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BTECs at college - Support thread 2

(395 Posts)
TeenAndTween Fri 19-Aug-16 11:45:36

Following on from the 2015 thread to inform and support each other through the ups and downs of BTECs. Mainly aimed at y12/13 level, but BTECs alongside GCSEs more than welcome too. Plus anyone just considering BTECs and wanting information.

What I learned last year:

You have to hit the ground running as the very first piece of work may well count towards your final grade

DD's course has 3 options like this.

Subsidiary Diploma - 9 units (1 year, 9 units (5 units, then 4 more))
Diploma - 12 units total (2 year, 6 units each year)
Extended Diploma 18 units total (2 year, 9 units each year, 5 in first half of year, 4 in second half)

DD is doing the Diploma (2 A level equivalent), but the college ensures that they do all the 4 'compulsory' units in the first year so if someone drops out they can still qualify for the Subsidiary Diploma (1 A level equivalent?).

You pretty much have to pass every single unit in order to pass the whole thing. There are limited opportunities to re-submit, but there are some. The Pass criteria for DD's course are quite straightforward (if you can structure things properly which DD struggles with). The Merit criteria are harder, and the Distinction criteria need a good level of analysis (that DD doesn't have).

Each unit is made up of a number of Pass, Merit and Distinction criteria. To reach each level you have to meet all the criteria at that level. So if on your first assignment for a unit you miss a Merit criteria, you can't get higher than a pass for the unit (as far as I understand).

Each unit gives you a number of Points. For DD mainly it is 70 for a pass, 80 for a Merit and 90 for a Distinction. To Pass the whole thing she would need 12x70 points - 840, equivalent to EE A level grades. To get CC equivalent she needs 920 minimum. To get AA she would need 1000 points.

DD has up to 3 teachers at any time, each teaching a unit. They teach a bit, and then set an assignment. For a week or 2 they don't teach in some lessons and they use the time to get on with the assignment. Then more teaching and second assignment. Around 4 assignments per unit.

What you don't have to do is 'extra' exam practice, question practice etc. So all work is pretty much set. The students don't have to work out extras. (However exactly what is required for some criteria is about as clear as mud, and DD seems to get little/no feedback on assignments to help her improve for future ones. Sometimes there seem to be implicit requirements that DD doesn't catch on about.)

Disclaimer. I don't know if all BTECs are like DD's !

A couple of useful tables for reference:

Table showing UCAS points

A level equivalent UCAS

And finally the Pearson BTEC site from where you can find specs, unit descriptions, and pass/merit/distinction criteria.

(Praying for less of a roller-coaster this year).

chocolateworshipper Fri 19-Aug-16 17:57:37

My DD is now thinking about doing BTEC instead of A levels because she gets so nervous about exams. Do your DCs think BTECs are better options for those that get really nervous about exams?

Also, do students doing BTECs generally finish earlier or around the same time as students doing A levels? And when do students pick up their certificate? Sorry for so many questions!

TeenAndTween Fri 19-Aug-16 18:26:29

We didn't choose a BTEC for that reason, but yes I think it would help avoid exam stress. Except note that some BTECs will have presentation aspects so she wouldn't be able to avoid being put on the spot completely. Last year DD had to do fake customer service phone calls, a fake job interview, and a business case presentation.

DD's summer term finished on 6th July this year. the BTEC had finished about a week before, but some people had to go in to resubmit stuff. The 1st year A level people had to be in as they were starting the A2 syllabus. So in the second year I don't think there would be significant difference of more than a couple of weeks, depending on when the A2 exams were.

DD received a certificate for her first year in the post around 20th July.

What BTEC is she considering?

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 19-Aug-16 18:57:51

DS1 (just finished Y11) has a provisional offer to start a Level 3 Diploma in Early Years Education at our local college. It's a two year course that's equivalent to 2 A-levels in terms of UCAS points. It's a CACHE course rather than a BTEC but I was wondering if I'd be allowed to join the thread anyway, as it seems like a similar course.

He is predicted A and B grades at GCSE, but wants to do this course rather than A-levels

They have to pass all 27 units, plus there are some extra assessments. It's three days per week in college and two days per week out on work placement.

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 19-Aug-16 19:03:25

His self-organisation isn't great, so I am a bit concerned about him accidentally missing deadlines. Enrolment is next Friday; I'm hoping the information and dates will be given to him in writing, so I can photocopy it and keep my copy safe for when he loses his

TeenAndTween Fri 19-Aug-16 19:16:18

Second - welcome smile

DD's self organisation is also poor (dyspraxia). We deal with it in the same way we dealt with prepping for CAs. She tells me whenever she has a new assignment set and we make sure she has it marked in her diary. Her college does frequently remind them about deadlines so they can't accidentally forget (though some less keen ones forget on purpose).

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 19-Aug-16 19:33:24

Thank you TeenAndTween he is reasonably hard-working (voluntarily re-did his lowest-scoring English CA to get it up from a C to a B) but also a bit scatty. I suspect dyspraxia (two of his siblings have it) but we have never had him assessed. If he would agree to use a diary (or student planner or even his phone) then things would be much easier. grin

LadyPenelope68 Fri 19-Aug-16 19:35:21

My son has just finished his first year in Sixth Form and has taken 2 BTEC's and 2 A levels. He chose the BTEC's for the reason that there aren't exams as he quite simply goes into a blind panic if he can't answer a question in an exam straight away. The BTEC's have been absolutely brilliant for him. There's a fairly heavy, constant workload with deadlines to adhere to, but he's really enjoyed them, in fact more so than the A Levels which were actually his strongest and favourite subjects. He got his results yesterday and got Distinction* in both BTEC's and great AS level results too (clearly managed not to panic!)

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 19-Aug-16 20:09:50

That's great LadyPenelope68 well done to him!
DS1 will be moving from a very formal, traditional academic setting (selective single sex school) to an informal, modern vocational setting (FE college) so we have no idea what to expect.

Sorry for the trivial/obvious question, but what stationery will he need? He got a new laptop at Easter. Is everything done on a computer, or will he need to make notes (e.g. for A-levels I used A4 paper and ringbinders).

Buying new uniform and nice stationery is our end-of-summer family tradition. I can't buy him any uniform because there isn't one (although he may need to wear polo shirt with nursery logo on work placement). I've bought his three siblings new stationery to start the term, but nothing for him yet.

LadyPenelope68 Fri 19-Aug-16 20:55:20

Ring binders, A4 lined paper, pens, highlighters and some sort of academic diary/planner for deadlines!

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 19-Aug-16 21:07:29

Oooh, thank you! Looking forward to a trip to Staples tomorrow.

GasLightShining Fri 19-Aug-16 21:19:20

Hi everyone!

I have come on to offer support as a mum of a DS who has finished college. We went down the BTEC route as his grades were never going to be good enough for A levels bit also he just wanted to study sport.

Second My niece did a similar course and it was very full on because of the placements but she did enjoy it. She has just started her second year as an au pair. Can only do it for two years but what an experience she is having.

College is a very different environment and some may find the initial adjustment difficult. Your DS sounds keen so at least that's a start. They do need to keep on the ball with the assignments

They must put 100% effort in as the new rules (well been in a couple of years now) are one submission only. Under the old system work would go back and forth until the best grades was obtained. A re-submission is allowed if you have a failed or are very close to the next grade up.

I am nor sure whether different colleges are more helpful than others so worth asking if he doesn't understand. Also this is not the time to be getting embarrassed about asking fellow students. My DS had completed a level 2 sport course at school instead of GCSE PE so he already understood how it worked - just the sort of person you need. Tell your son to listen out.

A lot of work was done on the computer but DS did use notebooks during class.

One advantage of BTEC is that at the end of the second year you shouldn't be waiting for result day. My DS had his offer from uni confirmed a month ago (with the added bonus that we also had his accommodation confirmed).

Hope all goes well for you all. I will be with you all next week as DS will be getting his english result.

Teen was it your DD taking Spanish AS? If so, how did it go?

GasLightShining Fri 19-Aug-16 21:21:06

Planner wise - my DS used a huge poster sized one on the wall. Handy to put work commitments etc on as well

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 19-Aug-16 21:32:46

it was very full on because of the placements but she did enjoy it

He is very good with young children but I don't think he will know what's hit him when he has to do three days of study each week on top of two full days looking after under 5s!

TeenAndTween Fri 19-Aug-16 21:48:52

Gas yes it was, thanks for asking. Sadly she ended up with a U overall (we always knew it was a risk her doing it), but she did get a B for the oral (which justifies her having given it a go). She'll just be doing the Diploma this year, so hoping she can get some part time work alongside to give her experience and grow her up.

In other news, they have re-timetabled the buses.
The year we applied it was an almost direct bus taking 40mins.
Last year it started as a 45 min and was adjusted to be 55 mins.
This year's route is 1hr20min(!)
She will be going by train, which has the added benefit of being more flexible in when she travels.

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 19-Aug-16 23:11:57

Another question: will he have to study English & Maths in addition to his course?

The letter from the college says "Enrolment usually takes up to three hours. During this time, you will meet your course tutors and find out more about your course, including English and Maths and work experience".

C grades in Maths & English GCSE are a requirement for working as an Early Years Practitioner, so perhaps it's just for those students who still need those? We won't know GCSE results until Thursday, but he is hoping he's got an A in Maths and a B in English. Or is it that all students have to continue with Maths & English until they're 18?

Thank you.

GasLightShining Fri 19-Aug-16 23:42:14

If he passes maths and english he will not have to continue.

Sounds like your DS will be ok but just in case do not panic - contact the college and speak to them. Because DS had over 5 GCSEs above c grades he was still accepted on his level 3 course without english. There are english and maths lessons timetabled for those who fail.

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 19-Aug-16 23:47:46

Thank you GasLightShining that's helpful. The college are open for drop-in on results day, so if there's a problem with Maths or English then I'll suggest he goes in and asks then.

GasLightShining Fri 19-Aug-16 23:49:26

I am sorry Teen. A 'B' in the oral is brilliant and at least if she is abroad the ability to speak at a good level is very useful.

Bus journey sounds horrendous.

Hope the job hunt goes well. Is she keen to get a job? My DS just happened to be in the right place at the right time rather than actively finding one!

cricketballs Sat 20-Aug-16 08:11:01

I'll post a more detailed response layer (when I'm on my laptop, not phone!) but specs for September 2016 starters have changed.

There are now exams/externally set and assessed units to complete so no longer all coursework units.

sashh Sat 20-Aug-16 08:55:51

Teacher here.

My main subject, health and social care has introduced some exams, one for the anatomy and physiology unit.

I actually think it is a good idea because it is the unit where it is hard not to plagiarise. There are only so many ways to write, 'the cell membrane is made from ..."

As the OP sid you have to hit every criteria to get the higher grades.

So if a piece of coursework has 3pass, 3 merit and 2 distinction criteria and you get 2 pass grades but all the merit and distinction your work will be referred - it cannot be given a pass grade because you have not completed all the pass criteria.

Yes it is unfair, every year I say to students that it is unfair but that's how BTEC work.

My advice is if you are doing a work placement start to keep a folder of anything you are given or have access to such as leaflets, documents, codes of practice.

Also write a diary for each and every day at placement. Record what you did, and any conversations you had and anything you learned - it doesn't have to be much, quarter to half a page is fine. Then every 4 - 6 weeks go back over it an write a bit more, but this time reflect.

So a placement at a care home original entry might be

I was told the dress code and where to get plastic aprons and gloves. We have to wear aprons and gloves when helping service users with personal care. I learned to make a bed using 'hospital corners'

Then a month later

I was really nervous on my first day, I wanted to do everything right. I was told I could not wear my earnings as they could become tangled in a service user's hair or clothes. I had not realised this would be a hazard to me and the service user.

I was suprised we had to keep changing gloves and aprons and also that dirty bedding is initially put on the floor but now I realise this is to stop cross contamination.

And finally for H and SC, not sure about other subjects, your work placement(s) can be as a volunteer or paid employment.

Ring binders, A4 lined paper, pens, highlighters and some sort of academic diary/planner for deadlines!

Check the college don't issue a diary, some do, some don't. I prefer it when they do because then it is an expectation that they bring it to class and I can tell them to open it at a certain date and write the assignment deadlines in.

TheSecondOfHerName Sat 20-Aug-16 09:58:04

Thank you sashh that's really helpful.

cricketballs Sat 20-Aug-16 10:20:33

sassh - you have saved me a lot of typing! For my subject (Business) they have vastly reduced the optional units available (from 46 different units) to 23 units. The Ext Dip now has 7 mandatory units (this used to be 4).

The number of external assessments you have to undertake depend on which qualification being undertaken, for example the Ext Cert (1 A level) has 4 units to be studied, 2 of which are externally assessed, one is an exam, the other a supervised assignment which is externally assessed. Whilst the Ext Dip requires 13 units studied, 4 of which are external.

This means that the units have require a lot more learning for each one, for example the finance unit now covers business and personal finance and is double GLH (Guided Learning Hours) than other units and is mandatory for all qualifications higher than the Cert (1 AS).

As the units are larger, it is very important that students are very organised when completing them and if there are any grey areas/mis-understanding of any topic that they speak to the teacher asap who will be only to happy to help

Draylon Sat 20-Aug-16 12:07:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sashh Sat 20-Aug-16 13:40:22

Year 1 of 2 Group A

Means it is a 2 year course and he is in year one. They have enough students to have at least two groups - he will be in group A along with about 20 other people, and there will be a group B with about 20 people.

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