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AS level chat at school

(73 Posts)
alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 01:33:04

Just had the formal AS level chat just with parents this evening.hmm
The pressure these youngsters are under today to achieve good enough grades to get to their uni of choice is immense.
Where do their childhoods go?
The school says ...oh we want them to have an equal balance of acedemia to social lives.... please tell me at what point they can socialise with soooo much homework?....

fortyplus Tue 15-Sep-09 02:11:16

Friend took her 17yo ds to southampton university last week and ther were very few courses tha didn't require AAA to get on them.

Such a shame that they face that pressur ejust when they should be spreading their wings and becoming a little more independent - not sitting in their bedroom every night with heaps of homeork

cory Tue 15-Sep-09 08:34:40

some youngsters are going to have to face the option of not getting to the uni of their choice

but can their parents face it?

it may well be that if they have to work that hard to get the As, the uni of their choice was not actually a place where they would have been happy

cory Tue 15-Sep-09 09:05:05

if I had a child who was working every hour of the day for AS levels I would ask myself the following questions:

a) are they working efficiently? Many teenagers simply do not know how to study, so end up spending weeks on a task that with proper managing could be done in a few hours. The school should be able to help

b) are they fit enough to learn? If you spend every waking hour in front of your desk and never get any oxygen, your brain is likely to turn to mush. 3 hours of sport a week would be a far more effective learning strategy

c)if they are doing everything right and still struggle to get these As, are you sure that one of the top 10 universities in the country is actually the right place for them? even students who have achieved their As easily tend to find these courses hard work. There is no point in letting yourself in for 3 years of misery. Maybe a bit more flexible thinking when it comes to career choice.

cory Tue 15-Sep-09 09:08:33

or to put it another way:

the vast majority of the population will not end up going to a Russell Group university

not everybody who does not do so is a failure or has parents who don't care

there are lots of other paths to success

if your particular ds or dd does go, then it should be because that is the right option for them

the government expects a certain percentage of the population to attend university

but any expectation that any one particular student has to go to a top university comes either from the student or the parent, not from the system

alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 09:25:19

hi fortyplus ,you were awake later than me.My DS wants to do veterinary,so becos there r so many applicants for each place he is taking 4 A2 and hoping to carry them on to AS. Now they are bringing in A stars for those who achieve 90% and above, so now its at least 3 A* that he has to get.

cory...Yes he is working efficiently,we went through time management many times ,he is just very conscientious...got 5 A* 3 a's and a B,so his hard work and diligence has paid off.He is so determined to get that elucsive place. The emphasis is now on extra curricular activities so that they can enhance their personal statement'. The thing is how much time do they have to do all these things that could make them stand out from the crowd?

He does play sport and is a member of our local David LLoyd..but the amount seems unfair. The school has said 3-4 hours per subject per week, so that is 16 hours spread out over 5 days plus additional time at weekend. I still think its a lot.

alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 09:30:25

cory...slightly more than three years ,but definitely not misery.
Yes we can face him not getting to the uni of choice for his 7 year course,just as long as he gets the course that suits him. Its not about the uni,its about the way in which the course is taught thats important.

fortyplus do you have a child of the same age?

littleducks Tue 15-Sep-09 09:43:48

I went to grammar school and then on to college to dstudy AS and A Levels. I think that was really obvious was that i had been taught more essay structure, effective revision note, and revision techniques (mind maps etc) whereas students from non grammar schools hadnt

We had end of year exams in all subjects every year so became very used planning exams, looking at number of marks for each answer and making that number of points, spendingf more time on heavily weighted question etc.

I think that skills like this can help big time, if the school doesnt encourage itr maybe you could do it at home? It can really help push up a grade, especially if you know the answer but cant seem to get it down (which is what i find happens alot)

alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 10:05:47

My DS is at a really good public school and time management is high on the schools agenda( and (DS2's), regular individual meetings with staff and pupils is of paramount importance to the school and we have at least 2 group parents evenings this year.You can also go in any time to speak to any of the teachers,the heads of years and the HEADMASTER..If you see my initial thread ...i didnt say his time management wis bad, its just the level of work they have to do. It is one of the top schools in the country ( we were lucky enough to get in as there is now a waiting list, this year) and they strive for ever increasing results each year,( i suppose its good for publicity and new intake)which incredibly they maintain.
He loves the school, but i was just wishing they had more childhood. He puts the pressure on himself too, its not just from the school and i would also like him to achieve his dreams.

littleducks...DS hasnt got much higher to go
with his grades[proud mum]grinso that isnt the issue...its how to fit all this extra stuff for his "PERSONAL STATEMENT" that the issue as there is so much homework.

alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 10:08:16

littleducks ..DS's schol go over so many practice papers.....they are really familiar with them by the time exam time comes and DS2 has been kind enough to leave him all his AS and A2 work as they are taking virtually the same subjects.

Maths with stats,biology,chemistry and Latin

littleducks Tue 15-Sep-09 10:14:03

Looks like they are doing all they can then (i wasnt suggesting your ds was poor at these thing btw just passing on things that seem to help)

If he is at private school i think that he will have to do a bit more to prove himself dependant on which unis he is applying for, some unis view an 'A' at state school more highly than an 'A' at private

Wrt the personal statement there is probably alot he already does/has done that if worded properly can help, a bit like writing a CV its all about how you portray things

alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 10:21:55

littleducks thanks for advice. Yes i realise that being where he is at a private the unis do view things differently. That is why he now wants these new A* that they have brought in and also wants to do lots of different things for his CV to show that he is 'well rounded' human being.

Went through all this personal statement thing with DS1...it has to be 3000 caracters long and show how different you are from everyone else.

I let DS1 write his own, we went through it with a fine tooth comb,keeping everything in that he wanted ,but putting it in a logical sequence. Then they submit it to year tutor as many times as they want til it is good enough for the final draft.

As I say such pressure

Lilymaid Tue 15-Sep-09 10:22:58

Having recently gone through these years twice with my DSs, I found that the amount of work required wasn't excessive and that they managed to have good social lives as well as weekend jobs. As parents we tend to get more worried that our children: for them it is just what they have to do at age 17 and 18.

I do think that there is a lot of pressure re getting into Russell Group universities (and the other group - 1994 group?). There are lots of other good universities out there, many of which will provide a better learning experience for students who get Bs and Cs at A2 than RG universities.

DS1's experience of being a student in a leading department of a RG Group university was that he had virtually no teaching from the much advertised luminaries of the department and that his tutorials/seminars were with bored PG students, many of whom did not have particularly good skills at English. The department could depend on the AAA students going through the system with minimal effort and coming out with 2.1s at the other end.

snorkie Tue 15-Sep-09 14:34:22

I know vet. science is extremely competitive & he will need to do lots of volunteering at farm type places and with vets (has he done any already?) as well as getting superb grades.

How much travelling time does he have and what time does he get in in the evenings? If I were him I think I'd aim to do 3-4 hours homework 4 nights a week (if feasible) and that would leave one evening and the weekends free for the other stuff. I know it seems insane, but on the other hand the terms are quite short, so he'll have time to relax more (and do more volunteering too) in the holidays.

Does he have a backup plan for if the vet thing doesn't work out? Even though his grades are great, unfortunately nearly all the other applicants will have just as good and it is always horribly oversubscribed, so a backup plan is a good thing to have if he can bear to think about it as it will be something of a lottery.

snorkie Tue 15-Sep-09 14:39:55

and sympathies with all the worrying alypaly - the pressure for him to have to do so well is not nice. I fully expect ds to have similar issues next year as he currently wants to do 5ASs (or 4 and one A2) as well as swimming (6 or 7 hours per week), DofE, two instruments and sailing. Hmm. something will have to give methinks.

alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 15:47:43

snorkie hi...yes he has done quite alot so far, in fact one surgery are having him back..Yippee.He has been the only student they have allowed to hold the animals for blood taking.grin He has also helped revive some puppies during a caesarean section. Got brill references from them. Has got lots more booked up ,but its finding the time on top of everything else, to get him to some of the remote surgeries.
He walks to school as it is only 5 minutes away...really handygrin.
The school will probably discourage your DS from doing 5 AS's as the work load is too much.
We had a talk at school last night and nearly all universities only take the grades for 3 a levels, so if he tries to do too many he may suffer the consequences. Its not quantity ,its quality.He must be very bright to be considering so many. DS2 is doing 4 AS's but will probably drop the latin to concentrate on getting top results in the others. The language will just help to show he is well rounded. My DS2 travels up and down the country with badminton too so alot of time is taken up with that. He has a Badminton england ranking and is rapidly climbing the ranks,and i really dont want him to stop playing.Neither does hesmile.
Sounds like your DS likes his sport too

snorkie Tue 15-Sep-09 17:34:54

Sounds like he's doing all the right stuff then alypaly and how fab to have school so close by smile.

I think you may well be right about 5 being too many for ds - we'll have to see what they say at the options night. Although his deputy head hinted to me they would be expecting him to do 5 (4.5 really as 2 choices will be maths and f. maths) I really don't think they have thought through how much time his extra stuff takes. The trouble is he actually wants to continue with more than 5 and will have a tough enough job narrowing it down to that. I guess if you start 5 & it's too much you can always drop one.

alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 17:48:23

what type(state/ public/boarding of school) does your ds go to ,thats a really high and almost unrealistic expectation from them. Why do they want 4.5 when only 3 are considered at almost all unis. My sons school is a public school and even they have said that unis will not change their thinking on three as it will disadvantage the state sector as it is impossible to do so many A levels in larger classes.

That is alot of modules to do over the two years

snorkie Tue 15-Sep-09 18:33:38

Alypaly, it's a rural independent - not hugely selective, but has a few bright cookies & a wide spread of abilities beneath that - I think it's usually 3rd division or thereabouts in Times league tables. Most do 4ASs and 3A2s but a few of the most able do 5 and 4 and most (but not all) of those do 2 maths. They are all traditional subjects. I'm never sure if ds is really that bright or just averagely bright & concientious. His results so far are described as exceptional though and he is doing 2 AS levels with his GCSEs and seems to be coping fine so far.

He doesn't really know what he wants to do longer term (but it will almost certainly be maths, science of some kind, engineering or computing), so needs to keep as many options open as possible (which of course is easier to do with more subjects).

A friend's dd visited Cambridge recently and was told they expect 3As at A2 from state applicants but 4As for private ones (presumably only those that allow you to do more). Might have been just that college/subject though. Your ds's school is probably right not to allow anyone to do more as then there's no question that anyone should have done. I do think doing more extra curricular stuff with a smaller workload makes for a better rounded child.

fortyplus Tue 15-Sep-09 21:28:51

Hi alypaly smile Mine are slightly younger - years 10 and 11, so ds1 will sit GCSEs this summer and ds2 next academic year.

My friend already has one dd at Southampton - she was able to get in on ABB with A in subject she's taking at degree level. My friend considers her son to be slightly brighter, but doubts whether he will achieve AAA. So she feels it will be tough on him - when he has achieved more academically at every level so far - to miss out on Russell gp university. My dh went to Durham on very ordinary A levels

alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 23:44:09

at our parents evening last night we got the info on oxford and cambridge and they will look at four A's,but then the school then looked at the universities that most of our students go to and then reviewed what A levels were required.The spread was mainly Leeds ,notts,sheffield,Bristol,oxford and cambridge. I think my DS2 could do four including the latin as he finds that very easy, but he wants to make sure he does well in his key subjects.
You sound as if you have a bright child too. Its tough for them to make decisions at this age isnt it, but i guess they have to sometime soon.

alypaly Tue 15-Sep-09 23:46:25

sorry last message was to snorkiesmile

mumoverseas Wed 16-Sep-09 08:43:40

we had that talk last week at DS's school.
He is my eldest so no other experience regarding this but am starting to wonder if he has taken on too much.
He is doing 5 AS levels this year and we think then he will drop one and do 4 to A level.
The head of 6th form kept going on about how important the grades at AS were as that is what the uni will base their offer on but it seems such a lot of pressure. Feel a bit helpless too as 3,000 miles away but apparently the DC get reviewed every 3 weeks and hopefully if it is becoming too much they will steo in and do something.

snorkie Wed 16-Sep-09 10:30:57

I think now there are A* grades at A2 candidates will tend to do fewer A2s, prefering to aim for the very top grade in fewer subjects. It's definitely going to be a lot tougher to get A*s as the AS grades don't really count significantly towards it. Before, people sometimes only needed to get a C or D in their last papers to secure an A overall if they had really good earlier results which really took the pressure off, now to get A*s there will be no let up.

I'm hoping by the start of year 13 ds will know what he wants to do at university, so his choice of A2s will be clearer - he may well end up with a similar set to your ds Alypaly, as he too loves Latin.

alypaly Wed 16-Sep-09 11:58:22

mumoverseas thats good that he is reviewed every 3 weeks.

snorkie...the AS grades are exactly half of the A2 marks....they are exaclty 300 marks out of a total of 600 marks ,so if they work really hard at AS level it will make the A2 year alot easier. They can resit the AS level in the A2 year to bring the marks up but obviously its better to work harder and get great marks in the AS year.
Did your DS's school say they dont count much towards the fnal figure? cos if they did, they are sooooo wrong.

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