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A level choices and moving for 6th form

(34 Posts)
celestialsquirrels Sun 16-Jun-13 09:34:33

Dd is at an all girls day independent school in year 10. She is doing 2 x English, 3 x science, maths, French, philopsophy&theology, geography and drama GCSEs. She is dyslexic - reads a lot and has perfect spelling but slow processing which means she finds it v difficult to get things down on paper fast. She gets full extra time and really needs it.

Her current school offers A levels and IB. She is really not good at maths and appalling at French so IB is probably not right for her. She is NOT a straight A student. I hope she will get a couple of As, mostly Bs and the odd C in maths maybe. But who knows. Her iq is apparently 129 so there is a clear disconnect between intelligence and achievement in exams.

She is thinking about moving to a coed boarding school which offers A level, Pre U and extended projects.

For A level she wants to do English Lit, Biology and Photography. For her fourth either Geography OR English Lang OR an extended project. EP appeals because she can do it at her own pace so her processing issue doesn't come into play. She worries that Geography will mean too many exams with lots of writing. Photography I think would be an obvious AS only, but if she continues she will get an A level AND a Pre U in it (but I don't understand the point in having both). She is passionate about photography.

She doesn't know what she wants to do at uni/for a career. DJ and I come from traditional professional backgrounds so assume university is a given.

I would just be interested in everyone's thoughts about
1. Moving schools at sixth form
2. Subject choices
3. The value of an EP
4. Photography as a subject.
5. Anything else to help me through the confusion!

Thanks v much.

almapudden Sun 16-Jun-13 09:46:32

I think if she's passionate about photography then she should do it for the full two years. It's portfolio-based, so although it does involve a lot of writing and research, it's something she can do at her own pace, without the pressure of exams.

celestialsquirrels Sun 16-Jun-13 09:48:29

But will a university rate it? I have read the Russell group informed choices doc - will English lit, biology and photography get her into a decent uni do you think?

ISingSoprano Sun 16-Jun-13 10:15:38

I think she needs to think about what she would like to study at university and pick the best she can for the subject, rather than get hung up on RG.

My children are in the state school system but and we have separate sixth form colleges so slightly different to your situation. However, the sixth form move has been nothing but positive for my ds. It can be an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

Subject choices - eng lit and biology are two rigorous and highly regarded A levels so, IMO, there is no harm in doing photography too. However, your dd needs to think carefully about what she wants to do after A level. In my experience, any science related degree course will want two science related A levels (or a science and maths). Others may disagree with me but this is what we have found with ds applying for university entry this year. Research, research, research...!

Extended projects - In my opinion (and with no research whatsoever!) I think these are more value in arts related fields than science.

celestialsquirrels Sun 16-Jun-13 10:21:09

Thanks v much for that. Yes I think she would like a chance to reinvent herself a bit too, that's v interesting.
Eng lit and biology look a bit random to me, that's why I think geog would bridge the arts/science gap a bit. I suspect she won't end up doing science at uni but I just don't know.
She is quite young for her age (still hasn't started periods at 15 and 4 months) and I think this is partly why she is unsure about what she might want to do...

ISingSoprano Sun 16-Jun-13 10:34:54

Geog can certainly be good for bridging the gap - I tried to persuade ds to take geography but he was having none of it. He did however take Environmental Science which he has loved (alongside history and biology).

Wuldric Sun 16-Jun-13 10:44:34

I am interested in what you say when you mention that DJ and I come from traditional professional backgrounds so assume university is a given. I recognise that.

But then you go on to describe a child for whom academic stuff is always going to be a struggle, whose probable GCSE grades are at a level where an RG university sounds a bit unlikely, and whose real love and passion is for photography.

Moving schools at sixth form is not a biggy, I did it and DD will do it, although DS probably won't. I just worry you are channelling her into a direction where she can only disappoint (you, and herself) and away from something she loves, and if she loves it she will be happy and probably excel.

celestialsquirrels Sun 16-Jun-13 11:26:58

Hi Wuldric. I say uni is a given because I think it is a valuable way to spend three years, especially for a person who maybe has some growing up to do and no clear idea of where she wants her life to go. I don't have any hang ups about RG unis - I just mentioned that I read that document. Dd is keen on the idea of university. If she said she wanted to go to art school that would also be ok. I just can't see that in 2+ years time she is going to have a clear career plan outside of university. I don't know - maybe she will.

I must say I don't think photography is going to be the easiest career to follow these days where content is cheap/free and everyone is a photographer, but graphic design, film, webdesign etc may offer possible careers I guess.

She isnt good in exams but she is bright. I really just don't want her to make any choices which would prevent her from going to university if that's what she wants to do (as she says she does).

creamteas Sun 16-Jun-13 11:54:44

A levels in English, biology and photography would be an unusual combination but still leave lots of options. She has two traditional subjects and there are lots of subjects at university level that do not ask for specific subjects.

Whether or not to move is very individual and she is the best person to really decide. It will really about how she feels about starting in a new place, and if she is comfortable making new friends, But she is looking to move, then I would say make sure it is to somewhere that has lots of year 12 starters, rather than somewhere were most friendships are already in place.

Don't assume that university is automatic, let her explore about other options. And even if she does want to go to university, don't assume it has to be straight from school. Better to spend a year or two after year 13 finding out where your interests really lie, than feeling unhappy and out of your depth because you are at the wrong uni, or studying the wrong subject for you.

celestialsquirrels Sun 16-Jun-13 12:35:08

That's v good advice, thanks cream teas and everyone else. There are about 60 new ones into sixth form at the school we are looking at, 50/50 girls and boys.
Lots to think about! All other views gratefully received.

senua Sun 16-Jun-13 13:03:26

I don't think that doing Eng Lang as the fourth subject is a good idea if she is already doing Lit. It's too similar.

Ideally, it would be best to know which career she wants and work backwards (in terms of which qualifications that requires) from there. Can you organise some work experience or shadowing? Even a bad experience is useful because it confirms which areas are a no-go.

gatorojo Sun 16-Jun-13 14:59:24

I was reading here for au pairing advice and saw the words "extended project". Where do I my sixth form college the extended project was compulsary - not that this should have been an issue as it was sold as this incredible qualification to make us stand out from the crowd! It would show off our independent learning skills! Our research skills! Our essay skills! A chance to show off a topic we really enjoy! And it had been developed with leading unis to be develop exactly the skills they wanted in students!

A few years ago, the equivalent add-on qualification my college insisted on was either Critical Thinking or General Studies. Believe me when I say, extended project now has that exact same reputation. Admitedly, I applied for a competitive course...but many universities now state that they will not accept A level Critical Thinking, General Studies, or EPQ (extended project). But, as I wrote a project relevant to my course choice, I brought it up at one of my university interviews (how have you shown you can cope with uni work loads?) as it seemed like the perfect answer. My interviewer cut me off to ask what an extended project was. And then made it clear that an EPQ wasn't considered a "real" qualification.

Honestly, if your child has the chance to take an extra A level in a subject where you actually know what the subject is (general studies, anyone?) I'd go for that every time. And while the project part of your EPQ is fun - I genuinely found writing my 5000 word dissertation fascinating - don't underestimate the 20,000 words of write-up that'll need to go with it. I think only 10% of the marks go on the project. The other 90% is evaluation, did I use my time well, analysis etc.

eatyourveg Sun 16-Jun-13 16:50:54

If she is worried about the amount of writing for Geography, surely the same could be said for English Lit or do you mean having both subjects together would constitute overload?

I would investigate the availability of assisstive technology ie Dragon speech recognition software that exam boards are beginning to accept in place of scribes. Our college loan out laptops with it pre-loaded for students with dyslexia. It makes essay writing so much easier for them.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 16-Jun-13 16:57:48

Interesting experience with the extended project. Completely counter to the experience of pupils at Dd1's superselective, true. But interesting nonetheless. Our school doesn't send equal numbers to every RG university - there are definite 'typical destinations' (including Oxford and Durham, Cambridge not so much (although sometimes) and Bristol very rarely). Maybe those destinations are in part a reflection of the differing attitudes towards the extended project. Anyway, the experience from our school is that some RG unis love the EP but clearly people need to do research to find out which those are. Which might be a helpful thing for the OP to bear in mind.

celestialsquirrels Sun 16-Jun-13 17:05:30

That is all so interesting. I do feel that with all these different choices of qualifications you are going to get different institutions viewing them all differently which fits in with what you are saying gatorojo. Eat your veg - yes I know eng lit is wring- heavy but she loves books and reading and is keen to do it. It's the added extra of geography I'm not so sure about.

So the school does Linear A levels in Eng Lit - ie if you start it you have to do it for A2 as they don't do an AS level in it. She could start English Lit, Biology, Geography and Photography and drop any of them except English after AS. She would end up with 3 Alevels and an AS plus a PRe-U as well as A2 Photography if she had kept that going. It sounds quite a workload.

Or she could do English, Biology and Photography and just see them through to A levels and use the extra time to concentrate on those 3 subjects. Plus or minus the EP and I am moving away from that idea a bit...

ISingSoprano Sun 16-Jun-13 17:50:15

The impression I got about EP was that if you are looking to do a degree in a subject you haven't studied previously, say..., Archeology, then the EP can be a good way of demonstrating your interest and commitment to the subject.

OttilieKnackered Sun 16-Jun-13 18:00:42

It doesn't sound like English language is a front runner, but just for information, I disagree with whoever said English literature and language were too similar. I teach both at A level and they are totally different. Lit is exactly how you'd imagine - lots of analysis of poems, plays and novels, a bit of context and comparison. Language at A level becomes more like a science. Tons of terminology, lots of grammar, an individual investigation in the second year with lots of data to handle. Both have a fair amount of writing, but lit more so. I think language has the reputation of being a bit soft but my students who do both almost invariably find lit easier. As long as you enjoy reading, it's fairly straightforward.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sun 16-Jun-13 18:01:28

ISing There are people who were (or still are, just) at our school who swear that it was their EP that got them their Oxbridge place. I'm not sure of the level of correlation between the EPs and the degree subject though (our school does produce a lot of medics which is a double edged sword really, great if your child wants to be a medic, perhaps less so if your child doesn't). For me, I think I'm currently viewing it as a bit like DoE (which my DD does not and will not do for a variety of reasons but primarily chippy leftiness on my part grin ). Some people value DoE awards, some don't. Some people, for some bizarre reason, find value in doing the DoE awards, some hate them. The people that love them are more likely to attribute subsequent success in part to the DoE award, the people that think it was a load of old toss are more likely to say it was worthless. Since DD1 will have to do an EP I'm currently minded to view it like its fans do - as a valuable thing. But I am aware that not everybody is convinced of its value. And I suspect that, probably similar to DoE, you get out of it what you put in.

celestialsquirrels Sun 16-Jun-13 19:14:24

Ok having looked at it a bit further it appears that she must do 4 A levels/Pre-Us with or without EP, one of which can be dropped after AS, but if she does 3 A levels she HAS to do an EP.
So English, Biology, Photography she needs to do an EP but English, Biology, Photography and Geog/English Lang she doesn't have to....

Kez100 Sun 16-Jun-13 20:02:29

Ahhhh. Photography. My daughters life!

That's all she has wanted to do, since the age of 15. It seemed sensible for her to do the two year extended diploma BTEC and she if she could make the grade. She is now at the end of year one and the one lesson we have learned is to make sure you look at the work of the students before you choose where to study. The specifications are the same but the quality of output varies enormously and luckily my daughter managed to gain a place at a very good art college. Our argument was, if she didn't cut the mustard, she could always do A levels at 18. Photography is often seen as a soft subject but actually being very good and making any money at it - ha! It's probably one of the hardest areas you could think of going in to. It is uber competitive. One of the Uni courses she is looking at has an 11% offer rate and many others are under 20%.

Now, as for A level. I think it's not highly rated to get you into Unis to do other things (obviously if you want to do photography then its useful!) so may be seen as a waste. If its only for AS though, it might be interesting for her to spend a year learning more about it and if it turns out to be a hobby, its always good to know more about these crafts.

I don't think your daughters interested currently in the BTEC but if she is later, then do PM and ask more.

ISingSoprano Sun 16-Jun-13 20:14:55

Could she do English combined lit/lang?

circular Sun 16-Jun-13 21:12:01

DDs current school have EPQ compulsory in 6th form. When we first heard, dug aroun a bit and found Southamptou Uni (RG) seem to have an interest in it

Ad it happens, DD moving on, 1st choice 6th form have optional EPQ in yr13, presumably once they drop an AS. Not sure whether she will choose it as avoids written subjects, but believe you can do a performance for it, amongst other things.

speedology Fri 05-Jul-13 20:01:46

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

celestialsquirrelnuts Mon 20-Jan-14 18:13:41

Hi everyone
I thought I would update as we have moved a bit further down the line. So she decided to try and get into another school for 6th form, and got into a good co-ed boarding school so is off in September 2014. She has to notify them of her A level choices next week (although I guess these can be tweaked any time up to September). To get in, she had to sit a couple of papers last september (ie the start of her GCSE year) in two subjects she was interested in doing at A level and they put together papers which they said were higher than GCSE level to stretch them. She sat English (and got an A) and Biology (and got a C). She thinks the mark in Biology was because she is doing dual science award and she thinks the paper had quite a lot she hadn't covered (based on triple science?)

So her current thinking is to definitely do English Lit and Geography. Then probably Politics. Finally she is still keen on Photography as an AS but is wondering whether that needs to be done as an academic subject at all - if not she would choose either Biology or Philosophy. Her heart tells her to do Photography though.

So English Lit, Geography and Politics are three strong A levels, no? The benefit of Photography is that it gives her a break from essays and tough academics. The downside is that it gives her nowhere to hide if she decides she hates Politics. She is still certain that she wants to go to university and is currently thinking a lot about Canadian universities (she has citizenship and we have family in Canada)... but UK unis also still v much still in the frame.

I would be very grateful for your thoughts!

MillyMollyMama Mon 20-Jan-14 19:24:53

My DD2 did Photography A level and believe me it is hard work and time consuming. They follow a syllabus and cannot do exactly as they want. DD got an A* but her assessments were in March. You work like stink to get everything ready. She also did Art A level because we realised she was not particularly academic but she did get A*s, As and B's in a broad range of 10 GCSEs, but preferred Arts based subjects.

DD1 did Politics A level but found it disappointing in that there seemed little scope for arguing your viewpoint from an academic standpoint. Also English Lit, Politics and Geography is a lot of work. Politics is an essay subject. Where did the Politics come from? Is she really interested in it, because you need to be.

My DD2 changed school at 6th form specifically to get a first class Art/Photography Department and they were amazing. So many girls went on to the best Colleges. To do well, you have to work hard though. With the combination of Art and Photography she was accepted directly onto degree courses with no foundation course.

Regarding the Extended Project, this is more useful for people doing 3 A levels to A2 level. Most people we know at Oxbridge, Bristol etc did 4 A levels to A2, so no extended project. I just worry your DD may struggle with these A levels if her GCSEs are not top notch. Usually good Historians like Politics as they go together well. Difficult to make choices isn't it! Good luck.

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