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Help! American family visiting Colchester for Sabbatical

(23 Posts)
AAbigail Fri 26-Nov-10 14:43:09

We will be living in Colchester for six months beginning in January. Visas just got approved this week. Our daughter is age 16, grade 11 in the states. She is on the upper end of the college bound track, taking 5 Advanced Placement courses this term. Should she be placed in year 11 at a Secondary School, or should we apply to a sixth form college? How do we find the right school for her? The information seems confusing to us and when we call, we are told we need to mail in an application, but we are not sure which one we need nor what our preferences for her should be. We will be arriving Jan. 1st and need a place for her. Advice, anyone?

needtogetalife Fri 26-Nov-10 14:44:19

when will she be 17?

scurryfunge Fri 26-Nov-10 14:45:40

try here

AAbigail Fri 26-Nov-10 14:51:18

She will be 17 in September of 2011.

needtogetalife Fri 26-Nov-10 15:35:53

English schooling system would mean she would be in yr 11. I would call the school she will be attending and see what they say due to levels etc.

scurryfunge Fri 26-Nov-10 15:36:20

She would go into year 11 here at that age. That is the final year of compulsory secondary education and is the year that students would normally take their GCSE exams (summer term) so you would have to speak to Essex County council regarding entrance and whether her existing courses are compatible.

AAbigail Fri 26-Nov-10 16:21:43

Thanks for the advice. Is year 11 mostly about test-prep, then? Are the GCSE exam results used for college application, or are they mostly used to determine the effectiveness of schools? Is this the same as A-levels? In the states, there are annual tests used mainly to make sure schools are performing. The ACT and SAT exams are administered by private companies--these standardized test results are used heavily in the college application process.

mummytime Fri 26-Nov-10 16:31:53

The UK system is totally different!!!!!!

I would really suggest trying to find her an American based school or an IB school, or her doing homeschool/distance learning. Education in the UK is nothing like as flexible as the US, and really really different. Try to get some expert advice. (The school year also runs September to July, and the year 11 syllabus is a continuation of year 10. Year 12 is lower sixth and they are sitting external exams in 4 or 5 subjects, which they will continue in 3 or 4 for year 13.)

Hope this helps a bit.

SherbetDibDab Fri 26-Nov-10 16:33:03

GCSEs are sat in the summer of Year 11. GCSEs are used for college/university application but aren't as important as A-levels.
A-levels are more specialist, you choose just three or four subjects and they are usually sat at 18. Your GCSE results may determine to which A-level courses you are accepted.

scurryfunge Fri 26-Nov-10 16:38:54

More of an International school.

LarissaFeodorovna Fri 26-Nov-10 16:39:38

FYI the cut-off date for determining school year in the UK is 31st August of any given year. Children born 1st Sept 94 - 31st Aug 95 are currently in Y11, those born 1st Sept 93- 31st Aug 94 are currently in Y12. So from what you've said, you'd be looking at Y12 entry not Y11, which will improve your options a bit. But it will be tricky, no doubt about it. From about 14upwards is where the rubber really hits the road in UK education, adn it's focussed very specifically on passing particular sets of exams.

Y11 is the second of a two-year preparation for GCSEs, which is a pretty full-on set of public exams taken in the school year the child turns 16. A LOT hangs on it for the individual child, as well as for the schools, obviously. So the work will be very specifically geared to that, with lots of coursework and timed tests, all of which will be very closely tied to the syllabuses they've been studying.

I'd have thought most halfway decent schools following a mainstream UK curriculum (ie not an international school) will be very reluctant to take a new pupil into Y11. Most good schools won't have any spaces anyway, and the ones that do have spaces will be the schools no-one else wants. It won't be much fun for the child, and the school will struggle to make adjustments for a newcomer, especially if she hasn't covered the same curriculum. The kids will also finish being taught in about May, after which they will be on study leave.

HOWEVER -- if she is already 16 she would probably go into UK Y12, which is the first year of A-level courses. But at this stage most UK students will only be studying 4 subjects, which they will have chosen the previous summer. The sixth form application process is taking place round about now, so if you're looking at Y12 entry you should get cracking. But they will not be charmed by the revelation that you're only staying for 6 months, as sought-after schools will be over-subscribed with people wanting places for the full 2 years. Also bear in mind that you won't get anything like the breadth of curriculum you'd get at a US school unless you choose a school that offers IB. But even they might be a bit twitchy, because of the need to get their own pupils through exams. And again you'd have the issue that the good schools will have filled all their spaces.

I think you'd probably be better off going the International school route, if there is one nearby. Colchester is commutable to London, just about, where there are American and international schools. Otherwise look at further education colleges, which have a much less school-y curriculum and may be more flexible.

LarissaFeodorovna Fri 26-Nov-10 16:41:29

But of course the application procedure taking place now is for entry to Y12 in Sept 2011. So that's no good to you. Ignore that bit.

needtogetalife Fri 26-Nov-10 17:20:50

I think mummytime's advise is probably the best, see if there is an American school close by or consider home schooling if that is possible.

Larissa if she is 17 in Sept she wont go to 6th form until Sept therefore in January would still be in yr 11.

mrswoodentop Fri 26-Nov-10 20:28:46

Independent may be your best option as they would probably be happier with putting you daughter into a different year group.We live about 20 miles from Colchester,do you have to live in Colchester itself?You could try Woodbridge School in Suffolk they have a lot of overseas exchange programmes including South Africa and Australia and are used to integrating pupils for relatively short periods.Also really sweet little town.I know for a fact that they have three S Africans here for one term in year 12at the moment and often have Australians in year 9 and 10
Alternatively try Anglo European at Hockerill in Essex.

MmeBlueberry Sat 27-Nov-10 16:57:37

She is not going to achieve anything concrete by being in school for 6 months on an exam course, so in that regard, it doesn't matter which school system she is placed in.

Any decision you make should be on social reasons. The best one, imo, would be to keep her with students of her own age. 11th Grade would be Year 12, so Lower Sixth. I doubt you could find a sixth form college willing to take her on. Then again, she is 16 now, so her natural year group would be Year 11...

Is there an international school? They are much more used to accommodating mobile families.

MmeBlueberry Sat 27-Nov-10 17:01:25

As far as UK/US systems are concerned...

GCSEs (Year 11, taken at 16) maps to high school graduation.

A-levels map to AP courses.

mathanxiety Sun 28-Nov-10 04:04:35

You absolutely need to find an American or International school (American preferable). AP courses are very rigorous, far moreso than the GCSEs, and a huge amount rides on them wrt college acceptance/freshman requirements in the US. IB is a different curriculum entirely. Plus, depending on the subject (history for example) your chances of finding an approximation of the material covered in your US high school history course would be slim even in a sixth form college.

In order not to lose ground, best to try to keep on with the AP subjects as much as possible -- or have you considered abandoning the APs until 12th grade when she can get them done in her US high school? Any particular reason she needs to be doing them this year? Maybe when could spin her wheels and enjoy the 'being in England experience'?

mathanxiety Sun 28-Nov-10 04:06:33

Maybe she could ...

CardyMow Sun 28-Nov-10 13:30:51

You'll be hard pushed to get a place in Y11 at anything even approaching a semi-decent school in Colchster. I wouldnt consider the COlchester Academy or Alderman Blaxill. Better options are Phillip Morant or the Gilberd - but both are HEAVILY oversubscribed even for people living in the immediate catchment area, let alone for mid-year transfers.

Moving from one eductional system to another at that point is AWFUL. I went from Y11 in an English school to one in a scottish school (different exams etc) and half the subjects I had been studying were not available, and even the ones that were used different coursework and exam papers. I ended up asking to be moved down a year.

For you in particular I would seriously think about looking at an international school, Colchester has good train links to ohter towns in the SE where you might find a school that is better for your DD.

CardyMow Sun 28-Nov-10 13:32:41

TLA isn't well thought of, St.Helena is a bit better. But not enough that I'd send my DD there! My DD is at the Gilberd.

pooter Sun 28-Nov-10 13:40:52

Hi, I taught at the Colchester County High School for Girls for quite a while pre kids, and we sometimes (not often mind you) had foreign students for a medium amount of time. It would certainly be worth ringing them up and speaking to the head (she is new and i dont know anything about her). The level of work they do there is very high and the girls are just lovely. If your daughter could go there i am sure she would have a brilliant time, both academically and socially.

good luck.

AAbigail Fri 03-Dec-10 01:01:18

Thanks so much for all the responses! You have provided so much information and advice, and I am encouraged that things will work out, and that we will find lovely friends in Colchester. Cheers to you all.

silverbarkbirch Sun 05-Dec-10 00:32:59

Colchester Sixth from offers the International Baccalaureate if that's of any help?

I believe however she may not qualify for that years' entry, worth a try certainly, otherwise there are private schools that may take her or

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