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3 Year Sixth Form - Need advice please

(33 Posts)
GoMilou Wed 02-Dec-15 10:55:34

My niece is in Year 11 and is 14 years old. She turns 15 late August 2016.

Some schools will let her enrol in Sixth Form next year, however it appears she might not be allowed to join university in 2018 as she will only be 17yrs old then.

We understand that in the past she could have taken 4 AS subjects, completed those, then started Year 12 again with 4 AS subjects (completely different subjects of course) continuing with 3 of these to A2.

As things stand now, none of the schools that will let her join Sixth Form next year are offering any AS except in Further Maths.

She will be applying to uni for Maths/Engineering/Economics so taking a gap year is probably not helpful.

The reason she came to be in this situation i.e the wrong year group is long and complicated but she is stuck with it. She is cared for by an elderly relative and has no academic support or family know-how at home.

She was made to take GCSE in 3 subjects in Year 10 incl. History and Physics, which we weren’t happy with but could do nothing about as it was school blanket policy.

Her school recommend 1 AS (Further Maths) and 3 A2 subjects followed by a gap year. But her Maths is going to get rusty in a gap year?

What else could she do without ruining her chances of a good university?

Is there anybody familiar with this kind of scenario that can advise us please?

Any advice gratefully received.


Ladymuck Wed 02-Dec-15 11:04:10

Who is telling you that universities won't take her younger? It isn't hugely uncommon for maths, and most universities allow some sort of exception depending on the circumstances. They would almost certainly prefer her younger than to have had a gap year. That said, they won't take her age into account when making offers, so taking GCSEs in year 10 is not usually advisable.

Lancelottie Wed 02-Dec-15 11:07:23

A gap year for engineering is pretty standard practice, really: maybe she could apply for a Year in Industry if they'll take her at 17, or other work experience somewhere.

Maths is trickier, but perhaps she could NOT do the FM early, and do that in a gap year instead (easy enough to do online), to keep things ticking over. Are you sure the universities won't accommodate a 17-year-old for maths? We certainly had a couple of very young maths students in my time there.

disquisitiones Wed 02-Dec-15 11:25:17

It isn't hugely uncommon for maths, and most universities allow some sort of exception depending on the circumstances. They would almost certainly prefer her younger than to have had a gap year.

Going to university under 18 isn't that uncommon, not least because in other countries students can finish their high school diplomas before they turn 18. (Grade skipping is also fairly common in other European countries such as France.) My understanding is that student loans are also possible for those who are (just) under 18.

There may be a few exceptions but most university maths, physics and engineering courses do take under 18s. Only the very top universities have opinions about gap years for maths and even they don't say an absolute no to gap years for maths, if the student has reasonable plans.

GoMilou Wed 02-Dec-15 11:27:32

Thank you very much, Ladymuck. That's very helpful to know and we will try to follow up by contacting the individual universities she is interested in.

The advice about unis not giving her a place came from some of her teachers and we took it as gospel truth.

It's a shame about the early GCSE in History, she did well and isn't taking it any further but this isn't just about the grade, it is debatable how much she got out of it at such a young age.

Schoolchauffeur Wed 02-Dec-15 11:34:39

All universities in Scotland will take 17 year olds as in Scotland some students do leave after S5 as uni offers in Scotland are expressed in terms of Highers which are taken in S5 during which year most students turn 17. So Scottish unis are all geared up for those not 18.

GoMilou Wed 02-Dec-15 11:50:43

Maths is trickier, but perhaps she could NOT do the FM early, and do that in a gap year instead (easy enough to do online), to keep things ticking over

Lancelottie, that's fantastic, thank you. I had no idea she could do this and will definitely discuss this option with her. Perhaps she could do a gap year of French, German and Further Maths and work part-time.

I also love the idea of a Year in Industry.

disquisitiones Your posts are always very helpful. I can't thank you enough.

Schoolchauffeur Another new idea for us to explore. I didn't know that about Scottish unis. Thank you.

Lancelottie Wed 02-Dec-15 13:31:05

Further Maths here - DS did a few modules this way though not the full A-level.

GoMilou Wed 02-Dec-15 14:38:12

Thanks, I think I may have heard my niece mention the FMS Programme last year. She may have been introduced to it by a student mentor from the LSE that her school found for her. She doesn't have a mentor this year strangely.

We are going to explore each of the ideas mentioned above.

The only other thing we would like to hear people's opinion on is where to study French and or German privately in a gap year with a view to taking A2 exams that is affordable. Would the Goethe-Institut be such a place?

Have had a look at the Institut Francais in Kensington and the fees look prohibitive.

Millymollymama Wed 02-Dec-15 20:38:35

I would definitely check whether universities want all A levels taken in one sitting, and not spread out. Some do. They do not like Gap years for maths at some universities. Engineering courses probably won't mind. Also what about the maths test for university entrance? Would she need prep for that? (Sorry I forget it's name but Warwick uni web site has details of it and how it alters entry grades, for example). Industry placements for 17 year olds may be problematic. The universities tend to get all of them for "sandwich" students. I would check with individual universities what their policies are and she will need to narrow down what course she may like. Economics is not engineering!

senua Wed 02-Dec-15 22:43:41

I would try to get her back with her normal year group. A lot of socialising at University revolves around pubs and clubs. You don't have to join in the drinking but she won't even get entry to establishments if she's not yet 18. She'll be the one left behind on the pavement / back at Halls.

GoMilou Thu 03-Dec-15 07:01:30

Thanks, Millymollymama. Sorry if I am wrong but didn't you have a niece who was able but not necessarily getting the right/best advice wrt higher education? Where did your niece go in the end if you don't mind me asking? This thread is the first time I am posting on MN but I have been reading the education boards on and off for about a year and found most advice helpful. I feel I am in a similar situation you were in with your niece except that I know very little about UK education.

Yes, she will definitely take at least 3 facilitating subjects at A Levels in one sitting. The problem is that the schools she could go to for Sixth Form all offer Further Maths not beyond AS level. Since maths is very much her thing we have taken to heart a PP advice that my niece look at self-studying further maths all the way to A levels in a "gap year". The two MFL are languages that she already speaks quite well and would be able to complete A levels in both in one year, instead of the usual two, alongside the FM in a gap year. The language qualification is something she would like to do and not a requirement for uni application.

Ah, I get your point now. That it might not be wise to do FM in a different year to the other subjects? Wow, that complicates things further. Will check with some unis.

Thanks, Senua, I have been thinking along those lines too. She could do with another year of English Language and English Literature too as these are her weak subjects. Plus I think she is too immature and not convinced she will be ready for uni at 17 for the reasons you give. But it is not so straightforward to go back? She did some GCSEs in Yr10 and is now in the middle of course work for a lot of subjects.

GoMilou Thu 03-Dec-15 09:01:30

Senua, I took that literally! You meant go to uni with her age mates, not necessarily go a year back in school.

Needmoresleep Thu 03-Dec-15 10:42:31

Hopefully disquisitiones will be along soon.


1. It is far from unusual for students to start University before the age of 18. Particuarly maths, particularly in London. The brighter students at London's Lycee CDG routinely seem to be put up a year. And the same for Scots. International students can be even younger. DD knew at least a couple of Imperial students who started at 14.

2. Presumably your DD already mixes with others in her school year group. Staying with that year group through to University should not be a problem.

3. I don't agree with Senua. Lots of young people don't drink much. Indeed I read a few months back that pub chains are rethinking their strategies in the light of falling student demand. DS says that the heavy drinkers at his University are largely exiled to a corner of the Athletics Union. Not least modern students have to work very very hard. Plus Eurpopean and International students, and typically maths based degrees have a higher proportion than other courses, usually don't see drinking as an inevitable or desirable part of student life.

4. MN myths that need debunking No 37. That you need A2 Further maths. Not true. Probably anywhere or for anything. Too many sixth forms don't offer it.

Think of degrees she may want to take and ask Universities about both their approach to younger students and their maths requirements. If she wants to go to University after a two year sixth form she should. Three A levels and a FM AS, depending on grades, would be more than enough. (DS' course asks for AS FM. He has been surprised how many of his peers sucessfully self studied.)

disquisitiones Thu 03-Dec-15 11:44:50

I agree with most of what Needmoresleep says, with the only caveat being that a significant fraction of my maths students do drink too much! But she's totally right that there's always a group of students, particularly international students and those from certain ethnic groups in the UK, who aren't into drinking. Personally I'd rather my DC hang out with such students rather than those who are massively into clubbing and drinking.

Another myth: all A2s must be at the same sitting. Very few universities actually insist on this and it is actually very common for maths A level to be taken in year 12 with 2 or 3 other A2s being taken in year 13. It would be rare for the year 12 maths A level grade to be excluded from the offer - only a few courses at a few places would do this.

Yet another myth: gap years are a no for maths. Very few courses have an opinion one way or another on this.

You pretty much do need A2 FM for the top 4 or 5 maths courses, although in principle you can be accepted without FM. A big fraction of students won't have A2 FM on many highly respected RG maths courses.

My own DC are out of year but are amongst the most mature in their school year groups. I would only encourage them to defer if they looked like they weren't mature and ready for university (which doesn't seem likely at this point). Being a bit young for year is not itself a big deal, if the student is as mature as their friends.

Overall if the girl concerned can get As in her three A2s she would have a wide choice of well respected universities for maths/engineering. It's only the very top places which would require A*s and might be picky about gap years, having FM A2 etc etc.

senua Thu 03-Dec-15 12:13:57

disquisitiones, the DC in question is in the year above AND has an August birthday. If she does a two-year 6th form, she won't be 18 until a month-or-so before starting University Year 2.

disquisitiones Thu 03-Dec-15 12:29:48

But there are students who are 17 and sometimes younger in the first year at university - Scottish, French, other nationalities. The issue is maturity, not absolute age.

I see plenty of old for year students who could have benefitted from taking time out to mature and I also see students on the younger end who are fine. It should be considered case by case, not by blanket policy. OP suggests that a gap year might be a good idea because the student isn't particularly mature, but if she were mature age alone shouldn't be the determining factor.

(And FWIW I didn't turn 18 until I was well into my university course. No big deal.)

GoMilou Thu 03-Dec-15 15:00:32

Thanks everyone for the comments and advice. This is what we have taken away or know as a result:

1) DN can start uni at 17. It’s not clear at this point if she would be eligible for a student loan having just turned 17, someone said earlier you had to be near 18. But this is something we can find out from the Student Loans Company.

2) That the conventional 2 year sixth form is perhaps the better route into uni for her.

3) This is the sad bit - unless you attend a school with A2 FM you are excluded from the top 5 maths universities in the country. Warwick allow alternative routes involving the higher hurdle of achieving grade 1 in STEP, which is not a requirement from those with A* in FM. The fault is not with the universities here.

Needmoresleep I am beginning to think I am hindering rather than helping because I told DN that LSE require A* in FM for Economics, no idea where I got that from. Thank you. DN is not of the calibre of the kids at Imperial that your DD knows. She is bright but still has to work very hard.

BertrandRussell Thu 03-Dec-15 15:12:59

"This is the sad bit - unless you attend a school with A2 FM you are excluded from the top 5 maths universities in the country."

Are we really sure about this? It seems discriminatory to me...........

disquisitiones Thu 03-Dec-15 15:13:17

In principle you can enter top maths courses such as Oxbridge without A2 FM too. It's rare, but it's possible.

Needmoresleep Thu 03-Dec-15 15:46:42

Disquisitiones, you were right and I was being a bit provocative, though in response to a post which implied being willing to participate in heavy drinking is vital to a good student experience. It is not. There might be scope for a model which predicts the level of student drinking based on variables including: subject, gender ratio, international students, ethnic diversity, north south, expense, campus, "Sloane quotient" and so on. However calculated, DS' University would be on the dry end of the scale.

And that is part of the point. If you are relatively young you probably need to think about what suits best. A shared flat with half a dozen heavy drinking strangers could be awful. However probably the only way to find out what is on offer for younger students is to ask. FWIW London Universities seem very used to younger students, including special freshers events. However obviously London may not be ideal for someone leaving home for the first time.

Go Milou, you would need to check with individual websites, but generally for the more mathematical economics courses, FM A2 is preferred, and useful to have, but not required. AS however is often a requirement, though the grade is not always specified. Again it is worth a conversation with the University. For example they may not require the A2, and may not be interested in the mechanics options, but might look kindly on a student who had made the effort to self study for the statistics papers. The last thing many top Universities want to do is close the door to bright state educated students simply because their schools don't offer FM.

disquisitiones Thu 03-Dec-15 15:59:58

*"This is the sad bit - unless you attend a school with A2 FM you are excluded from the top 5 maths universities in the country."

Are we really sure about this? It seems discriminatory to me...........*

The vast majority of applicants and of those who are accepted have A2 FM (or foreign equivalent). A small number will have self-studied A2 FM and there is a support programme for such students:

A very small number will have AS FM but not A2 FM. For the latter it is pretty tough going at the beginning, as the pace will seem very fast.

BertrandRussell Thu 03-Dec-15 16:06:17

Oh, I know that the vast majority of people wanting to do maths will have further maths. I was just questioning it being an absolute requirement when a lot of 6th forms and colleges don't do it.

I do feel quite strongly, by the way, that going to university early is a mistake. Probably absolutely fine academically- particularly in a subject like maths- but so not a good idea in all other areas of life.

Millymollymama Thu 03-Dec-15 18:14:23

It is an interesting point about FM in state schools, Bertrand. I often wonder why schools cannot pool their FM candidates so there is a class for them held at the school with a suitable teacher. A young lady in our village just got Chemistry A level at A* but her school does not offer chemistry. Another got A* in FM, but the same school does not offer FM either. It is a secondary modern school. I cannot see how you do Chemistry at home so she must have gone to one of the grammar schools for lessons! The school put the results up on their web site.

I seem to know only maths students who have FM and the maths courses I am aware of, very few admittedly , definitely do not like a gap year. They actively say so. I guess it depends if you want top 5 or not.

I too think going to university early is a mistake. Huge numbers of young people do not go clubbing but they do like to drink to be social and they are responsible. Joining in is an important part and if you are unable to, it may dim the experience for the first year.

GoMilou Fri 04-Dec-15 10:24:56

BertrandRussell, I should have said effectively excluded, I think. Meaning that the likes of Oxbridge probably aren’t interested in whether an applicant has had elite education or not. What matters to them is that a level of attainment in maths can be demonstrated before they accept an applicant on to a course, otherwise it would be cruel to the applicant if they are going to struggle with the pace initially because they haven’t covered all the prerequisite material. The way I see it is that the damage is done before uni. Yes, a kid can self-study (DN will do this) but it takes resources, it takes time away from other studies, it can have a negative impact on overall A level results. It’s not a level playing field.

DN she will be most at home in the London unis and with the international students that Needmoresleep describes.

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