This selective sixth form college in Wales sits top of the league tables and is most suited for students with high academic achievement and a ‘study hard’ ethic.
Founded in 2004, the college does not have the history or traditions of many schools within the UK’s independent sector. Nor does it have acres of land, state of the art sporting facilities and grand dining halls. But it does have a track record of achieving A grades year after year from its city centre hothouse of a campus. It admitted its first international students in 2009. It was acquired by Dukes Education in 2017 and joined a UK family of 17 schools, each with very different educational DNA. And it launched a one-year GCSE programme in 2019.
The college will open a second campus in Cambridge in September 2022, close to two other Dukes schools (St Andrew’s College Cambridge and Sancton Wood School); the new campus will offer A Level courses.
In the words of Principal Gareth Collier, “Cardiff Sixth Form College is for the ambitious student whose aspirations are broad and whose academic dreams are big.” While expectations are high, entry is selective and the workload is demanding, the college supports students with a solid support system, small class sizes (the teacher-student ratio is 1:7), individual attention and mentorship.
One of Cardiff’s strengths is its wide choice of A Level options, and the promise to “give its students the freedom to choose any subject combination they wish and to construct a timetable around their individual needs”. The list of options includes English, maths, biology, physics, chemistry, psychology, art, geography, history, German, French, government and politics, and economics.
As the college is based in Wales, it offers a slightly different curriculum to the typical option of studying three or four A Levels in an English school. The Wales A Level is separated into two sections – AS Level and A2 Level, which are both standalone qualifications. The AS Level gives students an introduction to their chosen subject, while the A2 Level provides a more in-depth study of a subject topics and can only be entered once an AS Level qualification in the chosen subject has been achieved.
Students are prepared for university life with timetabled lessons to help with university entrance tests such as BMAT, TSA, LNAT, and Sixth Term Examination Papers (STEP), as well as preparation for Oxbridge and medical degrees. All students complete a Critical Thinking course focused on important analytical skills, and there’s an opportunity to develop independent research skills by completing the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ). The college also has a dedicated Work Observation Coordinator to help students secure a work experience placement.
From September 2022, the college will offer a new two-year GCSE programme which will broaden its appeal. Students will have the opportunity to study a choice of 15 subjects, as well as a GCSE-specific university preparation "super-curricular programme".
There’s a broad enrichment programme that balances curriculum-based and extra-curricular activities, offering students opportunities such as a trip to the International Centre for Nuclear Research near Geneva, and a choice of debating, sport and arts clubs.
Cardiff helps to build a school community with inter-house challenges and events such as the annual sports day and talent show, which also help to settle the large number of international students into UK life and best-prepare them for university applications.
Cardiff has been ranked number one for A Level results in league tables published by The Telegraph and The Times for five consecutive years. In 2019, 90.28% of its students gained A*-A grades and 99.19% gained A*-B. In the same year, 48% of students were awarded places at top UK and US universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, the London School of Economics, and University College London.
The college’s first GCSE cohort in 2019 performed equally well; 84% of students gained A*-A grades and 100% achieved A*-B.
Located in the heart of Cardiff City, the college has a modern, spacious campus. Boarding is in contemporary, purpose-built accommodation a 10-minute walk from the college, and there is a choice of single bedrooms, apartments and studio flats.
Students are required to have 6 A* at GCSE for entry (9 A* for scholarship students), and complete a single entrance test, GL Assessment (aptitude test) and interview.
Annual tuition fees are £19,600 for A Level students and £22,500 for the one-year GCSE programme; boarding is an additional £23,900 a year.
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