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Are BTECs better for disorganised teens?

(33 Posts)
lljkk Sat 20-Apr-13 14:56:33

Or maybe I should ask, which GCSEs involve the most in-class work vs. lots of home revision?

DS does decent/good standard of work in class but he hates nearly all forms of homework and does only the bare minimum (I know this is common). I have been browsing about books to transform lazy/disorganised teens but I am not the kind of person to make those strategies work (they seem to all involve me being closely involved with managing his homework load). Sorry if that makes me a crap parent, I just can't do it. So am considering other strategies if DS never decides to self-organise.

Do BTECs work differently from GCSEs dependent on homestudy, are BTECs more about standard of work produced in a working environment and less on pouring over books at home? I know DS could do quite well at that.

Bunbaker Tue 23-Apr-13 06:51:41

You could try and do what MIL did with SIL when she didn't want to stay at school and sit O levels. In those days you could leave school at 15 without any form of academic qualification. MIL got SIL a job waiting tables. After a few days of this SIL said that she hated it. MIL told her that this was the only kind of job available to her if she didn't pull her finger out and stay at school.

It was a great motivator for SIL to knuckle down, get some O levels and get a better job.

sashh Tue 23-Apr-13 06:40:59


I didn't realise your school now go on to 18, it used to be 15 didn't it.

Over here, you can, technically, go to college full time from age 14 but more often a class is sent to college for one afternoon a week for vocational courses.

Maybe I should set up a sort of boarding house for Irish students wanting to take vocational qualifications in the UK, not sure how I would finance it, and once they have qualifications would they be recognised at home?

Ponders how this could be combined with the drive through shop.

BackforGood Mon 22-Apr-13 23:35:59

I think it's difficult to say which "involve the least homework" as so much of it depends on the way the school organise and teach the course and how much good ground work has already been done.

For example, when in Yr8, my dd was doing exactly the same piece of homework for MfL as ds was doing in Yr11, so by the time dd gets to GCSEs, I suspect she won't have to do anywhere near as much "homework" as ds did, because he hadn't had the grounding in KS3, and was playing 'catch up'. That said, it was easy 'catch up' for him because he finds it relatively easy to learn a chunk of text to regurgitate in the test without really ever being able to speak the language.
There is a lot of time needed to do art, but quite a few pupils don't see it as that as they love the drawing and don't see it as "work" in the same way an essay is.
If you just 'get' maths, then there's not a lot of homework needed, but if you don't understand maths readily, then it's going to take hours of going over things (tutors?) to unpick it and work things out.

nickstmoritz Mon 22-Apr-13 23:01:14

lljkk, does your DS like sport? or drama? These might be good options. I am not saying they are easy but may require less sit down type homework. Art or textiles is loads of work at home. Music is a lot of work from what I have heard and better if you play an instrument to a fairly high level eg G5 or above.

DD has dyslexia and we have gone for 3 practical options to lessen the written workload. The new GCSE marking rules penalise dyslexic students with marks knocked off for spelling/grammar even in other subjects than English Language -5% I think.

Being very disorganised is often an indicator of dyslexia or a specific learning difficulty. You could make an appointment with the school SENCO to get advice and support for your DS. Some schools also run "organisation" clubs to help or offer a mentoring service for disorganised pupils.

Your DS could choose to do foundation rather than higher tier GCSE in weakest subjects but be aware that this means C is the highest possible grade. It might take some pressure off though.

lljkk Mon 22-Apr-13 14:19:03

In terms of telling apart harder from easier GCSE topics:

The data are almost 10 yrs old but somewhat useful, and fits with most of the anecdotal evidence (summary1, summary2).

Also, survey of students.

mumeeee Mon 22-Apr-13 10:50:26

There is a lot of course work in BTECHs, DDi did a level 2 Btech in IT which is GCSE equivelent and she did quite a bit of work at home. She is now in the final year of a Btech extended diploma ( used to be called National Diploma) in ITand does a massive amount of work at home as well as in lessons at college. She is doing aBTECH as exams tend to throw her she is dyspraxic and also has another learning difficulty. She is disorganised about a lot of things but is very focused on homework and is determined to get good grades. She has 3 offers fron unis so it is not holding her back. However if your DS doesn't like homework I would say a BTECH is not for him.

Maryz Mon 22-Apr-13 10:08:06

I agree with that sashh.

I'm in Ireland where it is even worse - they have just introduced a rule that every child has to stay in school until the age of 18. And they do acedamic subjects, with little choice.

They all do seven subjects for Leaving Cert, including English, Irish (a real challenge for those who struggle with languages), Maths, a modern European language and three others. There is little or no account taken of academic ability, and no option to leave school and go to college.

The only hands on college courses are post-leaving certificate courses, for which you have to pass your leaving cert (including passing English, Irish and Maths at least).

There is an option in a few schools to do some applied subjects. But these are few and far between, and there is very little money to provide kitchens/workrooms/equipment etc or to provide teachers for the small classes that practical courses need.

And then they wonder why so many kids drop out. And when they drop out they can't get any money or benefits of any kind if they are living at home, and there is no provision for them to live anywhere else.

So the boys turn to crime and drugs, and for many of the girls having a baby is still seen as a way out sad.

For children with ADHD/ASD/dyslexia/dyspraxia and general learning difficulties, as well as those who simply find it hard to engage and for whom sitting and learning is a chore, the traditional school system is a disaster.

specialsubject Mon 22-Apr-13 09:55:01

I don't think 'stop wasting your education' is an unkind comment. There are places where children get shot for wanting to go to school.

while very few children know what they want to do as adults, and no-one has a career for life now anyway, there must be some subjects that interest him as well as those that everyone should have (English competence, mathematical skills, some knowledge of science). So what stops him doing the homework for those?

lljkk Mon 22-Apr-13 09:47:10

Don't some GCSEs require a lot more out-of-class work than others? I think Art is usually cited as a GCSE that requires a huge amount of work. Which GCSEs require the least out-of-class work, or just the least work overall?

Just found out DS may not have to do a MFL; hooray! That was a surefire F.

sashh Mon 22-Apr-13 09:40:36


This is why I think all children should be given the option at 14 to leave school and go to college. By the time they are 16 they are totally turned off learning and it's hard to reengage them.

With the best will in the world most school teachers would have to give the written form. Schools are not set up for vocational qualifications, well some are, but it tends to be in just one field.

LIZS Mon 22-Apr-13 08:22:51

If the only reason he might fail GCSE (E/F) is that he is too lazy to apply himself then he shouldn't go down the BTEC route. The coursework and research is also done in own time and these are perceived less favourably by non-vocational employers. He won't be successful at either unless he does some work.

havenlady Mon 22-Apr-13 08:16:46

My DS is disorganised and did bare minimum for GCSEs. Managed to pass them all (just). Teachers spend a lot of time going over stuff in class up til study leave, so they are effectively revising in class.
Now he is doing A levels. Still not a high flier, but it more motivated because he has chosen the subjects. And yes the more vocational A levels do suit him better, principally because more is done in class, which helps with his disorganisation.
So I would say get him through as many GCSEs as is reasonable - this may involve enforcing an hour a day or whatever, to get him to the next stage.
BTW has he been screened for any difficulties? My DS is Dyspraxic - hence poor concentration and lack of enthusiasm for school in general!! A diagnosis doesn't solve many problems, but help you get a bit more support.

Rosesforrosie Sun 21-Apr-13 18:11:42

It is bewildering. The 'safest' advice I can give you is to stick with the traditional. Ideally a min of 7 (max 9) GCSEs A-C (including English, Maths and some kind of Science).

I wouldn't divert to 'equivalents' unless you genuinely believe your DS will FAIL to achieve the above. The school will be able to advise you as to the liklihood of a clutch of A-C if you ask the question, but bare in mind they may have ulterior motives for pushing 'equivalents'. 'The best' UK schools don't do this, because it is limiting for those with reasonable intellect.

This opinion might get me a flaming in some quarters but it is my advice. -teacher at leading independent school, who regularly sees kids get top university places, despite being 'moderately' intelligent, and disengaged in yr9

lljkk Sun 21-Apr-13 15:19:15

DS is motivated to play video games, paint Warhammer figures and to search for pornography online. Not sure which qualifications are available for those things, though. wink

I am foreign & find the English secondary education system bewildering.

Maryz Sun 21-Apr-13 13:10:28

The thing is seeker that you are right in theory. But for a child like my ds (and possibly lljkk's ds) is it better to try to keep them at school and end up with a whole series of failed GCSEs or to direct them towards an alternative.

sashh - my son would pass your test with flying colours. But if it was given as a written "name ten hazards" he would probably fail. He is great at seeing and doing, he falls down on learning dry facts and spitting them back. Which is of course why school was such a disaster.

seeker Sun 21-Apr-13 11:23:59

Doors aren't permanently closed, obviously. But it's easier if you can get the basic bits of paper at the same time as your peers do.

flow4 Sun 21-Apr-13 10:51:05

I don't agree with that, seeker. IMO, doors don't close at year 9 because a young person chooses BTECs rather than GCSEs: doors close because they get turned off education, and disengage. The most important thing - and the challenge - is to help them find something they want to do - whatever that is. Motivation is the key.

At GCSE level, they need 5 passes grade A*-C to get onto A level or BTEC level 3 courses. That's all. They don't need the 10-11 GCSEs schools put them through, and if they go on to do well on their level 3 courses, no-one will ever ask about their GCSEs ever again, except to check they have English and maths.

I know several bright kids who have taken the BTEC route, and gone on to university.

I taught on an 'access to HE course', designed for adults who had left school with few/no qualifications, but who had now become motivated to go to uni. When they left school, they thought doors were shut to them... But it's literally never too late to push on a door, and discover you can actually open it if you want to.

BTECs seem much better at motivating some kids, probably because of their practical nature. (Oh and btw, 'coursework' doesn't mean 'homework': most BTEC coursework is done in class). My own DS1 hated GCSEs and did the bare minimum (or less), and was talking about spending his life on the dole... Now he's on a BTEC media course, really enjoying it, and is talking about uni...

lljkk, my advice (FWIW) would be to help your DS find something he loves, or at least likes, that will keep him engaged. Don't worry about what he 'should' be doing: think about his motivation, because if there's something - anything - he wants to do, he'll be alright in the end. smile

lljkk Sun 21-Apr-13 10:30:31

Yes, very unkind.

seeker Sun 21-Apr-13 09:59:32

Would it be very unkind to say that you really need to get a hold on this? He will be closing so many doors on himself if he doesn't get at least the mare minimum GcSEs- what does he want to do when he leaves school?

lljkk Sun 21-Apr-13 09:32:27

Darn, doesn't sound like anything will suit DS better than any other option. Other than avoiding the most homework-intensive things (like Art & cooking).

sashh Sun 21-Apr-13 07:09:27

BTECS are 100% course work.

A lot is left the way the teacher delivers and the equipment available.

eg my subject is Health and Social Care, one unit (and I think most BTECs have this) in health and safety. Part of this is to identify 10 hazards in a parrticular setting

I do it with a resuscitation doll sat up in bed with an oxygen mask on, the oxygen tube trailing across the floor where there is a pile of dirty washing.

There is usually some vomit about (porridge) and a plastic dog turd. some times in a commode, sometimes in the sink. There will be a used examination glove, which may or ma not have had a finger dipped in nutella.

I have a tick sheet, the students come in and list the hazards they see. Once they get to 10 they have passed. I then ask supplementary questions about each hazard and record the answer.

Now another teacher may simply give a piece of homework that says:

"identify 10 hazards in the work place and state why they are a hazard"

The latter isn't any better or worse (and if you don't have the luxury of a clinical room may be impossible) but it is more 'dry'.

From what you have said OP I would guess the former would appeal but the written would not.

I teach level 3 and most student go into health care and because of the practical elements IMHO it is a better grounding than A Levels.

Again IMHO the students that do best are the one that put the effort in.

Maryz Sun 21-Apr-13 00:21:13

I don't know the answer to this.

All I know is that ds1 who is the most disorganised person on earth (except possibly for ds2 hmm) is much better at the practical rather than the paperwork elements of exams.

He left (was excluded from) school at 15 and was out of school for three years.

He went back to education in September to get a qualification in catering and hotel management. He is top of the class in all the practical stuff - the cooking, the menu planning, all the hands-on elements. But unfortunately for him, these days simply doing the practical work isn't enough. Every practical element has to be backed up with written evidence: evidence of menu planning, evidence of costs, spreadsheets, reflections on his work experience etc etc. Lots and lots of written "back-up" for every part of the course. And he really struggles with this.

I think you have to decide: will he be better at a number of assignments done throughout the year or one exam at the end of the year? I thought the continual assessment way would suit ds, but it has been a nightmare. Having said that, he has actually finished everything and got it in on time, which is an absolute miracle.

CarpeVinum Sun 21-Apr-13 00:09:14

I've seen many a ks3 wastrel turn it around once they are doing subjects they deem important/ have public exams looming

<feels more cheerful>

seeker Sun 21-Apr-13 00:03:41

"but I am not the kind of person to make those strategies work (they seem to all involve me being closely involved with managing his homework load). Sorry if that makes me a crap parent, I just can't do it"

Yes you can. I'm afraid it goes with the territory.

Rosesforrosie Sat 20-Apr-13 23:52:28

Better than an E or an F yes, but if your DS is year 9 how do you know what his work ethic will be like over the next few years. I've seen many a ks3 wastrel turn it around once they are doing subjects they deem important/ have public exams looming.

What does the school say?

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