I have a strong belief that if it’s not broken, why fix it, so would never encourage a move at 16+ unless there is a strong reason. Settling into a new environment with new teachers and teaching styles, at a time when there are only two years to achieve the top grades for university, presents quite a challenge.
Moving school at sixth form is a huge decision and it’s vital it’s being made for the right educational reasons and not just for a change of scene or socialising!
Here are a few thoughts on why a move could be beneficial, as well as why staying put might be the better choice.
1. Some schools have no sixth form so a move at 16+ is un-avoidable. Start your school research in plenty of time, ideally in the autumn of year 10.
2. To study IB instead of A level, to keep more breadth of study. Many schools offering A levels also offer the EPQ element of the IB programme so a combination might be feasible without a move.
3. To study BTEC if your son or daughter is better suited to this type of learning and assessment style.
4. Your current school doesn’t offer the sixth form subjects you’d like to study. For example, psychology or history of art. The syllabus can vary depending on subject, exam board and school, so take care to review the curriculum and assessment process for each subject. Sixth form study is challenging so getting the subject choices right is crucial. As well as flair in a subject, your son or daughter needs to be interested enough in it to apply themselves with passion.
5. If your teenager has struggled to connect with teachers in key subjects or acquired a ‘label’ which leads to certain expectations of their abilities and performance, a fresh start could be to their advantage. Communication with the school to try to resolve this would always be my first preference in this situation as sixth form applications are time-consuming, taking time and focus away from studies.
6. Moving from independent into state education means no school fees to pay.
7. There is some school of thought that applying to Oxbridge from a state school has more likelihood of success. However, this is only one theory and for many children, the benefits of private education far outweigh any perceived advantage here. For example, bear in mind class sizes will be significantly larger meaning less individual support.
8. Moving from state into independent education can sometimes give access to a broader range of subjects and a more extensive extra-curricular programme, offering diverse opportunities to strengthen a university application.
9. Moving from international school overseas to a boarding school in the UK for sixth form can lead to development of independence, widen the access to subjects, sports, and the co-curricular programme, as well as the potential to apply for UK-based university fees if expat and individual university qualifying factors are met.
10. If your teenager has struggled to make friends, changing school will offer opportunities to meet new people and find new interests. Building confidence is very important during the last two years of school, enabling your son or daughter to thrive when they leave school.
11. Moving from day to boarding often develops responsibility and independence, so is an excellent stepping-stone to university life.
12. Moving from boarding to day school offers parents the opportunity to monitor your son or daughter’s studies more closely, if focus and time-planning are something they find challenging.
13. Sometimes considering a sixth form college is a good option for a teenager who appears to need a more mature, specialist sixth form environment.
14. Some say moving from single sex to co-ed affords a better preparation for university. However, there may be more distractions at a very critical end of the education journey, if your teenager tends to lose focus or finds it hard to plan their time effectively.
15. Sixth for entry applications are competitive and quite lengthy. My advice is to invest in some quality advice form an expert consultant. Be sure it’s the right decision for the right reasons before embarking on it. Time and focus on academic study in sixth form is crucial. Achieving the best grades possible might be more challenging if also navigating sixth form entry tests and interviews.