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Sixth Form Recruitment.

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by num3bers, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    I was just wondering if anyone had come across this problem?

    I work in an independent school - 11 - 18 intake. However, we seem to have difficulty recruiting sixth form from amongst our own pupils. I am not sure why. ( we do get others come in from other schools but I fear not enough)

    a) we have good facilities - better than most other schools and colleges locally.
    b) we get better results comparatively ( bearing in mind we lose our best pupils to other places - and not to one place in particular or to state schools or colleges.
    c) we offer as good a range of subjects as any college with something to suit all abilities and some more unusual but popular subjects like psychology,media, business etc - although many will go and take these subjects at other schools

    ( which annoys me no end as I recruit students very well - and even amongst those staying with us, I have some of the largest classes but many still end up going elsewhere and doing far worse than they would have with me ).

    d) we have a lovely new sixth form centre and new study block which rivals the best FE and colleges. We are not regimented in sixth form , so it isnt because the kids cannot feel " grown up" or have additional responsibilities.

    When asked the pupils come along with all sorts of excuses for leaving, none of which fit the facts they say they want more freedom, better facilities, to chose their clothes, etc.

    I can accept a few might want to go elsewhere but not nearly all of them...... which is what seems to be happening.

    Someone did say to me that they would not bring their child into sixth form because we do not retain enough of our brightest and best. I can see the problem but I cannot understand why.

    We start recruiting them early - even with an ethos of the school being "all through" and up until they reach year 11 all seems to go swimmingly...... even early recruitment evenings for sixth form and taster days etc. but then suddenly around Christmas ( when they have to give notice if they plan on leaving) a lot decide to go ( even though they are going to worse schools, know that previous years have done badly that way etc. and even know lots leave other schools once they get there.

    In a nutshell. They go elsewhere to do what they can do so very well with us and get better results with us - why? ( and we are an excellent school according to inspections)

    Now, I am not in charge in anyway. I just teach but I have an incling that our Head of Sixth might leave. I thought I might look at the opportunity to apply should it arise. We have a new Head and he is mad keen on Sixth form recruitment. No doubt he will ask the above question.

    Has anyone had an issue like this and resolved it?

    PS - just a coincidence maybe, it seems we lose kids after the " Careers Advisor" has been in - is that just coincidence?

    I do not want to give too many details - that's as much as I am willing to disclose really.
     
  2. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    Really interesting post this. Probably wont get the replies it deserves.... To me it is fairly simple though. Money.

    You say you are an independent school. The reasons why people send their children to you pre-16 are probably very different to the reasons for choosing somewhere post-16. If there are good places within the state sector, that get good results etc. then why bother paying? especially when the next stage (if they go to Uni) is so expensive. If they are motivated and hard working, they will do well. At Sixth Form I think success has far more to do with the student than anything else. so maybe there is no need to fork out for expensive tuition?

    If as a private school you are struggling to keep your best students then it is going to have a domino effect with your parents, lets be honest. Clothes, facilities and a sixth form centre are irrelevant side issues. MAybe were this state sector it would be an important factor, not when you are paying for an education though.
     
  3. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I am inclined to agree with Dynamo. Up to 16, the possibility of education being disrupted by the unfocussed is higher, and I can see why parents might want to buy into privilege. Disruption post 16 is a less significant worry.

    However, if I was going to do that, unless I'd run out of money, I would probably stick with you until post A levels since independent schools do seem good at getting students into prestigious universities.

    Another factor is that by the end of GCSE many youngsters become weary of where they've been studying and want a change. You've probably encouraged them to work hard and it's been a long hard journey. They're also at the stage where they want more independence which may seem to be elsewhere.

    Get current 6th formers to talk to the younger kids - see if you can get former sixth formers back from university or employment to tell the kids how your school set them up for the next stage of life.

    Only place I'd take issue with you is the idea of psychology, media and business being unusual courses. AFAIK, they are available in most sixth forms.
     
    DYNAMO67 likes this.
  4. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    Thank you for a considered reply. Much of what you say rings true. I had wondered if it might be as simple as money, although some of the pupils go to other independent schools - albeit ones with bigger sixth forms than ours, although the irony there is that were they to stay our sixth would be just as big.

    A bigger number go to the less successful but much bigger local FE, where they generally do not do so well ( we get feedback from the college on results of our old students and comparisons show that even some of our most academic ones drop a grade or two in the FE). We certainly get better university destinations but then, a good number of pupils apply locally ..... so money again? But we have good local universities. We do more Oxbridge than the FE.

    Interestingly, I have even had parents contact me to do private tuition for their on/daughter when they have not been doing so well at FE. I guess a private tutor is less expensive that shelling out another £24K for two years.

    If they would just say it was money I would feel happier. Its the excuses that get to me. I know it does not make sense but I feel a personal rejection often.
     
  5. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I wouldn't feel a personal rejection at all! Students come and go. It happens in our sixth form as well. I have no experience of independent sector schools, but my guess is that by the age of 16, most kids are kicking against it, want to meet a wider variety of pupils, and perceive there being a stigma around being from 'private school' particularly when they go off to university maybe?

    what age to pupils start at your school as well? Are they simply fed up? I agree with Phlogiston. Get some sixth formers in and ask them 1) why they have stayed 2) why some of their mates haven't.
     
  6. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    This is what I would have hoped. Certainly research evidence suggests studens who stay pu anywhere for sixth form do one grade better than if they move.

    Reading this I wonder if you have identified another issue. I had a conversation with a pupil just before Christmas. He told me he was " fed up" with always doing - doing prefect duties ( compulsory in our school on the grounds that it gives them responsibility) , always doing extra curricular activities /clubs and prep and he wanted to go somewhere where he could just go home and do his work there when lessons were out.

    I wonder if we maybe work them too hard? If maybe we make them play too hard too? Its been a long time since I worked in a state school but I cannot recall them having the amount of work and activities we have on curriculum. Maybe they are weary and just do not want to additional responsibilites - they want to socialise more maybe? That isnt a high priority in my school but I am not sure I could sell the idea of social time to the head either - he is a work hard and play hard and do loads of activities man.



    [QUOTE="phlogiston, post: 11541319, member: 1057173]Only place I'd take issue with you is the idea of psychology, media and business being unusual courses. AFAIK, they are available in most sixth forms.[/QUOTE]

    They may be normal in state schools but independents tend to be more traditional. Our biggest competitor does not do these courses. Our nearest does some of them but we are fully inclusive in this respect. It should be a selling point for parents and kids - no need to go to the FE.
     
  7. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Money may well be part of it, especially if the sixth form alternatives have a good reputation. I am afraid it could be that some people see other schools as being better, especially if they get better results - even if it is due to some of your best students leaving. Some students may go to the FE college becau8se they have heard of unioversities which disciminate agains private/grammar schools. And, there is always the 'grass is always greener' effect. Students know about weaknesses (real and imaginary) in the teaching at your school but not about those in other schools. Even if it is the latter, it most probably is not down to you, so don't take it personally.
     
  8. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    They can start in prep but most come to us at either 11 or 13 years old in senior school A few come through from year 1 or reception.

    We have had a few in and asked. Maybe its an independent school trait or just our kids, but they remain very tight lipped about reasons. Most stay because they did not manage the grades for their first choice ( selective indi) ..... we are a non selective school. Hence I say we lose our best. but we do very well with the ones who do stay

    Those who go off to FE most often say its because they want to be free of school rules ( but that doesn't follow as we do not have many rules in sixth)
     
  9. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    without giving anything away, where do the majority of leavers go? To state FE or to selective Indie?

    To be honest, some will be bored with the forced extras that being in an indie create. Reality is though is that it is again, a side issue. Yeah, some parents will let their kids make the call, but If your product was THAT good, the parents (who are paying after all) would make that call for the kids and keep them there. The problem is either money, a perceived failure to keep your better students in parents' eyes, or the simple reality that parents feel the alternatives are better.
     
  10. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    I think it is very much 50/50. Our most able will get the grades for the selective independent and go there- although its further away and they have a train ride to get there.

    Those with a lesser ability ( and work ethic) go to the FE. This is why I have had my sneaking suspicions about our "Independent Careers Advisor" since many of them seem to be staying until the see this person.

    We tend to keep the middle of the road kids. hard working and with parents who do actually dictate where their children will go ( many who go to FE have parents who allow them to chose ).

    There is one other factor, I am hesitant to mention. Over the last five years or so as the recession has bit, like many other independents we have taken in a larger number of overseas students who do not speak English as a first language (or even well in many instances). I have heard whispers that parents of our day pupils ( who are largely middle class middle Englander and white - if I can say that without sounding racist) have not been happy with this but nothing has been openly said.. In lower school such pupils largely have their own classes and ESL timetables but at Sixth Form they join mainstream classes as we generally only have one class per subject - or two in popular subjects.

    I hesitate to say it has anything to do with this because both the selective independent and our near competitor both have larger numbers of such students than we do but it does not seem to put parents off ( so I guess they have managed their image better). The FE though is largely white and English.

    We have been taking fewer overseas pupils recently as our day pupil rolls have been steadily increasing ( mainly due to closure of other independents around and about I have to say). We have also imposed minimum standards on them which are higher than in the past but we do have a "reputation" for these students ( even though we have fewer than the other schools). If that is the reason, I am not sure how you address that at all.

    Our results are always good though - better than the FE competition and almost as good as the selective school. So, it is not the product or service or end result if you like. It must be the shop.
     
  11. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    Clearly many parents do feel the alternatives are better but why is the big question?
     

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