Picking a primary school for your toddler is tricky enough, but factor in a teenager with his or her own ideas, and choosing a sixth form can become a parental nightmare. However, a change of school at 16 can be the making of a young person and great preparation for the challenges of university or college ahead, so it may worth considering.
It's now the law that young people must remain in education or training until they're 18, so, without the option of joining the workforce, choosing what to do for Years 12 and 13 has become a major decision. Of course, some are happy to stay at the same secondary school beyond GCSE's, but these days many schools offer only a limited sixth form programme or don't offer a sixth form at all, or perhaps another school or dedicated sixth form college might provide a more suitable preparation for your son or daughter's next step?
Moving school at any age can be disruptive - new friends, new teachers and a new way of life to fit into. Given all this, it just isn't worth the upheaval unless there will be serious benefits, so here are a few of the key reasons to consider at if you're thinking about making a switch at sixth form:
A sixth form move may well be prompted by the subjects on offer - or not - at A Level. Smaller schools, in particular, can't offer all the subjects under the sun and if your child has a penchant for astronomy then a larger institution with a fatter course brochure may be in the stars.
Increasingly and especially for (but not limited to) mixed nationality families, it may be worth considering pursuing the International Baccalaureate route, which covers a broader range of subjects. This can also benefit children who don't yet know what they want to specialise in.
This is one of the most popular reasons (among students, at least) for making a sixth form move. By the age of 16 many girls and boys feel they would have better preparation for the real world by mixing with the opposite sex on a daily basis (and by association, perhaps be invited to better parties!) A valid argument perhaps, but one parents will want to consider carefully.
Some students feel it's time to spread their wings and perhaps ease in to living away from home in preparation for university or college. Those who are committed to their sport, drama, art or music may also find it gives them more school time to devote to their interests.
Sixteen-year-olds desperate to break away from the 'tyranny' of school bells and rules may be dazzled by the apparent freedom offered by sixth form colleges or the more self-contained school sixth forms. These specialise in the age group and are adept at developing the skills of independent learning and time management, ready for higher education or the workplace. This taste of adult freedom is usually within reasonable limits, however, and parents are still in the loop, making sixth form colleges a useful stepping stone for some.
Finally, a switch at sixth form can give youngsters a valuable opportunity to re-invent themselves, make new friends, pursue different interests and develop their independence before plunging into the adult world.
The Good Schools Guide has been trusted by parents for more than 30 years for its impartial advice on every aspect of choosing the best education for their children