Does choosing a diverse range of subjects at Sixth Form, lead to a better career?

jon narrow-450_thBy Jon Cooper, Assistant Headteacher, Sixth Form and International 

This September, the Education Policy Institute posted a report into A-level subject choice. It stated that students who take more diverse A Levels earn more money than their peers, and that 26-year-olds who had studied qualifications from at least two subject groups of sciences, maths, humanities, languages and vocational, went on to have higher earnings than those who studied qualifications from only one group. In essence, broad choices mean better career prospects. 

For me, this is a huge part of why the IB (International Baccalaureate) Diploma is such an exciting option at Sixth Form. By its very nature, you have to study an option from each of the subject groups: Language and Literature, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Science and Maths, plus a sixth option from any of those groups or The Arts. Therefore, subject breadth is a given. New subjects offer exciting areas of study such as Global Politics, Environmental Science and Literature & performance; subjects that draw together traditional disciplines and often focus on conceptual work as a basis of the material covered. This approach decompartmentalises knowledge and encourages problem solving and curious approach to learning. 

But depth is not overlooked either. Three subjects are taken at Higher Level, offering a truly deep dive into these areas, plus an Extended Essay, which can be on any subject matter of your choosing and is fantastic prep for the type of independent study expected at university. Additionally, you will study three subjects at Standard Level, through a genuinely inter-disciplinary approach, allowing an understanding of why and how all subject matters are interlaced. Why I as an educationalist, and why universities, value the IB Diploma so much, is that it offers a critical thinking approach to studies encouraging students to not just learn knowledge and accept it but to gain knowledge through exploration, debate, and hearing a variety of perspectives. This is hugely valuable in almost all future career options. 

Alongside chosen subjects, the IB Diploma includes the ‘Core’: lessons on Theory of Knowledge, interrogating the very nature of truth and how we know things. It also builds in a focus on your links to Community, Activity and Service (CAS), promoting volunteering, mentoring and participation in sport. In my opinion, you’d be hard-pressed to complete an IB Diploma without emerging with broad knowledge and a holistic view of the world.  

But A Levels can be exceptionally diverse too. Here at Redmaids' High, you could study Computer Science, Russian and Biology with an additional course in Creative Writing, or Fashion and Textiles, History and Psychology, alongside Core Maths. There are so many ways to incorporate a range of passions, building towards thousands of future careers. 

Of course, it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the position of privilege we are in here at Redmaids’ High. Our class numbers are small, and our careers programme is strong. State schools often have to make tough decisions to cut subject options due to funding pressures that have ramped up over the past 10 years (not surprising then that the A level subject choices are the narrowest since 2010), whereas our subject base is expanding. We currently offer 28 A Levels options, plus 10 additional courses to choose from, or 23 subjects in our IB Diploma programme. 

However, returning to the stats in the report, I would argue that they overlook one crucial factor in the pursuit of career success: individual people, their dreams, and aspirations 

At Redmaids’ High, we take the time to get to know every one of our students. Each girl has a Guidance Mentor, to help them make good choices for the future. For some students choosing three sciences at A Level might absolutely be the right path, matching their passions, interests, and ambitions. We might then recommend they take a complimentary option such as an Extended Project Qualification, giving them the chance to conduct a personal investigation, or a Higher Sports Leader award, which develops skills such as leadership, management, and planning. 

Ultimately, whichever pathway, IB or A Level, there is no magic formula to career success unless we, as a school, understand each of you and your ambitions. Yes, breadth is important, but so is aligning qualifications with your abilities, goals, and aspirations. That is something we pride ourselves on here at Redmaids’ High, and something that if done well, is the best way to set you on a trajectory for future success. 

  

If you are interested to find out more about Redmaids;’ High Sixth Form, please contact our Admissions Team, who can arrange a bespoke Taster Day with subjects that are of interest to you. 

Get in touch

 

 

Date Posted: 8 November, 2021

Articles for: Examination Results, Sixth Form, Senior, The World Beyond

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