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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 11:19 am 
My step-daughter is at a very small non-selective independent school which at GCSE produces results above the national average and LEA average. But at A' level it loses this advantage and performs only marginally above the national and LEA average (as measure by A' level point scores).

There are grammar schools, non-selectives, and independents all close by which produce better and in some cases much better results at A' level. The school which my step-daughter is at has a very small sixth form - last year's upper sixth had 17 pupils in it, and her year group is likely to be smaller.

My step-daughter originally failed the 11+ which is why she is at this school. However, this was a fluke as she failed in maths which she is very good at - predicted A* at GCSE, and in which she should be capable of a high grade at A level.

She seems reluctant to consider a change as she does not want to go to a different school from her current friends. How would you go about discussing this with a 15 year old, and to what extent should one take their preferences into account if you seriously feel that they are making the wrong decision themselves.

The discussion process is more difficult than it may first appear as we pay the school fees (voluntarily over and above maintenance) but my step-daughter only visits us every other weekend. My husband's ex-wife has so far refused to discuss anything relating to sixth form choices with my husband although he has tried extremely hard and provided her with useful information and discussion pointers. All she will say is that she does not wish it to be discussed with my step-daughter yet as it may unsettle her. She is currently in Year 10 and most of the schools round here have sorted out their sixth form admissions for external candidates early in Year 11.

Anybody have any thoughts, ideas, help, similar experiences, philosophical views?

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 1:27 pm 
It is a tough one if she doesn't want it. Lay out the pro's and con's to her. What I would say is if she is doing well, there is no reason for that not to continue where she is. If the school is not selective then it's results will reflect that.. it does not mean she is unable to acheive top grades. She may find it tough going from being at the upper end of a school to the bottom or middle of another. This can be disheartening. Even at the most selective schools there are kids who got in through heavy coaching and whilst they acheive the best they can.. when it is not in line with the very best they can feel as though they have failed. How does your school do with its higher achievers at A level?

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 5:00 pm 
Thank you for the sensible advice. The puzzling thing is that the school A' level results (in line with LEA and national average) are not half as good as their GCSE results ( well above LEA and national average). This is one of the things that makes us worry about the school but it is hard to work out / find out the secret of their apparent success at GCSE in comparison to A' level.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 5:22 pm 
I had to change schools because we had to move with my father's job.

Although the 2 schools were very similar, there had been differences in syllabuses already covered and in the available courses for the 6th form. This led to me having to have extra sessions to catch up on the syllabus I hadn't covered (my new school the girls doing double Maths had all done Additional Maths O'level in the 5th form - I hadn't, and I had done "Physics with Chemistry" at O'level not separate subjects).

You would need to check the available courses at alternative schools very carefully, if you don't want to land her with lots of catching up to do.

I think it very unlikely that schools will have finalised their external 6th form admissions that early, as these are generally dependent on GCSE results. My daughter's school, King Edward's Handsworth, asks for forms to be returned when results of mocks are known.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 5:39 pm 
With such as small 6th form, it's difficult to offer a range of A levels and get the specialist teachers and equipment needed. Where do the other students go post 16, or are all the classes as small as this?

GCSE is a more general exam. It's much harder, for example, for one teacher to teach all three sciences at A level than it is at GCSE. Most teachers at secondary will specialise in only one subject at A level. So I don't know how they cope with this with only 17 students. I think that this is perhaps the biggest argument for moving and would certainly concern me as a parent.

There'll be 6th Form open days at other schools and at your stepdaughter's current school. If you lead up to these by finding out what your stepdaughter is keen on studying at A level and then suggesting that you just "go and look", you may even find she changes her own mind when she sees the facilities at other schools compared to her own.


 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 5:47 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2007 1:21 pm
Posts: 14003
As a teacher the most difficult A level class I ever taught was one or two pupils - hard to get dialogue going and, if they are both weak, they don't realise how poorly they are performing.

I suspect a lot of pupils leave if the Sixth form is so small - Jed's advice is sound , go and look at other schools early in Year 11 - Open evening dates are usually on websites.

The teaching that gets good results at GCSE does not necessarily get good results at A level - you cannot 'spoon feed' for A level.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 5:52 pm 
What is the size of your step-daughter's current year? You may find that many of the year group leave to go to other high-performing 6th form colleges where parents no longer have to pay, that happens quite significantly to 2 private schools where I live. Why? Well we have the best state 6th form college nationally. However, it is like a university campus for 16 - 18 year olds, with approx. 1850 students studying for A' levels adn each prospective student is interviewed with results/offers made the first week of May. The science subjects run 12 -14 classes with 24 students in each class. For some that is absolutely fantastic but for others extremely daunting and terrifying as a parent - will your child be lost in the crowd? Why don't you approach the school and ask them to provide you with details as to where the year 11 move onto?
The whole process can be an extremely stressful time. I know I found it to be more stressful than year 6 into yr 7. The school my daughters are at only goes to 16 yrs [we are not in an 11+ area but fortunate to have very good comprehensives] and we have 3 private schools, 3 6th form colleges, 2 state schools offering 6th form and many independant 6th form colleges often with overseas students all offering 6th form facilities. We attended a total of 4 6th form open evenings in the space of 2 weeks to gain an insight into staff, subjects and the general feel/ambience of the place and also talked to present 6th formers and we were able to glean where our daughter would flourish. She too was able to see which place was most suitable.
You may find the school's A' level results are influenced by students moving to other places. Why don't you try suggesting to your step-daughter that it would be worth looking at all available/possible places. Visiting does not mean you are going to change the status quo, you are looking to see what else is on offer. Also bear in mind what subjects she may wish to study, different schools offer different exam boards and therefore different subject criteria. Eg, modern history or mediaeval history. What enrichment activities are provided? How much preperation are they given for university? If they are struggling with a concept, how practive does the student have to be? At the end of the day, you and your sd want an atmosphere where she will continue to blossom and flourish, gain confidence and develop into a well rounded individual. My advice is to look at other establishments with her and ask well-planned questions.
I wish you all the best. I know I'm not relishing going through the same process in a couple of years.

 Post subject: choosing a sixth form
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 9:18 pm 
Please see my original post at start of thread. Does anyone out there have experience / secondhand knowledge of a parallel situation where ex-wife is unwilling to speak to father about choice of sixth form? In this case, the daughter stays with the father (my husband) every other weekend, and we voluntarily (over and above maintenance) pay for independent school fees. Doess anyone have any experience of a situation where the father or mother has strongly disagreed with the teenager's own preferences? To what extent at 15/16 should one let one's children make their own decisions as to which 6th form to attend?

Thank you to everyone who has replied so far. You have inspired me and my husband to start a pros and cons list for our stepdaughter / daughter to work on, encourage her to read about the wider range of courses available at other schools, and question the school a bit more about how large the sixth form in my stepdaughter's year is likely to be, (I suspect max 17 in her year), how few people there might be in each subject she might be likely to take, and why they think their A' level performance appears to fall well short of their GCSE performance year on year and be only fractionally better than the national and LEA average.

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