Contextualised(ish) offers for Oxbridge?

(14 Posts)
LondonMischief Tue 10-Nov-20 13:17:13

My DS in Y11 is weighing up school options for 6th form. Has been predicted 8x9s and 3x8s for GCSEs and wants to study Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Further Maths for A Level and read Maths at Uni.

He is currently in a middle of the road private school ( sends maybe 1 or 2 per year to Oxbridge usually classics, humanities ), not known to be particularly academic nor has a well known name, on a maximum scholarship. He has the option of applying for a couple of super selective grammars for 6th form that send may be 30 a year to Oxbridge. He is motivated and a good self learner and we are pretty sure his A level results will be the same regardless of Sixth form.
I know about contextualised offers for those in underperforming schools or live in areas with low progression to higher education, which don’t apply to us. Then I came across this article linked in Oxbridge aspirants thread
Which suggest ( in Part 3 of the article) that admission tutors can see how an applicant has perform in relation to the average in the school and if the applicant is from a school that does not send many to Oxbridge.

So cost aside ( and assuming final A level grades will be the same), should he stay where he is - where he is top of the year in a middle of the road, not well known school, but where he is known to all the teachers and head for his academics. Or move to a Grammar with a much better name and amongst the top of the league tables where he will be new and average amongst their cohort, to maximise his chance of an Oxbridge offer? School facilities will be similar. Or does it not matter all as all they will only look at is achieved and predicted grades, personal statement and admission tests ( which will be the same regardless of school). He doesn’t mind where he goes.


OP’s posts: |
titchy Tue 10-Nov-20 13:56:16

It won't make any difference. If he gets an offer, and it's more likely that he won't being realistic, STEP is what he'll need to ace, as well as A levels.

LondonMischief Tue 10-Nov-20 17:03:38

Yes we know, it’s about 12 applicants to a place shock, so I know the odds are against him. He is leaning more towards Oxford and has to do an admission test prior to interview rather than STEP.

His current school does A level Maths at the the end of Y12, and FM at the end of Y13 as normal. While the the grammar does all 4 at the end of Y13. I wonder if applying with a Maths A level already achieved is advantageous over one predicted?

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HuaShan Tue 10-Nov-20 17:12:35

DS started at Oxford this year reading Maths. Oxford will look at where he does his GCSE's so moving will give no advantage/disadvantage. We had a similar decision to make at 6th form but left DS where he was because he was happy, motivated and it was unlikely a move would affect his A level results
Oxford don't give contextualised offers - they do look at GCSE's in relation to the schools performance as one factor in the weighting of whether to decide to invite for interview. So the dc will be given a contextualised score for GCSE's.
If he wants to study Maths, the bottom line is, get a great MAT score to be invited for interview, then perform at interview. There is a very good document about exactly how Maths decisions are made, with graphs and all (what else would we expect!). I remember finding it on one of the college websites - if I can find it again I'll post the link.

HuaShan Tue 10-Nov-20 17:59:52

I'm sorry, I can't find it. Essentially it said:
-Above a certain MAT score - everyone interviewed
-Below a certain MAT score - everyone rejected
In the middle - other considerations, GCSE, personal statement etc
Then all the interviewees are scored - interestingly a few with very high MAT scores were not offered places and a few at the lower end were.

Aubaine Tue 10-Nov-20 18:21:47

Interesting to know that Oxford will look at where a student does their GCSEs, and that they don’t do contextualised offers.

I know a few students at Cambridge who went to a top achieving state school in inner London who apparently had some contextual advantage. It’s also based on postcode I believe.

Revengeofthepangolins Tue 10-Nov-20 19:52:13

Contextualising happens at the stage of selecting applicants - for instance in history both GCSEs and the admission test are contextualised relative to the candidates performance relative to peers at the school, and various other “flagged” characteristics are considered along the way. But the offers aren’t really lower grades (as seen for contextualised offers from some other universities) although I guess it is a little muddier at Cambridge where they sometimes ask candidates for more than the indicated tariff.

I think it is Merton’s website that has the subject level admissions process stuff mentioned upthread


lanadelgrey Tue 10-Nov-20 21:42:27

It’s a bit of a red herring and given that the choice wound be between a private school and a top performing grammar it may be much of a muchness. It’s a huge lottery. DD who was pooled but not picked in the end for Cambridge was a total outlier for contextual offers - but from looking back on the process it came down to the usual hurdles of personal statement contents, exam and the interview. In any context there will be some who get in and some who don’t and at each stage it appears that there are no shoo-ins or easier paths so whichever school would support your DS to do his best rather than any special consideration for the school itself

ErrolTheDragon Tue 10-Nov-20 22:11:40

What titchy said - it really is unlikely to make any difference at all between the two schools you describe re either getting an interview or an offer.
Is one or other more likely to give support with STEP? Would being in the middle of a more able peer group as you suggest with the GS help him 'up his game', be a bit more challenging?

ErrolTheDragon Tue 10-Nov-20 22:13:24

...I meant the best more challenging as a positive, for avoidance of doubt - if he's aiming to be a Cambridge mathmo I assume he'd be up for that.

Phphion Tue 10-Nov-20 22:52:51

In terms of providing context (outside GCSEs which are a done deal), realistically neither school would really be a school where there should be special consideration. A school that sends one or two students per year to Oxbridge would still be easily in the top 25% of all schools in terms of Oxbridge acceptances and would be unlikely to warrant special attention as a "school that does not send many to Oxbridge". There are entire cities that send fewer students.

So for him, it really comes down to which school will best support him for the application tests, personal statement, interview and in getting the grades he needs. Plus which environment would best suit him or that he would prefer.

The only way either school could really impact either way on his chances outside this is if he moves to a GS and proves to be less able to keep up than you imagine. The article demonstrates this in the comment about the girl who comes from a school with a lot of brilliant students, but she isn't one of them.

cinammonbuns Wed 11-Nov-20 00:09:35

Oxbridge do not give contextual offers for anyone. They do not give offers lower than the standard offer.

They contextualise GCSE’s based on the school they did their GCSE at so moving to grammar school for sixth form will not help in that regard at all.

LondonMischief Wed 11-Nov-20 06:01:21

Thanks everyone, We are leaning towards staying where he is. I am sure the current school will support himself just as well. It does have programmes for those applying to Oxbridge/sitting admission tests or medicine/vet, as does the GS. The current school though has a much higher 16-18 progress score ( to be expected given the tough 11+ selection at the GS and their better GCSE results). and I suppose he will be off and running from day 1 in a familiar environment rather than having to find his feet.

I know that offers are not going to be reduced, but wondered it all else being equal amongst a choice of 2 candidates called for an interview or made the standard offer, if going to a big name school would be advantages, disadvantages or make no difference at all. Seems the consensus is the last one.

OP’s posts: |
Aubaine Wed 11-Nov-20 07:15:03

Going to a big name school like Eton or Westminster probably has advantages: the old boys network, a brand where you know what you might get and the preparation and entitlement that those schools have towards Oxbridge. But that doesn’t seem to be one of your options!

Seriously he’ll do fine where he is. Fingers crossed.

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