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suze
1337001.  Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:01 pm Reply with quote

I wasn't going to do this, but I've now been asked twice what the 62 subjects available for A level are.

Accounting, Ancient History, Arabic, Art, Bengali, Biology, Business Studies, Chemistry, Chinese, Classical Civilisation, Computer Science, Dance, Design and Technology, Drama / Theatre Studies, Economics, Electronics, English Language, English Language and Literature, English Literature, Environmental Science, Film Studies, Food Preparation and Nutrition, French, Further Mathematics, Geography, Geology, German, Greek, Gujarati, Health and Social Care, Hebrew, History, History of Art, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Law, Leisure Studies, Mathematics, Media Studies, Music, Music Technology, Persian, Philosophy, Physical Education / Sports Studies, Physics, Polish, Politics, Portuguese, Psychology, Punjabi, Pure Mathematics, Religious Studies, Russian, Sociology, Spanish, Statistics, Travel and Tourism, Turkish, Urdu, Welsh.

There are a few prohibited combinations. You can't take English Language and Literature if you are taking either subject on its own. You can't take Further Mathematics unless you are also taking Mathematics. Greek and Hebrew both have alternate syllabuses, one based on the modern language and one based on the Biblical language and you can't do both. (Arabic covers only the modern language, and it is explicitly stated that no knowledge of the Qur'an is required and that it should not be used in teaching.)

Food Preparation and Nutrition and Health and Social Care are more often studied in FE colleges as BTEC courses. The A levels in these two are run out of Northern Ireland where the old GNVQs never really caught on, but apparently a handful of schools in England also offer them.

 
Leith
1337012.  Thu Nov 21, 2019 7:07 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Here, though, is an essay which has been written on the subject.

The author acknowledges that he is an American and that he doesn't much like the British A level system in general, but at the same time he finds some fairly big holes in the content.

Interesting article - thanks. It does suggest the course is somewhat lacking in depth.

 
cnb
1337028.  Fri Nov 22, 2019 5:21 am Reply with quote

Interesting that there are A levels available in Gujarati and Urdu, but not in the six more commonly spoken languages of south Asia (Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil), or even just the two of those that are more widely spoken in the UK than Gujarati (Punjabi and Bengali).

suze wrote:
The school's advice to a pupil who wants to take a combination that it cannot facilitate ought to be "Maybe look at a different school", and it's by no means rare for a student to change schools at 16 for just that reason.

I did A levels at two schools at the same time. There was a subject that myself and three friends from another school wanted to study (Automation and Electronics, which apparently no longer exists), but the nearest school that offered it was 20 miles away. Some kind of deal was done between my school and my friends' school so that their Head of Physics would teach us and I'd have a half hour walk across town two afternoons each week to attend.

 
suze
1337080.  Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:24 pm Reply with quote

cnb wrote:
Interesting that there are A levels available in Gujarati and Urdu, but not in the six more commonly spoken languages of south Asia (Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil), or even just the two of those that are more widely spoken in the UK than Gujarati (Punjabi and Bengali).


Bengali and Punjabi are there. I was a bit surprised that Hindi in particular isn't, but as you say it doesn't actually have that many speakers in the UK.

The existence of GCSEs and A levels in languages which are spoken in Britain only by immigrant communities is controversial. Some think that they are an easy option for pupils who speak a language other than English at home and so shouldn't be allowed. As regards GCSE there might be something in that, but the A levels are in no way easy.

At one point Michael Gove wanted them all abolished, until it was pointed out to him that there is a non-zero number of people in the UK whose first language is French, and surely he didn't want A level French abolished.

The former University of London Examinations Board used to offer a larger range of "exotic" languages than is now available, but some have been ditched for lack of numbers. I think Hindi was among them, and I know that Danish, Dutch, and Swedish all were. Quite a few more were announced as to be abolished in 2018, Polish among them, but when Nicky Morgan replaced Mr Gove at Education she ordered the exam boards to reverse that decision.

Cambridge International offers a few languages at A level that are not offered by the domestic exam boards. These international A levels are intended for students based outside the UK, and state schools here aren't allowed to offer them because the government is unable to interfere with the syllabuses. Quite a few independent schools offer them though; notably, Eton does.

The further languages currently available in this way are Afrikaans, Hindi, Nepali, and Tamil, with others under consideration. Scripture-based RE courses aimed at Christians, Hindus, and Muslims are also available; the A level Religious Studies offered in Britain is platform agnostic.

You'd never guess it from the preceding paragraph, but the main markets for Cambridge International A levels are private schools in India, South Africa, and the Arabian Gulf!

 
suze
1337085.  Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:44 pm Reply with quote

cnb wrote:
Automation and Electronics, which apparently no longer exists


Not under that name, but it may be that much of the content is available within A level Design and Technology.

The exam board that we use offers three syllabuses for that A level, each with a different emphasis. One is "A level Needlework" and is aimed at those who seek careers within the fashion industry, one is "A level Woodwork and Metalwork" and is aimed at would-be engineers, and one is that "A level Electronics" which only exists under that actual name in Wales.

Within each syllabus there are a number of options, so the material which you covered in Automation and Electronics may well feature somewhere.


cnb wrote:
Some kind of deal was done between my school and my friends' school so that their Head of Physics would teach us and I'd have a half hour walk across town two afternoons each week to attend.


That kind of thing still happens, although when it happens today it has to be documented more formally than perhaps it was when you did it.

As Head of the Faculty which includes Modern Foreign Languages, I am party to a circular email which goes to every secondary school in the area. I inform the email group that my school can facilitate A level Polish (me!) and Punjabi (a teacher whose main subject is Business Studies, but who is of Punjabi heritage and did TEFL in India for a couple years) if anyone in the area wants to do them, but that unfortunately the teacher who could do Italian has left.

In return, I learn that our partner school for boys can do Bengali (their Head of Chemistry is Bangla, and has done it before), and that County would be extremely pleased to hear from any teacher who can speak a suitable level of Japanese.

 
dr.bob
1337218.  Mon Nov 25, 2019 9:30 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
PDR wrote:
Well quite. I'm trying to change our process such that the focus of our "schools outreach" extends much more into the pre-A-level stage so we can (hopefully) influence kids to choose the *right** A-levels for what they want to do.


What an excellent idea that is


In the past, haven't you castigated Big Evil Corporations* for insisting that schools spend the time and money teaching children skills because the BECs simply don't want to. That seems slightly at odds with approving of a scheme where BECs start directing children's lives before the age of 16.

I can see the argument that for certain subjects (particularly STEM, but that's probably just because they're the subjects I know most about) a firm groundwork needs to be covered as it'd take too long for an employer to teach someone from scratch. However, I would imagine the number of subjects in that category are pretty small (probably just Maths and Physics. As Ernest Rutherford famously said "Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.").

Surely the role of school is to teach a student how to learn effectively, so that they can then turn their hands to whatever interests them in later life. I worry about expecting children to know what kind of future job they want at the age of 15. It seems to be pigeon holing them unnecessarily early. I certainly had no idea what job I wanted even when I was 18 and I certainly wouldn't have imagined the way my career has worked out since then.


*It is panto season, so it seems an apt time for some hyperbole

 
suze
1337247.  Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:09 pm Reply with quote

I wasn't Management then ...

There are fine lines to be trodden here. If it is the case that schools really don't know which A levels a kid needs to take if she wants to be an astronaut (let us say), then Big Evil Corporation plc absolutely does need to be telling them. That ought not to be the case, but PDR has discovered as others have before him that it is.

I don't want BEC plc coming to my school and telling me that we ought to be making everyone do Physics, because a lot of the girls have no intention of following the sort of career path that BEC plc can offer. While BEC plc might like to believe that school exists solely for its convenience, it is not so. But some do want to follow that career path, and if they don't know that they might find it advantageous to do Physics then they should certainly be told.


dr.bob wrote:
I worry about expecting children to know what kind of future job they want at the age of 15. It seems to be pigeon holing them unnecessarily early. I certainly had no idea what job I wanted even when I was 18 and I certainly wouldn't have imagined the way my career has worked out since then.


This is something that I think genuinely has changed since you and I were teenagers. More of the teenagers of today do know what they want to do when they grow up than did in our day. What proportion of those teenagers actually end up doing that thing is a piece of research that, so far as I know, hasn't been done.

Unnecessarily early pigeon holing is an unavoidable consequence of the education system that we have in the UK (other than Scotland). I've said many times that I'd prefer an education system closer to that which North America has, but there appears to be little appetite for it.

 
PDR
1337252.  Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:10 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:

I don't want BEC plc coming to my school and telling me that we ought to be making everyone do Physics, because a lot of the girls have no intention of following the sort of career path that BEC plc can offer.


And if I hadn't made it clear - we oif BEC plc don't want to do that. What I am ranting about is that there absolutely are rational combinations of courses/subjects irrespective of one's career aspirations (or lack of them). A combo like "Maths and Sport" is one that doesn't lead to anything much other than PE teacher - fine if that is the aspiration, but not if it isn't.

My events are solely for those who potentially ARE interested in an engineering career within BEC plc, and I rather feel the school should have told them (or let us tell them) at the A-level selection stage that if you want to do a Level 6 degree apprenticeship in an engineering discipline the minimum entry quals (as set by the guvmint) are 95 UCAS points with a minimum of 2 STEM subjects. Personally I'd like to make A-level Maths mandatory, but it isn't so I can't say that. Or they could do Engineering, Physics or one of several Maths degrees (one with significant "applied" content) and THEN seek employment with BEC, but I don't know of any UK university that would accept someone onto those courses without at least A-levels in Physics and Maths.

It is really painful to have keen, bright kids come along and get enthused about our "no student debt" degree apprenticeship scheme and then have to tell them "sorry, but you don't qualify and must do some more A-levels before you can even get to an interview".

I assume (but don't know) that similar conversations take place in Small Benevolent Kitten Orphanage plc as well - no A-level or BTEC in sports or music will get someone onto a Veternary course.

I don't care who wants to work where or do what - I just think kids today are being badly advised (or not advised) on which subjects and courses to take.

PDR

 
Jenny
1337260.  Mon Nov 25, 2019 2:21 pm Reply with quote

I am thoroughly relieved that I wasn't asked to do Maths after the age of 16 and I can't say I have required it since 1966.

When I did it, Biology A level was much less sciency than it is now, but it helped if you were good at drawings and not squeamish about dissections (I was and I wasn't).

 
crissdee
1337268.  Mon Nov 25, 2019 5:09 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
More of the teenagers of today do know what they want to do when they grow up than did in our day.


I cannot help but wonder how many of those teenagers have made that decision because the school expected it of them and they did their best to come up with an answer. My niece (the only teenager whose career path ideas to which I am privy) went from Dancer, to Playwright, to Screenplay writer, to Paediatric Nurse, to Clinical Psychologist, to her current Art Gallery curator (assuming she hasn't changed her mind since I last spoke to her!) over the course of a year. I can only assume her to be representative of her peer group, as much as I like to think she is especially brilliant.

 
suze
1337269.  Mon Nov 25, 2019 5:51 pm Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
And if I hadn't made it clear - we oif BEC plc don't want to do that. What I am ranting about is that there absolutely are rational combinations of courses/subjects irrespective of one's career aspirations (or lack of them). A combo like "Maths and Sport" is one that doesn't lead to anything much other than PE teacher - fine if that is the aspiration, but not if it isn't.


I knew you didn't want to do that. Whether dr.bob was under the impression that you did, I cannot say.

There are plenty of career paths for which the choice of A level subjects is unimportant. Someone who wants to be an accountant - and, surprising as it may sound, I do meet schoolgirls who actually want to be an accountant - can take pretty much anything at A level. Math is useful for that although not essential, but otherwise it doesn't make much difference what that girl takes.

Every year we have a couple of girls whose career ambition is to wear the uniform of a police officer, and Math and Sports Studies actually wouldn't be silly for that. Someone who takes Sports Studies probably has a base level knowledge of first aid (certainly not a disadvantage for someone who wants to join the police), and is probably reasonably fit (likewise).

PDR wrote:
I rather feel the school should have told them (or let us tell them) at the A-level selection stage that if you want to do a Level 6 degree apprenticeship in an engineering discipline the minimum entry quals (as set by the guvmint) are 95 UCAS points with a minimum of 2 STEM subjects.


This is the part with which I can do nothing but agree. School ought to know this, and if it doesn't know this then please tell it. I don't particularly want to go down the road of political point scoring right now, but schoolkids would know this if the Cameron government hadn't abandoned the careers service for people under 19.

crissdee wrote:
I cannot help but wonder how many of those teenagers have made that decision because the school expected it of them and they did their best to come up with an answer.


There may be an element of that, but in fact I think parents may have more influence here than schools.

When I was in high school, my dad wanted me to be a lawyer. TBH that never really appealed, but the only other careers advice he ever gave me was "Don't be a bus driver". He was a bus driver.

Not very many of my high school peers had fathers whose job involved being paid quite a lot for wearing a suit and playing with numbers on spreadsheets all day. Jobs like that in Canada are mostly in Toronto and Ottawa, and I grew up thousands of miles from Toronto and Ottawa.

But I work within commuting distance of London, and they have that sort of job in London too. Quite a few of the girls that I teach have at least one parent who does pretty much that, and are fairly sure that they want to do the same. I'm not sure that the numbers and the spreadsheets fill the girls with delight, but the need to wear a suit doesn't bother them and the being paid quite a lot thing has some appeal.

 
crissdee
1337290.  Tue Nov 26, 2019 5:54 am Reply with quote

Speaking for myself, for I cannot in good conscience speak for anyone else, the remuneration for the spreadsheet thing would have to be IMMENSE to offset even the wearing of a suit on a regular basis, let alone the soul-sucking dreariness of sitting in an office looking at a screen all day.

YMMV.

 
dr.bob
1337312.  Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:26 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
I wasn't Management then ...


ROTFLMAO!

PDR wrote:
if you want to do a Level 6 degree apprenticeship in an engineering discipline the minimum entry quals (as set by the guvmint) are 95 UCAS points with a minimum of 2 STEM subjects.


The requirement for 2 STEM subjects puzzles me. I'd've thought either engineering or physics would be the best subjects for working at a company such as yours.

Whilst it's very important to have a good understanding of maths, it's surely impossible to get a good physics A-level without learning a lot of maths. Of the 4 A-levels I took, 3 were maths, further maths, and physics. The main reason I did those three was laziness. I was interested in physics, which had a heavy maths element, so those three A-levels were almost like doing the same thing three times, thereby leading to the maximum number of qualifications for the minimum amount of effort.

Given that most people only take 3 A-levels, requiring 66.666% of them to be in a particular field seems very limiting. If they've taken an engineering or physics A-level containing a strong maths component, wouldn't that be a good enough base for BEC to mould their pliant little minds into their plans for world domination?

 
PDR
1337330.  Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:59 am Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:

The requirement for 2 STEM subjects puzzles me. I'd've thought either engineering or physics would be the best subjects for working at a company such as yours.


I should stress that we don't make these rules - they are set by the government in the guise of the Institute for Apprenticeships. We hae no wriggle-room at all,

Quote:

Whilst it's very important to have a good understanding of maths, it's surely impossible to get a good physics A-level without learning a lot of maths.


I would probably agree, but put it the other way around. I would say it's difficult to do A-level physics without doing A-level maths, or at least it should be because (IMHO) physics that does NOT require A-level Maths isn't really at A-level.

If it were up to me the only "hard" requirement would be for an A-level in Maths, plus one other STEM-related qualification (A-level, BTEC, bunch of AS levels etc) and we'd assess the package. But it isn't up to me, so I have to take what the IfA says and lump it!

PDR

 
cornixt
1337364.  Tue Nov 26, 2019 11:28 am Reply with quote

I think there is a lot more value in taking Physics instead of something like Electronics at A-level, simply because of the broadness of the subject. Specialising too early not only narrows your options a lot, it also narrows your knowledge of the adjacent subjects that you have to work with and alongside. Electronics doesn't exist in a vacuum (at least now that we have transistors :), and knowing a lot of the mechanical side is going to be far more helpful.

 

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