Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Non-Conventional Route to College!

Many of my HE friends out there have been asking me to blog our route through secondary and into tertiary education. So, now's as good a time as any! Although Bugs does not actually start college until September, and things are still not 100 % settled yet, I can at least blog our journey thus far!

Part I

If you've followed my blog for any number of years you will know that Bugs is my only child that has EVER been to school. He was a difficult small-boy and HE'dding him became a constant source of stress to the whole family. So, at the age of 9 he went to a small C-of-E primary school, where he spent almost 3 happy years. He actually loved school, but by nature he is an avoider and so, although he had a lovely time and made a group of friends (some of whom I  think he still chats to on FB), he avoided learning a great deal! I won't say he didn't learn anything ~ he did ~ but he didn't exactly reach his full potential!     

At the end of Year 6, Bugs very much wanted to carry on into Secondary School - with his friends.  But, I looked at him as a whole person, and didn't really like some of the other changes that school had brought about in him. He had become more of a crowd-follower (a worrying thing going into Secondary School), thought less about his own opinions on issues, had even less respect for his Dad and I, and had all but lost his faith - where so many seeds of doubt had been sown and we'd not had so much time to build him up. This, to us, was a major issue. It wasn't that he was saying he didn't believe in God any-more,  but rather that he didn't know what he believed any-more. He was on-the-fence. To us is was important that he be in a safe, loving environment to make the most important decision he ever would, and that it wasn't made 'by default' or under peer-pressure. Of course, we wanted him to be a Christian, but we wouldn't reject him if he chose another path. However ~ I don't think the same could be said of his school friends who had made his chosen path thus far a real struggle for him! 

So, against his wishes, but after a lot of loving explanation, he didn't go to Secondary school, but stayed home with us again. By this stage, he was a much more manageable little boy with a better attitude to his work (although still not driven to work hard!). He settled back into HE quite happily and I have never regretted the decision Paul & I made. 

Being at home with us may not have provided him with as varied an education as being at school might have (although when I wrote him a 'report' for college I was able to talk about 10 different subject areas he has studied, so not that much narrower), but it has allowed him to follow his passions. It has meant we have got through his high-school years with minimal stress & minimal 'home-work'. He's been able to be as sociable as he wishes without the thought of early morning rises, or exams & tests the next day ~ so MORE sociable than most of his at-school friends, who've been putting their lives on hold to get school work done, for a year or more now! It's meant he hasn't had to strive to pass subjects at which he felt doomed to fail (like Science, which would have been essential at school), but has been able to study them at his own pace and within his own ability. I've still stretched him, but I've not 'tested' him ~ that's different!. 

Being at home has ultimately meant no exams & no bits of paper! No GSCE certificates ~ plain and simply because we could not afford them and because I am not a great believer in pieces of paper to prove your worth, or your knowledge!

BUT ~ the world at large likes to see those pretty certificates, that show you can regurgitate prescribed information in a given length of time: the world at large considers them a passport to your future. Without them you are lost! 

EXCEPT, I refused to accept that way of thinking and sought to find another way for Bugs to move into his chosen future...

Part II

My first move was to Bugs up to the college when they had an open evening. He had hoped originally to go a year early, but they point blank don't take anyone under age 16, so that was not even worth fighting for. He just had to suffer another year at home ~ and it's not been that bad for him really ;). We had a good look around and chatted to the photography lecturers. The facilities are excellent - and new! Now to find out what hoops to jump through. I tried to speak to the vice-principle that evening, but he was no-where to be found, so I ended up trying to speak to him on the phone. This was quite a challenge (not made better by faulty phones at home), but eventually I did so and we came up with a plan. He was obviously not really sure what to do with a HE kid who wanted to come to college with no GCSE - understandably really. I'm sure it's not every day this problem would arise for him! I put to him the idea of allowing him to take the test that would be taken by an adult wanting to come to college as a mature student. I know that this is often a 'way around' the required 5 GCSE's for adults, whose old GCSE's/O'levels are now obsolete. He seemed to think that was a good idea and told me to contact the person concerned with adult entry around October time ~ after the current academic year was up and running smoothly. We did so, and around November time Bugs went and sat the test at the college.

On the test Bugs passed the English element with flying colours and even did an extra bit of 'free writing' to be handed on to the relevant department ~ he wrote on photography (clever kid!). The maths element he didn't do so well on, and knew he hadn't. He omitted to answer questions and made silly mistakes. In the car on the way home he was telling us the answers he should have given! That's how he is under pressure ~ brain freeze ~ and why exams would not be the best way to see what he's made of! Fortunately he'd done the Maths first and by the time he got to the English he'd relaxed and could flow ~ save the best till last is often a good policy for him! At the end of the test, the guy said that he had done well and he couldn't see why Bugs shouldn't get on to the course he wanted to do with the results he had. 

The next step was to fill in an application form for the course ~ and wait! Bugs sent the application in with a covering letter from me, explaining that he had sat the adult entrance test and that the college held the results of that (although we have a copy too). Just after Christmas, Bugs received an interview date, which he had at the beginning of March ~ blogged yesterday. And now we sit and wait to see what happens next. He has a letter offering him a 'provisional place' ~ although I suspect in his case it's not really provisional because he's already done all the tests he's going to!

And there you have it ~ Bug's painless, exam-less, not-quite testless, route into college! The most difficult part was getting to have a proper conversation with the vice-principle in the first place!! He was initially rather dismissive, but I think he realised I wasn't going down without a fight, and in the end was quite helpful. I still haven't met the man face-to-face, although I would have pushed to do so should I have needed to. ;). 

Next year we will be a known entity when I come to do it all again for Taz! He wants to study Music and Biology. Music might not be so much of an issue (although he has no graded instruments), but Biology might be more difficult to convince them to let him in on, as it's a more academic subject. I just hope that his knowledge of the subject, his 'files' of work and his charisma will be enough to carry him in!


Esther said...

Thanks Caroline - for those of us considering HEing at high school level, this is one of the biggest questions - what happens afterwards? So glad you're sharing what your route looks like, it gives us more confidence about the decision xx

Nikki Wall said...

Thanks for blogging your experience thus far. My second eldest ended up going to school in Yr 11 (not a route I recommend as it was rather challenging to get him into a school at the very last minute half-way through the 'GCSE years') - still, he pulled it off and is now studying A Levels (not bad for a young person who hadn't looked at the National Curriculum in a while).

Hoping you get some good news on a college place soon. x