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If you know about how sixth forms are run, please advise!(20 Posts)
1. Suppose a school decides to run an A level course despite numbers being low and a few weeks in finds that numbers have fallen even lower (eg down to one or two students) due to students leaving, how big a risk do you think it is that the class could fold part way through the term?
2. Is there a point at which you would consider that the risk of a class being discontinued due to low numbers recedes significantly? If so, what would you see as being the key point? After a full term? After half a term? After a couple of weeks?
3. If a student does find herself in a position where the school has discontinued part way through a term the A level subject which she is taking, is it likely that she could get herself accepted on to the same course with another school fairly easily (assuming there is no issue with the student's academic ability in the subject)?
School is a state school. Sorry to be a bit vague, but don't want to out myself. Would be grateful for responses from anyone with up-to-date experience of how these decisions are made.
Dh is Deputy Head and responsible for 6th Form in a State Academy (London)
He says they don't discontinue once courses are started
1. I would expect that once a course has been started it will finish unless the class drops to zero. I have never seen a school stop running a course mid way through a year. Usually the decision to run/not is made once enrollment has happened. Borderline courses will know approx drop out rates and factor this in.
2. See above
3. Incredibly difficult. All schools/colleges will cover the course in different ways, in different orders and in some subjects even choose to study different books/modules. Changing sixth form after the first 3-4 weeks is pretty much impossible. Even at 4 weeks it would require huge amounts of catch up work.
This situation should not happen.
Once a course has started it should run through to the end. I have never heard of a course being pulled half way through a year. That is awful.
That said, our sixth form coordinator once told me that any course with less than 17 students on it actually ran at a loss and was a drain on the budget. Make of that what you will.
Dh says their minimum is 5.
And I misspoke - they will cancel a course but only on the first 2 days if less than 5 turn up. NEVER after that. So it gives the students a chance to go somewhere else.
He's just walked in and told me this (first full day back)
Thank you for the replies. I am reassured that discontinuing an A level course that has run for more than a few days does not appear to be a thing.
I was (a long time ago) the only person that did an A level subject and it was awful. I'd also think about the learning experience m
When I was at school I took further maths A Level in a class of 3 and the way further maths was timetabled we were separate from the “regular maths”, so had 18 lessons a fortnight in a class of 3. Not an issue.
At the school I teach in, a few years ago further maths ran with 1 student. Usually we have 3-4 (although here the timetable only has the class that size 8 times a fortnight). We are - like most schools - massively impacted by budget cuts but would never consider not running the course if students wanted to study it. That said, to offer further maths is a “prestigious” A Level and as we sometimes struggle to attract the brightest students - we have 6 nearby grammar schools - I think it’s seen as important to have it on offer. I don’t know what the attitude towards other subjects would be.
Unfortunately, this does happen. It happened to my ALevel class last year. We collapsed the class a week before half term. The 2 students were given the option to join another subject and then had intervention classes with the teachers to catch up on the missed work. My old school (recently left teaching) will not run an an ALevel with less than 8 students, they can't afford to.
I did an a level on my own, it was not good.
Dd who did a levels this yr switched after three days from a subject with two (Inc her) to a subject with one, she made it two. Both subjects ran the full two years. This is unusual tho (one was music and one MFL, both less popular at a level).
I'm a school governor. Our Head of sixth Form always anticipates increasing numbers rather than decreasing numbers, because it's more likely for those to have left to drift back than the other way round. They often find that college isn't all it's cracked up to be and decide that they would be better off at school after all. In fact he's been known to actively invite students back for a 'social' in the first term by way of a poaching exercise.
Thank you for the further replies. The scenario MummyLikesCrisps describes is exactly what I fear. I don't think the drifting back to school phenomenon described by MyThai happens at DCs' school. (Older DC already been through sixth form. Pattern appears to be that those who leave don't come back. )
Re comments about the difficulty involved in changing schools, I think DD's choice of subjects would be better than some in terms of the difficulty involved in changing schools. However, are you saying that at that stage another school might well refuse to take DD at all? The general pattern where we live seems to be that schools are competing to get pupils at their sixth form, but obviously that's at the start of the year. I don't know whether the implications for funding are different if a school takes a new student a few weeks in.
Studying an a-level in a class of fewer than 5 is really tough. Part of the learning is sparking off your classmates and there need to be a few perspectives for that to work.
However, are you saying that at that stage another school might well refuse to take DD at all?
We'd strongly advise against it after more than 4 weeks. It's just too much to realistically catch up with any subject. Even science and maths will cover things in a different order in different places. Eg some places teach the statistics module as a one off over 8 weeks, others use an hour per week over the year.
Dd found it challenging doing an A level in a class of two, mainly because she wasn't overly keen on one of the teachers, but she admitted at the end she had had a lot more time given to her work such as speaking practice than if she had been in a class of say, 10.
It certainly very much helped that the other student was a good friend of hers (and incidentally a super nice easygoing person who is really easy to get on with).
Due to the census having to be completed 1st October (ish) we very rarely accept new students after this date nor allow changes of subjects for that academic year.
As a PP stated, we tend to get students returning after realising college isn't for them so class sizes increase slightly. The smallest class size I've known at my school was 2 (the subject teacher said that it was a very tough year)
Find a place for your DC to study where there is more students in the class. My FE college runs languages and drama at less than 10 in a class because they aren't that popular but we need to offer them because local schools don't but other classes like biology will have 25 in a class.
We’ve run classes with 2 students before. The only subject that I could imagine having to collapse in the first couple of days is drama as they need 4 students for their practical exam. If we start off with 4 and then 2 don’t show up on the first day then we might not have a choice but to collapse the class. It’s not something we’ve ever had to do before though.
Thank you all for the replies. Have discussed with DD who is adamant that she wants to stay at her current school provided the subjects she wants to do are running, so I think at this point I will simply have to hope that the school plays fair and doesn't collapse a course half a term in.
cricketballs you mention "the census" around 1 October. Is that something that applies throughout England? Do the numbers on the census decide the amount of funding that each sixth form gets each year?
That is what the census means, and yes it is country wide. Sixth forms get retrospective funding so all students need to pass. They wont get rid of a course once the census is taken.
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