Last week, T received his Mock GCSE results. Based on his predicted grades he didn’t fare brilliantly: low passes for most and some below. He is predicted high grades of 7’s and 8’s (A’s and A*’s to anyone on old money) which we have always felt are either optimistic or, in the case of some subjects, completely unrealistic. He has always been a steady, level-pegging student. We have only ever asked that he tries hard and does his best; we want him to achieve the best he can for him, to give himself the best chance of being able to do what he wants in later life. We are also not naive enough to think that his entire future happiness hinges on what grades he gets at GCSE; so long as he gets the passes he needs to do what he wants after GCSE’s, we will be happy for him.
So, what does he want to do after his GCSE’s? From the age of about 3 years old, when he first understood what a Police Officer was, he has wanted to join the Police Force. This ambition has not wavered over the years and, in fact, has only been fuelled by the last year as a member of the local Police Cadets. Over the last 6 months or so he been looking into how to take it further, after school. He has asked some of the older cadets and has established that those who are looking to pursue it further are all studying a Public Services BTEC at college. We attended the Open Evenings for the two most local colleges in the latter part of last year and quickly narrowed it down to one. He seemed set on going this route and subsequently signed up for the course, starting in September, and had an interview last week (the day of the Mock GCSE results). He was offered a conditional place – he needs 4 GCSE’s at level 4 or above. Easily achievable, we think.
The following day, his school held a Post-16 Evening to look at the options available to students after GCSE’s. T’s initial response, when I suggested we attend, was that there was no point as he knew what he wanted to do and he didn’t want to stay on and be made to feel he should go on to Uni. My experience at his age was exactly that: I did A levels and for the two years of study I was primed for Uni. I didn’t want to go to Uni. I left school with 2 mediocre A’levels and started working. Nothing has changed much since my time, so I was inclined to agree with him. However, my parent hat went back on and I persuaded him to at least go along and hear what they had to say. We’re not anti-Uni. Uni is important and necessary for people wanting to do jobs that require a degree. But not all jobs require a degree and not all kids want to go.
For the first half an hour, I wondered why I had dragged him along. It was like deja vu and I was 15 again, being told that this number of students went to top ranking uni’s last year and this student went to Oxford. It’s a great school, you can’t get away from that. However, I would also like to have heard about X student who had struggle academically throughout their school life but had achieved Y and has gone on to do Z. There needs to be more balance. The school produces a map of it’s leavers destinations – uni’s and colleges. There is a box at the bottom showing students who haven’t gone on to uni. They don’t make it on to the map – they are in a box. I say no more. Needless to say, by the time we left the hall I was ready to go home and skip the subject talks we had booked in for. We stayed, because I am an adult.
I am glad we stayed. The first talk we went to was Business Studies. T’s Business Studies teacher is awesome. I don’t use that word often or lightly. But she is. She’s engaging, lively, she connects with the students on a level that I have never seen before. I would almost consider going back to school if I could have her teach me full time. She’s that good. The school offers both A’ level and BTEC Business. BTEC Business can result in the equivalent of 2 A’levels after the 2 years. No exam, just coursework. My heart did a little skip and I nearly clapped. Some of the current year 12 students spoke and they talked about one of their modules requiring them to create a business. They have gone one step further and are running a business. They are making money, running a business while studying and it goes towards their coursework. Sign me up now. T seemed equally enthralled. And the best bit, Mrs T teaches BTEC Business, not the A’level. She went on to say that they have as many students go on to do further study as they do go on to get jobs, apprenticeships. It’s not all about Uni. Hurrah.
Similar feelings for ICT. We went to the Computing talk but it was clear from the start that it was not the course for T. He is doing Computing GCSE but this was all whole new level. Not beyond his capabilities, just beyond his interest. The clincher for me was the 3 students who were there as “ambassadors” for the subject – they appeared to be 60 year old men. I suspect they have always been this way but I can’t risk it happening to T.
As we left the event, I asked T what he thought. He has decided to apply for both college and Sixth Form. There has been talk for some time that the Police Force will soon only recruit graduates. This has been bandied about a lot, but we can’t guarantee that it won’t happen. If that is the case then T needs to be prepared to take that step. Or change direction. Doing Public Services may end up narrowing his options, but also may lead to his dream job. Doing Business and ICT BTEC’s may broaden his options, and make him look at other avenues. It also won’t stop him going to Uni and applying to the Police as a graduate if necessary.
It feels good that he has made some sensible decisions. It feels good that he is keeping his options open for now. And he has some goals to reach in order to do either, which will hopefully keep him focused.