What happens if GCSE's are a disaster? Sorry, long

(72 Posts)
fresh Sun 01-Jun-14 13:49:02

DS2 is just 15. End of Yr 10 exam results are looking grim - E's and F's although I won't get the full details until next week. So we have a year to work out a plan. He's been working at a higher level than this day-to-day at school but always finds exams difficult. He panics and shuts down.

We went to an open day at the local FE college to scope out IT courses at BTEC Level 2 and 3. Level 2 needs 4 GCSEs at grade D including Maths and English, Level 3 needs 4 GCSEs at grade C inc Maths and English.

DS thinks he has no hope of Grade C in Maths and English, so if he gets Ds then he might get on to the Level2 (although it's very oversubscribed). He's also quite shy with new people so I think the interview would be a tough call as well.

So what happens if his grades are low and he doesn't get on to the Level 2 course? Do we have to put him through a Level 1 where they will try and teach him GCSE English and Maths again? He isn't ever (I don't think) going to be able to answer questions about how Steinbeck conveys certain things in Of Mice and Men - he doesn't even understand the question! So what's the point of putting him through another year of it?

As I understand it he can't just get himself a job, he has to stay in education or training. Trouble is, apprenticeships need GCSE's in English and Maths so we're back to square one.

He's organised, practical, funny and can demonstrate persistence for things he likes, usually strategy games (I know, don't flame me). He's just not 'academic'. Which is fine by me, and I know all the stuff about Richard Branson being dyslexic and having no exams, but how on earth do we get round the GCSE question?

If I thought it would work I'd spend the next year working with him on his English GCSE and DH could do the same with Maths, but he is incredibly stubborn and doesn't want to be seen to be learning anything. He worked out in Reception class that if you were well-behaved and helpful, you could stay below the radar without actually having to expose your brain to a teacher, and since then there hasn't been a teacher willing to push past that.

I could of course stand back, do nothing, watch the carnage and let him reap the consequences, but my worry is that he'll just confirm his own view that he's thick if he gets crap grades, and the downward spiral will continue. That seems very harsh to me.

I'm at my wits' end. Has anyone else been through this and come out the other side with a happy teenager? Thanks for reading.

MollyGetsHerWandOut Sun 01-Jun-14 13:50:25

I am sorry this sounds so stressy for you. I have one in Y11 and am dreading the results day. Sorry I can't help you, marking my place for answers.

Eastpoint Sun 01-Jun-14 13:52:29

Does his school offer BTECs? They don't have an end of year exam so sound as if they would suit him better. And if you work consistently at a higher level you end up with a merit or distinction.

LIZS Sun 01-Jun-14 13:59:25

Do the school and/or college offer Functional Skills courses at level 1or 2. He won't be able to escape Maths and English until he attains a certain competence, and he wouldn't find it easy to be employed without them now even on NMW, but they can often be done alongside practical courses such as NVQ or BTECs. Is there anyone working in IT or a course tutor who could give him a reality check ?

fresh Sun 01-Jun-14 14:00:18

Eastpoint They do, but not in any subjects he's interested in. And only at Level 3, so we're back to the GCSE problem - he won't get the grades to get on it.

Molly what plans do you have, if any?

rhubarbcrumbleplease Sun 01-Jun-14 14:03:22

No massive help, but it's never the end of the road. Everyone always bangs on about their DC's stellar results but lots of students take a round about way of getting where they want to be.

fresh Sun 01-Jun-14 14:03:36

LIZS there are two colleges locally which do Level 1 with Functional Skills. If he gets Ds, and gets on the Level 2 course, they will do Functional Skills again with him. Sounds like you're saying that Maths and English at Grade C are an absolute minimum for anything after secondary. In which case we might as well go all out to get them first time round, but I haven't a clue how we get there!

MollyGetsHerWandOut Sun 01-Jun-14 14:05:11

Crossing fingers and hope for the best, nothing I can do all down to your child. Booked onto A levels, no idea if the grades will be got or not.

LeBearPolar Sun 01-Jun-14 14:07:59

You mention Steinbeck but is that not on the Eng. Lit. course? (Genuine question - I teach IGCSE so don't know the GCSE specs). Your DS needs a C grade in Eng. but not Lit. Can you afford a Maths and/or English tutor for Yr 11? He may be more receptive to intensive one-to-one teaching from someone who's not a parent.

fresh Sun 01-Jun-14 14:08:57

Molly I sympathise.

fresh Sun 01-Jun-14 14:12:54

LeBear he's doing GCSE English. Of Mice and Men is part of his course, which is combined Lit and Lang.

fresh Sun 01-Jun-14 14:19:15

LeBear We thought about a tutor but finding one who will push through his stubbornness is a challenge. His teachers have been explaining this stuff to him constantly but he just switches off because he can't bear to expose how little he understands. I'm willing to give it a try. Frankly I've been hoping that he would come across someone who could see what I can see and knows how to get the best out of him, but it hasn't happened yet. There may well be someone with that sort of commitment at his school, but if he won't engage then I can quite see why they give up. They've got enough to deal with!

Maybe I have to get medieval on him, and insist he spends every evening working on past GCSE papers, but I have no way of judging what he's doing - my O Levels were a long time ago.

LeBearPolar Sun 01-Jun-14 14:19:15

Oh, Ok. That's a bugger. There's minimal lit. on the IGCSE course I teach (no set texts - just an anthology of short extracts to study for the exam and a choice of poems/short stories to write coursework on) which sounds like it would have suited your DS much better.

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Sun 01-Jun-14 14:20:03

Reading your OP through...I can understand what your DS says about Steinbeck! grin.

He has a whole year to work at this. While there are many children who cannot attain C or D grades, it sounds as if you are saying he could, if he had more belief in himself, changed his attitude to academic work and habits in class.

So what you want to be able to tell him is he needs to change and if he doesn't, he will have to repeat his GCSEs in level 1 BTEC courses?

It sounds as if there are a mix of things which could help him.
One is you and your DH showing a commitment to helping him get his desired grades.
This has to be coupled with your DS's desire and motivation to continue with academic work or find an alternative job/training etc. (Does your DS have any thoughts on what else he would do if he doesnt get onto the level 2 BTEC?)

In order to be better motivated, he needs to really want to do the work to get on the course, and he especially needs his self esteem lifted, and not see himself as 'thick', or want evidence of that. As you say, that feeds into a negative downward spiral. This takes a bit of effort and work in itself, but it is amazing what a difference it can make to change just this.

Don't worry about the interview. He sounds personable enough, and if he can turn things around so that he has improved his grades to Ds and Cs, that and improved self esteem should help him overcome enough of his shyness in the interviews.

mychildrenarebarmy Sun 01-Jun-14 14:20:46

If you think he would use it then for maths you could try Conquer Maths. I know several people whose children have had a lot of success from using it. After being sceptical I decided to try it and signed up for DD, 11, and she has gone from struggling with year 4 maths to easily managing y6 and a lot of ks3.

LeBearPolar Sun 01-Jun-14 14:21:47

I have tutored boys who have switched off at school before and you can build up a different working relationship as a tutor - I was able to be much more informal, plenty of humour, plenty of positive reinforcement, time to coax them through it because I didn't have the rest of the class to deal with at the same time. It may work.

BravePotato Sun 01-Jun-14 14:27:06

If you can afford tutors, give it a try.

I was tutored (2 tutors!) and even ended up getting into a good Uni.

Tweasels Sun 01-Jun-14 14:27:10

Hi Fresh, what provision for independent careers advice does the school offer? You should be able to get support with post 16 planning from someone who can go through all of the options in your area.

As an idea though: there are Level 1 courses at college but you can also do functional skills in literacy and numeracy through other routes such as study programmes or traineeships. These offer a kind of stepping stone between education and an apprenticeship and are usually available in a range of occupational areas.

Some apprenticeships do not require specific grades particularly some areas of construction, retail and manufacturing.

I could give you case studies of many happy teenagers who have wonderful careers without GCSE's. It will be fine I promise.

fresh Sun 01-Jun-14 14:28:05

YeGods I've pointed out to him that if he doesn't get the grades this time, he'll just have to keep doing it until he does. He gets the logic of that - if you give him parameters he will work within them. His year were told that if they didn't get their homework in on time it was instant detention first time rather than after the third time. Result: he does his homework immediately he gets it. It might not be very high quality but in his mind he's ticked the box!

He doesn't know what he wants to do after school. I suspect he's just pretending it will never happen.

mychildren thanks, I'll check that out.

LeBear that's given me some hope, I'll keep looking. I don't suppose you live in Wiltshire do you?? grin

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Sun 01-Jun-14 14:28:59

What about internet tutoring? He might feel it is easier to admit what he doesn't understand in an email or video call to someone on the other side of the country who he doesn't know.

fresh Sun 01-Jun-14 14:31:21

Thanks Tweasels. I shall be in the school next week and will ask about careers advice (among several other questions!).

Next week is work experience week and I'm hoping his placement (quite exciting, to do with test driving systems and will involve watching cars crash into things and designing test systems on CAD) will spark something.

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Sun 01-Jun-14 14:32:07

Or are there educational forums where students can go and ask specific questions about GCSE subjects? If not, there should be!! Someone could make a fortune running something like that. grin

fresh Sun 01-Jun-14 14:33:10

Hmm. I think he's be better with someone in the room with him, making eye contact and not letting him off the hook, rather than online. That's just a hunch though and I'll certainly research it.

Dancingqueen17 Sun 01-Jun-14 14:36:41

A set text of Of Mice and Men may not be quite as awful as you think. I did it as my set txt for GCSE many years ago. From what I remember the book has a few specific themes and once these have been grasped there are only a limited number of questions that can be asked. I remember practically learning these essays prior to the exam in the knowledge that I would be able to adapt one to fit the question asked on the day. It may be worth arranging a meeting with his English teacher to tackle the kit element head on.
I know it's daunting but I do think it's too early to throw in the towel completely. As you are discovering c's in a English and Maths are pretty essential.

springlamb Sun 01-Jun-14 14:37:28

Some BTEC courses will accept Functional Skills at Level 2 in place of the Maths GCSE.
DS twice failed to get his Maths GCSE at grade C, despite having numerous others at A grades. He has just got word that he's passed the FS Level 2 and therefore has a place on a BTEC Level 3 Diploma course for September for which the criteria was 4 GCSEs.
His alternative was to downgrade the Diploma to a Certificate, which would have included the necessary work to achieve maths useful to the specialism.
Is there something in particular your DS would like to study at FE? Start talking to the colleges at open evenings etc ASAP, and talk to a few as many do variations of courses.

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