A Level Computer Science or BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in IT

(20 Posts)
Ozzie9523 Thu 17-Oct-19 11:00:45

Hi our son is currently in year 11 and we are starting to look at Sixth Forms/Colleges - his current school does not have a Sixth Form. He knows he wants to go into IT, possibly programming. He is an above average student but not top - predicted mostly 6s with maybe the odd 7 if he works hard. Top set for everything except maths, which is set 2 (he currently has a maths tutor). I don't think he is Uni material in all honesty and we and he are not fussed about him going tho we haven't ruled it out completely. If he did go he'd do a Computer Science degree. So we're currently deciding between doing 3 A Levels, in CS, Business Studies which he is interested in and one other which we don't have a clue - I don't think A level maths would be for him, especially as he is currently working hard to get a top grade in GCSE maths. We're looking at a BTEC level 3 diploma in IT which apparently is equivalent to 3 A Levels. I think it might be better for him to concentrate solely on IT as he knows that's what he wants to do. But he keeps wondering about A level computer science. I don't want to put him off but I think he might struggle to do A Levels as his grades are currently all over the place. Does anyone have any experience of these particular subjects/courses? Many thanks

OP’s posts: |
DryToast Thu 17-Oct-19 11:06:55

I would say the BTEC will definitely be more accessible for your son.
If he has a passion for IT and he struggles with an eclectic mix of subjects then 100% concentrate on one. I see so many students who are pushed to take 3/4 A’levels when the courses are not accessible to them. They inevitably fail their AS year and drop out of school feeling deflated and lost.
I would only discourage a BTEC if he was looking to go to a Russel group Uni.
The BTEC course would give him the relevant accreditation’s to get a job within the profession and should be accepted under UCAS to get him into some universities should he want to go in the future (provided he has his maths GCSE)
All the best to you both! ⭐️

MillicentMartha Thu 17-Oct-19 13:39:39

My DS2 did the last version of that course, (it's recently been updated.) He found it extremely accessible but I'd say his GCSEs weren't as high as your DS is predicted. He got mostly Cs with Bs in double science, IT, geography and an A in maths.

If your DS is hard working he'll be able to excel at the BTEC and should be aiming for distinctions from the outset. Maths A level can be a killer if you aren't a natural. The BTEC is not as highly rated academically as A levels, but some universities will include it and apprenticeships might be available. These are becoming very competitive, though.

Comefromaway Thu 17-Oct-19 14:38:08

Have you got two threads, I swear I replied to this.

But my advice would be to visit colleges, talk to staff and ask about the content and assessment methods of the different courses. Some colleges may even allow him to combine a smaller size btec with an A level.

My son wanted to do A level music but he isn't academic and would struggle to find 2 other subjects he could achieve at so he will probably apply for a music Btec.

MarchingFrogs Thu 17-Oct-19 16:39:59

(Posting on right thread this time - teach me to get distracted by real life in the middle of trying to interact in the etherhmm)

I would only discourage a BTEC if he was looking to go to a Russel group Uni.

Nootingham, Newcastle and Cardiff accept BTEC without A level Maths, grades required ranging from DMM to triple D*.
(All for BSc Computer Science, source: UCAS )

Plus possibly QMUL, which invites potential applicants to contact someone to discuss their particular situation.

Miljah Thu 17-Oct-19 19:42:01

I am you. Or, at least, my DS1 is yours!

Briefly (as I can!): DS1 was 'being 15' during his GCSEs. Achieved one grade point lower than predicted in 6/10 GCSEs, but still hmm started A levels in Maths (B in GCSE); Physics, Geog and Economics at a good, but 'forgiving' 6th form. He also had a B in Computer Science GCSE.

By mid lower 6th, we all knew it was Going Wrong. Same 'meh' attitude.

By luck, I had a convo at work (I am a HCP in a degree level entry job); where a 'lad' said he'd messed up his AS's so transferred to restart, via a '3 A level equivalent BTEC Extended Diploma' (in Applied Science); thence onto the HCP degree.

So I did my research and unearthed the same level BTEC in Computing at a nearby Technical college. I had no idea it existed!

So off DS1 went (via a D, and E and a U AS level.. ) to Tech.

It was a very different experience; no bells between lessons, no 'Parents Evenings' or week by week 'progress report' (maybe because it was a Tech?) but 8 in his class. Also, being BTEC, constant deadlines. A fiendishly complicated way of totting up achievement. Some 30 point modules, some 90; 4 external exams. But the students seemed to know exactly where they stood!

DS1 hit his stride. Left with D star, D star, D (D= distinction). Now at a well rated ex-poly (Y2) doing Software Engineering.

So, the downsides? He could only do something computer-y with the BTEC (tho I feel we allow kids to not specialise in anything in the interests of keeping 'all options open, always', even unto 17,18 in the UK). He also couldn't apply for 'Computer Science' at a RG because they demand Maths A level alongside, and want an A grade.

DS didn't want to do Computer Science, he wanted to do Computing. There is overlap, so check exactly what the uni course involves. People use the term interchangeably.

Note 'Computer-y' subjects at uni have one of the highest drop out rates (10%+), because the students don't know what they've let themselves in for!

The upsides? Having a relatively easy Y1 at uni as he has covered so much of what they're teaching, given that he spent all of the last 2 years doing 'Computers', whereas some had only done 1/3 of those two years doing CS 'A' level.

Already able to code.

A scholarship for his good grades.

25% of students access uni via BTEC these days. We aren't talking Oxford here, but- a thought. It has been said that if your chosen course has more than one word in its name- maybe an ex Poly? grin.

No one cares if your software engineering degree came from which uni, within a (wide) reason, as long as it's a solid 2:1, and you can account for yourself. If the employer is looking for RG graduates, they're probably not looking for my son!

YeOldeTrout Thu 17-Oct-19 19:46:31

Funny enough I was talking to a colleague, young guy (mid 20s), who did ICT BTEC + business studies A-level. One thing he said was that he was getting no joy with job applics afterwards so he went for a higher apprenticeship and immediately got heaps of interviews, never been out of work since. He's pleased with the path & (having got to know him better today) I think it was very important to him to earn & pay for himself, contribute to the household. So it was kind of a values decision too, about what situation one is most comfortable to be in. University just isn't right fit for many.

I'd say in the business intelligence world, it's pretty common to not have a degree. Good database skills are what matters, often.


Ruby2065 Fri 18-Oct-19 11:02:52

Miljah your son could be mine too ! He's bright but dyslexic and has a inconsistent work ethic ! He got pretty similar grades to yours at Gcse - 4 6s, (but very close to 7 in all 4) rest 5s and a 3 in english language sad. I tried to persuade him to consider an extended btec diploma in CS but he was adamant that he did A' levels. (CS, geography, physics, As in core maths and english retake ) He's doing okaish at the moment but if things do go pear shaped it's something I'll discuss with him. Only trouble is purely CS btecs seem pretty rare. They do an IT one at his sixth form college, but the nearest CS one is probably 20 miles away.

Miljah Fri 18-Oct-19 23:58:50

Ruby I 'made' my DS learn to drive because when we first decided on the change of direction, lacklustre ASs to BTEC, the nearest was 20 miles away, 1 hr 15 by public transport!

By God's sweet grace the local Tech suddenly decided to offer it, tho DS started (!) without a clear exam board having been decided on!! But it was an extended, 3 A level equivalent BTEC course. We thought DS might do HND from it, but he decided on uni, and the tech now no longer offer HND 🙁 anyway.

Ruby2065 Sat 19-Oct-19 08:16:54

Glad things turned out ok ! Trying to get my son learning to drive when he turns 17 in jan but he’s got a free bus pass so not fussed confused

Regarding btecs dps son is on his last year of an advanced diploma in architecture, his GCSEs were lacklustre but he’s really excelling at this so now in the midst of applying to uni ! It’s been the making of him and provided him with a lot of practical skills that he wouldn’t have acquired if he’d just done straight A’levels !

FozzieMK Sat 19-Oct-19 11:02:09

My DD didn't do very well at GCSE but after a year working she attended a local college and took the level 3 extended BTEC in IT. She left with D* D* D* and got 4 university offers. She decided to join one she could commute to and graduated this year with a first in Business Computing.

All the points made by Miljah are completely true. She found the first uni year really easy and was ahead of her peers because of the work covered in BTEC, many dropped out after the first and second year and many went down a year as the course content is demanding. Taking BTEC rather than A-Levels has not held her back in any way.

BubblesBuddy Sat 19-Oct-19 14:27:34

As I said on the other thread, for a Computer Science degree, Maths A level is needed. This is not the same degree at Computing for Business. The difference is that CS is a Science. So do your homework about which degree might suit and the qualifications required for the different types of degree.

Miljah Mon 21-Oct-19 18:10:02

Yes, that's true. They are different subjects. You need to check the course content carefully, but demanding a A at maths A level hints at CS, rather than Computing.

Foxranawaywithhisshoes Wed 06-Nov-19 22:51:17

Does anyone know any colleges or schools that offer this in London? The only place I can find it is Uxbridge and we live in South West London giving an hour and a half's commute.

titchy Wed 06-Nov-19 23:01:01

Do you mean the Level 3 extended diploma? Kingston and Richmond colleges offer this. Esher offers the one A level equivalent one.

Foxranawaywithhisshoes Thu 07-Nov-19 21:52:14

Thanks Titchy but both the KIngston and Richmond ones are IT and not computing.
And he wants the Level 3 qualification.

MarchingFrogs Thu 07-Nov-19 23:11:53


Would this also be too far?

Foxranawaywithhisshoes Fri 08-Nov-19 19:50:37

Wow thanks, that is a bit closer.

Foxranawaywithhisshoes Sat 23-Nov-19 18:07:38

Just wanted to thank you again for the NESCOT recommendation - we went to visit and really liked it.

MarchingFrogs Sat 23-Nov-19 18:13:58

@Foxranawaywithhisshoes - you're welcomesmile. It was just a 'stab' from the ether, so to speak, so I'm glad that it looks like a good one.

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