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College or Sixth Form?

(20 Posts)
Fargesia Sat 13-Aug-16 13:36:24

My 15 year old son is considering doing a Level 3 Extended Diploma in IT at college which is equivalent to doing 3 A-Levels. Are there any disadvantages to going to college rather than doing traditional academic A-Levels? He may want to go to University, so I wasn't sure whether going to college instead of 6th Form might make this more difficult.

Does anyone have any knowledge in this area?

catslife Sat 13-Aug-16 14:10:18

Has your 15 year old just finished Y10 or Y11?
My understanding (dd has just finished Y11 and has applied for a level 3 BTEC as back-up option) is that for most degrees the level 3 extended BTEC is usually accepted as fully equivalent to A levels.
I do have a slight reservation with IT though as for some IT/computing degrees (but not all of them), universities like potential students to have A level Maths.
If the college offers a BTEC IT equivalent to 2 subjects at A level and your ds takes A level Maths as well, that would possibly mean more degree options later on. For IT though there are often Higher Level apprenticeships available that may be more suited to a dc who would prefer an advanced but more work orientated alternative to degree study.
Hope that helps

TeenAndTween Sat 13-Aug-16 19:41:43

You may like to look at last year's BTEC support thread (I am planning to start a new one up around about GCSE results day.)

In particular there is a poster on there Draylon who was exploring IT BTECs for her DS to start this Sept after finding out A levels weren't really for him.

To get top grades you need to be both intelligent and a consistent hard worker throughout the two years.

A levels are probably more flexible (especially the traditional ones), but BTECs can suit better depending on aspirations, ability, and work ethic.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Fargesia Sun 14-Aug-16 09:27:23

Thank you massively catslife TeenAndTween and NeedScarfForMyGiraffe. You advice is extremely useful and certainly food for thought. Thank you especially to Giraffe for taking the trouble to post on both of my threads.

In answer you your question Catslife, DS has finished Year 10 and is currently just about to start Year 11. I am not sure when he has to decide what he wants to do next year.

Certainly food for thought, the idea of combining A-Level Maths with a Level 2 Diploma. Also, like the idea of apprenticeships. Where is the best place to track down information about higher level apprenticeships in IT?

Thanks in advance!

LIZS Sun 14-Aug-16 09:35:55

Level 2 is GCSE level, so would not be particularly useful for a HE application unless he took more than one A level alongside. Is he doing Comp Sci or IT at GCSE already?

Fargesia Sun 14-Aug-16 10:42:53

Hi LiZS. Thank you for your reply. I have probably misunderstood the levels then. He would need to do Level 3 plus an A-Level maths I guess.

He is already doing IT as a GCSE and is expected to do ok.

catslife Sun 14-Aug-16 14:00:53

Level 3 means it's an A level equivalent. The level 3 extended diploma is equivalent to 3 A levels so effectively a full-time course.
The level 3 diploma is equivalent to 2 A levels, so pupils may be able to take that and one A level subject.
Sixth forms and colleges usually have Open evenings on weekdays or Open mornings on Saturdays in the Autumn term where you can find out more about the courses available. You can apply to more than one college or course and hold more than one offer. dd has applied for A levels at one college and BTEC at another. Once results are confirmed dcs enrol on the courses they prefer.
Most large sixth form colleges would help with both uni applications and alternatives such as employment or apprenticeships.

TeenAndTween Sun 14-Aug-16 15:22:29

One thing you should consider is that BTECs can have more than their fair share of lower work ethic students. Students who have to be studying something, so plumped for your BTEC course. If you are unlucky to get this, and if classroom management is poor, this could cause problems.

- ask what proportion continue to second year.
- ask re average GCSE grade profile of students on the course

FozzieMK Sun 14-Aug-16 18:43:26

My DD has just finished an Extended BTEC in IT at college. She gained a DD*D which is the equivalent of 3 A* A levels. She hasn't taken an A level in Maths but has offers from all 4 of the Uni's she applied to 3 of which were unconditional. Two of them have offered bursaries for her high marks. There were a lot of time waters on her course, but she kept her head down and completed everything she was asked to do.

FozzieMK Sun 14-Aug-16 18:44:51

That should say D* D* D*

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Fargesia Sun 14-Aug-16 21:46:01

Thank you all for the advice. Good point about the possibility of students being on BTEC who don't really want to be there.

bojorojo Mon 15-Aug-16 09:56:21

I would look carefully at the subject he wants to do and at what type of university. Bristol, as an example, asks for Matts A level for Computer Science as well as the BTec at D*DD so although the BTec may notionally be worth 3 A levels, it may not be worth the right ones! Therefore BTec may mean a lower level of university. That, of course, may not matter one jot.

FozzieMK Mon 15-Aug-16 11:27:57

Thank you Need. She is going on to study Business Computing which gives her the option of choosing a 'pathway' such as networking, technical etc later. It also has a year work placement. Computer Science definitely needs A Level maths, one of the Uni's she had a taster day at lumped all the computer students together and they gave them some work from the Computer Science course which she found very challenging. The work they gave from the Networking, Graphics, Web Design courses, she was streets ahead, so much so they wrote to ask her to reconsider not making them her firm choice because the tutor was so impressed with her work. Some of her friends with Extended BTEC are going on to study Forensic Computing and Networking at other Uni's such as Leeds and Bournemouth.

bojorojo Mon 15-Aug-16 17:47:53

Leeds Beckett I think. Leeds do not do this subject. Therefore, the Maths makes all the difference but those without Maths can do courses other than computer science but they are a different type of course.

FozzieMK Mon 15-Aug-16 19:44:01

Probably Leeds Beckett I don't know. Obviously Computer Science is a different course, but not everyone is able to get an A level in Maths and for those that want to study computing and go on to get a good apprenticeship the other degrees available are perfect.

GasLightShining Tue 16-Aug-16 13:58:12

You don't say what grades he is expected to get at gcse level. If he is going to scrape passes then A level are not gong to be suitable.

My DS studied Level 3 Extended Diploma (not IT) and has ended up with a D* D D which is way better than he was predicted going on his gcse results. Will be waving him off to uni next month.

Teen is right about there being students who don't want to be there. My DS found this but it did improve in the second year after the disruptive students were not allowed to continue. Now whether that was because the HOD was prepared to stand up to the powers that be I have no idea. At the end of the day the colleges want bums on seats as it means more funding.

TeenAndTween Tue 16-Aug-16 17:03:32

Another thing. My DD has nearly sunk due to poor pastoral care in college and insufficient safety nets. To be honest she may still sink this year.

If your son is using the pastoral system at his school, think very carefully before moving to a 6th form college.

Draylon Tue 16-Aug-16 22:17:44

My observation:

My DS as you might already know if you've had chance to peruse the link to the BTEC thread- was A level-destined; but it just didn't work out due to immaturity and possibly lack of that level of ability.

He will be starting a Level 3 Extended Diploma BTEC in Computing in Sept. For us, it has been a long, complex slog to find out about BTECs. MN has been a key, invaluable resource; I am much, much better informed than I was!

We are -ahem- 'lucky' in that the A2/BTEC choice has been removed from us. DS is doing 3 AS levels (results on Thurs!) but the 3 do not hold together for anything ongoing (Geog/Economics/ Use of Maths).

So the BTEC is his best bet.

What we have gleaned is:

- You need to be careful about which BTEC, how good the college is. We were enthused by a 6th form which went from hairdressing to HND, via BTEC, AS/A2, but it's 20 miles away. And we can't risk DS's ennui requiring us to drive him, having missed the bus- again. OR our -er- 'choice', the local tech where this course is by far and away their highest available qualification.

- Level 3 is the equivalent of 2 A levels, Level 3 Extended Dip is 3 A levels. All carry readily measurable UCAS points.

- Your DC needs to hit the ground running. I gather that end-of-week-two tests count towards the final score. They need to forensically understand the marking, P/C/D/D*. The cannot coast. It's a different world. It's possibly great for slow-and-steady, or exam panickers. DS is neither grin (I think!...)

- Some DC there are just marking 'til-I'm-18' time. Hopefully not on a trajectory towards a Level 3 IT qualification (i.e. A level), but... be aware. We intend to familiarise ourselves with the tutors.

- You only need an additional A level, in Maths if you wanna go top tier RG Computer Science. Roughly speaking, imo, RG 'counts' if you're doing a single name course- English/History/Economics/Maths. etc. If you're doing a 2-namer 'Computer Science', say, frankly, you need a decent ex-Poly. No-one cares if you're RG - unless you're brilliant, in which case you'd've done 3-4 A levels, no? Not a BTEC? And really, IT at GCSE shows interest, not anything 'measurable'. You can do Law or Computer Science at top level Unis with no 'IT' or 'Law' in your examination inventory whatsoever!

We gave DS a taster at Bournemouth Uni (his idea), where, interestingly the Admissions person for Computing said 'Once you have your BTEC or A level results...'

But, get yourself over to the linked BTEC thread.

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