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Excellent btecs or average A levels? Thoughts please...

(21 Posts)
OnlyTeaForMe Thu 05-Oct-17 11:57:14

DS (15) is very creative, visual - enjoys making videos, photoshopping images, animation, film etc
He's always struggled with straight academic stuff and we've recently found out he has dyslexia, which is why he struggles with heavy essay subjects.
His choices post-GCSE will be to stay at his current (independent, v. academic) school and do A levels in the most practical/least academic options (Arts/design/drama etc) or to go to the local 'Outstanding' (Ofted) Sixth Form college and do perhaps 1 A level and 2 BTECs in subjects he will really enjoy (Graphics/ Design, Video Game Arts etc)

I think if he stays and does A levels he will probably get ABB/BBB
but if he moves he may get very high grades in subjects he loves.

DH & I disagree a bit about this. He tends to think 'go for A levels if he can' and I tend to think 'do what you love, and do it well'.

hmm confused Any thoughts?

Seeline Thu 05-Oct-17 12:02:34

What does your DS think?
Will he be happy doing 3 A levels and struggling a bit? Would he be happier doing the BTECs and not having so much pressure? Does he have any idea about what he wants to do post-18 and if so, which options would suit that best?
How does he feel about moving schools, making new friends etc?

catslife Thu 05-Oct-17 12:30:08

Am not sure whether I agree that ABB/BBB is average: as he would be able to obtain a place at most unis for a Creative/Design type degree with those sort of grades.
If he's Y11 now, it's perfectly OK to apply to both sixth forms and then make a decision at a later date (post GCSE results).
I think also it can depend on which combinations of A level subjects the sixth forms allow. Smaller sixth forms tend to arrange A level subjects in blocks so it may not be possible to fit in all his preferences. Whereas for larger sixth forms more combinations can be catered for.
Which sixth form has the best reputation for these types of subjects?
How does each institution react to students taking more practical subjects? Art type A levels are actually quite hard work and shouldn't really be considered as "less academic" imo.

Restingwitchface Thu 05-Oct-17 12:31:49

ABB/BBB are very good grades.

I am a big fan of BTECS but they are quite prescriptive. Arts A levels probably give you more choice of degree.

It really, really depends on what he wants to do at Uni. He needs to check the entry requirements.

Restingwitchface Thu 05-Oct-17 12:33:15

What is he predicted at GCSE? If he's predicted or indeed gets As and A*s, 7, 8, 9's then A levels would be fine. If he gets Bs and Cs then he might be better off with a BTEC. That is obviously a very rough rule of thumb!

BubblesBuddy Thu 05-Oct-17 12:55:23

I would look at the best courses for the type of degree he may want to do and see what they ask for. A portfolio is probably a given so see who has expertise in that. It will not be A level work because it will have to be tailored to the degree. By the way, DD did Photography and Art A levels and it is a huge amount of work with some early deadlines in March (although that may have changed now). They are not a lighter amount of work.

BubblesBuddy Thu 05-Oct-17 12:56:15

Sorry - I forget to say - also consider the quality of the teaching he will receive. This is vital and makes a HUGE difference to grades.

TeenTimesTwo Thu 05-Oct-17 13:23:25

I agree with Resting If he is on for 5/6s for GCSE then I'd head for BTEC, but 6/7/8 I'd head for A level.

However what world do we live in when people say BBB for A level would be considered 'average'!

permatiredmum Thu 05-Oct-17 14:07:29

I think if he stays and does A levels he will probably get ABB/BBB

You are predicting his A level grades when he hasn't even done GCSEs hmm on what basis have you decided these are grades he I lively to attain?

permatiredmum Thu 05-Oct-17 14:08:19

he is likely to attain

ifonly4 Thu 05-Oct-17 14:41:38

I agree, I don't think ABB/BBB grades are average, they are passes and will be recognised by universities - I'll be very pleased if my DD achieves those grades in 18 months.

As said though it's hard to predict, but my DD achieved A*AA at GCSE in her chosen A levels. Her initial target grades are at A level are AAA but they are targets, so she could be more the ABB/BBB you mention.

As an outsider I'd almost say goes with the subjects he's going to enjoy. On the other hand if he stays at his present school, he'll have the benefit of teachers that know him and I guess much smaller classes and more 1:1 which could help him. I'm sure you know this, but if he has got dyslexia and was interested in an essay based subject, he'd probably be allowed more time for the exam - worth checking with the school.

At this stage I'd keep options open and get him to put his name down for a college course when applicable. If he's staying at his present independent school then I guess he'll have to get Bs, maybe even As in his chosen subjects to stay on and he'll be doing A levels by his own merit. Overall, the decision needs to his as either way they're good choices for him.

OnlyTeaForMe Thu 05-Oct-17 18:45:22

"on what basis have you decided these are grades he I lively to attain"

He will have to get a grade 7+ or A in a subject to stay on and study it at his current school, and the school then gets about 97% A*-B grades at A level, so I'm assuming that they won't let him stay unless he can at least achieve a B at A level.

Of course it WILL be his decision, based on his GCSE results too. He is currently predicted A*/A/7-9 grades, but the problem is that he tends to underperform in exams and I'm expecting these to be downgraded after mocks.
He HAS been awarded extra time for exams now (as a result of his dyslexia diagnosis) but this is all very new and we've yet to see how much of a difference this will make.

At the moment he talks about wanting to go on to do a degree in something like computer graphics/animation/film etc, so he could do that from either route; with more traditional 'arts' A levels, or with more vocational BTECs.

By the way, I wasn't suggesting that arts A levels were less academic, but some of them tend to be less essay/memory focused, and there is more opportunity to work on projects over a longer time frame on an assessed portfolio, which would suit him better.

catslife Thu 05-Oct-17 19:43:03

the school then gets about 97% A*-B grades at A level, so I'm assuming that they won't let him stay unless he can at least achieve a B at A level.

Many independent sixth forms achieve these high grades at the end of Y13 by weeding out pupils likely to achieve lower grades at the end of Y12. So just because a dc makes the grades needed to start A levels doesn't mean they will complete the course and achieve these grades at the end.
There may also be a threshold at the end of Y12 for state sixth forms too but this is much lower (typically Ds). So you can't really judge whether the sixth form is better simply by the final A level grades.
I wasn't suggesting that arts A levels were less academic you said least academic in your post. There is an essay that needs to be completed for dds Arty type A level by the way which is part of her assessment. Or do you mean doing essays under exam conditions rather than as assessments? BTECs are changing though and some now contain exams as well as coursework.

Restingwitchface Thu 05-Oct-17 20:58:59

There's a fab BTEC in Creative Media. If he can find somewhere that does the Extended Diploma and gets top grades (distinctions) that will be the equivalent of 3 x As at A level

Restingwitchface Thu 05-Oct-17 21:00:00

But tbh with those predictions I'd be thinking A levels. However if he is really set on a creative or games design career then he may as well crack on at college, if theres a good one near you with excellent teaching

OnlyTeaForMe Fri 06-Oct-17 11:24:45

Thanks for the replies.
Catslife - yes, I know there are some schools like that, but ours really isn't one of them. We've had kids there for the last 5 years and if they give them a place in 6th form then they really do support the students to get grade Bs and above.

Sorry to anyone I offended by suggesting arts subjects aren't academic too. I was using 'academic' as my lazy shorthand to mean subjects that are linear, often with a substantial written essay content in a final exam.

I guess I just feel a bit worried about DS going down a very vocational route at such a young age. He is a summer born child, so will only just have turned 16 when he begins his A levels. A few years ago he wanted to be an actor, then a TV presenter, then run his own YouTube channel for a living and now be a graphic designer! Who knows whether this will change in another 12 months.

BubblesBuddy Fri 06-Oct-17 12:03:26

Summer born makes little difference to anything at this age. My elder DD is mid August and you just have to get on with it. There's little difference between older children and summer borns when it comes down to choosing careers and not knowing what to do. If all summer borns are flaky there would be no Doctors, Lawyers or mathematicians with August or July birthdays!

CookieDoughKid Fri 06-Oct-17 14:46:33

I would be looking at job boards and University or further education courses to see the typical requirements and work backwards.

Trying2bgd Fri 06-Oct-17 14:49:49

OP, I completely understand, I'm in a very similar situation with my DC.

I think she could do ok with A-levels but I think a BTEC would suit her more, give her work experience and a chance to experience a different environment. Plus it would be a subject she loves instead of a-levels in one subject she loves and 2 she doesn't hate! My DH is not keen at all.

My concern is that my view is based on what a brochure says a BTEC is rather than any real experience or understanding. Reading specs on Pearson site hasn't helped, just given me a headache!

OnlyTeaForMe Fri 06-Oct-17 14:55:49

Summer born makes little difference to anything at this age.
Bubbles - I'm afraid I have to disagree, and there is lots of research that finds that summer born children are under-represented in higher education and in certain careers
e..g. (just a couple I found after a quick google)

I DO agree that you just have to get on with it though.
I'd hardly describe my DS as 'flaky' hmm but I think at this age there are still developmental differences between the genders and also between the youngest and oldest in the year group.
However I guess my point is that a just-turned 16 year old boy is perhaps not yet fully equipped to make decisions which might lock him into a particular career direction.
If he wants to go to do a creative degree, I think we might encourage him to do a year's arts foundation course anyway, so he can do a bit more growing up before he leaves home, but that's still a couple of years away - anything could change!

brownfang Sat 07-Oct-17 18:17:48

Yes it's a shame the English system tries to pigeonhole them so young.
BTEC sounds great.
You can't decide so I would let my DS decide.

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