The benefits of vocational courses

When it comes to deciding what to study after your GCSEs, vocational courses can be a great option if you prefer a more hands-on approach and already know what university course or industry you want to move into.

At Christ the King Sixth Forms, we offer a huge range of high-level BTEC advanced vocational courses at our Sixth Form Centres in Sidcup (CTK St Mary’s) and Lewisham (CTK Emmanuel).

BTEC advanced subjects on offer are:

CTK Emmanuel                                            CTK St Mary’s

Art & Design                                                Business

Business                                                        Health & Social Care

Engineering                                                  Media

Health & Social Care                                  Science

ICT                                                                  Sport

Media

Performing Arts

Applied Science

Forensic Science

Sport 

Plus   

Business, Law & ICT

Media, Art & Business

Criminology, Psychology & Health & Social Care

Psychology, Law & Health & Social Care

T Levels

From September 2022, CTK Emmanuel will be offering the new T Levels in Science & Health and Engineering & Manufacturing, in addition to the current wide range of advanced level courses already on offer. T Levels are two-year courses that are equivalent to three A Levels. The main difference is the industry placement and work experience you will gain within the practical side of the course.

Read on to find out some of the benefits of vocational courses and see if they could be right for you.

  1. Focus on a subject you love

Vocational courses combine practical learning with subject and theory content and are designed to meet the specific needs of employers and job sectors, so if you already have a specific career in mind, a vocational course could be better for your prospects than A Levels.

Vocational courses offer you the chance to specialise in a subject that you really enjoy, setting you up for future success. This is great news if you already have your heart set on a specific career or studying a particular degree at university. Whatever your passion – Drama, Media, Business, 3D Animation, Engineering, Forensic Science, Dance, Music, Sport – you can pursue it at CTK.

2. Progress to a top university

DID YOU KNOW… The top-grade D*D*D* for BTECs means triple distinction – and is equivalent to A*A*A* grades at A Level?

Our advanced BTEC programmes are a great route to university for ambitious students. BTECs are an increasingly popular alternative to A Levels, so it isn’t a surprise that universities are adjusting their acceptance requirements and promoting the same respect for BTECs as A Levels receive. According to an article by the Higher Education Liaison Officers Association, 95% of universities in the UK accept BTEC students, including universities from the prestigious Russell Group. Even elite universities like Oxford and Cambridge state that they accept BTECs.

Recently, almost half of CTK students who were accepted to university had studied BTECs. They went onto a range of prestigious university destinations, including Nursing at King’s College, Dental Therapy at Queen Mary’s, Law and Criminology at Sheffield, Mechanical Engineering at Nottingham and Biomedical Science at Warwick, among others.

3. Get a head start in your career

At CTK, if you are studying a BTEC Level 3 course, you’ll join our Professional Graduate Programme (PGP), designed to increase engagement with your academic studies, improve your confidence and give you the edge when applying for universities and jobs. The programme is tailored to meet the needs of your individual BTEC course; ensuring skills and opportunities are related to the area of work being studied.

 You will have the unique opportunity to gain additional professional qualifications and follow a bespoke progression and careers programme, which can help give you a competitive edge when making university or job applications. Read some of our vocational student testimonials.

4. Decide what job role is right for you

Studying for a vocational qualification can help you decide whether a particular job or job sector is right for you. The practical learning involved on a vocational course may also help you figure out what specific job you want to pursue in your chosen industry.

At CTK, you will be given the tools you need to start planning your future, thanks to our strong careers programme, links with businesses and our successful alumni community. Some of our successful former students sit on the Christ the King Partnership Board, providing valuable insight into a diverse range of industries

5. Gain real life experience

BTECs can provide you with real life experience in your industry, which is very appealing for potential universities or prospective employers. A Levels generally focus on the academia of a subject, whilst BTECs focus on real-life practical tasks and sometimes even provide work placements, helping you to develop useful hands-on skills such as time management, communication, problem solving and planning – skills which are highly regarded by universities and employers.

Students at CTK will visit a range of workplaces as part of their course and receive input from many prestigious business partners. Some courses also include an extended work placement, to help you gain a better insight into your chosen career sector and develop your knowledge, skills and understanding in real life situations.

6. Fewer final exams

While academic courses like A Levels are typically assessed through one set of final exams, vocational courses are assessed both internally and externally by set tasks and examinations. Rather than testing everything together at the end of the course, BTECs give you the opportunity to show what you’ve learned in each unit and build on your achievements as you progress through the course. This means there are plenty of chances to learn, improve and succeed, which can be a bonus if you tend to perform less well in exams. It does not, however, mean they are any less challenging. BTEC courses are demanding and rigorous qualifications that open many opportunities both in employment and Higher Education.

Your final qualification grade will be awarded on the Pass, Merit and Distinction scale, and your exact grades will vary depending on the course. BTEC results in our most recent cohort of students were, once again, exceptional and our BTEC Extended Diploma students achieved a 99.6% achievement rate, with almost 90% going on to university.

If you have any questions about applying for a vocational course or need further help and advice, please get in touch with our friendly Careers team.

Ready to apply? 

We are delighted that you are considering making an application to Christ the King Sixth Forms. We welcome students of all faiths, and of none, who would like to pursue their sixth form education in a faith context and who support the ethos of this Catholic College. We are currently taking applications to join CTK in September 2021.

If you, or someone you know, would like to apply, then you can do so online – just click the button below. Once we receive your application, we will contact you to arrange an interview. Good luck!

Partnership Links at Christ the King Sixth Forms

At Christ the King Sixth Forms, a group of Catholic Sixth Forms in SE London and Kent, we have always placed a strong emphasis on careers guidance and support. 

Our Careers Service specialises in the needs of 16-19 learners and has developed over the years to meet the challenges and the needs of both of our students and that of the local community.

We are well aware, with the impact of Covid19 on employment and on Higher Education, that outstanding careers guidance for young people has never been more important. We are proud at Christ the King Sixth Forms of the strong partnerships we have formed with employers and businesses to support our students in their holistic development, gaining the skill set needed to excel in their future ambitions.

We run an extensive range of strong partnerships with employers, universities and industry to benefit our students and worked quickly to maintain these partnerships remotely during Covid 19.

For example, the CTK Annual Fast Track programme supports students in taking advantage of employer led initiatives with high profile organisations such as Barclays, Capgemini, BT and others.  This training is supported by CTK alumni, Pavita Cooper (founder and Director of More Difference a talent and career insight business) and John Perry (former senior HSBC Group executive).  In a normal year, we would offer the FastTrack programme to 50 year 12 students, however, with the move to holding sessions remotely via MS Teams, up to 110 Year 12 students can now reap the benefits of taking part.

At Christ the King Sixth Forms, we recognise the importance of our alumni in acting as role models to our current students and to enable us to build strong bridges with industry links. We develop strong alumni links through our partnership with organisation Think Alumni.  Former CTK alumni Trevor Gomes has set up and runs our highly successful employer linked initiative BT Elevate.  Former CTK Student Trevor now works for BT as a Digital Analyst and has set up the prestigious, over subscribed  scheme with his colleagues. The programme equips students with the skills and experiences needed to excel in both the work place and in higher education.  The move to holding these sessions online during Covid19, too brings benefits, as Trevor and his team are now able to involve US colleagues in the initiative.

At CTK, we also partner closely with charities such as Urban Synergy, who have been able to support students with virtual mentoring at this time.  For example, as a result of taking part in the Urban Synergy scheme this year, CTK student Ava Tamabala was even selected by a panel of senior stakeholders at Refinitiv for a paid internship with them.  Ava’s mentor was the Global Head of Financial Crime & Industry Affairs at Refinitiv and as part of her internship she attended the virtual World Economic Forum at Davos and met with senior stakeholders. As a direct result of this, Ava has written a paper on green crime, which has been published by the Royal United Services Institute (the world’s oldest independent think tank on international defence and security).

CTK’s partnership with Metric Capital, results in three CTK students every year gaining a university scholarship worth £15,000 each.  This partnership is able to make a real difference to the lives of those students.

Nother highly successful partnership with industry is the CTK annual External Speaker Programme, which has an array of over 40 guest speakers taking part each year. Speakers have included Sir Ian Cheshire (Chairman of Barclays), David Thompson (film producer) and Gary Gibbon (Channel 4 News Political Editor).  An unexpected benefit of having moved to the virtual world is that many more high profile people have been able to donate their time.  It has also all allowed us to increase the diversity and range of speakers taking part, for example Judge Peter Herbert O.B.E. speaking to our students from Nigeria. We have strived to maintain diversity within our guest speaker programme, and this year our first guest speaker was Femi Bola (MBE), the first Black Scientist to work for the Medical Research Council in the United Kingdom.

This year, CTK are very proud to have partnered with Eton College, in an exciting project to develop academic resilience at our A Level Centre for Excellence, CTK Aquinas.  Year 12 students have a daily tutorial, currently taking place remotely, which helps to build resilience, this covers areas such as self -efficacy and emotional regulation. At Christ the King Sixth Forms, we believe in the development of the whole student, which is enshrined in our motto ‘ut viteam habent’. With the challenges presented to us all by Covid19 it’s more important than ever that our students are able to develop the skills they need to succeed. The strong partnerships and influential mentors we can introduce our students to at CTK, gives them unprecedented access to unlock the door to the skills, networking opportunities and the support needed to succeed in higher education or employment and to flourish in their chosen career.

Private firm’s £250k funding helps disadvantaged students go to university

Since Christ the King Sixth Forms teamed up with private investment firm Metric Capital to provide scholarships to students in need, 15 young people have realised their dream to go to university. David Pearson, Director of Wider Learning, Careers and Partnerships at CTK, writes about how the partnership, which is thought to be the first of its kind between a college and a business, works…

When I first met CTK student Trevor Gomes, he was an aspirational, high-performing sixth form pupil with a promising career ahead of him. But he faced some significant barriers. 

Trevor wanted to be the first person in his family to go to university but finances were a challenge for him. Like many young people, he worked part-time to help support his family and would need to increase his hours to fund his additional costs – fees, textbooks, a laptop or computer, and the daily cost of commuting to campus from his parent’s home in south London.  

At best his university experience would be a juggling act between studying and paying for it and he would still graduate massively in debt. At worst, the financial barriers would become so overwhelming that he might be forced to give up or not go at all.

University is meant to be an exciting, challenging, fun and rewarding experience. Yet figures released earlier this year found that two thirds of universities have seen a rise in student drop-out rates. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to give up their university courses within 12 months.

Christ the King is a group of three sixth forms in southeast London. The majority of our students are from the London borough of Lewisham which is the 31st most deprived Local Authority in England and among the worst four boroughs for educational outcomes. Around 68% of our students come from a deprived area.

Yet almost 90% of our level 3 students go on to university, including Russell Group institutions. A report by The Sutton Trust placed Christ the King sixth forms in the top 6% of schools and colleges nationally for university progression.

Academic achievement is important, but in addition to this we also aim to develop our students as a whole person – to increase their ambition, opportunities and employability so that they progress to university, graduate and enjoy a successful career.

To do this we have designed a range of aspiration-raising programmes. One of our most innovative and successful to date has been our partnership with Metric Capital.

Creating new firsts

We were introduced to Metric Capital, a private capital firm, through CTK student Seni Fawehinmi. Seni met the firm’s Managing Partner, John Sinik, through an American mentoring scheme called Big Brother, which briefly set up in the UK.

They stayed in touch and five years later Seni came to study at CTK before going to university and embarking on a successful career in finance. He told John about the challenges that many of his fellow students faced. Like him, they wanted to go to university but there were a lot of economic sacrifices that they, and their families, would have to make in order to do so. When he heard this, John wanted to help.

After meeting with our Executive Principal Shireen Razey to discuss ideas, they developed the Metric Capital Scholarship Programme, to provide financial aid for academically able students from deprived backgrounds with university aspirations. It is thought to be the first partnership of its kind between a college and a business.

Every year up to three students are chosen for the programme and given £15,000 each – £5,000 a year. Since the partnership was formed in 2014, 15 students have been awarded the scholarship, totalling more than £250k in funding from Metric Capital.

The aim of the scholarship is to cover living expenses, to enable students to focus on their studies and not have to work full time while trying to achieve academic excellence. It also helps to pay for expensive items like textbooks and laptops to facilitate learning.

There is no expectation for students to work at Metric Capital after graduating. However, the firm encourages them to keep in touch and hosts regular events where current and former scholarship students can get together to share their experiences and successes.

Putting partnership into practice

Rolling out the programme was fairly straightforward and communication between the college and Metric Capital has been key to ensuring a successful partnership.

John relies on us to select the right students for the scholarship and we do this based on academic achievement, aspirations and financial background. When we introduce our students to the Metric Capital team, they already know that each one is academically strong and in need. That means that the vast majority of the students they meet are awarded the scholarship, helping to reduce the disappointment of not being chosen.

At interview, John and his team are looking to understand each student’s motivation and to make sure they know that there’s an element of responsibility attached to the scholarship. Students must achieve a certain academic standing to continue to the next year and they are expected to provide a termly report to Metric Capital.

The main challenge for us has been selecting the students. There are many who need, and deserve, support, so it can be difficult for us to choose the candidates. Ultimately, we look for students who have experienced challenges – personally, financially or both – have improved academically and have shown dedication to their studies.

Seeing the results

So far all but one scholarship student has either graduated from university or is still studying. Not only has the funding enabled them to go to university, it has helped to enrich their experience, graduate with less debt and go on to thrive in their careers, in areas such as consulting, accountancy and computer science.

It has been incredibly rewarding for us to see the progression of the students who have successfully completed the programme. One of them is Trevor Gomes.

After being awarded the Metric Capital scholarship, Trevor went to the University of Westminster to study Business Management in 2015. He graduated with a first-class degree and was the highest achiever on his course out of 500 students. He then joined BT, where he now works as a Transformation Analyst in the Transformation Project Team. He is also a 5G Transformation Leader for EE.

Trevor, now 23, is a member of Christ the King’s Partnership Board, helping to steer our partnerships strategy. In October, he launched his own skills development programme, ELEVATE, with support from BT, which aims to equip our students with the skills, knowledge and experience required for the world of work and higher education. So far 14 of our students have benefitted from the face to face ELEVATE programme and its new virtual webinar series is aiming to reach more than 1,000 students. 

Trevor’s motivation is clear – he wants to help young people, just as he was helped. 

For other colleges or sixth forms considering a similar partnership, I would say that it has been a hugely successful and rewarding programme to be involved in. My advice would be to keep in close contact with the students during the course of their studies, and to make sure someone is there to offer further support if needed.

Keep in regular contact with your partner too and provide opportunities for them to be involved in the college. For example, John is a member of our Partnership Board and attends regular meetings. This enables him to see what’s happening at the sixth form and the current challenges that our students are facing. 

Stay in touch with your alumni, encourage them to remain involved in college life and to give something back by helping current students. Our alumni sit on our Partnership Board, visit the campus to give motivational talks, offer mentoring support and provide new links to employers and this works exceptionally well to raise aspirations.

Future plans

We are looking forward to continuing our successful partnership with John and Metric Capital in the future and having the opportunity to see even more of our students achieve great things as a result of this scholarship. 

Our Partnership Board, which is made up of successful alumni, business representatives and employer partners, meets regularly to explore other ways that we can use partnerships like this to benefit our students, whether that’s financially, through developing employability skills or by providing mentoring or other support.

For example, our Fast Track Programme provides a two-day employability coaching programme and the opportunity to gain experience of a corporate working environment and forge links with leading organisations such as Santander, Barclays and BT. We also work with local charity Urban Synergy to host inspirational mentoring events which bring together a wide range of professionals to offer support and guidance.

Our Barclays RISE programme provides skills development opportunities and insight into working in professional industries. And our External Speaker Programme brings together guest speakers who are experts in their field across a range of industries.  Engaging with businesses helps to provide a breadth of excellent opportunities for students. As we have found, there are many different and innovative ways that successful partnerships can enable students to realise their dreams.

Interview with CTK student Temi who achieved AAA* and is now studying at Cambridge University.

Temi says that her last-minute decision to join CTK has really paid off – after being inspired to apply to Cambridge University and being awarded a CTK £15,000 scholarship.

Temi had originally planned to join her school sixth form along with her friends. However, on GCSE results day she was told that her school was unable to offer her the A Level subject combination she wanted, due to timetabling issues.

She explains: “Although I had planned to stay on at school sixth form, I had done some research into other options and I liked the fact that Christ the King was an independent sixth form – that the whole college – all the teaching, resources and support, was focused on year 12s and 13s.”

Making friends easily

Temi enrolled at CTK to study A Levels in Media, Sociology and English Literature. She was a little nervous as she knew she wouldn’t know anyone there, and it also meant a one-hour journey to and from college from her home on the Greenwich/Plumstead border. However, she says the fact that no one knew each other helped her settle in and make new friendships easily.

She says: “I have made a lot of good friends. There were quite a lot of us who hadn’t joined the college in existing friendship groups – everyone went in feeling the same way. We were all in the same situation and so no one felt excluded. One of the best things has been being part of the Scholarship Graduate Programme (SGP) – which is for students with good GCSE results. It was a great way for me to meet other people who were also ambitious and motivated – we all wanted to stay working on our EPQ til 5pm! It was easy to bond with other people who were just as excited about their studies.

Inspiration to apply to Oxbridge

“When I started CTK, applying to Oxford or Cambridge was something that I had thought about but I just didn’t feel like it was within my reach. On enrolment day, I was told straight away that because of my GCSE results, applying to Oxbridge was something I could look at. I brushed it aside. It didn’t feel achievable.

The moment that changed everything was when I attended an alumni evening for SGP students. It gave me the amazing opportunity to speak to past CTK students who had progressed to Oxford and Cambridge. That was the moment I realised it was something I really wanted to do and something I could achieve if I wanted to. It changed my whole mindset.

From there I went on arranged college visits to both Oxford and Cambridge which inspired me further. On the coach back from Oxford, I got talking to one of my teachers, Miss Nadori about Anthropology. Having that conversation with her made me realise how much more there is to studying as opposed to just studying to get a job. I felt taken seriously as a peer as well as a pupil.

Another key point in my journey was a summer session with two Oxford and Cambridge students. They took me through the application process – how you choose your college and accommodation, and how to write an amazing personal statement. I took so much from that session and so much from the advice from those young ladies. If I hadn’t gone to that session I probably wouldn’t have applied. They both came from state schools – so hearing from them what you can do to stand out and how it feels going in as someone from a state school was just what I needed. It felt like I could identify with them and I felt reassured that I would fit in.

I also received an awful lot of support from Miss Brack, my English teacher and form tutor, Mr Peak, the careers advisor, Miss Nadori and Mr Pearson. One of the great things about CTK is that because it is a group of three sixth forms, I benefited from support from staff across all 3 sites.

I was also part of a booster programme led by Mr Pearson. It was one of the best programmes I have ever been part of and focused on writing my CV, job applications and making yourself as appealing as possible on paper. I used those lessons in my application to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Broadening my experience with enrichment activities

Obviously, my time at CTK was very busy because of my academic work, extension activities like the EPQ and I was so invested in the Cambridge application process. Even so, I did netball and boxing as extra-curricular activities when I was able to. Both were brilliant, I learned a lot about exercise from my boxing coach and met some great friends and competed in tournaments with the netball team.

Scholarship Success

Since I found out that I received an offer from Cambridge I had been looking for a scholarship because I don’t necessarily come from a family with a lot of money and didn’t want to put too much strain on my mum. Mr Pearson and Miss Crampton nominated me for CTK’s Metric Capital Scholarship scheme, which gives 3 students scholarships of £15,000 towards their cost of living while at university.

To apply, I had to write no more than 500 words on why I felt I deserved the scholarship and any obstacles that I overcame. This got me thinking about something that held me back for a very long time. I opened up more and really dug into all the health issues that I experienced growing up and how it made me really limit the way I saw myself. My health issues were what led to me discovering a love of reading, and also made me realise that I could write my own stories.

I was interviewed by the man who founded the scholarship scheme – John Sinik, together with the CTK student who he originally mentored and is now a very successful lawyer in the city. Together, they set up this scholarship scheme five years ago.

John is a great, kind man and it was an honour to be interviewed by someone so successful with a master’s from Harvard University, who came from a background that wasn’t affluent too. It was an enjoyable opportunity for me to really open up about what I had experienced and how it strengthened my view and understanding of education and what it is worth.

My love of books and my inspiration

When I was younger, I suffered from this thing called the Atopic Triangle, which is a rare combination of allergies – asthma, eczema, food allergies, and allergies to other things like dust and grass.

For many years I had felt controlled by my medications and not in control of my own body. Discovering drama, music and dance changed that. And then I read an online novel called ‘Becoming Beautiful’ written by a teenage girl. This book honestly changed my life. It made me realise how amazing a book can be.

Before then, I felt like I was drowning and there was no way out for me. When I read this book, I had never felt so understood. That’s why I’m so interested in all the words we use, especially what is going on right now – how damaging words can be – and how much of an impact words can have over others. It’s why I want to study English Literature at Cambridge!

I am also very grateful because I have an amazing mum and two older sisters who are inspirational to me. My mum pulled me up through every situation and continues to be the most inspirational figure in my life. She moved here from Nigeria with my dad to give me and my older sisters a better life.  No matter what happened to her – what she went through, she always faces things with a kind smile. I try to take on her approach as best I can and that has inspired me and kept me going.

My sisters learned from my mum how to face difficult situations – and seeing how hard working they are has motivated me and made me see that I can do everything I set my mind to. My ambition is to inspire other young women in the future. I want to become a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, inspiring other young people to love themselves and their culture. I would also like to start my own theatre company.”

CTK Emmanuel
Belmont Grove
London SE13 5GE
020 8297 9433
emmanuel@ctksfc.ac.uk
Christ The King Sixth Forms