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Hills Road Sixth Form College - your experiences please

(9 Posts)
1nd1mom Fri 11-May-18 20:23:01

Cross posting from FE -I'm looking for views, experiences, opinions from Cambridge area parents/students about Hills Road Sixth Form College.

My DS (rather nerdy and quirky, enjoys academic challenge and others of his ilk) has an offer from Hills Road as an out of area applicant. We are new to the area and I hear mixed opinions of the college. The open day visit was rather rushed - so we don’t have a real sense of what it would be like.

Any parents out there who can share recent experiences - both good and not so good? He is planning to study Maths, Further Maths and two sciences for A levels.

Questions in my mind are:
How is the pastoral care? Can a 16 year old, who won't know anyone else there, fit in easily? What kind of support does the college offer initially?
Does the very large size make it impersonal - a case of 'sink or swim'?
Academically, how are students supported for learning, extending themselves etc? Are teachers approachable, helpful and friendly? Or is the emphasis only on getting the grades?
What kind of support is there for Univ applications, including Oxbridge?

His other options are a local comprehensive and a specialist Maths school in London (a very long commute!). He doesn’t have a preference yet - busy with GCSEs now.

I am concerned about him choosing an option which may turn out to be overwhelming! Any views, experiences, opinions would be very helpful.


EllieFredrickson Fri 11-May-18 23:22:42

DD is there though not an out of area entrant so went with friends although not really in lessons with many of them. She is doing double maths and physics and one other A level.

I think it's quite difficult to give opinions as a parent. I don't feel I know what's going on and in some ways that's right as DD ages and partly because she doesn't need us that much.

I have seen Hills described as being more like a uni college and I think that's a good description - it's a bit like going to uni but sleeping at home!

Nerdy would fit in well - DD was involved in cipher challenge this year.

I think it is a bit sink or swim but people tend to go into it knowing that - it isn't for everyone. Locally some kids just know it won't be for them despite being academically able and go elsewhere.

Can't comment on the university entrance - we are about to start the process.

1nd1mom Sun 13-May-18 10:24:33

Thanks for your response EllieFredrickson. Looks like Hills Road would suit an independent and confident 16 year old.

I think my DS might get a better sense of whether it will suit him after attending classes for a day in July.

Good luck with the Uni entrance process for your DD!

Anguillagirl Thu 17-May-18 14:52:59

Hi 1and1mom,

My son is going to Hills Road and it has a really excellent reputation. Your son is lucky to get an out of area place and is obviously very bright otherwise he wouldn't have got an offer.

Yes, there will be groups who now each other as they have come from schools like the Perse, Leys, etc. But plenty like my son who are new to the area and will have to make friends...

From my research they do expect students to be self-motivated and don't 'hand-hold' as in some private schools. They also don't involve parents much I hear. However, I believe they have excellent pastoral care and support for Oxbridge applicants. My son is hoping for Cambridge also and I'm pretty confident Hills Road will be able to help him with that.

Do feel free to pm me as another mum whose son won't know anyone when he gets there!

Pinkbatrobi Tue 29-May-18 16:25:40

My DD is there, Yr12, after having been in gifted and talented programme at primary, having had a straight A* career throughout, and brilliant GCSEs, with her eyes on Oxbridge... but found it hard to fit in, and found it very hard to stay at the top, is feeling very disheartened, thinks she has completely messed up the mocks on which Uni offers will be based, and says she is not getting any pastoral care at all - feeling quite lost and burned out. So not sure how, but a confident capable girl is now telling me she might NOT apply to uni at all as she thinks she's not bright enough, and she doesn't want us to get involved because "it's not the done thing" at Hills. This is having an effect on DS (also bright, but generally much less self motivated), who is now scared he will also sink at Hills and is considering Long Rd instead. Quite depressed about the whole thing tbh...

AddTextHere Wed 30-May-18 18:39:59

My DD is also at Hills, Y12, Humanities, and is very happy. DS was also there a few years ago. Academic standards are very high. They have a great choice of clubs and enrichment activities. It’s (or used to be, I am not up to date) the top state school in the country for Oxbridge entrance. The intake is a mix of state and private. There is a huge difference with secondary, of course, in that every class is a different group of students and many feel lost initially. DD said you need to be very proactive in making friends in the first term.
Pink, I am sorry to hear about your DD’s experience. I told my DD about it and she said the pastoral care is in fact excellent and there’s a lot of help out there but students need to ask for it. Teachers are very busy and under a lot of pressure and don’t have the time to "monitor" students, although they get to know them quite well within a few months in Y12. DD suggests the following for you DD, in the order: 1- She should speak to her tutor – they are the first port of call. 2- She can go to the Wellbeing centre, it’s a walk-in centre and staff are brilliant. (DD went to see them a few months ago because she felt stressed – not because of college which is “nothing compared to Y11”, but because she was doing far too much outside school). 3- Study Skills Office – For this she needs to make an appointment and there’s a bit of a wait but they are very helpful. Also, if she is thinking of applying to Oxbridge, she can contact the Careers office and have a chat.
Regarding mocks and Oxbridge: predicted grades are not just based on mocks but on the general performance during Y12, so if some mocks didn’t go brilliantly but she consistently did well during the year, the teachers will take that into account. In any case, at Oxford, and now Cambridge as well, they will be more interested in the GSCEs and other factors. Has she been to “subject days” in the colleges? There have been a few since February on various topics and my DD found them useful because she could speak to lecturers and ask questions.
DD also said she’s be happy to meet your DD for a chat – if she is interested, send me a PM and we’ll put them in touch.

1nd1mom Thu 31-May-18 11:14:02

Thanks so much for all your responses.

Your DDs experience of the support available at HRSFC is very useful and reassuring AndTextHere.

Sorry to hear about your DDs experience PinkBatrobi. Hope she finds the support she needs soon and feels more confident.

Tingalingle Mon 04-Jun-18 09:41:17

DD is hoping to go, though slightly put off by her brother not much liking it.

We never tested the pastoral care on his account but I did phone them when worried abut another student's self-harm, and found they swung into action very quickly. I suspect they're too big to spot every struggling student themselves, but they do have a system once something is brought to their attention.

PinkBatrobi, one of DS's brightest friends with many, many A* GCSEs similarly found herself lost at Hills (and in fact dropped out altogether and abandoned the idea of university). Another started at Hills and then moved to Comberton 6th. A third started at Parkside, moved to Hills after the first year and loved it. But it really doesn't suit everyone. I hope your daughter finds a route through it: could she look at transferring somewhere smaller?

DD is not a shoo-in for Hill Road, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping she'll cope.

Str4ngedaysindeed Wed 13-Jun-18 10:29:43

My ds has just finished there - doing A levels as I write! As a shy and nerdy boy at secondary, he has absolutely blossomed there. He's doing sciences and loves the challenge. He's made new and really nice firiends and is a different boy! I went there 30 odd years ago and absolutely loathed it, so was a little concerned but for him it has been a life changer

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