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The debate continues to rage as to the pros and cons of co-ed versus single sex education. In this week’s Telegraph Q&A, Vivienne Durham of Enjoy Education, Guy Holloway of Hampton Court House and Susan Hamlyn of the Good Schools Guide, answer parents’ concern over moving their daughter to a mixed 6th form.

Question: How can we help our daughter get into a competitive mixed-sex sixth form?

Our fifteen year old daughter would like to move from her academic single sex school to the sixth form at one of the (London) boys’/mixed sex day schools for which entry is highly competitive.

What should we do to maximise her chances? Would you recommend seeking advice from an educational consultant (or other expert) to help (a) choose the school (b) organise her thoughts about what to study both in the sixth form and beyond and (c) prepare for interviews?

Does it matter if she does not yet have her heart set on any particular academic or career path?

If you have not done so already, I would recommend speaking to the head of your daughter’s current school. Although the head will want to promote the opportunities available at your daughter’s current school, he /she will also have your daughter’s best interests at heart and will offer sound advice about the sixth form.

At all costs, you should avoid the head being asked to supply a school reference, before being informed that your daughter has applied for a place at another sixth form.

A good education consultant will be able to offer you well informed and impartial advice on this important decision. They will also be able to provide information about the many different written tests and entrance requirements set by academically selective schools for sixth form applicants – especially in London and ensure that your daughter is well-prepared to take these admissions tests.

To maximise her chances of gaining a successful place, your daughter needs to excel in her current school. She should focus on her academic studies because outstanding GCSE predicted grades are likely to be required.

She should read widely, especially in those subjects she intends to take at A level. Taking part in lots of extra-curricular activities is also important: encourage your daughter to participate in team activities, as well as pursue her individual enthusiasms and achievements.

Your daughter’s new school will be keen to assess how she is going to contribute to the wider life of the school community, beyond lessons. It certainly does not matter that she is not yet decided on any particular academic direction or career path and it is relatively unusual to have done so at her age.

Lots of advice about university options – and career opportunities – will be given to your daughter during the sixth form.

One final point. Do not be too surprised if your daughter decides to remain at her current school, despite having applied successfully to a highly competitive sixth form elsewhere. Both co-ed and single sex schools prepare sixth formers for 21st century adult life and the grass is not always greener.

Vivienne Durham, schools advisory director at Enjoy Education and former head at Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park

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