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Fuming - no guidance for Yr 12s at all

(123 Posts)
BrendaBlackhead Tue 05-May-15 10:44:23

Ds attends a large sixth form college. He is doing extremely well academically, but with regard to the future he is on his own.

I was looking at a few public school websites and their pupils are entering essay competitions, olympiads, following a recommended reading programme etc etc and I saw on one that the school will arrange suitable work experience for all med and vetmed applicants. Plus of course people from Oxbridge/top Russell Group coming to the school.

There was a notice at ds's school that those wishing to apply to top tier universities could join a group. Ds's tutor confused it with Sutton Trust and said it was only for low-income/those with non-university parents, when in fact it turned out it was for all students. This was a completely self-selecting group and no one, however able, was targeted. If Gail Trimble/Ted Loveday were at the college no one would have mentioned it to them.

Ds's friends have arranged their own open day visits and summer courses. Ds who is extremely backward in coming forward has said he wants to opt out of the whole thing.

I know that higher education is supposed to be all about self-motivation blah de blah, but when I see that other schools are guiding, smoothing, facilitating their students' paths, I feel really cross on behalf of ds. The History Boys it ain't.

mrdashwood Tue 05-May-15 11:34:04

Access to tertiary education is becoming insanely competitive and increasingly the preserve of the rich and well connected. Back to the way it was before the social mobility of the sixties and seventies.
The Sutton Trust is to be lauded. But it needs to prod schools to include able children, other than those of the sharp elbowed. It's too easy for the parent body in cahoots with governors/senior leadership team, to devour all the access initiatives. More enforcement is needed from the Sutton Trust et al, to make sure all groups are being equitably targeted.

noblegiraffe Tue 05-May-15 11:54:42

You get what you pay for.

Sixth forms are underfunded. It's a shame with the mix-up about the top-tier group though, it sounds like they are at least trying.

Molio Tue 05-May-15 12:11:50

Brenda I don't think current funding allows any History Boys Oxbridge preparation any more anywhere in the state system, whatever the model of school. That was thirty years ago. There's no point comparing independent provision to state and the indies have to do it because the paying parents expect it. How much good the specific 'Oxbridge preparation' does is another matter. I certainly wouldn't be too concerned about it giving a huge edge because apart from anything else, the interviewing tutors are acutely aware of which schools provide what for their pupils, and inevitably some adjustments are made.

I'm a bit confused about mrdashwood's comments about the Sutton Trust. The Sutton Trust does not fund projects to help the 'sharp elbowed' (if by that he means the relatively affluent middle class). And I definitely don't understand what 'the parent body in cahoots with governors/ the senior leadership team [all too easily] devour all the access initiatives' means. That's a very odd statement, without further explanation.

DontBeAMeanie Tue 05-May-15 12:18:50

I feel your pain. confused

My DCs all went to a similar place. I think the information is provided but it's hidden away and unless you have a very proactive child then you can miss out lot.
I researched everything for my 4 DC, we found the following courses useful. (I haven't double checked links)

London University Taster Courses
LONDON taster days

Headstart Courses
HEADSTART days The cost is subsidised .

Sutton Trust Summer School Courses.
These are also for state school kids and are completely free but very oversubscribed.

My DC did a few of the London taster days and some of the Headstart courses. They were extremely useful for helping my DC firm up what they wanted to do at University and they were also invaluable for helping write their UCAS personal statements.

The Headstart courses my DD went on we're full of private school and grammar school pupils. She was one of only a few who were from a comp. it's a shame as it doesn't help with widening participation.

I have friends in the next county who's DC go to grammar schools which seem to provide so much more help. Tyeir kids get much more assistance with their UCAS forms and more help with visiting Unis and attending talks etc.

My DD1 is doing medicine and had absolutely no help from the school. She didn't need it but it would have been nice to have the option. Apparently a lot of schools offer med applicants help with interview help and with extra help with their UCAS forms.

I don't think it mattered for my DC that they didn't get extra advice from the school but only because we realised we were on our own right from the beginning. In a way I think it was good for them to work things out for themselves (with my help)

PotteringAlong Tue 05-May-15 12:22:04

You're comparing what you have with a public school, where parents will be paying £25k + a year? If your son is doing very well academically then the college is doing it's job well; there simply isn't the funding to do everything else. If you want the bells and whistles you need to pay for the bells and whistles.

mrdashwood Tue 05-May-15 12:42:55

Yes, that's right! It is not be the intention of the Sutton Trust to fund the "sharp elbowed."
But IMO, and experience, it is often the sharp elbowed and those in "cahoots," i.e., hand-in-glove/closer to school leaderships, who get first dibs on access courses for their DCs.
This can happen for all sorts of reasons: a quid pro quo for parents who generously top up school funds or for school governors; middle class teachers feeling more affinity, and therefore more inclined to help, the offspring of middle class parents; those parents who are squeaky wheels (writing often to the school to complain etc.) getting the most oil.
All the help on offer from the ST and universitiies is out there for the taking. However, it is not always getting delivered to those for whom it was intended.

BrendaBlackhead Tue 05-May-15 13:00:29

The London University taster courses - for summer 2015 someone would have had to apply back in January. These were not mentioned at ds's sixth form. His friend, who is a computer geek, has been guided by one of his teachers, and is going to a university summer school and several other things. But that is because an individual teacher has helped one individual. There has been absolutely no information on what's available, application dates etc for the herd, and, in particular, clever herd members.

I have woken up to it rather late in the day, and I suppose many parents won't wake up to it at all. I get that if you pay £25-30K for a school then with that comes lovely playing fields, affluent mates and hopefully good teaching. But preferred access to universities? Hmmmph.

mrdashwood Tue 05-May-15 13:01:56

PotteringAlong Circulating details of a few access courses does not amount to "bells and whistles." A poster has done just that in a couple of minutes on this thread!
Why should we all throw our hands up in despair and resign ourselves to a DIY education for our DCs. We do pay for our education, via our taxes. Our state system was once something to be proud of and educated many of the eloquent voices in this forum. We need to look after it and have a right to shout out when it falls below par!

Molio Tue 05-May-15 13:14:36

Wow mrdashwood! The school or schools that you're familiar with can't be run by any leaders with much integrity. I'm glad that's not my experience. Over the entire time my eight children have been in secondary school (only DC8 is not yet in the sixth form), I've written or telephoned the school perhaps only four times between the lot of them and certainly never complained yet I don't see them as having lost out to sharper elbowed parents. It just doesn't happen like that here.

BrendaBlackhead Tue 05-May-15 13:14:55

Now I'm about to blow a gasket. I found that the nearest university does an outreach programme for able students in ds's best subject. I had no idea such things existed. But surely ds's sixth form should? Of course now it's too late for ds as the application process has closed.

I feel like storming the college and throttling the entire staff.

Molio Tue 05-May-15 13:19:02

Brenda I've had a number of PMs recently from posters with DC at top independents saying that they see too few pupils bagging places, relative to their attainment, which has been interesting.

Also, beware glossy marketing!

MyVisionsComeFromSoup Tue 05-May-15 13:26:02

I think OP that it's a problem with your particular college. My DDs (admittedly leafy) state comp runs "UCAS sessions" twice a week after school from September to January; we get weekly emails from the head of 6th form which include any links to any extra curricular/enrichment/uni stuff he comes across (some of which comes from pro-active parents - I linked him to courses at Villiers Park a few years back, and he's been promoting them each year since); almost the entire Y12 went to a UCAS convention; there are Oxbridge trips for (selected) Y11s and Y12s; Uni open day visits are automatically approved for time off.

And I've paid only travel costs for all of this (apart from the Villier Park course).

I agree it's rubbish that some schools/colleges do this and other don't, but it's not a private vs state thing, it's a good proactive school/college vs a less so one (for whatever reason, I agree funding is a massive problem).

BrendaBlackhead Tue 05-May-15 13:29:41

Yes, I suppose so. And I did look at the websites of very top places. My friend, who has had two dcs pass through a top private school, says the only advantage it has conferred on them is the chance to have some fancy holidays at rich friends' holiday homes.

But seriously I feel it is my job to support ds, do the best I can for him etc etc, but how can it be my job to know how to navigate every obscure channel of the route into university? My knowledge is 30 years old and back then there was no scurrying round the country doing give-me-an-advantage courses, no one did an iota of relevant work experience and I have only just managed to get it into dh's skull that Year 12 is not the doss that it used to be back in the days of lower sixths.

BrendaBlackhead Tue 05-May-15 13:37:47

MyVisions - that's the sort of stuff that should be done. There hasn't even been any mention of university open days. I suppose they may be helping the group that have put themselves forward for top tier universities, but as I said this was not widely advertised and in fact misadvertised by ds's tutor. I can't understand why they didn't look at people's GCSE results and/or their current progress and target potential students that way.

Leeds2 Tue 05-May-15 14:11:29

Brenda, it is worth your DS contacting the local uni to ask if they have any places left on the outreach programme. They may very well do.

My DD did one of the London taster days during April, and is doing another in July. They sent her detailed instructions (about where to go, what to bring etc) about a week beforehand, and attached to that were details of courses that still hadn't been filled. That was well after the deadline for applications. Might be worth checking, although the most popular courses may well be full by now.

Millymollymama Tue 05-May-15 15:06:44

My DDs went to pretty well known independent boarding schools and they did not do university taster days. We organised our own university visits and subject days. No-one from school helped at all - in fact they said DD was "flying a kite" for Oxford. We ignored them. They were excellent in advising on how to write a personal statement and my DDs had far more advantages than visiting the homes of the mega rich and are confident, articulate and well rounded individuals who did far more in their schooldays than most of their peers. Careers advice was not particularly hot in either school. We paid a lot but even then, you cannot expect exactly what the glossy brochure says. Schools do not always do what they say on the tin!

However, I think where a school has parents who do not know how to facilitate a child getting into a top university, they have a duty to ensure they do as much as they can. It is often these children who need good advice because they cannot get it from home. There is a recent Sutton Trust (from memory - or was it Ofsted)? report which says that many schools are not advising correctly on subject choices required for the top universities, assisting with careers information in any meaningful way (eg the need for work experience for medical applicants) or championing the children that need the most support. Schools have academic information on all their students, so they really do need to ensure that all children have access to the best in higher education. Many teachers seem to suggest the best universities are out of reach to pupils from "ordinary" backgrounds and I think it is because none of the teachers went to the best universities themselves. Obviously a very subjective observation, but it seems odd that some schools never send anyone to a Russell Group University. It is their job to advise all pupils of the opportunities available and help everyone reach their full potential. The public that funds them should expect this too.

BrendaBlackhead Tue 05-May-15 15:15:02

Actually I just bumped into a mother of one of ds's friends and she agreed that the college has been hopeless. She is not originally from the UK so is clueless as to the procedure here. Her ds is very bright (12 A*s) and he only found out by accident that there was a trip to Cambridge organised - and by then it was too late to sign up as all the places had gone. Bizarre.

dingit Tue 05-May-15 15:17:59

Just marking my place. Dd has a place at a selective academy, and bog standard 6th form. I'm hoping by going to the former, 7% went to Oxbridge, 65% Russell group, they will offer her plenty of guidance.

Millymollymama Tue 05-May-15 15:27:45

If it is a selective academy, how can it have a bog standard 6th form? Clearly with 72% Oxbirdge and Russell Group it is NOT bog standard! It has a very high achieving 6th form!

dingit Tue 05-May-15 15:35:38

No, I meant she has a place at selective academy AND a place at bog standard 6th form. Sorry, I wasn't very clear. The place at the selective is conditional on her getting A grades in all the subjects she has chosen for A levels. The 6th form place is her insurance place!

TheWordFactory Tue 05-May-15 15:39:37

Provision for able students is patchy.

I visit a lot of schools and some are excellent, some just fine, but too many are dire and resistant to any change.

Makes me very cross. It ain't right and your feelings are perfectly understandable OP.

What I would say is that MN can probably offer a lot of solutions for DIY ways to help your DC. Not ideal I know, but worth a punt?

SecretSquirrels Tue 05-May-15 15:57:27

My DC went to a state sixth form which falls part way between Brenda's and MyVisions. It has improved since DS1 was there but the emphasis is very much on apprenticeships. They get a handful each year into medicine and the occasional Oxbridge. There are things for the more able and aspirational students but it is easy to miss.

As Word says there is the DIY method. Much of what my DC have done has been researched by me and many ideas gleaned from MN. For a start I arranged for them to do Salters residentials in Y10. Their school were not interested but were willing to endorse the application. I helped DS1 apply for Villiers Park, Sutton Trust and Headstart courses, all of which were recommended on MN.

DS1 found that on most of these courses (not Sutton Trust) he was almost the only one who didn't attend selective / private schools.

DontBeAMeanie Tue 05-May-15 16:01:23

Brenda we managed to blag a few places on various courses after the courses had been filled. The London taster days get a lot of cancellations so if you are happy to go to some on very short notice you might be able to secure a spot.

DC4 wasn't sure what she wanted to study at uni so we booked up a variety of courses as soon as we were able then cancelled our spots later in the year once DC4 had worked out which would be useful to her.

DontBeAMeanie Tue 05-May-15 16:12:00

Secret Your DCs school sounds like my DCs school. Although some years they don't get a single student into Oxbridge or Medicine. It's in a leafy area wink but there are a lot of grammars and private schools about. Fortuanately most of the teaching is good.

When my DD did a STEM Headstart course she was astonished to find almost every other girl had studied Latin confused The other girls were from Habs or similar private schools or top notch grammars.

Having a helpful pushy mum is useful sometimes grin

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