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What should DS do? A levels or BTEC

(13 Posts)
mycatthinksshesatiger Tue 11-Oct-16 11:34:59

DS has dyslexia and has struggled throughout school, particularly with English language and other essay-heavy subjects such as history. He's now in year 11 and is taking 7 GCSEs including double science. I think there is some degree of developmental delay as he tends to socialise with kids around a year younger, and seems to 'get' things academically a bit later than other children.

The CAT tests have put him at level 4 with predicted grades of D across the board in GCSE. However, his development has been far from linear and I sense a bit of an academic leap at the moment. Against the odds he got a very high C in a GCSE he took in year 10 in a humanities subject (school policy to take one early). He'd been predicted a D on a good day! At the moment GCSE predictions range from low A/high B to low C in the majority of subjects. I think getting English language will be the greatest challenge in view of the new exam syllabus.

We are torn as to where to go from here - my feeling is that he could cope with A level work in 2 or 3 carefully-chosen subjects, but he tends to do less well in exams on the whole. The new type of A levels might therefore not be ideal, as he wouldn't have the option of changing route after AS. However the range of BTECs on offer locally isn't great. He'd ideally like to do something with animals. He had thought of a farm or vet-related field. Maths and science and ICT are definitely his strongest sbjects. Does anyone have any advice? Is a BTEC the safest choice?

Stopyourhavering Tue 11-Oct-16 19:13:17

I have 3 dcs with varying degrees of dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia!
Eldest dd did 4 A levels ( Geog, English RE and Drama and got 3C's and a D)... She'd had a SEN statement all through primary school and managed to scrape C in Science and Maths at GCSE but As and Bs in everything else
She struggled with reading and only started reading novels aged 14 ( thanks to Twilight and Harry Potter)

She graduated this year with a 2:1 MA Hons in Philosopy and Film and is now doing a post grad TESOL MSc at a top RG uni and is applying for teaching jobs in SE Asia once she graduates.... She understands existentionalism and Nietzsche philosophy but struggles with telling time and bus timetables/ telling the time!...her uni course was mostly essays and a10,000 word dissertation - no final exams!

Dd2 who's also dyslexic and dyscalculic ( passed GCSE after 2nd attempt with help of tutor) went to local college and did BTEC in Business
She got Distinction , Distinction, Merit ( equivalent of 3 Bs at A level) and is now doing a business degree at Uni... She's applying for a year out in industry at the moment and is expecting a 2:1
She struggles with exams but loved the modular course of the BTEC and luckily her uni course has fewer exams than other courses
Ds is in upper sixth and doing 3 science A levels and hoping to study a biomedical type subject at uni- his handwriting/ time management is appalling!
Basically research carefully how each course is taught , there are many ways to get to the end exam based course does not sound ideal and I think he may struggle with A levels
There is wide variability in how courses are taught at different eldest went to a Scottish uni as there was a lot more flexibility in modules she could take
He should also consider access courses at uni- might mean an extra year at uni but will give him a very good grounding in subject,,,,and make sure he gets an up to date ed psych report
Hope this helps and if you have any more questions I'll try to help!

Idefix Tue 11-Oct-16 19:18:00

mycat my ds would have started yr 13 in September but instead started a btec level 3 in public services. So far he much happier than he was whilst trying to do a levels.

We went for alevels he liked and had good results in (high bs) but he found it both exhausting and too difficult, he has a similar diagnosis to your ds.

Too soon to feedback but so far so good. Students from this course went on to degrees so it doesn't necessarily close that door.

Would you be able afford a residential college for ds to complete a animal/vetinary course? I think funding/bursaries are available for lower income families too at least at ds college this is so

mycatthinksshesatiger Tue 11-Oct-16 19:46:53

Thanks both of you for your replies, my thoughts are getting much clearer! stopyour it sounds like your DCs have done really well getting on to the right Uni courses for them, which is really encouraging:-)

I am increasingly thinking that a BTEC would be wiser as there's no exams and it would be a lot less stressful for DS. He could also get on to a relevant Uni course this way, as long as he works solidly.

Idefix it sounds like your DS has made a very wise decision in the circumstances and it's interesting what you say about his A level experiences. That totally confirms my suspicions about how this experience would be for DS. I have an older DD who is also dyslexic but in very different ways and she coped very well at A level, but did find the extra time in exams absolutely crucial. I do think a lot comes down to where their particular dyslexic difficulties lie, and how this impacts on revision and exams.DD also did a lot better at GCSE than DS is predicted to do, and I do wonder whether it's harder to do well at A-levels with the combination of Bs/Cs at GCSE AND being dyslexic.

idefix we do actually have a college relatively locally that offers BTEC animal courses so may just go and have another look!

chocolateworshipper Wed 12-Oct-16 19:07:48

DD has severe dyslexia, and also suffers very badly from anxiety. She managed reasonably well with GCSEs - but only because of the coursework in most cases. Therefore doing 3 new-style A levels was an absolute no-no for her. She is doing one BTEC (no exams) and two old-style A levels (they didn't all change at the same time) - one of which has no exams and the other is 50/50. I would suggest looking at any A levels he may be interested in and reading the course description which should include how they are measured. Otherwise the BTEC route may well be best. Best of luck to both of you

Idefix Wed 12-Oct-16 20:10:41

Glad that our experiences were helpful mycat. We really angst about it, ds knows that to get on a uni course he will need to get distinctions on all his course work and even that hasn't been off putting for ds.

I think what is hard is the way that many put doing a levels on a pinnacle and that btecs are a poor cousin.

I think you are correct regarding the impact of different types of difficulty. Although my ds physics class halved in size with students leaving or being asked to leave. We had very little feedback from the school but knew about other students and developed an exit plan. Really want ds to do well to boost his self-esteem which was quite shattered after his as exams.

Good luck with your enquiries, I hope it proves promising.

eatyourveg Thu 13-Oct-16 08:04:18

Some of the new btec courses now have exams along the way so check the syllabus

catslife Thu 13-Oct-16 10:26:43

We asked about the level 3 BTEC animal care course at the local FE College. The main difficulties are far as dd was concerned was organising and travelling to work placements. dd wasn't really sure whether she wanted to commit to a full-time BTEC course.
At her current college it is possible for students to take a mixture of both A level and BTECs. For example A level maths with IT or business BTEC is a fairly common combination.
As said above, some BTECs now have exams so you need to check this. BTECs do mean students have to be well organised and able to meet deadlines as assignments will count towards their final grades from the start of the course onwards.

mycatthinksshesatiger Sun 16-Oct-16 10:43:34

Thanks very much for all the replies. You are absolutely correct about the new BTECs having some exam components eatyourveg and catslife - that has come as a bit of a shock to DS as we thought the major advantage of BTECs was no exams! Why does everything in educational assessment have to be fiddled about with and changed every couple of years! It seems wrong for those DC who learn differently to keep forcing them to do exams :-(

Anyway I think DS has now decided on an applied science BTEC to keep his options open, with animal care as a back-up plan as it requires one less pass at GCSE... Thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts/experiences this thread has really helped us to see things more clearly!

Kez100 Mon 17-Oct-16 20:29:08


I'd be surprised if he would be allowed to do A levels if he pulls off his predictions or even a raft of Cs.

BTECs are great, although they are quite focused so need to choose carefully.

I did BTEC as have both of my children and done very well with them. The key is finding a course the student can be passionate about.

Milkand2sugarsplease Thu 10-Nov-16 10:07:36

I teach in BTEC levels 1-3 and it is quite demanding on them - I think there's more time management required of them mainly because I set smaller tasks more frequently in comparison to the assessment criteria for A Level.
That being said - we don't throw the first years in at the deep end and leave them to manage everything themselves. The start of my classes generally consists of me going over what's coming up/what's due in and when etc before I go into the recap of last lesson etc.

Balletgirlmum Thu 10-Nov-16 10:13:01

I think unless he is predicted to get mostly B grades then A levels will be a challenge.

Ds's school requires at least 5 B's & 3 C's to do A levels including at least a grade B in any subject taken to A levels. Some schools ask for A grades.

TeenAndTween Tue 15-Nov-16 15:30:43

You may be interested in the BTEC Support Thread over on secondary.

You need to look carefully at your chosen BTEC and how it will be assessed.

DD has dyspraxia and has struggled with the written aspects of her level 3 course (in her second year now). Way more written and way less practical than anticipated. Her struggles with writing to order in English have massively impacted her on her course.

(She got 5Bs and 3Cs at GCSE but no way would have managed A levels).

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