Durham Johnston Comprehensive School

Dare to be wise

Choosing your courses

This is a major step and one which deserves time and attention. The general advice is to choose subjects which you find interesting – when you go from ten subjects to three, four (or exceptionally five) and spend five lessons and four to five hours homework each week on a course it really helps to want to do it. Secondly play to your strengths, universities will offer places on the basis of grades so look at how you have done so far, use teachers’ advice and look at what the courses involve. Thirdly be aware of any requirements of the courses or careers you may be interested in. At the very least, research entry requirements - websites are good for this - and let us know on your application form so we can include it in your interview. The fourth subject is an opportunity to broaden your education. This might mean keeping on a real passion in Art or Music but more often it is a chance to develop a relevant skill such as Maths or a language to support your university application and future career.

Websites for choosing A levels

These are the combined views of 24 of the top universities on which A levels they want for different degrees  http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk/informed-choices/

We focus on A levels as the "gold standard" courses sought after by universities and employers. These articles highlight the importance of course choices.

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/poorer-students-not-studying-key-a-levels-for-selective-universities/2019120.article

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/poorer-students-half-likely-take-key-a-levels

To look directly at university entry requirements go to http://www.ucas.com/students/coursesearch/

Various advice from the government can be found here http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/14To19/index.htm

This site contains some good general advice - as the name suggests http://www.bestcourse4me.com/explore


Preparing for your courses

You will be given guidance on this as time goes on but in general you should research carefully your choices and probably review them as you find out more from mock results etc. The best long term foundation will be built by paying attention to media items linked to your courses and starting to develop your background reading. All of you need to be aware that GCSE results will go on your applications for University and for employment and you should be working hard from now on.

The AS & A Level System

The decision over the final three A levels you take is very important.  If you were just to take three from the start we would have to be very confident that they were the best three for you.  For this reason our students usually choose four subjects in the first year and in most subjects will complete the AS course. You will then take three or four subjects up to full A Level in the second year. At this point we sometimes rearrange classes as group numbers change. You may also study a further AS-Level subject in Year 13 if you want to or if the universities you are applying to recommend it. The Year 12 results in all subjects will indicate which courses students should continue and will strongly influence UCAS predictions for university applications.  

How is it organised?

The sixth form timetable is made up of five blocks. In Year 12 four of these are used for AS courses. The fifth block includes

  • Languages
  • Financial Awareness
  • Extended Projects
  • Sports
  • Community Service
  • Preparation for Higher Education
  • Supervised Private Study

In Year 13 most students use three blocks for A level courses and the other two for enrichment and additional private study.

Contrasts with Key Stage 4

A levels build a bridge between GCSE and university study. You will learn to be more self-directing and independent. We expect you to prepare for lessons, be fully involved in class and to consolidate your learning afterwards. Because you are expected to undertake a weekly average of four hours independent work out of lessons for each subject you learn to manage your time. Full time students will therefore not be able to fit in more than ten hours of paid part-time employment a week. The work itself is more demanding, more extended and in most cases develops your decision making skills as you have to plan and develop pieces in more depth. Students comment that the old adage “the more you put in, the more you get out” is very true of A level work.