Sixth Forms feeding to Russell Group : SUCH misleading headlines

(35 Posts)
TalkinPeace2 Fri 25-Jan-13 15:35:14

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-21162960
www.channel4.com/news/a-quarter-of-schools-fail-to-give-pupils-any-decent-gcses
www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/01/24/school-league-tables-one-universities_n_2541051.html

The trouble with each of the above headlines is that they are implying that it is a problem with the Sixth form sector rather than a strength.

Taking my home county as an example.

Peter Symonds, Barton Peverill, Brockenhurst College and the like got loads and loads of kids into RG Unis.
That is because they specialise in A levels.

Totton College, Eastleigh College and Sparsholt College are in the "25%" because they specialise in other types of courses
- that keep our cars on the road, our houses maintained and our farm animals healthy.

One of the weaknesses of NHS hospitals is they try to be all things to all people.
One of the strengths of 6th form colleges is that they specialise.
And long may it continue.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 25-Jan-13 18:36:01

Interesting.
All Mumnetters must have academic kids so do not care that the vocational colleges are being slagged off without good reason.

gelo Fri 25-Jan-13 19:03:11

That is a flaw if non A-level establishments included, but the point is still that there are a lot of A-level schools that aren't producing many high grades in facilitating subjects. A local school to me which does A-levels (not mainly other things, there's another college in a nearby town for more practical courses) managed just 2 children who passed with AAB or better in facilitaing subjects which isn't very good at all imo when you consider it's the only sixth form in a reasonable sized town.

meditrina Fri 25-Jan-13 19:07:59

Neither A-level institutions, not non A-level candidates in those places which offer a mix, are included. So I suppose that's why this coverage is focussed on A Level achievement.

EvilTwins Fri 25-Jan-13 19:10:09

It's very misleading. I teach in a school with a very small sixth form. We are in a grammar area, and so our sixth form has to offer a mixture of academic and vocational courses if we are to remain open. We send about 15 students to university every year (in context - last year's Yr 13 consisted of 30 students. 16 went to university) One of last year's boys is at Cardiff doing Accountancy. He didn't get AAB in "facilitating" subjects. He got AA in Double Applied Business Studies, B in Maths and then a Distinction for BTEC Sport. Cardiff still took him. So the assumption that RG universities will only take students with high grades in specific subjects is eroneous.

Ronaldo Fri 25-Jan-13 19:19:48

Ditto EvilTwins. I have students who have been offered places by RG group universities. Forexample AAB ( standard offer) for Exeter with photography, psychology and philosophy and ethics as the subjects. Another to Birmingham with a standard grades offer -her subjects were sports science, psychology and biology. I could offer many more examples. I had an applicant for Oxford last year who got a place reading philosophy with A*AB - psychology, philosophy and ethics and English. She had AS in Chemistry - and had to pass maths GCSE to matriculate. She came into our sixth form from HS and didnt have GCSE maths. ( In fact she only had two GCSE's).

gelo Fri 25-Jan-13 19:29:15

So if a college doesn't offer A levels it's not included and if it offers a mix then only the students who took A levels are included. The question is if you should actually need to be taking 3 or more A levels to count or if students like Evil's example who only sit one A level are counted? Maybe they should only count students who are sitting exclusively A level qualificatons?

I don't think they're saying you have to have those grades for a RG uni, just that those are the quals they'd like to see more students studying and scoring highly in.

Bio, Chem and Psychology is a perfectly acceptable combination for medicine anywhere, but as Psych isn't 'facilitaing' A* A* A* in those subjects wouldn't count. The measure is certainly not perfect - I think AAB with 2 out of 3 grades in facilitating subjects would have been a better measure myself.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 25-Jan-13 21:18:39

But you are all missing the point
www.sparsholt.ac.uk/highereducation
RG is an utter irrelevance to this INCREDIBLY highly regarded college - that has multiple applicants for every place

and leaves all the university shit to PSC

lljkk Netherlands Fri 25-Jan-13 21:25:50

This MNer is a furrener who did not know there was such a thing as a vocational college. Really, I have to take what we get and hope that DC will apply themselves.

<<Useless emoticon>>

TalkinPeace2 Sun 27-Jan-13 18:58:15

But you don't "take what you get" if your area has sixth form colleges. They do not have catchments. You choose the college in your area that best matches your DCs aptitudes.

lljkk Netherlands Sun 27-Jan-13 19:00:50

Or the one that offers the course they want or that you can afford for your teen to travel to. Around here choice in education only exists if one can afford to travel.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 27-Jan-13 19:07:04

Every county is different. I guess I'm lucky to live in one that encourages subsidised transport, and the remote colleges have their own buses etc.
Intake areas 35 miles across are normal here.
And none of the state schools (other than Catholic) have their on 6th form so its the same for everybody.

lljkk Netherlands Sun 27-Jan-13 20:12:45

Own buses!? Wow, where are you?

TalkinPeace2 Sun 27-Jan-13 20:13:51

Hampshire.

ggirl Sun 27-Jan-13 20:17:03

well I'm in hants and our local comp has a 6th form

lljkk Netherlands Sun 27-Jan-13 20:20:39

Ah, I take it back, there may be some subsidy for college students wanting to go to a college out of catchment. I would have to work thru the forms to be sure about that, though.

But not subsidised for transport to out of catchment education at primary or secondary level (unless relevant SEN).

TalkinPeace2 Sun 27-Jan-13 20:21:31

true, a few do
www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/education/school_tables/secondary/12/html/850.stm?compare=
BUT

my point is that the fact that 1 in 4 of the sixth form colleges concentrate on other than Russell Group entrance is NOT a problem for educational standards.

muminlondon Thu 31-Jan-13 00:19:59

You are completely right that these are misleading headlines.  The news is based on a new measure in the A-level league tables of numbers gaining AAB in 'three facilitating subjects' (maths, sciences, languages, Eng lit, history or geography) rather than numbers getting offers or places at Russell Group universities.

Meanwhile, Russell Group advice for students considering many courses (obviously not e.g. medicine, dentistry, etc.) is to take at least TWO of these subjects out of their three A-levels, but not necessarily all three:

www.russellgroup.ac.uk/media/informed-choices/InformedChoices-latest.pdf

In fact, it also advises on A-level subjects not on that 'facilitating' list that are useful for certain courses, e.g. economics (for accountancy or business studies), politics (for language degrees), design technology (for architecture and some engineering courses), religious studies (for art history or philosophy), etc. But students aiming for those subjects with perfectly acceptable choices would be counted as failures in the league tables if media reports are to be believed!

The head of Tiffin School has expressed her horror over this misinterpretation of Russell Group advice and devaluing of subjects like music, art, etc. - where are our teachers going to come from?

circular Thu 31-Jan-13 21:20:40

So how is that measure supposed to work for those going to study a non-facillitating subject at an RG University, when the A level requirements include same subject?
ie. Music generally requires Music + any 2 other subjects.

muminlondon Thu 31-Jan-13 22:30:04

I think the answer is, the results just wouldn't be counted. It's as crude as that - Music isn't on that list, unlike Geography, so your three A*s wouldn't feature in the table, whether you were going to study Music, Anglo Saxon or PPE and you had Maths and French as your other two subjects. Gove's instantly created a 'higher Ebacc' measure for A-levels which strips out all creative, social science and technology subjects and the media have reported this unquestioningly as another failure of state schools.

But if you look at independent schools' results you realise just how pointless this measure is - Stowe School got 9% (97% - 3 A-levels), Lichfield Cathedral school got 0% (86% - 3 A-levels).

TalkinPeace2 Thu 31-Jan-13 22:32:01

How is it supposed to work for people who want to do OTHER than an academic degree after 6th form?
The headlines will make them feel like failures
BUT without vocational courses we'll have rather a shortage of service staff in this country.

muminlondon Thu 31-Jan-13 23:34:08

Yep, 52% go on to higher education, including 8% to Russell Group and 1% to Oxbridge (see this DfE release). This is Gove's obsession with a tiny elite again. Those who need those Russell Group places in order to become bankers, doctors, lawyers, are already likely to be very clear about the subject options they need to take. He's not interested in nurses, teachers, social workers, engineers, project managers, marketing managers, web designers or all those other jobs which require degrees and/or further professional training - for which Psychology, Business Studies, Design Technology or whatever related A-level may just be more useful than that second or third 'facilitating subject'.

Virtuallyarts Fri 01-Feb-13 06:54:00

Even on its own terms (and i understand the objection!) this list uses strange criteria - just googled sheffield's '2 out of 3' list and it includes many others like music, philosophy etc. who devised these criteria for 'facilitating' a levels?

Virtuallyarts Fri 01-Feb-13 07:00:13

And trinity colleg e cambridge 2013 guidance includes music, philosphy, art history, class civ in their 'at least 2 subjects list' ! Op, i know this isn't your objection anyway, but as i say, even on its own terms this is a strange criterion.

lljkk Netherlands Fri 01-Feb-13 07:40:45

thank you for those stats, MuminLondon, MN is pretty awful for being obsessed with that top 1-9%, too.

muminlondon Fri 01-Feb-13 07:59:08

What is really dangerous about the measure is that is misrepresents Russell Group advice. But the reporting is dangerous too - no journalists have challenged the DfE spin. Those who can see it putting off pupils from studying Music or Art etc. for no reason, like the head of Tiffin, have to resort to a comment on their websites.

muminlondon Thu 21-Feb-13 08:26:20

Correction - there has been criticism from journalists (e.g. Guardian).

The A-level tables have since mysteriously been updated with extra columns showing just two subjects and info moved about ... Is it because independent schools have complained?

PenelopePipPop Sun 24-Feb-13 11:23:12

Am involved in admissions at a RG Uni and to be fair the situation at least in my discipline is opaque which is why the very very narrow 'facilitating subjects' measure was introduced. In my discipline we will accept anything in moderation but we need two of the subjects to be 'non-vocational' (another obscure term-of-art). So you could do psychology, philosophy and design tech or maths, chemistry and physics and be in with an equal chance of an offer. But other RG departments teaching the same subject are more picky about the subjects they prefer - although no one is as picky as the original news stories suggest

We do tell students early and often if they contact us to ask other departments what they want before choosing which subjects to take post-AS, but they'd obviously need to know to ask. The current system works to the advantage of students from independent schools who get rather conservative advice at 16 that if they want to do our subject they should take trad subjects to maximise their chances. That is why we specifically don't favour trad subjects when making offers (that and the fact that provided you get good grades we can't see any difference in performance and we've been keeping an eye for a couple of decades now).

I agree with the Guardian story. You don't need a limited range of facilitating subjects to get into Uni, but there is an iceberg underneath which isn't obvious to applicants either, especially if the student does not know what subject he or she wants to study at 16. The fault does not lie purely with schools and it is unrealistic to say state schools should simply get more students to take a narrower range of A Levels to achieve the outcomes the RG Unis allegedly want so the facilitating subjects measure is pretty pointless. The problem also lies with Unis not being clear about what they want at admission too and having diverse goalposts/hoops/etc. And with all due respect to my eminent colleagues I'm not sure a 60pg booklet is quite the succinct guidance teachers helping students make choices post-GCSE or post-AS really hoped for...

muminlondon Sun 24-Feb-13 12:02:30

That's an interesting and nuanced view. The original headlines were very simplistic - the DfE has subtly changed its league tables since, but that hasn't made headlines in the same way. Very interested to read find another previous critical article in the Independent that David Cameron only took one facilitating subject but it didn't hinder him.

Talkinpeace Sun 24-Feb-13 12:56:54

That is because MN is the only place in the UK where private and grammar schools are considered normal.

I'm sure MNHQ have data on all of us, but we are in no way representative of the national demographic - especially on the Education boards.

NoComet Wed 27-Feb-13 11:52:23

It's yet another misleading statistic added to the tables to confuse parents.

Local six form has very good music, drama and arts departments. As and A* achieved there 'facilitate' pupils in moving on to the courses they dream of attending. They don't show up on the table.

Far more useful would be, how many pupils achieved the grades for their first choice of university.

Talkinpeace Wed 27-Feb-13 12:27:10

But a college like Sparsholt would still look like a failure as its courses are not aimed at University

and the Boat Building course at Southampton City College attracts applicants from all over the country - but does not lead to "University" it leads to "earning"

LadyLech Wed 27-Feb-13 22:00:48

Penelope that's really interesting what you have said, and confirms what I had believed about university admission.

I teach A levels and it is really difficult guiding students without clear advice from the universities. I wish the advice was more open and honest.

Talkinpeace Wed 27-Feb-13 22:22:55

But this thread was started (by me) because University is not the only destination
Why should colleges be slagged off for specialising in other areas?

warwick1 Thu 28-Feb-13 15:29:22

EvilTwins: Ultimately it comes down to the standard of qualification, whether A Level or other. Some alternative qualifications are acceptable to RG, others not so. It comes down to whether the sixth form or college are providing courses which benefit their students or whether they are self serving with one eye on the league tables.

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