, students, after taking their G.
examinations at age sixteen, have basically three choices: going on to do practical trade-based courses, sign up to academic courses or enter full-time employment.
A-levels are the main-stream academic qualifications that lead to higher education.
Students used to take a maximum of three A-levels, though in the last decade, as a result of the erosion of standards, five is closer to the norm.
A-levels have been the 'golden standard' for university entrance since the Second World war, and although there have been rumblings to change this, their supporters are still in the majority.
Of all the subjects at this level, it is arguable that A-level mathematics has always been the most valued.
But by whom is it most valued you may ask, and why? Employers are very keen to bring people on board who have lots of common sense, can think for themselves and who do not shy away from making executive decisions, should the need arise.
Just choosing A-level maths is seen by some as an act of bravado that speaks volumes about character; the grade obtained counting as a secondary consideration.
And that is understandable at some level.
Not every student will take that leap of faith in themselves to sign up for the course.
There is much anecdotal evidence supporting the view that having an A-level maths qualification earns you a higher salary.
What many do not know is that this area has been extensively investigated over the years.
The much respected teacher newspaper, the Times Educational Supplement, published an article in 1999 that is particularly worthy of note.
The article describes the findings of a report issued by the Centre for Economic Performance.
The report's findings are quite wide ranging and support the deeply held views regarding A-level mathematics' monetary as well as academic value.
The report's findings suggest that anyone possessing A-level maths can expect to earn up to 10 per cent more in salary than those without the qualification.
The report added that the grade obtained was largely irrelevant and that higher incomes could be gained, especially in middle age, even on a simple pass grade (E).
The driving forces of any market are 'supply' and 'demand'.
In the work place the demand for numerate, logically thinking personnel is very high.
Unfortunately the supply of said personnel is disappointingly low.
So unsurprisingly, mathematicians, especially those with higher qualifications, are at a premium.
There are of course other reasons why you should choose A-level mathematics besides the immediate financial ones.
Following an 'advanced course' really stretches you and pushes your own boundaries.
To succeed you have to think a lot deeper and in logical steps.
The sums are that much longer and harder at A-level than GCSE; but the joy is in over-coming the adversity.
Take my word for it, getting the correct solution to a seemingly impossible problem is pure joy.
One other compelling reason for delving further into mathematics is to appreciate its inner beauty.
Learning about logarithms, exponentials and infinite series in particular give an insight into how the universe is constructed.
These are the constants of the universe, particular numbers that come up again and again, like phi (1.
), pi (3.
) and Euler's number (2.
) to name but a few.
These numbers dictate the structure of sea-shells, galaxies and even the human body.
It is without doubt that choosing A-level mathematics will open many doors.
Working hard to gain the qualification will empower you, and prepare you.
So much so that a lot of that what follows, by contrast, is easy!