sixth form

Lessons from across The Pond - what could we learn from Junior High?

Conversation turns to education quite often in our house, and on 4th July, Independence Day in the US, it turned unsurprisingly to American education.

Having listened just a couple of weeks before to a talk by Sarah Jayne Blakemore, an expert on the adolescent brain and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, we were again struck by the fact that Junior High – that place we could never quite identify in Saturday morning television shows – is a brilliant idea.

Grades 6 to 8 (11 to 13 years old) have a school of their own. They’ve outgrown the primary years and are ready for bigger things: a larger school, more subjects and more sports, but most have not yet hit puberty and many are not ready for the cut and thrust of a large senior school.  More importantly, they are undergoing enormous physical, psychological and intellectual changes and the type of school you think will be right for your 11 year old may well be quite different for the one you’d choose at 14.

Of course the independent sector in the UK used to recognise this, to some extent.  Girls would move school at 11 or 12, but boys – generally thought to mature later – would be at a prep school for an extra two or three years.  But with the move towards co-education, this has changed significantly.

Now, we wonder, is everyone losing out?  According to Professor Blakemore, girls and boys are both at a unique phase in their development for the early adolescent years (11-13).  So neither boys nor girls really benefit from being either left behind or pushed forward at 11 years old.  They deserve to be treated uniquely, not tacked on to anyone else’s educational needs.

  • Early adolescence is a time of change and reinvention for children – does changing schools at 14 allow them to present their new selves to friends and teachers?
  • Five years is a long time in the life of a child.  Many pupils are unsurprisingly itching to change schools after that time – is sixth form a good time for that to happen or would the break better be made earlier?
  • In schools that pre-select at 11 for entry at 13, are they really selecting the right child for the school? 

The American system suddenly looks rather appealing to us – giving each phase of a child’s development its time and space and educating them according to that phase.  Is it time to stop fiddling with our exams and start restructuring our schools?

4th of July heralds the very end of school term for many... something of a hiatus for everyone, but if you find that the down-time ushers in thoughts of what next? Talk to us. It's business as usual until the end of July! 

School for start-ups - meet the Oxford High students running a company, launching a product (oh, and studying for A Levels)

Kate Whittington , HR Director for Oxford High's Young Enterprise company, Quartz, shares her experiences with us and explains why Young Enterprise and their product Domi-Know is such a bright idea. 

What is Young Enterprise?

Young Enterprise state that they are ‘the UK’s leading charity that empowers young people to harness their personal and business skills’, and I think everyone in  my company would agree.

Young Enterprise programmes are run throughout the UK in many different schools. We took part in the Company Programme (for ages 15-19), which is a year-long process, but there are also shorter workshops and programmes aimed at children as young as 11.

Young Enterprise runs nationwide competitions, which are an opportunity both to compete and to learn from other companies. We have progressed through the City and County rounds, and will compete in the Regional Finals in mid-June.

Last year’s UK winners were Enlighten Hope, from St. Patrick’s College in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, with a set of storybooks which help children and parents to ‘cope in a hopeful way with their child undergoing chemotherapy of radiotherapy’. Previous winning schools have included St Helen’s (London), Southborough High School (South-West London), Tiffin Girls’ School (Kingston, London), St Paul’s School (West London) and Balcarras School (Gloucestershire).

What transferrable skills have we gained?

Whether it’s developing simple skills such as writing minutes or crafting professional emails, or understanding shares, pitching and cash flow, there’s no-one who hasn’t discovered something new.

We’ve learnt how to write company reports and financial statements, how to present to CEOs and halls full of people, and most importantly, how to effectively work in a large team.

A shared passion for our product and a drive to get as far as we can have been the most important tools we could have asked for.

Young Enterprise alumni are twice as likely to start up their own company compared to their peers, and the experience has certainly had a similar effect on many of us. A lot of us had never considered entrepreneurship as a career option before, but it’s now an area which a lot of company members are really interested in.

Seeing the difficulties and the rewards of starting up your own business has inspired us to consider entrepreneurship as an exciting potential career, and several of us are talking about continuing with our product after the official year is through.                

Who are we? Our company and product

We formed our company, Quartz, last September, and are based at Oxford High School. There are sixteen of us (aged between 16-17), with two Managing Directors taking the lead in our weekly meetings. We’ve all adopted different roles, from Company Secretary to Marketing Director, and they’ve each turned out to be of equal importance.

It’s certainly been a learning curve, with a few moments of low morale when we were rejected by companies, and many moments of stress as we hurried to meet deadlines.

Our product is a language-learning game called ‘Domi-Know’, which aims to teach children between the ages of 5-11 basic vocabulary in four different languages. The game is based on dominoes, with players matching foreign language words with corresponding pictures.

Domi-Know takes a wooden 3D cuboid format, an aspect which makes the game more interesting for children to play, and coincidentally should enhance cognitive skills in later life.

We’re hugely excited to now be selling Domi-Know (retail price £25) whilst negotiating deals with manufacturers at home and abroad.

You can buy the game by emailing


Good Luck to Quartz, at the regional finals, from Jessica and Claire at School Hunters, we will be rooting for you!

Time to get your skates on and visit the UK's highest performing state sixth forms - it's not too late to think of a switch

image credit: Unsplash

image credit: Unsplash

The nights are drawing in but it's time to head out..

November is a big month for Sixth Form Open evenings, so we present you with our helpful round-up of the big hitting state schools, those who achieve most highly at A Level and IB and when to see them. There's no time to waste!

We're very open to the opportunity that switching schools at sixth form presents. Of course it's not right for every child and many want to complete their education alongside their long-standing friends, but for others, it could be the chance to up their game, finding that a school that was not an option at 11+ is now a real opportunity. Exciting stuff. 

Over the next few weeks we'll be thinking ahead about sixth form switching. If your child has only just started senior school, then when do you need to start thinking about it ideally (you'll see some schools open evenings for 2017 were earlier in the year), what are the options, why do it and what are the experiences of those who do? 

Don't forget we're here to help. Contact us below, or join us @schoolhuntersuk for insider tips, bright ideas and deadline reminders to help you help your child to a happy education. 


King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford, Chelmsford, Essex Wednesday 30 November, 5pm

Colyton Grammar School, Colyton, Devon November 2016, date tbc, 7-9pm

Dane Court Grammar School, Broadstairs, Kent Thursday 1 December 2016

Reading School, Reading, Berkshire Thursday 1 December 2016,6.30-8pm

Heckmondwike Grammar School, Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire Tuesday 10 January 2017, 6.50pm

The Blue Coat School, Liverpool Thursday 21 January 2017

Pate's Grammar School, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire Tuesday 24 January 2017, 5pm

Wirral Grammar School for Boys, Wirral, Merseyside Wednesday 25 January 2017 at 6.30pm

Sir Thomas Rich's School, Gloucester Tuesday 31 January 2017

Wirral Grammar School for Girls, Wirral, Merseyside Sixth form choices evening January 2017, contact school for information.

High School for Girls, Gloucester January 2017

The Blue Coat CofE School, Oldham, Greater Manchester Open evening has passed, applications by Friday 27 January 2017.

King Edward VI Handsworth School, Birmingham Contact the school for more info and prior to January application deadline.

Lancaster Girls' Grammar School, Lancaster Open evening has passed, contact school to view prior to February application deadline.

St Michael's Catholic Grammar School, London Application forms should be received by 28 February 2017.

Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, Altrincham, Cheshire Open day already passed, contact the school for further information.

Chelmsford County High School for Girls, Chelmsford, Essex Open day already passed, contact the school for further information.

Tonbridge Grammar School, Tonbridge, Kent Open evening already passed, contact the school for further information.

The Becket School, West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire Open evening has passed, contact the school for further information.

Loreto Grammar School, Altrincham, Cheshire Open evening has passed, contact the school for further information.

King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys, Birmingham Open evening has passed, contact the school for further information.

Wolverhampton Girls' High School, Wolverhampton, West Midlands Open evening passed. Contact school to visit or see website for application form.

Queen Elizabeth's School, Barnet, Barnet, Hertfordshire Tours are all booked, contact the school for more information.

The King's (The Cathedral) School, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire Open evening has passed. Contact school for more information.

Colchester Royal Grammar School, Colchester, Essex Opening evening has passed, contact the school for more information.

Colchester County High School for Girls, Colchester, Essex Open evening has already passed, contact school for more information.

Southend High School for Girls, Southend-on-Sea, Essex Open evening has already passed, contact school for more information.

Westminster School Sixth Form - what is it really like for a girl joining this famous boys' school?

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

We are very alive to the opportunities that making a switch at sixth form brings. And have also been on a bit of a mission recently talking to girls in boys' schools with co-ed sixth forms to really understand the pros and cons, so we were delighted to have the chance to put our questions to a pupil we know who has recently switched from a highly academic London girls' day school to Westminster School. 

Why switch?

The stellar A level grades are tempting - 89.9% A*/A in 2016, but realistically only a number of grades above the highest performing girls' schools, but it is in university destinations that the school really pulls ahead - half of pupils exited last year to Oxbridge and more than a dozen more to the best in the US. It's an exciting proposition.

But, is the school's new pink and blue website a real reflection of how well the girls are integrated into the school?

Hearing from our interviewee, about the leap to a university style of education how its candidates are so exceptionally university-ready becomes clear. But, we wanted to know how resilient do you need to be to survive and thrive happily? 

We hope you find this interview helpful. Let us know @schoolhuntersuk. Or, if you need more help in thinking about alternative sixth forms, do get in touch below. We'd be delighted to hear from you. 

1. Why did you decide to leave your old school?

I was very keen to study History of Art, and at the open day the teachers at Westminster were immediately inspiring and it was clear that the course was much broader in content. The art department is engaging, liberal and has amazing resources. I was also drawn to the teaching style at Westminster; students are encouraged to not just prepare for tests, but to question the syllabus, explore way beyond it and develop our own opinions. I felt my current school prepared me to pass exams brilliantly, but not necessarily to think and enquire beyond that.

2. How would you describe your first year?

I found my first year at Westminster challenging to begin with, as it was hard to adapt to the new level of independence we were given in regards to our studies. The classes are similar to university seminars, with lesson time being used for discussion and most written work being done outside of class. There is also a huge increase in workload, especially as all my subjects are humanities and arts based and therefore involve many essays.  I usually stay at school until around 8pm, finishing work in the library or the art department.

However I have adapted to the new expectations and learnt to manage my time so that the work is done, even though this can involve staying at school until late, often eating three meals a day there.

It is important remember that the culture is that of a boarding school, and it is not unusual for many people to stay late to both work and socialise.

The school buildings are spread out around the streets surrounding Westminster Abbey, so the atmosphere is one of a university campus. Teachers are always around and also contactable via a comprehensive online system. Most homework is sent and submitted via email so it is essential to have a smartphone and check emails regularly. 

The opportunities are unrivalled, and I got involved immediately in Feminist Society, History of Art Society and multiple music groups. Invited speakers to the John Locke society have included Dame Carol Black, the managing director of Penguin Books, the CEO of Fortnum and Mason, journalists from ITV and The Economist, Nick Clegg, and Julian Assange via Skype. The new level of freedom, along with the central location of the school, mean that I can pop to exhibitions at the Tate and the National Gallery at lunchtime or in a free period. I also am taking a course in British Sign Language as a part of the Options Scheme, where we take on three additional unexamined courses per term. The choice here is vast, for example French Poetry, International Law and Human Rights, Medieval manuscript illumination and making sock puppets!

In my first year I went on an art trip to New York, History of Art trips to Paris, Venice and Florence, and a Spanish exchange in Madrid. There have been opportunities for music scholarships, research grants and volunteering.

A highlight of my first year at Westminster was PHAB, (Physically Handicapped Able Bodied), a week long course I undertook this summer in which 50 students became full time carers for 40 disabled people who came to live at the school. We slept in the same room as our "guest", cared for their personal needs and ran a range of holiday activities for them such as art and drama.

3. Boys: what have been the social or academic positives and negatives?

I can't answer your question in terms of principle, but I can certainly say that I feel I have gained from sharing classes with boys who have had a Westminster education. It makes a welcome change from the gossipy, often catty and rather tedious atmosphere I was used to! The conversations we have both in and outside the classroom are more wide ranging, challenging and therefore generally more interesting. 

Socially, however, it was quite difficult to adapt to the new co-ed environment, and for many girls it was their first proper experience of having to deal with offensive/sexist behaviour and language. However, as a woman going out into the world, perhaps it is no bad thing to have to learn to hold your own in a group of very clever but immature men.

4. Downsides/upsides?

The experience of being at Westminster is very intense and inevitably takes up most of ones "life".

It can feel like being in a "bubble"; events which in retrospect are not a big deal can at the time feel massive. For example a small drop in an essay mark or test can feel like an appalling failure because expectations are so high. Minor social ups and downs can also have a major impact at the time because a proper support network of like-minded people is really important.

However, Westminster is definitely an amazing springboard and I feel like the downsides I have experienced are only short term; the benefits of the school and the positive experiences are what will be formative and stay with me forever. 

5. What would you say to a girl about to join?

I would definitely first emphasise that it is an amazing school with endless opportunities and incredible teaching. However, a degree of intellectual and personal resilience is necessary to cope with both the academic and social demands of Westminster, and it is definitely not for everyone.

The academic expectations are very high, and paired with the new social aspects of the school it may feel quite overwhelming. I would say to a girl joining Westminster that it is important to remember that the experience at the school is not an experience of the real world, as you are surrounded by some of the brightest, but also most privileged people in the country.

You need to enjoy and make the most of the fantastic teaching and opportunities available and know that you will emerge from it stronger and a more independent thinker than if you had stayed in the "safer" same old environment of another school. 

Schools to seek out in the shires this September (Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire)

(image credit: Unsplash)

(image credit: Unsplash)

On your marks...for open day season

It's time to set the alarm, get out the maps, plug in the Sat Nav, dust off your most penetrating questions (trying not to be too distracted by angelic children, home-made cookies, string quartets etc) and plot your route from school to school across the shires - it’s open season in the independent sector. 

To lend a hand, we've pulled together September's dates for schools that could be on your list. You may need to drop everything! Watch out for Saturday 24th of September THE most popular date of the year. We're going to be making suggestions to Heads that perhaps a few Sundays wouldn't go amiss in future. Keep checking back on the blog as we’ll be listing October’s dates in the next few days.

Do let us know what you find: how inspired are the speeches, convincing the pitches, or exotic the biology lab creatures and share any photos @schoolhuntersuk. No, we don't think there are explosions in the science labs every day either. 


Moulsford Prep School, Wallingford:
Friday 23rd September 2016, 10am and 1pm
Saturday 24th September 2016, 9am


Headington School, Oxford:
Saturday 24th September 2016, 10am
Wednesday 16th November 2016, 10am

Carrdus School, Banbury:
Friday 30th September 2016, 10am

Heatherton House School, Amersham:
Friday 30th September 2016, 10am
Saturday 1st October 2016, 10am
Further dates in the new year.

Crown House School, High Wycombe:
No open days – contact the school to arrange a visit.


St Teresa's School, Prince’s Risborough:
Thursday 22nd September 2016, 9am
Saturday 24th September 2016, 10am

Rupert House School, Henley upon Thames:
Friday 23rd September 2016, 10am

Dragon School, Oxford:
Saturday 24th September 2016 (boarding)
Further dates available for day places and boarding open days.

St Edward's Preparatory School, Cheltenham:
Saturday 24th September 2016, 9am

Stratford Preparatory School, Warwickshire:
Saturday 24th September 2016, 10am

Warwick Junior School:
Saturday 24th September 2016, 9.30am
Saturday 14th January, 2017, 10am

Sibford School, Banbury:
Wednesday 28th September 2016, 2pm

Chandlings, Oxford:
Thursday 29th September 2016, 9am

St John's Priory School, Banbury:
Friday 30th September 2016, 10am

St Mary’s, Henley:
Contact to arrange a tour


Warwick School:
Saturday 24th September, 2016, 9.30am

The Oratory School, Reading:
The autumn open day has passed, but there will be another in the spring. A show round can be booked with the Head’s PA.


King’s High, Warwick:
Saturday 24th September, 2016, 9.30am

Headington School, Oxford:
Thursday 29th September 2016, 10am

The Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Gloucestershire:
Autumn open days are fully booked, book now for December and the new year.

Rye St Antony, Oxford:
Autumn open day has passed but the school welcomes visitors on any day.


Akeley Wood Senior School, Milton Keynes:
Saturday 24th September 2016, 9.30am
Further dates throughout the school year.

St Edward's School, Cheltenham:
Saturday 24th September 2016, 9am

Cokethorpe School, West Oxfordshire:
Saturday 24th September 2016, 9.30am

Stowe School, Buckinghamshire:
Autumn open day fully booked, book now for the new year.


Most sixth form open evenings are later in the autumn, but there are a few in September.

Rugby School, Warwickshire:
Saturday 17th September 2016

St Edward’s, Oxford:
Saturday 24th September 2016, 9am

Magdalen College School, Oxford:
Open afternoon: Thursday 29th September 2016

Headington School, Oxford (girls only):
Thursday 29th September 2016, 10am