For anyone with 15 or 16 year olds in the UK, now is the time to look into their Post 16 education options. With the Government ruling that they are required to stay in a form education until the age of 18, they have to choose from one of the following options:
- Sixth Form
- Further Education
- A combination of work (or volunteering) and part-time study
My eldest son is 15 and this is our first venture into the world of colleges and A Levels etc. I thought making the choices would be quite simple. He already knows the subject he wants to study (sport) and he would like to follow a BTEC/OCR course rather than A Levels. In my mind, we would be visiting colleges just to find out what facilities they have and which one he ‘liked’ the most. How wrong was I!
For those who want to follow a more vocational route, we found out that each college offers slightly different pathways. Some are offering BTECs, some OCR (these are essentially just different examining boards) and although the courses can follow a similar set of modules, they each offer different methods of assessment and different outcomes when it comes to comparing them to their A Level equivalents.
For example, one college offers a BTEC in Sport which is assessed solely by coursework and you can gain a qualification which is the equivalent of 1, 2 or 3 A levels, dependent on the length of study and modules taken. Another college also offers a BTEC in Sport, this time assessed via 2 exams and coursework, but they only do the modules that allow you to gain a qualification that is the equivalent of 2 A levels and you must study a second A level subject alongside this. Then there is the Sixth Form at a local school which offers the OCR Sport, also assessed via 2 exams and coursework, but you only gain a qualification equivalent to 1 A level and the need to study two further subjects at A level!
What I thought was going to be an easy choice has turned into quite a mind-numbing decision. Whilst the final decision rests with my Son, we obviously have to have some influence or he will pick the college which had a student common room, containing two pool tables and an Xbox!
There are of course other considerations to take into account such as the location, their facilities and the quality of the provision.
To help with my Son’s decision I have devised a table to list all the different attributes of the colleges and their courses. Once completed with all the relevant information, we will colour code each rectangle (green for great, orange for mediocre and red for poor) and this will provide an ‘easy’ view of the best choices.
In case this may be of help to others who are going through the same process, I would like to make it available for anyone who thinks it may help
All in all, we have visited 2 Sixth Form colleges and 3 Further Education colleges. I am so glad we visited them all. I know some of his friends haven’t even bothered going and their parents’ aren’t encouraging them to attend either, which I think is such a shame, as it really shows them what the hard work towards their GCSEs will be for.
The deadline for applications at our local colleges is February 2017, so this will give him time to make decisions on which colleges/sixth forms he will be applying to.
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