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Ds hating A levels- what do we do?

(26 Posts)
Tanaqui Mon 14-Dec-15 09:56:35

Ds is bright, at a good school, but after a term of A levels he is miserable and wants to leave... How do we help him?

I know he has to stay in education or training (he is just 16), and I gather he could look for an apprenticeship? But he has no idea what he wants to do, he isn't into practical things or I would encourage him into a skill like plumbing, he just needs some time to grow up and figure out where he wants to get to! I'd quite like him to leave and get a job, and then maybe go back in a year or two, but is that feasible?

I'd be so grateful for any advice!

tribpot Mon 14-Dec-15 09:59:48

What is it he doesn't like? The subjects? The length of the course? The setting? All of those things can be changed.

Is it just that it's much harder than GCSE? I seem to recall there being a significant jump in expectations, although that was a long time ago - I was in the very first year of GCSEs where they basically made them up as they went along. Does he have some student counsellor or support at school? I would imagine first term wobbles are pretty common.

Tanaqui Mon 14-Dec-15 10:09:33

I haven't managed to persuade him to go to student support- it's a very academic school, full of very driven high achievers, but he wanted to stay there after GCSE.

The work does seem a lot, but probably not more than if he got a proper job! I worry that he will want to do something in the future that does need A levels, and he won't have any, or he won't have ones as good as he is academically capable of- I don't want him to make a choice now that he later regrets! But I hate seeing him so miserable, and it seems pointless to just go through the motions and therefore do badly.

tribpot Mon 14-Dec-15 12:18:13

But what is it that's making him miserable? Is it that he thinks he will do badly? Are all his friends still there, or have some gone on to do other things?

I'm very supportive of people finding the right path for themselves post-16 - I went to a very academic school and it was fine for me as I was always going on to do A-levels, but my brother, who is much less academic, was basically told to bugger off aged 16 and go on YTS. I was horrified when I started working in FE to discover an entire world of more vocational training he could have been doing, the school never mentioned this and without the internet my parents didn't know how to research alternatives.

But your ds does first need to say what it is he hates, and why - there's obviously something going on, whether it's a friendship group that's gone sour or something related to the work.

TeddTess Mon 14-Dec-15 13:04:46

why does he hate it?
A levels aren't "fun". they're bloody hard. but if he doesn't know what else he would rather be doing, and if you think he is capable of doing them, then he needs to snap out of it and get on with it imo. if he leaves a lot of doors close.

i'm not saying A levels are for everyone, but just because he's not enjoying himself doesn't mean he should quit. i don't remember enjoying A levels!

what does he do outside of school? extra curricular? maybe that's where he needs to find some interests/fun/new friends?

BrendaandEddie Mon 14-Dec-15 13:16:34

Look at doing a Btec instead - equally challenging but much more transferable if he does want to go onto higher ed later

Tanaqui Mon 14-Dec-15 13:26:10

I don't actually know what he hates- the amount of work certainly- and I guess he may be seeing less of friends who are doing different combinations. He definitely doesn't love any of his subjects!

I am blush to admit I know very little about Btecs- I always vaguely thought they were more vocational, so I'll have a bit of a Google- thank you.

yumscrumfatbum Mon 14-Dec-15 13:35:14

My son was very unsure about what he wanted to do post GCSE s but knew he didn't want to do A levels. He is doing a Btec at college and really enjoying it. He's had to become a lot more independent and organised as he has to travel quite a distance and he's enjoying the teaching approach which is very different to his school experience. He still doesn't know what he wants to do long term but we figured he is adding to his qualifications and fulfilling his obligation to stay in education. He may decide to return to a more academic route in two years but for now he is focusing on something he enjoys. He has also got a part time job which fits in around college. The course is only sixteen hours a week over four days. This is all they get funded for. There are lots of options I suggest you see what's on offer locally. Good luck

bikingintherain Mon 14-Dec-15 13:36:01

I used to teach this age, and I think that the jump from GCSE to A-Level is harder than A-Level to Uni.

So in one hand he might settle into it. In the hand he's done a term. A-Levels are really hard work, and to push through for another year and a half of something he hates is not really going to do him any favours. I would get him to talk to his teachers, but also proactively look at other options; Other education, work etc. I would want to see that he has a good plan (even if it changes) and he realises what leaving means.

It will help him focus and really think through the life choices he makes. I certainly think there are options to go back into education at some point if he takes a year out.

BrendaandEddie Mon 14-Dec-15 13:39:05

i know lots of cool kids who did btec - one now at Manchester UNi

MyLifeisaboxofwormgears Mon 14-Dec-15 13:45:13

A levels are not there to be enjoyed - they are an essential stepping stone to university and as such are a real shock compared to GCSE, which are really very easy in comparison.
If he hasn't been prepared for the amount of additional work and independent learning he won't like it.

tribpot Mon 14-Dec-15 13:45:13

Is he just unable to tell you what he hates in that way of teenagers, or have you not yet sat down and had a proper talk with him about it?

I do think he (or you, I'm not sure what's really appropriate at 16) needs to engage with the school, I would hope they have some kind of process in place for students who are wobbling.

Have a look at your Council's website - this is the entry page for my one to guide you through the options available post-16.

MyLifeisaboxofwormgears Mon 14-Dec-15 13:46:19

I think also teenagers have an unrealistic expectation of school work being secondary to socializing. Sadly, A levels require commitment and socialising has to take a back seat.

BlueBelle123 Mon 14-Dec-15 16:03:22

Now that he has done a term, have you had a report on how he is doing, are the grades in line with someone that is struggling or are the school pleased with the progress he has made and he is still on course for his predicted grades?

If its a serious wobble I should talk to his tutor/pastoral manager and over the Christmas explore his options, once he knows what they are A levels might or might not appeal! But remind him what ever he decides he is still going to have to apply himself and work hard!

bojorojo Mon 14-Dec-15 17:09:56

I am another one that says take a look at Btecs. I do not, personally, think they tick the academic boxes in the same way but are more focussed on a career and suit some people (like me) far better than A levels. Is there anything available locally that may suit? However, he will be further away from friends so that could present even more problems, as he sees it.

You say the school is academic which indicates to me that he may be a square peg in a round hole in the first place? What were his grades at GCSE? Has he stayed there to be near his friends who are now working hard and have less time for him? He must have know what the A level subjects involved, so why did he choose ones he does not like without evaluating what else may be available. It is harder post 16 - getting a good BTec grade will take work!

Tanaqui Mon 14-Dec-15 18:32:24

Gosh thank you everyone lots of food for thought!

His predicted grades are okay, but not as good as he would be capable of if he enjoyed it and put the work in, iyswim!

We have a college so I will get him to look at what is on offer there.

Thank you

Tanaqui Mon 14-Dec-15 18:46:41

Sorry bojo I missed your post- he is a very clever child but not academically inclined iyswim- though I think with maturity he will want to work in an area that uses his brain!

TeenAndTween Mon 14-Dec-15 19:38:40

Is he doing 3 or 4? If 4 could he drop one provided he promised to focus on the others?

Is he going to do AS for all of them in the summer? If so, can you get him to focus on getting through to June, with a promise to look at other options for the next academic year if he still hates doing them?

BTECs are vocational, but are still hard work. DD has regular assignments that all go towards her final grade. Unless he has a burning desire for a specific one, then switching 'just because he isn't enjoying A levels' might not be a great plan. Her Level 3 (2 A level equivalent) BTEC has been much more written and much less 'practical' than we were led to believe expected. There is a BTEC thread running on this board that I started which may or may not be helpful.

I would also look to see whether there is any chance he could transfer schools to one 'less academic' which might fit him better, but still be able to continue with same A levels & boards.

Saracen Mon 14-Dec-15 22:56:44

While you are looking at alternative courses, bear in mind he doesn't have to study full-time. If he's in paid or voluntary work for at least 20 hours a week then he can study part-time. This might appeal more.

I really disagree with the idea that if a young person doesn't know what he wants to do with his future, it's necessary either to do a set of miscellaneous A-levels or train for a specific career. Your son is young. He doesn't have to know what he wants to do, or why he dislikes his current course. The point is that he doesn't like it, so it is a waste of his time and energy. Meandering through various paid or voluntary jobs is also a good foundation for the future. Many of us ended up doing that anyway after we had our few qualifications or an apprenticeship under our belts. Why not now?

If nothing else, a taste of the world of work might help your son focus on what he likes and doesn't like, where his skills are, and whether he needs to go back and get some qualifications. He'll do much better when he sees the need for them.

GasLIghtShining Mon 14-Dec-15 23:21:39

Not everyone is suited to A levels. If he is really miserable I would look at other options, It may be too late to change now but if he can just keep plodding on until the end if the academic year. As I have said on another thread once they go back after Christmas it is only about 6 months or so until the end of summer term. My DD did the two years and was absolutely miserable to I do understand

It is worth asking about dropping one subject but my DD wasn't allowed to as it affect the college's funding. Funding at schools may be different.

TeenandTween is right. Contrary to popular belief BTEC is not an easy option. Assignments are not just any old bit of homework that you can throw together and it doesn't matter. The results go towards the final grades. Only in certain circumstances can the assignments be redone.

My DS's college do not offer A levels (there is sixth form college for those) so he is doing the level 3 extended diploma which is equivalent to 3 A levels. He passed most of his GSCEs but didn't work. He is now to doing a sports course and is like a different boy. He loves it. Work is handed in on time and he is on target for top marks and is applying for university. The likes of Oxford will not want BTEC students but that's not the be all and end all.

You don't say which subject he is doing to see whether there is a BTEC course which is similar. Perhaps we can give some specific ideas if we know what interest him.

He can do an apprenticeship and it is certainly an option. Try this website for information I think the bigger companies start looking quite early in the year. He can keep looking in case anything grabs his attention.

Teen's suggestion of changing schools is also a good idea. It may be the pressure of being at an academic school is causing to much stress

There are options if you and him are open minded. I know plenty of parents who were not prepared to let their DC look at anything other than A levels and not all have done well because it is not what they want to do.

Sorry this has turned into a bit of an essay

bojorojo Mon 14-Dec-15 23:33:36

The problem with meandering about, trying to do a bit of work and volunteering because you do not know what you want to do is much more difficult these days. GCSE qualified students will find it difficult to get anything meaningful and mostly it will be fairly dull work. That may teach the young person a lesson in that they need qualifications to get themselves out of the deadend job, but puts training for something meaningful even further into the future and still may not have resolved the dilemma of what to actually do.

It is also difficult to get employers to sponsor young people for qualifications these days. I obtained this from my Local Authority employer but it is not the norm any more and they recruit graduates - not people who work up from the bottom. It is better to have a serious think about what to do now rather than waffle on for a few years and never get any further forward.

penguinsarecool Mon 14-Dec-15 23:41:53

I was like that. I had no idea what i wanted to be at that age. Best thing for him whilst he is indicisive is to get some A Levels. He can take a gap to think about things thereafter if needed. A Levels set you up for life and give you the opportunity to take some whatever path you wish.

GasLIghtShining Mon 14-Dec-15 23:52:39

penguin I do understand your logic and it was how I used to think. My DD picked A levels for this reason but was so absolutely miserable that she didn't do as well a she could have done. Didn't go to university as her experience at college put her off plus the fact she would have had to go back for a third year.

penguinsarecool Mon 14-Dec-15 23:59:07

Unless they have something to occupy their time like a part time job then continuing their studies is their best option rather than doing nothing. Nothing worse at that age than doing nothing. Whilst doing their part time work they can at least get job experience whilst consideing their options.

Tanaqui Thu 17-Dec-15 14:05:47

Thank you all so much- I do think the ideal thing for him personally would be to get an actual job for a bit and have some time to grow up- this whole stay in education thing is a bit of a nuisance. We are going to have a big think over Christmas.

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