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To feel really let down by dd's school

(120 Posts)
emsiewill Tue 03-Sep-13 13:33:30

Dd had to put in her potential A Level options back in July. Obviously the school can't finalise the timetable until after GCSE results, but they try and get an idea and start thinking about possible clashes etc.

Dd wants to do French & Maths (as well as 2 others). They were put in the same "column" and therefore can't both be taken. As far as we knew in July when the options columns came out, she was the only student wanting to do these 2 subjects.

I contacted the school at the time, as they advised parents to do if there were any problems. I have said all along that I understand that they cannot change the whole timetable to accommodate one student, and I don't expect them to do that. What I hoped they would do would be make some suggestions as to how we could work round this - would distance learning work for one of the subjects? Can she do one of them in another local school? Would they be able to fit her in outside the curriculum? I am not an expert in education, and don't know what is possible or doable.

Dd is quite sure that she wants to study both subjects at Uni, so really doesn't want to have to choose between them.

The first person I spoke to (head of upper school) was basically clueless and the conversation ended with him saying "I don't really know what to suggest".

I therefore emailed the head teacher, went through the whole explanation again and said I was disappointed that the school didn't seem able to help us deal with this issue. He emailed back saying he was sorry I was upset about the options, and that they can't always cater to every student. He thought there may be some "slack" in the French department for dd to do it outside normal lesson times, but they couldn't say for sure until the results came out, and he would get one of the deputy head teachers to call me in the meantime. No phone call was forthcoming.

GCSE results day comes round, as expected dd does very well, including A* in Maths & French (amongst others). I try to talk to the deputy head about the subject clash, but she basically brushed me off, telling me that we should focus on what dd wants to do in 2 years, it's not just about A level choices. I tried to explain that dd wants to do these 2 subjects in 2 years' time, but she just would not engage. I didn't want to spoil dd's day of celebration by getting into an argument so didn't take it further.

Dd went back to school yesterday. They said they may be able to accommodate Maths & French for her if there was only one overlapping lesson (ie she could go to all 4 Maths lessons a week, and 3 out of 4 of the French ones). They said we would have to get a tutor as well though to ensure she kept up with the French. They pressed dd quite hard to say which of the 2 subjects she would choose if she had to, but she was clear that she wants to do both.

Today, she has been told that actually, it's not going to be possible and therefore we will have to find out about her doing one of them outside school. No offer of assistance with this, no pointers, nothing. DH has called the school (I'm in work -supposedly!- he's got a day off) and is awaiting a call back from the head of sixth form.

There is a part-time A level maths course (1 evening per week) starting tonight at a local HE college. I am trying to get through to them as I type.

I feel very angry that the school wouldn't take us seriously back in July and have now put us in the position where we have no time to get something else sorted. I think they thought we would just give up on the idea.

Dd is one of the star pupils in the school - never given them a moment's trouble, won prizes every year, but they don't seem to want to help her achieve her potential.

As I say, I know they can't move everything around just for her. But surely they should give us more help in trying to find some alternative solutions?

Beastofburden Wed 04-Sep-13 13:52:36

cor at shooting, glad none of your friends or family were hurt

cory Wed 04-Sep-13 13:39:41

Phone call or email, I am sure the UCL will be happy to deal with you directly.

emsiewill Wed 04-Sep-13 13:36:03

Thanks, I need to sit down with dd and talk through all of this with her tonight. If we need to contact UCL I will get her to do it. (again, lesson learnt!).

We need to be clear on all of this.

(Shooting turned out to be people in one car shooting at people in another causing the second car to crash, road closed, armed police all over, CSI style forensic people there this morning. Local paper full of "this area is going down the pan" style articles. No wonder dd wants to get far away...)

Beastofburden Wed 04-Sep-13 13:18:08

but, emsie, check what UCL say about schools that dont offer further maths- by ringing them up. Theres a big difference between doing it because it will be very useful, and having to get an A* in it. You/she need to know which will be the case.

I dont think you are helicoptering, BTW, this stuff is complex.

emsiewill Wed 04-Sep-13 13:15:08

No one in her year did maths early, as there wasn't the timetable space available. Hers was the first year not to be able to do it, so I assume hers will be the first year not to offer Further Maths.

I've found this website which may be of use. It doesn't cover our direct area, but we are not far from Cardiff. I would hope the school would support dd with this, but they do seem to be able to help even if the school can't / won't be involved.

Another conversation to be had with the school, but I will make sure it's led by dd...

Mumoftwoyoungkids Wed 04-Sep-13 11:02:13

Sorry - baby ds somehow managed to press submit there!

As I was saying my dh did Engineering at Cambridge without F maths when generally they require it. But he was accepted as his school didn't offer F maths, had never ever offered F maths and his school was one that had never got anyone into Oxbridge so he was seen as "disadvantaged".

Not sure that will apply to your dd if there are others at her school who do do F maths.

He said he felt he spent the whole of his first year trying to play "catch up".

Mumoftwoyoungkids Wed 04-Sep-13 10:56:41

Why did your daughter not do maths a year early? How many from her school do? How many do further maths?

She really needs to figure out how to get F maths if she wants to do a maths degree. Even if she can get in somewhere without it, her first year will be horrific if practically everyone but her has done F maths.

georgettemagritte Wed 04-Sep-13 07:33:14

It isn't an unusual combination of subjects (I did both) and I'm surprised the school have timetabled them against each other and have been so inflexible - it's not fair on one of their most talented pupils who they should want to keep. There has been some good advice on his thread about the need for further maths and I agree that if she wants to do maths at a good RG uni she needs further maths too - whatever the course admissions requirements are, she will find it almost impossible to keep up with a RG maths degree without having done further maths. The quality if the maths course and teaching at A-level is paramount and it supports both Physics and Chemistry - she can always keep up French on the side / at a college / with tutoring or take an intensive language course / live in France in the future, but she can't go back and re-do A-level maths very easily. Sadly I agree with you that most comps are not geared to advising/preparing bright pupils for good RG uni entry. I know your DD doesn't want to move to another school because of friendship groups, but she should think seriously about switching schools now to somewhere more selective - in the long run her academic ambitions will matter more to her future life than the discomfort of switching schools now. I had a similar dilemma at A-level and chose to stay with my previous school (to be honest it was a more comfortable option for me to do that), but the limitations of the school's academic teaching became very quickly apparent and I wished I had changed when I had the opportunity. She will see very little of school friends if anything once at university.
Good luck to your DD with her A-level study.

SilverApples Wed 04-Sep-13 07:13:47

I don't think you are helicoptering, to me that's when you are fussing around micromanaging stuff that most children would manage alone.
But when something screws up, or they get thrown a curveball, then I see stepping in as support. Because you step away afterwards, which helicopter parents don't.
Otherwise you are leaving her to face a bank of adults, all of whom are telling her that what she wants isn't possible, and perhaps giving her biased information on what she should drop or take and how.
If she was a PITA and relentless arguer like mine can be in the face of unreasonable behaviour, it might be a different case, but she doesn't seem like that. So you back her up.

ilovecolinfirth Wed 04-Sep-13 06:26:26

I can understand how frustrated you are. Unfortunately, schools do not always have the flexibility to offer all students the courses they require. Sixth form colleges do tend to have much more flexibility. I am surprised no other students wanted to do maths and French.

The school were a bit naughty to keep you believing that there was a chance she could be accommodated (unless they genuinely thought she could be). My opinion is that they didnt want to lose a high achieving student.

Congrats to her on excellent exam results.

Beastofburden Wed 04-Sep-13 03:19:52

I still think UCL may actually mean further maths OR step and you should ring them up to check. Good luck! shock at shooting.

emsiewill Wed 04-Sep-13 02:08:30

I get it now, I didn't get it earlier when we were under time pressure (so we thought) to get her on the Maths course.

But yes, it does seem wise to keep her options open if we can & let her do the 2 subjects she enjoys most & excels in.

I should probably try & forget about this now & sleep. Slightly distracted by the police activities outside my house, apparently there's been a shooting...shock

JessieMcJessie Wed 04-Sep-13 01:44:01

OP, if you get it then why is your DD doing A level Maths at FE college part time just so "she can do both subjects" when she doesn't need to do both subjects?

Is it because actually she can't yet know if Maths will be her core degree subject and so wants to keep her options open for it to be French? That's fair enough, she's only 16 and I imagine that advanced Maths is a whole world away from what she did at GCSE. I did Higher Maths (Scottish AS level equiv) and sailed through with top marks, but I knew that was my ceiling and that I would have struggled taking it any further, whereas by the time I was applying to University it was clear I had a natural talent for languages.

Absolutely right to find out all she possibly can about US study, and great that she's motivated to do that now. However you are wrong to expect the school to give guidance - everything that she needs to know is on the Internet/ can be found out in a phone call to the institution. FWIW I got no guidance whatsoever from my bog standard comp and my parenbut ad not been to University, but I got into Cambridge by working out the process for myself.

One thing worth bearing in mind is that standards for Maths scholarships are probably higher given that it's one of those subjects where it is really possible to be a born genius, or at least blessed with innate talent that can't be taught.

BlackMogul Wed 04-Sep-13 01:21:22

My DD did a lot of research, but not how one gets the money. that part was glossed over! So, as she was very keen, I went to one of these talks on unis in USA in London. They made it clear that funding is almost impossible for undergraduate level courses because the Brits do not qualify for USA loans or any of the funds from American institutions. A lot of them are small amounts anyway. Most of the parents there were stunned as to the costs. Did DD mention the costs to you? We reckoned it would have cost us £250,000 for our DD to take up her place and she got a scholarship. British unis are cheap by comparison. Forgot to mention that Bristol do Maths (MSci) with 3rd year in Europe being taught maths in your chosen language. Myriad of advice on offers though .good luck

emsiewill Wed 04-Sep-13 01:05:39

Dd has done a lot of research on going to study in the US, including attending a seminar on applying to US unis, in London, on her own.

We are going to US college day at the end of the month, all of this organised through dd's research.

She may or may not get in, we may or may not be able to afford it, but at least she will have tried to fulfil her ambition.

It's really being brought home to me what a disadvantage it is to go to a bog standard comp that is not geared up to deal with those pupils who want to do something outside the norm.

BlackMogul Wed 04-Sep-13 00:57:11

Change schools ! Maths and French is perfectly normal but the best unis will want further maths as well for a maths degree. Make sure she is doing the right options. Studying in the USA is very expensive. You need to budget for about $40,000 a year fees plus living expenses. You have to be super bright , genius, to get a scholarship that will even get close to what it will cost you. I suggest DD and you start doing your homework on this as it is greatly over-sold and you will need deep pockets. As we found out!

emsiewill Wed 04-Sep-13 00:55:59

Yes, I get that, thanks (the French thing) And we aren't the only people to have read the Maths requirement as either F Maths or STEP, so I don't think it's lack of brains that led to that error.

Well if nothing else, hopefully others will have learnt from this thread that they shouldn't rely on school to assist in their education choices.

cory Wed 04-Sep-13 00:54:46

"Those who say I'm helicoptering - would you really just leave your child to it? Is that what I should do? Seriously?"

I wouldn't just leave her to it- I would be there in the background as a sounding board and somebody to suggest and advise. But I would absolutely expect her to make her own phone calls and her own appointments with college tutors and do her own online research. In fact, I just have: my own 16yo is starting college on Thursday, having made all requisite arrangements wink

And I would really not advise her to let the thought of friendship groups be a deciding factor in choosing something that might affect her longterm chances. After all, whatever workplace she ends up in there will be existing groups. That kind of thinking works well when they are little, but at this stage they need practice in taking the plunge.

She seems very together and ambitious in her plans for study abroad etc: I would just encourage her to acquire the practical organisational skills she needs now rather than be overwhelmed when she goes to uni.

JessieMcJessie Wed 04-Sep-13 00:36:12

OP- please read the posts carefully, especially those from ch who actually did the course that your DD wants to do. Your DD does not need French A-level. However proper, structured, advanced maths teaching and Further Maths is a must.

TBH, if she couldn't work that out for herself from the UCL website then she's probably not cut out for the course.

NoSquirrels Wed 04-Sep-13 00:33:10

Oh poor you.

No, don't just leave her to it. Even with a proactive, able child, you still need to fight her corner now. Now is when dreams can be lost for want of the best option; people telling you that "these are the options, bend to them". When you're 16-18, you shouldn't be bending. Time enough for all that. Your DD is telling you what she want to do, please do what you can to support her in that.

emsiewill Wed 04-Sep-13 00:20:58

The school obviously think parents should be involved as we had to sign the options form to say we were happy with the choices.

Am now worrying that I have totally done it all wrong for dd, have left it all too late.

She started the part time Maths course at the FE college tonight. Didn't enjoy it, wishes she could do it at school, but is willing to persevere so she can do both subjects. But should I have encouraged that? We had to make a snap decision to make sure she got on the course.

Not sure I'll sleep well tonight.

emsiewill Wed 04-Sep-13 00:13:02

Can't post much as I'm in bed on phone, have been out all evening.

Thanks for all of the input, lots to think about. Apparently school only offer F maths if you did GCSE a year early & AS in year 11.

Dd is much more proactive than most of her friends in terms of researchIng into what is required for what she wants to do. I still think the school should offer more guidance and assistance for those children who have specific aims. Perhaps dd is suffering from going to a bog standard comp, rather than selective or private school where they are geared up to this. I don't believe that all other kids who get to the top unis get there because they are individually proactive & do it all themselves. Surely most of them have "expert" guidance?

It would seem that the only way dd will ever get into somewhere like UCL is by changing schools now. Wish I'd realised this sooner...but where is the guidance?

Those who say I'm helicoptering - would you really just leave your child to it? Is that what I should do? Seriously?

MrsBonkers Tue 03-Sep-13 23:32:25

Ha ha Ballstoit I was thinking the same.
Lots about what the school isn't doing and about what the OP could do, but what is the DD doing? What research has she done herself over the summer to research what and where she will be studying this September?
No wonder employers say people leaving full-time education don't have the skills they need.

OP, I wish you and your daughter well. Think this situation will be just the catalyst you both need to really help both of you on her journey to achieving her potential.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 03-Sep-13 23:05:59

I would look at the strongest teaching department tbh and do the other subject with a private tutor.
Maybe maths would be better at college and French with a tutor.
Unfortunately quite a lot of schools and colleges are like this with time tabling and lessons clashing. A level is no different in this respect.
Also, as 6th form is not compulsory school they don't have to accept your dc like a school does and the system changes quite a lot.

noblegiraffe Tue 03-Sep-13 23:00:18

I would expect any secondary maths teacher to be good for teaching A level.

You would hope. But there is a shortage of maths teachers and so you get teachers who have been drafted in from other subjects because they've got an A-level. You don't need all teachers in a department to teach A-level anyway, often adverts will say 'ability to teach A-level an advantage' rather than a requirement.

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