Students with five GCSE passes at Grade 4 or above are eligible for the Advanced Level 3 Programme, consisting of:

  • A Levels  
  • BTEC Level 3 qualifications
  • Foundation Technical Level courses

Students can do any combination of A Levels, BTEC Level 3s or Foundation Technical Level qualifications. Some will do all A Levels, some all BTEC Level 3s and others will ‘mix and match’ them. See Course Listing (A to Z)

All students attend a guidance interview (see Admissions Timetable) where they agree a Study Programme that best fits their interests and abilities as well as their future career aspirations. 

The ‘norm’ is for students on the Advanced Level Programme to study three ‘units’ (3 A Levels or equivalents) in both the Lower and Upper Sixth. A small minority of students opt to take four A Levels over two years.

How to decide between A Levels, BTEC Level 3s and Foundation Technical Level qualifications

There are a few good reasons for picking one type of course over another.

  • Predicted and achieved GCSE grades are extremely important, since national surveys of Advanced Level students show there is a pattern between their GCSE grades and the results they achieve on A Level and BTEC Level 3 and Foundation Technical Level courses.

The table below indicates recommended study programmes based on GCSE grades.

GCSE Grade ProfileRecommended Study Programme
Mostly Grades 9 to 7 Three A Levels (or equivalent) in the first year, with the possibility of taking a fourth A Level over two years. Aspire Programme (including EPQ in the Upper Sixth)
Mostly Grades 7 to 6Three A Levels (or equivalent) over two years. Aspire Programme (including EPQ in the Upper Sixth)
Mostly Grades 6 to 5Three subjects including at least one or two BTEC Level 3 courses.
Mostly Grades 5 to 4Three subjects including two or three BTEC Level 3 courses
At least four
GCSEs at Grade 3 or above
Intermediate Level 2 Programme (See Intermediate Programme)  
  • Students who enjoy an intellectual challenge and are confident about doing well under exam conditions, are usually best suited to doing A Levels. 
  • BTEC Level 3s and Foundation Technical Level qualifications tend to be more vocational and practical than A Levels, and are assessed through a combination of examinations, coursework and projects. Students complete and pass units as they progress through the course, so a successful outcome is not totally dependent on doing well in final year examinations.
  • Foundation Technical Level 3 courses (currently offered in Engineering and Video Game Design & Mechanics) are suitable for students who already have particular career pathways in mind, and are accepted by many universities and employers as A Level equivalents. Please check the entry requirements for specific universities.

Chart showing BTEC Level 3/Foundation Technical Level qualification type, and A Level equivalent.

QualificationA Level EquivalentLength of Study
BTEC Level 3 Extended Certificate Equivalent to one A Level Two year course (taken in Lower and Upper Sixth)
Foundation Technical Level 3 Equivalent to one A Level Two year course (taken in Lower and Upper Sixth)
BTEC Level 3 Diploma Equivalent to two A Levels Two year course (taken in Lower and Upper Sixth)
BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma Equivalent to three A Levels Two year course (taken in Lower and Upper Sixth)

Mix and Match Curriculum

Students can do any combination of all A Levels, all BTEC Level 3s or Foundation Technical Level qualifications or a ‘mix and match’ of all or some of these.

Here are some examples of how students might ‘mix and match’ their study programmes, to create a study programme that consists of three units (3 A Levels or equivalent):

Example 1:

1 x BTEC Level 3 Diploma (two units)
1 x A Level (one unit)

Total = three units

Example 2:

1 x BTEC Level 3 Extended Certificate (one unit)
2 x A Levels (two units)
GCSE Maths (extra re-sit course)

Total = three main units

Example 3:

2 x BTEC Level 3 Extended Certificates (two units)
1 x A Level (one unit)

Total = three units

GCSE re-sits

All students who have not achieved GCSE English Language or Maths at Grade 4 or above must re-sit them, and include them in their study programmes.