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Do you need GCSEs to take A Levels?

(26 Posts)
candyapple Sun 27-Jan-13 08:08:26

Hi everyone. My first post here. I've been reading the forum for a couple of weeks after hearing about it from a friend.

My situation is this. I lived in Australia for 6 years with OH and 15 year old daughter. We are all keen to move back to the UK.

Daughter will be in Yr 10 and taking year 10 exams at the end of the year which is similar to GCSEs. Then in Yr 11 & 12 students do the 2 year course which is similar to A Levels with their exam score determining which Uni they can apply for.

My dilemma is if we move back to the UK at the end of the year can my daughter just take A levels at a 6th form college without GCSEs 'UK style'.

I have emailed a couple of private colleges at random who said they do not require GCSEs and 1 state 6th form college who said they would need to interview my daughter to assess her level of education and her attitude/apptitude towards studying and that each case was looked at on merit. However, a query to Edexcel gave me the reply that students DO need GCSEs to take A levels regardless of whether they attend private or state 6th form college.

I'm not sure if anyone can help me but thought I'd ask anyway. I am totally confused with the whole situation tbh.

Just to make things more awkward the Aussie school year is Jan-Dec and I kow the UK one is Sep-Jul so we would have to look at her doing something if we moved back in say March next year until term started in Sept.

My daughter is fairly intelligent and is in top groups for Maths/Science/German/S&E and in Academic Extension for English (for Gifted and Talented students) if this info helps.

I'd be grateful for any advice, leads or information. TIA smile

Tommy Sun 27-Jan-13 08:11:42

TBH I think it depends on the college. If your daughter has a good reference and exam results from her current school, then I can't see why she wouldn't be able to do A levels here.
I would ignore EdWxcel grin
Whereabouts are you planning to move to?

xkcdfangirl Sun 27-Jan-13 08:20:09

It will depend completely on the school or college she goes to, and what subjects she takes. In subjects like french or geography or history the topics and skills covered at GSCE will be "assumed knowledge" and if she hasn't covered them in her studies to date she may struggle, but there are many A levels e.g. economics or business studies which it is quite normal to take at A-level without having sat a GCSE in the same subject. There is no check done by the exam boards to verify that a student holds a GCSE before an a-level can be granted - they are not like part1 and part2 of an integrated process, so if she can pass the exams etc she will get the A-level.

I should think she'll be fine.

candyapple Sun 27-Jan-13 08:21:17

Hi thanks for replying. Yes the school would give her a good reference and I have no doubt her exam results will be good. So it seems from what you are saying she wouldn't necessarily need GCSEs.

ATM we are looking at Devon, Dorset, Somerset (Bath in particular) or Herts but have an open mind.

Thank you again

candyapple Sun 27-Jan-13 08:24:33

Thanks xkcdfangirl. I'm starting to feel a bit more positive already. I didn't realise Exam Boards didn't check. I'm so out of the loop regarding UK education I've been floundering.

I'm off to work now sad so will pop on forum tomorrow


LIZS Sun 27-Jan-13 08:26:41

Think as long as she has the equivalent of 5 gcse at A*- C it shouldn't be a problem. You could check with OfQual what the equivalent level in Aus system might be. Many A level courses do not require previous specific study of the subject or maybe look into IB as an alternative.

greenfolder Sun 27-Jan-13 08:35:59

Equivalence is the key! What quals will her exams give her? I recently had a student who had done the Canadian School Leavers (or something) and that was fine.

senua Sun 27-Jan-13 08:36:43

Daughter will be in Yr 10 and taking year 10 exams at the end of the year which is similar to GCSEs.

I don't know, but I would have thought that there was some system for accepting foreign exam results so there shouldn't be a problem if she has some Oz certificate.

Just to make things more awkward the Aussie school year is Jan-Dec and I kow the UK one is Sep-Jul so we would have to look at her doing something if we moved back in say March next year until term started in Sept.

It is possible to sit GCSEs at places other than school, at independent exam centres. Can you book (pre-book, from Oz) for DD to sit some exams in that summer? Despite what I said above, I think that her life will be very much easier if she has UK certificates for English and Maths. I think that I am probably talking about IGCSEs instead of the usual GCSE (IGCSEs have no coursework / controlled assessment or whatever it is called these days). If she is already up to speed in the Oz system then taking the British equivalent shouldn't be too hard - sh just needs to get to know the exam format.

senua Sun 27-Jan-13 08:39:51

if we moved back in say March next year

A lot of places do pre-exam crammer courses over the Easter holidays.

NewFerry Sun 27-Jan-13 08:41:31

It's worth looking online and downloading some English language, maths and (if she wants to continue them at A level), some science papers too. Then she can see what has been covered and where there are any gaps.

Confuseddd Sun 27-Jan-13 08:46:51

There is an organisation called Naric that will 'translate' qualifications. there is a fee, but this may be worth investigating.

LIZS Sun 27-Jan-13 08:48:15

Looking at some uni sites they mention Year10 certificates at A-C including Maths and English. ie. St Georges Medical School here So looks like that should be more widely accepted.

BikeRunSki Sun 27-Jan-13 09:02:36

Would a school that does the International Baccalaureate be more open to your DD's Aussie qualifications? Or an International School? There's Atlantic College in S Wales but must be others.

<disclaimer, I left school a very long time ago and my children haven't started yet>

libelulle Sun 27-Jan-13 09:12:12

'I think her life will every much easier if she has ukcertificates for English and maths' - I disagree. I have neither (educated in a system with no external exams at all at 16) and it's not stopped me getting three degrees from top uk universities. Equivalences are well recognised in the uk education system.

I'd also look into the IB partly because its a broader, more international and arguably more academically rigorous qualificationsmile many many candidates will be starting the ib curriculum in sixth form having come from non-IB backgrounds, so she'd be the norm rather than the exception.

theweekendisnear Sun 27-Jan-13 09:23:07

I used to teach A level Maths in a Sixth form college. Our dept. preferred to accept students for the Maths course only if the students had at least a B in GCSE Maths, however, exceptions were sometimes made for Cs (although the C students did struggle in A level Maths).

I remember an enrollment day when a girl came to enroll. She was from somewhere in Africa - can't remember the country. She didn't have a GCSE exam result, so we pulled out an old GCSE paper and soon realised that she was very good. She was enrolled on the course no problem.

I would check with the colleges that you are interested in. They might give your DD a quick test to check her level, but if she is good in Australia, she will be good here, so I wouldn't worry.

Also, maybe she could sit GCSEs in Australia? Maybe there are international exam centres? I am sure that if she is already preparing for the Australian exam she will not have to do much studying for the English ones (maybe just practise a few exam papers- you can find the on the web - or just post on MN for help in finding them).

Good luck!

senua Sun 27-Jan-13 09:39:43

Equivalences are well recognised in the uk education system.

I wasn't talking about the education system, I was referring to employment. There are some places that will not consider DH for employment because he is not a graduate. This is despite the fact that he has a post-grad level, professional qualification and 30 years' experience.
There are some box-ticking numpties out there.

libelulle Sun 27-Jan-13 10:18:48

That must be frustrating for your dh - but I'd guess they'd be pretty grim places to work senua if they are that lacking in basic common sensesmile Certainly if an employer refused to employ me because I don't have GCSE maths and english certificates, I'd think I'd had a very lucky escape!

MissMarplesThong Sun 27-Jan-13 10:24:33

I agree with the comments about assumed knowledge. Students can struggle with that at any stage.

For subjects like Maths/Sciences/MFL the subjects are the same. You may have been taught in a different way or covered or not covered specific topics but the rules of algebra for example will not be different. For these subjects find the syllabuses your DD covered and compare with the equivalent syllabuses you daughter would have been assumed to have covered and check for any major gaps.

This is no different for many students going from GCSE to A level.

You and your DD may well have to go through this with A level teachers once in the UK but only to identify topics which your DD may need to cover in her own time. Dont be surprised if you need to take the lead in this. Some education establishments do assume that everyone has been on the same conveyor belt and are surprised when that turns out not to be true!

mumblecrumble Sun 27-Jan-13 10:28:00

Hi there, I teach in a 6th form and as long as the student has the experience and /or potential, their previous qualifications can vary.

Also, we spend lots of time trying to get to know each student and even those with GCSE will have different strengths etc so it should be fine!

keep in good contact with teachers and make sure she talks
to them if she finds something hard - best of luck in coming changes etc

senua Sun 27-Jan-13 10:44:18

I'd guess they'd be pretty grim places to work senua if they are that lacking in basic common sense

Unfortunately it seems quite common. There have been stories on MN where someone, a graduate, has gone to work in Hospital A. When they want to transfer to Hospital B they find that the entry requirement is now ramped up to a Masters and they cannot apply, despite having done the exact same job to a good standard for years. Bonkers!

Whathaveiforgottentoday Sun 27-Jan-13 15:37:38

I taught gcse and a levels in an international school and had many students take A levels having come from a different education system. It's no problem at all although once she's decided her subjects, get a copy of the gsce spec and check she's covered everything. Might be an idea to do some work over the summer. I'm sure her prospective teachers would be happy to discuss this with her. Some A levels such as law, sociology, psychology rarely have students who have done gsce in these subjects, whereas sciences, maths etc would expect certain knowledge. I teach biology.

candyapple Mon 28-Jan-13 02:44:09

wow thank you so much everyone. You have been so helpful - much appreciated - and given me so much great advice and ideas. I'll start researching right away.

I was aware of the IB but I was under the impression it was a 3-4 year course so will look into that more. Probably a stupid question but I guess the IB will be equivalent to 3 A levels for uni entry?

I'll also see if I can find a copy of the GCSE spec on-line. Or maybe it's available in Smiths so a friend can send it to me.

I am very grateful for all of your advice. So glad I found this forum. I'll post back and people know what we ended up doing.

Once again thank you very much smile

roisin Mon 28-Jan-13 04:39:14

GCSE specs are all available online.

Which subjects is she interested in?

Whilst A level courses build on GCSE knowledge, many are "stand alone", so you don't have to have studied particular topics at GCSE, but rather developed skills. Eg History - some GCSE courses focus on the Weimar Republic, others on The American West, or The History of Medicine... But the A level course will be completely different.

Maths and Science would have an assumed knowledge of the whole of the GCSE curriculum, and languages too.

libelulle Mon 28-Jan-13 08:07:41

You can start the curriculum earlier but you can absolutely pick up the IB in sixth form and do it in 2 years - the United world colleges for instance do this and take pupils from all over the world. (Does your DD fancy sixth form in Norway or Swaziland?!) Equivalent to 3 A-levels. Indeed some university admissions tutors (this ex-one for instance!) rate it rather higher!

candyapple Wed 30-Jan-13 14:34:05

Thank you for taking the time to reply. Apologies for not responding sooner - I have been doing some very late shifts and trying to catch up on sleep!!!

Roisin - My daughter wants to do English, History and is a bit undecided on the 3rd A Level. I'll be checking out the GCSE specs on line as well. Kids are back at school on Monday after what seems like the longest summer holiday in history LOL (I'm bored!!!!) and I've got time off so I will have lots of time to myself.

Libelulle - Norway 6th form sounds wonderful! Beautiful country but not sure we could afford the beer!! Thanks for the heads up on the IB. That does seem a great idea. I'll be researching that option in depth.

Again thank you everyone for the information. I've got more constructive advice in a few days on here than I managed to get in 4 months of research myself.

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