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Alevels or BTEC and school or college

(11 Posts)
Neverjoketodogs Mon 21-Nov-16 15:22:37

My DS is in Y11 of a small independent school. He struggled with motivation at the end of last year and the beginning of this and although academically quite able, he lacks confidence in his ability and has to work harder than he is really prepared to in order to do well. I think he has perhaps outgrown his current school environment (he has been there since Y5) and with this in mind we went to look at the local higher education college. He was really impressed and was initially all set to do a BTEC in either games design or art and design there.

Since then he has had a taster day at the sixth form of his current school and is now thinking he will stay on to do A levels. This seems partly due to the fact that many of his friends plan to stay on and also the school have really sold it to him that he should do A levels if he wants to 'progress in life'. I'm really not sure whether he has the aptitude/attitude to cope with A levels and I feel he is ready for a new start.

Of course it is his choice and we will support him either way but I would really appreciate any advice esp pros and cons of A levels vs BTEC and school vs college to help him make the right choice for him.

TeenAndTween Mon 21-Nov-16 15:38:57

My DD is in her second year of doing a BTEC at college. She would not have been academically up to A levels, and in fact even her BTEC has been a bit of a stretch.

BTECs are worked and assessed very differently from A levels. You may like to skim the BTEC Support Thread to get a feel.

What is his predicted GCSE results profile? What A levels would he be considering?

A levels require a large degree of independent work / self motivation. An unmotivated student can easily crash and burn. BTECs are more steady pace, with more focussed assignments.

You can go to university with high grade BTEC results. imo Good BTEC results may be of more use than poor grade A levels. (Good grade A levels might be of best use generically for someone who doesn't know what he wants to do yet, but that may not be an option for your DC from what you have written).

There are more generic computing courses than Games Design. Something more generic may be of more use. Has he shown much interest in proper programming up to now?

Similarly, what interest / aptitude has he shown for Art/Design.

The trouble with a BTEC is it does send you down a career path, which is fine if you know what you want, but less good for someone as yet undecided.

We have found the pastoral care at college to be way less good than at school. This has been a real problem for us. Also the college had no prior 'knowledge' of DD so I think have been less supportive when we have had issues (as they hadn't seen how hard she worked for the previous 5 years)

Could he do A levels at a larger school / college?

Staying somewhere you are not suited to for friends reasons would be a mistake imo.

Sorry this is a bit disjointed. Hope it helps a bit.

Neverjoketodogs Mon 21-Nov-16 17:09:53

Thank you for your helpful reply.

To answer some of your questions:

He doesn't have his predicted grades yet but based on his end of year exams he is probably aiming for B/Cs in most subjects (assuming he works for them)

He is thinking of doing History, Psychology and Business Studies for A level if he stays on. History is easily his favourite subject. He isn't doing psychology or business studies at GCSE but enjoyed the talks given by the teachers of these subjects.

He isn't doing art GCSE so I am concerned about his aptitude for art/design BTEC but he is quite creative and enjoys drawing. The tutor did not think it would be a problem not having done art at GCSE as much of the design element is digital.

He thinks he wants to be a computer games designer but so do many teenage boys I should think! Interesting you mention programming because he is doing computer science GCSE and finds the programming side of things quite difficult.

I think he would benefit from a change of scene and I worry he is choosing the 'easy' option of staying on. I do think he probably has the ability to do A levels but unsure if he has the motivation. He doesn't want to look around any other sixth forms. He could do A levels at the college and sociology would be on offer there which he thought looked interesting.

Lots to consider....

TeenAndTween Mon 21-Nov-16 17:27:35

A profile of Bs/Cs isn't great for doing A levels if he has had to work to get them. He may well be looking at Cs/Ds for A levels.

otoh It sounds like the BTECs have been a little bit plucked out the air?

I think you need to do a lot more research of the available options and think what might suit him, so you can present him with pros and cons.

Think about hobbies / interests / skills / strengths etc - what kind of career might suit him?

catslife Mon 21-Nov-16 17:53:12

What grades does he need to achieve in order to continue with A levels at his current school?
In my area most independent schools require As in the relevant subjects at GCSE to take A levels whereas some state school sixth forms do allow pupils to take A levels with grade Bs.
To take an Art and Design subject without GCSE you usually have to submit a portfolio of work. It can be difficult to find the time to do this as well as work towards GCSEs.

GnomeDePlume Mon 21-Nov-16 23:11:28

Encorage him to read through the specifications of any course he is interested in. Being a cynic I wouldnt trust a sales pitch by a subject teacher. He needs to look at what is actually involved.

As an example here is A level psychology.

If he is struggling to motivate himself now then he should think very carefully about what he does next. The work content of A levels is huge and does require a lot of self motivation and independent study. A BTEC tends to be more structured but a college will not have a lot of interest in chasing up students who dont bother to turn up.

An alternative could be an apprenticeship.

Neverjoketodogs Tue 22-Nov-16 07:07:04

I think the bottom line is that he has no real idea what he wants to do. I'm thinking A levels may keep his options open for longer but not if he struggles and ultimately either gets very low grades or drops out. The cynical part of me thinks the school have just done a very good sales pitch because bums on seats mean more money! He needs B grades in GCSE to do A levels at his school.

He is most enthusiastic about doing history A level but none of the other subjects he currently takes interest him enough to take further. I will get him to read up in more detail about other course specifications - thanks gnome.

He liked the look of the games design BTEC most of all but realistically what is this likely to lead to? It seems a very narrow choice in a limited field but perhaps I'm wrong. I think the art/design BTEC is probably out if he is likely to need to submit a portfolio - it is hard enough getting him to revise for his mocks let alone anything else on top. We will check that out.

We hadn't considered apprenticeships so that would be worth a look.

GnomeDePlume Tue 22-Nov-16 09:59:50

I think if there was a BTEC in watching YouTube clips of other people making comments about video games my DS would be front and centre!

As it is he is doing a Mechanical Engineering BTEC.

On the whole I think this is probably one of the least restrictive of the BTEC courses. It contains a number of practical skills as well as a fair bit of theory and maths. As a kind of place holder course while waiting for inspiration to strike I think he could do much worse.

FozzieMK Tue 22-Nov-16 10:40:19

Both of my DD's went to a small independent school too, my eldest went on to take an IT BTEC at College and the other is studying A-Levels at a Sixth Form College. Both have thrived in their new environments and have really grown up. Moving them away from the school was the best thing we could've done.

The eldest found her IT BTEC a much better way of working and went from low grade GCSE results (C's and D's) to D* D* D* with 4 unconditional Uni offers (which astounded us). My youngest is studying History, English Lit, Drama and Media at Sixth Form. She is finding the workload challenging but revels in being treated like an adult and having study sessions to help complete work. She got GCSE B's in the subjects she is studying.

The youngest deliberated for ages about whether to stay at her current school to do A-Levels because she felt more comfortable. She now admits leaving was the best thing for her even though she did not have any friends at the college. Didn't take her long to make friends though.

Neverjoketodogs Wed 23-Nov-16 16:54:08

Thanks fozzie. Really interesting to hear you felt it was the right decision for your DDs to move from their school to college. I certainly feel this is the way I want to encourage my DS. I think he will thrive in a different and less restrictive environment. I guess the danger is he won't be self-motivated enough but tbh he isn't very motivated now anyway.

Your DS sounds very like mine gnome (and probably many teens) and I agree that he needs to keep his options open until he has a clearer idea of what he wants to do. We will revisit other BTEC options.

chocolateworshipper Wed 23-Nov-16 17:31:48

It is possible to do a mix of BTEC and A levels. BTEC courses are (currently) assessed on coursework, so you aren't dependent on one final exam. This can be better for children who suffer from anxiety or don't have the self-discipline to revise. The downside is that you pretty much always have an assignment to hand in that is going to count towards your final grade, so there is no "taking it easy for a while." My DD is doing a mix and it suits her well. She is getting distinctions in her BTEC courses, so is confident to get good results in those subjects, which means that she is less anxious about the A levels. At the same time, she would probably find it hard to do only BTEC as there would be so much coursework every week. Hope that helps. PS you can do Business Studies as a BTEC that is equivalent to an A level.

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