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Dd1 & I would like some opinions on a dilemma about 6th form

(41 Posts)
emsiewill Fri 10-May-13 22:46:02

Dd1 has asked me to post to get your thoughts on her dilemma about where to go for 6th form.

She currently goes to a Welsh-medium comp (ie everything taught in the medium of Welsh) and has been predicted 6A* and 7A at GCSE. She is very ambitious, and has her sights set on a top university, and has even set her sights on going to the US for uni. All of this has come from her - we are not pushy parents in any sense.

We have always assumed that she will carry on in the 6th form of her school - all of her friends will be, and they offer all of the subjects she wants to do.

However, over the past weeks, I have been wondering whether it would be more beneficial for her to go somewhere that is more "focussed" on pushing the bright children and where they have the knowledge and experience of pupils going to Oxbridge etc and can offer support in applications etc.

We live near enough for her to go to Hereford Sixth Form College which is ranked as one of the best sixth form colleges in the UK. They offer an extension programme for pupils hoping to get into Oxbridge or similar and she would be able to do more than the 3 A levels plus Welsh Bac that she will do in her current school (ie could do another A level instead of the Welsh Bac)

We have never had an issue with her current school, and (as her results, hopefully, will show), the school has served her well & she has been very happy there. However, I was a bit perturbed when she had a careers meeting where she told the teacher she was interested in finding out about going to uni in America and the teacher said "oooh, no-one's ever asked me that before" and that was the end of it. They don't have many pupils go to Oxbridge (about 2 per year I think), and I don't know whether they will be able to push dd to achieve everything I think she's capable of.

Having discussed this with dd, she is now feeling quite confused. She has been very happy where she is, and of course, being in the 6th form at a school you been at since year 7 is an appealing prospect, with all of the kudos it brings. Her friends are all staying on, and she has been friends with most of them since reception class. However, she can see the value of what the 6th form college could offer her.

As I say, she has asked me to post on here to get the thoughts of mumsnet on this dilemma - what would you do?

Roshbegosh Sat 11-May-13 00:28:28

If the sixth form college is so good then that sounds a better option. No offence meant but learning in Welsh in the local comp does sound a bit insular and she might be better to broaden her horizons.

LilyAmaryllis Sat 11-May-13 00:43:11

Well the current school does sound like it is doing well for her, by her predictions. I think there is a big value to continuing with your friends, and not having a potentially miserable upheaval. You have no guarantee that Hereford 6th form would choose to put her in the push-for-oxbridge group, though I get that they have more experience of preparing pupils for it. You can always go elsewhere for career advice, you are not restricted to the school careers advisor. I'd stay. But in the end it is down to what your DD wants to do.

steppemum Sat 11-May-13 00:48:51

if she is bright and focused, she is probably going to do well anywhere.

Of more concern to me would be which language she is studying in.

If she goes to Oxbridge or US, then she will study in English, is she then going to switch at university level, learning to write academically in English, having done all her academic writing up until this point in Welsh? Would it not be better to switch now? Then she will have the advantage of having studied well in both languages, which will give her an advantage, rather than going to end of A level in Welsh which may limit her choices.

I would want to find out how Oxbridge and US colleges would see a student who has studied through the medium of Welsh their entire school, and now wanted to change to study in English. It is like a Dutch/French/German student coming to study. Would she be required to sit a written English test for example?

Just to add, I am massively in favour of bi-lingualism and bi-lingual education, so I am not coming from a negative viewpoint IYSWIM

Strikeuptheband Sat 11-May-13 00:52:37

I would say it is wise to research with her fully what the options are, but at the end of the day it should be her choice. Staying at sixth form at your old school can be a good option. I do see your point too, but she needs to choose so that sbe owns the decision and feels good about it herself IMO.

steppemum Sat 11-May-13 01:04:03

another thought, switching schools is going to take some adjusting, especially if she switches languages. She has to be happy and want to make that switch. There is a lot to be said for familiarity at this stage.

StabInTheDark Sat 11-May-13 01:28:23


My eldest DD is a few weeks away from finishing her A Levels now and found herself in a similar situation when finishing her GCSEs. She'd been predicted 13A*s and didn't achieve those grades- she was gutted and decided she wanted to move to a different (better performing) school to take her A Levels and apply to university. She was very undecided until the last minute about what to do, but eventually decided to leave her old school.

She says now that it was the worst decision she could have made- she hates the extra travel and misses her old friends and the 'school spirit' that her year group had built up over five years. She feels that she didn't appreciate what she had (firm relationships with teachers, familiarity, solid group of friends) until it was gone. For her, the experience was fairly negative, and she believes (as steppemum says) familiarity would have been more useful to her than the swap.

I know that what I've said here is biased, and of course your DD could have an entirely different, more positive experience. I just wanted to give you my point of view having experienced this. Perhaps a visit to the sixth form college during a 'working day' to get a feel for the place would be helpful- your DD's gut instinct is important too! Wishing you the best of luck! smile

HeathRobinson Sat 11-May-13 01:56:26

Learning in Welsh so far sounds great to me (how cool!) but I do wonder if your dd's vocab is at the equivalent level in English? Imo, this is something you would need to check and address, if necessary, before university.

I think I'd come down on the side of familiarity. My dc is doing AS levels this year and has changed school, as the old school didn't have a sixth form. Half a dozen friends also went to the new school and this little pool of 'normality' has really eased the transition to the sixth form.

sashh Sat 11-May-13 05:43:07

She doesn't need A levels to go to uni in the states. She could skip VI form all together

Amaris Sat 11-May-13 05:59:55

I left my upper school to go to a sixth form college where I didn't know anyone and it was definitely the best decision for me, but then I was bored of my sleepy market town and needed to broaden my horizons. I did have parents that were prepared to run me around a lot though so I didn't miss out socially. There were lots of other kids who didn't know anyone either and I made friends really quickly. But as someone else said she will probably do well anywhere, so it might be more of a gut feeling for her rather than a well thought out analysis.

SwishSwoshSwoosh Sat 11-May-13 06:15:59

Don't forget though that excellent welsh does open additional doors for work in the future. I presume you speak English at home? So she is effectively bi-lingual?

I would say if this current school has enabled her to get to 13 a/a* at gcse it is hardly a slack school.

Notfluffy Sat 11-May-13 06:30:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StrawberryMojito Sat 11-May-13 06:51:29

She needs to view the college, she may instantly love it or hate it which will make the decision easier.
Id recommend the college for the language reasons that people have stated above. Also, how well she adjusts studying away from her comfort zone will help her decide whether she wants to move to the USA.

StrawberryMojito Sat 11-May-13 06:54:19

I also agree with what not fluffy said...I went to a grammar school and the girls that ended up going to Oxbridge were getting all A* at GCSE. Not sure if this is standard.

claraschu Sat 11-May-13 07:01:36

Just be aware that getting in to a top US university, is very different from getting in to Oxford. If she wants to apply to Ivy League Colleges, you can pm me and maybe we could talk on the phone.

UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Sat 11-May-13 07:05:39

She needs to go and visit the other college, meet the staff etc. do you know anyone who goes there that you can meet up with?

KatAndKit Sat 11-May-13 07:11:00

I always think it is better for kids to stay at their school unless it is in some way letting them down. Hers clearly isn't as she has done very well there. Friends matter so much at that age and there is a lot to be said for being somewhere where you are happy and have a good social group. Also the teachers know her already.

I don't know about the welsh medium issue. If she is bilingual then it should not be too much of a problem - she must have done well in GCSE English so her written English must be very good (I assume Welsh speakers do the same GCSE English as English speakers?). I doubt that a British university would look unfavourably on this and they are probably not allowed to discriminate. Most universities have an extracurricular English for academic purposes help course for speakers of other languages and she could attend that if she thinks she needs it.

Iteotwawki Sat 11-May-13 07:21:46

I would work backwards on this one.

Decide where you want to go for Uni and in what subjects.
Based on the requirements for that, see what you need to achieve at ALevel to get in.
Pick the 6th form (either local comp or college) that will best help you get those ALevels at the right grade.

If she has fixed on a US university then talk to as many people that can help her make it in as possible.

Iteotwawki Sat 11-May-13 07:23:14

Even more backward - decide what you want to do / where you want to be after Uni.

Then use that to help you work out which Uni (or college or poly) will put you in the best position to achieve that.


VelvetSpoon Sat 11-May-13 07:47:39

I think it's important to look at whether the current school can offer the right range of subjects taught to the right level - and also whether the sylllabus for those subjects will be ones that she's interested in. Then there's the emotional and practical aspect of changing schools, and fitting in (for want of a better term) in the new school.

I left my school after GCSE to go to another 6th form. Until my final year I had always expected to stay on there BUT when we got to discussing A levels, firstly they couldn't do French and I would have had to go to the local FE College for that, also the set texts for English, and the study area for history, were not at all appealing to me. There was a further issue in that the school academically was pretty poor - but tbh this was in the days before league tables etc so although I didn't think my school was great, it was only went I went elsewhere for 6th form that I realised how low the standard there had been!

My experience ultimately was a mixed one. To do the range of subjects I wanted, I had to go to another school. Most of my friends weren't staying on for 6th form (they were all going to the FE College or straight to work) so that wasn't a factor in making me want to stay. At my new school, I had to work a lot harder. I wasn't top of the year any more - which I had been previously, by a considerable margin - and that took some getting used to. I wanted to go to Cambridge BUT even though this was a very 'good' school, and lots of other girls in my year were applying, as the newcomer I didn't get much support other than from the Headmaster; I felt a lot of the teachers didn't think I was good enough, and made comments to my parents along the lines of how I shouldn't put all my eggs in one basket, there were other unis etc.

Anyway, in the end I did get the grades and went to Cambridge. I don't regret changing schools, I am utterly certain I would never have got in from my first school, but it wasn't a bed of roses.

Your daughter's situation is obviously a fair bit different from mine - her current school sounds good, and her friends will be staying there.

OTOH if she does leave, she's in a good position as she'd be going to a 6th form college meaning that she won't be (as I was) the new girl, because they will all be 'new' -unlike me going into a school where the rest of the 6th form had been since they were 11.

I think maybe a trip to the college is a good idea. Your DD may hate the feel of it immediately (there does tend to be quite a different atmosphere in 6th form colleges compared to the 6th form attached to a secondary school, and not all students like it, I know I liked the school setting and wanted to stay within that sort of environment rather than college).

Torrorosso Sat 11-May-13 08:41:15

Are any of her friends going to the sixth form college ? That would be the key thing for me.

It sounds like the school she's in has served her well and the fact she's happy there is a big advantage. The Welsh Bac is viewed favourably by universities ime, as is a Welsh medium education. She's bright and will have no trouble switching to English for further studies at university.

My daughter is trying for a US scholarship too and sat the American SAT exam last weekend - there's masses of information at which you can research yourselves, as well as going to the open days the US universities hold in London.
Pm me if you want more info (dyn ni'n siarad Cymraeg)

senua Sat 11-May-13 08:58:00

Look at specifics. When you choose a school at Year 7, you want a 'general feeling' on how the school does overall but when you get to sixth form you are only studying three or four subjects - you want to know how well the school/college does in those particular subjects.

Do I take it that money is not a problem - if you stay in the Welsh system then isn't University free/subsidised?

Torrorosso Sat 11-May-13 09:30:38

I think it's being Welsh domiciled that brings the subsidy at uni - but do check! Not an issue if she goes to America.

cory Sat 11-May-13 16:11:49

agree with senua about specifics

dd is choosing her sixth form college not because it is the top performing college generally speaking (it isn't) but because it has a particularly good reputation and good contacts with HE insistutions in the field she is interested in

Grammaticus Sat 11-May-13 16:16:01

How committed are you and she to the Welsh? She might well be better competing for places without it, and therefore with something of wider application, especially if she is going to try for the really top places. I think she should move, she can keep in touch with her existing friends no problem, just as she would/will when she goes to uni.

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