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Son has started A levels but isn't enjoying it - what are the alternative options?

(18 Posts)
BeauchampBelle Sun 29-Oct-17 18:40:02

My son started A levels in September but isn't enjoying it at all. I think the idea of another 18 months of it is getting him down. He's not sure he wants to go to university. He has a set of very good GCSEs including 5 at A or above and has fallen into A levels as 'that's what you do'. Likewise he says he will probably go to university for the same reasons. He seems thoroughly miserable and I fear for his mental health if he continues - he's already being treated for depression.
I've been doing a bit of research on the alternatives but as he's already started his A levels 'wasting a year' seems to be inevitable as there's no such thing as AS levels any more and all the other courses will have started. And he has to stay in some kind of education or training till he's 18 which is a long way off as he's a summer birthday.
Any suggestions? I'm struggling to help him.

OP’s posts: |
Biggreygoose Sun 29-Oct-17 18:41:08

An apprenticeship seems the obvious answer.

What is he good at?

BoneyBackJefferson Sun 29-Oct-17 18:42:53

in England its employment, education or training.

So he could get a job.

GrumpyOldBag Sun 29-Oct-17 18:59:15

International Baccalaureate?

BeauchampBelle Sun 29-Oct-17 19:13:49

I've looked at Apprenticeships but they're all talking about starting in Sept 2018 which is why I started to think he'd need to 'waste a year'.

I didn't realise it was 'employment, education or training' though I'm not sure what jobs there are around for 16 year olds - the only ones I've seen have specified over 18.

He tends towards science/engineering, he's good at problem solving, building things, he's articulate and intelligent with a great sense of humour but he's quite reserved. I have wondered about something in IT. The trouble is there's nothing he really wants to do, he's never been the enthusiastic type.

OP’s posts: |
Biggreygoose Sun 29-Oct-17 20:18:49

I did a civil engineering apprenticeship and did a degree via that. It was a good choice and I have well paying career I love out of it.

Lots of civil engineering consultancies run their own programmes and given its still early days in the year they maybe a little more flexible in letting someone start late in the year

notacooldad Sun 29-Oct-17 20:32:58

We had this with our son last year.
He had done really well at school and enjoyed learning but was completely undecided about what he wanted to do. He chose A levels and seemed to pick subjects at random. It quickly became clear college, or rather, the college he went to wasn't right for him. He went from having no late marks in school at 100% attendance to a shoddy attitude which was so unlike him. He got a terrible report which was a shock for us as he always had amazing reports. On the way home from parents evening we gently spike to him and told him it was ok to quit if it wasn't working out. Immediately it looked like a huge boulder had been taken off his shoulders and our lovely son came back. DS was trying to what he thought we wanted and not let us down while we thought he was doing what he wanted.
The upshot is he finished last November. He tried to get an apprenticeship but nothing worked out. However he decided he wanted another go at college. He is doing a practical course t a different college and doing really well and loving it. He is now talking about doing a degree in the same field he enjoys it that much. DS is a summer baby as well ( August 30)

TheSecondOfHerName Sun 29-Oct-17 21:02:22

We were in a similar position with DS1 this time last year. He changed two of his A-level subjects at the October half term of Y12 and was much happier after that.

If that hadn't worked, his next ideas for filling the rest of the academic year were Princes Trust, online courses (e.g. MOOCs) or volunteering.

GrumpyOldBag Mon 30-Oct-17 07:44:16

OP if he can't start until Sept 2018 with an apprenticeship, he doesn't need to 'waste' the rest of the year.

He can get a job (I know a 16 year old working in a well known High Street shop while waiting to start an apprenticeship) which will not only give him a chance to earn some money but learn timekeeping, responsibility, independence etc.

sashh Mon 30-Oct-17 10:01:27

Lots of 16 year olds do part time jobs, McDonalds and waiting tables are common, no reason he can't do that for a while.

He can also apply for apprenticeships and start the 'work' parts earlier.

Have a look at BTEC.

If he is techy then there might be a MOOC or two he'd like to take before September.

Northernsoul58 Mon 30-Oct-17 10:24:35

Apprenticeships are regularly added to the government website. They don't all start in September. Try the link below and search for Traineeships or Apprenticeships to get an idea of what is out there. Unfortunately/fortunately there are lots and lots in the IT sector. Depends what your son is interested in.
It might be an idea to get a fill-in job and wait until the right apprenticeship comes up. A friend's son got an apprenticeship with Balfour Beatty and ended up with a degree in civil engineering and a well paid job.
Fill-in jobs don't have to be in high street retail. Another friend's DS worked in a builders yard in his gap year.
There is no rush to get qualifications. Be aware that DCs can study 'third level' education (post 16) for free until the age of 23. That means A levels, BTECs etc. But if he gets a BTEC qualification for example and then wants to do A levels or vice versa, he (you) will have to pay for the second course when he's over 19.

fannyfelcher Mon 30-Oct-17 10:33:21

My sion went through this exact thing last year and it was really difficult on all of us. He has several options

He can continue to the end of this school year and have AS levels in his subjects and then re enrol for another course/apprenticeship

He can leave the course and enrol on the pathways course through college, this is designed for the floaters/kids who do not have any idea what they want to do.

Tell him to sign up to start a Princes Trust course, this will give him 12 weeks of awesome stuff like orienteering, community projects and something to put on his CV. After that he can enrol to do a Duke of Edinborough to take him to summer when he enrols to do whatever course he wants.

You can get some appprenticeships that start through the year, have a google and see if any of them appeal. My son really thought about doing one in accounting but despite being an A* student he was totally sick of Alevels and is now doing a level 3 btec in game design and IT. He loves it, it is so nice to see him happy to go to college instead of miserable.

BeauchampBelle Mon 30-Oct-17 13:06:02

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I'm at work right now but will look into them later on.
I'm not sure between his disillusionment and the depression, whether there is a cause and an effect or whether they are both just wrapped up together.

OP’s posts: |
corythatwas Tue 31-Oct-17 08:02:35

My ds realised after the first year that he was on the wrong track; switched colleges and started again on year one of a BTEC programme. Seems much happier and has an idea of where he's going.
"Wasting a year" doesn't seem too much of a problem, compared to the alternative of wasting the rest of his life doing something that he is a bad fit for.
Dd took two years after A-levels waiting to get into the course she had set her heart on; she worked as a waitress in the interim. Again, at the end of the day noone's going to care that she is a couple of years older than somebody else going down the same path.

mumstaxi2 Tue 31-Oct-17 22:48:42

Please don't worry about your son "wasting a year". His mental wellbeing is the most important factor. I know many young people of this age who have stepped off the education this age for various reasons and it hasn't caused a problem. There are many work oppportinuites (paid and voluntary) that could keep your son busy until he decides what he wants to do.
My DS18 has just gone traveling in Asia. He has a uni place for next year but I'm not sure he is 100% sure its the right course. He may come back and start next year but he may carry on travelling or come up with a completely new plan. Whatever happens we are proud that he is developing independence and know at some point he will be successful in his chosen career. His happiness is more important to us than doing what others expect him to do.

SleepingSoundly Thu 02-Nov-17 00:39:25

The good advanced engineering apprenticeships (these are aimed at those with good GCSEs and typically last 3-4 years) start opening for applicants for next September around now. Obviously check them out carefully, but they mostly lead into pretty good careers. The recruitment process takes quite a while, often aptitude tests first, then practical assessments and interviews. He may not get an offer before around Easter. They are usually quite competitive, so don't let him rush into applying without really considering the sort of answers they are looking for on the application. With his good gcses, his interest is science and a strong application he stands a good chance. I wouldn't give up on A levels until he has secured an offer though, as that way he can badge A levels as his fallback option if he doesn't get the dream job he's applying for. So it's not really a wasted year, but a means of ensuring he gets good school references and looks like a sensible chap to a future employer.

Dancinggoat Sun 05-Nov-17 11:33:26

My D hated exams and revising. She did an extended BTEC diploma and loved it. It suited her the way you study doing modules ticking them off one by one. Work experience and applying it to the work she was doing. It made it real life for her. Also even though it was a lot of written work when the module was complete that was it. No revising and exam stress.

bubby64 Wed 08-Nov-17 11:57:11

I've just written a reply to another desperate parent in a post. My 2 hated doing the A level courses and have now swapped to vocational courses at a 6th form college. They did this 3 weeks before half term, and love this type of leaning. Apprenticeship was also an option. Have you talked to the 6th form colleges? I didn't think a late start was possible but the college was really helpful.

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