A paid contribution by our friends over at Rochester Independent College. We think this is a useful and interesting article for all our readers and are happy to publish.
This article is the first of an ongoing series of my thoughts on the path of education many students face. In this post, I’ll be taking a look at A-Levels - what their purpose is, how they function and whether or not they need to see change...
This summer we all have a little more time to fill.
Covid-19 has meant that a lot of the usual events we enjoy doing aren't able to go ahead. Mass gathering? Not happening I'm afraid.
So you've got a whole lot of time that's opened up. So how are you going to fill it?
Covid-19 has caused a strange feeling in all our stomachs. But as we take it step by step through these trying times, we begin to swallow a little daily positivity, calmness, and taste bits of learning and wellbeing innovation, alongside some large spoonfuls of resilience. Students - you're never alone, and even though it can feel like you are, there are various organisations like Push, plus universities, charities and teachers, working hard online to ensure you know that it is ok to say you're struggling and ok to ask for support...
If you could sum up the lockdown so far in one word, what would it be? Sleep? Anxiety? Exams?
Furlough? I mean, who honestly knew that word before 21st March 2020? That'll make your Scrabble options a little easier from now on.
For students, schools, unis and employers, we'd choose the word 'adaptation'. We've all had to do it right? Whether it be our revision schedule, our internet data bill (don't even...) or our tears over the lack of Premier League football...there's been a coin flip on what we deem 'normal', and it will be a while before we get things back to what they were pre-lockdown.
Covid-19 has caused a lot of heartache and head scratching for us all...particularly you year 11s, 12s and 13s out there.
Ironically, even though you haven't been able to sit your GCSEs and A Levels, you've been tested more than ever during these last few months: in your motivation, and your ability to work remotely under varying socio-economic conditions (and stressful or non-stressful household circumstances).
Remember that just by you being willing to engage daily with your learning between now and September, and motivate yourself to attempt even the smallest of positive learning habits each day, you will be developing a game-changing attitude, and rock-solid resilience, compared to any other teenage generation since war time.
The deadlines have passed for your decisions on your university offers so I hope you managed to get your research sorted and were confident and comfortable in your final decision.
Of course, this particular year, the decision was even bigger than usual. The pandemic has meant that we aren’t completely sure what form university will take in September and so it may feel like there’s a bigger risk of committing to an undergraduate degree.
Uni applications have now officially opened for 2021 entry. The virtual floodgates were raised on May 19th, but don’t worry, it always starts with a trickle.
The deadline is still a while away and you can’t actually submit your application until the 8th September at the earliest. But the dogs are now off the leash, the horses are out of the gates and the, erm, hamsters are out of the hutch.
At Push we’re all about making the right choice about your future.
Don’t forget there’s so many different options for you right now, arguably more than any generation before you. It’s all about sitting down to think, how you learn best and what it is you want from life.
While some really specialised careers may have one particular pathway, such as obtaining a medical degree to become a doctor, it isn’t the case with a lot of careers now and some are opening their metaphorical doors to allow other routes into them that aren’t just university.
For example the College of Policing is now offering Police Constable degree apprenticeships. Meaning you can now get a degree in professional policing practice while getting paid and receiving the practical on-the-job training for the role eradicating the need to get involved with any of that pesky student finance stuff. Fantastic!
This summer is looking to be quite different to what we’re used to. Some lockdown restrictions are beginning to be lifted as we head back towards a bit of normality but things aren’t, and likely won’t be, the same as they were before.
Nonetheless there’s ways you can be using the summer to improve your skillset.
Right about now, you should be thinking about your student finance for next year. So if you haven’t completed your application, do it very soon. Although right now there is, of course, some changes to the process in light of the Covid-19 situation.
These are the most important changes to know if you're applying for Student Finance in the middle of a pandemic.
It’s extremely strange at the moment, as you should be revving up and revising to get ready for your exams but instead, poof....they're cancelled. What may have seemed like a pipe dream to some people, has actually happened.
We briefly went over how these are now being calculated in our blog here and there’s a more thorough, up-to-date explanation on the situation on the government’s website here as well.
But just because exams are cancelled doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing anything right now. Who knows when you’ll be asked to return to school, but you don’t want to turn up and be completely unprepared.
So what exactly can you do right now to prepare yourself for when you go back and what might the changes be when you do?
We know how tempting it might be given the current situation, to accept any unconditional offers you might be receiving from your university choices. The Government did actually put a temporary ban on universities offering unconditional offers (although this has now been lifted) to try and ensure these weren’t getting given out en-mass when exams were cancelled and floods of panicking students would then be accepting choices that may not be right for them.
And at Push that’s our mission. To make sure the decision you’re making is the right one for you. Not anybody else.
With schools and universities all currently closed, and a return date uncertain (at the time of writing), the question of how we are going to return is starting to come up. While we’re waiting for government advice on how this might come about, universities have started considering the possibility of starting next academic years' terms entirely online.
An issue however is that universities aren’t considering any sort of reduction in tuition fees because of this, as the BBC has discovered. Understandably students aren’t happy about this and there’s good reason not to be.
Being off campus doesn’t just mean you’re missing your lectures and seminars, it also means you’re not able to utilise all of the facilities that you’re paying for with your tuition fees.
So what are you actually paying for with your fees?
Let me tell you about my GCSE and A Level experience…
I was a straight-A student. I am firmly in the "was" corner as opposed to the "am" corner. For any student reading this, stop right now and say out-loud either way “I am a 1-9 student” or “I am a BBB student” and “I was a 1-9 student” or “I was a BBB student”, with the grades you are personally predicted. Now, honestly: how does hearing yourself say each version make you feel? I know how deeply personal and long-lasting grades can feel. They are lodged in the mindset, and some believe they define who you are as a youngster or as a unique individual later in life. I look back with a "phew" in my mind: a (retrospective) fondness for the stress I went through when I was 15/16 and 17/18 years' old, and the rewards that ultimately reflected both learning experiences. I know a lot of people in the "am" corner when they talk about their grades from years past. They are usually the ones that can’t let go, and most haven’t gone on to fulfil their true potential. People either do or don’t associate their current selves to their GCSE or A Level / B tech grades
Whilst basing your grades on the work you’d done up until 20th March might not seem fair as you didn't get Easter to hand in any great work based on past papers (naturally people improve the closer to the exams it gets), getting your teachers to take responsibility for your final grade does take away the potential pitfall of the exam itself…and we mustn't forget how many students' nerves get the better of them on the day.
A "winner takes all" approach doesn't work for every student. I’d say it doesn’t work for most and isn’t a healthy way to grade long-term effort and progress, and it certainly isn’t reflective of the working environment most people will find themselves in, where every single day, the realities of the job (and keeping it) is the grade
Exams are cancelled because of the global pandemic.
That we know.
So what's happening with your grades? I'm sure you're eager to get a bit more clarity about your future. Well we've started to get some assurances from OFQUAL (Which is the abbreviation for the mouthful that is - Office of Qualifications and Exam Regulations). Their Chief Regulator Sally Collier has now issued a letter outlining how grades will be calculated and reassuring students these will be 'exactly the same as in previous years'.
One thing we can all agree on as we go into another week of lockdown is that it isn't always easy. No matter who you're with and where you are, there are days when it might just seem a little harder, and that's fine.
The same is happening to you, me, your guardian, your best friend, your favourite celebrity. Everyone. So don't worry about it. It's normal.
So how do we make sure we're looking after ourselves in these unexpected circumstances and make sure that we aren't going stir crazy all cooped up inside like battery hens (Remember to buy free range folks!)
Right now you should be receiving your offers from universities but then a little thing called a global pandemic happened and everything's been put on hold until everyone can work out just what to do.
At the minute the government has asked all universities to stop making unconditional offers or amending existing offers until at least April 20th. This is so you don't feel pressured to accept these already.
They've also extended the May offer deadline for undergraduate applicants and if you've sent in your UCAS application they should contact you via email with the new decision deadline date.
So this year we've had a shakeup in the way that things are going to happen.
Exams are cancelled, you're getting assigned your grades from your predicted grades (it seems at the minute) and the government and all schools, colleges and universities are working out the best way to do this fairly. It's all a bit up in the air at the minute while the world has gone a bit bonkers.
And what does no exams mean? Well it certainly doesn't mean you have nothing to do right now. School is still in session, so make sure you're keeping on top of the work you do have!
Some students might think, with the news that exams are being cancelled that summer is here now. Should you put your feet up?
Absolutely not, amigo. This is the most important time to keep a regular routine, as things might kick back into action in the coming months. Don't treat this as your summer holiday (and you can't anyway due to the lack of collective gatherings allowed like cinemas, concerts, festivals and pubs).
Here's our 5 top tips for keeping yourself productive...
We can't imagine what you're going through right now, with news of your exams being called off this summer, but we can try and understand. Our presenter team have all been through the stresses of school, sixth form and college and have tried to place ourselves in this situation, and think of the questions we'd most want answered
Worried about all the fake news and conflicting information when it comes to Covid-19? (Yes, we always sing it to the tune of Come On Eileen, too.) Us lot at Push are no doctors or virology experts, but we can remind you of a few fundamental things…
Now the boring obligatory bit’s done with, what about the rest? Are school closures likely? What do they mean?
If you’re looking to move out anytime soon, chances are you’re going to be moving in with others. And that can be brilliant. Living with your best mates, having people around to keep you company and help you out, and splitting the bills is always nice.
But what if things go a little awry, and it’s not quite the perfect Friends-esque flatmate dream?
The Guardian have written a great cheat sheet to help you with some of the most common problems that can arise in shared accommodation and how to tackle them. Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest sources of tension when living with other people is…
Problems you might encounter as a tenant in shared accommodation...
Nowadays everyone is (or should be) a champion for diversity and inclusivity, but what does that really mean?
According to digital tech source, Built In:
“Diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique, while inclusion refers to the behaviours and social normal that ensure people feel welcome.”
One example of diversity is those of us who are differently abled, whether that’s a visible or invisible disability, and making sure that we feel included, represented and involved in society. But how can we do that?
The government is proposing to create an Ofsted-style system that ranks universities on the amount their graduates earn according to the Guardian.
There has been some resistance to this idea from the education industry and rightly so. It creates a number of problems that could cause damage to particular courses (Arts and Humanities especially) that are in areas outside of London.
So what are the issues of this and in fact, would an earnings ranking actually be that helpful for students looking to go to university?
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