Finding the right pathway: Higher education guidance in a non selective school

Finding the right pathway: Higher education guidance in a non selective school
Higher Education British Education

For many students and parents, A Levels can appear to be something of a daunting prospect, yet the truth is they can be a far more flexible and accessible qualification than they may first appear. It may also seem that at a school which produces so many students that get very high grades and go to top universities, that this is where our key support for students is mostly centred. Yet in reality we offer equal support to all students and in fact many of the biggest success stories to come out of our A Level programme in recent years, have been those students who have taken a less conventional route through their A Level syllabus and have gone onto a diverse range of specialised, well chosen and interesting university and training courses.


One of my own personal favourites was Bas. Bas started off with three A Levels that were very much in line with going onto an Engineering pathway in the UK. During year 12, his grades were not quite on track for his original university plan so we worked with him to help look at alternative future pathways. At the same time, Bas was starting to develop and explore other extracurricular interests. He is an excellent climber and had an interest in outward bound pursuits, so with the help of the HE office reaching out to their American contacts we found the brilliant Paul Smith College in Vermont, who are based in a national park and took a very holistic view of admissions, selecting students on their interests and passion more than academics. It was this outdoor interest that also had us researching careers in the military with him. But Bas was also developing another exciting passion; cooking. So he began looking at culinary arts courses. We arranged for him to have an online meeting with a Chef who works for Google in London. This really solidified this exciting and less obvious career path within catering as the right pathway for him and we were delighted when he started his studies on a Culinary Arts course in the UK.


Bas’s story is not just about finding the right choice of course, it is also about the student, parents and school working together to find the most strategic and suitable approach to A Level studies. Both the outward bound and culinary colleges did not require three A Levels, so by deciding on this alternative route in good time and in close collaboration with teachers and the HE team, he was able to stop taking one of his A level courses in order to focus more fully on the other two. He was also able to access our superb academic coaching team, who gave Bas the skills and confidence to get the A Level grades he needed to progress onto his chosen College. This is just one of many students who we help every year complete their A Level course, outside of the standard pathway, in a way that allows the student to go on to further education that is the right fit for them.

We are proud to be a non-selective school

Many Malaysian parents may feel that their child might be better suited to studying a local foundation course and expatriates sometimes feel that were they back in their countries of origin, there might be more choice when it comes to level 3 qualifications; for example BTECS in the UK. However, it is my experience that with the right A Level pathway and a flexible approach from both the student and the school, we are often able to provide a pathway that works. We are proud to be a non selective school. This means that every student who wants to come to Alice Smith can enjoy the fantastic facilities, high quality teaching, superb pastoral care and the numerous other benefits that come from studying at the best international school in Malaysia. At the same time they can be assured that an A Level programme can be tailored, to make it an appropriate, rewarding academic experience too.

Author: Joe Marshall, Head of Higher Education Programme, Alice Smith School

You can read more from our Higher Education team here