Do schools properly encourage alternative post-GCSE qualifications/routes

7 May 2013

Simply, I don’t think so. Looking back, the beginning of year eleven involved my high school shoving two things down my throat most of the time: how perfect and amazing the sixth form was; and what an amazing qualification an A-Level was. Even though I was heavily certain that I did not want to attend my high schools’ sixth form, I knew one thing- I wanted to study A-Levels. Thinking about it now, perhaps I wanted to study A-Levels for the completely wrong reasons. There was a lack of information about alternative qualifications and where they may lead, as well as a lack of research on my part about alternative qualifications and routes after my GCSEs were over, not to mention the fact that EVERYONE wanted to do A-Levels. 


A lot of the people around me including some teachers saw alternative qualifications as a dark cloud or something that should be avoided and till this very day I don’t know why. I remember hardly anyone wanting to go and do a BTEC qualification after GCSEs or an NVQ or go straight into employment, why? Because, unless you did your own research, you weren’t told about alternatives at all and if you were they were shown to you in a negative light, at least that’s how they were shown to me. At the time, it seemed as if A-Levels were the perfect qualification which was meant for everyone, which wasn’t the case. I didn’t realise that until a while ago. 

Everybody wants to walk down different paths in life and that is one belief I feel should be promoted by schools especially after GCSEs are done and dusted. Many students go in blind to a qualification which may not be right for them and I don’t think that is fair. People learn in different ways and people like different things. Young people shouldn’t have to feel forced into doing A-Levels because that is seen as “the better qualification to have,” they should do the qualification because they love what it entails and because it can mould their future the way that they want it to.

A lack of effort from most high schools to promote other qualifications may lead to students attaching a stigma to qualifications other students do. The common one is the BTEC qualification. Many comments seen on the likes of Student Room, Twitter, Facebook and many other social networking sites seem to dumb this qualification down to the extent where you have young students asking “will universities take me seriously if I do a BTEC?” it’s saddening. I am currently studying BTEC Public Services with every intention of going to university next year and I certainly do not consider myself “dumb”. I think it’s ignorant for people to believe that students doing any other qualification apart from A-Levels are somewhat stupid or less intelligent. I believe most of this comes down to high schools and what they choose to promote and encourage more. Schools should be equally promoting alternative qualifications so that students feel that all their needs and likes are being catered for, A –Level qualifications aren’t right for everybody, NVQ qualifications aren’t right for everybody, there is no one system that is right for everybody.

By Sarah Hayford

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