Post-16 Choices – A Guide for Parents

Post-16 Choices – A Guide for Parents
Guiding one’s children through post-16 option choices can be a very difficult time for
parents. The array of courses and learning paths, colleges and institutions, to say
nothing of qualifications, can seem daunting. It can be worse when children don’t
seem to want to listen to their parents’ advice.
The purpose of these pages is to try to answer the most common questions parents
have about post-16 choices in the Sixth Form. We hope that they will give you an
overview of what we can offer your son in the Sixth Form, the application procedure,
and guidance in choosing courses.
Your son will have to live with the consequence of his decisions about his future. In
the final analysis, these are his decisions.
You may not be an expert in education or careers, but you know your own child better
than anyone else.
Decisions about your son’s future are far too important to be left to him alone.
Mr Doran
Director of Sixth Form Studies
[email protected]
Frequently Asked Questions
What can Richard Challoner offer my son in the Sixth Form?
What courses are available in the Sixth Form Federation?
What are the entry requirements for Sixth Form courses?
What factors should my son consider when deciding his subject choices?
How can I help my son to prioritise his possible subject choices?
What general guidelines do you give to students of different abilities?
What option choice advice is available for my son at school?
Would my son be better going to a college rather than staying on in the
Sixth Form?
My son is aspiring to a top university; wouldn’t he stand a better chance
going to a grammar school or private school?
Is there financial assistance available to support my son during post-16
What happens after my son submits his application to the Sixth Form?
Further Guidance
Assessing your son’s aptitude and ability
Higher Education Courses and Sixth Form Options
Useful Links
What can Richard Challoner offer my son in the Sixth Form?
A rigorous and personalised post-16 education
We offer a broad range of academic and vocational courses which allow him access to
a full range of Higher Education courses and career paths. Students wishing to study a
particular course, or course combination not offered in the Sixth Form Federation, may
be able to take a subject at either the Ursuline or Wimbledon College.
See the Sixth Form Prospectus for more details of courses offered in the Federation.
Through the Academic Coaching and Mentoring scheme, your son will receive a
level of personal support that is unrivalled even by some private schools.
Your son will be assigned a personal mentor, a member of staff with whom he will
meet at least once every half-term. Academic coaching and mentoring will provide him
with opportunities to plan, agree goals, and develop strategies, to ensure his success in
the Sixth Form.
Very few Sixth Forms have an in-house academic mentoring programme, because it
requires a large investment of staff time. Richard Challoner Sixth Form does because
we are convinced of its worth. More importantly, we are convinced that your son is
worth it.
Our knowledge of your son, and his knowledge of us, provide him with a smoother
transition from GCSE to post-16 education than would be possible if he moved to
another institution. It is also of crucial importance at the end of his time in the school,
when it comes to supporting him with references for job and Higher Education
A Christian environment which will provide him with opportunities for personal
growth and development, and challenge him to place his talents at the service
of others, especially the most needy.
Sixth Formers are part of a Christian community in which they are encouraged to be
caring and supportive of each other.
There are plenty of opportunities for Sixth Form students to show concern for others
and take responsibility for younger members of the school community.
o As prefects
o As members of the Sixth Form Committee
o As student support mentors for lower school pupils and at local primary
o As members of the Sixth Form Charities Committee
o Giving in-class support to younger students with Special Educational Needs
o Helping disabled students around the school between lessons and at
o Supporting extra-curricular activities such as the Year 7 Team-building day,
Year 7 camp and the Year 9 Battlefields Trip
A full range of social, cultural and sporting activities, supported by excellent
Here are some of the extra-curricular activities on offer:
Sports hall, MUGA and multi-gym facilities
Team football, rugby, basketball and athletics, boxing and kick-boxing
Opportunities to take part in drama, performing arts, and musical
House competitions in a range of sports, drama, and public speaking
Ski Trips
Theatre visits
Museum and Art gallery trips
Film Club
Debating Society
Lourdes Trip
World Challenge Trip
Duke of Edinburgh Award
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What courses are available in the Sixth Form Federation?
The Sixth Form Federation offers 24 AS/A2 courses, 4 Level 3 Single Award vocational
courses, 2 Level 3 Double Award vocational courses, 3 Level 2 vocational courses, and
2 re-sit GCSE courses (Maths & English).
AS courses
These are one-year courses taught in single option blocks (three sessions
each week). They allow access to the A2 course that completes the full A level
in Year 13. AS courses will comprise of two modules, rather than the current
AS qualifications alone will not usually allow a student access to a university
degree course. However, UCAS do award points to AS and full A level
qualifications as follows:
Grade A*
AS level
A level
140 points
Grade A
60 points
120 points
Grade B
50 points
100 points
Grade C
40 points
80 points
Grade D
30 points
60 points
Grade E
20 points
40 points
Students need to pass an AS (grade E or above) to continue to A2.
Currently available AS courses: Art & Design, Biology, Chemistry, Critical
Thinking, Design & Technology, Drama & Theatre Studies, Economics, English
Language, English Literature, Film Studies, Food Technology, Modern Foreign
Languages (French & Spanish), Geography, Government & Political Studies,
Health & Social Care, History, ICT, Mathematics, Music, Photography, Physics,
Psychology, Religious Studies, Sociology.
Applied A Levels
These courses are graded just like other AS/A2 courses. However, they can be
taken as single or double awards. Assessment is based on student portfolios,
and may also included external examination and moderation.
Currently available AS courses: Business Studies.
Level 3 Vocational courses:
Single Awards
These are two-year courses taught in single option blocks (three sessions a
week). There is no formal assessment at the end of Year 12, and so students
must complete the course to gain a certificated qualification.
Level three courses are graded as follows, and allow access to foundation and
full degree courses, in an equivalent way to AS and A levels:
Equivalent to A Level Grade A
120 UCAS points
Equivalent to A Level Grade C
80 UCAS points
Equivalent to A Level Grade E
40 UCAS points
Currently available Level 3 Vocational Single Awards:
OCR Nationals Certificate in Media Studies and Video Production, BTEC Level 3
Certificate in Performing Arts, Level 3 Award in Higher Sports Leadership, BTEC
National Award in Travel & Tourism.
These are also two-year courses and are taught in two option blocks (12
sessions a week). They are worth double the value of a single Level 3
Equivalent to 2 A Levels at Grade A 240 UCAS points
Equivalent to 2 A Levels at Grade C 160 UCAS points
Equivalent to 2 A Levels at Grade E
80 UCAS points
Currently available Level 3 Vocational Double Awards:
OCR Nationals Diploma in Media Studies, BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Performance
CACHE Level 2 Child care and Education
This is a one year course taught leading to a professional qualification. It is
taught across all four option blocks and includes 2 days’ work experience.
Students who take the CACHE course have their time divided into taught
lessons and work placements. The course allows access to Level 3 vocational
courses or employment.
Level 2 Award in Community Sports Leadership
Level 2 Award in Media
Level 2 Award in Public Services
Level 2 courses equate to GCSEs and may be taken in conjunction with GCSE
English and Maths, or with a Level 3 courses.
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What are the entry requirements for Sixth Form courses?
Level 3 (AS and vocational) courses
Students must gain 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C (including Maths and English).
To take a subject at AS, students will be expected to have a grade B in that
subject or an equivalent at GCSE.
We will try, wherever possible, to provide your son with a learning path appropriate to
his personal needs and aptitudes, where he wishes to remain at the school.
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What factors should my son consider when deciding his subject choices?
Precisely because it can be very hard to decide what to do, and a number of factors
have to be considered together, encourage your son to be as methodical as possible in
deciding his choices.
These are the four factors he has to consider:
1. Career or Higher Education
For students with a particular career goal or higher education course in mind, it is
vitally important to choose subjects or courses of study which give them the best
chance to progress toward their goal. However, they must first be sure that their goal
is one that they can realistically aspire to.
Click here for more about assessing your son’s ability and aptitude.
Click here to see a summary of the advice we would give to students who wish to
apply for some of the more popular degree courses.
Click here for links to websites offering further careers and course guidance.
2. Ability/aptitude
There are two considerations here.
Firstly, the course of study your son chooses has to be realistic. He must be able to
meet the entry requirements, and it must be a style of learning that suits him. To
study AS courses, we require students to have achieved 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C,
including Maths and English. We also expect them to have a grade B or equivalent in
the subjects they wish to take up at AS.
If your son has demonstrated particular ability in a subject, or shows a clear aptitude
for areas of learning related to a subject he will be taking up for the first time, then
this is objective evidence that he is likely to do well in it at A level.
Click here for more information about assessing your son’s ability and aptitude.
3. Interest
Boys can often have a strong interest in a subject without making any connection
between this interest and a future career or course of study. We should do all we can
to foster this interest pure and simple: it is a characteristic of a lively and inquisitive
mind, and of an autonomous learner. Where there is genuine interest, motivation is
4. Enjoyment
There are important differences between ‘liking’ a subject and being interested in it. If
your son tells you he likes English what does he mean? It could indeed mean that he
has a deep-rooted interest based on a love of reading, and a fascination for the use of
language. Alternatively, he may really be saying that he likes his current English
teacher, or that he is in the same class as his best friends, or that he likes what he has
been studying in English this year (or any combination of these).
Young people tend to put a lot of store by their likes and dislikes, but they don’t
always appreciate how quickly or easily their likes and dislikes change.
When your son says he wants to choose a subject because he likes it, try to delve a
little into what he means by this. If there is no clear evidence of interest in the subject
for its own sake, it may be a sign that his enjoyment of the subject isn’t very strong.
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How can I help my son to prioritise his possible subject choices?
A helpful way for your son to think through his option choices is to rank the subjects
he is interested in for each of these questions:
How much do I enjoy the subject?
How useful would it be for my career/HE plans?
Have I a strong ability and aptitude for the subject?
How interested in the subject am I?
In the example below, a student has started by ranking his favourite 6 subjects (a).
He wishes to study architecture at a good university, so he has had to give the subject
a different ranking order (b).
Fortunately, his predicted grades and Year 10 exams were good, and he did very well
in the three subjects he needs most. (c)
By the time he comes to complete column (d) the student is clear on three of his
option choices: Maths, DT and Art. The difficulty comes in choosing the fourth: should
it be History, that he is more interested in, or Physics which is more relevant?
How much
do I enjoy
the subject?
How useful
would it be
for my
Have I a
ability and
aptitude for
the subject?
interested in
the subject
am I?
1 = highest ranking position, 6 = lowest ranking position
The ‘answer’ to the student’s dilemma may need more research and more advice from
teachers or careers’ advisers. It may still be very hard for him to decide (there are no
magic wands available for option choices!). The point is he has considered his options
carefully and methodically.
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What general guidelines do you give to students of different abilities?
Students who gain A*s and As at GCSE are expected to study 4 AS courses,
and may be encouraged to take AS Critical Thinking as a fifth AS. This would
be particularly advisable for students who are considering applying to
Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Law, where they may be asked to sit an
aptitude test as well as gain top A level grades.
Students who gain mainly A*s-Bs at GCSE usually study 4 Level 3 subjects.
Students who gain some Bs but mainly grade Cs at GCSE may be advised to
study a combination of AS and vocational courses.
In a few cases, students may be advised to study only 3 subjects. These could
be 3 AS subjects or a combination of AS and other Level 3 subjects. A student
who has mainly grade Cs and a few grade Bs would fit this category. Students
who are only studying 3 subjects will have supervised study periods in their
fourth option block.
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What option choice advice is available for my son at school?
We encourage all Year 11 students to talk to members of staff who can advise them
about post-16 option choices, but especially:
 subject teachers
 Heads of Department
 Mr Pritchard (Head of Year 11) and Year 11 form tutors
 Mr John (Head of Careers)
 Mr Doran (Director of Sixth Form Studies)
When your son applies for a place in the Sixth Form, he will have the chance to
discuss his option choices and future plans in more detail with an experienced member
of staff. He will also be able to review and amend his option choices after he gets his
Year 11 mock results.
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Would my son be better going to a college rather than staying on in the
Sixth Form?
It may be advisable for your son to go to a college
If we do not offer the course(s) he needs to progress along a career path
If your son wants to study a specialist course not taught in the Federation
If your son wants to do an apprenticeship.
If your son is entered mainly for Foundation Tier in his GCSEs and therefore
will not gain the required grades for entry onto Level 3 courses in the
You may feel that a move would provide your son with a fresh start, or he may feel he
no longer wishes to remain in a school environment.
In some cases this may indeed be a good idea. A new start in a new
environment may be just the thing to help a young son develop and mature.
On the other hand, we find that most students who leave us with no pressing
academic or social reason to do so often regret it.
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My son is aspiring to a top university; wouldn’t he stand a better chance
going to a grammar school or private school?
Competition for places at universities like Oxford and Cambridge, and for courses like
Medicine is extremely strong. It is very understandable that parents of gifted children
try their very best to maximize their son’s chances of success.
We do not know of any student in the last ten years who has left Challoner for this
reason and has been successful. Sadly we know many who have regretted leaving the
school, and who belatedly came to appreciate just how much the staff at Richard
Challoner had taken an interest in them.
There are, besides, a number of very practical reasons why it is unnecessary, and
even counter-productive, for very able students to move schools now:
 Oxford and Cambridge, and some medical schools, have admissions policies
that favour state school applicants. Where the number of state school
applicants is low compared to the quota of places assigned to them, a student
at a state school may well have a better chance of getting an interview than a
student at a private school. All our Oxbridge applicants in the last four years
have been called for interview.
 We are able to support students’ applications with advice and interview
practice, drawing on the experience of four members of staff who have studied
at Oxford and Cambridge.
 Working in partnership with the other local Catholic Sixth Forms, we can offer
our students an effective range of pre-medical and pre-Oxbridge preparation
sessions and mock interviews.
We are quite confident that, if your son really is top university material, our support
and guidance will ensure that the universities themselves will identify this in his
application and at interview.
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Is there financial assistance available to support my son during post-16
Financial assistance is available to encourage 16-year-olds to continue in learning. For
those in full-time education there is the means-tested education maintenance
allowance (EMA). To qualify your son must be following a course of at least 12 hours’
guided learning per week. There are three weekly rates: £30, £20, and £10 depending
on your annual household income. Weekly payments are conditional on your son’s
attendance and progress against his written learning agreement; a weekly time sheet
must be completed and counter-signed by the student’s teachers. Additional bonuses
can be earned.
the student’s LA,
or paid through schools or colleges via learner support funds. For detailed information
about specific LA (local authority) areas look at the DCSF website.
LAs may have learner support funds to help young people in financial difficulties. This
funding is over and above the EMA and is targeted at those in greatest need. It can be
used to pay for books, equipment and other course-related costs, including field trips
and visits. It is also available for domestic emergencies.
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What happens after my son submits his application to the Sixth Form?
Your son’s application form will be processed on receipt and particular attention will be
given to whether his option choices are logical and realistic.
You will be informed by letter if your son has been offered a conditional place in the
Sixth Form, and we will send copies of the Sixth Form Dress Code and Code of
Conduct for you to sign and return by 3rd December 2010.
If, for any reason, we have a concern regarding your son’s application to the Sixth
Form, we will inform you by 19th November 2010.
Should your son’s behaviour or attitude cast a doubt on his suitability for the Sixth
Form, we will contact you to agree a set of improvement targets for your son to attain
prior to being accepted into the Sixth Form.
Although we will treat his option choices as provisional, we are able to use them to
start planning option blocks for the coming year.
By the February half-term, your son will have been interviewed and his option
choices reviewed in the light of mock GCSE grades and his future plans for study and
employment. Your son will have an opportunity to make changes to his original option
choices at this time.
Even at this stage, we do not consider option choices as final. However, we would
generally expect students, by this time, to have had sufficient advice and thinking time
to make quite firm choices, from which we can construct option blocks.
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Assessing your son’s ability and aptitude
At the time your son applies to the Sixth Form, he may have some idea of his aptitude
and ability in different subject areas. However, apart from Science, he will not have
sat any GCSE examinations.
We would encourage students to talk to their subject teachers who can offer them
guidance about their likely level of achievement at GCSE. Teachers will base this
guidance on
 national data predictions of GCSE attainment (Fisher Family Trust)
 your son’s Year 10 examination result
 his class and homework, and particularly, course work assignments
By the time your son is interviewed in the spring term, we will have much stronger
evidence of his performance, based on GCSE mock results.
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Higher Education courses and Sixth Form Options
Art foundation
Although Level 3 qualifications are not a requirement, AS Art & Design is a
recommended way to develop skills and experience.
The best schools of Architecture require grade A in A2 Maths. Some architecture
courses do accept students without Maths. A level Art and/or DT are desirable.
It is not necessary to have an A level in one of these subjects to study it at degree
level. A level Maths would be expected at top universities.
Top GCSE and A level grades are required: AAA to ABB minimum. Most dentistry
schools require A level Chemistry and Biology. Some schools ask students to sit the
UKCAT or BMAT tests in addition to gaining top results. These aptitude tests need
careful preparation. AS Critical Thinking is a very helpful component to this.
Maths and Physics strongly recommended. There are courses that require only one or
the other, but courses in top institutions expect students to have both to a high
standard. Where students are applying for an engineering course which has a
particular creative, design-orientated focus, DT or Art may be very useful.
There a large number of IT degree courses dealing with all aspects of the industry,
from computer games programming to network management.
It is not necessary to study Law at university to enter the profession. A Level Law is
not a requirement either. Law schools like to see students have studied a range of
subjects, but are especially keen to see evidence that a student has strong analytical
skills and is highly literate. Top schools require aptitude test (LNAT) plus AAA-AAB.
Critical Thinking is strongly advisable. A few (top) institutions may not look favourably
on applicants with only ‘modern’ A levels.
This is a very popular A level and degree course. It is important for students to be
realistic about their future expectations: the proportion of media students who gain
media-based employment is also low. On the other hand, the style of work and
assessment can suit some students well.
Only students with the very best GCSE and A level results should consider studying
medicine; such are the demands of the course and the competition for places. The
majority of medical schools require A level Chemistry, while others will accept AS level
in Chemistry, depending upon the other qualifications being offered. Some schools
require students to have Biology A’ level. Students are well-advised to choose a nonscience A level since written and oral communication is particularly valued. Further
Maths may be taken, but some schools will not include it as one of the three A levels
when they make students a conditional offer of a place on the course. Many medical
schools ask students to sit either the UKCAT or BMAT tests in addition to gaining top
results. These aptitude tests need careful preparation. AS Critical Thinking is a very
helpful component to this.
Politics, Psychology & Sociology
These are popular A level and degree subjects. An A level in one of these subjects is
not necessary for degree studies. The opportunities for directly-related graduated
employment in these subject areas are fairly low, so students need to be realistic
about their expectations for the future.
Veterinary Medicine/Science
As with medicine, students need to have top GCSE and A level grades. A level Biology
and Chemistry are required at A grade. Physics or Maths are required by some
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Some useful links to websites with academic and career advice
A website offering information on all types of courses available throughout the UK.
Support for post-16 Education
Information on the Education Maintenance Allowance.
Information on financial support for learning post-16 and beyond.
National bureau for students with disabilities. It is a national charity promoting
opportunities for young people and adults with any kind of disability in post-16
education, training and employment across the UK.
Careers and vocational training
This site provides useful information on apprenticeships, for example, training given
for a formal qualification by both learning providers and employers.
Learning and Skills Council website. Information on apprenticeships, work-based
learning and vocational support programmes.
Examination Boards The website of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance. The website of Edexcel, with information on BTEC qualifications. The website of Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations
Higher Education
Information on higher education opportunities.
Information on higher education courses and entry requirements.
The Teaching Quality Information website allows students to access official statistics
and the National Student Survey results for all UK universities and degree courses.
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