FAQs

Your full application needs to be submitted to us by Monday 13 January 2020, inclusive of reference information from your school. So please keep to the timescales indicated by your school for this process.

If not applying through your school and using the application via the link on our website instead, please submit by Monday 6 January to give your school time to complete your reference, or earlier if requested by your school.

We expect to be able to offer about 1250 places for advanced level courses for entry in September 2020 and you can expect to hear from us regarding offers of places in March 2020.

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.

Admission is open to all qualified applicants. With effect from 2019, there is no distinction being made in relation to an applicant’s school or home address​ and we are no longer classifying applicants as ‘in-area’ or ‘out-area’.

However, the applicant must live, or intend to move to live, with their parent(s) within sustainable commuting distance of the College (for the duration of their two-year course).

Invitations to a guidance meeting for 20​20 are expected to be sent to all applicants:

  • Whose application has been received by the closing date.
  • Who place us as first choice Cambridge Area Partnership (CAP) A level centre in their application, or second choice CAP A level centre behind a CAP school sixth form.
  • Who satisfy our minimum entry criteria (see ‘What are the entry requirements?’ for details).
  • 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).
The purpose of the guidance meeting is to discuss your subject choices, allowing us to offer you guidance where appropriate. We shall also take the opportunity to ask you about additional support arrangements, for example for a learning difficulty or a disability, and you can ask any questions you have. We do not base our offers on the guidance meetings; we offer places according to the criteria given in our Admissions Policy.

In 2020, we expect to carry out most guidance meetings on Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 February, but there is no significance attached to being invited on a different date.

In order to be considered for an offer of a place, you will need to be estimated (at the time of applying) to achieve a minimum GCSE profile broadly equivalent to four subjects at grade 6 and four subjects at grade 5. These eight subjects must be full GCSE/IGCSE level (or equivalent, e.g. Merit in a Level 2 vocational qualification is equivalent to GCSE grade 6) and need to include English Language and Maths, alongside your best six other grades. These will then be used to calculate your admissions score.

The College values IGCSE qualifications and the grades awarded in exactly the same way as GCSE qualifications. We also recognise that you may be taking at least one vocational/applied course at Key Stage 4. The inclusion of such a course in your programme does not advantage or disadvantage your application in any way and up to two of these types of qualification can be included in your ‘admissions score’. What matters is that your Key Stage 4 programme provides a suitably balanced range of courses to ensure successful progression onto the chosen A level course.

You will also need to satisfy the entry requirements for each subject.

In addition, information provided by your school will need to indicate no significant concern regarding your attendance, punctuality, general behaviour, attitude to study and aptitude for your proposed course of study.

Unless you want to take Double Mathematics, for which a new numeric grade of 8 or 9 in GCSE Mathematics is required (formerly A*), you do not need to be estimated any grades 8 or 9, although any such grades will be taken into account when assessing your overall ‘admissions score’.

Most students will take four qualifications, comprising three A level subjects plus the Extended Project qualification – which gives all our students the equivalent of an additional one-year AS level. These elements make up the core of our study programme, together with enrichment and tutorial support. Some particularly well-qualified applicants (including all those taking Double Mathematics) will have the opportunity to take four two-year A level subjects if they wish.

We realise that many of you will not have finalised your subjects at the time of applying. Depending on how clear you are about your choices, you are advised to enter between three and five A level subjects on your application in your priority order at the time. These subjects and their order can be adjusted later if required (through an online course confirmation process).

Three A level subjects and the Extended Project provide a strong base for progression to the most competitive universities. Universities have been clear that they do not expect students to be studying four A level subjects. In recent years, only about 15% of Hills Road students have continued to study four subjects through to A level. The small minority of university offers which rely on a fourth subject tend to involve Double Mathematics and two other subjects, with the Extended Project qualification increasingly featuring in university offers.

Virtually any combination of subjects is possible; we design our timetable to try to match the combinations requested by applicants.

Needless to say, you are advised to choose subjects in which you are interested and which will together support your future higher education and/or career ambitions. Those ambitions may mean that you are already sure about two or even three of your subject choices. If this is not the case, it may be advisable to choose at least one and possibly more of the following ‘facilitating subjects’, providing that these subjects play to your strengths and you would enjoy studying them: Mathematics; Further Mathematics; Physics; Chemistry; Biology; Geography; History; Languages (Modern and Classical); English Literature. Further advice about subject choices is available from our Prospectus.

You should also verify whether or not you are qualified for your subjects by checking your estimated grades against the entry requirements for each subject, which may also be found in our prospectus. If you have not studied a subject before, please check the entry criteria carefully as most subjects can accept alternatives that support the course.

If you are interested in studying Maths or science, you may notice that our entry requirements are slightly different to other subjects. In common with many other post-16 centres nationally, we require students wishing to study Maths or science (Physics, Chemistry & Biology) to achieve at least grade 7 (formerly A) at GCSE in the relevant subject(s). This reflects national research and local evidence which indicates that a significant proportion of students who start these subjects with lower GCSE grades are unable to complete the courses successfully.

We expect to be able to offer about 1250 places for advanced level courses for entry in September 2019. Although we are unable to guarantee a place, we do expect to make offers to nearly all qualified applicants, as we did last year.

Our Admissions Policy explains how we make offers in the event that we are over-subscribed, whether in general or in specific subjects.

Application patterns vary from year to year, so it is not possible to predict which subjects could be over-subscribed. You should always apply for the most appropriate subjects which meet your interests, strengths and progression needs.

We will consider all applicants in accordance with our stated admissions criteria. It is your responsibility, in conjunction with the advice you receive from your current school, to make appropriate applications to ensure that you receive at least one offer from a sixth form centre.

From the day when GCSE results are published those without an offer at Hills Road have the opportunity to submit a ‘post-results application’, from which we recruit additional students (about 100 in each of the past five years).

We shall aim to allow you to follow your offered course even if your grades are lower than estimated, providing that you at least meet the GCSE profile requirements and remain qualified for your subjects. Where this is not possible, for reasons such as timetable clashes or over-subscription of particular subjects, guidance will be offered about suitable alternative subjects. Enrolment to a fourth A level subject would be conditional on your actual examination grades.

Should you not achieve the grades required for any of your subjects, or if you fall below the GCSE profile requirements, we would do our best to try to find a suitable course for you on your enrolment day in August.

One reason for the excellent examination results achieved by our students is the care with which we ensure that they embark on courses and subjects that are well suited to their abilities and interests.

All students follow an Enrichment programme in Term 1 and 2 of Year 12. This is a compulsory part of the College’s study programmes and each student signs up for one Enrichment per term, though many students take part in additional extra-curricular activities outside timetable hours. Some Enrichment courses are for a single term, however some are longer and cover both Term 1 and 2.

You will be timetabled for one lesson a week, but certain Enrichments have further time and/or cost commitments. These are outlined in the Enrichment brochure which is posted on the college website in advance of sign-up. Examples of this year’s courses can be found on the Enrichment page of our website.

Some courses require early sign up, due to auditions or trials, prior to lessons commencing. These are usually in the Summer Holidays and further details of these are sent out to those holding offers at the end of the Summer term.

If you are a part of a College Sport team, this will count as your Enrichment for the year and if you are a Music student then a Music based Enrichment may be specified as part of your course.

We have a wealth of experience of working with students with a whole range of needs and have a specialist team available in our Study Skills Centre who work with individual students.

If you have an Education Health and Care Plan and intend to put Hills Road as your first choice centre for post-16 study, then please ask for a member of our Study Skills team to be invited to your annual review in Year 11. This is to ensure that we are able to anticipate your needs and to support you with transition to post-16 study. Similarly, if you currently have any kind of exam access arrangement, we will work with you to review that evidence and to provide the most appropriate support.

The Government’s 16-19 Bursary Fund provides support through the College to students who face financial barriers to participation in education. In addition, the College provides free meals for eligible students through our cashless catering system. Further details will be provided during the induction period.

We are not able to offer any transport provision and you will need to plan your own transport arrangements. Some help with costs may be available from Cambridgeshire County Council if you are living in a low income household and attending the nearest available centre to your home address.

Further information about transport for post-16 education is available at: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/post16edtransport, or by calling 0345 0455 208

Stagecoach buses offer a termly ticket, details are available: www.stagecoachbus.com/regionaltickets/east/cambridgeshire/studentrider

If you are using the train, the railway companies may offer a rail subsidy to full time students who are under 19.

Great Northern and Thameslink: www.greatnorthernrail.com/tickets/discounts-and-railcards/student-connect/ or by calling 0345 026 4700 

Greater Anglia: http://public.greenrailtravel.co.uk/ or by calling  0345 600 7245

Most enrolment is likely to take place on Monday 24 August and Tuesday 2​5 August 2020 (following on from the publication of GCSE results on Thursday 20 August). The Induction Programme for Year 12 students is expected to commence during the week beginning 31 August. Students will need to be available for at least one of the two enrolment dates, as well as the Induction programme.

Examinations/assessments for the new two-year linear A levels will be taken at the end of Year 13.  Year 12 students will sit internal exams in their A level subjects in the summer term. In addition, Year 13 students will sit internal ‘mock’ exams in their subjects in January.


Typically, around 90-95% of Hills Road leavers progress to courses in higher education. The College organises a talk for parents in the spring term as part of our progression week to introduce them to the system and the potential fees involved. The application process for student loans and awards will be explained in Year 13.

Typically, about 30% of Hills Road leavers take a gap year. There is a great deal of advice and help available in the Careers Department, including talks from former students, a gap year evening in your second year, and resources in the careers library with details of how to plan the year.

There is a full programme of careers advice for all students, including applying to University, Apprenticeships and preparing to enter the workplace.  In addition, students are encouraged to make use of the resources in the Careers Department as necessary and may request an interview with a careers advisor at any time during their course. A talk on Higher Education Finance is offered in Progression week in February.


If you have a query that was not answered at Open Evening then please contact the Admissions Team: admissions@hillsroad.ac.uk, and include your telephone number if this is the most appropriate way for us to respond.
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