UCAS, Newstead Wood and "support".

(6 Posts)
Jemweston Fri 15-Nov-13 17:22:44

Our DD has just been through the wringer with her UCAS application: she eventually submitted what looks like a very solid personal statement and is now fielding offers well below the advertised "typical" from her top university choices, so she's happy.

As parents, happy doesn't adequately describe the relief we're experiencing.The extent of the Newstead's advice and assistance regarding institution selection and personal statement was so bad that we felt forced to get outside advice just to give her a decent run at the process.

What were the problems? Starting with preparation. As far as we're concerned, constructing the personal statement has to start in the lower sixth to ensure the candidate has appropriate material to support their course choice. Open days too are largely a lower sixth exercise as increasingly univs hold these in June. They also offer assistance to help students make the trips but it all requires organisation. Newstead did not make them aware of any of this. We got on with it ourselves because we're familiar. DD's peers were not so fortunate.

DD has had no advice on selecting a course or univ, or been given any perspective on the process by talking about the debt many of them will carry on graduation. Oddly, more than a few of the girls have been persistently encouraged to apply to particular institution which is very low in the rankings against top predictions. Some of the girls did as they were told because they didn't know better and wasted a choice. Luckily DD ran it past us first.

DD had no organised assistance for writing her personal statement. Cornering an already busy teacher and asking for their comment is no substitute for being told how to construct a statement and then having a member of staff set aside time for specific assistance. The oversight seemed lax as well; some statements have been deemed as good and allowed forward but were frankly awful.

I know, Newstead do well so why look into this? Simply because these students could be doing even better but the school does not help them.

At parents evening this week, the head teacher appeared on stage and lectured the parents on giving support to their children at this most vital time. I wasn't the only parent that found this offensive, considering that some staff are so squeezed this year by double class sizes that they openly admit there's a problem. DD has had one piece of work marked in half a term from one teacher, which is worse turn-around than the local FE college. Our fear is that DD will lose a teacher or two before Easter as the situation looks seriously untenable. Letters have been written by other parents with no effect, but the school nevertheless asks for several thousand a year in parent donation which is tough to reconcile. With staff already struggling with current workloads, it's easy to see why UCAS is falling by the wayside. And the Head lectures US about support....

When people view Newstead from the position that the students generally do very well, I think there's much to be said for the obvious home support. Many of the students have similarly able parents who can access outside help on just about any level to make up for the situation, the leadership of which was so demonstrably out of touch this week.

So, as I said. DD is fielding lovely offers which is one less stress for this year, but Newstead as an institution can't claim credit. I wanted to rant partly because we are so disappointed and partly because I wanted to warn other parents to be prepared to keep an eye on the process for themselves.

creamteas Sat 16-Nov-13 11:18:21

I'm an admissions tutor and whilst I understand you are disappointed, I think a couple of points need more discussion.

Unless your child is thinking of a course that has an October deadline, it really isn't necessary to put most of the planning into lower-sixth. Universities routinely offer autumn open days and there is no advantage in applying early on that term. Waiting until after the AS grades are known, can help students target the appropriate universities to visit.

From my point of view I really wish that applicants didn't have lots of help with their personal statements. When reading them we can't know who has effectively had it written for them, and who has produced this themselves, and the uncertainty over coaching is one of the reasons they are increasingly ignored. So I don't think lack of support over a PS is something to complain about, I think it is actually a school doing the right thing and ensuring that the personal statement is personal.

The league tables for universities say very little about the degrees, and I would hope that schools recommend institutions with the right course for the right student, and where they know students will do well. Some of the lower-entry universities have much better track records of getting students into top jobs that those who ask for higher entry grades.

TheWanderingUterus Sat 16-Nov-13 13:30:49

I agree about the lack of help and guidance, I found that to be the case in the late '90s when I was a student there. Only the Oxbridge girls got help and guidance. My classics teacher made me aware of the university I eventually went to but I could have done with some straight talking about my choice of subject. I agree a lot of it is left to the parents.

The personal statement thing isn't brilliant, but do the pupils still have to submit a written piece with each school report? Each one of my old Newstead reports has an attached handwritten piece that we had to slave over for ages and was corrected several times by the form tutor. At 16 we had to do a longer more reflective piece which set us up well for writing the personal statement.

My DD goes to an ofsted outstanding primary and we have found that it is definitely not outstanding because of the teaching or organisation, we have been thoroughly disappointed with the pastoral care/bullying side of things. But educated middle class involved parents send their children there and that is reflected in the behaviour and results of the school.

UptheChimney Sat 16-Nov-13 18:23:05

Should you be talking about a named school on a public website? It could make you and your daughter easily identifiable.

UnicornsNotRiddenByGrownUps Sat 16-Nov-13 18:30:55

My personal opinion is that if you are unable to complete a university application then you should not be applying. Giving already overworked teachers the responsibility is madness. As her parents, if she needs guidance then she could turn to you.

rightsaidfrederick Sun 17-Nov-13 00:28:12

She's far from the first person to have no / bad advice from their school. I'm fairly active on TSR and see it all the time.

However, I would say that receiving no advice is better than receiving wrong advice. At least then you know that you don't know stuff, and heads are not filled with funny ideas (I've come across some people with some very funny ideas, and when you dig a little, it always comes down to "my teacher / mum / neighbour told me").

Thank goodness for the internet - at least nowadays all the advice that is normally given by teachers (minus the relatively small part that requires the in depth knowledge of an individual) can be found online, either as static websites or via forums.

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