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Calling Year 12 parents....

(65 Posts)
Sparklingbrook Sat 22-Nov-14 12:30:38

DS1 (Year 11) is about to choose his A Level subjects. No idea of any career path but a vague interest in University. Been going round the 6th form open evenings etc.

Any hints and tips or things you wish you had known from this time last year?
Any subjects turn out to be not quite what they thought?

Littleham Sat 22-Nov-14 17:10:20

We are in the same position with our dd3 (year 11). She has narrowed A Level choice down to a shortlist of six!! Still deciding.... We have been through this a couple of times with older children and made a few mistakes, so for what it is worth...

1) Best if he chooses subjects he really loves (otherwise he may founder, as there is a massive step up).
2) Depending on the school, there may be the odd weak teacher. Avoid at all cost! So my dd2 has one subject which is split into two teaching groups - each group has one strong teacher & one weaker teacher. My dd2 and her best friend have purposely gone into different groups, so that they can swap notes (two lots of notes / two strong teachers).
3) Keep options open. If he doesn't know which career he wants, he could do a combination. So dd3 may take maths, a language, a science and one other.
4) NEVER take Chemistry or Physics unless you are a natural (just because of an A* at GCSE). Could also apply to other subjects!

Hope that helps.

bigTillyMint Sat 22-Nov-14 17:16:23

Watching with interest!

And I second no. 4 - I took Chemistry because I hated my O'level English teacher. Bad mistake!

Littleham Sat 22-Nov-14 17:17:34

Oh and one more thing. If he drops certain subjects it will rule one or two careers out. For example - engineering needs Physics.

Sparklingbrook Sat 22-Nov-14 17:19:21

Thanks Littleham. Dilemma no.1, he is really good at Chemistry and it's on his list. But no interest in the other 2 sciences at all.

At the moment his best subjects are History, Chemistry and German.

Mocks aren't until December and the A Level choices have to be in before the results are out. confused

Sparklingbrook Sat 22-Nov-14 17:25:42

Sorry-just re read the blurb. Choices in by 2/2/2015. That's better. grin

What are these 'elective courses-

Critical Thinking (AS Only)
Extended Project Qualification
General Studies
Science in Society (AS only)

circular Sat 22-Nov-14 17:26:11

Unusual to do just one science subject, except possibly biology. If he wants to do chemistry but no other sciences, maths, geography or psychology would sit well with it.
Think seriously about any MFL unless multi-lingual, a real flair, or visiting the country and/or amongst native speaks frequently. DD managed to drop from a high A at French GCSE to a U at AS. The step up is huge.

Horsemad Sat 22-Nov-14 17:26:15

Just starting out on this road again with DS2...
I agree with choose subjects they love! Makes life much easier I imagine.
It is tricky when they don't have a definite career in mind (DS2 a bit undecided atm: toying with PE teacher/Maths teacher but really wants to do 'something in sport'.

Sparklingbrook Sat 22-Nov-14 17:28:54

Oh dear circular this is going to be hard isn't it? The subjects he loves are not going to be ideal as a level choices possibly.

Luckily the Open Evening is Thursday so we have lots of questions.

TalkinPeace Sat 22-Nov-14 17:34:43

We have 6th form colleges here so BIG departments.

What is his strongest subject?
The one he reads about for pleasure?
The one he might do / linked to a degree

Hang everything around that

Go to the open evening and talk to the staff in THAT department and get them to suggest combinations and options

they will also warn off bad combinations

at our colleges the default is 4 subjects at AS, dropping to 3 at A2
bright kids do 5 and 4
lower ability kids do 3 and 2
then there are the vocational colleges which have a whole range of options

at DDs college they get 5 hours of tuition and expected to do 5 hours of homework / read around per subject per week

Sparklingbrook Sat 22-Nov-14 17:42:10

We visited a 6th form college last week It was huge and a bit overwhelming. DS1 is lucky to go to a school with a 6th Form, loads of schools in the county don't have them.

He is really going to have to think about all this. He is stuck in to the mocks revision at the moment.

I really hope that the teachers can guide him, but I am thinking the Open Evening may be a bit hectic.

Hi Horsemad <waves> 'something in sport' is a start smile

SugarPlumTree Sat 22-Nov-14 17:42:49

I need this thread, it is a nightmare here . She can't decide between current 6th form or local college and that essentially is a choice between A levels and BTEC.

She is short of a 4th subject if she decides to have a shot at A level and can't decide between two BTECs. She wants to look at the College for a second time whereas I want her to take the shadowing a student on a course option to get a better idea of what the courses are like.

Plus her report has just come in and it is not encouraging . Rocking in a corner seems the sensible option currently as far as I can see.

bigTillyMint Sat 22-Nov-14 17:44:05

It all varies so much from area to area and school to school - DD has already got predicted grades, but they don't do their mocks till Feb. Most other schools round here seem to do them before Christmas, but they have just done some internal examsconfused And they have to have 4 or 5 preferred subjects on their application forms that are going in now. It all seems such a rush.

Littleham Sat 22-Nov-14 17:49:35

Mocks next week here. Aaargh! Am tied to computer and no fun trips out as a result for me! Hence lots of posts today.

The other thing is...it may be possible to flex the deadline for choosing. Worth asking your sixth form head.

We have asked for dd3 and have been told she can leave the final choice until September. She is being allowed to start with five subjects to see how she likes them / copes with them and will drop the one she likes least by first term. They are only allowing it because they know she can cope & on the proviso it fits with timetable and she drops one.

webwiz Sat 22-Nov-14 18:03:28

Have you seen this OP

www.russellgroup.org/informedchoices-latest.pdf

The bit about what A levels are essential for each university course and which are preferable is quite a helpful starting point.

Sparklingbrook Sat 22-Nov-14 18:43:39

I have had a look at that webwiz thanks for the link, I am not sure whether he will actually go to University at this point. I have saved it for future reference and will show him though.

TalkinPeace Sat 22-Nov-14 19:55:02

The RG document is really good even for those who will never in a million years go to an RG
because it puts in stark words the point about
keeping options open
and being informed

it should be compulsory reading for every GCSE student and teacher

even DDs friend who struggled to get his 5 C grade GCSEs and is now heading towards Army basic training found it useful to help his focus.

Pennybe Sat 22-Nov-14 22:06:01

My recommendation would be to chat with the Sixth Formers themselves when you go to the Open Days / Open Evenings for an insight into the different courses.

When we went round the local Sixth Form College this time last year, DS knew he wanted to do Physics, Maths and History, but was stuck for a fourth subject. At the college they start off on four subjects for AS-Level and usually drop one at the end of Year 12 (though that may all change for future years due to the de-coupling of AS-Levels from A-Levels with the switch to end of course exams).

Anyway, we were about to leave when I noticed the sign for the Chemistry classroom and suggested we took a quick look. DS hadn't considered Chemistry A-Level before, although he'd already passed the GCSE in that subject at the end of Year 10. He was good at it, but didn't find the GCSE course that interesting.

Well, we were very impressed at the college! The students were so enthusiastic and were telling us how Chemistry was by far their favourite subject. I believe much of this was down to the teachers, but also the syllabus and the way in which the subject was taught at the college. The teachers were very positive too and happy to explain the syllabus to us and the merits of taking the subject.

So, DS chose Chemistry as his fourth AS-Level option, but still expected to drop it after Year 12.

That's all changed now though. It's his favourite subject and the one in which, so far, he seems to be doing best. He intends to carry on with it to A-Level and drop History instead.

My points are:
1. Your DS1 may find inspiration at the open events as mine did and help him to make his mind up over his choices.
2. Sometimes a student is good at a subject, but doesn't particularly enjoy it at GCSE level because it's all a bit "basic", the syllabus may not go into any real depth and the young person is left slightly bored. That can all change at A-Level. There is a big difference. Hence, my suggestion that you and your DS1 talk to the Sixth Formers themselves.

NeitherHereOrThere Sun 23-Nov-14 09:14:31

YY to keeping your options open and at the same time choosing subjects you are naturally good at and enjoy doing.

Do not do Maths if you are not an A* pupil - the leap to A levels Maths is high. Maths is essential if you think you may want to do engineering. Doing a science subject along with Maths is usually recommended but there are exceptions.

Remember that you can change subjects after GCSEs results day so once your application has been accepted, its not set in stone so don't get too stressed.

Ask the sixth form if your son can meet with an advisor to help with the decision making process - most sixth forms should include a brief meeting as part of the application.

Sparklingbrook Sun 23-Nov-14 09:20:42

Thanks Penny. There is vertical tutoring at DS's school so it should be easy enough for DS to grab a 6th former and have a chat.
Really hoping for the fog to clear on the Open Evening IYKWIM, and decisions be clearer.

Neither that is very true, the school opened for the next two days after GCSE results this year for pupils to sort out their Year 12 plans based on what they actually got grades wise.

Needmoresleep Sun 23-Nov-14 11:12:39

I echo what Littleham has said: Both DC are reasonably academic, but fairly one-sided. They hate essays.

1. Start with the next step. What might they want to study. What will help them most. What do they need to achieve. (Be aware on competitive subjects, you often need more than the minimum, unless you have a reason such as you are coming from a very poor school.) Note on competitive courses they sometimes look for a fourth subject at AS, so standard offer becomes A*AAa. Academic students in the Private sector often take 4 A levels as a matter of routine. I assume the schools know what they are doing.

2. Then look at the match. DS had a dilemma. Chemistry would have been easier than history, and he was not sure about Further Maths. In the event Further maths was easier than he expected and history more difficult, so UCAS might have been easier had he chosen chemistry and got a better grade. That said the skills acquired in history should stand him in good stead later on. Employers,. presumably, prefer applicants who are both numerate and literate.

3. Maths. If you are aiming for science or social science do as much maths as you can at school. This keeps more doors open for University entry, plus makes the initial weeks at University easier. But do not do maths unless you found the GCSE easy. Maths is a light workload if your can grasp the concepts quickly. A nightmare if not.

4. Teachers. Look at the results the school is achieving. Ask sixth formers about teachers. Don't be surprised by big variations. Factor in the subjects that more able students are selecting and then consider. If somehow the biology department is getting the average child to an A and the chemistry department is getting the average child to a C with some Us, consider how important it is to do chemistry. If it is important be prepared to support.

5. Mix. Where you can avoid "ology" subjects, other than biology, or anything ending in "studies" other than religious studies. Try to ensure you have two facilitating subjects or something else, like economics, which is well regarded and seen as rigorous. It is usually good to have a bit of contrast, eg maths with humanities, or an essay subject with sciences. Keeping up a language is usually good, though beware that some Universities won't offer against A levels in a mother tongue.

TheWave Sun 23-Nov-14 12:25:08

And ask the school to clarify what they are doing about the linear A levels. I've been to a few sixth form open evenings in past weeks for my yr 11 and they are all different in their planned approaches. Some are saying you have to commit to A2 at the start so choose only 3 subjects plus epq, others are still going to stick with a decision after AS even though the AS will not go forward for the full A level any more, others didn't know yet what they would be doing!

whathaveiforgottentoday Sun 23-Nov-14 18:28:22

Don't select subjects just because they are useful. We always have a large group of students take maths because they know its so useful, but it has by far the highest drop out at the end of AS due to getting U's or E's. Take maths if you are good at it but for some students despite working their socks off, still won't get it (same goes for chemistry and to an extent physics as well). It ends up with them wasting an option.

If you are unsure and planning to take both sciences and humanities. Do select at least 2 sciences (bio/Chem, physics/maths, chem/physics etc) as this will give you options as most science degrees which ask for a minimum of 2 sciences. One science subject is a bit limiting if you then decide to go the science route. However this does go back to my 1st point!

whathaveiforgottentoday Sun 23-Nov-14 18:32:09

The wave - we haven't decided what we are going to do about the linear A levels for definite yet. The 1st wave of new specifications start next sept but the rest of the subjects the year after. All the friends I have that work in other schools/6th form colleges appear to be undecided as well.

Personally, I think management are waiting until after the next election to see what happens with the AS before final decision are made. Crap isn't it!

Horsemad Sun 23-Nov-14 19:50:04

DS is choosing Maths, PE, History and either F. Maths or Geog.
He wants to either teach PE/Maths or do something sport related. Are these reasonable choices?

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