Sophie Oates and Rachel Lewis from Gabbitas answer your questions on sensible educational pathways for students who are more gifted in the area of practical studies
My child isn’t very academic but is very interested in business, what educational pathways do you recommend?
There are a number of routes available to a less academic child wishing to study business either in a school or a sixth form or further education college. These studies are focused away from an academic programme such as A levels, and deliver a more vocational, practical course of study, with work experience built in.
Intermediate Apprenticeships are work-based learning qualifications, equivalent to five GCSEs, and can be studied in Business, Admin and Law. Students are required to study key skills in English, maths and ICT whilst also getting paid workplace experience. On completion, students can move onto the next level of apprenticeship.
The BTEC Diploma in Business or BTEC Diploma in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise are excellent routes to study business at university or to go straight into the workplace. BTECs are divided into units, with assignment work and sometime work experience so students can apply their studies to a real world business situation.
An NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) is a work-based way of learning at a number of levels. Each NVQ level involves a range of on-the-job tasks and activities that are designed to test the ability of a student to do a job effectively. Level 3 is equivalent to 2 A Levels, Level 4 to a BTEC and Level 5 to a Foundation degree and all can be studied in Business and Administration.
Do independent schools offer BTECS? Are these recognised as being equal to A-Levels or the IB?
Increasing number of independent schools and sixth form colleges are offering BTECs – Business and Technical Education Council qualifications. BTECs combine practical learning with subject and theory content; they are flexible studies that can be studied alongside other qualifications such as A levels, or as a stand-alone course. BTEC Nationals at level 3 are the equivalent to A levels and can be used to apply for a place at university.
A Levels continue to remain the gold standard for university entry followed by the IB. However, there is an increase in the number of BTECs taken nationally. Not only do they offer a vocational qualification but the fact that students are continually assessed through coursework and practical evaluation suits some pupils much more than the exam based A Levels. Universities are increasingly aware of this and the BTEC is looked on more favourably year on year.
What are T Levels and why do they matter?
T Levels are new a method and qualification for post-16 study, being introduced in 2020. They will consist of a two-year course, and will be the equivalent of three A Levels.
A combination of classroom and on the job learning in a three-month industry placement, T Levels will give students a technical qualification and they will also be required to reach a minimum standard in English and Maths. These courses have been developed in collaboration with businesses to ensure students are prepared for working in industry.
Beyond the T Levels, students will be able to move directly into skilled employment, a higher apprenticeship or continue their studies. T Levels are being rolled out over two years in selected schools and colleges initially, and the 25 subjects offered will include accountancy, legal, human resources, onsite construction, digital support, media, broadcast and production, animal management, craft and design, catering, agriculture and land management.
Should I encourage my child to do an apprenticeship rather than go to university?
If a student is more inclined towards practical learning, and keen to start work after GCSE, then an apprenticeship is an ideal route. Apprenticeships enable students to have specific, paid for occupation as they learn; they spend roughly 80% working and 20% in the classroom. If a student wishes, they can work their way towards a Higher Apprenticeship as part of an HND, foundation or undergraduate degree.
Apprenticeships provide the opportunity to start work immediately and gain valuable career skills. However, there will always be some areas of work that will require a degree and the skills that you pick up as an apprentice will often be applicable for just the area you are working within and not necessarily a different industry.
The alternative could be to do a degree apprenticeship. This way you gain a degree and a large amount of work experience. There are an increasing number of universities that are offering degree apprenticeships from advertising to engineering. Although most degree courses emphasise academia and research, the degree apprenticeships are more vocational and practical. However, you still gain a degree at the end of three or four years.
This article from Sophie Oates and Rachel Lewis at Gabbitas first appeared in the Autumn Winter 2019 edition of Absolutely Education