Boarding for sixth form?(86 Posts)
My DD has expressed an interest to go to boarding school for sixth form, Im totally new to boarding in general so advice would be appreciated! DD went to a state primary, then private secondary for 2 years, we then moved and we have started home educating her for GCSE years. She loved the structure of school and being around people, so i think she might enjoy boarding, but it's also a big change from what she's doing right now, might be a helpful stepping stone to university though?
DD has researched schools, and liked Pangbourne College, Ackworth, Gordonstoun, Lathallan, Downside, and Kings Canterbury.
DD isn't extremely sporty as her school didn't offer anything other than basic PE once a week, but is up to try anything. Likes drama and music more than sport definitely! DD is predicated As so far at GCSE (she does an online HE program), but I'm not sure how accurate that is because it's not based on exam-situation tests?
Does anyone have experience with any of these school? Or can recommend others? Or any experience with boarding for sixth form in general, is it hard to break into friendship groups? also does anyone know whether schools would be opposed to accepting a homeschooled child?? or maybe it's too much of a change for DD (I know that's a very personal call though!) and I might be better going for a day school.
Thank you so much!! This is all very new to me, and any advice is really helpful!
I went to boarding school for just sixth form and while it was quite cliquey and hard to initially break into friendship groups, especially with existing boarders who had all boarded and known each other since year 7, I made some amazing friends who I am still in touch with 20 odd years later. I have also taught in a boarding school and usually girls who join in sixth form slot in really well if they are sociable etc. Some people find it really restrictive though because you can't really come and go as you would at home and the rules are usually pretty tight as to going to assemblies, evening functions, wearing uniform etc. Depends on the school.
Moving from hime schooling to a boarding school is quite a culture shock I used to work in a boarding school and I've seen a few children try and do it and its not been very successful. Thats not to say your DD cant do it but its not an easy transition. Secondly of she goes onto the 6th form oshe will nly have. a relatively short period of tine to settle down make new friends and get used to boarding on top of the jump many talk from GCSE's to A levels and the change in teaching style from home ed to classroom. As losing said it can be hard to break into existing friendships in the beginning.
Why did you move you DD form her secondary? Boarders have to be mentally pretty robust, sensitive types can struggle particularly in the beginning, There is little or no privacy, you have to be quick to read situations, and very adaptable, and enjoy communal living, your DD will live alongside people she may not like, find irritating, whose way of living may not be like hers: noisy, untidy etc. Ask yourself, honestly, if you think she could make this change and settle down at a crucial stage in her education? What would you do if its a disaster is it worth taking the risk?
If yes I personally would look at school with a largish intake into their 6th form not ones taking the odd pupils because they've chucked a few out. It is more competitive at 6th form; many international children have honed their English in less selective schools and move to more selective schools for A levels the more selective schools and even the fairly selective will definitely be looking for top results A's minimum (its good for their results/league tables etc) they often expect higher grades then they will expect from existing pupils and will likely to require your DD to sit an entrance test do an interview offers at most will be subject to GCSE results. I assume your not looking for next September many will have already offered places.
Marlborough might be worth looking at as I believe they take quite a few girls. into the 6th form (least they used too), or schools which goes coed in the 6th form so all the girls will be starting fresh might be worth looking at, Charterhouse, although it is about to go coed from yr 9 soon.
All good boarding schools will offer sport drama music etc and often sport is often less compulsory for 6th formers.
Finally do you want full or weekly boarding and where do you live? The schools you've mentioned are scattered around the UK? I had a 1 1/2 hour one way max driving rule most UK parents with children at boarding schools would agree. Unless you own a helicopter or list driving as your main hobby and have loads of spare time you will find it difficult to attend the school for activities etc if you exceed this. My DS wasn't musical or into drama so nothing to attend ion that front I avoided social things like the plague and DS's school didn't really encourage parents to watch matches etc but many boarding schools offer a wide range of social activities and parents often attend matches plays and concerts if their children are in them and there are quite a few other things where attendance is virtually compulsory, also exeats etc. So do thunk carefully about how far you can realistically travel.
I agree with everything Happy Gardening has said about boarding - wise words as always!
Uppingham have a largish intake of new girls at sixth form ( 30-40.)
It is full boarding though , which you may not want .
I was also going to say Uppingham as they take on a lot of girls at sixth form - they have their own house so the breaking into cliques doesn’t happen. Everyone is new.
My friend boarded at sixth form after attending an all girls independent known for it’s nurturing and soft approach to girls. She hated the move as she was only one of two new girls and it was a much more robust environment to what she was used to. Most lonely two years of her life apparently.
That said, she is now looking at boarding schools for her children at 11 and 13 so it’s not that she is anti-boarding as a result. She is just paying a lot of attention to dynamics in the boarding houses in particular.
I took DD out of school because we moved too far away for her to realistically attend. We only have one school within an hour and a half of us, so that's a really good point! I live in the north of Scotland, so I HE DD as there is not a huge selection of schools here. One state school, and if I drove her an hour, a private school. DH has a flat in Glasgow as he works there during the week so that may help. I'm not opposed to driving long distances if it's the right school for DD, but I work too so 7 hours for a concert or something on a weekday is too much. I think we'd need full boarding as even the school nearish us doesn't offer weekly!
DD is quite resilient I think, although has never really been in a situation to test it so that could be a concern. I don't know how to tell how she would react though, I would guess she'd find it a huge change in the beginning but settle down quite quickly, she adapts well to new situations. If it was a disaster she would probably move to be with DH and go to day school there, which isn't an awful option, but he generally isn't home until 8 so I'm worried she wouldn't get enough interaction with him.
Thank you for the tip about schools that turn co-ed in sixth form, I didn't know those existed! Also about academically selective schools, do they pressure the children more into getting good grades? That would just be another thing to adjust to on top of all the rest!
I'll look at the schools you suggested, thank you! Would it be better to visit schools now, or after summer? I don't want to be too early, but don't some schools have long waiting lists? maybe better to do it now!
Thank you so much for the help! It's really helpful!
I agree avoid academically selective given all the other changes she will have to cope with - but a lot of schools take in a big new intake at sixth form and most make big efforts to help them mix and settle in. For eg the school DD joined for sixth form boarding paired new and existing pupils as room mates in the first term to aid mixing. They usually settle and make friends quickly as they're together 24/7 so I think you'd know very quickly whether it was going to work or not.
When would you be expecting her to start at the school?
I work in a boarding school in a non-teaching role.
We have quite a few pupils who are new to the school for sixth form but by far the majority have been at the school from age 13. New pupils joining seem to settle in well but they tend to be quite confident individuals anyway IME.
The sixth form remains very structured - pupils are expected to attend chapel, take part in extra-curricular activities etc but obviously the emphasis is on study. From what I've seen they work really hard, often studying into the night when the pressure is on as exam time nears. Those who need it get extra support, extra tutorials out of lesson time as there's no doubt about it the pressure is on to do well (from parent's who are paying their fees as well as from the teachers). However on the whole the hard work pays off and they come out with great results.
One thing that struck me when I started working there (having had no experience of private schools before) was how little "down-time" they have. Could your DD cope with lessons through the day and the expectation to study during the evenings?
Another thing worth mentioning is the amount of travel involved for pupils - exeat weekends on top of the usual half-terms etc mean that pupils travel home every few weeks. Not so much a problem if you are nearish but a PITA and tiring if it involves a long trek
We looked at Uppingham for 6th form and the “them and us” was obvious from the new girls’ house scenario. Just not acceptable in our view so not for us. It was also a crappy building in comparison to the others so it felt like the new girls were second class citizens!
OP you are making a huge mistake in looking at schools as far apart as Gordonstoun (a well known outdoorsy and sporty school) and Kings Canterbury! Are you expecting to see your DD? What about visiting school?
Therefore, where do you live? Given the transition required, I would suggest weekly boarding which is what most schools offer in the 6th form anyway. 6th form tends to get more exeats. We chose schools 45 minutes and 1 hour away from home. We went to Drama and music productions. In fact if our DDs were doing anything where parents were invited, we went. If you choose a school miles away from home, you are throwing her in the deep end with little support.
If you say where you are, some may have experience of schools closer to where you live. My DD1 went to a very good girls school with top class drama. New girls could easily slot into this. Very good music too. In the 6th form, sport is about keeping fit if you are not team material. It’s sport for fun not medals! I could say what school this is, but if you are in Yorkshire there is no point!
Also Marlborough is tough to get into in the 6th form. It’s highly selective.
Huge apologies. I see you are North of Scotland. Stick to Scotland then. Canterbury would be a nightmare!
Also 6th forms do not have wait lists as such. They select and refuse. In or not. You may get the odd bit of shifting but not much.
My DD moved to boarding school for 6th form and I echo the advice regarding the distance. In addition to half term. there is exeat mid way through each half term, and all students must leave the school.
DD is 2.5 hours away as she is at a specialist school, so we really do spend a lot of time on the motorway at weekends travelling to and from school. And that's without including extra trips to see performances.
I'll have a look at the schools in Scotland then! Gordonstoun is obviously nearest us why I think is why DD picked it, and Lathallan is relatively near. I've heard that strathallan is very sporty which doesn't really appeal to DD, and most schools that board in Scotland are more day schools than boarding I think. Although I'm not sure!
Also schools in Cumbria might be a possibility, there are definitely more options and it's nearer than Canterbury! I think it's around 4 hours away, which is a long way, but not as far as it could be.
Does anyone know about other schools in Scotland? I've only heard of the more famous ones, and ones near us.
DD enjoys structure, so having a lot of things to do suits her. As long as she can do prep herself, which I think they do?
I'm mostly worried about breaking into friendship groups, she makes friends quickly everywhere, but these girls will have obviously been together for years and know each other really well. None of the schools here go co-ed for sixth form, so I may be better looking further afield just for that. I think gordonstoun has a larger intake at sixth form, Scottish schools tend to not make such a big deal of the last 2 years so maybe less spaces available?
Independent learning is often a feature and you should look for good pastoral care and plenty of activities. My DDs were both ultra busy when boarding and that’s a huge advantage in my view.
Have a look at Lomond School. Much less restrictive with regards to weekend/evening expectations. More a home away from home
“Academically selective schools do they pressure, do they pressure the children more into getting good grades?”
Independent schools attract pupils by getting good results, the more academic selective a school is the higher the grades the school and current and prospective parents expect. DS2 went to a super selective I can tell you that most parents expected top grades and expected the school to get top grades for their pupils that’s what people are stumping up considerable sums for. Even fairly selective schools will expect pretty good grades and apply pressure to their pupils to achieve these.
How much pressure a pupil feels under is very much dependent on the individual. I know many boys at my DS’s school did feel under pressure, DS2 in contrast didn’t I am the complete opposite to a helicopter parent but there were moments when even I wished he would have at least felt slightly under pressure and removed his feet from his desk at the very least! Luckily he pulled it out of the bag at the very last minute he did very well maybe he did know what he was he was doing. I suspect if your brightish and banging along at the bottom in a super selective with the school and your parents letting it be known that they are hoping for and expecting a string of top grades it must be pretty demoralising. Equally if you’re average at a not very selective but academically aspirational school (as many now are) and your school and parents are hoping for and expecting good grades that too must be demoralising.
I agree with WellthatsTurnip boarding is exhausting I’ve known some join in the 6th form from day schools and struggle especially in the first term, down time is in short supply, high levels of self study are the norm, they are expected to get involved in school life, usually 6th formers are expected to mentor and support younger pupils as well or have jobs within house. Shes likely to be living with others who’ve had at least three years if not longer to adapt to boarding understand how it works and just need to concentrate on their A level studies.
I’m not trying to put you off IME it’s a positive life changing experience, but I do think you need to think carefully.
You mention Gordonstoun I’m afraid over the years I’ve rarely heard anything positive about it (we know lots of families with children who board all over the UK) of course it suits some but it’s not known for great pastoral care.
Bubbles is tight about waiting lists we’ll certainly down here in the south, there’s usually a deadline for applying for a place, an entrance exam/interview and then a conditional offer of a place or not or you may get offered a waiting list initially as some will get 2-3 offers and then a place will come up but that is after any antrance exam interview not before.
Start looking now, draw up a list of must haves, visit them preferably not on an open day, talk to everyone ask difficult questions and observe both pupils and staff forget what ISI reports websites the good schools guide and dare I say it even mumsnet says about the school go on your gut instinct do you like the people you meet matron house staff teachers cleaners do you feel you DD could be happy here? Dont be swayed by polished highly articulate children telling you that there “school is the best” “has the best facilities” (it probably doesn’t) or the “best teachers”, there’s good bad and indifferent in both sectors that’s life, just listen and watch everyone going about their normal day, what’s going on, how do they respond to your questions, do you like what you see? Try and visit more than once get a feel for the place.
I always think of a father having a guided tour of a very very famous boys boarding school, we were being shown round immacualate boarding house and jaw dropping sports facilities. In a loud voice he said;
“For 35k a year of course they’ve got manuscripts going back to the year dot 100,00 books on three libraries, medieval windows in their chapel and an Olympic seized swimming pool but what I want to know is what’s the ethos underpinning this place.”
That OP is what actually matters.
£35k a year didn’t get any of that at our girls’ boarding school! We got the ethos we wanted though!
I'm not sure about the emphasis on sports/outdoors at gordonstoun, it's just the nearest school to us! DH and I are going to talk today about what is a must have in a school, then consult DD and hopefully find some schools to visit! DH is keen on gordonstoun as he went to Rannoch and loved it, but I'll show him this thread and hopefully he'll see that it might not be right for DD!
I know day schools have taster days, do boarding schools offer faster nights? That might help DD decide whether the commitments would be right for her.
Thanks for the tips on asking questions, I'll ask about how many join at sixth form, and how many are in at weekends as that's important for us!
DD tends to put a lot of pressure on herself academically, but her HE program and tutors also pressure her quite a bit, so I think she could handle it well. But combined with everything else she has to adjust to, could just end up being too much. I'm also going to ask DH about maybe applying to a day school as a back up near him, in case DD decided that she doesn't want to go nearer to the time!
Happygardening - what is an "academically aspirational" school? I've seen a few schools described as such recently.
What about St Leonard's in St Andrews if she is reasonably academic?
Not too far from Glasgow so she could weekly board if she wanted a bit more freedom but it looks as though there is quite a lot going on during the weekends at school, less isolated and outdoorsy than some of the schools mentioned plus an intake for sixth form.
I totally forgot that St. Leonard's boards! I have a few friends that teach there, I'll have a look and ask them about it. DD has friends in St. Andrews so might like it. Don't they do the IB? Not sure about the MFL aspect as DD doesn't take a language, so maybe not an option due to that. I'll research it, I'm not sure if standard level requires prior knowledge of the language?
She could even join earlier for at least part of the preIB year that international students do to help the transition.
They just do the IB. MFLs can be done ab initio.
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