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Excellent secondary school but no 6th form

(24 Posts)
Madsometimes Mon 17-Aug-09 17:30:20

Our dd's have a very good chance of getting into an Ofsted Outstanding secondary school. It gets good exam results and is single sex, with an intake of 120 and known for its good pastoral care.

Unfortunately it does not have a 6th form. It feeds into a 6th form college, which is rather large. Students at the 6th form college can do well if they are motivated and they get a few into Oxbridge and medicine each year. However, the overall A'Level results are not particularly impressive. dd1 is bright but not exceptional, and I think she would welcome the chance to coast and party. (She is nearly 9, so I am being pfb, but I cannot believe she will change her personality).

Instinctively, I would not like my dd to attend the 6th form college. I would prefer to move her at 16 to a school with a traditional 6th form. Does anyone have any experience of schools with no 6th form, and what type of 16-19 provider is the best choice. dd1 is a late August birthday, and will still be 15 when she leaves school.

Madsometimes Mon 17-Aug-09 17:32:53

The reason I am asking this now, is that dd1 is going into year 5. The preferred school is comprehensive, so she will not need any preparation. The back up options are selective or private, which both have entrance exams. She will need preparation for these if we decide against the outstanding comprehensive.

IOnlyReadtheDailyMailinCafes Mon 17-Aug-09 17:39:10

I do think schools benefit from having a sixth form attaced as they provide academic role models and tend to recruit highly qualified subject specalists.

My younger sister chose to leave her school and do her a levels at a college which sounds similar to the one you describe and she could not handle the freedom and flunked her A Levels. She was also an August baby and a lack of maturity was a big factor in this.

However if OFSTED have done their job properly an oustanding secondary school is not to be sniffed at.

AspasiaManos Mon 17-Aug-09 17:40:35

I would not be put off an outstanding comprehensive by the fact that it has no sixth form. If she gets good GCSEs then she can move to the selective or independent school at that stage instead of sixth form college.

violethill Mon 17-Aug-09 18:01:59

I would advise against trying to plan too far ahead. Your dd is only 8 - she will change radically by the time she's 15, and will have developed new strengths/interests/friendships - you're simply going to tie yourself in knots trying to second guess where you'll be and what she'll want to do.

While broadly speaking I agree that a school with a 6th form is more likely to attract specialist teachers, on the other hand you could argue that a 11-16 school will give 100% focus to GCSE, because there is no A level to take their eye off the ball. If it's a good school, with good results, then your dd has every chance of getting a strong set of GCSE results. She may have her own opinions about where she wants to go next anyway. IME many young people welcome a change at that point anyway. Some are more suited to college, and others to a traditional school based 6th form - and I wouldn't advise going against what your dd chooses by that stage.

So - go for the local school which sounds great, and then make decisions nearer the time.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 17-Aug-09 18:09:00

What Aspasia said - we were quite suprised to learn that the grammar nearest us (quite a way off) has quite a lot of girls joining it in the 6th form, and we didn't think the requirements were too terribly high. You might want to check up on yours.

I do have the same misgivings about our local state school with no 6th form. Having said that, we were shown round it by the Head Girl who was very impressive for a 5th former (I still think in old parlance for secondary schools I'm afraid). It looked as though, because there were no 6th formers the 5ths were given more responsibilities and maybe more maturity was expected of them.

Anyway, you don't need to decide against this school for quite a while yet. The grammars seem to be getting the 11+ done sooner so a child can do the entrance and you get the results before you have to submit your choices to the LEA (leastwise, they do that here now).

GrapefruitMoon Wed 19-Aug-09 10:05:41

My dd's school does have a 6th form but I will seriously consider changing her to a different school at that stage depending on what subjects she wants to do - but I will probably look at other schools with 6th forms rather than a 6th form college. I'm not sure what the process is but will worry about that closer to the time!

Lilymaid Wed 19-Aug-09 15:19:21

I live in an area where the majority of secondary schools are 11-16 and for sixth form the students have to go to one of the sixth form colleges in the main town. Our local school is also OFSTED Outstanding but I do feel that some good teachers would prefer to have the chance to do Sixth Form teaching and so the schools are at a slight disadvantage - particularly for subjects like Maths, Physics etc where there is a teacher shortage.
But - with the raising of the school leaving age many 11-16 schools are now in the process of opening their own sixth forms. You should ask whether this is under consideration at your local school.
The only real problem with most sixth form colleges is that they are very large and that it is easy for students to be invisible/have poor attendance etc if they aren't motivated.

UnquietDad Wed 19-Aug-09 15:30:25

Same problem here. DD about to go into Y5. Great local secondary, no sixth form. Not yet sure what we will do.

A new school, created through a merger, is opening a couple of miles away, and it will have a sixth form - bit of an unknown quantity. I'm hoping to watch how it does and see if it's had a chance to "bed in" with a good sixth-form by 2015!

Rubyrubyrubyrubi Wed 19-Aug-09 15:36:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Wonderstuff Wed 19-Aug-09 15:50:32

I went to a 6th form college. I would not have stayed at school if that were an option. I absolutly loved it. I got a greater choice of A-levels and I was just done with school. I would go with the secondary and see how she feels later on, its a long way off and it sounds like you have options. Oh and not exactly Oxbridge, but I got decent grades and went to a good uni.

titchy Wed 19-Aug-09 15:53:37

We're in the same position, with dd likely to go to a school without a 6th form, but that feeds into one of the best 6th forms in England.

Although I initially was put off by the lack of 6th form, in fact they tend to put so much more responsibility onto their year 11s whcih I feel is beneficial to this year group, who in other schools with 6th forms don't tend to get a look in.

They're also not having financial problems created by lack of recruitment to A Level courses and can put all their efforts into GCSE students (the top set do AS anyway).

Finally it keeps the school (relatively) small, around 1000. So overall I don't think it;'s necessarily a bad thing not to have a 6th form.

If the college gets students into Oxbridge and onto Medicine it sounds pretty good, the sort of place I'd like my dcs to go. Check out the 6th form OFSTED if you're concerned.

slayerette Wed 19-Aug-09 15:54:32

Our city has 11-16 state schools so the sixth form options are college or transfer to one of the private schools. I used to work at one of the private schools and we had quite a few students coming to us just for the sixth form years. Have you considered that as an option?

Botbot Wed 19-Aug-09 16:00:08

I loved 6th form college (also one of the best in England - wonder if it's the same one!). It was a great experience - very different to how school had been, and a real stepping stone between school and university. We were treated as adults and were happy that there were no little kids getting in the way. We could wear our own clothes and called teachers by their first names, etc.

Another great thing about it was that it gave us all a chance for a new start, to shake off any negative associations we'd had at school. I was seen as a bit of a geek at school, but somehow miraculously became one of the cool crowd at 6th form.

I did a fair bit of 'coasting and partying', but also got very good A-level results and passed the Oxford entrance exam (cocked up the interview though and didn't get in, but that's another story...)

vinblanc Wed 19-Aug-09 21:26:42

When we did the Year 11 presentations about staying on for sixth form, we were told that continuing at their school was the best option because their teachers knew them so well.

When they transfer out to a sixth form college or new school, they have to settle, integrate and become known to staff, mindful that they have their first modules in January.

It is not like the old days where L6 was a dossy year.

We were compelled by those arguments and did not do a sixth form switch.

Also, in our area, sixrh form colleges are humungous, with a tutor having over 100 students. I would seriously worry about UCAS references. I would much prefer a tutor that knows my child inside and out.

mumeeee Wed 19-Aug-09 23:09:29

Even if the school your DD does eventually go to it does not mean she will want to stay on at school she may well want to go to college.
The type of 16-19 provider really depends on the young person and what they want to do.
DD1 Got on really well at school and didn't even consider going to college. She did well in her A levels came out with 2 A's and a C.
DD2 Considered staying on for 6th form. Then decided college was best for her as it did the course she wanted to do. She loved colleg and finished with 2 A's and a C at A level in her chosen subjects.
DD3. Had a bit of trouble with bullying at high school and only had a couple of friends. She was adament that she did not want to stay on at school. So she went to college which has really boosted her confidence and she now has a wide group of friends. All 3 had personel tutors and not one of them had any clases of more than 20 pupils.

Karam Thu 20-Aug-09 00:14:24

To the OP, I would also question what you mean by "the overall A'Level results are not particularly impressive". Do you mean the point score and its ranking in the league tables? And if so, what are you comparing it against?

Just a lot of sixth form colleges do not make students take 'A' levels in general studies / critical thinking (which are not accepted by most universities anyway), but a lot of schools do. So this can have the effect of artificially placing schools above the college in the league tables because it only looks at the headline figures. This is certainly the case at the college where I teach, and I get annoyed when people say that our grades are not so good, schools are better (just taking the headline figure), but then I point out that actually my A2 students got over 50% grade As last year, and 100% A - Cs. Bloody fantastic results by anyone's standards! The headline stats only ever tell half the story.

Also, I agree with a pp in the point that colleges are excellent preparation for uni. Having taught at both secondary school and college, my experience of college teaching is that the teachers are more specialised in the subjects they teach and they expect the students to be more mature and to take more responsibility. I have found this to be a much better preparation for uni.

Karam Thu 20-Aug-09 00:17:31

At my college, I tutor about 15 students. I teach classes of about 15-20 students, and know all their names by the october half term. Because I see them so much, I do get a good relationship with them.. being large does not mean it has to be impersonal!

Madsometimes Fri 21-Aug-09 10:08:49

Karam I have revisited the figures and the A'Level points are 634, which seems to be close to the national average, so I guess that is quite good for a 6th form college, certainly better than the local FE college and many of the schools. I suppose I was only concerned about my dd transferring to a college at just 16 because she is my pfb, and because I would prefer that she had continuity rather than change for her A' Levels (if she takes them)!

Congratulations on your students fab A2 results, you must be a great tutor.

Karam Fri 21-Aug-09 19:37:01


The a level point score that you mention (634) is the average point score per student (see this link for how the scores are worked out).

However, this won't mean much unless you know whether that includes compulsory general studies / critical thinking.

For example, our average point score for last year was 749 and for our competitors it was 818, so initially it looks as though our main competitor is better than us (and lots of people are under the misguided view that it is based on this headline figure). However, they make every student study general studies, which we do not - so when you study how well a student does for each subject, our results are actually better than those of our competitor! For every 'A' level studied, our students get an average of 211 points per subject, whereas the "better" institution only gets an average point score of 204 points.

Therefore, the headline figure of the school's average point score can be misleading - what you really need to know is the average point score per subject, and in a large institution that can vary wildly from subject to subject - but you will probably find closer to the time that the college will publish exactly what % students get what grade at 'A' level. (Although do bear in mind that schools are funded differently from college, so colleges need to retain the students right to the very end to get the funding for them, if they kick them out early, they get no money - so again this tends to affect the statistics!).


vinblanc Fri 21-Aug-09 20:34:16

If your average point score is 749, does this mean that, on average, each pupil is getting 6 A-grades at A2?

Karam Fri 21-Aug-09 21:02:50

Sorry, that was an out of date link blush.

This chart is from the DFES website 2007, and I think more accurate! (That said, I'm usually just given the figures and don't normally have to work them out!!)

A 1 270 A 0.5 135
B 1 240 B 0.5 120
C 1 210 C 0.5 105
D 1 180 D 0.5 90
E 1 150 E 0.5 7 5

vinblanc Fri 21-Aug-09 22:42:06

so 2.77 A-grades per student hmm

Karam Sat 22-Aug-09 18:29:48

No, Most of our students do four AS and three A2s - which means they do 3 1/2 'A' levels. So 749 divided by 3.5 is 214. This means our average student gets C grades. Of course, this is only averages because some students only do 2 A levels, whereas other students will do four, five or even 6(AS). Some get As and others get Es. We get the full range - so an average of C grades sounds about right to me grin.

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