Advice please about dd's A level choices. (She's asked me to ask you- I'm not being helicoptery)

(81 Posts)
seeker Sat 16-Mar-13 19:39:42

Dd is currently taking History, Philosophy, English and Theatre Studies at AS level. She has always intended to read History, so she was going to drop Theatre Studies after AS. However, since she's been in the 6th form, she has changed her mind, and now thinking about applying to study drama or theatre practice- in a completely ideal world, at Central. So she decided to take all 4 subjects on to A2 to keep her options open. So far, so good.

On Friday, she was told that they probably won't be able to timetable all 4 subjects. They are still trying, but it looks unlikely. So she'll have to drop one. Obviously TS is the one she should drop if she wants 3 good academic subjects for University entrance, but she needs it for any theatre based course. But she will be closing other doors for herself if she drops English, her least favourite, and doesn't have 3 solid subjects.

Any advice? Does history, philosophy and theatre studies look a bit lightweight? It does, doesn't it?

How would she feel about dropping philosophy?

DameFanny Sat 16-Mar-13 19:43:22

Nothing lightweight about philosophy? It's not like she's doing business studies or something?

Disclaimer - I'm a couple of decades past this for myself and dd's is only year 4

Ok. Begin with the end in mind. What exactly does she want to do, because thats not clear.

I work in the theatre and I must admit, I don't know what theatre practice is!? I've certainly not employed anyone with such a degree, what does it aim to do exactly?

I think she should drop the Philosophy. History and English are good solid 'proper' (I'm old!) subjects and I can see why she needs to do Theatre Studies but don't understand the need to keep Philosophy.

seeker Sat 16-Mar-13 19:44:59

Trouble is, she adores Philosophy! Would English, History and Theatre Studies look better?

Tabliope Sat 16-Mar-13 19:45:11

Could she do one at night school? The theatre studies one maybe?

BOF Sat 16-Mar-13 19:46:36

I'd drop Philosophy too.

From what you've said in OP the philosophy just looks a little redundant. But if she loves it well then it's more complicated

BOF Sat 16-Mar-13 19:47:45

Noooo, don't drop the Theatre Studies if that's her focus.

mysteryfairy Sat 16-Mar-13 19:49:03

If they can't timetable the 4 she is currently studying could she do another AS level next year that fits in with the rest of her subjects? Government and politics or economics would be good fits and require similar skills. The reason for this suggestion is a very successful sixth form college near us gets students to do this so there is presumably some benefit.

seeker Sat 16-Mar-13 19:52:40

This is the course she has her eyes on. There are similar courses at Bristol and can't remember where else.

deleted203 Sat 16-Mar-13 19:53:02

I wouldn't drop the English either way, personally. Whether she wants to go to Uni or into the Theatre then I would think English will be seen as relevant. It's difficult, as she is trying to keep her options open. But yes, to read History at Uni, Theatre studies will be viewed as non academic and a little irrelevant. She needs to think about the fact that other pupils will be applying for the same course who are likely to have A levels in something like History, English and Politics. Theatre Studies might backfire on her if she does drop one of the others in favour of it - and then decides to apply for a History degree.

CMOTDibbler Sat 16-Mar-13 19:55:10

Does she really need theatre studies to go on? I'd check the entry requirements tbh. I think the other A levels are much more acceptable to a wider range of courses

deleted203 Sat 16-Mar-13 19:55:16

Hmmm..ok, looking at the course she is keen on seeker I'd be concerned she was competing against students who had A levels in Textiles, Art and Drama perhaps.

(Not helpful, I know. Sorry)

BOF Sat 16-Mar-13 19:55:35

It looks a great course.

seeker Sat 16-Mar-13 19:57:54

I know, sowornout- she knows that- and I do keep saying it! But she has a fantastic portfolio- lots of stage management, directing, performing going back years.

Oh, bloody hell, give me toddlers any day!

louschmoo Sat 16-Mar-13 19:59:53

Yes, looking at that course I would expect applicants to have done art, possibly music. Has she emailed the admissions team at Central to ask what they would recommend?

CMOTDibbler Sat 16-Mar-13 20:00:25

Is the Bristol course the Old Vic one Seeker? If so, my nephew has just been accepted to do that - and he has no A levels, having decided to not do that. He does have a great portfolio though

EvilTwins Sat 16-Mar-13 20:44:33

I did English & Theatre Studies at Warwick with A Levels in English Lit, History & Classics. Get her to check the entry requirements on the UCAS website- they may not ask for A Level Drama/Theatre Studs.

Knowsabitabouteducation Sun 17-Mar-13 09:00:24

There are no specific A-leve requirement for that course, so she should do the ones she enjoys and can get the required grades in.

Drama & Theatre Studies requires a good team of students to guarantee a high grade. Is she confident that there will be other good students to work with? It can be a time-suck when preparing for performances, including weekend work, as well as numerous trips to the theatre.

History, English and Philosophy are all highly regarded A-levels, and Drama is fine too smile

She should do what she enjoys. The course she has chosen selects largely on what she does off her own back, extra-curricularly.

lljkk Sun 17-Mar-13 10:03:10

I vote drop English, she doesn't like it and she'll get plenty of writing practice skills with the H+P. I wouldn't bank on Theatre Studies as any kind of a career, but as a vocation/passion go for it. Lots of good directions to go after that. She'd be will set up to do a PGCE later, for instance.

TS may not be traditional but an excellent mark at any artistic A-level shows huge passion/dedication/hard work ethic potential.

Tigerstripes Sun 17-Mar-13 11:45:07

I would also recommend checking the entrance requirements for, e.g. Two courses to do a theatre type degree and two courses to do a history degree and see what they want. Only then can an informed decision be made.

slipshodsibyl Sun 17-Mar-13 11:53:14

She needs to go to the horses's mouth and ask the admissions tutor at Central and Bristol and, in addition, those who admit for History courses at universities she might like should she change her mind again.

From the website , TS isn't needed for the Central course but it might (possibly) be desirable (I doubt it matters though but it matters that she likes it.) If she is clearly doing it from commitment and to a high standard, it might not bother History admissions tutors as long as she achieves highly in it and in History (which is hard). Good luck.

slipshodsibyl Sun 17-Mar-13 11:54:55

But email the tutors for the actual subject, not just a general address.

From bitter bitter experience, dro p theatre studies. You can do drama as a hobby. If you're good and determined you can be an actor after school has finished. Theatre studies will be as much use as a chocolate teapot and will eat away at your time. Beware.

BOF Sun 17-Mar-13 14:27:48

I totally disagree.

BOF Sun 17-Mar-13 14:46:02

Times have changed. History degrees just ain't that special any more. If you've got a practical, career-focussed degree under your belt, you are ten times more likely to end up with work in that field than if you waste your time with an old-fashioned 'solid' academic subject. For most people, the route into an arts-related career nowadays will come with experience and contacts, which it just won't be building with History at Manchester or whatever. The work will be going to people with a portfolio of stuff and involvement with actual productions. Gone are the days of being 'discovered' à la Lana Turner while sipping milkshake at Schwabb's. Nobody is going to put you in their movie (and they certainly won't invite you to do the sound mixing, or post-production editing or whatever) unless they see you know what you are doing.

LoopaDeLoopa Sun 17-Mar-13 14:57:15

Agree with BOF. In these days of massive tuition fees, a History degree is a wasted luxury. Most only offer two or so hours' tuition a week and are far too broad to be of much use, unless she wants to be a historian or teacher.

I'd be pressing the school to keep them all. if timetabling is impossible they need to be running a class after school in one of the subjects, and paying the teacher overtime or time in lieu. Many schools do this.

VelvetSpoon Sun 17-Mar-13 14:59:22

I think best advice is speak to the Admissions Tutors and (if they say its not essential) drop Theatre Studies. I'm sure she can do enough extra-curricular drama related stuff to make up for it (from distant memory, friends who did drama degrees many years ago were very involved in school plays, local drama groups etc and used all that experience to support their application). Plus in the event she changes her mind about the degree, A levels in English, Philosophy and History give her more options than say History, English and TS.

BOF Sun 17-Mar-13 15:28:32

More options to do what, though? Workfare with all the other unemployed graduates? You need actual skills in this climate.

BooksandaCuppa Sun 17-Mar-13 15:55:19

Is English just her least favourite or also her weakest potential result?

I'd be inclined to keep TS and History (in case she changes her mind back to History) and then:

1) Ask if she can be put in for the Phil exams but maybe study in her own time/twilight, to keep all 4, or

2) Drop whichever is likely to be her weaker grade out of E and P.

I agree with pp that a degree with a specific career in mind is probably a safer choice at the moment than a general academic one...she can more likely reuse a Theatre degree to go into teaching or many other things than she can get into theatre with a history degree.

seeker Sun 17-Mar-13 16:35:30

English is her least favourite- <whispers in an embarrassed manner that she has been told she's on track for at least As in all 4 subjects>- thank you all. She's still dithering, but will talk to the head of 6th later in the week, after trying to talk to somebody informed at Central.

BooksandaCuppa Sun 17-Mar-13 17:13:17

Then as she's obviously going to achieve highly in whatever she does, she has lots of doors potentially still open for her. Good plan to speak to admissions tutors for the relevant colleges - she might be able to find time with the dropped 4th A level to build up some portfolio ideas to plug the gaps for her lack of creative/technical subjects. Did she do any of them for GCSE?

(How on earth can one make sensible A level or even GCSE choices if you don't know what you want to do? Ds (ok, only yr 7), swings between science and illustration/writing as career choices all the time - how on earth is he going to decide whether to do triple science or art vs graphics?)

Picturesinthefirelight Sun 17-Mar-13 17:28:07

I don't think she "needs" theatre studies to get into that course as long as she has sufficient experience gained elsewhere. Dd aspires to a career in theatre but will be going to a school that doesn't even offer theatre studies a level.

I Would imagine that quite a few applicants would have art or design a levels though.

History is always useful. It means she will understand the historical periods plays may be set in. I also think English is a good a level blow ever I guess it's whatever she enjoys and wants to do.

Picturesinthefirelight Sun 17-Mar-13 17:31:07

I totally agree though that a degree related to they area if work where she will build contacts is far more useful than a general academic subject one.

I know I'm biased as dh teaches on theatre related degree courses but its true.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 17-Mar-13 21:40:30

It sounds like a great course, seeker. I sort of agree with BOF - I would completely agree with her if it wasn't for the fact that all the people I know working in the theatre at the moment who I knew before they were working in the theatre (ok it's only 5 but, you know... Obviously I know some of their friends too now) have history degrees. Most of the people they know did more vocational courses though and that's certainly what DD1 is thinking about.

Yellowtip Sun 17-Mar-13 22:03:24

Drop Philosophy.

seeker Sun 17-Mar-13 22:07:46

I feel like going "agggggggghhhhhhhhhh!"

God knows how dd feels- she has only just got in from a rehearsal and has retreated to her bedroom "because I've had too many people today"!

Thank you everyone- do please keep posting advice. The more opinions the better, in my opinion.

Yellowtip Sun 17-Mar-13 22:22:50

Pictures I don't think that A level History, given the narrow specifications, will be of particular use in 'understanding the historical periods plays may be set in'. Of course she might get lucky in the unlikely event that a play is set in Vietnam or Korea for example, or the NE during the 80's (Billy Elliot type of thing). But there's no grand sweep with A level History. I'd advise her to keep on History simply because it's a real alternative option.

Clearly the main problem here is that English is the one subject of most use both for History and for the Central course yet it's the one she likes least. But the marking of Philosophy can be very, very random and that's a real concern. History, English and Theatre Studies would be fine for History and fine for the Central course too.

BooksandaCuppa Sun 17-Mar-13 22:33:22

I was having a bit more of a think and I'm swaying more towards 'drop philosophy' too. The course she's set on sounds like it might be highly competitive and I would imagine that if there's a chance she might have to look at a more straight theatre/drama/directing degree, then English would look better than philosophy.

I have a friend who's worked as a professional director, and has a directing degree from a good university, who has no A levels and got in via a theatre makeup/beauty therapy type NVQ (and lots and lots of amateur/semi pro experience). She now works in directing, event mgmt and design. There are lots of ways in.

I'm thinking she will need a 'safe' option for UCAS, though, which is much harder to judge for a 'vocational/creative' degree (they either like you or they don't) than for an academic one (go with one with lower grade criteria).

Yellowtip Sun 17-Mar-13 22:35:35

My own view is drop Philosophy partly because of random marking and partly because English Lit bolsters Theatre Studies in a more robust and obvious way than Philosophy does.

BooksandaCuppa Sun 17-Mar-13 22:49:29

She might be able to think of it as year 13 is really only two terms - and doing something she's less keen on but still really good at - is good practice for all the bits of whatever course (and career) she does that she's also 'less keen' on.

Save philosophy for late night coffee/alcohol-fuelled rants once she's at Uni!

EvilTwins Sun 17-Mar-13 22:49:36

Yellow - my A Level History covered 1300-1939.... British Social & Economic.

I agree with those who say she should drop her least favourite subject.

Yellowtip Sun 17-Mar-13 22:54:08

When did you sit your A Level Evil?

EvilTwins Sun 17-Mar-13 22:59:31

A very long time ago grin. Presumably there's still more than one syllabus though? My 6th form did two, even back then.

Yellowtip Sun 17-Mar-13 23:03:21

There's not a huge amount of variation in the style though Evil. The current specifications are narrow.

I'm pretty impressed at 639 years of History in five terms though - all credit! Though you do say British Social & Economic so I'm guessing wool trade and canals etc?

EvilTwins Sun 17-Mar-13 23:08:35

Yep, and Black Death, Feudal system, Industrial Revolution, Education, etc... Really interesting material, delivered in deathly dull style.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 17-Mar-13 23:25:11

The history A level syllabus I did covered a gigantic range. Medieval right through to WW2. Both UK and European. But, you didn't cover the full range as a student, it was divided up into chunks, and you covered a chunk. So, at my school, one group did c1800-c1914 (ish) in both the UK and European paper, the other group (mine) did the English civil war and its run up (basically, elements of the reign of Elizabeth (mainly how she dealt with parliament)) and C17th Europe. And even within that, you could pick and choose your countries and still be able to tackle enough questions - I remember I was the only one in my group who opted to revise and plan to answer questions on the 30 years war and to give Spain and Russia body swerves, while all the others wimped out of the 30YW and embraced Spain and Russia with open arms.

I do t honk any of my theatre friends use their history qualifications at all in their professional or artistic lives. But I'm fairly sure that they are more interesting people because they know interesting stuff.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 17-Mar-13 23:26:01

Blimey that was either bad typing or terrible autocorrect skills from the iPad. Don't think not Dot honk

cherrycherry41 Sun 17-Mar-13 23:27:36

Philosophy wasnt counted as a weighty a level when i studied it 5 yrs ago x

FelicityWasCold Sun 17-Mar-13 23:37:28

Right, the reality is that none of those subjects are 'bad' 'soft' or 'limiting'.

They show a range of skills and are complementary without being too similar.

She must do what she wants to do the most.

But for the love of God DON'T tell her she can do Drama in an extracurricular fashion- it's just bollocks. Joining the local am dram is not a substitute for A level drama.

If I regretted not taking (for example) History or English at A Level I could sit them in June in any given year via a distance learning course. A Level drama requires a group to work with- she won't get this opportunity again once she leaves school.

FelicityWasCold Sun 17-Mar-13 23:39:10

Oh and for the record, it doesn't matter if Her A level drama group is shite- people in the same group can get A's and U's- but to get the A you have to work with others.

GetOrf Mon 18-Mar-13 00:03:16

That's a real shame that they cannot timetable all 4 subjects - she sounds as if she is very able indeed and would be able to cope. Could you try and push for that? I don't know how useful that would be but it would be great if she could do all the subjects.

If she has to drop one, I would say English, History and TS would be the best combination, but if she really loves philosophy and doesn't like English, well I would go for that. The work is very hard, I think it is so important that she is passionate about all her subjects.

She is going to get As in all 3 which is marvellous, and also you say she has a lot of theatre experience, and I expect she has loads of other extra curricular stuff on her CV (she rides horses as well doesn't she). In any case she has a load of things going on for her, I am sure that she will have a good chance of being accepted with her brilliant grades and everything else. You must be very proud indeed.

GetOrf Mon 18-Mar-13 00:10:57

I could sob at all this by the way.

DD's ideas of university are fading slowly as she just wants to bloody go and join the army at 18 and it is too bloody close for comfort. She is very serious about it, is camping at Pen y Fan this week in some armed forces camp. I just want her to go back to being a third of my height wearing knee high socks. It was a lot easier then.

Hmmm, is there no way the school can timetable them? It sounds like she is academically very capable of doing all 4, and if she is enjoying them all it does seem a shame to drop one.

As others have said, drama schools don't require specific A Levels, so from that point of view she could drop Theatre Studies. However, it sounds like she's really loving it, and so I suspect she would be very unwilling to drop that one. Also, having studied it for AS there is a fairly good chance she would be asked in drama school interviews why she hadn't carried it on to A2. But ultimately they would neither accept nor refuse her based on Theatre Studies A Level - it is all about the audition and interview for drama school.

I'm wondering if there would be any mileage in her continuing one of the subjects outside of school? Either by paying a tutor, or finishing the A Level by correspondence? Obviously it would be less convenient, but I would have thought she'd be able to do most of the work for it at school during her free periods.

seeker Mon 18-Mar-13 11:43:30

Oh, Getorf- I'm sorry- that must be sooooo hard! As you say, you just have to support them doing what they want, but I'm not sure I'd be able to in your position. No chance she'll change her mind?

Yellowtip Mon 18-Mar-13 14:53:37

I'd probably suggest focussing more on the drama stuff than the pony stuff in the PS, especially coming from a Kent grammar....

seeker Mon 18-Mar-13 14:54:36

Pony stuff? Did I miss something?

seeker Mon 18-Mar-13 14:58:26

Ah, I see I did. grin

I don't think she's going to come over all Betjeman in her PS, don't worry!

Yellowtip Mon 18-Mar-13 14:59:53

GetOrf said she expects your DD has loads of other extra curricular stuff, for example riding.

Yellowtip Mon 18-Mar-13 15:01:00

Crossed smile

seeker Mon 18-Mar-13 15:11:43

She is a bit of a stereotype, I admit. Actually, she's a lot of a stereotype!

IvySquirrel Mon 18-Mar-13 16:57:33

I am involved in admissions on a very similar course to the Central one.
Although we do not ask for specific A levels I would be suprised if someone who was comitted to a performing arts career had dropped theatre studies.
Otherwise it doesn't really matter what subjects you offer, evidence of extra-curricular activity is more important.
Ignore the 'don't work in theatre' nay sayers, employment rates from technical/backstage courses are excellent. Of course she'll never be rich, but DH & I have both had decent careers that we have thoroughly enjoyed and are certainly not destitute!
Which strand does she want to go for?

Picturesinthefirelight Mon 18-Mar-13 17:21:26

Are allowances made for students whose schools do not offer theatre studies?

IvySquirrel Mon 18-Mar-13 17:28:10

Yes - we do not ask for specific subjects ad I said before, so if a student had not done theatre studies because it was not available then that would be fine as long as they had plenty of relevant extra curricular experience. However I would think it odd if it was available, they had done AS and then dropped it, but were set on pursuing a career in theatre.

LadyPeterWimsey Mon 18-Mar-13 17:33:38

I wonderif there's any mileage in going back to the school and seeing how close they can get to timetabling all four subjects. If it meant missing a lesson or two a week which she could make up in her own time, that might mean she doesn't have to drop anything. And it would show how self-motivated she was.

Admittedly DS is doing this at GCSE level, not A level, and one of the two subjects is music which he does a lot of at an extra-curricular level (but the other is a classical language which he doesn't smile) AND he hasn't taken any exams yet so we don't know how he will do in the end, but it shouldn't be beyond the bounds of possibility for an able child.

GetOrf Mon 18-Mar-13 17:35:41

No, I don't know what to do with her army choices. She has beem thinking vaguely about it for years, but now is really determined. I really don't want her to join - so am encouraging university as at least then it is deferred for 3 years if she does join.

She just wants to do something in the public services - if not to forces, the police, prison or probation service. I just feel disenheartened at my cheery daughter spending her life seeing people at their very worst. I feel rather glum about it.

Plus, I just want her to stay at home with me blush. Not that I would ever say this to her. But I am going tomiss her horribly. Silly sod.

Sorry for thread hijack!

Tigerstripes Mon 18-Mar-13 20:19:12

Can I just sound a warning bell for trying to persuade school to do all four/doing a fourth in own time. A girl in my year 13 English class did five AS levels last year. She very much underestimated the amount of work this was and ended up with Bs and Cs in all, rather than the As which she actually wanted and was perfectly able to get if she'd had the right amount of time. There's a reason why dropping an AS is recommended. Three As/A*s will looks better than four Bs.

Knowsabitabouteducation Mon 18-Mar-13 20:46:25

I agree, Tigerstripes.

Our education system is designed for students to do 3 A2s - that's what university entrance is based on.

A2s are more challenging than AS, and students maintain their grades because they are doing fewer subjects.

If the OP's DD is in an 11-18 school setting, she will have responsibilities beyond her academic studies, eg sports captain, house captain or even head girl, in addition to prefect duties. Given her interests, she will undoubtedly have a major role in the annual production. Does she want to give these wider interests up in the pursuit of an A2 that no one else is interested in?

As for the practicalities for the school, most school will keep the same option blocks from AS to A2, so can easily accommodate those students who want to do 4 or even 5 A2s. Perhaps there is a teacher retiring or moving on that is affecting the blocks. Perhaps the school really wants to discourage additional vanity A2s because their experience is that students do less well overall.

seeker Tue 19-Mar-13 09:04:30

Getorf- I do know what you mean- I'm having to stop myself pushing the university that's only 10 miles from our front door.......sad

Lots of kids at dd's school do 4 A2s- but the school only lets the ones they think will cope do it. You ask, are either told you can or you can't- then they try to timetable- blocking in everyone's 3 top choices, then trying to fit in the 4ths.

She's meeting the head of the 6th form tomorrow, so she should know more then. She is veering towards dropping English- I am still not sure what she should do for the best!

cory Wed 20-Mar-13 13:20:39

I would say drop the philosophy on the principle that a stage school might think dropping theatre studies when she was already doing it looks like lack of commitment and might be awkward to explain in interview without sounding half hearted about drama.

Dd is going to be in a similar situation in a few years time re the balance between academic and theatrical subjects. She is going to college to do English lit, History, Theatre Studies and the BTech in Acting. Hopefully this will still get her into university should she change her mind.

countrykitten Thu 21-Mar-13 15:33:41

I teach Theatre Studies and this combined with English and History is a great set of A Levels. Drop Philosophy.

GetOeuf Thu 21-Mar-13 15:43:59

How did it go with head of 6th form seeker?

lljkk Thu 21-Mar-13 19:08:05


seeker Thu 21-Mar-13 19:44:55

Thank you for asking! They are still trying to jiggle with the timetables- he really understands her problem and says he will do everything he can. Fingers crossed!

speedology Fri 05-Jul-13 20:03:21

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

bico Fri 05-Jul-13 20:11:03

I would speak to admissions. I know nothing about theatre studies but I know that law A level was not required and positively discouraged when I was looking at A level subjects which would be best for a law degree. It may be the same with A level theatre studies.

sashh Sat 06-Jul-13 04:57:59

Is she creating a portfolio? This is the kind of course they don't care about which subjects you have done but what you can do with your hands.

She might be better off with practical experience at am dram and dropping one A Level.

eurozammo Sat 06-Jul-13 05:19:35

What about neighbouring schools? Could she do TS there? We had some folks doing that when I was in 6th form, eg we offered music a level and some of the others didn't so they came to us (even boys- we were a girls school).

lljkk Sat 06-Jul-13 08:59:43


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