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How late is too late to swap A levels?

(57 Posts)
Oldowl Mon 09-Oct-17 21:23:59

DD is taking Maths, FM, Geography and Politics at a super selective Grammar at the start of Y12. She achieved 9 A* and 3 As at GCSE and at the moment wants to apply to Oxford to study Geography.

She is finding FM really tough and is stressing every night about it. She is desperate to give it up, but knows her school will insist she chooses another A level as all pupils take 4 (or 5) A levels. The problem comes that she does not have another A level choice that she wants to do. I have suggested economics, but it's a NO. Is it too late to start another A level if her peers are a month into the course? She asked her Head of 6th form if she could just do 3 plus EPQ about a fortnight ago and was told, 'No, all students do at least 4 in the lower 6th.'

The other problem with giving up FM is that she will have to change maths classes and will lose some brilliant maths teachers who get amazing results. She is in a real dilemma and is upset every night as the pace of the lessons and the workload is killing her love of school.

noblegiraffe Mon 09-Oct-17 21:55:25

If she doesn't want to switch maths classes, doesn't have another subject to switch to (and it's probably too late anyway - if she did switch there would be a lot of work to catch up and she's already stressed) and her school won't let her drop it, then perhaps she needs to tackle the FM differently. Is this the first time she's ever found anything difficult? Often students who have sailed through GCSE run into problems at A-level because they simply don't know what to do when they are stuck.

Has she asked her maths teachers for help? Like to take an extra 20 minutes or so after school to go through stuff with her?
Is she genuinely failing, or just not getting as good marks as she is used to? Girls in particular can lack confidence, catostrophise, think they are doing worse than they are.
Has she tried using online resources - videos etc to help?

sendsummer Mon 09-Oct-17 22:04:39

First decision: giving up a subject she finds too hard and is stressing her versus losing the best maths teachers. I would think that having less good teachers is surmountable with all the online resources, help from friends and possibly outside school help.

Then if she stops FM what subject can she do which will be in line and overlap with her other subjects and degree interests and therefore engender more motivation for the initial hard work of catching up. Does the school do geology? What about economics? If the school does not do AS levels for subjects other than maths she could take a bit more of a gamble in her subject choice since she will not have a result going against her at the end of year 12.

sendsummer Mon 09-Oct-17 22:06:38

Sorry missed the fact that she said no to economics. Philosophy or RE or biology? A lMFL? Business studies?

Oldowl Mon 09-Oct-17 22:07:18

It is the first time she has found maths difficult. She does ask for help from the teachers, attends maths clinic and asks friends to work on exercises together. She is very proactive but feels she is holding the class (of 18 students) back as she keeps asking for things to be explained again. I have told her that probably half the class are not getting it but won't ask so she is doing them a favour.

I don't think she is failing. She has a test soon so I said to see how it goes. Her reaction was, if I do badly they will chuck me off the course so the stress will be over.

What online resources/videos are there for A level maths/FM?

Oldowl Mon 09-Oct-17 22:09:35

RE might be an option. I will check if it is running this year as very few choose it.

antimatter Mon 09-Oct-17 22:13:57

wait until she gets her results, if she is struggling with FM it is only fair to give it up

I hate when school insists on 4 A levels where 3 are enough

noblegiraffe Mon 09-Oct-17 22:18:46

It's a bit tricky re resources because it's the new Further Maths A-level (not even sure if there are textbooks yet).
There's loads of stuff for the old FM A-level here: mrbartonmaths.com/students/a-level/a-level-notes.html so she should be able to find at least some of the stuff she is doing.

There are also videos for pretty much any maths topic on youtube if she searches for them.

Asking for help in lessons isn't any sort of indication that she's failing, merely that she's paying attention. Has she had any feedback from her teachers about how she is getting on and discussed how stressed she is with them?

FairyMcHairy Mon 09-Oct-17 22:22:57

Have the school said she can take on a new subject? I would not be happy about taking on a new student this far into the term - I have completed whole topics of work already within my subject.

And even if they did allow it, it would be incredibly stressful to attempt to catch up alongside 3 other A levels. It therefore probably wouldn't be an easy option compared to continuing with FM.

sendsummer Mon 09-Oct-17 22:23:27

Do they insist on AS levels? Usually students are allowed to go down to 3 in year 13 so if no AS levels any choice will broaden her education without having to cause extra exam stress.

Oldowl Mon 09-Oct-17 22:36:00

No AS levels, so just Y 12 to get through then drop down to 3.

TheSecondOfHerName Mon 09-Oct-17 22:53:22

I think it would depend on the school, and also which subject the student is changing to.

DS1 changed two of his subjects at October half term in Y12. He had to put in a fair amount of effort to catch up, but it was definitely the right decision.

somewhereovertherain Tue 10-Oct-17 02:09:37

My DD has been given the option of an AS in her 4th subject once complete she can then choose to do it as an A2. Cant see how any school could push to do 5 a levels there’s barely enough time in the timetable for 4.

My DDs lucky not in a super selective school but only class bigger than 6 is maths.

BitOutOfPractice Tue 10-Oct-17 02:33:00

I find the insistence on 4 subjects odd tbh. DD1 also attends the sixth form of a super selective grammar and only their top top students take 4 a levels. They believe it’s better to get 3 excellent A levels than 4 mediocre ones.

BitOutOfPractice Tue 10-Oct-17 02:34:37

And just to add that with the abolition of (most) AS levels there seems little to no point in doing a 4th one to drop it st the end of year 12

DPotter Tue 10-Oct-17 02:42:19

I too find it strange some schools insist on 4-5 A levels when universities (even Oxbridge ) only want to know about 3. I agree it would be very difficult to pick up another subject now - not impossible, but a lot of work and frankly unless she's really passionate about a subject, and it doesn't sound as if she is, then there's no point. Stick to 3 and excel.
Could be time for you to make contact with the school and explain the negative knock on effects that sticking with FM is having. Don't see why she would have to leave her existing class and teacher either; surely there would be no class clash

disahsterdahling Tue 10-Oct-17 08:56:57

Why is the school insisting on 4 A levels when all universities say 3 is enough? I think I'd ask them that, again and again, until I was satisfied with their response.

I swapped A level subjects at Oct half term of what is now year 12. I don't think you could reasonably do it any later.

noblegiraffe Tue 10-Oct-17 10:39:23

Tbf the superselective grammar school is probably quite reasonable in expecting their highly able intake to be able to cope with 4, especially if one is FM which is nearly always taken as a 4th.

I think the move to restrict students to 3 even in Y12, especially bright students is appalling. It’s mainly to do with funding cuts, with no regard to the severe narrowing of education aged 16.

BitOutOfPractice Tue 10-Oct-17 11:21:35

I really disagree noble. I think it’s utterly pointless to slog away at a fourth subject for a year or two when the results don’t matter and may have a detrimental effect on the other grades. And I say that with a dd at one of the super selective grammars who was gently told that with her GCSE results (which were excellent but not 13 A*s material) that she’d be better off doing 3. She insisted on trying 4 and they let her. It lasted 3 weeks. She’s now doing 3 and predicted 3 As

noblegiraffe Tue 10-Oct-17 14:18:54

Up until last year, the vast majority of students did, and managed perfectly well, 4 subjects in Y12. The idea that even the brightest are suddenly incapable of managing this is bizarre. The enforced taking of 3 subjects only for 2 years means a narrow curriculum, students taking 'safe' choices instead of potentially difficult or unknown ones, and students who struggle with a subject having no option at all to drop it. What then? We now have the ridiculous situation of students carrying on into Y13 with a U in their Y12 exams because they did all right in their other subjects.

The new A-levels aren't like the new GCSEs, they're not meant to be harder, they're just linear.

If you're worried about dropping a subject in Y12 and not having anything to show for it, the option to sit an AS exam still remains.

BitOutOfPractice Tue 10-Oct-17 14:56:32

Did anyone say they were incapable. I know I didn’t. I think the idea is that it’s not especially the best use of their time. The amount of extra curricular activities age reading and work that my dd is expected to go is infinitely greater than was expected of me. Doing 3 A levels too a high standard doesn’t feel like an easy option for her at all. I think she’d find your view quite irritating to be honest. She’s working her socks off with 3 A levels to the very best of her ability.

She’ll end up with 3As which means she’ll have the pick of universities. If she did 4 she might get ABBB and while we are all congratulating her on 4 great A levels she’s missed she’s out on her first choice uni which needs AAB.

BitOutOfPractice Tue 10-Oct-17 15:01:00

Sorry about the typos. Hope it makes sense

noblegiraffe Tue 10-Oct-17 15:05:38

You said 'may have a detrimental effect on their other grades' which I read as 'incapable of managing', especially when this thread is about the brightest students.

I don't think that a broader curriculum should be sacrificed for brighter students as a matter of course and I still think the move to 3 A-levels is to the detriment of their education, which is what sixth form is ultimately about.

BitOutOfPractice Tue 10-Oct-17 16:15:08

Well I’m sorry noble but when I said “ 'may have a detrimental effect on their other grades” I meant that studying 4 s levels for a year, particularly with no intention of even finishing one of them may have a detrimental effect on their other grades. Not whatever alternative meaning you may choose to put on it. I meant exactly what I typed. Not your version of it. confused

Diluting effort for a while year on 4 instead of 3 subjects is bound to cut down on the amount of time that students have to devote to extra reading and other experiences which makes such a contribution to top and good grades.

Not to mention that for many students, the 4th a level is just that: a bit of an afterthought / padder that they intend to drop at the end of year 12 anyway.

My dd, like many others, decided at age about 7 what she wanted to study at uni. So your horror at narrowing down her curriculum is only welcomed by her as an opportunity to concentrate on the (as it happens 2) subjects she loves.

noblegiraffe Tue 10-Oct-17 16:24:54

It would be a shame to restrict our brightest students to what we used to recommend only to the weaker students. Such a restricted range of subjects post-16 is very unusual internationally.

I'm sure your DD has done what's right for her personally, but I would be horrified if a superselective had such low expectations of its general intake.

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