August 22, 2008

Plenty of Options – Whether You Pass or Fail Your GCSE Exams ; A-Levels Aren’t for Everyone, so Why Not Consider Applying for a Vocational Course or Even Learn While You Earn?

By Moira Sharkey

WITH thousands of teenagers receiving their GCSE results today, the message from experts is no matter what your grades you should stick with education - but that does not always mean returning to school.

More than half of students this year will have received five A to C grades and will return to school to do A-levels.

But for those witha variety of grades who don't want to continue at school or for those who did not get the grades they needed there are other options.

Students across the nation will this week receive the Where now? guide from the Welsh Assembly Government to help them decide whether they return to school, go to college or enter employment and training. The options for full-time education are:

Students with five A to C grade GCSEs can opt to take A-levels or the Welsh Baccalaureate or more vocational courses in the form of an NVQ level 3 Modern Apprenticeship; students who did not pass any exams do not have to drop out of education. They can retake their GCSEs or take a foundation level course to give the mastepping stone to get to the next stage; those with two or three passes grades D to Gcanopt again to do GCSEs or a variety of Intermediate Level vocational courses such as NVQ level 2 foundation modern apprenticeship.

Those studying full-time could qualify for a means-tested Education Maintenance Allowance of up to pounds 30 per week and parents or guardians of a teenager over 16 who remains in education can continue to claim Child Benefit.

For those keen to get into the world of work it is possible to learn while you earn by taking an NVQ qualification.

Four or five GCSEs are usually required to start a modern apprenticeship, while entry requirements vary for foundation modern apprenticeships and no GCSE grades are needed for Skill Build. Some employers also have their own in-house training schemes.

Careers Wales advisers are available at centres across South Wales to discuss options, including providing advice to young people who want to set up their own business or get involved in voluntary work to improve their skills for the future.

Sally Knock, a marketing manager for Careers Wales, said: "The message today for any student getting their results is don't panic. There are options for everyone.

"While many students will return to do A-levels, those traditional academic courses will not suit everyone. But our message is you improve your chances of getting a better career if you stick with education.

"Even if you want to get a job now you are better to get one with an employer who offers training and gives you the chance of taking more qualifications so that you can build on your skills."

RHIANNON Churchill, a careers adviser with Careers Wales, gives advice on what's next after GCSEs.

Q: I wanted to start A-levels next year, but my grades aren't good enough, what should I do?

A: Don't panic, if your grades aren't as good as you hoped, there are still plenty of options. For example, if you were hoping to start an A-level course, you could start on a BTEC First Diploma initially instead, which could then give you the background you need to start on an A-level or course, or a BTEC National Diploma.

Q: I only missed the requirements for an A-level course by one grade - is it too late?

A: If you've only narrowly missed the entry requirements for an A- level course, it may be worth speaking to your teachers or lecturers. They might let you continue as planned or suggest other A- level courses which might be better suited to you.

Q: I've got good results in my other GCSE exams, but I haven't got a C grade for maths. Should I bother re-sitting it, as I've got on to the A-level course I wanted to do anyway?

A: If possible, you should consider re-taking any core subjects - English, Science and Maths - to try to get a C grade. Even if you are already on an A-level or college course, when it comes to applying for university or for a job, you may find they won't accept youwithout that all-important C grade in Maths.

Q: I've got five GCSEs at C grade, but I don't want to go back to school or college. What else can I do?

A: There are other options available other than continuing with traditional education. With five C grades at GCSE, you would be well placed to apply for vocational training such as a Modern Apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are nationally recognised schemes that allow you to 'earn while you learn' and you will also gain more qualifications on the way. Talk to your Careers Wales Adviser at school for more information on how to apply.

Q: I haven't done very well and I've failed most of my GCSEs. Help!

A: Don't panic! Your careers adviser will be at school to help you and talk you through your options. There are many vocational options that allow you to continue with your education while you train, and they don't all ask for GCSEs. Your careers adviser will help you find the information and speak to the right people. You might want to consider re-sitting some exams, but just remember - many people have gone on to succeed without GCSEs. There is a career out there for everyone.

For more information or call learndirect on 0800 100 900.

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