London Sixth Forms - Latymer Upper, Westminster, Godolphin, Camden, SPGS etc(70 Posts)
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We are thinking of moving our DD for sixth form. My concerns are that it can be quite disruptive - sixth form isn't long, and there is a lot to get done. On the other hand we can see that she could probably do with a larger and more competitive environment.
Do any of you have any experience of moving your children into the sixth forms of any of the above schools. How did it go ? Did they settle quickly ? Was the move a success ? Did you get what you (or your child) hoped from the move.
This isn't very clearly put. We are dithering about moving at the moment because although in the main I think it would be a good thing we don't want to move her for very little benefit.
Does anyone know how competitive is it to get into these schools at sixth form ? People are always bandying around figures for the competitiveness of the eleven+ exams, but I hear very little about 6th form entry.
Each of the above schools offer very different academic syllabuses (IB / Pre-U / AS/A2), so it is hard to compare them. Any views ??
Looking forward to any comments to add to our discussions at home.
Sorry I didn't reply before to your questions re Westminster. My daughter did maths, physics, geography and economics. Westminster made all those who hadn't done additional maths come for a week's tuition after GCSEs - I thought my daughter would hate that, but in fact in meant she made lots of friends and arrived at Westminster at the beginning of year 12 already knowing lots of people. That definitely helped her settle. She found a huge number of activities at Westminster - far more than SHHS - loads of drama and music and a lot of sport. Although not particularly sporty she did Lyke Wake Walk (24 hour walk in Yorkshire). Also enjoyed geography trip to Morocco. She learned to cope with very confident/cocky boys.
I transferred to one of the schools above for sixth form, admittedly - cough - some time ago. I'd been at a very good girls' school before, but I'd been there since I was nine and was bored, frankly, of the same faces/teachers/surroundings. I can't say I loved everything about the school in question, but it definitely was good for me to meet new people, adapt to new surroundings and the education I received was in a different league to where I'd been before.
I personally think it's a very good thing for pupils to change schools every now and then, it refreshes them and broadens their outlook and confidence.
However, as has been said, it's your dd's decision. A good many of my friends were not ready to leave the safe confines of my old school, and had a lovely sixth form. There were also several girls at my new school who, I think, had been pushed into going there by their parents who didn't enjoy it because they weren't for whatever reason up to the challenges that a large, pushy school offered. But whatever ... it can't hurt you and dd to look at what's on offer and see if she's tempted.
Plus there are less academic schools like Harrodian, Ibstock, Emanuel, which are co-ed, so if that's an important element to you there are alternatives to super-competitive Westminster and Latymer.
This thread has turned out to be filled with good advice, and to be very interesting - so thank you everyone for both your children's and in some cases, your own experiences.
I am pleased about the Westminster idea of an extra week of Maths for those that don't do add. maths. It had worried me that there might be a huge discrepancy. I wonder if other schools do a similar thing - it is a very good idea.
A good point about the less pushy but co-ed schools. I thnk what I am looking for is just something that stretches her a bit more - going to a mixed school is a part of that stretching, but not a necessary part of it. I think just going to a larger school with slightly more on offer and a slightly more competitive environment, that may be mixed, would be good for her.
I also take the point that in a large school settling in and making friends is probably not that hard, as the pupils that have always been there don't all know each other that well anyway ! I hadn't thought of that.
I've just remembered a good friend of mine whose father insisted she left her small, cosy, not earth-shattering but pleasant London day school for a top school with mixed sxith form.
She hated it and was bullied horribly.
So, I know I'm going on now but really - if your dd isn't into it, then just leave her be!
Thank you and point taken. You aren't "going on" - just adding information, which is the whole point of this discussion. I definitely wouldn't force her to change.
The reason for this thread in the beginning was to explore whether it is a good idea at all. Going to open days, discussing it all and possibly sitting exams, and risking failure are all things we won't need next year if the whole idea is likely to be a bad one.
My instinct is that she could do with a bigger school, but I could be wrong, and certainly she may well say that I am wrong.
My main thing is to try to work out not whether she should be pushed, but whether, when she is nervous about the whole idea, she should be at least prodded and encouraged. The easy, and likely, option would be to do nothing and just stay on at her current school. I just have a feeling that the risk and disruption of moving might be worthwhile. However, as you all rightly point out, if her heart isn't in it, there is absolutely no point : she is the one that has to do the move.
We won't really know this until next year. As a result of this thread though I will probably at least take her to a couple of open days and test the water.
i went through a very similar thought process and took my daughter to open days with a genuinely open mind - we went to them to find out what the school offered and see what it might be like to go there. my husband and i were very careful not to impose our own views (to the extent that was possible) and to take our lead from our daughter's own views. we also included her existing school open day in this process - it is different at 6th form - i was surprised at the extent of difference. we then discussed with her which schools she might like and then applied for them. we are being careful to avoid making, or forcing her to make a choice yet so that if she doesn't get in to any of them she can decide she didn't like them anyway - i want whichever school she goes to to have been her first choice, at least with hindsight.
this is what we did with our eldest last year, primarily because i didn't expect her to get in and didn't want her too disappointed. i think it did reduce the stress for her as well - we presented the entrance exam and particularly the interview as being as much her choosing the school as the school choosing her.
good luck whatever you, and she, decide to do.
Absolutely take her to open days, why not?
Also, some of her friends will be moving/or not and that will play a big part in her feelings. As I said, it was the right thing for me to do, but I wanted to do it very much - your dd may well fall into that camp.
Just read this thread and very topical for me - DD is just in the throes of applying to Westminster and is currently at a nice but small girls day school. Her very adamant view is that she would either stay where she is, or leave to go to a significantly different "step up" school, where she would be one of a cohort of new girls joining, and not having to break into social groups, so Westminster was really the only one to fit the bill (distance wise too). Then the benefits would outweigh the downsides in her view - can't say I disagree!
Would be very interested to hear if anyone had any good advice for these particular tests - dd is not doing too much extra work - just revising for her mocks which are after half term anyway, but she is a bit worried by accounts of mass tutoring. The school advises to be up todate with gcse work, but it would be good to find stretching type unusual questions just to practice... she's doing maths chemistry biology physics...
Will certainly report back when it's all over...
I am glad this is proving topical for others !
Kiffey we look forward to your report of how it all goes. The Westminster site is clear that they should only need to know their current GCSE work, but I imagine it is the interview that will sort things out.
It would also be interesting to know if the mass tutoring rumours are true (probably), and if so what they are being tutored in.
Good luck to your daughter. Her policy of stay where she is or Westminster seems quite sensible if she is happy with her current school.
Just checking back into this thread to ask kiffey how her daughter's exams went, and whether she felt happy that she had prepared enough.
We heard a rumour, that is probably baseless, that all the
Westminster applicants from one particular girls' school who put art as one of their options were turned down. Seems unlikely.
There are quite a lot of rumours floating around. Westminster sixth form seems to have become THE place to go. Not surprising as it is a fantastic school, happy, quirky and engaging, which also achieves great results.
I have heard was that numbers applying have doubled in a year, half from overseas. Results are not out yet, but there seems to have been quite a lot of disappointment from girls who might normally have expected to have got at least an interview. (Actually the disappointment may be from the boys who had hoped that certain girls would have joined their year group.)
Subject teachers have a lot of say, so perhaps the art approach used by girls from one school did not go down well with whoever was marking. Given the numbers, I doubt they are paying that much attention to which school girls come from.
DD likes her current school and there is no real reason for her to move, however she occasionally says she would like to go to Westminster for sixth form. Up and until this year I have thought it might be worth a go, on a nothing ventured nothing gained basis. However she is maths/science and if interest in the school continues to rise at the current rate I doubt she will have much chance, given how strong some of the overseas candidates will be in those subjects. In contrast Westminster teaches classics and subjects like history of art extremely well, but presumably interest will be primarily from home students. Though we have known several bright linguists, classicists, and girls taking arts subjects, who have fed in from other London day schools I don't think we have met a girl planning to do maths. The fear is that the standard is simply too high. And perhaps maths and science are subjects where additional preparation/tutoring will lead to better performance in tests.
Not to worry. 11+ was awful. From now on it is up to DC to do the work they need to get to where they want to go.
Thanks for asking - exams seemed to go well - dd got an interview which, given the hoardes and hoardes of bright young things that poured into the exam hall, is quite an achievement I think! Interviews were last saturday and who knows how they went - no disasters I think but now waiting for the final result.
Haven't heard anything about art as that's not her subject area...
From her feedback about the tests, it certainly seems that the website advice on being up to date with gcse stuff is accurate - but the tests really make you think on your feet rather than regurgitate stuff. Interviews were friendly but definitely put her through her paces - glad I've never had a maths interview!
Well done to your daughter Kiffey. It sounded like there were huge numbers of applicants this year, so she has done very well indeed to get that far.
I agree - the thought of a Maths interview is very daunting. Actually, a physics or a chemistry interview doesn't sound that appealing either. I hope it all comes out well for her.
I moved to Latymer Upper for sixth form and left a couple of years ago. It was the best decision I could have made. I moved from a somewhat suburban school with middling GCSE results and little academic pressure. Admittedly, I first wanted to move to get out of a pretty stale all-girls school to something more exciting. I applied to Latymer, Alleyns and Godolphin. We looked at St Paul's and, although I have many friends who went there, thought it looked too pressured. My parents refused to let me look at Westminster because they believed that it was too expensive and they hadn't heard good things.
I chose Latymer from the three schools I applied to. The teaching is fantastic and the heads of year and headmaster have been very, very supportive, especially as I wasn't particularly happy in upper sixth (unrelated to school). I got very behind in work and wanted to drop one of the 4 A-Levels I elected to do. My parents and form tutor helped and supported me to get back on track and, although I was in no place to apply to university at the beginning of year 12, I am now at Cambridge. The school allowed me to come back for extra lunchtime classes during my gap year as if I was still a student.
I know that without their help and the excellent teaching, coupled with a stimulating environment, surrounded by very bright students, I would never have won a place.
(On another note - Cambridge seems to be more popular than Oxford at Latymer and from what I have seen, heard and know, is more relaxed socially, more liberal politically and more varied in activities than Oxford is. The west London cliques seem to simply shift to another city.)
The drama, music and art are all brilliant. There are lots of school events which students are always keen to go to. There is a very strong sense of community between the years and an awareness that you are lucky to be part of something very exciting.
I would say that Latymer attracts slightly more relaxed students and less flashy pupils than neighbouring W London schools (although I think the gap is narrowing quickly). They come from Hammersmith, Fulham and, increasingly, Notting Hill. Whereas Godolphin and St Paul's girls seem to frequently come from Kensington.
From my experience, the girls at St Paul's are slightly highly-strung, very skinny (ALL have been very food conscious), socially successful and well groomed. They seem to have a lot of free cash and loos parental reigns.
I am aware, however, that I have often encountered a similar 'type'. Many are very close friends.
I think going in at sixth form is quite different to 11+ entrance. The girls that can handle co-education that age need a tougher skin and they girls are very pretty. I think at sixth-form you need to be resilient and with a strong personality, but that isn't to say people who aren't won't shine.
On another note, I helped out on an 11+ interview day. The teacher's comments were very revealing. They know the 'type' of student that they think will cope in the school. Comments included things like 'she is a girls-boarding school type' or 'she would be better at St. Paul's etc.' They are aware of the types of students who would work there, not necessarily the most academic. They are trying to create quite a unique environment and students are selected accordingly.
That's very interesting rmo2 - looking at those I know who were offered places and those who weren't, I had a feeling that compared to other schools there must be more at play in the selection process than pure academics.
Thank you rm02.
It is really interesting to have the opinion of someone who has made the change to one of these schools : it sounds like Latymer managed to combine being stretching and stimulating with being very supportive when you had problems. Impressive. I am particularly impressed that the supported you through your "7th term" Oxbridge application so well. And congratulations on getting your Cambridge place. I hope you are enjoying yourself now you are there.
It also sounds like you were very impressed by the extra-curricular activities on offer.
Can I ask what A levels you did ? Did you rate some departments as better than others ?
Did you find it easy to fit in socially - the new intake is relatively small compared to the total size of the sixth form ? Did you know a lot of people before you went there ? Did the people you know influence your choice of school ?
You are clearly an academic high-flyer. Was that obvious when you applied at 16 ? Did you apply with a string of perfect GCSEs ?
Don't be put off Westminster or SPGS by myths of incredible talent. IME there are very few truly stellar children at either, and most scholars at both would struggle to be 'collected' by a super selective grammar, without the coaching almost all of them had to get in.
Of course, they are just filled with thick but rich and spoon fed kids who are stupider than their superselective counterparts.
Eight scholars are taken each year at Westminster. any boy who has had extensive coaching would not stand a chance of being one of these. They are a breed of there own you can't coach a boy to think in this way at the age of 12/13 and the school could see the difference between a true scholar and a tutored applicant a mile off! Anyone who makes a statement like this should look at some of the work produced by these boys and also the fact that this work is often produced without much effort (although not always).
livinginlondon2 DD2 is hoping to move after GCSEs which she is taking this time. You should be aware that now the intake of girls at 11 has been feeding through to sixth form it has become much harder to get in to Latymer. In fact a much greater proportion of girls from my daughter's girls' selective got to Westminster and KCS than did to Latymer. I think there were 500 chasing 50 places, not sure if they were doing any levelling between state and private but just one girl, with 10 predicted high A*s, got an interview. I don't think it could be they weren't the "type", several had offers at 11. If they have that many good applicants you can't blame them going for the guarenteed A* pupils (My DD predicted A*/A 50/50, + an outstanding CV of drama, in DD1s year, last into an all boy's cohort, several got in with lower predicted grades than that). It is a good school though, all who have gone there have thrived whether bright average or very bright and having refused SPGS scholarship. There is a Chelsea set but actually our experience is that there can be huge differences between different cohorts at the same school, whether inner or outer London. It is really a matter of luck, what norms get established for the majority, a few can make the difference either way. Plus at most schools if you have raised your DDs to be, shall I say, a bit more grounded, they will find others with the same values especially post 16s when you can get away more with being different. I would still have gone for it, but I would have prepared the ground, DD2 not a happy bunny after spending hours on the personal statement which I suspect never got read!!
In both DDs years secrets of Westminster success hard to fathom, can't really out it down to some having a "spark" or whatever. Girls assume it is just that in some subjects they have more space than others, so very bright will not get in for some subjects whilst plodders get in for others (but then Oxbridge proved much the same) .
KCS seem to be adjusting to the whole concept of girldom, one mother very put off by being proudly shown a chair in the new girls' loo, do they think they are delicate little flowers who need a place for Victorian repose? the master probably unaware what we mothers came to associate chairs in the loo with.......
DD1 regretted not moving at 16, she didn't because she didn't want to adjust to a new school as well as to the challenges of A levels. She had thrived there up until then but found more of the same a bit stultifying, especially as she is a Scientist. It also made the switch to uni more of a shock especially when facing a very demanding uni course with a big jump in what was expected (you tend to see A levels as an end, rather than just a beginning.......) Just hoping we are making the right decision with DD2!
Thank you for your insights - I love the KCS loo chair !
I hope it all works out for your daughter - it will be interesting to hear from you how it goes next year. Well done to her for getting a place. Is she excited now ? I am sorry she was fed up not to be seen at all by Latymer Upper. It sounds like you need to make that GCSE prediction list sparkle. And interesting that you almost see it as harder to get into than Westminster / KCS.
Can I ask what you mean by "I would have prepared the ground" ?
It is interesting that Latymer are being so selective - I suppose with so many applicants they can afford to be.
I also see that their selection process comes later than the other schools, so that must skew their applications a bit as presumably people who have accepted places at other schools pull out. This makes it hard if a) it is high up on your list of preferences and b) you get into another sixth form that requires an answer before they announce their interviews. It sounds like it certainly can't be seen as a backup, but it is a pity, if the odds are so low, that they don't align it with the other schools.
Do keep posting to let us know how the change goes. Good luck to your daughter who will now be in the midst of her GCSEs. I she sad to be leaving her current school ?
By prepare the ground I just meant I would have warned her that the other applicants were likely to be of a high standard, and they were after the brightest academically. They made lots of noises about being more interested in potential and in finding students that would contribute to the life of the school so my daughter thought that they would value what she has to offer and spent a long time putting together a personal statement that emphasised all her achievements and what she contribute to her school and outside activities. She was therefore quite angry and felt it was a bit hypocritical that in the end they went for an academic high achiever who actually didn't have anything else to offer. However as I said before I don't blame them, doubtless she will guarentee some A*s to add to their percentage in the league tables, and who knows how quirky and interesting the rest of them were, maybe they had filled their quota! Mary Portas and her daughter were swanning around the open night like they owned the place, quirkyness and interest on display in abundance, I'd be interested to know if they made the cut!
The selection process wasn't that much later than the other schools, I'm not aware of anyone having an issue with the timings, I assume they would wait for an answer if you needed time. It all felt a lot more relaxed than the 11+ entry. Often the issue is with the decision between the existing school and a move anyway. The only real issue is knowing in time to give a term's notice and in DD1's year there was another change around once the results came out with some not leaving after all, some even coming back after a week or two, and some with much better results than expected being nabbed by other schools(Latymer do say to come back to them if you do well)
Not sad to be leaving her current school. She knows from DD1s year that friends keep in touch and her cohort has been dysfunctional, some shocking attention seekers (understandable when you know their back stories). Lots of outrageous and disruptive behaviour, as DD1's friends say, as they look on in amused shock, they have no respect for anyone else, or themselves. So I think she is looking forward to a more normal school environment. I have kept consoling her that she will never have to put up with an environment like that again unless she gets sent to a womens' prison!!
Thanks for that. I see what you mean by "preparing the ground" now. It is probably sensible to make sure that hopes aren't built up enormously.
Your last paragraph sounds rather worrying - do you think that this is the all girls' school environment ? Did your older daughter have the same feeling (although she didn't leave) or do you just think that your younger daughter is in a really difficult year ? I am glad for her that she is making the change and hope that it all goes well.
For timings I just meant that some of the schools seem to examine and make decisions in November and December, and schools like Latymer don't interview until January. You are probably right, they will wait. It will all become clearer to us next year I suppose. I am particularly glad to hear that it felt more relaxed than the 11+. I wouldn't want to do all that again.
DD1s year were entirely different as are the year below DD2, different norms, more respect for each other. You always get the cool girls, the geeks and the inbetweeners, it's just been more polarised in DD2s year. These girls could have turned up at any West London School. When she was making the decision to move we agreed not to consider either these girls or any iffy teachers on the basis you can encounter either wherever you go.
I do think that the effect of "strong characters" like these get amplified in an all girl school, boys tend not to put up with the silly games and the schools tend not to be so liberal because they have to keep a lid on the testosterone. However I think there are advantages to all girl schools too, definitely right for DD1 to 16.
Forgot to mention that Latymer now taking AS with A2s in U6. You don't lose a third term in L6 to exams and boys often still immature, lots of retakes. DD1 thought that would be a nightmare (but then she did 4)
The time has come to revisit this thread.
We have been to a couple of Independent school open evenings for school sixth forms, and DD is keen to try and sit some of the entrance exams. She needs to see a few more before deciding which ones to do. There are also some state schools that we will look at but their open days are later on in the Autumn.
It is hard as these are generally very academic schools and you have no real idea what the competition is going to be like. All the schools are very welcoming and encouraging but it is clear that the number of places is limited and that they are all going to be hard to get into.
We are finding it quite difficult to compare schools - the range of exams and subjects offered makes it school very different. At one school you become completely sold on the International Baccalaureate, at another Pre-Us are the answer, at some A levels are best and so on.
Are there others out there looking to move their children for sixth form in London ? How are you all finding it.