Thursday, 25 August 2016

Choosing What to Study at A-level

 Congratulations to all of you who have just received your GCSE results! Take some time to relax, catch your breath, and celebrate. You definitely deserve it.

A-levels are right around the corner – it might feel like you’re straight out of the frying pan and into the fire, but don’t fret. Your A-level choices are important so it’s vital to make your decision carefully, but with our top tips below you should be well on your way.


What you study at the next level of education has a direct impact on the options available to you at University afterwards. If you’re looking at specific degrees – the sciences in particular – you want to make sure you’re not getting shut out of your preferred University because you haven’t studied a particular discipline. 

Start by skipping the A-level step entirely and look at University courses you might like. Check the entry requirements for each course, and make a note of what A-levels they’re looking for. Some may only look for one particular A-level or grade, whereas others may ask for up to three or four specific A-levels before they’ll consider your application.

Once you’ve made your shortlist, compare the requirements for each – you’re sure to see a trend in what subjects you need to study to move on to the degree you want.


Many students have no idea what they want to do at University and beyond. If this is the case for you, it’s best to keep your options open. Some A-level subjects will leave you with a broader spectrum of degree choices; these are known as ‘facilitating subjects’, and they make great choices for students who are undecided on their degree:

Chemistry, Biology or Physics
Modern and Classical Languages

The more of these subjects you take at A-level (for example, if you chose to do A-levels in English, Maths, Biology and History) the more options there will be available to you at University.  Alternatively, if you have a particular talent for something, such as art, sports or music, it is a good idea to take that subject as it will be useful and desirable for degrees relevant to your passion.


The simple answer is four. Most students take four A-levels in their first year, and many drop one in their second year to concentrate on the other three. Some schools have General Studies as a compulsory fifth subject, but this will not count towards your university admission.


Variety is the spice of life, and also the key to a strong University application. Try not to choose multiple courses that are very similar to one another – such as Film Studies and Media Studies.

The three main Sciences are an exception to this rule, as many science courses require at least two of the three to be studied at A-level. However you should still avoid variations of the same subject if they are available to you, such as Biology and Human Biology.


Some University courses have lists of ‘non-preferred’ subjects too, that they’d rather not see on your application. It’s a little cheeky, but Universities are looking for a specific set of skills for their courses most of the time so may choose to overlook certain candidates based on other unrelated subjects they’ve studied.

Don’t let this put you off studying something at A-level that you’re extremely interested in – a ‘non-preferred’ subject shouldn’t be an issue if studied in conjunction with a facilitating subject or two from the list above. 


Although they should be taken at face value, Entry Requirements are not gospel. Every University will consider you an individual when you apply, and if your subject choices don’t match up perfectly to your chosen degree, it’s not the end of the world. Personal statement, interview, work experience, personal interests and portfolio all play a part in whether or not you are offered a place on a degree course and Universities are known to be somewhat flexible. Being prepared in advance is always the best course of action, but speaking to the course leaders at the University and showing your enthusiasm is always a back-up plan if you later find out a grade has fallen short or you’re missing a subject you wish you’d taken but didn’t know you’d need.

Look out for words like ‘Essential’ and ‘Preferred’ too – they mean just that. You may still get onto a University course without a ‘Preferred’ A-level subject in your repertoire. 


The reason you take such a small number of A-levels is because they are studied in-depth and extensively. Be prepared for a big jump in difficulty, as well as what is expected of you, and the way you are taught. Self-motivation and independent study will play a much larger part in the next two years of your education, so whatever you choose, be sure it’s something that will hold your interest and not a fleeting fancy. 


There are other options available to you, such as the IB Diploma. Vocational qualifications and BTECs are growing increasingly common too and are accepted by many Universities.

If you’re still unsure or anxious about your A-level choices, speaking with an Education Consultant can help clear up any concerns you might have. The Independent Education Consultants have a team of experts on hand, ready to give you the advice you need to make the right choices and get on those tricky pathways to Higher Education and future careers. Why not give us a call on 01865 522066 or email today?

This post by Lauren Bowman. 

We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.

Email or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information,

Friday, 5 August 2016

Your UK Boarding School Family

 With September coming up fast, some of you will have children heading off to boarding school for the very first time. It’ll be a strange and daunting experience to wave goodbye and have your children away from the family but do not fret: there is a network of teachers and friends ahead of them who will become just like their school family. Here is a breakdown of the people who will be taking great care of your child in their new boarding school:

  • Housemaster

Most boarding schools are made up of several houses where students sleep and spend time when they’re out of class. Each of these houses is looked after by a Housemaster or Housemistress (also known as a Houseparent) who works with the Matron to ensure all the pupils in their house are happy, healthy and enjoying their time in the school. They are your child’s first point of contact and will ease them into their new lifestyle with gentle guidance and reassurance. Houseparents ensure the rules are followed and homework is done at the right time, but they are also there to encourage respect, friendship and a lot of fun. A boarding house can feel like an exclusive club for the students there – and the Housemaster is the club leader.

  • Head of Boarding

The Head of Boarding is your port of call for general guidance, should you or your child need support for something not covered by their Housemaster or Housemistress. Providing advice on settling in and encouraging adaptability and open-mindedness, whether your child is from the UK or Overseas, the Head of Boarding oversees student welfare and the staff to ensure the school provides the best boarding environment possible. 

  • Matron

The Matron is in charge of the wellbeing of the students in their boarding house. They are there to look after your child if they feel ill, and often Matrons are trained nurses. However, their role extends much further than this – one day they may be helping with homework, providing snacks and choosing movies, and the next providing a shoulder to lean on and a kind ear for students who just need to talk. They are there to ensure the boarding house is a safe and friendly space, and to nurture your child during their transition into a young adult.

  • Tutor

Your child’s Tutor is like a personal teacher, responsible for overseeing their academic progress during their time in the school. They may have a small group of students they work with, but there will also be opportunity for one-on-one meetings where they can set goals and overcome learning concerns. If you have any questions about your children’s studies, they will be your first contact so it is important for you to establish a good relationship with them too.

  • Head of House

The Head Boy or Head Girl of your child’s boarding house will be a senior student who is chosen to support their fellow students throughout their time in boarding school. They are a link between students and teachers, a mentor, and they are on hand to help with academic, social or personal problems students might face.

  • House Captain

If your child’s boarding school has a separate House Captain, this boy or girl will represent and organize their boarding house for school events. They take an active role in social activities, so they are on hand to help your child get involved in boarding school life.

  • Prefect

Prefects are students elected from as early as their first year in school to help their peers settle in and uphold the rules. They are often also in charge for organising student events like film nights and fundraising days, and might have a group of new students they look after. Being a prefect is a big honour and big responsibility – listening to other students’ worries and teaching them the values of friendship and hard work.

  • Student Council

The Student Council is the go-between for your child and the school community.  They work directly with staff to address issues in the school community and can have a real impact on the way the school is run. If students have an issue, they can take it to the Student Council, who will discuss it and take the issue to the Head and Deputy Head until a mutual solution is decided. They also arrange school-wide events like dances and parties, and will also pass any department messages on to the students. The Student Council is your child’s voice in the school, and your child can go to them with any issues they might have.

  • Guardian Family

If your child is boarding in the UK from Overseas, your child will need a UK-based guardian, appointed by you, as an in-country emergency contact. Their guardian will care for them on exeat weekends and half-term holidays if they are not returning home and attend parents’ evenings and events on your behalf. A guardian family is a home-from-home, providing a welcome break from the hectic routine of school life and caring for your child’s wellbeing locally when you can’t be there. English guardian families like those at the Guardian Family Network ( are typically professional people with experience in education and children often build long-lasting trusting relationships with their ‘UK family’.

For more information on preparing your child for boarding school, look out for our Boarding School Preparation resources, coming soon to! These e-books, packed full of advice from our expert consultants, are designed to help you and your child through the transition as easily and comfortably as possible.

This post by Lauren Bowman.

We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.

Email or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.

For more information,