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Sixth form bursary - could it be a poisoned chalice?

(16 Posts)
viewhistoryx Wed 29-Jun-16 23:02:31

DD is at a comp with a struggling sixth form and wants to do two fairly unusual A level subjects not offered by her current school.
She is predicted high grades at GCSE and we have been told informally that she would be very likely to get a full scholarship and bursary at a local private school which does offer the subjects she is keen on.
The obvious advantages would be subject availability, smaller classes and probably much better support for uni applications. Her ambition is to study a particular arts subject at a good uni, ideally Oxford! The obvious disadvantages are the risk of a new environment, missing her friends etc but she is happy to accept the risk.
My main concern is that I've heard that university tutors discriminate against private schools and that many privately educated kids leave after GCSE and join the state system to avoid this problem.
DD is keen to apply to the private 6th form but would I be putting her at a disadvantage to do this?
Is there anyone who can advise? Please PM me if you like.

marialuisa Thu 30-Jun-16 07:59:22

The link above explains how widening participation and adjusted offers work. Most of the RG universities work in a similar way. It's not just discriminating against private school pupils, it's much more nuanced than that.

If the private school is any good the reference should also include contextual info on your DD-that she joined having achieved excellent GCSE grades in a challenging environment

oldestmumaintheworld Thu 30-Jun-16 08:09:46

Do it. Your daughter will thrive in a new atmosphere and don't worry about university admissions. Admissions tutors are sensible people and they will have seen this situation before. We did this for one of our children and it was the best decision we could have made. Just one note of caution and this is not meant to put you off, but just to make you aware. Our daughter found the work rate and quality of work expected at a private school quite challenging to begin with. She was an A student with a bursary and got through it very well, but did struggle a little for the first half term to adjust to very different expectations.

senua Thu 30-Jun-16 08:23:28

There are thousands of DC applying to Oxbridge every year, there are many more applicants than places. Her chances of getting in are slim whichever school she goes to. She should be maximising her chances by getting good schooling and having a support system who know the ropes.

Which would she rather put on her CV:
1) pity me because I went to a bad school, or
2) choose me, you know I'm good because I earned a scholarship. Furthermore, I know that I have been incredibly privileged and have made the most of that opportunity - just like I intend to make the most of Oxbridge if you will let me.

Numberoneisgone Thu 30-Jun-16 08:25:00

This is not one I would have to give a second thought. Do it.

esornep Thu 30-Jun-16 08:36:17

My main concern is that I've heard that university tutors discriminate against private schools and that many privately educated kids leave after GCSE and join the state system to avoid this problem.

Both statements are wrong.

The vast majority of university offers are based entirely on predicted/achieved grades and are the same for all students, regardless of school. Contextual offers are only given to students in very low performing schools, i.e. low performing according to POLAR data and to GCSE/A level results. Contextual offers are in any case usually one grade A level grade lower than the standard offer.

UCAS applicants have to declare all educational institutions from the age of 11-18, so universities can see that they attended private schools up to GCSE. It is very doubtful that a student who attended a private school up to 16 and then a slightly low performing sixth from from 16-18 would receive a contextual offer, so there would be no advantage in switching. I think the vast majority of switches from private to state at 16 are based on other reasons: saving money, choices of subjects, wanting a change in environment, wanting to attend a sixth form college rather than a school, wanting to leave a single sex environment etc etc.

Needmoresleep Thu 30-Jun-16 10:10:39

I think you have the wrong concern. Private schools can vary as much as state, though they often have an edge in terms of class size, teaching time, and selected pupils. And at A level it is more than possible to have a weak subject teacher in either environment - for example there is a national shortage of maths and STEM teachers and both sectors can be affected.

You should look at recent University destinations and A level performance in the subjects your daughter will be taking, after factoring in the selectiveness of the pupil intake, to see if they reflect your daughter's aspirations. Hopefully as part of the selection process she woud meet the subject teachers. Look also at the broader opportunities. Sixth form can be a key time to get involved in first team sport, drama or music and a chance to lead. Absolutely observational, but experience in stepping forward, perhaps presenting to a school society or entering an essay competition, stands you in good stead at University where self starting is important.

Others are right. Contextual offers are usually only a grade, and can include private schools Bristol University's list here But observationally top universities like Cambridge and Imperial are giving quite a range of offers for STEM subjects based presumably on interview performance and educational background. But the observation is of strong pupils from top performing schools where A*s are the norm, and so in line with what the better pupils should be achieving.

As a previous poster said, the first term may be tough. It depends on subject. I don't think maths/STEM is so hard as long as you have the ability and decent GCSE results. DD switched to a more academic sixth form and has loved the faster pace. Those that struggle have probably chosen the wrong subjects or are not working hard enough. In contrast her peers taking languages and classics noted an immediate step up and found the first term tough, as the new school taught well beyond the test at GCSE. The best advice would be to get a vocabularly list and learn it over the summer. Humanities also seem to have been different with smaller class sizes allowing for more challenge and debate. Useful skills for an Oxbridge candidate to master. But this is one school. There could be other private schools that get their results by spoonfeeding and teaching to the test.

So don't worry about University entry. Instead look carefully at the quality and breath of education provided.

viewhistoryx Fri 01-Jul-16 00:07:43

Thank you for explaining the contextual offers and for all your encouraging comments. It sounds like DD should just go for it! She wants to do humanities and languages so I'll keep in mind the tip about a step up in pace and expectations and doing some preparation over the Summer. She is very keen, it was just me who had a few reservations.

Girlgonewild Sun 03-Jul-16 18:03:11

Yes, go for it. Also be careful applying for Oxbridge unless she's 11A* GCSE in great subjects and absolutely brilliant, in picking typical humanities like English and history. They are very popular - loads of people (girls particularly) want to do them so they can be just about the worst choice if you want to maximise Oxbridge entrance so pick the subject with care.

Doing a language might increase her chances at university as fewer people choose those these days, sadly. A good private school will be able to advise her both on the the subject and the college to maximise her chances.
My sons have new boys at their private school who moved for sixth form and everyone has fit in really well. Do check it is a school which gets children to Oxbridge. Some private schools are not very academic so choose well.

Needmoresleep Mon 04-Jul-16 08:02:47

I'm not sure Girl's post is correct. Eight GCSEs is enough. Oxford looks closely at GCSEs and will almost certainly expect top grades from applicant from academic schools. However, from observation, it is not a cast iron rule and they will use other elements including aptitude tests, especially when considering someone who did very well in the context of the school they were at. My guess is that they would not want good applicants to be put off applying because of statements like "11A* GCSE in great subjects and absolutely brilliant".

BigGreenOlives Mon 04-Jul-16 08:09:28

If she wants to do a language at A level it would be useful if she can spend the summer in between GCSE & A level in that country - exchange, language camp etc.

Girlgonewild Mon 04-Jul-16 08:15:08

I agree with needmore, but we do have to be realistic. What GCSE grades do the people get who get places at Oxbridge? It does tend to be mostly A*.

welshpixie Mon 04-Jul-16 08:54:26

My DD got an offer from Cambridge, her iGCSEs were 4A*, 3A and 4B. You do not have to have all A*s, but you do need to know what you are talking about if you get an interview. She was also the first student to get an offer from Oxbridge at her school, so no help from them.

BigGreenOlives Mon 04-Jul-16 09:05:44

Welshpixie her school is less successful with high achievers - hence her potential being spotted. Congratulations to her for achieving in that environment, she'll soar with the new opportunities.

Needmoresleep Mon 04-Jul-16 10:05:01

Cambridge was considered to be more interested in AS results than GCSE. However we know a girl who took a GCSE as a twilight subject and got a B, then switched to a school that offered the subject at A level, and is now sitting on an Oxford offer to study the same subject. I don't think her other GCSEs were all A* either.

But this is contextualisation working. Had she been at her second school for GCSE, she would have been well taught and should have got an A*, and indeed probably would have been discouraged from taking the A level with only a B at GCSE. It does not mean that children in private/selective schools are disadvantaged, but that Universities will sometimes look beyond the grades for those from weaker schools.

JimmyGreavesMoustache Mon 04-Jul-16 10:16:42

I got a bursary to an independent sixth form after state grammar.
I applied because I was cross with the head of sixth form at the grammar saying there was no way they could accommodate my choice of a-levels due to timetabling.

The teaching was probably better at the grammar - the teaching in one subject was pretty poor indeed at the independent school, and I think cost me a grade in that subject. I was able to keep my friends, but making new ones was harder as I was definitely the "poor relation" at 6th form as the only kids from the council estate. I think with hindsight I would have considered the move more carefully.

Oh, and I didn't get into Oxford - not because of anti private school bias, but because I interviewed really, really badly grin.

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