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Sixth Form: Pros and cons of moving to a super-selective grammar school

(32 Posts)
tredawthyn Sun 03-Nov-19 08:30:36

DD is reasonably likely to get an offer to the Sixth Form of a highly regarded super-selective grammar school and we're considering pros and cons.

She's naturally bright, takes things in her stride and has found it easy to shine at her current (non-selective) comprehensive. She's been very happy there, but I worry that it has made her complacent - she tends to do the minimum necessary to succeed, and although she's naturally competitive, she doesn't need to try too hard to get top marks. At times I've got frustrated because she's satisfied with just doing more than others around her rather than going the extra mile and being the best she can be.

If she goes to the grammar it will give her much stiffer competition. It will also open up more opportunities for enrichment (in maths, sciences) than will be available at her current school sixth form.

On the other hand, it could turn a happy laid back teenager into a stress-ball. And when she applies to uni maybe they will look at the school name and just raise the bar for entry (not necessarily taking into account that she only went there for sixth form).

Any insights from people who've faced similar dilemmas?

OP’s posts: |
Wolfff Sun 03-Nov-19 08:33:05

Which school is it? My DD was in the 6th at a super selective having been in the school already and hated it.

SleepyKat Sun 03-Nov-19 08:34:10

Dd moved for sixth form from an awful comp with terrible results to another comp but one which actually outperforms the grammar in the next town. She lived it, liked been with kids who were passionate about learning rather than messing about like some did at the old school. Though I guess you’d notice that change with sixth form anyway hopefully regardless of school.

Anyway she wasn’t stressed out by being at a school which pushes the kids really hard.

Cuddlysnowleopard Sun 03-Nov-19 08:38:42

We had a similar dilemma, although DS does not coast and is self motivated.

We have looked around two other 6th forms, including a v.high achieving selective. He spoken to his current school at some length.

He has decided to stay put. A teacher who I know and respect at the high achieving school actually told him that friendships were very important in 6th form, and in his opinion you have to have a very good reason to leave a school where you are happy.

It's easier for DS because he knows roughly what he's aiming at and so that keeps him motivated.

Neighneigh Sun 03-Nov-19 08:50:30

We'll be facing this in a few years as several secondary school options near us don't have a sixth form. Just purely looking at the academic side of things, which school offers the subjects she wants to study? And what about destination of leavers, do they go on to do what she wants to do?

BubblesBuddy Sun 03-Nov-19 09:09:50

You seem to be stressed about her attitude so whose idea was it to move? Why does she have to push herself and go the extra mile? Who benefits from this? Clearly you. You should be happy she’s top and is not stressed. You are blessed but you cannot see it. She will do well where she is. She’s happy.

If she can do the subjects she wants, the teachers are good plus they support DC with university aspirations, then stay put. It’s actually a great thing to achieve highly without having to work all hours. It makes for a more rounded DC. Time to do other things! It’s also a huge benefit at university. More of a stress free existence! I recognise this in DD1.

It could be advantageous for university applications but you would need to check the post code or school performance and whether it is a school where entrance grades will be lowered. They are unlikely to be raised for super selective DC.

I would talk to your DC about what she really really wants. Friendships mean a lot. DD stayed put for 6th form despite having a place at a more prestigious 6th form.

Snowglobes Sun 03-Nov-19 09:14:08

What does she want to do?

BendingSpoons Sun 03-Nov-19 09:28:46

I went to a superselective from 11 and had friends join at 16. Personally I loved my school but others have different experiences. Some things to consider:
- How many new pupils do they take? If it is only a few is this an issue? May not be as classes will naturally be mixed up due to everyone doing different subjects. My school also mixed up form groups.
- The current school may have a more academic focused sixth form as not all pupils stay on. Alternatively they may not set in sixth form particularly for niche subjects and due to timetabling constraints which may lead to coasting in mixed ability classes
- How well will schools support next steps? My school was good at supporting applications to uni and especially Oxbridge. They did things like extra lessons, giving everyone a position of responsibility etc. You may or may not it like this. Her current school may do a good job anyway.
- Your DD's personality. My brother did well at superselective as he couldn't coast as much. Others don't like that academics can come above pastoral care.

Personally I'd probably switch schools if she is keen and motivated but my experience is colouring that.

thesandwich Sun 03-Nov-19 09:37:01

Dh taught in a high achieving grammar and their data showed that students who joined in 6th form from other schools consistently did not perform as well as the existing pupils or to their predictions based on GCSEs etc.
Culture change, new environment , new staff , learning style- I have also heard of this at other selective sixth forms.
Obviously there are exceptions, but choose wisely.

Punxsutawney Sun 03-Nov-19 09:39:56

Ds is probably leaving his grammar for a sixth form at our local secondary modern. Many people are surprised when we tell them. He is a very bright boy but autistic and has been incredibly unhappy in his all boys state selective. Not much support and zero pastoral care until we pushed.

To be honest I think I would advise her to stay put if she is happy and achieving well but if she takes most things in her stride she would probably have no problems. Does she have any preferences?

bluejelly Sun 03-Nov-19 09:54:46

Personally I think it's better to shine in an average school than be unhappy in a high-achieving school. I would leave the decision up to her though. She'll probably be absolutely fine in both so let her take responsibility.
NB I am one of those jammy people always got top marks with minimal effort. It's never done me any harm (quite the opposite!)

MollyButton Sun 03-Nov-19 10:01:31

If you are wanting the new school to "push her more" etc. then this is exactly not the time to be doing this in my opinion. At Sixth Form students should be learning to be self motivated rather than relying on external pressure. Otherwise the massive freedom of University can be a huge culture shock (and can lead to massive mistakes).
Also your DD s at present relatively unstressed - why would you want to stress her out?

If there were good reasons to move her - such as course choices, then that would be great. But also at 16 any decision to move should really be hers. Yes do show her any alternatives and get her to think about them, but she should really be making the decisions.

BeyondMyWits Sun 03-Nov-19 10:12:33

My DD was desperate to go to a Grammar sixth form after doing well at GCSE in a secondary.

It had advantages and disadvantages.

Her mental health was not helped by being the bottom half of the class in every subject. We struggled with this as a family. Her sister decided to stay at her secondary as a result.

The school had used different exam boards to the secondary she went to - there were some big gaps in her knowledge base pushing on into A level as a result and she had to do catch up work for quite some time.

However, the quality of teaching at the grammar was a level above what she was used to, more debate in class, more general involvement of the kids and critical thinking in their education - she loved this aspect.

The prep for uni (uni was expected as the next step, rather than being presented as an option for the best students) was outstanding. Transport to open days, advice on applications and preparing for interviews, pushing for good mock results to get the predicted grades solid for applications etc.

A mentally robust child, who has taken the GCSEs with the boards that the grammar had taken and had put in additional work above and beyond what was required would fare very well.

I don't think my daughter would make the same choice if it were possible to do-over.

MollyButton Sun 03-Nov-19 11:39:54

However, the quality of teaching at the grammar was a level above what she was used to, more debate in class, more general involvement of the kids and critical thinking in their education - she loved this aspect.

This could be said a lot about the difference between GCSE and sixth form in general.

BeyondMyWits Sun 03-Nov-19 11:55:36

This could be said a lot about the difference between GCSE and sixth form in general

It could be, but her sister - 1 year younger - has stayed at the secondary... the teaching quality at the grammar was a different level.

GrammarTeacher Sun 03-Nov-19 15:10:33

@thesandwich that's interesting as our data shows that are new students frequently out perform our original students. Many fit right in. Both my house captains were new to year 12 and a few years ago our school captain was someone who joined in year 12. It's difficult to give advice though as so much depends on the school in question and your daughter. Feel free to DM me.

MillicentMartha Sun 03-Nov-19 19:16:20

My DS1 moved from his perfectly average comp to a super selective grammar school at sixth form. It was entirely his choice. I thought he’d be happier being a bigger fish in a smaller pond and staying where he had some friends. He was determined, though.

It worked out very well fo him. He made a lot of like minded friends. He’s been seen as a bit awkward and geeky in secondary but fitted in well at the sixth form. They did take about 50% new starters, externals, which made it easier to break in to established friendship groups.

He relished the high standards or the other students and performed very well in his exams.

I can see that if it had been a smaller intake of new students it might have been harder, and the ethos of the new school has to suit. DS1 found his sixth form very relaxed about rules and any pressure they were placed under was down to the students themselves. All his friends were extremely self motivated.

If the desire to move is coming from your DD then I’d be supporting her, but wouldn’t pressure to move if she’s happy where she is. If she goes with a negative attitude it won’t work, and you’ll get the blame!

MillicentMartha Sun 03-Nov-19 19:17:19

Lots of typos, sorry.

Ginfordinner Sun 03-Nov-19 20:14:15

However, the quality of teaching at the grammar was a level above what she was used to, more debate in class, more general involvement of the kids and critical thinking in their education - she loved this aspect.

DD stayed at the same school for A levels, and found that the quality of teaching and the way the teachers interacted with the students was completely different from lower school. So I wouldn’t use this as a comparison. The prep for uni was excellent, and they supported DD when she decided to take a gap year, by checking over her personal statement and providing references.

avocadochocolate Sun 03-Nov-19 20:34:29

We had similar dilemma last year and DD went to 6th form induction day of existing comp and super selective. It was a hard choice because she liked both, however she knew she would definitely be happy in old school so decided it was safer to stay there.

On the plus side, her comp does not get good A Level results and due to this she has received some 'low' offers from Russel Group unis ie AAB instead of 3x A*.

Also, comp has very small 6th form compared with super selective and DD's classes are tiny - largest has 6 kids. Now she is in y13, The teachers are giving 121 revision sessions.

On the con side, the comp has not been able to give much help with Oxbridge preparation. The super selective has a class every week on this.

Overall DD is very happy at comp and is doing very very well. She made right decision to stay.

BeyondMyWits Mon 04-Nov-19 07:25:40

<...> So I wouldn’t use this as a comparison

I have/had one child at each school, so in this particular instance I can.

Ginfordinner Mon 04-Nov-19 08:39:53

How many "outside" students does this 6th form accept?

DD's school was the only school in the LA that had a 6th form. Most students went to the 6th form college in town or the one in the next town. They did get a few "outsiders" come for 6th form, but most of them didn't settle as friendship groups were already established and they were quite a cliquey lot. Most of them left after a couple of weeks.

senua Mon 04-Nov-19 09:05:29

DD is reasonably likely to get an offer to the Sixth Form of a highly regarded super-selective grammar school and we're considering pros and cons.
As a matter of interest, why didn't she go there at Y7?

Our local Grammars are superselective and like to think that they are the bees knees but their A Level results aren't that stellar: the average ranges from B- to B+, which isn't that different from the LEA average of C. They may be superseletive at Y7 but not so much at Y12.
You can search your target school here

Also, don't judge a sixth form by the whole school. You need to drill down and focus purely on the specific A Level subjects that your DC will be doing.

senua Mon 04-Nov-19 09:09:18

the average ranges from B- to B+, which isn't that different from the LEA average of C.
Just noticed that the average across all England is C+. They really aren't outperforming by much!

Hemst Mon 04-Nov-19 13:01:50

Did you actually like the Grammar when you looked round? We went to look at one too. I expected to be really impressed, but it felt strangely flat. I couldn't work it out at all. There was no real chance to talk to teachers, just rolling dry lectures about subjects that were far from inspiring - they basically just listed out the A-level curriculum in their subject. I'm sure the teaching must be excellent, but DS's comp's open evening felt far more dynamic in comparison.

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