A Levels – Your Course Survival Guide

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31% Drop out of their A levels in the first year at a cost of £300m

According to the Policy Exchange, a Government Think Tank, 31% of new A level students drop out within the first year. They conclude the cause of this misery for almost 100,000 young people is poor choice of course. Many believe vocational courses have less value. The statistics support this assessment with students who gain 5 GCSE passes adding £80,000 to their career earnings and those who pass 2 A levels making, on average, another £60,000. Is it really the fault of students choosing the wrong course that almost 1 in 3 drop out?

I’ve been teaching A level students for 35 years and I beg to differ. My students arrive excited to be starting their A levels. They feel energised to be studying the subjects they most enjoy and to have left those they enjoyed less behind. They enjoy working in smaller, much better motivated groups and the ‘college style’ collaborative teaching. The problem for some is that the year starts with an immediate and big step change in requirements and expectations.

In June the students were accomplished GCSE scholars brushing up their revision and on top of their game. In September, after a glorious summer of relaxation, they are expected to be ‘self-motivated’, ‘well-organised’, ‘resilient’, and ‘independent’ learners. These skills are not taught, they are not innate, but are an essential component of success at A level.

The A level courses start at a fast pace, there is much to cover in the first term. The clue is in the course title, the standard is Advanced level. I notice that as October turns in to November there are about half the students who are beginning to feel overwhelmed by the standard and the pace. They have previously been able to get by with being intelligent. Now they need to be intelligent with additional skills and attitude beyond those of their subject that they have simply not yet developed. Poor time management, inadequate organisation, or simply too little prioritisation quickly lead to falling behind, failing to understand and loss of confidence. Honestly, it’s not fun. The easy option is to give up. In most cases that’s a £60,000 bad decision.

Very sadly, there is no provision in our school system to support the students that get off to a poor start with ‘A’ level courses. It’s one of the reasons we founded the Community Schools. Our young people deserve better. We designed the Grade Booster sessions to help fresh but flagging A level students to re-group, to re-visit and master the foundation concepts of their courses and to regain their confidence. The support of our experienced teachers, most of them heads of their subject department helps our new A level students rediscover the excitement and confidence they had in the first week on their course and slowly lost over six or eight weeks without the necessary level of help with study skills. Students on our Grade Booster sessions have time to ask about the things they have missed or not understood and will have the chance to make sense of the foundation skills and knowledge that will support them through their two year A level course. The bad news is, A levels do not get easier, the good news is, they do not get any harder, there is just more of it at the advanced level. Our focus on study skills and planning for success will make coping with the work very much more achievable.

For more information about our weekly face to face and online sessions to support you with your A levels or our Grade Booster sessions, contact us on 07747 037441, or send us a message and we’ll reply as soon as we can.

Last Updated on November 5, 2020

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