there are no counter-facts to test this hypothesis, it is safe to say that the grounding she gained in the IGCSE programme almost certainly gave her the linguistic and intellectual skills required to gain such a prestigious offer.

The Cardiff Sixth Form College four-year sixth form experience begins in September, 2022. We know that it will give students a leading edge in an increasingly competitive market for university access and we also know that our experience in delivering world-leading sixth form experiences will naturally transpose into delivering a new type of GCSE experience.



Tom Arrand – Head, Cardiff Sixth Form College

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