Admissions Policy


Admissions Policy for entry in 20​20

1.1 This policy addresses admission to the College’s full-time Year 12 advanced level courses for 16-19 year old students by applicants in the final year of Key Stage 4 or equivalent, except for section 6 which concerns applications from those already taking an advanced level course elsewhere. Only in exceptional circumstances will an offer be made to an applicant who is unable to follow a full-time course.  

1.2 Hills Road Sixth Form College is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming community where all students are enabled to meet their full potential and are respected as individuals, as reflected in linked policies listed at the end of this document. 

1.3 Hills Road Sixth Form College is a member of the Cambridge Area 14-19 Partnership (CAP – see 8). Each of the post-16 CAP centres has its own admissions policy, and no individual centre is able to guarantee a place to all its applicants, as the number may exceed the places available. 

1.4 We shall determine annually the maximum number of places available by considering:
  • the availability of accommodation, teaching and other resources;
  • the capacity of individual subjects;
  • our desire to maintain a broad curriculum.
Subject to this, we aim to offer places to applicants with the potential to benefit from and achieve success through our study programmes and to contribute to the wider life of the College, as summarised below in 3.1. Criteria for selecting applicants in the case of oversubscription are set out below in 3.3. 

1.5 Applications must be made from the address at which an applicant is living with their parent(s)1 at the time of application. Enrolled students are expected to live with their parent(s) for the duration of their course unless, in exceptional circumstances, an alternative is agreed with us in advance. Places are offered on the understanding that information provided on the application form is true at the time of writing. If false information is supplied, we reserve the right to withdraw an offer of a place. 

1.6 Admission is open to all qualified applicants (see 3.1). With effect from 2019, there is no distinction being made in relation to an applicant’s school or home address, other than as expressed through 3.1 (v) below.

1.7 For applicants who currently have an Education Health and Care Plan and intend to put Hills Road as their named first choice centre for post-16 study, it is important that a member of our Study Skills team is invited to their annual review in Year 11. This is to ensure that we are able to consider whether we are fully able to meet their needs and to support them with transition to post-16 study if we are the most appropriate centre. Students with Education Health and Care Plans will need to meet the admissions criteria for both the College and the subjects they wish to study.

1 In exceptional circumstances, such as bereavement, it is recognised that a student may need to live with a legal guardian. Such situations should be discussed with us early in the admissions process.
2.1 We shall publish a closing date for applications in our prospectus and on our website. Applications received after this deadline will only be considered if space is still available or subsequently becomes available at a later stage in the enrolment process.

2.2 Guidance meetings with applicants take the form of an informal discussion at the College with a member of our staff. Their purpose is to offer advice on A level subject combinations and post-18 progression, to discuss the needs and extra-curricular interests of applicants and to answer questions about the College. Applicants do not need to make any decisions about their course during the guidance meeting. The meeting is designed to help applicants think about their current subject preferences, which they will be asked to enter via an online form, soon after the meeting. No offers are made at guidance meetings.

2.3 Although we reserve the right to make adjustments in the light of applications received, invitations to a guidance meeting are expected to be sent to those applicants:
  • whose application has been received by the closing date, and;
  • who place us as first choice A level centre in their application, or second choice A level centre behind a CAP school sixth form, and;
  • who satisfy the minimum entry criteria in 3.1, and;
  • who are qualified in at least two subjects applied for (on the assumption that a third subject for which they were qualified could then be explored at the guidance meeting).
3.1 Applicants who receive an offer of a place or enrol on a course will normally have satisfied the following minimum entry criteria, though the Principal may use her discretion in exceptional circumstances or where extenuating factors apply: 
(i) The reference or supporting information provided by the applicant’s school or college indicates no significant concern regarding record of attendance, punctuality, general behaviour, attitude to study or aptitude for the proposed course of study. 
(ii) The applicant’s overall combination of subjects at Key Stage 4 provides a suitable foundation for progression onto their chosen A level programme. 
(iii) The applicant’s ‘admissions score’ – based on full level 2 qualifications (GCSE/IGCSE/vocational) – meets the College’s ‘minimum level’ for that year (further details follow in 3.2). 
(iv) The applicant satisfies the specific grade requirements for their chosen A level subjects, as specified in our prospectus and on our website. 
(v) The applicant lives, or intends to move to live, within sustainable commuting distance of the College with their parent(s). 

3.2 With the introduction of numeric GCSE grades, we now base our ‘admissions score’ on a system similar to the Government’s ‘Attainment 8’ score used in schools. Further information about this is available here on the ‘Apply’ page of our website, including:  For applications and initial offers, the ‘admissions score’ will be based on the estimated grades provided at the time of applying by the applicant’s school (and any actual grades at this stage, if applicable). For enrolment, the ‘admissions score’ will be based on actual grades. To be fair to all applicants, we do not take account of level 3 qualifications in our ‘admissions score’, as these are not available to most applicants.

3.3 Should the number of applicants satisfying the above minimum criteria exceed the number of places available, places will be offered by taking into account the following extra criteria:
  • the available capacity of the subjects applied for by an applicant;
  • whether an applicant’s ‘admissions score’ meets an ‘adjusted level’, exceeding the ‘minimum level’ in 3.1 (iii), which will depend on the subjects applied for and on that year’s application patterns;
  • the extent to which an applicant is recommended by their school or college2.
The College reserves the right to make some ‘discretionary’ offers to applicants whose grades or ‘admissions score’ falls below the relevant minimum or adjusted level. In most cases, this will arise out of direct dialogue with CAP Partner schools about their applicants and any associated special circumstances.

We also use ‘adjusted levels’ as follows. Based on our experience, and backed up by national research, success in some A level subjects tends to be correlated with stronger qualifications on entry (ie at level 2) than apply to most other subjects. National research has indicated that overall grade profiles tend to be more reliable indicators of success in an A level subject than individual grades (even in the same subject at GCSE level). This being the case, ‘adjusted levels’ are set each year, in the light of application patterns, for STEM subjects (science, mathematics and computer science) and potentially others if they are similarly affected. Further information about this is available here on the ‘Applications’ page of our website, including an indicative range for the likely ‘adjusted level’ for sciences. 

3.4 We expect to email offers of places before Easter, typically in March. At the same time, we shall notify unsuccessful applicants that we have been unable to make them an offer at that stage and inform them of their opportunity to re-apply in late August for consideration in the light of their actual examination results, as further offers may be made at this time according to the space which becomes available. 

3.5 Consistent with the linear A level structure, most offers will be for three A level subjects (alongside other study programme elements such as enrichment, tutorial support and extended project). However, we shall also make some four A level offers to applicants with very high ‘admissions scores’ who are seeking a larger programme. These will include those offered Double Mathematics (plus two other subjects). 

3.6 Offers will be made for a place at the College. Once an offer has been made, and providing that the applicant remains qualified for their course as specified in 3.1 (based on their actual grades rather than estimated grades), we shall aim to allow them to follow their first choice combination of subjects requested. Where this is not possible, for reasons such as timetable clashes or over-subscription of particular subjects, guidance will be offered about suitable alternatives. However, enrolment to a fourth A level subject will be conditional on the applicant’s actual examination grades. 

​2 We shall also offer to speak to CAP institutions about their applications, either through a meeting or by telephone, before finalising decisions about offers of places.
4.1 Applicants who provide evidence that they are intending to move within sustainable commuting distance of the College with their parent(s) will be eligible to apply, but it is not possible for us to guarantee an offer of a place to such applicants.

4.2 Applicants from overseas may have to pay tuition fees and they should contact for further details.

4.3 If applicants apply with non-standard qualifications (for example, overseas qualifications), we shall consider whether those qualifications are equivalent to those recognised by the College and shall seek to assess whether or not the applicant is ready to progress to the course for which they have applied. Consistent with the Government’s funding requirements, applicants claiming an overseas equivalent for grade 4 or better in GCSE Mathematics or English may need to pay a fee for this equivalence to be verified by an external organisation.
5.1 Applicants holding offers will have their places confirmed at enrolment provided that they meet the criteria in 3.1, following receipt of their examination results. If an applicant does not meet these criteria, we shall discuss at enrolment whether or not an offer of a place can be confirmed and in which subjects.

5.2 If particular subjects are over-subscribed, places in these subjects will be allocated on the basis of applicants’ ‘admissions scores’ – based on actual grades, at this stage – although consideration will be given to individual cases on their merits.

5.3 Guidance will be available to applicants who wish to consider a change of subject following the publication of examination results. We shall try to meet such requests, and have managed to do this in most cases in recent years, although this cannot be guaranteed.

5.4 It is highly desirable for each student’s future progression and career prospects that they try to secure at least a grade 4 in both Mathematics and English3 GCSE (or overseas equivalent – see 4.3). This being the case, and consistent with the Government’s funding requirements, students enrolling without at least a grade 4 in either Mathematics or English GCSE (or overseas equivalent – see 4.3) will be required to re-sit the relevant GCSE subject(s), with the College’s support.

3 This means at least a GCSE grade 4 in English Language or English (combined), or equivalent. Although a grade 4 or better in just English Literature is sufficient to satisfy the Government’s funding requirements, this does not seem to be widely regarded as sufficient for progression purposes.
6.1 Other than in exceptional circumstances we do not make offers to applicants to join us in Year 12 if they are already taking, or have previously started, an advanced level course elsewhere. 

6.2 An application to join us in Year 13 will normally be considered only if there is available capacity in the relevant subjects and providing that the applicant:
  • is moving within sustainable commuting distance of the College with their parent(s) and is unable to continue at their current post-16 centre;
  • meets the criteria in 3.1 above and is clearly recommended for progression to their second year A level subjects;
  • has been following a Year 12 course elsewhere which is sufficiently compatible* with the proposed Year 13 course at the College.
*For example, the applicant would also need to provide us with details of examination specifications being taken at A level, so that we can determine whether any transfers of Awarding Organisation are feasible.
7.1 Should an applicant who is not offered a place, or their parent, believe that we have failed to follow our admissions policy, they may request a review of the decision made, which would take the form of a check that the College’s admissions policy had been followed. Any such requests should be directed to the College’s Admissions Manager, Claire Anderson, whether informally or in writing by email to

7.2 Any further appeal should be sent to the Principal within two College working weeks of receiving the review decision, stating clearly the grounds for the appeal. Given the objective nature of the entry criteria set out above in this policy, an appeal would not normally involve a meeting. The outcome of such an appeal would be communicated within five working days, wherever possible.

7.3 The Principal’s judgement will be final in relation to the decision about whether or not to offer a place at the College.
8.1 The CAP comprises the following group of maintained schools and colleges: 
Bassingbourn VC, Bishop Laney Sixth Form*, Bottisham VC, Cambourne VC, Cambridge Academy of Science and Technology*, Cambridge Regional College*, Chesterton CC, Coleridge CC, College of West Anglia (Milton campus)*, Comberton VC*, Cottenham VC*, Ely College, Hills Road Sixth Form College*, Impington VC*, Linton VC, Long Road Sixth Form College*, Melbourn VC, North Cambridge Academy, Parkside CC*, Sawston VC, Soham VC, St. Bede’s Inter-Church School, Swavesey VC, The Netherhall School*, Trumpington School, Witchford VC.
* denotes the post-16 centres in the Cambridge Area 14-19 Partnership

8.2 Under the current CAP guidelines, applicants may apply simultaneously to more than one post-16 centre, either for the same or for different courses, sending their application to each of their chosen centres. Applicants must indicate in their application their order of preference between the CAP post-16 centres. 

8.3 Individual post-16 CAP centres determine their own policies for making offers of places. 
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  • Student Code of Conduct
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