We have a fantastic choice of sixth forms right here on the doorstep whether you want to stay on in school or transfer to a college. And one that really caught our eye was St Brendan’s in Brislington, which has over 1,700 students studying A-levels, BTECs & GCSEs on one incredible, purpose built, university style campus.

St Brendan’s is the only specialist Sixth Form College in the area and is able to offer A-levels and BTECs in over 60 different subjects at Level 3, plus a varied selection at Level 2. Students are also able to select any combination of subjects meaning that everyone has their own bespoke timetable.

We wanted to find out more and one of their students kindly volunteered to tell us what it’s like at St Brendan’s and how it felt transiting from her school to this huge campus. Here’s what she told us …

Support networks

St Brendan’s is really different to being at secondary school. To start with, A-levels are a lot more work anyway (A message to all the year 11’s out there: 3 or 4 A Level subjects are much harder than 11 GCSE subjects, you have been warned), but it helps that the college is supportive to all students, with a variety of support networks, so it never gets too overwhelming.

Independent study

There is a huge emphasis on independent learning, giving students far more freedom in their studies, whilst still having support from your subject teachers. Everyone at St Brendan’s, including teachers, tutors and other members of staff, are there to ensure that you reach your full potential whilst making sure you have an enjoyable two years here! But there are some other pretty huge differences that make me glad I made the choice to go to sixth form college.

Independent self

Alongside the emphasis on independent study, there is more freedom in terms of spare time and time management at St Brendan’s. There are no school bells, meaning you are in charge of your punctuality and attendance. And it gives students more responsibility for their education, preparing us for the real world of schedules and deadlines.

Unlike some other sixth forms, students at St Brendan’s can also leave the campus entirely and spend their time offsite, either in the surrounding shops or restaurants (The McDonalds down the road is certainly a popular destination!), which again makes you feel like you are in charge of your time here.

No Younger Year Groups

Perhaps the best part of St Brendan’s is the fact that all students are between the ages of 16-18. Surprisingly, it makes a huge difference not having rowdy year 7’s in the library when you’re trying to revise. And not having to share the space with younger students can also make the whole A-Levels process much less stressful – which is always a positive! But overall it just makes the environment feel far more mature and suited to adult learners. Paired with the campus-like layout, it almost feels like a small university.

A Modern Vibe

And in terms of facilities, St Brendan’s is a bright and modern campus with plenty of study spaces and other cool areas to enjoy. There is something for everyone – a theatre for the drama students to rehearse and perform in, a gym that is open to students and teachers, a library with a huge range of fiction and non-fiction books, and much much more.

There are also two lovely cafes which are great to socialise – and study – in, as well as having a great variety of food available. For the first few weeks of being a student here, it genuinely felt like there was something new around every corner: there is certainly no shortage of places to go and spend time.

Each department’s facilities are also just as modern, and you are expected to call teachers by their first name! This was very weird for me at first, but eventually I realised that it makes you feel like you are on more of an equal footing in the classroom, and that makes interacting with your class and contributing to the lessons much easier and more enjoyable.

Ditching the school tie

Another cool aspect of most sixth forms is not having to wear a uniform. But at St Brendan’s, students seem to also have more ability to express themselves and their individual style.

I was pretty worried at the beginning of the year that it would be hard having to find something different to wear every day, and that everyone would secretly be judging what I wore. Fortunately, no one actually cares what you wear because everyone is too wrapped up in their own lives to notice what you are wearing!

And it sounds cliché, but every student is in the same boat. After a few weeks, practically everyone defaults to jeans and a t-shirt – although, it is particularly nice to see the variety of styles and colour in the corridor, as opposed to a sea of grimy grey blazers.

Fun Extras

Another difference is the variety of enrichment opportunities in college as well as the number of societies that I don’t think you would find in a typical secondary school.

Every student has allotted free time at the end of the day on a Wednesday to take part in enrichments if they wish. There’s lots to get involved with – such as student union, PRIDE, multiple sports teams and more. But if you don’t see anything that interests you, you can work with the college to set up your own society to get people involved with.

It’s a great way to meet people, and it was a great way for me to get to know some of the second years and get tips from them on how to survive the next two years. It’s also a great way to build your CV and gain experience!

And finally, …

I am so happy with my decision to come to St Brendan’s as it does feel just like a bridge between school and university. The college really emphasises all of the different pathways you can take after finishing your A-levels and offers a ton of support. I’m really looking forward to my second year here, and whatever comes with it.

Thank you to St Brendan’s Sixth Form for their support with today’s guest blog.

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