Advice needed re Year 9 ds being put in too early for GCSE science

(115 Posts)
frankinsensible Thu 06-Dec-12 16:48:41

Sorry this is quite long...ds school has a policy of putting kids in for some GCSE's in yr 9. In yr 8 he chose 2 options from a limited selection - a language and a practical subject - and has studied them intensively for GCSE next summer. That seems to be going OK-ish although I personally think he is too immature for the language exam. Whenever we query with a subject teacher that it is too early for this step they just blithely say 'he can always take it again'.

The problem is the school now tells us that he is being put in for English Literature and Science GCSE's as well and has module exams in January. At the parents evening the science teacher told us that if ds fails the exam he will not be able to re-take it! When we looked shocked he said it would be fine because ds won't fail.

After a couple of days I began to be really worried about it. Ds is an intelligent boy but he's only 13 and I don't feel he's anywhere near the maturity of written expression and presentation required to get a good grade in these exams. He also suffers from Absence Seizures which are worse under stress. I brought all this up with his tutor who said he had spoken with the science teacher and the exam can be re-taken if he fails (so why tell us that it couldn't?) and that they are certain he will do well.

My biggest worry is I know ds is the type to react badly to a bad result - he will say that he's no good at the subject so it won't be any help to him to have to re-take. Today he had an oral exam in the language and came home pretty crushed saying it had gone badly sad

Can I insist that the school do not put him in for the science GCSE? What is my best course of action? I don't want to get into a big stand-off with them but I am genuinely worried - this is ds's future they're gambling with.

mumsneedwine Mon 17-Dec-12 10:16:53

Sorry circular, have been very busy at work.

If you look on page 17 it says "A number of institutions ask that grades and number of subjects are achieved at one sitting. Some do not accept 're-sits' at GCSE or standard level qualifications.'
The number required varies between Unis and even then by course. I have argued on several occasions that its not the students fault if taken at different times. It's not fair and some Admissions tutors are great - and some not.

frankinsensible Fri 14-Dec-12 12:58:59

Thanks webfizz, you've been very helpful on here and I appreciate it. Feels like quite a weight off my mind smile

At the meeting with his English teacher she had brought along the head of the dept. They said he is currently working at level C but target is a B. I was aghast to think they would settle for a B (which I very much doubt he would get anyway) for a student who is clearly going to be capable of an A/A* given more time. I felt a definite undercurrent that I was undermining ds's confidence by complaining - all very nicely done but definitely there. I did not seem to be able to get through to them that he is just not mature enough for the exam. Their point of view is that it is all about the confidence of the student.

There was no argument about moving him though, they said it was my decision to make which is good but then why not involve the parents at the beginning of the year when these decisions are being taken rather than wait until 2/3 months in to drop a bomb on them at parent's evening?

glaurung Fri 14-Dec-12 11:49:39

retaking the whole qualification in science can mean a lot of different things since the units combine in different ways to make different 'whole qualifications'.

The basic units of each science combine to make a 'core science' qualification - so this could still be done earlier.

The intermediate units of each science combine to make 'additional science' (which again could be done early) and this is as high as many children who don't do triple science take it.

The hardest units can on some boards (and more are setting this up) combine to make 'further addional science' (or somesuch). If all these three GCSEs are taken it is the SAME as doing Physics, Chemistry and Biology separately (although the GCSEs you get are named differently).

It's also possible for schools to sit say Biology in year 9, Chemistry in year 10 and Physics in year 11 (or any variant of this, that may start in year 9 or 10) if they wish to avoid doing all the exams at the end and don't want to go down the 'further additional science' route.

webfizzystuff Fri 14-Dec-12 10:51:11

Glad you are feeling a bit happier about it all now frankinsensible smile

creamteas Thu 13-Dec-12 17:52:45

The way I understood it was , there will be no modules so resisting part of the assessment will go.

But students will be able to retake the whole qualification. For most subjects it will be a 12 month wait as I think it is only English and Maths that will have alternatives to the summer.

frankinsensible Thu 13-Dec-12 16:59:42

Feeling a bit better after going in to the school. The English teacher says ds can withdraw from the exam group and go into the next set down, take Eng Lit in yr 11. Makes more sense to me tho ds not happy about it.

The science is also better than it looked when I first posted. If he fails the module in Jan he can re-take in may/june with the other elements of the exam. If he does reasonably well in this exam he will be put into the triple science group who will take all three in yr11. This is a new change to the science pathway and I feel a lot more comfortable with it. I did ask what was the benefit in taking an exam which would then become void if he takes the triple GCSE's but they seem wedded to the idea of learning how to cope with taking exams by...taking exams.

lljkk Thu 13-Dec-12 13:04:26

Ah, thanks Circular. That just shows how hard it is to find any firm official demand that GCSEs must be sat all together. Lots of statements about A-levels must be taken together, though, in university admission guidelines, I guess that is more strictly enforced.

I don't feel very comfortable with demanding that school pays for resits after failure. We the taxpayer would end up funding it, and the affected parents would have to take schools to small claims court or other tribunal to keep it enforced. Maybe to protect their budgets schools would resort to spending money to drill the lowest achieving cohort to pass math+english+basic sciences and offer fewer options to everyone.

Not sure what folk mean by "no resits". Resits for GCSEs makes sense to me. It's a threshold test, you've met these criteria at this time. That's why it's not normalised & pass rates go up over time, as schools get more cunning about ensuring passes (that's what humans do, we figure out how to do the same thing even better than we used to do it). If university admissions don't want to accept resits so be it, but don't see why that should ban schools from offering resits.

If you want to keep pass rates static then must go back to normalised results like O-levels were. Then the result won't be about whether you meet a certain standard on a certain date, but about your percentile position.

I'm under impression that Gove is not advocating a return to normalised results/percentile position determines mark. So there's every reason to expect GCSE pass rates to continue to rise.

Chandon Thu 13-Dec-12 12:57:07

Wow, I am so naieve thay I am actually shocked by this thread!

I am starting to ny trust schools at all!

Anyway, forwarned is forearmed or something.

Hope you can change it, OP

frankinsensible Thu 13-Dec-12 12:34:24

sue - could they complete the exams in 2013 before the changes come into effect?

circular Thu 13-Dec-12 11:11:19

lljkk - For loughborough, I could only see the 5 in one sitting for irish highers. The Liverpool Physio one is interesting, as the 6 in one sitting looks like it includes Eng Lang & Maths so any that took those early and are happy with their grade, would not be eligible unless they resit.

I wonder also how x in one sitting applies to modular?

If they don't count as a single sitting, my yr11 DD will only be taking 3 or 4 complete GCSEs in May/June 2013.
No early options, just science x 3 and geog are modular. Eng Lang & Maths early. So only 4 modules and all of Eng Lit, French & Music (=3) left. Will be 4 if linear maths resit needed.

throckenholt Thu 13-Dec-12 10:49:19

What is the bar to resists at the moment for these current exams ? Is it that they keep tabs on who has taken the exam and you are only allowed to do it once or is it that the school will only fund on sitting ?

If it is the second, and the school is at fault in their previous advice, then I think you maybe have a case for demanding that resits are paid for for those for whom it is relevant.

Generally though - I am against the resit culture - people shouldn't be able to keep banging away at an exam until the finally scrape a pass. It devalues the exam and does nothing for self confidence. Only take the exam when you are ready to do reasonably well at it.

lljkk Thu 13-Dec-12 10:44:16

I think it's a decision set course by course, Uni by Uni, Circular. And actually there probably is a lot of flexibility for admissions officers. I wonder, do any schools really schedule the completion of just 4 GCSEs/year, as implied above, for children otherwise in the top 50% ability wise?

Liverpool Physiotherapy requires 6 in one sitting;
Loughborough (NOT RG, btw) requires 5 in one sitting.

frankinsensible Thu 13-Dec-12 10:36:07

Agree circular, Eng Lang early makes slightly more sense to me than Eng Lit but either in Yr 9 seems completely ridiculous. Just hoping I can hold my own against the English teacher later on.

BooksandaCuppa Wed 12-Dec-12 20:52:39

Yep, I know of one or two of our weaker/11-16 only schools doing Eng LIt in yr 10. They're just happy to get Cs. Don't give two hoots about kids wanting to take it for A Level a whole year and a half later.

circular Wed 12-Dec-12 20:33:17

mumsneedwine - Where does it state about the 6 or 8 GCSE's in a single sitting for RG Unis. I couldn't find it in the informed choices booklet. A bit alarming if they only take 9 in total, including 2 a bit early, and also some modular.

frankinsensible - Shocked at the idea of Eng Lit earlier. Have heard of quite a few doing Lang in yr10 & Lit in yr11, as DD1's school does. Not grerat, but better that way round.

suec4075 Wed 12-Dec-12 19:42:05

frankinsensible, I honestly don't think the other parents know. Since the new Headteacher took over it has been a shambles, she is all about how lovely the new buildings they moved into last year look and how pristine it needs to be kept and not about the children. Half the staff don't know what the hell is going on, at least three of the most experienced teachers are leaving. My son's year were called into a special assembly regarding the English exams, when some of the children started to ask questions about the fact they were being threatened with being changed to Btec Science instead of GCSE, the Science teacher I had the meeting with was called in, my son said "Mum I honestly don't think he knew the answer to any of the questions he was asked"...what chance do they have??

frankinsensible Wed 12-Dec-12 19:17:23

Yes, that was the refrain I kept getting when I questioned taking exams so early: "he can always re-take if he fails". I am going in tomorrow to speak to the English teacher re ds being put in for Literature GCSE. After that I am going to get hold of the head of science and try to stop them putting him in for January exam. Don't know what sort of reception I am going to get though.

In your place I would be gutted too - how do the other parents feel?

suec4075 Wed 12-Dec-12 19:04:35

Many thanks Webfizz that confirms what I had read on the other School's website...I'm absolutely gutted for my son and his friends.

suec4075 Wed 12-Dec-12 19:02:36

I may do that because the teacher I saw permanently looked like a rabbit caught in headlights when we were in the meeting! I honestly believe that they should have been allowed to sit the last two units for each of the 3 Sciences. I do feel sorry for the children that failed but in the end I think it might work out better for them unlike my son and the small number of children that did well! I am so angry regarding this as my son's year were being used as guinea pigs by the School, they thought that if they started early and could just resit to get the grades the School wanted and now it has backfired big time!!

frankinsensible Wed 12-Dec-12 18:47:44

It's going to be quite a scandal I think sue. I feel so sorry for kids that have basically been caught in the war between schools and ministers, the speed of change to these exams has caught a lot of schools out. I think you should print that letter off and take it in.

suec4075 Wed 12-Dec-12 18:32:13

frankinsensible, the School are hopeless, I have been to see one of the Heads of subject and I honestly don't think he understood it because I asked if the results he had already gained counted and he said Yes. Then when searching the internet regarding this I found another local senior School had posted a letter on their website explaining the new system!! I have a good mind to forward that to my son's School!!

frankinsensible Wed 12-Dec-12 18:30:54

Thanks for that webfizz - needn't have bothered with the DfE!

suec4075 Wed 12-Dec-12 18:23:42

Thankyou for your comment. Its a nightmare because he did so much revision before taking the exams and then did brilliantly and now it all counts for nothing. His School should never have entered them for the exams this early because so many failed that they are now being threatened with doing a Btec instead of the final exams!!

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Wed 12-Dec-12 18:17:57

Sue, I don't know for sure, but my DS is in Y 10 and doing triple science and we were told he couldn't do the modular course, he had to take all his exams at the end of Y11. Hopefully someone actually does know, as the schools don't seem to. sad

frankinsensible Wed 12-Dec-12 18:15:06

Sympathise with that sue, as mentioned in my OP we have been given conflicting info on re-takes.

I emailed the DfE on Monday and asked them to clarify this situation with GCSE Science, haven't heard back yet. If I don't hear this week I will phone them. I agree it seems unbelievable that they would put all that work to waste rather than allow it to stand and apply any changes to those who are just starting on the process.

What have the school said?

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