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A level choices - school advice poor

(116 Posts)
AllMimsyWereTheBorogoves Fri 08-Aug-14 10:02:30

The Student Room has done a survey, reported here. I suspect most people on MN are well placed to advise their children on this, but it might help some people to know that just choosing your favourite subjects is not always going to be the best approach. Bit dispiriting that teachers aren't already always saying that, though.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Fri 08-Aug-14 10:42:31

It is very dispiriting - but am I wrong to be surprised that apparently tech savvy 14-16 year olds intent on university don't take the time to actually find out for themselves exactly what they need to be studying from GCSE onwards?

snice Fri 08-Aug-14 10:50:23

I'm a bit surprised reading the article that someone wanting to study medicine doesn't think A level biology might be a bit useful. Equally that someone wanting to study engineering hadn't thought that maths might be handy!

TheWordFactory Fri 08-Aug-14 10:50:33

When I go round schools as part of the widening acess scheme for Oxbridge, I'l always horrified at soem of the poor choices students have been allowed to make, both at A level and GCSE.

We suggest time and time again that we come in earlier than L6, so we can help too, but schools are highly resistant. Soem schools that don't have a sixth form won't even let us vist at all!

And whilst I have some sympathy with the notion that pupils should do it themselves, I think these young people can be forgievn for trusting the so-called professionals in this case.

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 10:55:00

I agree that advice is often poor- but I can't imagine circumstances where a prospective medic wouldn't think Biology is important. And Maths for Philosophy? Really?

ZeroSomeGameThingy Fri 08-Aug-14 10:57:01

Oh, I don't suggest that schoolchildren should do it all by themselves - but you'd think they would spend some of their 28 hrs a day online actually checking that what they've been told is correct.

And why are their teachers so rubbish unhelpful?

No - I know the answer - it's league tables innit?

bruffin Fri 08-Aug-14 10:58:25

DD has just chosen her A levels and her ordinary comp's advice was excellent. She had fairly sensible choices anyway of maths, history physics but wanted to do psychology as well.
She wants to be an Occupational therapist which asks for psychology or biology. Unfortunately psychology clashed with physics and school talked her into biology as they said she was top sets, they felt biology would give her more options if she were to change her mind on career.

She is also doing drama for fun

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 11:02:23

"She is also doing drama for fun"

Ah. She does realise how time consuming and difficult drama A level is, doesn't she? Maths, Physics, History, Biology and Drama is a heavy load!

bruffin Fri 08-Aug-14 11:04:26

I think she does, the drama will be instead of an EP or finance thingy they take.

TheWordFactory Fri 08-Aug-14 11:06:09

I think what often happens is these things are cumulative. DC make poor choices at GCSE when many DC have no idea what they want to do at the next stage (all perfectly normal).

Then those choices ricochet down the line.

Much would be avoided if academic DC were advised to keep their options open.

OddBoots Fri 08-Aug-14 11:09:44

I know a bit to be able to advise ds (just going into Y11) but he is really unsure what he wants to do for a career, he's latched onto something he's heard about without actually looking into it or any alternatives. His school's version of careers advice is a 10 minute chat with his form tutor when choosing his GCSE options - they have no sixth form so don't really think beyond that.

It really worries me that A Levels can narrow options so much so we've paid for him to do the Morrisby assessment and spend an hour with a careers adviser this summer holidays. He hasn't done it yet so I don't know how much use it will turn out to be but it has to be better than what is on offer at the moment.

Littleturkish Fri 08-Aug-14 11:13:23

At my school we're not allowed to give students advice on their choices as subject teachers- I think this is common in schools and leads to some really poor subject combinations.

TheWordFactory Fri 08-Aug-14 11:13:23

zero I think the reason poor advice is given is legion.

1. Some teachers are woefully ignorant.
2. Some teachers have very fixed ideas about the evil that is elitism.
3. Some teachers encourage the pupils to take subjects that will help their league tables.
4. Some teachers think pupils should do the research themselves.
5. Some schools dont have anyone whose job it is to oversee the bigger picture for a pupil.

Whitenosugarplease Fri 08-Aug-14 11:20:53

Do not tar us all with the same brush. The advice we give is excellent. We are a 'beacon' school for this sort of activity. The main problem we have is parents who have outdated views on some subject/universities/apprenticeships. Some would much rather take advice from anyone but the school. The sixth form team go on regular UCAS and university briefings and spend a lot of time talking to year 9 students - thank you very much.

The worst option are students who are coerced into subject options and then receive intense tutoring to support AS exams. I will be speaking to some of those poor sods next week informing them that they can not into year 13.

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 11:21:26

At ds's school, which has only just started to send people to university at all, the priority is to get the kids to consider A levels at all. There is some stealth steering, but generally at the moment it's hard enough getting past the "A levels are not for the likes of us" mentality.

They have very little choice at GCSE, so no doors closed there. Assuming they pass them, obvs.

Whitenosugarplease Fri 08-Aug-14 11:22:32

You can see my stress levels starting to increase as my holiday ends on Results Day

eatyourveg Fri 08-Aug-14 11:28:45

oldboots At dc's school everyone does a morrisby in Y10 - complete waste of money and so I opted out when it came to ds3. Its a lot of money just to be told, you like anaylsing figures, you don't like working with your hands, your non- verbal skills are better than your verbal skills, your spatial awareness is above average etc etc etc when you probably already know all that.

They give you a list of possible careers to research given your preferences on the test but they do not tell you which subjects to study

Far better imo to let the dc look through the big Jobfile books in the library or get something like this (anything by Trotman is usually very good. We have this at home and it goes through various careers telling you which subjects to study for GCSE and A level

AllMimsyWereTheBorogoves Fri 08-Aug-14 11:34:13

It doesn't surprise me that somebody from a family with no history of going to university and nobody in a profession should be hazy about what you need to do engineering. He may have assumed that Design & Technology would be the key subject and if he had the bad luck not to have a teacher who knew anything about engineering it wouldn't emerge that he was headed down the wrong track until it was too late.

Lots of young people assume that if they want to be lawyers they should start studying Law at the earliest opportunity and end up with GCSE Law, A level law and a law degree, when in fact even the law degree is not essential (although obviously doing a law conversion course adds to the expense). In fact, as I understand it, most lawyers would be better served by having traditional subjects and specialising as late as possible. It's not just blind prejudice in the legal profession - there is an advantage from having a good, broad-based education, regardless of what you do later on.

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 11:41:50

This is another area where children from privileged, educated homes have a massive advantage over those that don't. It is particularly outrageous that schools don't all do the relatively simple things they could to level this particular playing field.

That said, as I said, at ds's school it's coaxing them to do any a levels at all that's the priority.

TheWordFactory Fri 08-Aug-14 12:05:44

You're right hak...

But really there is no excuse for any school not to provide the same as whitenosugar.

It's perfectly doable.

almapudden Fri 08-Aug-14 12:18:38

hakluyt How do you feel about your son being at a school without a culture of sending pupils on to further education? Do you expect your son to do A levels and, if so, do you feel he has been disadvantaged by his school?

Sorry, that's very nosy, but it's quite rare on MN to hear someone speak objectively but not necessarily critically about their children's school!

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 13:02:07

It's a good school, alma- the problem is that it only has 10% high achievers. So if yours is one of that 10% have to hold your nerve a bit. To put it mildly!

He probably won't stay there for 6th form- they only do a limited range of subjects, although it's growing all the time.

almapudden Fri 08-Aug-14 13:17:30

Fair enough. I'm not sure I'd have the confidence - I was part of the 10% in a not very good school and although I did well I didn't enjoy the experience. But I did mix with a wider range of people than if I had gone to the girls' private school, which I wanted to go to. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose!

almapudden Fri 08-Aug-14 13:17:49

Thanks for taking the time to answer, by the way smile

Hakluyt Fri 08-Aug-14 13:37:40

It's not what I would have chosen either, alma. But that happens when you have selective education.

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