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?

Themumsnot Fri 09-Nov-12 14:55:24

I'm in a similar position but we are in a semi-rural location and don't have many options. Our town has an FE college where DD has been for a taster day and liked, but their results are poor in many of the subjects she is interested in and it has not got a good reputation locally (overall results are below average nationally).
So she can get the train to a bigger town (90-min commute) where she will have the option of doing A-levels (results only marginally better than local college) or IB (not sure how that pans out results-wise but small classes and fairly stringent entry requirements). She is quite keen on IB but we don't know much about it yet.
There is a good school 6th form in a town about 45 mins away but she is concerned that everyone there will already know each other and she will be an outsider.
We have an options evening on Monday and they will all have reps there so hopefully we will find out a bit more. She is very academic and ambitious and we have a bit of a low-ambition culture locally so it would be good to find somewhere that encourages kids to broaden their horizons.

mrscog Fri 09-Nov-12 14:55:51

I am no expert, but do you have a Sixth Form college available to you? We have one in our area and it provides a wonderful educational experience in a much more mature atmosphere than school. People come out of the private sector to go to it. I went 10 years ago and there was a huge range of subjects and the staff were experts at A Level, and all the library resources etc. were pitched at that level too. From my experience and the experience of others I am of the opinion that school is not really appropriate for 16+ and we should have more colleges like the one I attended.

I'm sure whatever you pick will suit your DD really well smile

mrscog Fri 09-Nov-12 14:56:54

Just read themumsnot post - just to reiterate I'm talking about specific 6th form colleges and not FE (where results do tend to be lower and the atmosphere not so good).

3boys1cat Fri 09-Nov-12 14:58:25

My DS1 (now year 13) stayed on for the 6th form at his comprehensive school when all his friends went to the local 6th Form college. I think it was the best decision for him, mainly because it meant he could hit the ground running in Year 12 rather than spending the first half-term getting to know the place and the teachers and the other students. In year 12 they tend to do their first exams in January which means they don't have any time to waste.

It was also very valuable that the teachers already knew him and knew what he was capable of. At his Year 12 parents evening in the first term, his Maths teacher was able to say to us that he wasn't working hard enough and that he would be really disappointed if he didn't get an A. If he had gone to the 6th Form college, the teachers wouldn't even have known who he was.

So from our experience, I would recommend staying on at the current school provided they can offer the subjects your DD wants to do.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 09-Nov-12 15:00:47

Yeah, we have a college but neither we nor dd are that keen - it's about as opposite an end of town as it gets, so transport would be a real pain, and it is also not really designed for the capacity of students it now has - just not physically big enough, by all accounts.

But then, I think the opposite - ie., that school is good until 18. I also like the idea that teachers who know her well already would be writing her references and so on.

TheWave Fri 09-Nov-12 15:01:58

We are in the same position of looking around for DD1 to change 6th form. it is very interesting how the schools do it all differently in terms of selling themselves so far.

I wondered how it worked with all the different dates of application. Some closing dates are before others, before even some open evenings elsewhere.

What if you decide on one, apply and apply elsewhere too? can you hold 2 or more places? for how long?

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 09-Nov-12 15:02:29

I have no idea! blush Weird, isn't it?

fraktion Fri 09-Nov-12 15:02:48

themumsnot IB is excellent but you need to achieve high all round. Also enquire how long the school has been doing it. I wouldn't go for anywhere with fewer than 5 cohorts.

OP your DD is sensible to want all the subjects in the same place. It's difficult to nip up to see the teacher if they're on a different site. A supportive school is good but moving can be a chance to break the presumed mould, however that means she needs to impress right from the start as they will only have a year to wrote the UCAS references. I think sixth form should be separated out as it's a different style if working and changing the school can make that transition more successful.

What are her reasons for wanting to move?

IMO they need to offer the subjects she wants, have experience if supporting people to get onto the course she wants, be familiar with the calibre of university she wants and have a clear plan to welcome newcomers.

TheWave Fri 09-Nov-12 15:06:51

Also finding in interesting that the religious schools are now keen to get everyone in that they did not want at Yr7 (as long as meet the grades etc).

"Our sixth form bring a lot of varietyskills etc to the school..." Yes but you didn't want that earlier though apparently.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 09-Nov-12 15:09:15

Pro moving (her reasons) - thinks other school know the ropes re. getting you into Cambridge. You get fortnightly progress tutorials in small groups (though as this is the first school we've seen, that may turn out to be the case everywhere). Intermittent desire to be somewhere new. Boyfriend will probably go there, as will some other friends. All subjects under one roof

Anti moving (her reasons) - idea of seeing school through 11-18 - being a sixth former there - easy to walk to every day - sixth form facilities much newer and nicer - intermittent desire not to be somewhere new!

Themumsnot Fri 09-Nov-12 15:14:20

Fraktion - could you come and advise on my IB thread here I am trying to research it atm and getting increasingly worried about the university offer issue.

Themumsnot Fri 09-Nov-12 15:15:27

TOSN - it's a minefield isn't it when there seems to be no clear answer.

TheWave Fri 09-Nov-12 15:18:15

It may depend on the personality.

Especially in a coed school, the girls (who often have friends in the years above) might feel they have outgrown the school and the cohort they have been with.

Except they shouldn't forget there is often movement into their own sixth form. We have been trying to find out the net movement in and out of schools for Year 12 as this might be informative to us. Also why and who leaves might be relevant.

The Oxbridge thing might be misleading though, as if you are one of only, say 2 or 3 thinking of applying, the school might be really focused on helping and pushing you, getting you to link with other schools etc; whereas in a bigger group you might get the sessions but the school will get enough in without your child particularly being one of those pushed, if that makes sense?

eatyourveg Fri 09-Nov-12 15:19:03

all the schools in our town have integral sixth forms and they work in collaboration. Where there is an A level subject with not enough uptake, you have the option to study it at another school locally. You can't choose any of the schools to go to as it has to be one that is viable ie you can get from one school to the other within breaktime so you get there on time. we looked at the local girl's grammar for ds1 and the combination he wanted meant going to the giirls high school for one subject. In the end he stayed where he was as he was advised (rightly imo) that doing a new subject and in 2 new environments would be tough.

Being a new girl in a new school where the majority of girls will have established friendships groups which have been in place since Y7 is going to be tough and even more so if there are lots of what you term mean girls - I would proceed with caution unless there is usually a high number of external people joining for Y12. There again all kids are different and in the end it depends on your dd's personality, how much she likes the place and wether the subjects on offer match what she wants to do

webwiz Fri 09-Nov-12 15:22:07

Where we live all the schools have their own sixth forms - one offers the IB and the other 4 offer A levels. There is some movement between them all and some DCs move to colleges that offer more vocational qualifications. DD1 and DD2 both carried on at their school into the sixth form and DS(15) will just do the same. As I have older DCs I know people who have had or have at the moment DCs at all the school sixth forms and so I have heard every piece of gossip, nonsense, hearsay and complaint going and so while they all present a different face I'm not sure that the sixth form experience is hugely different at any of them!

So if I had to choose (DS has made his mind up and doesn't want to move) I would look at how many new pupils join for sixth form ie is it a small number who have to join an established year group or lots of new faces. It might be nice to stand out as a new face or it might be a nightmare!

I would look at the results for the subjects that your DC wants to study and the size of classes. Although results depend on cohort preferably I would like to see that there are some high grades in there. I'd also ask what sort of class sizes they normally expect to have especially as this seems to be an issue at the moment with reduction in funding.

I would look at the leavers destinations - is it some to Oxbridge and everyone else off to "rubbish" courses or a good spread subjects across different universities.

Also what are the expectations on sixth formers - are they still treated like children (one particular school locally seems very guilty of this) or are they treated as young adults.

DS wants to stay put because he has already established himself as hardworking and well liked by the teaching staff also the school has strong teaching departments in the subjects he wants to do. With DD2 we went to every open evening and then came to the same conclusion. (Don't ask about DD1 I don't think anywhere other than her own school would have taken her!)

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 09-Nov-12 15:23:45

There is a lot of movement here between all the schools - although she is a bit anxious about being 'new' nonetheless.

theWave what you say makes a lot of sense - I suspect dd's current school would like to have someone trying for Cambridge, as the sixth form is only a few years old and it started out as vocational only, so A levels are a relatively new thing. They do organise trips to Oxford and Cambridge, and are clearly trying to push it as an academic 6th, now.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 09-Nov-12 15:24:56

Have looked at leaver's destination for the school we've seen, not seen others yet. 7 to Oxbridge, lots to Durham, Manchester etc, quite a lot to less impressive places, and a surprising amount of gap years, given the current climate!

GrungeBlobPrimpants Fri 09-Nov-12 15:29:53

Our sec schools are grouped into consortia too - you're based at one school (and may do all your subjects there) but if there are specialities (eg Music A level) or unusual subject combinations then you have the option of doing a subject in another member of the consortia.

It's just like primary and secondary admissions all over again except that it's on grades not location. So now you can relive the joys of parental angst of which is the 'best' sixth form and get wound up in knots over it. DD's school has suddenly become regarded as 'no longer the best' (why not is beyond me) and there was a mass exodus after Y11. DD didn't even want to look at other 6th forms because although most of her friends left she isn't that confident and needs the security of knowing the staff and school for a bit longer.

I think you've got to go with gut feeling and your DDs - the choice is more theirs now. i wouldn't worry about Oxbridge admission numbers but Id ask questions about university application and support if your school's sixth form is new.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 09-Nov-12 15:53:05

If only our gut feelings didn't change every few days! wink

GrungeBlobPrimpants Fri 09-Nov-12 17:01:58

nothing worse than wibbly guts! grin

I THINK you can hold more than one offer .... where pupils said they were going at end of Y11 and where they actually went in Y12 weren't exactly the same. Plus one I know who changed in first week of Y12 when realised dream 6th form not what she expected

TheWave Fri 09-Nov-12 17:27:50

Thanks Grunge I assume you can hold more than one as well up until the GSCE results presumably, it feels weird though and must be for the schools as well.

Do many schools ask for references from current schools? or is that just grammars and private schools?

GrungeBlobPrimpants Fri 09-Nov-12 17:44:44

TheWave I think DD's friends had to get predicted grades from their teachers, not sure about references - varied from school to school. (Ordinary schools here not grammars)

For schools here places were not fully confirmed until after GCSE results because obviously grades have to be met

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 09-Nov-12 23:11:30

Well thanks for thoughts so far: I will update when we've seen more!

MsAverage Fri 09-Nov-12 23:30:13

Our below-national-average school does not have a sixth forms, and we have been shopping around for a couple of months. It feels like we are visiting poker players - no slightest indications what they got, and what we can rely on.

A couple of schools were quite frank - "We will start talking from 6 A*s in GCSEs". Oh, well, good, thank you, we will not waste each others' time. The others are strange. "If a girls BELONGS to the school, she will get a place, regardless the grades" - many of the school repeat this mantra as if it has some hidden, although a very concrete meaning. I struggled to decipher that code, until it just dawned on me. Unbelievable that I was so stupid. "If you are from upper-middle class, we would be glad to accept your under-performing child". What else could it mean, if not this?

circular Wed 14-Nov-12 08:32:00

Having a difficult time of it here too.
Open days only started last week, been to 2 so far, both of which DDl loved. One a difficult journey, the other less likely to get an offer from.
It seems though that "minimum requirements" are what must be acheived to be allowed to take chosen subjects. And are on rhe basis of what internal applicants must be predicted. The difficult bit is getting predicted grades high enough to get the offer in the first place.
For DDs first choice, although minimum is just 5 A* to C incl. E&M with A/ B in chosen subjects, as there are do many applicants those that typically get the offers are predicted 8 A*.

DDs school does have an average sixth form, but subject blocks don't work for her. Shes pretty much set on her subjects now, so its looking like her choice will be a difficult journey with high travel costs or a lesser school than her own.

With regards to holding onto places, we have been told by current school to hold onto ad many options ad possible until results day. So we expect to be able to do this unless any (compulsory) induction days clash.

MsAverage - re your comment on "BELONGS". I'm sure what you say is true to some extent. But some schools also favour sport and//or musical children, and may even prefer A/B"s with loads of other stuff to offer than straight A*s but little else to offer.

A very competitive school we are seeing next week have no mention of grades on their website, but say they want the students that can offer most to the school. I can feel some interesting questions coming on there.

Themumsnot Wed 14-Nov-12 08:46:15

DD has now got her heart firmly set on the IB which means going to the college with the 90-min commute and (I found out yesterday), the travel card for the year is £500.
We are going to an open evening at the local college tonight. I need to quiz them hard about their results - the prospectus was a masterpiece of disinformation (100% of students 'pass' their A-levels - yes but at what grades?). Belonging is an interesting concept - DD is not feeling it from anywhere in particular right now, even the IB place. They all want her - bums on seats a huge issue around here.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 14-Nov-12 08:48:40

We saw a very pro IB one on Monday: I am not convinced by it. They we saying 'oh but if you aren't so keen on science, you can do the more social options', but surely choosing the 'easy' bits of the IB is not going to impress admissions tutors everywhere? Seeing another tonight and tomorrow....

boschy Wed 14-Nov-12 09:06:25

gosh I envy those of you with a choice! We have: DD1's current school, open evening tonight. I would like her to stay there, and she is also quite keen. which is lucky, because option 2 is a dump school in the other direction, and option 3, the FE college, is closing.

So I am just hoping that she will get a place where she is, because otherwise we wont know what to do (and she is more a C-D student than an A* one).

Themumsnot Wed 14-Nov-12 09:08:27

TOSN - I agree re the IB. No point in doing it you don't like some of the subjects you are going to have to do. The 'easy' Maths and Science aren't going to impress as much as an A-level in a subject you like and will do well in.

Themumsnot Wed 14-Nov-12 09:10:01

Boschy - sounds like your options are even more limited than ours! And here I was getting jealous of those with loads of places to choose from.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 14-Nov-12 09:11:39

Thanks, themums that is pretty much what I was thinking. I can see IB would be a good idea if you were essentially sciencey but didn't want entirely to lose some humanties or languages... But dd wants to do English lit, history, French and either German or maths, and is equally appalled at the idea of doing chemistry a bit more, or choosing art instead of it!

boschy it's odd really, because at 11 you don't really get to choose at all here, most people go where is nearest.... Then suddenly at 16 all bets are off: doesn't matter where you live, just if you have the grades!

TalkinPeace2 Wed 14-Nov-12 13:20:22

when we go through the process DD will have several choices
the one in Winchester (top top choice) (12 miles)
the one a bit nearer (8 miles)
the one in town (4 miles)
the one in the forest (20 miles)
buses to each go from near here

Themumsnot Wed 14-Nov-12 13:35:25

That sounds like a great range of options, Talk. The one in Winchester is Peter Symonds, isn't it? Is it hard to get into?

TalkinPeace2 Wed 14-Nov-12 13:39:52

decent GCSEs and you join the 1500 per year intake !
They even relaxed the rules a bit due to the Eng Lit exam fiasco.

Barton Peverill and Brockenhurst are both good enough that all three are on their toes
and of course Sparsholt for those heading into farming and outdoors

gelo Wed 14-Nov-12 14:09:53

1500 per year shock. I thought dd's 6th form was huge with a quarter that intake!

There are pros & cons to moving. It does give a feeling of progression and to go to a 6th form college is like a step towards university. You do have to get to know new teachers & friends which can be positive & negative - it gives you a wider view of the world, but if you are trying to keep up with old friends too it can make social life very hectic.

LittleFrieda Wed 14-Nov-12 14:18:10

DS2 swapped for sixth form from a boys' selective fee-paying school to a comp. He started in September and t's been an amazing move for him. We allowed him to choose. I think that's really important.

TheWave Wed 14-Nov-12 14:20:46

Interesting the first few open evenings round here.

One obv going for the higher level incomers (and targeting the parents in their talk) to boost the A level grades.

Another didn't seem too keen on the "incomers" at all, very much gearing the open evening towards existing Year 11s and choosing their options. Er where do we go? Any guides to take us around? No? Well we'll just traipse around vaguely then shall we?

gelo Wed 14-Nov-12 14:36:33

dd was interviewed by 3 schools for sixth form, each had the same school report with predicted grades etc. in advance. At each interview she was asked what she wanted to do longer term.

At the first she said she was thinking about medicine (because she was), at which there was a much tooth sucking and a 'well you'll need to get at least 8 A*s' response in a sceptical tone. After this, at the second, she toned down the reply to 'maybe something like pharmacy or physiotherapy' to which the response was: 'with your grades you should try for medicine'. At the third, she reverted again to the medicine answer and was asked why that appealed to her?

I found the different responses from the schools very interesting. One was a comprehensive, one an independent, and one a super-selective grammar.

webwiz Wed 14-Nov-12 18:07:38

That's interesting gelo at least you got a heads up about how aspirational each environment was.

We had a slightly strange experience with DD2 when we went to the local boys school which has a mixed sixth form. We were in the Maths department talking to one of the teachers and DD2 asked a question about further maths. Instead of answering the teacher spent the whole time saying "well maths on its own is fine" and being very down on the idea of her taking further maths (without having any idea what her ability level was). It really put us off. She's in her second year studying maths at university now so a good job she ignored him!

boschy Wed 14-Nov-12 22:16:37

our evening was good; she has more choices than she thought she has, and is having to narrow down - there were 3 she originally thought she would like to do, but another 3 or so choices are now also real options.

they also seem to be quite flexible about GCSE achievements, for example she wants to do photography at A level but doesnt have GCSE art or photog (she cant draw so didnt do art, and photog wasnt an option for her at GCSE).

basically as long as she gets her C in English she can do the subjects she wants, but will prob have to resit maths GCSE for about 100 years to get a C!! (luckily no interest in maths necessary courses)

I find the applications process confusing though, we have to do it via the county website and it sounds a bit of a nightmare.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 14-Nov-12 22:33:26

Gay, dd says she 'can't see herself' at her school's sixth form and is v keen on the lacklustre unfriendly middle class good Oxbridge rate one we saw last week. I know I have to respect her decision to an extent, but I so disagree with it!

Themumsnot Wed 14-Nov-12 23:42:44

Nightmare! We've been to the local FE college this evening. DD really liked the history teacher who had made a big big effort, got some of his students to hang out in the classroom and chat to people - they were lovely - talked us through the syllabus and what it would involve and was full of enthusiasm and generally the sort of teacher you would want to have. The other departments were so-so and lacklustre. Now DD says she would love to do history there and the other subjects at the college 60 miles away so choosing is going to be far more of a dilemma than she thought.

circular Thu 15-Nov-12 07:27:22

Talkinpeace - Sometimes when you start looking properly at choices, they turn out nott to be choiices at all. We could have cheerfully listed over 20 state schools that are commutable. But once we have crossed off those with little movement in sixth form, those that dont do the subjects, and the fire FE colleges scoring <500 points per student it is cut by more than half. Then of those left there are option block clashes, some that are so competitive they don't even bother to have an open evening, and others that want 8 or mire A*s. I really hope this does not turn out to be the case for you.

Themumsnot - I think I posted on your IB thread. DD is also considering a school with a 90 minute commute. A bit of a change as he current school is 2 miles away. She always said she would be willing to travel if it were a great s hook for music- but this one is not. She just lived the feel of the place and warmed to all the teachers in her chosen subjects. They do the IB but she has definitely decided against it, although wanting a mix across subjects and does a lot if extra Ca and volumteering. Main reasons are - she can't bear the thought if 2 years more English, higher level maths more difficult than A level, knows what she wants to do at University (Music - which is time consuming ) so S levels sufficient to keep optios open, not an A* student.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 08:48:39

that should have said 'gah' above, not 'gay'!

Someone please remind me or explain to me all the reasons it has to be her choice and exactly how I go about backing off and not trying to make her go where I want her to??

I really don't like the school she wants to go to - there was zero effort made at open evening, no signs, no guides, no refreshments. The staff who did speak to her were few, and didn't seem to know whether she was a current year 11 or not - if they don't know whether she's just spent five years there, how are they going to know how to write her helpful references and so on? It's a very inconvenient commute, too.

By contrast, her own current school was warm and friendly, staff knew her by name and smiled and talked - but she thinks they're 'trying too hard' and that she wants a change.

Unfriendly school does, however, get the results. Pupils she knows who are there now seem to like it. Then again, it should get the results, given its catchment and the fact that you can't do an A level in a subject you didn't get a B in at GCSE.

I find it really difficult to discuss this without getting annoyed, and all her reasons seem really vague: 'I just can't see myself at X but I can see myself at Y'; 'why's that?'; 'I DON'T KNOW I JUST DO' hmm


TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 09:32:17

Oh and dp told me this morning that she'd said something in her school's presentation was was spinning things to sound better than she thinks they are, to which I responded that we could hardly blame them for making an effort and it didn't seem like a good enough reason to dismiss them. He said 'let's just forget I said anything' and there was Bad Feeling.

I'm struggling with this, because she is so defensive and yet so unwilling to communicate actually why she feels the way she does, and dp seems to think that given half a chance I'll be an arsehole about it. (ie: 'well, I guess the way we will sort it out is to have a constructive conversation about it'. Thanks pet.)

mummytime Thu 15-Nov-12 09:58:42

I think you have a problem as you really want to make this decision for her.

First apply to both (and any other places).

Second, in 2 years she will be going to University, where not only should you not be choosing, but you also can't control/influence how much work she is doing.

Third, she has been at her present school for 4/5 years. I would respect her judgement hugely if she thinks a lot of it was "spin". She will know far more than you what the school is really like.

The best thing you can do is back off. There is a long time until the real decision has to be made, lots and lots of young people near me hold offers from more than one sixth form. There is also a lot of re-shuffling that happens as late as the summer. I have known students not know in July where they were going to be in September.

My son in in year 12, his form teacher had never met him before this year. Yes some of his teacher's had taught him in the past, but others are totally new to him. However by now I would say that most teachers have him pretty well pegged. And for references Universities are not interested in what a student did in year 7, but in what they have shown over sixth form. Schools also ask students for information so if there is a significant achievement in the past, it can be included.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 10:02:44

Thanks Mummytime - actually there isn't that much time: some of the schools need your forms by early December, or else they can't promise you the subject combinations you want.

The thing is with the 'spin' - yes, they did clearly want to sell themselves, and as such were trying quite hard, but I feel it's not fair to judge them on that more harshly than the other school who just didn't bother! As far as I've ever been aware, she's always liked her school, and she's certainly done well there, so I feel it's wrong to bugger off now, I suppose.

gelo Thu 15-Nov-12 10:37:27

TOSN what mummytime means by having lots of time is that you can apply to both and hold both offers until results day in August. So the actual decision doesn't have to me made until then.

The problem with imposing your will is that many (maybe most) teenagers will react against it and not do as well as they might because it's not what they wanted and they are resentful. They may also hold it against you for ever.

Dd moved school when I would have quite liked her to stay on but so far it's been a good thing (she's not putting enough work in, but I'm fairly sure this would have happened anywhere, but the new school has picked up on it and is taking action). Her new school had no guides/signs etc. at open evening either, I don't think this is necessarily a problem.

gelo Thu 15-Nov-12 10:43:01

oh and there was one school dd applied to that I really didn't think would be right for her, but we went along with the application and it wasn't until about March or April that she finally came to her senses and withdrew.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 10:46:17

Yeah, I do know it has to be her decision - it just worries me that it doesn't seem to be based on much!

Guides and signs not so important in themselves, but they did seem to me to indicate a certain can't-be-arsedness. You find your own way: we'll be in the rooms where we are all day anyway, sort of mentality.

mummytime Thu 15-Nov-12 11:13:50

The problem is your DD has already been to one school, she knows what it is really like, so won't be impressed by "spin". For example: "We have an excellent Music technology Suite" when this is the first she has heard of it, and knows they don't have a Music Technology teacher. Or we had ten pupils get A* at Physics last year, and she knows they all had Mr Smith, and Mr Smith has now retired; those who had the teachers who are still there didn't do as well.

So apply to both. The same rules really don't apply as for secondary school, you can hold multiple offers. At my DCs school if it is at all doubtful you will get the grades for sixth form they advise you to apply somewhere else as well.

Your daughter only has these next two years once, so she needs to go the best place for her and her future, misplaced loyalty only gets you so far.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 11:15:49

You're right mummy - the flipside being, of course, that we don't know which bits of the other school's speeches were horseshit!

gelo Thu 15-Nov-12 11:17:47

It is hard, especially if they do choose wrongly. Of all the things you have mentioned, the commute would be what put me off most. Leave things for now, but nearer the real decision time get her to make some for and against lists and maybe try out the journey. Even if she does ultimately choose the other school, her old school will probably have her back too if she changed her mind in the early days.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 11:24:27

Yes, cycling home in the dark through the winter really worries me actually.

One more to see tonight anyway - who knows, maybe that'll open another can of worms!

mummytime Thu 15-Nov-12 11:24:28

It is really hard. I have worked in schools, and the two with the best open evenings, well one is very good, the other less so. I would look at results. Talk to past and present students (especially of the subjects of interest). But also some of it is just luck.
My DS is lucky to have Mr T not Mr Q for one of his subjects, as he is a better teacher and as my son says "sets more homework" (maturity is seeing that less homework is not necessarily a good thing).
A friend got an inheritance and sent her very bright daughter to a private school the daughter really wanted to go to. The daughter dropped out after 6 weeks, and for one subject it was very hard to go back to her old school sixth form. Some students thrive at the local sixth form college, others sink, some of whom try to get back to their old school sixth forms. Some students went to a local schools new shiny sixth form, only to be very disappointed as it didn't live up to promises. I stayed at my school sixth form, but would probably have done better if I had seriously considered moving to another school with a better record.

gelo Thu 15-Nov-12 11:36:13

Oh yes, dd had to cycle in yr 10. All started fine and the the clocks changed. It's very tough from October - March imo.

gelo Thu 15-Nov-12 11:38:52

That's probably November, not Oct. After half term anyway. DD ended up begging lifts and using the bus mostly in the end (having fallen off her bike in the ditch on the unlit roads a couple of times).

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 11:45:19

Yes, it would probably be half term until well into spring, wouldn't it?

I can't give her lifts most days, and am frankly not keen to do so - and I don't think there's a bus for 6th formers.

Bloody hell, hadn't even started thinking about ditches and unlit roads... bloody stupid school! hmm

gelo Thu 15-Nov-12 12:19:51

The difficult times are second half of autumn term and spring term. The summer term and first half of autumn term is fine, so half the year is a problem (we found). Like you I couldn't do lifts due to work. Dh was able to drop her in the mornings most days and she found a tame teacher and some friends who gave her a lift home most days, so she ended up not cycling that much at all in the winter. The bus was a walk and a wait and sometimes didn't stop either. There's a lot of paraphernalia needed for cycling (especially in the winter) and you need to be prepared for the arguments about wearing flashing fluorescent strips too.

fraktion Thu 15-Nov-12 12:31:43

It may be that the sixth form culture is very different. I should have moved from my (excellent) school and I wanted to but school and parents persuaded me to stay put. It was totally the wrong decision and marred both my memories of the school and, I think, my university applications process which I'm still dealing with the fallout from a good few years on. I should have moved, I should have got myself out of the pigeonhole of the subjects they thought I should do and the courses they were pushing me towards.

Your DD may want a chance to go out in a high and privé herself A&E somewhere even if you and the school want her to stay.

fraktion Thu 15-Nov-12 12:32:24

Prove herself anew even!

seeker Thu 15-Nov-12 13:16:14

Could you compromise by getting her to apply for both? Then actually make the decision as late as possible?

Dd went to an all girl's school, and was very definite that she wanted to stay there for 6th form. For all sorts of reasons, including the fact that she found change very difficult I agreed with her. Then, during the long, post GCSE summer, she did lots of new things and grew up a lot. By the time she started 6th form it was so the wrong place for her. She lasted a week, then moved, and is now truly flourishing in a different school. Which she had rejected on the "milk round" because it felt too full on and pressured for the person she was then. Some of her friends applied to both schools and decided more or less on the day which they were going to go to. Not advocating that, obviously, but applying to two might take the heat out of the situation for you and dd?

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 14:45:57

Yes, I think we should apply to both seeker (or possibly more) - although I need to check you actually can - everything seems to be done differently now from at 11!

Fraktion as long as she doesn't end up in A&E, eh..... wink

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 14:46:55

Oh and I cannot see her agreeing to helmets and fluorescent strips, either... hmm... and there is of course the issue of her not currently even owning a bike....

hattifattner Thu 15-Nov-12 15:00:15

oh a timely thread.......

DD is Y11, and we are doing the rounds of 6th forms.

DDs main criteria seem to be the social life hmm.

Option 1: Stay where she is. Have some of the same teachers who adore her and will be fighting to keep her. Have sexy foreign exchange programme, so lots of attractive latin students. grin Easy to get to, as siblings also there. Pretty much automatic acceptance. But I cant stand the head of 6th form (just an instant dislike of the woman). Nor can she. DD has been told categorically that she cannot do 5 A levels. SHe is an A* student.

Option 2: Very academic flash school, one of the top in the country. But really nice, easy to get to by bus. Lots of choices of subject, and many classes run, so timetable clashes could be managed. DO not do the 5th subject that DD wants to do (new AQA creative writing)

Option 3: Already applied and accepted. Also a very good school. But will require some commitment to get her there - ie. me driving her to the station, then 2 trains, then a long walk up the hill.

OOOh what to do, what to do. DD doesnt even know what she wants to be when she grows up. This is too hard!

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 15:05:45

Option 2 sounds quite compelling! Also, might Creative Writing not be something best done in a degree, later? If she's an A* student, maybe she'd be better doing more facilitating subjects?

That said, five A levels is a lot anyway, if none of them is general studies!

seeker Thu 15-Nov-12 15:11:41

I would be very wary of doing 5 A levels. Dd's 6th form has a lot of super bright kids, and the ones doing 5 ( apart from q couple of maths wizzes qnd someon doing Spqnish because it's her mother tongue) have no life at all.

mummytime Thu 15-Nov-12 16:00:00

The only pupils I know who do 5 A'levels (lots of local schools including selective privates) are all doing Further Maths as the fifth (and thats only because if you are good enough to do Further Maths you can do Pure and Further in about the time to do 1 1/2 A'levels).
With A'level you are expected to do at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours work for each hour of "lessons". Rather than doing an extra A'level you should really be doing "enrichment" which at my DCs school includes things like General Studies, community service, D of E, Extended Essays and OU modules, skills (including learning to drive) and so on.

Creative writing is best taught later, she should still be reading widely at sixth form age.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 16:10:21

So dd has come home with a plan: she makes a chart and we rate the following things out of 4 and whichever wins, she goes grin

However, she has skewed the results slightly in advance I feel by listing:

Oxbridge rates

But also
Amount Of Waffle In Speech
Gut Feeling.

seeker Thu 15-Nov-12 16:18:30

I would add flexi time, what enrichment opportunities there are, and what her friends are doing. But I would also remind her that a levels are a BIG step up- any sort of hassle-y journey would be a definite negative- she needs all the time she can get.

Themumsnot Thu 15-Nov-12 16:18:58

I like your DD's plan TOSN. I will suggest my DD does something similar and see what she comes up with.
Incidentally, has anyone else noticed that it is all mothers of girls dithering on this thread. Have the boys all made up their minds in one swift decisive moment?

Themumsnot Thu 15-Nov-12 16:22:33

Another issue for us - both the FE colleges we are looking at have average points scores considerably below the national average but the local one is the worse of the two and has been consistently so over time. Would that affect people's thinking? It is hard for me to judge as up to now she has done very well in a well-below-average comp, but does it make more difference at sixth form level?

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 16:26:45

There are other things on the list but I can't remember them. She did them on her phone in bed this morning, and there's also 'res' but she can't think what that was meant to mean!

I quite agree about the journey, and it could scarcely be less convenient, really.

themums - I don't know, it might if I thought there was a generally low effort feel about the place - but if they're doing alright by the bright ones, just get fewer of them, maybe not so much?

mummytime Thu 15-Nov-12 16:36:36

Our choice last year was easy! I advised DS not to go to the Sixth form college as from my experience he was the wrong type to cope. He didn't want to apply anyway. his options were the only subjects he wanted to do that his school sixth form offered; nope, sorry, he wondered about doing A'level Engineering rather than Product Design, we took his teacher's advice on that one. He would have chosen Computing if it had been on offer, but it wasn't and ICT is very different.

I have Options this year with my DD, and she wants/would be interested in so many, it will be tricky. A'level is going to be harder. But she then wants to go to the US, ideally a very selective Liberal Arts college, if she can get funding.

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


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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