Choosing a Sixth Form - all the rules I thought I knew are gone!

(91 Posts)
TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 09-Nov-12 14:46:49

So we are currently looking at sixth forms for dd, 15.

Suddenly everything is different - no catchment areas, if you've got the grades, you get a place! With all the focus on places at 11, and debates about selection, no-one ever seems to mention that after all that, most schools actually can and do select by ability at 16! That is, if you haven't got the grades you can still have a place, but not necessarily do subjects you didn't do well in at GCSE.

We have looked at one so far, the other three are next week. Dd's school has a sixth form attached, but it is relatively new, and increasing in size and scope year by year. I want her to stay where she is: I think school have done well by her, and I think we should support their work in the sixth form and not bail out. But she wants to do French, which they don't yet do on site - they organize language students transport to a partner school, which I also know quite well, and where the language teaching seems to be very good. I think this could be the best of all worlds, but she is dubious.

On Tuesday, we visited what I have to describe as a pretty middle class school. About half from her year six class went there, depending which side of primary school they lived. It's highly regarded in the city, and does well nationally - there's traditionally been a flurry in year 5 of parents moving to its catchment. It also has a bit of a reputation for being a bit complacent at open evenings - 'we don't have to try to impress' - and that was the impression I got, too. I also think it seems to have a higher proportion of Ambercrombie and Fitchiness about it, and a bit of a 'mean girls' culture, but that's just impressionistic I guess.

However dp and dd really liked it - in a brief 15 min presentation, they bandied around all the right words about Russell Group and facilitating subjects, and got 7 year 13s into Oxford and Cambridge last year. Then again - that's their catchment, in part.

It's a bit like looking at houses when you're looking to move - each one seems like The One, and you have to wait and see, I suppose.... but this is all very new and strange to me!

Anyone else in similar position, or have any gems to share?

circular Thu 15-Nov-12 18:03:49

Tosn - Just a thought, but if you think the school that DD favours did not paint a true picture on open evening, is it possible to call and arrange a tour during school hours?
Or apply, and ask for a tour once you get the offer?

We have also been advised to apply for as many as possible, and to hold on until results day. Not sure how that will pan out if induction days start clashing though. Or how many references the current school will be prepared to give.

On the subject of ditheing girls, my DD has just said she hopes either her school sorts out the clashes and she gets no oher offers, or she only gets one offer that she can acheive. ie. so she won't have to make a decision.

hattifattner Thu 15-Nov-12 18:28:24

thanks for the advice on 5 A levels. Its never been the plan, but DD saw AQA Creative Writing - it is her great love ... however, as its a brand new AQA course, we are unsure whether universities will even accept it - if its like "general studies" or "critical thinking" then I think its a waste of an A level. ANd she can always go and do it later - or do it in uni.

casma Thu 15-Nov-12 18:53:21

We had this with DD last year - for her it was a choice between a 'ofsted outstanding' school sixth form in a v. inconvenient location, a pretty average comp but with a more mixed intake and a local independent. She was all set on going to the local comp but changed her mind due to the extra-curricular options at the independent. In the end I think that's a really important part of sixth form, as it's a great time for finding out what you're really interested in.

I would be inclined to let her make her own choice on this one - she may end up loving her first choice school, she may not. But if she stays at her current school and doesn't like it, she'll have you to blame.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 21:23:18

circular thank you, I think that is a very good idea and have suggested it.

Yes, I'm really conscious that if she gets talked into going somewhere, it's going to be my fault if she isn't happy. And ultimately if she isn't happy she's less likely to fulfil her potential.

Last school seen and we're just going to apply to two and then see where she wants to go as late as possible, I think.

casma Thu 15-Nov-12 21:31:34

Can you hold an offer for more than two at this stage? If so then I would, just to avoid disappointment if she changes her mind at any point.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 21:34:25

I think so, need to check!

misstrunchball Thu 15-Nov-12 22:01:19

We are going through this at the moment. I am all for DD1 staying where she is due to knowing the school, the school knowing her etc but she wants to apply to the local grammar school. She didn't pass the 11+ but really wanted to go so we went to the open evening. Oh My God - they know who they want and don't want. My DD1 was fast tracked through Maths at her secondary and will get 3 GCSE's from it and as she has now finished her maths exams her teacher wants them to start AS's. When we asked the maths department how this would affect them (there were 3 of them) IF they had already passed unit 1 the teacher was so rude. She stated that they couldn't possibly be that far ahead at THAT school..... If they were they could sit out the class or sit in as they may have to do retakes. My DD1 was a bit surprised at that as she felt the teacher was 'dissing' her school for being further ahead than the elite grammar.

She also wants to do dance but this school want a grade B at GCSE and DD1 is doing BTec so asked the head if this was ok as they have always been led to believe BTec is equivalent (another story I know). The head looked at her and said 'we don't recognise BTec in THIS school' shock oooh fuming by now grin

So, we have the open evening for her school this week and we are going with the intention that she stays there (her decision) as she now feels she isn't clever enough to go to the grammar and is now quite glad she didn't go there in the first place.

I am hoping she chooses her school but will still go with any decision she makes. I do feel she would be better off staying where she is due to knowing the teachers and pupils and as she says 'I know where I stand with the people at my school. I know who likes me and who doesn't. At least I won't spend months trying to make friends with people who don't like me!!'

boschy Fri 16-Nov-12 08:56:56

it's all a minefield isnt it? I just asked our head of 6th if it was 'safe' just to apply to her current school, and he says they cant guarantee the courses she wants til they know the numbers. the trouble is, there really is nowhere else, unless we get into a long/difficult/expensive commute which neither she nor we want.

NamingOfParts Sun 18-Nov-12 19:31:09

We went through this last year with DD.

Her choices were

a. the local consortium sixth form - 4 towns, 4 schools. Students arrive at their nearest school then take the bus between different schools. DD wouldnt have been able take all her A level choices and would have to travel between the local school and two other schools.

b. over the county border large 6th form (700 students). Bus leaves at 7.40am - 40 minute bus ride.

DD took option b. She was able to take all her A level choices. The school is much more switched on than the local school. There is a much greater sense of it being a community. The consortium is very dislocated - students are travelling from one site to another. There doesnt appear to be a lot of interest in the future prospects of the students.

DD is happy with her choice.

circular Sat 24-Nov-12 20:33:17

Anyone out there having to fill in multiple applcations, finding all the forms SO different?

Some want all the extra CA, volunteering and outside school stuff. As there is generally limited space, how far is it necessary to go back? Is it necessary to include anything they no longer do, even if they reached quite a high standard?

Others really short just wanting basic info on subjects, adn grade predictions. Guess they get the rest from references - unless they are not interested.
So is it necessary to ensure current school have ALL the info on what the DC does out of school for reference purposes?

starlady Tue 27-Nov-12 12:24:57

misstrunchball I really hope your daughter doesn't choose the grammar. I have heard awful stories of those coming in from state comps who have done stunning well, and not lived up to their potential for A levels. Ironically, (and anecdotally) the ones I know who have stayed in comp state have done better One teacher told me children from comps in grammar sixth form are referred to as 'externals' shock

TheWave Tue 27-Nov-12 13:14:05

starlady it depends what you mean by "state comps". If in the same county then you mean effectively secondary moderns? I am glad you say anecdotally as frankly that sounds a bit untrue across the board.

Every child is different though and misstrunchball will have to think about her own child and the school choices where she is.

Looking around and talking to existing 6th formers has actually been giving us a good idea about how welcoming they will be. We have had very mixed "welcomes" from 6th forms we are considering and that does colour whether to move there or not.

Externals are also what those who move to any new 6th form are known as initially, comp to comp, or probably comp to grammar etc.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 28-Nov-12 17:47:58

Having taught at our local FE college and a CofE 6th form and having 2 dc go through FE/HE, I think its important for them to do this themself.
We never attended any open evenings although dc did. As it is no longer compulsory education I have even witnessed parents being made very unwelcome at these events. I suppose its each to their own, but they do mature and become responsible at a younger age if they are given the chance.

circular Wed 28-Nov-12 20:06:53

morethanpotatoprints - If only. We attended one recently where it was compulsory to attend with a parent.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 28-Nov-12 21:32:23

Circular.

I bet that was hard for alot of dcs and parents. I don't mean to sound critical btw it was just our own personal experience of FE. Our dcs would rather have eaten their own poo than have us attend an open evening at 6th form. It was worse for parents evening they would have hated us going. I would always listen and guide if they wanted me/us to, but they were the independant type, lol. I think the schools are more likely to welcome parents, where the colleges might not. It is so different for parents who haven't experienced this before. In the school 6th form the students were still at school and treated as such, with the same rules etc. I was still Miss or Mrs potato prints. Whereas at the local FE college the students called all tutors by first name, with only adult rules similar to those you expect at work. e.g phoning in if ill, health and safety, fire regs etc.

bobbyboy Tue 04-Dec-12 13:25:32

we are looking into 6th form for our son for 2013, the schools we are looking at are Eltham College, Dulwich College, Allyns and City of London Boys. We have already had an offer from COLBS offering us a music scholarship but the only issue we have is that the other schools take a lot longer to inform you of their decision. COLBS need an answer by 10th December. Struggling to decide what is best, does anyone have any views of any of the schools

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