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Schools with a sixth form

(67 Posts)
Decisionsagain Mon 24-Mar-14 12:11:02

Advice please : )). We have five children; the eldest two are doing really well. Eldest will go to senior school in two years. Only been in our current location for a year and are not sure it's going to work long term. Doing three school runs already with separate pre, infant and juniors.

We're exploring the thought of grammar school areas. Not sure I want the stress five times over!! But that's another thread! However, as a grammar school girl I feel quite strongly that I would like them to go to a secondary school with a sixth form. The thought of trying to help them through the transition into college and ensure they carry on! without the strictness you get in a school worries me. I feel the stability of them being in a sixth form would be better. Eg. eldest son is extremely bright but has to be reminded (nagged) to get things done.

Just wondered if people agree with me that sixth form would be best bet with five children. And more importantly, can you recommend a really nice area within a reasonable commute to London AND has schools with sixth forms. I know many counties don't have them eg. I really like Hampshire and Surrey but sixth forms do not seem to be the norm.

It's hanging over me as I want them to be able to settle and if we are going to move, earlier rather than later!!

Thanks for reading.

Middleagedmotheroftwo Mon 24-Mar-14 12:18:01

I would have agreed with you, until about last December.

DD1 stayed in Sixth Form at her really successful Academy, and hated it, and probably didn't do as well as she could have at A Levels because of that.

DD2 was due to move to Sixth form at same Academy in Sept 2013, but begged last minute for us to allow her to go to the local college.

We were of the same opinion as you regarding the benefits of staying in a school atmosphere, but we reluctantly agreed to allow her to give it a try until half term as she begged so much (Academy said they would take her back up to that point), and she absolutely flourished!

Students have to take a lot more responsibility for themselves, and DD2 has matured incredibly since she started there. She's loving it, and getting great grades.

The kids are treated more like young adults, and the effect is that they behave like young adults, not like kids being told what to do all the time.

College is also able to offer a greater flexibility of options, as it's so much larger than the Sixth Form. There were no option blocks - you can chose pretty much any combination of subjects you want. At Sixth Form, DD2 would have had to study a couple of subjects at AS Level she didn't really enjoy, because of the way the options were arranged.

I think college is a great halfway house between school and uni, and am a convert.

Middleagedmotheroftwo Mon 24-Mar-14 12:19:10

PS - what do you call a "reasonable commute" to London? We're about an hour away by train, but people commute daily to London. We have a fantastic Academy, with Sixth Form

fridayfreedom Mon 24-Mar-14 12:24:30

I went to a girls grammar school including sixth form. Fab academically but rubbish as preparation for the real world. DD is now at sixth form college and is doing really well. I think it gives a good transition between school and Uni and they have more responsibility for their own learning and development.
An in the Winchester area where we are lucky to have reall good sixth form colleges.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 24-Mar-14 12:25:27

Bear in mind that schools with sixth forms usually have a yr12 entry - my DDs GS does this, so the sixth form year groups are bigger than the Ks3/4 ones. So if your DCs do go to a secondary without a sixth form, then the choice between sixth form college and a secondary-with-sixth form may well still be possible, depending on what suits them at that point.

I don't think the number of children is particularly relevant - they're all individuals, and by secondary and certainly by sixth form most travel to school independently

tiggytape Mon 24-Mar-14 12:55:24

In any area there may be schools with and without 6th forms. The London Borough of Richmond for example isn't great for 6th form options but neighbouring Kingston and that area of Surrey definitely do have 6th forms. Surrey is very big though so it probably varies over the county

Also all 6th forms are selective even if they are attached to comps not grammar schools. Very good comps can and do ask for high grades to be allowed to continue into Year 12 and set very high grades to be allowed to study some subjects especially maths and sciences. It isn't automatic therefore that attending a school with a 6th form attached means a child will be allowed to stay or will be allowed to do their choice of A Levels.
This may not be an issue but if you are looking for safe or guaranteed options, it might be worth bearing in mind that entry into 6th form isn't automatic from Year 11.

mary21 Mon 24-Mar-14 13:33:52

I think having a sixth form in a school adds an extra quality. You have teachers who are used to teaching up to pre university level. lower school pupils see those leaving to go to university which can raise aspirations. of course just because a school has a sixth form doesn't mean you have to use it . It provides options. with 5 kids some might be better suited to school sixth form and others suit a college environment.

titchy Mon 24-Mar-14 13:38:58

Your eldest is what, year 4? I REALLY wouldn't make any life changing decisions based on what learning environment might be more suitable when he's in year 12!!!! With 5 children it's likely that they'll all have different needs and subject choices. One of them might not get into the 6th form at school, another might want to do subjects only available at college, a third might be able to stay at school but simply not want to.

Though tbh better to transition to a more independent learning environment when they're 16 and still at home so you can check they're keeping on top of things, than when they've gone to university and you have no way of knowing till it's too late.

yourlittlesecret Mon 24-Mar-14 13:47:24

You have 5 children.
You must have learnt by now that they are all different. Some thrive at a school sixth form and others would blossom at a sixth form college. You need a choice. Only when they get to year 10 or 11 will you have a genuine feel for what will suit them, whether they are self motivated or disciplined when it comes to study.
Another factor is subject choice. School sixth forms are invariably smaller. If you only want straightforward academic subjects that's fine but you may have a child who wants a more unusual subject choice or a vocational option.
Incidentally you can always enter a school sixth form in Y12. DS2 considered this and looked at a grammar school. He felt the strict school like atmosphere would be stifling. He is very academic and I'm sure he would do well wherever he went so I am happy for him to choose the sixth form college.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 24-Mar-14 13:58:22

>He felt the strict school like atmosphere would be stifling

not all school sixth forms have that sort of atmosphere!

yourlittlesecret Mon 24-Mar-14 14:20:50

This was a very high achieving grammar school some distance from us. DS goes to the local rural comp.
In comparison with years 7 to 11 I think the sixth form would feel less regimented to those who had already been there, but to DS, coming from a different school where the Y11s are treated much more like adults, it seemed a retrograde step.
Also in the school there seemed to be lots of things that were compulsory such as DofE, General Studies, sports etc.
The college offered a much broader range of extra curricular stuff from which students can choose.

TalkinPeace Mon 24-Mar-14 14:38:24

I live in Hampshire.
As somebody who grew up assuming all schools had 6th forms, I was not at all certain about it
GCSE kids being the top of the school was my particular worry

now I have a GCSE age child who cannot wait to go to college in September
and when I look at the facilities the college has, what my school offered 40 gels per year was poxy by comparison.

Look at the individual schools and the individual children (also one of 5 BTW)

yourlittlesecret Mon 24-Mar-14 14:54:02

Ironically DS1 would, with the benefit of hindsight, have flourished in a small school based sixth form. The big college hasn't suited him socially, although academically he has done very well.

ChocolateWombat Mon 24-Mar-14 15:28:10

I think schools with 6th forms attract a different kind of teacher. Those with 6th forms expect to teach A levels. It makes a difference. Often the most highly qualified teachers want to do this. I appreciate hi qualifications do not equal top teachers always, but I think academic credentials count for quite a lot.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 24-Mar-14 15:35:34

While being 'at the top of the school' in yr11 may have some advantages, so does having a sixth form - the yr12s at DDs school organise the junior drama festival, run clubs, do mentoring - which is good both for them and for the younger pupils.

yourlittlesecret Mon 24-Mar-14 15:41:43

organise the junior drama festival, run clubs, do mentoring
Those are the things I mean that DS has done in Y11. He runs a chess club for the lower school, has trained in mentoring, is the one of the student IT specialists and helps with the STEM club.
I think he feels ready for the college feel which is more of a transition to university.

FrancesHB Mon 24-Mar-14 21:31:00

to be fair, at year 4 or 5 you need to be thinking about senior schools. I have to decide with DS1 whether he applies to an 11-16 school or an 11-18 school - I'm in Surrey with both types of school, and that's hard to do if you're not sure about the separate sixth form college vs school with 6th form system.

Hawkshaw Mon 24-Mar-14 22:03:14

The London Borough of Richmond for example isn't great for 6th form option

Actually, most of the secondaries are now opening sixth forms. I think six or seven are due to open this year.

tiggytape Mon 24-Mar-14 22:20:27

That is very true Hawkshaw. I should have said "historically Richmond isnit great in trms of schools with 6th forms although this will change by the time OP's children need them" Probably a lot of areas will change by the time OP's children need 6th forms but it is true to say some London Boroughs and parts of Surrey have always had 6th forms as standard in schools whereas for others this isn't currently the case.

Decisionsagain Mon 24-Mar-14 22:48:06

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. Some interesting comments. You are right that my children are all very different and already I know that my youngest child will find the junior school here a struggle. Comments about making the transition to uni a bit smoother also made me think. I hadn't thought of that. And also the wider choice of courses at college. So yes, lots to think about. Middleagedmotherofthree - would you mind sharing the great academy to which you refer?

mummytime Mon 24-Mar-14 22:57:53

Some areas of Surrey do have sixth forms, others don't. But by 16 students tend to be quite independent, its not like doing a school run for primary age children.
I would say having a big enough sixth form is pretty important, perhaps more so than whether it is a school sixth form or a sixth form college. Sixth form colleges are different from FE colleges which do A'levels in my experience.

Oh BTW when I say Surrey I mean Surrey CC not places with a Surrey postal address.

cory Tue 25-Mar-14 08:20:24

Not only are all children different but they also change massively over the years. Looking at my dd in Yr 4 I could have sworn that she would grow up to need a small, nurturing and very local school. Now at 17 she is thriving at her large sixth form college an hour's commute from here.

It was not dh's and my decision but her own and in retrospect she was absolutely right. She had been struggling with independence and anxiety-related issues and felt she needed the chance to prove to herself that she could handle somewhere different before she had to go out into the world.

Also, the sixth form college in the neighbouring town is simply the best locally for her particular combination of subjects and has close links to the industry she is hoping to get into: anything else around here would almost certainly be an inferior choice for her particular interests.

Having to leave home at 7 in the morning seems a small price to pay for her to feel she is getting the best opportunities available and spending her time with other students who share her dreams.

Tansie Tue 25-Mar-14 09:39:42

The two thing I would like in having a school with a 6th form is, that in some schools, the DS do a 'pre-6th form' study block in Y11 between GCSE completion and the summer hols which would be useful if for instance your DC had done double science and was lined up to do a science A level thus had a bit of a knowledge gap to bridge, or you didn't want them horsing about for 3 months; and the other reason; having an attached 6th form makes the lower school maybe tailor the DC better for that 6th form so maybe you don't get that 'hands washed of them/our job's done' feeling that is maybe more prevalent when certain primaries gets loads of grade 5s and 6 at KS2 SATS- then the DC go through Y7 CATS- and are getting high 4s and low 5s as the primary only had it's eye on 'getting great SATs results for the League Tables but hadn't really prepared the DC for life at Secondary.

Like Talkin we only have 6th form colleges, but because that's the norm, all the DC expect and by and large, want to get out of the controlled comp school atmosphere and out into the big world of 6th form college.

As an aside, when you see more and more '3-18' (private) schools springing up, I shudder slightly at the idea of being a DC and having to attend the same geographical location for 15 years on the trot!

mindgone Tue 25-Mar-14 15:42:20

It was important to us too that our DC's school had a sixth form, and they have both done really well in that environment. I guess if you pick a school with a sixth form, you retain choice for each child. They can stay on or go to a nearby college.

Decisionsagain Tue 25-Mar-14 17:57:47

Thanks again. I can see both sides now. So thank you. I still think my heart lies with a sixth form as mindgone's message just hit home more. I guess I now just need to start looking. We will start looking at schools with a sixth form. Probably in the Home Counties. Let me know if you know of a great secondary school in a nice area with a sixth form. Or any without a sixth form too : ))

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