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Just about every qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has been the subject of extensive reforms.

GCSE and A Levels are now ‘linear’ qualifications. This means that there are no modules or coursework and that everything is assessed by the final examinations in the summer of year 11 or 13. AS level still exists as a freestanding qualification but it no longer counts towards A Level. 

There is a lot more content to memorise and a much larger number of exams at the end of the course. This is a heavy workload so a little reassurance and encouragement goes a long way.  Schools and colleges offer a great deal of support through their careers departments and resources such as PiXL Futures. 

Nevertheless, there are lots of ways in which parents can help students both with their studies and in preparing for the next steps without being experts on the subjects. BTECs have also changed and now have an exam as well which needs careful preparation. 

How can parents help?

As parents you can help them through three aspects of the next steps of their journey:

Explain to them how to be effective students

  • Talk to them about the next stage of their careers
  • Encourage them to build up a portfolio of wider experiences to include in their CV
  • Give them somewhere quiet to work
  • They need to prepare carefully for tests/mocks and use the results to identify any gaps in their understanding. Talk to them about this and you can help them to memorise content
  • Don’t expect them to revise for hours on end. Shorter periods with regular breaks are much more effective
  • Help them to plan their time so that they can balance a social life etc. with work commitments
  • They also need plenty of sleep and a healthy diet. Energy drinks are not the answer!

For students beginning year 12, it is really important that they get into the right learning habits from the very beginning and keep up this effort throughout the two years. They need to use all study periods to go over what has been covered in lessons and prepare for the next one. This might involve further reading as recommended by the teachers, or revising previous topics, because all of these will be relevant to the final examination.

There is no such thing as a ‘free period’.

son and dad looking for career options

The world of work is changing

Remember that the world of work is changing rapidly so you can learn with them about the exciting opportunities available. It is never too early to do this. Ways to do so might include:

  • Subscribe to Careermag and reading about opportunities in the Sector Spotlights
  • Find out about post-16 options, which could be staying on in the sixth form, going to a college or starting an apprenticeship. For A Level and BTEC students, this may be about going on to university or starting a higher apprenticeship. All should be investigated
  • Visit careers fairs! WorldSkills UK Live in Birmingham to gain real insights into a vast range of opportunities
  • Visit colleges and universities. You may be surprised at what is on offer

What skills do your children have?

Employers want to know what skills young people have in addition to their qualifications. Ways in which parents might help might include:

  • Talk about the activities your sons/daughters already do and what skills these demonstrate. Schools may be offering PiXL EDGE, which is a great way of recognising and recording skills they have developed in Leadership, Organisation, Resilience, Initiative and Communication
  • Challenge them to take part in community service or the National Citizen Service
  • Encourage them to use their initiative to arrange work experience in their holidays. This could be at a parent’s workplace or via someone you know. Most employers are impressed by the direct approach

Understanding Grades

Grades 4-9 are passes for GCSEs and E-A* are passes for A Levels (although some courses have specific grade requirements).

The media often focuses on top grades and do not give credit to the large numbers of young people who achieve other grades which may represent a massive achievement and will certainly open doors. 

We can’t all get top grades for everything!

This article was created by Brian Lightman of PiXL Futures. PiXL aims to share best practices to enhance young people’s futures. They provide useful resources and strategies which can be implemented in the classroom. We recently became Community Partners with PiXL alongside National Careers Week, Education & Employers, BeReady, DivInc, Speakers for Schools, Youth Employment UK, The Careers & Enterprise Company and World Skills UK. 



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