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Colyton or Torquay Girls?

(198 Posts)
Trambuctious Tue 30-Jun-15 20:54:29

If all goes very very well on the exam day this will be the choice we need to make. Has anyone had to decide between these 2 schools, and how did you do so? We've been to the 2 open days, and they came across very differently, but were both tempting!

inthename Wed 01-Jul-15 20:36:38

have DN in upper years at torquay. DB very pleased with it, though apparently they like to charge £'s for different things very quickly which surprised DB!
They didn't like colyton but can't remember why.

Petunia123 Tue 07-Jul-15 14:58:58

We're considering both. But I thought it wasn't possible to sit both exams because they're on the same day. (Is it possible?) I was impressed by both open days, but I feel that Colyton caters for the super academic and I wonder if my daughter might be happier at Torquay. Have you been preparing for the exam?

Thechocolatecrusader Tue 07-Jul-15 16:14:36

Think very carefully: I have/ have had DC at Colyton and would not choose it if I had a Yr6 DC now. The school has got away with the unusual 3 year Sixth Form until now, but with the reform of A levels and GCSEs I personally think it will become an increasing disadvantage for Uni entry.
Remember that your DC will have to take all their GCSEs a year early, which OFSTED don't like and some children find tough. It means giving up Maths/English in Year 10 for many children. They then have to take 4 full A levels, rather than 3 like most schools.
My DC wants to drop a subject after AS and do only 3 A levels but they apparently won't let students do this unless they have a health problem, even though it won't matter at all for her Uni offers. I believe there are a number of students in the same position. Not sure why they are so reluctant to let students do 3 A levels and 1 AS level- funding? League table position? (which is based on total points per student not A level grades per entry).

When the school started the 3yr Sixth form experiment it was an interesting change from the norm, but not one other school including more highly-performing grammars has copied the idea in the 7 years since. I wonder why?
The school's last OFSTED was in 2007, it will be interesting to see what they make of it next time.
There are some super-academic children but most are bright rather than genius-level. This is another reason that a Sixth form diet of 4 A levels plus extended project plus Critical Thinking and General Studies (which are not considered by virtually any good Unis) may not be right for all its students. With the newly reformed A levels, when AS levels have gone, most Unis are likely to offer places based on 3 A levels only. I would say choose the school they will be happiest and have the best chance of getting 3 really good grades. Just my opinion of course-Good luck deciding

Petunia123 Tue 07-Jul-15 17:29:44

Thanks very much for your input Chocolatecrusader. It's always helpful to hear about personal experiences. I have to say, I wasn't entirely convinced by the idea of a three year sixth form. It seems unreasonable not to let students decide how many subjects to take. Have you found the school to be inflexible in other ways?

Broadchurch Tue 07-Jul-15 18:10:48

I also have DC at Colyton (I've name changed for this). There are things I would change if I ruled the world - but that's always likely to be the case. As far as number of A2s goes - IME and that of other people I know the school is not sticky about letting people drop a subject, if there is a good reason. It doesn't have to be health related. The reason they do critical thinking and general studies is because of the AQA bacc qualification which requires this. I do not know whether the AQA bacc is that useful a thing to have, I don't think it has been/will be for my DC but that's the rationale. It may be a useful thing for the medics/science specialists who may not otherwise be able to demonstrate essay writing skills etc. Anyway - the amount of time expended on critical thinking and GS really isn't great, so I have never seen it as an issue and nor have my DC.

IME the school is far from inflexible - quite the reverse actually.

I too worry about the impact of new GCSE's especially the maths spec which I understand is problematic (in that it hasn't been properly trialled) - I have one DC who will be affected by this so it is a concern.

Despite this worry - which is not a result of something the school has done but something the government has done (and it's not yet clear (to me) how/if the school will respond) - I'm generally very happy with the school as are my DCs.

I know/have known several young people at the Torquay grammars and both the schools are very good. I am sure that if my DCs were at those schools I would be happy too.

Thechocolatecrusader Tue 07-Jul-15 19:47:23

Could you give an me an idea of what you mean by inflexible Petunia? I don't think my DC have needed any flexibility until now, as they have just toed the school line so far.

Certainly the structure of the Colyton curriculum generates inflexibility due to the fact it is out of step with every other school in the country.
Children cannot easily join the school after Yr7 because they will have covered less of the curriculum than Colyton children of the same age. No new Sixth formers can join the school, as stated on their website, for the same reason.

By contrast, Colyton children wishing to leave after GCSE in Yr10 to study subjects not offered at Colyton will be a year younger than their peers when joining other Sixth forms and would consequently take their A levels a year early.

For Yr6 parents the prospect of Sixth forms and Uni must seem a very long way off but it is frightening how quickly the time passes and is worth consideration when choosing a secondary school.

GCSE grades achieved are likely to assume an increasingly important role for Uni applications as most schools, including Colyton, will no longer offer AS levels. It is a moot point whether the children taking GCSEs a year early in Year 10 at age 14/15 would perform better if tested at the "correct" age. One of my DC was quite immature and underperformed at GCSE but did very well at AS level and it all turned out for the best. There will no longer be that safety net from next year as AS levels disappear at Colyton.

The school presents the rationale that bright children become bored taking GCSEs in Yr11 as normal. Other superselective grammars which significantly outperform Colyton at both GCSE and A level when measured by top A* grades don't seem to have this issue. They also give their students the options of enrichment such as the extended project, but there is more flexibility in what will suit different children.

Ha, I'll get off my soapbox now!

Petunia123 Tue 07-Jul-15 21:22:14

Broadchurch: Thanks for the reply. I really appreciate hearing other parents' experiences. Overall, do you think the three year sixth form is worthwhile?

Chocolatecrusader: Thanks for taking the time to reply again. I asked about flexibility because when you talked about students not being allowed to drop a subject, I wondered if perhaps the school are more interested in results than catering for an individual's needs. For example, what's their attitude towards children who are under achieving?
It's a very good point that their structure means problems if children want to leave for A levels.
Do you know if it's possible to sit both the Colyton and Torquay exam? The OP seemed to be intending to do so, but since they're on the same day, I didn't see how that was possible.

Thechocolatecrusader Thu 09-Jul-15 08:27:54

This year is the first year of the new so-called tutor-proof CEM 11+ test and for the first time Colyton has worked with some of the other South West grammars (The Torquay grammars and Churston Ferrers I believe) to arrange this.
As well as the main CEM tests I think each school sets an additional locally-marked test, English in the case of Colyton, so the tests and eligibilty requirements will differ slightly between the schools.
It might be possible to sit one of them at a later date, I'm not sure. Give the school a call they won't mind a bit and will talk you through it all.

Broadchurch Thu 09-Jul-15 10:10:28

petunia - I haven't had DC in 6th forms at other schools so I don't really have anything to compare it with. It seems to work ok from my direct experience and that of the people I know. But I don't know everyone. I think the differing experiences on this thread from chocolate and myself about number of A2 subjects shows that no single parent actually knows what is going on for everyone. As far as the 11+ goes - the exams have always been on the same day as Torquay IME. I have known several kids who have applied to both schools - in previous years the Torquay schools had back up days when the kids sitting the Colyton test could go and sit their test. Now the tests are mainly the same I imagine they will either share results (as the Torquay schools and churston ferrers and wynstream(? Is that what it's called?) have done for years, or they will continue with the back up day for the element that isn't shared. There are probably only a small number of kids for whom it would be feasible to travel to both schools so it's probably not that much hassle for them to organise things so they aren't excluded.

Trambuctious Thu 09-Jul-15 11:40:27

Surprised to see people have now answered my OP - thanks.
I was impressed with the Colyton site and facilities, but I don't feel I've got a feel for the school.
At the open day at Colyton we were told that the school had been judged to be the top (state or independent) school in the country. I chatted with a sixth former showing people round, and she was really enthusiastic about the school and how great it was, and travelled 1.5 hours each way to get there. But I haven't pinned down in my mind why it is the top school in the country / really great. Do the children have a fantastic education and school experience there? Is it friendly? Is there an emphasis on the whole person, not just academic achievement? Do they teach for the love of learning as well as to the exam? In what ways might it be better than other schools (or less good in some areas)? On the issue of doing GCSEs a year early, I imagine that if the new GCSEs turn out to be a lot tougher than the current ones, that policy may change soon, or alternatively the children will do fewer GCSEs (which is something that other schools are starting to recommend).

Broadchurch Thu 09-Jul-15 11:57:53

I was impressed with the Colyton site and facilities Really? I don't think they are that impressive. But that's not how I judge a school (much of my schooling took place in portakabins)

why it is the top school in the country / really great Results. And many kids (including mine) love it there.

Do the children have a fantastic education and school experience there? Yep. Of course it isn't the only school that provides a fantastic education and has kids who are very happy.

Is it friendly? Yep

Is there an emphasis on the whole person, not just academic achievement? Yep - but there's no denying academic achievement is A Thing.

Do they teach for the love of learning as well as to the exam? Definitely

In what ways might it be better than other schools (or less good in some areas)? Results. Other than that, I can't say. Well - it's not huge which appeals to some people (including my kids). The people I know are very very happy but obviously I know people very very happy with other schools. Apparently the canteen could be better although the jacket potatoes are yum (the chips are not). The vegetarian offering is somewhat restrictive but that's Devon for you - in the grip of the farmers. It's not in hock to PFI. The only gripe I have ever had is the mandatoryness of doing triple science at GCSE regardless of whether that's actually a sensible thing - however they are upfront about that before you do the 11+ so it's not like they hide the fact that this is the policy.

Thechocolatecrusader Thu 09-Jul-15 12:43:33

It depends what league tables you are looking at. The Dept of Educations ones look at total points per student rather than just grades for each exam. That means the more qualifications a student does (including general studies, critical thinking, extended project and until the govt stopped giving points for it, a lifeskills qualification called COPE) the more points they can accrue.
Although Colyton beat the following schools on points, so came higher in government league tables, it is worth looking at points per entry, i.e. the actual grades they get.
Here are some 2014 stats for some high-per schools:

A level:
Colyton Grammar: 19.3% A*. (from governors' report)
Exeter school: 24% A*
Tiffin Girls' grammar: 35% A*
Magdalen Court school: 43% A*

GCSE:
Colyton Grammar 37.9% A*
Exeter School: 52% A*
Tiffin Girls' grammar: 62% A*
Magdalen court school: 73% A*

So Colyton does very well, and might have beaten these schools on points but overall points score is not the only way to measure results.

Like any school it has its good and bad points. My concern is whether the school, which has invested so much in the 3 year Sixth form, truly has the appetite to review the best way forward in the light of changes to A level and GCSE changes and entry to higher education. I have reason to believe, as things currently stand, they do not As I still have DC there I worry about the effect it could have on their future.

Thechocolatecrusader Thu 09-Jul-15 12:47:09

*high-performing schools

Broadchurch Thu 09-Jul-15 12:58:52

I also still have DC there and the future (given the chaos about to be unleashed by the government's ill thought out changes, and the fact that there will be a new Head) worries me too. However I - unlike perhaps you - do not have the option of Exeter School, Magdalene Court or Tiffin since I can't afford £lots in fees and I no longer live in London.

Will you be moving your DCs given the clear level of your concerns?

Trambuctious Thu 09-Jul-15 13:13:02

I don't understand the reference to Magdalen Court School - if it is the one in Exeter, which is not at all academic. I think you must mean a different school. I'm also surprised that Exeter School does better, as it is far less selective. Tiffin is far more selective than Colyton.

Thechocolatecrusader Thu 09-Jul-15 13:13:06

I don't have the option of these schools either but I have some knowledge of them though and posted their results to illustrate the point that there are other measures of good results beyond points-based government league tables.

As far as my DC are concerned, the Colyton structure means that if children are moved after GCSE they would be a year younger than their classmates which I don't want. Although there may be a new head soon, I believe that many of the governors are very long-serving. I think the Chair has been in post for 20 years? I'm not sure if that's an advantage or not with the many changes and challenges ahead. For the moment I will wait and see what happens, but as I said earlier, if I had a Yr6 Dc now I would choose a school with a two-year Sixth form.

Thechocolatecrusader Thu 09-Jul-15 13:15:29

* Magdalen COLLEGE school not Magdale Court- sorry!

Magdalen College is in Oxford.
Magdalen Court is in Exeter.

Trambuctious Thu 09-Jul-15 13:19:15

We were told at the open day that a new head (currently deputy head) will be in place next term (or perhaps they meant the year after next, as that is when our DCs would start at Colyton).
I suppose your view on facilities and site depends on what you're comparing it with, and they won't be as impressive to those who are considering large private schools. The school being surrounded by beautiful countryside helps.

Thechocolatecrusader Thu 09-Jul-15 13:21:16

The current deputy will be acting head next term. They are currently trying to recruit a permanent new headteacher.

Trambuctious Thu 09-Jul-15 13:23:42

They didn't mention that.

Broadchurch Thu 09-Jul-15 13:28:34

And again - most parents with kids at Colyton don't actually have the option to send kids to school in Oxford...confused

Annecdotally there is one family that moved across the world to attend the school (I don't know them so it might not be true). Everyone else lives within the (admittedly pretty wide) usual locus of the school.

The current deputy will be acting Head from September. The current Head retires at the end of this term. They will still be aiming to recruit a new permanent Head for September 2016 AIUI.

I'm fine with the facilities (as I said, most of my education took place in Portakabins) but there is no denying the swishy PFI schools in the county look...swishier. However they are in hock to PFI so I'd choose Colyton every time - but not for the quality of the facilities (they are fine but nothing special). It's the people that make the difference - there are some outstanding teachers there, really excellent.

Broadchurch Thu 09-Jul-15 13:29:57

Trambunctious - they have kept current parents up to date with what's going on. I don't know what was said at open days obviously.

Molio Thu 09-Jul-15 13:39:30

Point of detail but I assume you mean Magdalen College School crusader? It has a slightly different academic profile to Magdalen Court........

Thechocolatecrusader Thu 09-Jul-15 13:43:59

Broadchurch sorry-I didn't explain my reference to MCS very well.
Of course no one in Devon can choose an Oxford school, I just know a bit about it and used it to illustrate the point that although Colyton has great results not everyone considers it to be the top state or independent school in the country when other measures are used.

The added concern from my point of view (and some University admissions tutors') is that the students have taken 3 years in the Sixth form to get them, whereas everyone else in the UK will have taken two.

I agree that there are some lovely teachers though and everyone will miss Mr Evans.

Must dash, I have to do some real work now!

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