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A-level results 2014: Parents not equipped to advise students on next steps

As teenagers across the country received their A-level results today, almost three-quarters of parents (72 per cent) were advising them not to follow in their footsteps, a survey suggests.

But the poll of 750 parents, by vocational body City & Guilds, also reveals almost half (49 per cent) of parents do not fully understand what alternative education options are available outside of the traditional GCSE, A-level, university route, prompting fears that students will lack advice on their next steps.

The parents surveyed came from a range of educational backgrounds. The highest proportion (31 per cent) left school at 16, while 17 per cent had a bachelor’s degree and 12 per cent left school after A-levels.

In 1990, when many of the parents surveyed were making their educational choices, the number of students obtaining university degrees was 77,163. In 2011, that figure had risen four and a half times to 350,800.

Today, Ucas, the university admission service, said 396,990 students had already been accepted onto UK undergraduate courses, up 11,090 (3 per cent) on last year.

A-level results showed a slight dip in the overall pass rate from 98.1 to 98 per cent, but an unexpected rise in the proportion of students achieving the top A* grade, up from 7.6 per cent last year to 8.2 per cent.

Kirstie Donnelly, UK managing director of City & Guilds said: “The educational landscape has changed enormously since these parents were sitting their exams. It is worrying, but understandable given the pace of change, that so many parents are not fully aware of all the options available at each stage of education. 

"Clearly, parents want their children to pursue the right path for them. My fear is that they are not clued up on what this could be; meaning young people are not encouraged to consider the many different pathways that lead to success.”

A separate poll reveals nearly two-thirds of 18-24 year olds rate paid apprenticeships ahead of university when it comes to acquiring skills.

The survey by YouGov, commissioned by recruitment company Step Ahead, shows 62 per cent of 18-24 year olds believe paid apprenticeships better equip them with the skills they need to start their careers.

Jackie Bedford, chief executive of Step Ahead, said the research dispels the myth that apprenticeships are second rate.

The University and College Union, meanwhile, has appealed to universities to consider more carefully the merits of alternative qualifications such as BTECs as a route to higher education.

It said more students, particularly those from areas of low higher education participation, are favouring alternative qualifications but are 30 per cent less likely to be accepted for university than those with A-levels.


Related stories:

'What’s an apprenticeship, mum?' Most parents don’t know the answer - August 2013

Apprenticeships: Are young people finally beginning to buy into the idea? - August 2013


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