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Secondary School: What's more important A Levels or GCSE results?

(30 Posts)
CuriousToo Sun 17-Feb-19 22:32:52

So we have been lucky for my DD to be accepted in 4 private secondary schools out of the 5 we applied to. Given all 4 have mostly what we were looking for, but if we choose based on last published exam results, what would be wise to look at: GCSE's or A level results?

OP’s posts: |
BackforGood Sun 17-Feb-19 23:16:38

If she is starting at 11, then GCSEs.
You can make choices again for A-Level

CuriousToo Sun 17-Feb-19 23:24:59

Isn't it easier to choose a school that excells in the A levels to avoid changing again - and going through a similar process? (I didn't get my education in the UK so am trying to learn how the system works on the go...)

OP’s posts: |
HotpotLawyer Sun 17-Feb-19 23:26:15

They all reflect the intake.

BubblesBuddy Sun 17-Feb-19 23:27:47

This is quite a complex question, I feel. There are so many reasons why this might or might not be a good idea!

Ideally your DD should go to the best fit school regardless of other children’s results. We applied for two schools and wouldn’t have entertained four so I guess you are London. Which school scored highly on the other factors you took into consideration when you applied?

We also let DDs have a view. It was to be their school. I would consider all the elements that make up a school, not just results. We were hugely impressed by enthusiastic staff for example. Being with hundreds of super bright children wasn’t so important.

I assume you chose the schools based on your DDs personality and educational attainment. If the schools are miles apart in results, still choose best fit! You will find many schools lose pupils after GCSEs so they are probably a more reliable indicator as the cohort has been at the school from y7. Schools then accept new children into the 6th form and set the bar high. In my DDs school, lots of Chinese girls would arrive and boost STEM results. So the cohort changed quite significantly. Look into the results but look beyond them as well.

GreenTulips Sun 17-Feb-19 23:29:38

Results depend on many things

The children in the cohort
The teaching staff
Good management
Sensible policies
Additional funds for trips and equipment
Good reputation in the community

Any of those could change in 5 years

Your child’s willingness to work and do their best will be the best indicator of their achievements.

If the school is too strict it may not suit your child, if it puts pressure on it may not suit your child, there may be a mix of children who make your child unhappy, etc etc

Don’t pick a school on results alone

HotpotLawyer Sun 17-Feb-19 23:29:54

By which I mean it doesn’t tell you that the school ‘excels’ in education, just in selecting students who will get good exam results.

Look out for the factors that will be best in supporting your Dd to do her best.

Schools cull students at sixth form entry, and don’t admit those who they think will affect their statistics, so sixth form results are especially unreliable for ascertaining what value the school adds.

SpoonBlender Sun 17-Feb-19 23:40:18

GCSEs are only useful for getting you into A-levels.
A-levels are really only useful for getting you into university/higher ed.
Those qualifications are only useful for passing the HR "filter" of CVs.

GreenTulips Sun 17-Feb-19 23:48:49

You may also want to look at the extra curricular activities

Some excellent in sport or drama, music or languages, so they may have an exceptional drama teacher or department

These will add value to your daughters experience

AppleKatie Sun 17-Feb-19 23:52:05

If she’s going in at 11+ I wouldn’t make a decision based on league positions. They can/do/almost certainly will change before she’s public exam age.

Above a certain level choosing on exam results is so flawed as to be pointless.

LoniceraJaponica Mon 18-Feb-19 00:00:35

Don't forget that schools often "manage" students out after year 12 if they aren't performing well. DD's old school did, and there was a case in the news last year. So I would always take claims from any school with excellent A level results with a large pinch of salt.

mkmo Mon 18-Feb-19 00:02:00

It depends on what your child wants to do. Whether they want to go to University or not.

GCSE results determine whether your daughter will get an offer from a university. If she has good GCSEs she is likely to get offers from better Universities. This offer may be AAA or ABB for example. This means your daughter will have to make these grades at A level or her offer is withdrawn. So they're both very important.

But when your daughter does a level she will be choosing 3/4 subjects in which she is good in, so if the teaching falls short she can pick up the extra work herself. GCSEs will cover a wide range of topics and many Universities require As and Bs in foreign languages, English, maths and science at GCSE and if your daughter does not score as highly on these subjects that is problematic.

I would argue its far more important to have good GCSE teachers than A levels and the better the GCSE scores are the lower the offers she will receive taking off pressure at A level.

CuriousToo Mon 18-Feb-19 00:04:56

@AppleKatie
What do you meant by "Above a certain level choosing on exam results is so flawed as to be pointless."?
You have to have a reference point as to how the school is performing academically. Private schools are quite costly and, having filtered on all the other important aspects, good/solid results do matter!

OP’s posts: |
RomaineCalm Mon 18-Feb-19 00:06:54

Assuming that it's a selective process and that there isn't really much to choose between the exam results I would choose the school that you feel would suit her best. Is she sporty? Good at music, art or drama? Are extra-curricular activities or trips important? Are there leadership opportunities? Do they do DofE? Where will her friends go? Where does she want to go?

Do they encourage girls to do STEM subjects? What was the 'feel' of the school when you visited? Did you trust the staff? What do you know of the Headteacher - is he/she likely to retire next year?

What is the travelling time? School hours? Expectations for weekend events? How many of the Y11 cohort stay for Sixth Form?

Lots and lots of questions. It's hard but you're choosing a school for the next 5 years so I would choose somewhere that you think your DC will be happy and that will suit her.

LoniceraJaponica Mon 18-Feb-19 00:07:57

mkmo Very few, if any, universities require a foreign language at GCSE these days.

CuriousToo Mon 18-Feb-19 00:18:16

Thank you, I have a better picture of the process now.
Still unsure between 2 school options as they are a very good fit for my DD.

OP’s posts: |
CuriousToo Mon 18-Feb-19 00:20:20

RomaineCalm I don't have the answers to all those questions but I suppose I need to make sure to have them within the next 2 weeks!

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Nat6999 Mon 18-Feb-19 02:07:59

Picking a secondary school is a minefield, you can pick a school that has brilliant GCSE & A level results but find that the social side of the school is awful ie bullying, after school activities, problem pupils etc. I chose a school for DS because of the promises they made about SEN provision, the school he attends made promises that he would be able to access the "bridge" which is the SEN centre whenever he felt he needed support, in reality he has more chance of having tea with the Queen than getting to the Bridge. What a school offers in the hard sell during selection & what actually happens when your child is a pupil can be very different things. Try & speak to parents of current pupils & their children if you can & find out the reality before you decide.

AppleKatie Mon 18-Feb-19 07:30:36

I mean that your individual DC will prob get the same results from a selection of good schools with varying exam results.

Starting points and individual personalities matter hugely.

Also her particular cohort will affect the classroom experience and results and you can’t legislate for that.

Also the improving school that’s 5% down NOW may well be 5% up by the time she sits her GCSEs.

TeenTimesTwo Mon 18-Feb-19 10:56:31

I would pick based on GCSEs.

I would also make sure I knew the requirements for being admitted to 6th form, and be willing to realise a move might be necessary if the DC doesn't meet the requirements.

Seeline Mon 18-Feb-19 11:03:56

Do the school's sit GCSEs or iGCSEs ( common in Indies)?
Whilst the GCSEs have been reformed for several years, the iGCSEs are a couple of years behind. Therefore the results from last year would not reflect the type of exams your DD would be sitting anyway.
I would assume that results at all the schools are fairly similar. The odd percentage point here or there really isn't going to make much difference.
Which school ethos best suits your DD?
Which one offers the subjects she is interested in?
Which one offers the extra curricular she would enjoy?
Easiest journey?

caughtinanet Mon 18-Feb-19 11:04:26

I mean that your individual DC will prob get the same results from a selection of good schools with varying exam results

I totally agree with this, assuming all the schools have a good standard your child isn't going to get better results because one school has slightly better statistics now, who knows what will happen in the next 5 years.

Go for the one that is the best fit for your child

mkmo Mon 18-Feb-19 11:12:23

Honestly, I would ask your daughter to pick where she's happiest. My mum wanted my brother to go to an expensive elite school with amazing grades but he refused as he didn't think he would be happy there. He got into Oxford and was one of the only ones. Students excel where they are happy and that is just as important.

GreenTulips Mon 18-Feb-19 11:27:49

You also need to consider the catchment area
If you aren’t local to the school you don’t stand a chance anyway

3teens2cats Mon 18-Feb-19 11:35:31

Results reflect the intake of the school. You need to choose the best school for your child and this won't necessarily be the 'best school' on paper. Exams have changed hugely over the last few years so it's important to bare that in mind.

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