Pupils also need a plan B

Jo Lane

Friday, 21 September 2018

Everyone is calling for Teresa May to come up with a Plan B, however, it isn’t just the Prime Minister who needs to think about this, we should be encouraging pupils to have their own Plan B when considering their future.

Nothing pleases me more than when I ask pupils if they know what they want to do when they leave school and I get an enthusiastic show of hands. A pilot, a vet, a professional footballer, a lawyer are just some of the favourite career paths, and this passion and enthusiasm should be encouraged.

However, as professionals and parents, we should encourage young people to have a Plan B, because life can sometimes get in the way of Plan A.

When suggesting pupils have a Plan B, they need to understand that sometimes the obvious route to a destination can’t be achieved and this can be down to a number of factors: lack of study on their part, life circumstances and family problems, illness or injury, bad timing or simply a bit of bad luck.

If we start the planning process, positivity when planning for the future is vital, but so should realism. A good way to get young people on the right path to success is to suggest they come up with some SMART objectives: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound.

boy reading at table

Sometimes I will speak to a pupil who wants to be Vet, but they struggle with their sciences and are sitting in the middle sets for these key subjects. Encouraging them to find strategies to help them improve is the first piece of advice to give, however, in this situation I would also suggest they consider the alternative options.

Their Plan B could be to study an animal welfare course at college, such as a Diploma in Veterinary Care, and suddenly their SMART objectives are ‘realistic’ and ‘achievable’.

"Having a Plan B will pupils reach their destination, it might just mean they follow a slightly different path."

When choosing subjects to study at A Level, pupils should be aware that sixth forms have minimum entry requirements, such as a Level 8 or above to study Maths, or a Level 7 or above to study Biology. So what happens if pupils don’t achieve these grades? The good news is, there is a Plan B as FE Colleges have more flexibility with their entry requirements.

So when pupils are planning for their post-16 pathway, whilst they may want to stay on at their school sixth form, their Plan B would need to be attending a different college if their grades don’t quite meet the entry requirements.

This happens every year at my school and in the whirlwind of results day, the disappointment of not securing a place on their courses of choice can really upset pupils and their parents.

If however, they have already considered the alternatives, the situation is much more manageable and less traumatic.


About our Community Expert

Head of Careers at The Windsor Boys' School

Combining her business experience with an ability to engage KS4&5 pupils in the classroom has enabled Jo to specialise in delivering learning experiences linked to the ‘real world’.

An advocate of apprenticeships as an alternative to the traditional university route, Jo states her greatest job satisfaction has come from helping pupils into apprenticeship roles and seeing them thrive. 

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