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Are BTECs becoming the new CSEs now that GCSEs are becoming more academic?

(31 Posts)
lasermum Mon 11-Jan-16 17:06:53

DS2 is in year 9 and we are starting to look at options for his GCSEs or that is what I thought. However, at his recent parents evening a number of teachers said that BTECs may be more appropriate for him ( science and PE).

DS2 is not particularly academic - other teachers mentioned he was heading for a level 5 in the new grades.

So are BTECs the qualification for the less academically able now? I just want him to feel happy in his choices and be able to study something meaningful when he gets to the sixth form.

He has no real idea what he wants to do in the longer term (apart from living in a campervan spending his days coaching and being on the water, surfing, windsurfing and sailing!)

I don't know much about BTECs so any feedback much appreciated.

TeenAndTween Mon 11-Jan-16 17:24:23

My DD didn't do any BTECs for GCSE level but is doing a BTEC and an A level at 6th form.

BTECs appear to suit hard working kids who can produce good work in their own time, but who may struggle to revise loads of info or to reproduce it under exam conditions.

I think there is a lot to be said for a less academic kid doing 1 or 2 BTECs. Provided they are hard working, they can gradually pass it throughout the 2 years. Then when they get to summer of y11 they will have the added benefit of fewer exams to take and fewer exams to revise for, meaning that they have more time to focus on remaining academic subjects. Especially with the new GCSEs having fewer CAs along the way, the emphasis on the exams will be even more marked.

An added potential benefit is they (and you) learn how a BTEC works on a level 2 course, so it's not a big shock if they choose to do a level 3 course at 6th form.

As an aside, the is an 'Outdoor Pursuits' BTEC that you may like to look into for your DS for after GCSEs.

bojorojo Mon 11-Jan-16 17:35:58

CSEs were not linked to work - and I am old enough to remember them! I think BTECs provide a valuable lead-in to a career which level 5 (about a C grade) may not provide in certain subjects. I would ask again about the science and PE regarding what the differences are between the courses.

I think it is inevitable that GCSEs will be slightly more elite at the top end but that does not mean students are wasting their time getting a 5. Regarding a career, there is absolutely no disgrace in teaching sailing or any water sport! I would start looking into how this can be accomplished. He may change his mind of course but no harm checking it out. It may well be he is best served doing what he is good at. I would also check to see if BTEC PE is a better qualification for being a water sport instructor or whether the GCSE in PE is better. Incidentally, the DS of a friend of mine is crew on a super yacht that belongs to a well known Hollywood director. He loves his job!

I also think vocational BTECs have never been considered as good as A or A* GCSEs and are not offered at all at most top performing schools. Never have been. So, no change really.

mummytime Tue 12-Jan-16 07:30:17

BTECs are also becoming more academic! They now include final exams.

lasermum Wed 13-Jan-16 19:23:05

Thank you for your thoughtful replies. Not sure I would call DS2 hardworking (!) but I think a mix of BTECs and GCSEs would be good for him.

Will definitely investigate 'outdoor pursuits' as an option for after GCSEs.

TeenAndTween Wed 13-Jan-16 19:26:20

For an example of outdoor adventure course see here

BertrandRussell Wed 13-Jan-16 19:35:13

At my ds's school, they all do 2 BTecs. The more academic kids then do 8 GCSEs as well, the less academic a mixture of more BTecs and GCSEs. Ds has just finished his first BTec (he's in year 10) and has just started the second. I have to say, he found it cripplingly boring- and there is now an exam as well, so the idea of them being good for less academic people because of no exam is a bit of a red herring. G

BertrandRussell Wed 13-Jan-16 19:36:26

You need to find out which ones the school offers- don't get him excited about the outdoor pursuits until you're sure it's an option........

BertrandRussell Wed 13-Jan-16 19:37:33

Oh, and a distinction or a distinction star in a BTec does count as an A at GCSE.

bojorojo Wed 13-Jan-16 19:45:21

How many students with BTECs get to Oxbridge? Or UCL, or Durham or Bristol or.....? Just wondering!

BertrandRussell Wed 13-Jan-16 20:13:57

Well, my ds has his eyes on Cambridge- and will have 2 BTecs and 8 GCSEs........

RaskolnikovsGarret Wed 13-Jan-16 22:40:56

To the ignorant like me, BTecs do sound less academic. I think of them as vocational, and would assume that the pupils were less academic (no judgement of that of course, just an assumption). But this thread proves me wrong.

TeenAndTween Thu 14-Jan-16 14:48:10

On my great experience of 1 term of 1 specific BTEC at A level equivalentsmile

The impression I am getting is that it is easier to pass a BTEC but that to get the top grades you have to have the analytical and independence of thinking and research skills that would be needed to get high grade A levels.

One thing though, is that because they are vocational they are by definition less generic, so an academic kid who doesn't know what direction they may want to go in, is probably better served by doing A levels than by a BTEC.

So one or 2 at GCSE level as part of a balanced portfolio of GCSEs - no issue. But I suspect very few people knowingly aiming at top RG would pick a BTEC at A level unless for very specific courses.

bojorojo Thu 14-Jan-16 15:28:32

Cambridge University specially says on its web site that they do not consider BTECs as suitable preparation for the majority of their courses because their courses are academic and they consider BTECs to be vocational. They do not accept them instead of A levels. They do not even mention their existence in the GCSE information paragraph! Therefore BTECs instead of GCSEs are a bit of a gamble. However 8 academic subjects with plenty of A*s is good but must be at the lowest end of numbers of GCSEs held by successful candidates these days. I still do not see any advantage in BTECs over GCSEs for academic courses at the best universities. As I said earlier, the best schools and candidates do not do BTECs.

QueenofallIsee Thu 14-Jan-16 15:33:29

The 'top' universities don't take them as an A Level equivalent at the moment but I don't think it matters at GSCE level.

My DD is a smart girl and a hard worker but under performs in examinations (Bs and Cs at GSCE)

She is doing BTECs instead of A Levels and is on track for distinctions and distinction + (A/A* in old money) That will get her into Uni but not a red brick. It suits her far better than traditional style courses

BertrandRussell Thu 14-Jan-16 16:36:36

"the best schools and candidates do not do BTECs."

Well, the best academic schools may not. However, the "best" schools include many that are not solely academically focussed. Whatever mumsnetters might think.

BertrandRussell Thu 14-Jan-16 16:38:04

I don't think anyone would think BTecs could replace A levels for Russell Group universities. I thought we were talking about GCSE level.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Thu 14-Jan-16 19:31:46

With the end of AS/A2s in favour of straight A-levels, it's possible that GCSEs will become a more important consideration for universities. And to an extent they are considered at the moment anyway.

Reducing the number of GCSEs and replacing some with BTECs is a bit of a risk for a candidate with their eye on Cambridge. Does the school have a good history with getting it's most able into Oxbridge?

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Thu 14-Jan-16 19:31:50

With the end of AS/A2s in favour of straight A-levels, it's possible that GCSEs will become a more important consideration for universities. And to an extent they are considered at the moment anyway.

Reducing the number of GCSEs and replacing some with BTECs is a bit of a risk for a candidate with their eye on Cambridge. Does the school have a good history with getting it's most able into Oxbridge?

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Thu 14-Jan-16 19:32:27

oops, sorry. Not sure what happened there. MN went a bit weird.

bojorojo Thu 14-Jan-16 20:05:47

My point was that Cambridge do not mention BTECs in their GCSE section. One would infer that they do not expect to see them! So yes, a huge risk I think. I have never seen any advice that says a broad set of mostly academic GCSEs are not the most desirable qualifications for Cambridge. Why take exams that do not get a mention on their website as a substitute for those that do? Good non academic schools may not give the best advice on highly competitive academic courses.

bojorojo Thu 14-Jan-16 20:08:22

On some courses at Bristol, 20% weighting is given to GCSEs when admissions tutors look at academic profiles. Again, no mention of BTECs. So yes, Rafa, they are now important and this flies in the face of MN wisdom!

BertrandRussell Thu 14-Jan-16 21:02:56

We have to work with what's available.

But many of the "best"grin schools, both state and private, see no need for more than 9 GCSEs. And more will probably follow suit, now that GCSEs are going to be harder and taken in one sitting at the end of year 11.

mouldycheesefan Fri 15-Jan-16 08:12:29

It sounds like your son knows exactly what he wants to do! There are great opportunities in teaching watersports and outdoor pursuits! You can work all over the work, you can learn to sail and can crew/manage yachts etc etc. I know one young person, not academic, who is having the most fantastic career doing this around the world.

BertrandRussell Fri 15-Jan-16 09:28:11

OP- do you have Sea Scouts anywhere near where you live? They are always desperate for volunteers, although I think you have to be 16, and he will be able to get lots of really useful CV fodder! And have a lot of fun doing it.

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