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Where to study Maths and Further Maths A level - advice please

(16 Posts)
pannetone Fri 10-Nov-17 17:34:20

Background- DS in Y11 is on the autistic spectrum. He only managed a term at the local comprehensive before he became too anxious to attend. He was out of school for a year. Then part way through Y8 he joined a very small independent school - the LA named it on his EHCP which we applied for when he was out of school.

DS wants to study Maths, Further Maths and Physics (and either Chemistry or History as a fourth subject).

His school will only offer Further Maths if at least 2 opt for it. A level Maths will only be 3 or 4 students probably. It willl be the same for Physics.

So we are looking at other sixth forms - we have 3 grammars locally he could apply to. Class sizes in the grammmars for his subjects seem to be about 20 pupils. All of them have very good results and get many students into the ‘top’ universities including Oxbridge.

Is a sixth form class of 2 students too small? How important is bouncing ideas of peers? DS thinks he wants to do a Maths degree - would he be better off in a school which supports many students going on to do Maths at uni? I know DS will need to do STEP papers and the grammars are well set up to support this.

DS is torn between wanting to stay because he is very settled at his school, but he worries it will impact on his chances of getting a ‘good’ uni place.

Couchpotato3 Fri 10-Nov-17 17:40:13

I don't think a small class size would be a particular problem with Maths, although it could be much more of a disadvantage with History, where I can imagine that discussion and debate would be more important, and having classmates to bounce ideas off would matter.
My son found a small group (3) helpful when he was working on STEP, but he still did most of the preparation on his own. My other son is in a class of one for one of his A levels and loves it as he can work at his own pace and has the teacher's undivided attention. I'd be wary of the disruption of starting a new school unless absolutely necessary.

senua Fri 10-Nov-17 17:54:03

This isn't (yet) an either/or, you don't need to decide for another nine months yet. Apply to more than one sixth form so you have a Plan B (and maybe Plan C) to cover all eventualities.

pannetone Fri 10-Nov-17 18:42:07

Thanks Couch that is reassuring about small class sizes. Yes, it is definitely best for DS not to have to manage a new school as well as getting to grips with A levels.

Yes senua I know we will have to apply for other sixth forms in case DS’s School doesn’t offer FM. And he’ll need to apply to several as the grammars will have more external applicants than places - given to those with the highest predicted GCSE grades. The downside of not being able to make a decision now is that DS doesn’t manage uncertainty well.

user2019697 Fri 10-Nov-17 20:44:59

You only need to do STEP to access Cambridge and Warwick (and Imperial, sometimes). STEP can be self studied, using the available online support.

You don't even need Further Maths to do Maths courses outside the top half dozen - there are a number of Maths courses ranked 8-20 which take a third or a half of students without Further Maths.

If he can get AAA or above he will have a good choice of Maths courses available to him. (He would need higher for Oxbridge, but Oxbridge may well not be the best option for somebody with a history of anxiety anyhow. One or two A stars would get him into almost all other courses.) I don't think bouncing ideas is essential - go for the place he feels the most comfortable.

TheFrendo Sat 11-Nov-17 00:36:45

Further maths groups are often small. My son's has 7 students (there are another 50 or so doing just maths), these small groups and the smallwer class sizes in general may help your son.

Oxbridge may well not be the best option for somebody with a history of anxiety anyhow

But on the other hand, Cambridge and Oxford admissions say that they rate ability in a subject above all the 'rounded individual' personal statement crap.

toadtallydevoted Sat 11-Nov-17 09:08:18

pannetone, are you within commuting distance of this school? If so, it sounds like it might be a good fit.

pannetone Sat 11-Nov-17 13:35:59

Thanks for responses. user thanks for clarifying that only a few units actually require step. DS will want to do FM as he is aiming for the top Maths unis - although it's obviously early days yet as he hasn't even done mock GCSEs! I don't think his anxiety precludes an Oxbridge application if he's able enough - I think the collegiate system would suit him.

Frendo thanks - I checked numbers doing maths and FM in our local grammars. They all have mixed sixth forms. The boys grammars still have about 150 (in a year) doing maths and 50 doing FM, but the girls grammar has less than 10 doing FM (and about 50 doing Maths). So a small class size there.

toadtally thanks for the link to Kings College Maths School. It looks an amazing place but DS wouldn't manage the commute to central London in the rush hour.

Pallando Mon 13-Nov-17 10:07:17

Whilst there is some good online support for STEP out there (search STEP support Cambridge), having teachers who are used to preparing students for STEP is an advantage. Oh - and if you use Cambridge unis online STEP support, start early (Jan of year 12 recommended)

Another thing to consider is how the schools teach Maths and FM. IF it is small groups then there will probably be Single maths lessons with other single mathematicians and desperate further maths lessons. In larger schools it might be possible to have a class of just further mathematicians who can cover single A level maths in year 12, and then do further maths in year 13 (which is usually a better way of doing it).

However, if it is only 3 or 4 doing A-level maths and 2 doing F maths then the disadvantage of not having a separate F maths group is probably not that great compared to the higher teacher:student ratio!

Astronotus Mon 13-Nov-17 23:16:32

pannetone, don't write off Kings Maths School yet. I was very impressed. They start later in the morning than other schools and give travel bursaries. They are v strong on pastoral care. A really interesting place. Worth giving them a call I'd say. Applications close in early Dec.

TheDonald Mon 13-Nov-17 23:30:56

My dd's school doesn't run FM as a separate timetabled subject but they have one child this year who is sitting it but covering it in normal maths lessons.

At open evening the head of department said he just finishes the classwork about halfway through the lesson so she gives him the FM work to do.

She tried to persuade dd to do the same but dd doesn't feel she's got the ability to do FM without proper teaching so she's opting for the large sixth form college where they timetable 4.5 hrs a week for FM.

Your ds sounds like he might be able to cope with fitting it in with his normal timetabled a level maths if it avoids upheaval.

Pallando Tue 14-Nov-17 09:37:44

One other thing to consider is which "optional papers" the two schools will opt for in Further Maths (Single Maths is pretty much the same everywhere). If one school will be going for the "discrete" paper option this will be of less help to someone wanting to do maths at Cambridge than "Additional Further Pure" or "Mechanics" options. For Oxford, "Discrete" is not much use (but there is less of a preference for mechanics over stats).

Astronotus Wed 15-Nov-17 17:29:00

Pallando, could you please explain the "optional papers" and "discrete" options. Thanks.

Pallando Thu 16-Nov-17 10:57:28

The A-level specification for all exam boards is essentially fixed (so everyone has to do a bit of statistics and a bit of mechanics). For A-level Further maths there is a bit more flexibility. For example (taking the OCR spec):

Pure Core 1 and Pure Core 2 papers have to be sat by everyone (this covers the material that the DFE have said MUST be in Further maths A-level). This is 50% of the total A-Level content

Students then take any 2 of 4 "optional" papers, for OCR the 4 are: Statistics, Mechanics, Discrete and Additional Pure Maths.

If applying to Cambridge the advice would be to choose "Mechanics" and "Additional Pure Maths" as the two optional papers. Oxford would probably be a bit more flexible (and if applying to study "Maths and Statistics" at Oxford then the statistics paper would be useful).

The OCR A-level Further maths spec can be downloaded from here:

Other boards do vary (MEI has one long compulsory paper (50%), then candidates choose one "Major" option from Mechanics or Stats (33.3..%) and one "Minor" option (16.6...%) from a list of 6 papers)

Astronotus Thu 16-Nov-17 12:00:55

Thank you Pallando, this is very helpful.

lljkk Thu 16-Nov-17 22:33:48

The 2 6FCs we looked at do math/further maths like this:

yr12: entire maths A-level compressed into 1 yr course.
yr13: entire further maths A-level course compressed into 1 yr course

Kids who need to take regular maths at end of yr12, get an extra yr to "consolidate" what they learnt in the 1 yr compressed course, and then they take math A-level exams at end of their yr13. (hope I explained tht so that it makes sense)

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