Connor Gormley Small

How to Make the Most of Sixth Form


Be honest with yourself for a moment. If you’re in sixth form, you probably don’t think too highly of the lower years. They exist in most minds only as a squealy, homogenous cluster; a group of things that spawn between lessons, make lots of noise, then disappear again.

They emerge, you groan, and they eventually go away again. We know we shouldn’t feel like it, we used to be them. We wore blazers and shirt ties. We had free time. It’s just that, well, we do feel that way – it’s part of being a teenager. We’re allowed to get miserable. It’s our thing.

It might be wise, however, to put some of sixth form reserve aside.

That’s what I did when, at the start of this academic year, I started a creative writing group for key stage three students. I’d enjoyed similar groups as a student myself and I thought that, as something resembling an adult, I might be able to give something back. So, I set about asking the right people, designing posters, making sure I had a set room, a set time and all the stuff I’d need.

A few months later, the club’s an item. Like a fully-fledged ‘put in on the list of after school clubs’ item.

There’s a group of six or seven regulars who turn up ready to write and each week I bring them something to write about. We’ve had out-of-body experiences on the grounds of Angkor Watt, we’ve had murders and serial killers and monsters and magic, we’ve been to Paris, to London, to Iceland and Havana, and it’s been wonderful. I’ve seen the students get consistently better and better, get more confident in their writing, more willing to experiment, and that process, even as it reminds me of my own crushing inadequacy, has been thrilling.  

I started it a little too late for it to really have much of an effect on the shape of my personal statement.

But if I had to write it again (not that I’d want to, trust me, I really don’t want to) I wouldn’t struggle for anything to talk about. This group has seen me designing posters and distributing them throughout the school, organising dates, times and places so that we have a place to meet each week, coming up with tasks to prompt writing, and finding the value of work even when the student themselves can’t.

So, if you’re in the lower sixth, maybe re-evaluate your stance on the lower years.

You don’t have to know what career you want, you don’t even have to know what you want to do at university, just think about what you’re good at, what you’re interested in, and how you might be able to make something out of it. Are you shockingly good at cricket? Good at running? Painting? Reading maps? Drumming? Are you in love, utterly, utterly in love with aeroplanes? Go for it. Talk to some subject teachers and see if you can help out in some of their lessons, or maybe look into what it might take to set up a club. You’ll probably really enjoy yourself. Then you can tell everyone about it on your personal statement.