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For those whos dc are not/have not been A/A* students at A level.

(48 Posts)
mrsrhodgilbert Mon 05-Sep-11 14:36:02

As a new yr13 parent as of today I have a very genuine and perhaps this year more than ever, a very heartfelt and concerned question. With the best will in the world dd is not going to get top grades and therefore is not going to get an offer from any of the top universities in the country. She will probably get B/C grades maybe even D, who knows. I am at a loss about options for next year. She is by no means certain that she wants to go to uni at the moment. School is about to gear up for a big UCAS onslaught, but we certainly have not been asked to prepare personal statements over the summer.

The AS results did not help to focus her mind on a particular subject. We hear such a lot about students who get great grades, but very little about the ones (in fact the majority) who do not achive those A/A*s. Would any of you be prepared to share a little about what your dc's are going to do/have done?

I'm not looking for a debate about the merits of uni for these kids. I know it must be valuable for many of them. I would really like to hear some stories of things that have worked well, or maybe not worked for those of you who have been there or are like me are still wondering.

kritur Mon 05-Sep-11 17:09:26

I'm not a mum of teenagers but I am an experienced 6th form tutor in an 11-18 comprehensive school so I meet lots of children in your daughters position.

Bs and Cs are perfectly decent results and should lead to a decent university course. That said the choice of course will need more care as 9k fees mean that value and employability will become more of a factor. I would not recommend that anyone goes to study something wishy-washy at a not so respected uni after this year as I just don't think that will be value for money.
Just looking at where various of my students have gone this year and here are a few examples of where similar grades would get you
Nursing at Bradford (well respected for health sciences) would require 240 points so BBB
Chemistry at Newcastle requires BBC
Primary teaching at Hull requires BBB
Diagnostic radiography at Liverpool requires BCC
If she really doesn't know what she wants to do then that is more of an issue because she is making a big financial commitment. The school will be starting the whole process and if she were in my form I would be encouraging her to start her application so that she's got everything inputted (personal details, GCSE results etc) in case things become clearer. She doesn't have to submit an application but if it gets close to deadline and she decides she wants to it will save her a lot of time.

She could really do with some good work experience but it's difficult with Y13 being such a full on year. It won't do her any harm to take a year out after A-levels and get more of an idea of what she wants.

kritur Mon 05-Sep-11 17:11:21

Sorry 240 points is BCD!
B = 100, C = 80, D = 60
I wish they would stop b*ggering about with the UCAS tarrif, it was so much easier when it was 10 points for an A etc!

Talker2010 Mon 05-Sep-11 17:54:42


I agree with kritur

We saw Y13 students off to study at uni with anything from DEE through to A*A*A*a

Courses are there for all

We also saw a number going into apprenticeships and other jobs with or without training

A year away will not hurt but it is harder to go back (unless you have applied and taken a year out) so you need to be aware of that

BestisWest Mon 05-Sep-11 18:40:20

MrsRhod, my DD is most definitely not an AAA student - BCE at A level. She's off to a fairly well respected Uni in a few weeks (not a million miles from Rhod's home town as it happens).

It helped that it was a points offer and she could make up the missing points from an AS in a subject she dropped and another qualification. It is a subject that she loves and wants to teach though so it was an easy choice for her.

Don't be disheartened by all the stories of AAA grades on here, lovely for those who can achieve it but doesn't mean Uni isn't a valid option for those who can't.

MigratingCoconuts Mon 05-Sep-11 18:49:19

as a biology teacher I completely agree with everything said here. These are decent grades leading to decent courses.

I guess the message to all students (even the A* ones wink) is that with increased fees, students need to choose courses really carefully and think about where they are headed afterwards. Awful to be lumbered with high debt and no real direction.

I met an ex student recently who opted to turn down her uni place to follow a career in business (resulting from her saturday job). She's now area manager and really happy. I was so pleased she found what made her tick and that she is suceeding at it.

saggarmakersbottomknocker Mon 05-Sep-11 18:55:41

I agree - my dd isn't going to get AAA either. She's applying for uni to keep her options open and we'll see what happens.

ds1 flunked his A-levels and has since done some OU modules whilst working full-time and is going to our local university to complete his degree. His OU modules mean he can go straight in to yr 2. For him this has been a better route - he's more mature - I can see he would have dropped out had he gone at the 'usual' time.

mrsrhodgilbert Mon 05-Sep-11 20:21:50

Thank you for your replies, I was a bit nervous about what I was going to get back. She seems to want to take quite a risk and drop History which she got B in to take Biology which she got a D in. She has hated the history at AS despite being very keen for GCSE but she loves the Biology.

Her summer exams produced grade C in Biology, but her E in the ISA pulled the mark down. A quick chat with the teacher today has encouraged her to continue, with an ISA retake. We are going to speak to the teacher too, I can fully understand her desire to do the subject but there has to be some hope. I wonder, MigratingCoconuts, if you would recommend a student continue with these grades so far, an unbiased opinion would be appreciated.

We are quite happy to support her in applying next autumn, after she has results, rather than with a teacher reference based on a poorish mark this time. That said school have already got them to register and do the basics on UCAS.

Taking a year out, doing some work/experience/volunteering and growing up is definitely an option so she doesn't make a very expensive mistake. I would quite like to think that a lot of unsure kids might be able to do the same this time.

gingeroots Mon 05-Sep-11 20:33:44

IMO A levels require a lot of work ,and perhaps this is even more so if you're not a student who gets A's and B's .
Sooo - I think it's important they study subjects they enjoy .

MigratingCoconuts Mon 05-Sep-11 20:39:23

As a rough guide, whatever she got in the AS is what she is heading for in the A2. I completely recommend the ISA retake as this will help with her overall A2 mark. I think it is also a correct choice to stick with the course that she enjoys. Its very hard to do well in any A level that you actually don't like much! It is also very telling that her teachers want her to continue! We don't always do that, I can tell you!

I would therefore suggest she will most likely get a C grade next year.

It will be hard work mind you. She'll need to secure her revision technique. I met a student today who missed her grade B by 2 UMS marks and she is certain she only really found a decent revision technique in the final weeks before the exams.
I also taught a student who got a D at AS but came out with a B grade overall because he did find his revision style between AS and A2 and it just started to work better for him. The change in his maturity towards studies was very clear throughout A2.

She also needs to fully understand why she got an E on the ISA. If she can fix this for the retake and also for the coursework in A2, she stands herself in much better stead.

I hope this helps.

cat64 Mon 05-Sep-11 20:46:48

Message withdrawn

MigratingCoconuts Mon 05-Sep-11 20:54:53

That's the prooblem. The headlines are always about the A* kids but an awful lot of students get very good grades and do well without getting these dazzling results.

In the end, its about enjoying your studies and also where it takes you in life...and that can be through a decent university course or not..whatever works for you.

When they don't know what they want to do, its even more important to pick A levels that they enjoy really. It gives a vague idea of the things they might want to continue with in the future grin...

but what was interesting about meeting that student of mine who dropped her uni place for the business opportunity was that nothing in her school work indicated to her that this is what she would enjoy. It was the saturday job that did that. She said to be that she never would have guessed that this is what she would enjoy and be really good at five years later.

mrsrhodgilbert Mon 05-Sep-11 20:56:54

That's really encouraging, thank you both. I agree she will apply herself much better to something she enjoys, but could become quite depressed if forced to do the history. She has really lost interest plus dislikes the teacher sadly, so that certainly hasn't hepled.

You have given us some useful pointers for our discussions with her Biology teacher this week and we would really like to make this work for her.

She is much more secure in her other 2 subjects, which I hope will lighten the pressure a little.

mrsrhodgilbert Mon 05-Sep-11 22:27:42

There was a book mentioned on another thread by Brian Heap called University Degree Course Offers. It would appear to have all degree courses in the country listed with the grade requirements. I have ordered it from Amazon as I expect it will be much quicker to flick through to find grade info, than trawling through every page of UCAS. If you know you can expect top grades the world appears to be your oyster. If you need to do a bit more detailed research this just might make it easier. Schools probably have copies, but I had never heard about it until yeatsrday.

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Tue 06-Sep-11 00:05:29

Crikey, is Brian Heap still going?

He was my sixth form careers teacher over 25 years ago and he was no spring chicken then!

His book was the bible then for looking up grade requirements for every course in the country and it looks like it still is. You will find it very useful.

4merlyknownasSHD Tue 06-Sep-11 11:32:18

No.1 son failed to get place at a highly respected course/uni that he wanted and got a place (through clearing) at an ex poly which turns out to be also well respected, doing a similar course that he absolutely loves, and he is working very hard (2:1 after 1st year).

No.2 son got a good offer of CCC at the uni of his choice (also an ex poly) with a very good rugby team. He got DDE (which was much better than his january modules) and they still accepted him. He is going to have to work like stink to keep up. BUT, the point of this is to say that whilst we have been very lucky in both cases, it may be that things do not work out as we all hope, but they do seem to work out in a different way. We had a 'Plan B' which we have not needed ...... a plumbing course.

One other thing to remember is that "A Levels" are not only a way to get into University; they are a qualification in their own right, and someone with DDE is better qualified for other jobs than someone without that. One lad we know got straight As and A*s and has chosen not to go to Uni but to train in accountancy with one of the big firms. In other words, going to a "Top University" is not the only way.

Pippaandpolly Tue 06-Sep-11 11:55:44

Universities do cater for students of different abilities as they're looking at potential and lots of uni courses don't directly follow on from A level subjects - she'll just need to make sure she doesn't get side tracked by looking at all the top unis who want straight As. I've had students in the past whose parents have been very focused on Durham/Imperial/York etc, which has meant their children have been under the false impression they'll get into these places (usually with a 'the school just doesn't believe in you like we do darling hmm kind of attitude), and parents have needed to be sat down by me(tutor) or Head of Sixthform and had it explained that it's not JUST a question of their child 'pulling their socks up' - they are not going to go from CCDD at AS to AAA at A2. You, on the other hand, sound very supportive and realistic so I'm sure your daughter will be fine smile

LadyLapsang Tue 06-Sep-11 12:02:59

My advice would be to do your homework on the universities and the courses. Depending on what subject(s) she wants to do, she may be able to 'upgrade' her university through applying for joint honours with a more unpopular but well respected subject (e.g. physics / MFLs etc.)

Some unis although academically well respected have lower grade requirements than other less good institutions, perhaps because of their isolated location.

Make sure she visits, speaks with the tutors and sits in on some lectures if possible.

If your DD's school is geared up properly for university admission, seek their advice. Also, look at the school's results for A Level, if the history teacher is getting good grades across the class and the biology teacher is not then you need to have a discussion at the very least.

gingeroots Tue 06-Sep-11 14:55:10

someone with DDE is better qualified for other jobs than someone without that
but it seems to me that most schools ( maybe sixth form colleges are different ? ) kick you out if it seems likely that's what your results will be .

They might be an achievment for the student and better than no A levels ,but the schools seem more worried about the negative effect on their ranking in the league tables .
I don't think it's the wish of subject teachers to remove such candidates - seems to come from above .

MigratingCoconuts Tue 06-Sep-11 16:56:16

That's not the case at my (excellent) school gingeroots. I would be really saddened if it was across the country.

We discourage students who are not likely to pass at AS level from taking up the course in the first place, as this would be a waste of a year in their lives.

However, the measure we use for success is value added (ALPS) by measuring how well they meet their target grade generated by their ability (based on GCSE scores).

I don't care if a student has not got A or A* grades but I do care if they have done well for their ability.

gingeroots Tue 06-Sep-11 17:30:47

I'm glad it's not everywhere ,seems so wrong .

We're inner London ,school became an Academy 3 years ago ,so much to prove .
Though last year saw their A level results fall , perhaps made them more desperate this year .

Hopefully DS ( respectable grades at AS ) can move on - he's off to do a Foundation Degree ,so perhaps things will work out .

mrsrhodgilbert Tue 06-Sep-11 18:29:28

At my daughters school I think 3 students have not returned this year. Any who got grade E or below have had to drop the subject for A2 and pick up 2 or 3 new AS levels along with the remaining A2s.I believe thats to do with funding, but it still seems like a lot of work to me too, especially as some of those will also be doing resits.

I have noticed several people saying that their dcs have got on to well regarded ex polys. I graduated myself in 1982 so am still trying to work out what certain places used to be in my day, I'm not sure if that is a sensible or worthwhile thing to do. Something that does concern me is that a few months ago I heard in the news that about 10 or 11 universities were in grave danger or going under, but the places themselves were not named. Whilst I can understand both sides of that arguement it does add yet another factor to cause concern.

I gather some of the newer unis have excellent reputations for certain subjects, but how do you find this out? Do I now need a good university guide?

For those of you who are involved with 6th formers, are you noticing any difference at all in attitudes of your students this year with regard to the fee increase? Our school seem to be charging on, business as usual.

LadyLapsang Tue 06-Sep-11 19:18:14

DS got offers from 5 well respected unis (all Russell Group and similar), no ex polys (although nothing wrong with polys anyway- don't know why they got rid of them) with lower grades than your daughter at AS (although he did improve them). If I were you I would get onto Amazon and buy Heap and read that alongside looking at all the good university guides and go and visit any likely ones.

MigratingCoconuts Tue 06-Sep-11 19:34:56

mrsrhodgilbert..... i think the best way is to talk to people who are professionals in that field. Tricky, I sort of assumes you know people in the filed. They tend to know which courses are rated as training for their field. The school should know too.

I have n't met the year 13 students to find out yet what they are thinking about it all. One student ahs dropped out, after getting a D grade, because she has a job offer. I know she has started out on the UCAS road so I should have asked if that was fee related.

I have met three ex year 13 students who all missed out on their UNi places by a grade. They are gutted but are all planning retakes to re-apply next year. Fees do not seem to be a concern although they do realise that missing a couple (literally 2 in one case and 1 in another) of UMS marks across their A levels has cost them thousands.

Cupawoman Tue 06-Sep-11 19:39:16

MrsRhod VERY refreshing to see a post about DC whose predicted/actual grades are not all A*/As or and who are not aiming for Oxbridge. DS1 achieved BBC grades last year at A level (in my view respectable grades) and did choose to go to (ex poly) university. During A levels I felt he lacked maturity and application with regard to his studies, but during his first year at uni he worked very hard and ended the year with a 2:1. He seems to have developed a totally different attitude towards his studies and the more independent approach works for him. OTOH my nephew, who achieved Cs and Ds and did not want to go to uni full time, is starting an engineering apprenticeship and will be paid £11000/year whilst he works and studies for an engineering degree part-time. The firm he works for will pay for his degree and he will graduate whilst having a job.

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