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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?

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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

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?

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.

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.

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!!'

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 15-Nov-12 21:34:25

I think so, need to check!

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 21:23:18

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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?

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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