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A level choices for undermotivated but arty DD - or alternative paths

(24 Posts)
hoodiemum Fri 09-Jan-15 10:18:25

DD1 is in year 11 and trying to get her head around next year. Her current thoughts are:

English Lit
English is her current strongest subject, A/A* prediction, thanks to a fabulous teacher; but she hasn't read for pleasure since Year 6. Will that make her unlikely to do well? Anyone have non-reader DCs who've found A level Eng Lit manageable?

She has considerable talent, but hasn't drawn for pleasure for several years and will likely get an A rather than the A* that she would be capable of; has found GCSE uninspiring - lots of pics of vegetables and WW2 fashion, and that's about it - she hasn't put much effort into it. Is A level art more motivating?

Would be a new subject to her, and she's very excited by the work she's seen at the 6th form college she wants to go to; however, she has a decent DSLR camera that she never uses. DH is a pro photographer and has always tried to encourage her to take photos, but she's never been interested. That may reflect on their relationship more than on her innate interests, but it's a bit of a worry. Anyone's DCs start Photography A level as a complete beginner and do well?

But what? HATES maths and science, and very much not her strength. So:
History? Used to like it at KS3, but finds it superboring now. Is A level more exciting?
MFL? Had planned to do an MFL until recently, but she is likely to get a B at GCSE and thinks the leap to A level work will be too high. She was in top set through secondary but perhaps because she'd learned French since age 3 - she found it easy at first but is now struggling a bit. Plus she is super shy and the idea of actually speaking to someone in another language completely fills her with horror, and the idea of living in a foreign country is a complete turn off.
She has no interest in politics (Who's George Osborne?)
Business Studies might be really useful if she's heading for an arty career, see below, but she has zero interest.

GCSE results expected: mostly Bs; Cs for science; A for art; A/A* for English.

All her career thoughts over the years have been in an artistic direction (fashion designer long ago, make up artist and interior designer more recently, graphic designer currently). But with DH as a photographer, we know only too well that it takes more than a modicum of talent to succeed in those areas, so we don't want her to put all her eggs in one basket at this stage. We don't really want her to do more than 2 arty ASs.

OR are we/is she barking up the wrong tree completely? She is really uninterested in learning things. She's not without brain, but isn't interested in facts. Are A levels not for her? We know boys who've left school at 16 and done engineering/tree surgery/electrician type things. But more girlie options along the same lines seem to tie you in to very low-paid work (hairdressing, beauty therapy, childcare) so might be best to keep more options open for now. But perhaps I'm wrong about that - I'd love to hear about any experiences you've had of non-A level routes that might work for her.

OR are we worrying for no reason? She's very young for her age, physically, and in a pretty extreme state of teenageriness. Will that all disappear soon? Might a motivated, capable A level student emerge just in time?

Sorry, extremely long post - hope some of you have had the patience to get to the end!!

TeenAndTween Fri 09-Jan-15 12:28:10

She doesn't read for pleasure, or draw for pleasure, or take photos.
It does in that case seem a strange choice of A levels (though I have heard that Art GCSE takes up so much effort it removes the desire to do art out of school too).

Does she have any out of school hobbies? (You only mentioned what she doesn't do). Might these lead you to an idea?

I do think it is strange to take English Lit if you don't actively enjoy reading.

There are a wide range of BTECs available if you know where to look, but you do need to decide where her interest lie.

(DD1 has applied for both A Levels and Travel&Tourism, but her interests - History & MFL & Drama fit well with T&T).

springalong Fri 09-Jan-15 12:32:45

In haste but would a more vocational qualification like a BTEC suit better.

catslife Fri 09-Jan-15 15:08:06

It is possible to take English Language at A level OP - does your dd enjoy writing more than reading? It is regarded as less academic though.
Combined with photography this could open up opportunities in journalism.
Art is a quite wide subject at GCSE so perhaps you need to find out more about which artistic areas she is most interested in. Some A level courses involve fine Art, others are more applied such as Graphic Design.
As an alternative to A levels some colleges offer specialist courses in Fashion Design, interior design etc so perhaps this type of course may suit your dd?

hoodiemum Fri 09-Jan-15 16:01:55

Teen, She mostly just shouts at her parents and slams doors for pleasure these days. And hangs out with her friends at Nandos or Costa talking about fit boys. Any A levels in that?!
Oh dear, I'm kind of hoping it's not that unusual to be uninspired by subjects at her age. I don't think I was particularly, until A level, although I always loved reading and the accumulation of knowledge in general, and I was lucky that I could learn things quite quickly so got good results without much effort.
The person she used to be, before teenage apathy hit, ran a little homemade jewellery business (great pocket money boost) and liked drawing, scrapbooking, dressmaking, crafty things in general. She hasn't particularly liked writing since she was much younger (great writer in KS1, partly, I think, because she had beautiful artistic handwriting).

tobysmum77 Fri 09-Jan-15 16:57:27

seriously look at the National apprenticeship service website. There are apprenticeships in pretty much anything you can think of.

I wouldn't personally encourage a demotivated child to do A levels it is likely to be a waste of time.

ImperialBlether Fri 09-Jan-15 17:06:02

What about Art, English Lit and Film Studies? Or Sociology (to open her mind), Religious Studies (very interesting at A level) and History (again, very interesting at A level.)

There's a new Creative Writing A level which is very interesting, though it would be better to do that alongside English Lit.

Or get her to enrol for any subjects now and she can change her mind in September?

wannabestressfree Fri 09-Jan-15 17:12:38

I also (as a teacher) wouldn't push a levels on an unmotivated child particularly literature (I teach it). You must be a confident and read for pleasure type person. Those that aren't struggle.
What about btec level 3 art and design? They have the option of photography and other bits. Have a look at the best place to do it locally.

hoodiemum Sat 10-Jan-15 00:30:23

Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone. Much appreciated. Some interesting BTECs out there which will need further research. Some info suggests there's a difference in the profile of people who teach BTECs compared to A levels - more industry-based, less teachery. Would that even apply for something like art? Our local sixth form does both A level and BTEC art + design - would they be a different set of teachers or the same, do you think? What other differences would there be?

Apprenticeships - a brief read of another thread (from 2013, so maybe things have changed a little?) is that good ones are like gold dust, with an average of 200 applicants per place. Given that my DD doesn't really do speaking to adults currently, I don't think she'd have much chance in an interview, would she? Plus the one thing she IS enthusiastic about is going to the 6th Form College next year with all her friends, so working (with adults! scary!) will be a hard sell. From what I can tell from the central website, they start at random times in the year. If kids have to be in full time ed or apprenticeship until 18, does that mean people tend to apply for apprenticeships during sixth form studies and leave school/college if their application is successful? Or is it just that most start in September so nothing much is advertised at the moment?

Wannabestressfree: struggle with A level lit to the extent that they would learn NOTHING from it and find the experience a waste of time? Or struggle to the extent that they wouldn't get the kind of grades for a top university? If you did a straw poll of your A level lit students when they were in year 11, would those that weren't heading for truly disastrous grades be genuinely excited about literature (when talking to their friends/family, rather than to an English teacher!)?

I must admit, I'm feeling very sad at the prospect that my daughter may leave education without academic A levels. Of course, I'm encouraging her to look at all the options and work out the best thing for HER, but my own experience at university is a very important part of who I am, and to think of her not even taking academic study up to A level is ... sad. Sad that there's a huge thing we won't ever have in common if that happens. But (pulling myself together firmly) I'm sure that's silly and all will be fine when she works out who she is and what she wants from life.

TeenAndTween Sat 10-Jan-15 09:44:57

BTECs aren't unacademic, I don't think, from looking into them.

The modular approach is better suited to some.
The more hands-on approach is more suited to some.
The essay writing skills can be less.

On the other hand, at 18 the student leaves with additional knowledge, a qualification, and hands on experience. For 'lesser' universities (for want of a better term) the BTECs can be used to enter as they quality for UCAS points, so you aren't ruling out all universities just by taking the BTEC route.

For us we are weighing up the very real chance that A level grades might be CDD or lower versus a good BTEC result with hands on experience. If I were an employer of an 18 year old, I know which I would possibly prefer.

EEvans Sat 10-Jan-15 10:23:50

Hi OP! I teach only in the sixth form centre at my school, Eng Lit, Media. If she doesn't like reading then Eng Lit is not a great choice. We do Janye Eyre, Wuthering Heights etc. Perhaps take her in a book shop and show her what she'd be expected to read. In my opinion, (and it's only one) the Lang course is dull as dish water! And actually quite difficult, particularly for student who don't read (grasp of language, structure etc).

There are lots of different Art courses offered at our school, Art & Design, Fashion etc - mostly BTECs but don't let that out you off. They've just overhauled all the courses to ensure that they are a good standard. And from teaching BTEC and A Level Media I think my BTEC course offers them a great deal more.

Photography sounds a good choice if she has been excited by what she has seen. I'm not a parent my self (yet!) but perhaps her lack of interest until now is more a stereotypical "er it's my dad's thing, dads aren't cool" and that left to explore it on her own she would really love it. Perhaps keep dad from getting too involved at the start until she comes to him.

Do they offer a Media course? I know Media gets a "soft" label and I'm prepared for it to get mumsnet based but that's not entirely the case (obviously it's not a physics course..)

Best to get DD on to courses she will enjoy. Media and Film courses have lots of practical elements so are fun as well as having a bit of theory for an exam a the end. Or BTEC is all
Different practical projects, advertising, music videos, animation.

I know that BTEC ICT course my centre offers is quite good as well, lots of "work" skills but then with a few fun units on digital animation.

Get her to do lots of creative subjects. The disasters I teach are the ones that are on courses they have no interest in. In my form I have two student who did all
Sciences and maths in yr 12 initially - failed the lot as they found it hard, got unmotivated and didn't go. Now have started again in yr12 (a big decision) but now are doing things like Art Media, Photography, Catering, English, Philosophy and are loving it. They both have said what a better year they are having.

It's a big decision I know, such an important one though. Tell her to go along to the subject areas she doesn't know so well after school and ask the teachers for info. I know there will have been open evening but she might get a bit more idea one to one.

Let us know how she gets on and what she decides. smile

EEvans Sat 10-Jan-15 10:26:34

Also, loads of my Yr13 Media BTEC students have applied to Uni and been offered courses, lots of them take a mix of A Level and BTEC - some all BTEC courses. So don't worry about BTECs meaning she wont go to university ( well maybe not Oxford...)

ImperialBlether Sat 10-Jan-15 11:03:45

I've been thinking about this, OP, and it might be that she doesn't want to do anything that you think she would enjoy (given you don't know her at all, etc!) I have one of these children.

Why not go the other way (given there's a lot of time between now and September) and say she's right and that A levels aren't for her? At the same time you could start leaving books around the house - I'm sure if you Google 'cult books' then you'd find stuff she'd like - go for the darker books, lots of sex and drugs and kids who hate their parents! She might start to read them and rediscover her love of reading.

It's so hard, isn't it? Like pushing a boulder up hill. You feel as though you can't relax for one minute!

hoodiemum Sat 10-Jan-15 13:05:26

Thank you, thank you, for so many wise words.

EEvans, yes, I think the lack of photography up to now may well be explained by dad's job - 'it's his thing, so it can't be anyone else's'. Up to a point, the lack of interest in factual knowledge may have a similar cause - very academic DD2 loves to show off her intelligence to adults at any opportunity, so DD1 has taken the 'can't win so won't compete' approach.

They don't do Eng Lang at our local college, and yes, it does seem a bit dry for her anyway. Any views on the Lang and Lit combo which they do offer?
Media Studies sounds fun - I've just talked to someone in year 12 who is loving it. But the conversation did leave me wondering what, other than more media studies or a career in TV or advertising or journalism (very shy DD unlikely to be heading that way...) it was really good preparation for. Any thoughts on the transferable skills?

Imperial - Good tip about books. I'll try!

Teen - good point about exams. It's never been clear to me if she underperforms in exams compared to coursework, as all through secondary the grades we're given seem to be based on timed tests. But it's worth trying to work that out somehow.

ImperialBlether Sat 10-Jan-15 16:52:53

Media Studies isn't a good preparation for those careers, hoodiemum. If she wants to be a journalist she'd do better studying English, History and Politics, or maybe English, Art and Film Studies, depending on what kind of journalist she wants to be. The best thing she can do for that, though is write, write, write!

ImperialBlether Sat 10-Jan-15 16:54:11

Sometimes, though, they have to stand on the brink and think, "Shit, I'm going to be working in a chicken plucking factor if I'm not careful..." to bring them round.

Apologies to anyone who works in a chicken plucking factory! I was thinking of Letter to Brezhnev then!

ImperialBlether Sat 10-Jan-15 16:54:37

factory, I mean.

FlowerFairy2014 Sat 10-Jan-15 17:06:21

English, history art and something like geography would be a good set of A / A/S levels for many careers. I suggest she does those and that includes three facilitating subjects (i.e. decent subjects employers and universities respect). She just needs to pull her finger out and work.

wannabestressfree Sat 10-Jan-15 17:32:51

I mean that even my brightest students can struggle with lit unless they have a passion for books. My own son is academic but he hated the generic route with English and art. The 'but why is the door green write a response' crowd.
He is doing a BTEC in an academic school and enjoying it much more. I feel for those children that are pushed into a levels that don't want to be there and they rarely complete or it's a pain chasing them for work.
There is a push now for children to focus on the 'what next' and avoid being NEET and not having a plan. Maybe ease off a bit and let her have a think about things. A levels are no longer the be all and end all.

EEvans Sat 10-Jan-15 19:36:20

Glad to help! The Lang/Lit combo is a happy medium of the two but again if she's not so keen on reading might not still be the best idea. She can always try it in Sept and then swap, most centres give that option until about the end of October.

Lots of transferable skills from Media that are quite similar to some skills gained from English - analysing texts, writing critically but also lots of things like pitching, writing proposals (budgets, schedules etc) that are useful in lots of situations.

Honestly though, in Yr11 with a student that isn't too impressed with the idea of more study I'd concentrate in the short term on choosing things she will enjoy that will encourage her to want to stay in Education. I'd think a good combo would be Eng (try it and see) Art, Photography and something Media or Film related. If she likes the analysis side of Eng but isn't fond of reading - that's what A Level Media is!

Her career choices will come with what she decides to take at uni and any four good grades will get her on a reasonable course - I'd put that on the back burned for now and worry about keeping her in the 6thform (just my opinion not meant to sound pushy - sorry!)

I personally feel that unless you have a student at 16 that absolutely knows they want to be a Dr or Dentist or something that really requires certain obvious choices for progression then the decision should be about choosing subjects they will enjoy that they will then get a lot out of.

All courses are designed to have some progression so I really wouldn't get to caught up in "what job does this lead on to?" anxiety.

My husband always says "make the main thing the main thing". Get her enjoying education again first - worry about the next when you're over that hurdle!

Hope I've helped - just my opinions as always! I always worry about causing offends on MN!

EEvans Sat 10-Jan-15 19:39:14

worry about the next step I meant!

hoodiemum Thu 25-Feb-16 09:55:21

OK, so just a little update. DD chose the following for A level:

(going quite well - she's much more motivated than at GCSE)

(suits her quite well, with a mix of practical things - e.g. creating a fashion mag, which involved writing articles, taking photos, graphic design, etc. - and essays on topics that actually interest her a bit.)

Graphic design
(a late change from photography, and she's enjoying it, but not pushing herself hugely. Seems to be quite easy to coast. Very different from the DT Graphics she did at GCSE and hated. This A level is art-based but also gives her good experience of software that she might use when she applies for jobs post 18.)

English lit
(absolutely the wrong choice; she went for it against all advice and is hating it and getting Ds. She's trying her best, but she just can't see the point of it. I expect she'll give it up at the end of Year 12.)

catslife Fri 26-Feb-16 08:29:13

Thanks for the update hoodiemum.
Is the Graphics A level Graphic communications by any chance. My dd has accepted a place at sixth form college for this A level subject and so far haven't found it mentioned on MN at all. She would also be taking ICT. Would this be a good subject combination?
She is also considering Graphic Design BTEC at another college (again not many colleges seem to offer this subject).

TeenAndTween Fri 26-Feb-16 20:40:24

Interesting to see the update. glad 3 out of the 4 are working out well.

(My DD ended up doing a mixed BTEC/A level profile which is also going OK from an academic point of view).

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