Working in Further Education

What Makes a Good Head of Sixth Form: 9 Key Qualities for Effective Leadership

March 5, 2024

Table of Contents

What makes an outstanding Head of Sixth Form? This crucial role goes beyond academic management; it's about sculpting a vibrant educational environment where academic prowess meets pastoral care. In this blog post, go into the top 9 qualities needed to be a good Head of Sixth Form.

1. Leadership and Vision

A good Head of Sixth Form embodies the critical union of leadership prowess and a transparent vision to navigate the complexities of this educational stage. They must steadfastly uphold the school's ethos while meeting varied responsibilities that range from strategic to operational.

Developing School Vision

The Head of Sixth Form plays a pivotal role in crafting and articulating a clear and ambitious vision for the school's future, particularly for the sixth form. This involves setting strategic goals that align with the school's wider objectives and ensuring they are communicated effectively to both staff and students.

  • Strategic Goals:some text
    • Raise academic standards.
    • Enhance student wellbeing.

Roles and Responsibilities

Their responsibilities are multifaceted, covering both academic and pastoral domains. They are charged with not only academic oversight but also fostering a supportive environment that caters to the individual needs of students.

  • Key Responsibilities:some text
    • Academic monitoring and support.
    • Pastoral care and student development.

Working with Stakeholders

Heads of Sixth Form engage with a variety of stakeholders—including parents, local businesses, and higher education institutions—to ensure that students receive the support and opportunities they need to succeed.

  • Engagement Methods:some text
    • Regular communication.
    • Partnership development.

Collaboration with Headteacher

They collaborate closely with the headteacher to ensure that the sixth form's vision and operation are seamlessly integrated into the whole school strategy. This involves frequent dialogue and strategic planning sessions.

  • Collaborative Efforts:some text
    • Aligning sixth form and whole-school policies.
    • Jointly addressing areas for improvement.

Maintaining School Ethos

As role models, they are instrumental in maintaining and exemplifying the school's ethos, ensuring it resonates through all aspects of sixth-form life.

  • Ethos Reinforcement:some text
    • Behaviour and conduct.
    • Celebrating diversity and achievement.

2. Curriculum Development

A successful Head of Sixth Form recognises the importance of a well-rounded curriculum that not only prepares students academically but also develops essential life skills. They must ensure a balance between A Level and vocational options, supplemented by enrichment programmes, teaching, learning strategies, and non-qualification activities that support comprehensive student development.

Curriculum Planning

They must evaluate the educational landscape to create a curriculum that aligns with both national standards and the unique needs of their students. This involves setting appropriate entry criteria to ensure students are placed in courses where they can thrive without overextending resources.

A Level and Vocational Options

The head must provide a range of A Level and vocational options, with a clear understanding that not all students have the same goals or learning styles. It's crucial to maintain course viability and to cater to various career pathways, reflecting contemporary industry demands.

Enrichment Programmes

Enrichment programmes are integral to sixth form education, aiming to foster a well-rounded experience. These programmes should challenge students to extend their learning beyond the syllabus, offering opportunities like guest lectures, workshops, and external competitions.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Effective teaching and learning strategies are the backbone of successful educational outcomes. The head should encourage innovative methods that engage students actively and promote critical thinking, adapting to changes in pedagogical research and technology used in the classroom.

Non-Qualification Activities

Inclusion of non-qualification activities—such as leadership roles, community service, and teamwork projects—helps students develop skills that are invaluable in higher education and future employment. These activities should be intentionally planned to complement the academic curriculum.

3. Academic Performance

The academic performance of sixth form students is a critical focus area for Heads of Sixth Form, centring on rigorous monitoring and tracking, meticulous data analysis and evaluation, effective intervention strategies, and consistent recognition of student success.

Monitoring and Tracking

Heads of Sixth Form ensure that a robust system is in place to monitor students' progress. This typically involves setting clear expectations and academic targets for each pupil, regularly checking in on these targets through assessments, and maintaining open lines of communication with both students and teaching staff.

  • Targets: Set clear, achievable goals for each student.
  • Assessments: Regular tests to measure progress towards targets.
  • Communication: Updates with staff and students to ensure everyone is informed.

Data Analysis and Evaluation

They collect and analyse data to evaluate the outcomes of teaching methods and student understanding. This analysis often leads to insights that can improve the approaches to teaching and learning.

  • Performance Metrics: Use grades, test scores, and other indicators.
  • Comparison: Compare current student data with past cohorts or expected benchmarks.
  • Insights: Identify trends and areas for improvement.

Intervention Strategies

Based on the data collected, they design and implement intervention strategies to support students who are at risk of underperforming. These strategies are tailored to meet individual student needs and can range from one-on-one tutoring to revision workshops.

  • Targeted Support: Customised plans for students needing aid.
  • Resource Allocation: Ensure effective use of resources for maximal student support.

Celebrating Success

It's crucial to celebrate academic achievements to motivate students. Recognising both improvement and high achievement reinforces a positive learning culture within the sixth form.

  • Awards: Certificates or prizes for outstanding performance.
  • Displays: Public acknowledgement of academic successes on notice boards or in newsletters.

4. Student Support and Guidance

Effective Heads of Sixth Form prioritise comprehensive student support systems that cater to the diverse needs of their cohort, ensuring each student is prepared for post-18 choices and their wellbeing is safeguarded.

Pastoral Leadership

Heads of Sixth Form play a critical role in pastoral leadership, fostering an environment where students feel safe and supported. They coordinate with pastoral staff to implement strategies that address the varied academic and social pressures students face.

Wellbeing and Mental Health

Wellbeing and mental health support are integral to the sixth form experience. Heads of Sixth Form are tasked with establishing resources that promote mental health awareness, including counselling services and stress management workshops, ensuring students' mental health is prioritised alongside academic achievement.

University and Career Guidance

Under University and Career Guidance, Heads of Sixth Form often oversee the UCAS process, providing students with comprehensive support on university applications, personal statements, and interview preparations. They equally highlight alternative paths, such as apprenticeships, to ensure all students understand the spectrum of post-18 opportunities.

Mentoring and Individual Support

A robust mentoring and individual support system is fundamental, with the Head of Sixth Form matching students with mentors who provide tailored advice on academics and employability skills. Personalised support plans are crafted to assist each student on their individual journey, recognising their unique aspirations and talents.

5. Community and Culture

A successful Head of Sixth Form recognises the pivotal role strong community ties and a positive culture play in shaping an enriching environment for students. This includes nurturing relationships, celebrating diversity, and fostering leadership qualities within the student body.

Building Relationships

Heads of Sixth Form should foster a sense of belonging and mutual respect among students, staff, and governors. Networking events and social gatherings can be instrumental in strengthening the school's community. Furthermore, regular meetings with the student council provide avenues for students' voices to be heard and acted upon, facilitating a collaborative atmosphere.

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

A proactive approach to diversity ensures that all students feel valued and supported. Strategies may include:

  • Curriculum inclusion: Integrating diverse perspectives within the curriculum.
  • Celebratory events: Organising cultural awareness events that honour various heritages and traditions.

The engagement of everyone within the sixth form, from students to staff, in these initiatives promotes a well-rounded educational experience.

Engagement with Parents and Alumni

Communication with parents is key to a student's academic and personal development. Regular updates via newsletters, emails, or parent-teacher meetings keep parents involved. The Head of Sixth Form can also leverage alumni experiences through:

  • Inviting alumni to speak at events.
  • Establishing a mentorship programme connecting alumni with current students.

These interactions provide pupils with real-world insights and networking opportunities.

Student Leadership Initiatives

Nurturing student leadership is essential for cultivating an empowered student body. This could involve:

  • Election of student roles: Head Boy or Girl, Student Council positions.
  • Leadership programmes: Training and workshops to develop leadership skills.

These initiatives not only enhance the sixth form's culture but also prepare students for future leadership positions in society.

6. Operational Management

Effective operational management is the cornerstone of a successful sixth form, encompassing the critical areas of staff recruitment and retention, resource allocation, the admissions process, and adherence to safeguarding policies. These elements work in tandem to create a secure and stimulating educational environment.

Staff Recruitment and Retention

To maintain a high standard of education, a Head of Sixth Form must ensure the best educators and support staff are recruited and retained. They develop clear job descriptions, advertise in suitable forums, and conduct rigorous selection processes. Retention is supported by fostering a positive work environment, providing professional development opportunities, and offering competitive remuneration packages.

  • Recruitment Strategies:some text
    • Develop and articulate precise job specifications.
    • Advertise vacancies in education sector publications and online job boards.
  • Retention Measures:some text
    • Implement mentoring and support programmes for new staff.
    • Regularly review salaries and career progression opportunities.

Resource Allocation

Resource allocation is a delicate balancing act of financial considerations and educational needs. The Head of Sixth Form is responsible for:

  • Budgeting: Allocating funds effectively while planning for contingencies.
  • Resources: Ensuring classrooms are equipped with up-to-date materials and technology.

Admissions and Attendance

The admissions process needs to be robust and transparent, with clear criteria that uphold the school's standards. The Head of Sixth Form monitors attendance rigorously, as consistent attendance is linked to student success.

  • Admissions Process:some text
    • Outline prerequisites for entry into the sixth form.
    • Communicate processes to prospective students and their guardians.
  • Attendance Monitoring:some text
    • Implement electronic tracking systems for daily attendance.
    • Address absenteeism proactively through pastoral support.

Safeguarding Policies

Safeguarding policies are critical, and the Head of Sixth Form ensures these are up-to-date and effectively communicated to all staff and students. Regular training sessions are important for maintaining awareness.

  • Policy Implementation:some text
    • Regularly review and update safeguarding procedures.
    • Organise training sessions at the beginning of the academic year and as needed.

Safeguarding extends beyond policies; it is about creating a culture of safety that permeates every aspect of the school's operation.

7. Communication and Outreach

Effective Heads of Sixth Form are distinguished by their adeptness at fostering communication across various channels and building strong relationships. They recognise the vitality of not only internal communication but also engaging with parents, marketing effectively, and nurturing community partnerships.

Internal Communication Strategies

Heads of Sixth Form must establish robust internal communication channels. These include:

  • Emails: Regular updates to staff and students ensure everyone is informed and aligned with the sixth form's goals.

  • Conversations: One-to-one and group discussions foster a culture of openness and collaboration.

  • Displays: Visual displays around the sixth form area keep students aware of upcoming events and opportunities.

Parental Engagement

They understand that parents are key stakeholders:

  • Regular emails provide updates on student progress and sixth form developments.

  • Parent evenings facilitate face-to-face dialogue, allowing parents to provide input and raise concerns.

Marketing and Website Content

The Head of Sixth Form should ensure that the Sixth Form's online presence effectively communicates its vision and achievements:

  • Website: Up-to-date content that showcases the sixth form's offerings and successes.

  • Marketing materials: Clear and targeted information that outlines the sixth form's unique selling points to prospective students and parents.

Community Partnerships

They strategically engage with the community:

  • Building relationships with local businesses and educational institutions can provide opportunities for students and enhance the sixth form's reputation.

  • Utilising public speaking events to discuss the sixth form's role and impact within the community.

8. Professional Development

The strength of a sixth form's leadership often hinges on the professional development strategies implemented by the Head of Sixth Form. They ensure that ongoing training and upskilling opportunities are consistently available, fostering an environment where continuous learning and leadership development for staff are priorities.

Ongoing Staff Training

In successful sixth forms, ongoing staff training is paramount. Heads of Sixth Form coordinate schedules and resources to provide staff with regular training sessions aimed at enhancing their teaching methodologies and staying abreast of educational advancements. Collaborative workshops and external courses are leveraged to ensure teachers acquire the latest skills and expertise.

Promoting Continuous Learning

Heads of Sixth Form promote a culture of continuous learning by emphasising the importance of knowledge acquisition and application. They encourage staff to pursue further qualifications and provide platforms for knowledge sharing among peers, cementing the idea that professional growth is a continuous journey.

Leadership Opportunities for Staff

Creating leadership opportunities for staff, particularly middle leaders, drives motivation and allows the development of new skills. Heads of Sixth Form identify and nurture potential leaders through mentorship programmes and leadership roles, preparing them for possible senior leader positions and expanding the school's leadership capacity.

Performance and Skills Reviews

Structured performance and skills reviews are integral to professional development. Heads of Sixth Form facilitate regular, constructive performance reviews, pairing them with actionable feedback and personalised development plans. This ensures that staff members are aware of their strengths and areas for improvement, aligning their personal growth with the institution's objectives.

9. Performance and Standards

A good Head of Sixth Form is essential in upholding the performance and standards of a school's sixth form provision. They are responsible for setting clear academic targets, ensuring regular reviews of both student and staff performance, adapting to external assessments like Ofsted, and maintaining robust quality assurance systems.

Setting Academic Targets

In setting academic targets, Heads of Sixth Form should consult with staff to establish clear and challenging objectives for students. These targets must be aligned with the school's overall academic goals and should reflect a high standard of educational excellence.

  • Establish SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) targets for individual students and groups.
  • Align targets with national benchmarks to ensure competitiveness and relevance.

Regular Review Meetings

Review meetings are a cornerstone of effective performance monitoring. They enable the head to track progress against targets, identify areas for improvement, and offer support where necessary.

  • Organise termly or half-termly meetings with academic staff to discuss student performance.
  • Use data from internal assessments to inform discussions and adaptations to teaching methods.

External Assessments and Ofsted

External assessments play a pivotal role in evaluating the effectiveness of a sixth form's educational provision. A Head of Sixth Form must be prepared for and responsive to feedback from Ofsted, which can impact the institution's reputation and student outcomes.

  • Prepare for Ofsted inspections by ensuring all academic and UMS (Uniform Mark Scale) standards are met or exceeded.
  • Review and integrate Ofsted feedback to continuously improve teaching practices and student results.

Quality Assurance Systems

Effective quality assurance systems are integral to maintaining high standards and ensuring consistency in performance. A Head of Sixth Form must oversee these systems to make sure academic provisions meet the expected criteria.

  • Implement regular audits of teaching materials and methodologies to guarantee they meet established quality assurance benchmarks.
  • Foster an environment where staff are encouraged to share best practices and pursue professional development opportunities.

Useful Resources

If you’re looking for a job as a Head of Sixth Form, we’ve put together some resources that will help you prepare for your application, interview process, and career development.

Alex Lockey
Director | Bolt Jobs
Founder Alex Lockey is an expert in further education, learning, and skills sector. He leads cost-effective hiring solutions and is known for successful talent placements. Dynamic and driven, Alex seeks innovative solutions to solve sector hiring challenges.