Help, how to change GCSEs at the end of Y10 ?

(78 Posts)
HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 16:54:17

Ds with SEN in grammar school is struggling with English and Literature, which are both compulsory. He was left behind by the school in those subjects for the last 3 years and now there is simply no time to catch up. He has 6 hours per week of those lessons at school and he sits there not understanding anything. The school advises to take a tutor, but it is not possible to compensate with a tutor for the 6 hours he is wasting at school. This time is taken away from his good subjects that really matter. We just had mock exams, which clearly shown that even with a tutor the Literature cannot be done. It gets nowhere and compromises his good subjects: he didn't have time to revise, was too tired. He also has a DT subject that is not looking good and taking disproportionate amount of time.

I understand that normally you just bite the bullet and get on with those subjects because employers want them. However we crossed the bridge where those appearances can be saved. The dilemma now is to get an E in Literature and C grades in all other subjects, or to cut the losses and to get on with the Maths and Sciences where he gets his A* at the moment. In the future he wants to study Maths at uni and he looks perfectly capable to do this if he stops wasting time on things he doesn?t get because of his SEN.

Although the school says that Literature is compulsory, I asked uni admissions and they say it is not - they don't need it.
So ideally we would drop Literature and DT and would take further maths instead.

Is it technically possible at the end of Y10? What is the deadline?
What to do if the school doesn't offer those alternative subjects?
Is there a further maths GCSE where one could enrol outside of school?

mummytime Fri 10-May-13 17:42:48

You need to talk to the school. If at all possible they should be throwing everything at getting him a C grade in language. Not having a C grade in English Language will prevent him from applying for most jobs, college courses, nevermind University. If he is good at Science and Maths he still needs to get that C grade, and that is regardless of whether he has a Specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia.
I am also amazed that the school spends 6 hours on English Literature and Language, 3 hours is far more usual, as both subjects can be taught together. The reason most students study both subjects is because teachers teach the language aspects using the Literacy course. In fact from my sons experience, put of the assessed material for Language can also be on the Literacy set books.

If your son cannot access the language and is really not getting anything from the lessons, then I wonder how he is managing to access the curriculum in other subjects.

Vivacia Fri 10-May-13 18:06:56

There's a lot of blame being laid at the school's door and little of you and your son taking responsibility.

There's also some confusion. GCSE English might not be an entrance requirement of a university degree (which is unusual) but the school is obliged to teach it and give your son the opportunity to sit the exam.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 18:48:09

They way the school is throwing everything at English it is by advising me to take a tutor. In class they do 6 hours per week of Literature. It is supposed to be Language and literature together, but the language aspect of it is too basic for the class cohort, so they don't do anything in lessons that is on actual English exam paper. Hence the advice to hire a tutor. I gather DS improved a lot by practicing English exam questions with a tutor, so I think he can do English language at a C or even a B.

What he can't do is Literature because he is autistic. Even if they explain in class how characters feel, it doesn't "stick" to him, because he can't relate to it. It's like learning a telephone directory. There is no time to try harder, because time should be spent on English and other subjects.

DS is good at Maths, sciences and MFL because these subjects don't need the inferences of how characters feel, why they act the way they do and what the author is suggesting by choice of language.

The school don't want to drop literature because English and Literature are merged.

What would you do in my place?

Could anyone suggest whether it is possible to drop the subject half way?

Any idea of further maths qualification that can be taken outside/independent from school? (the don't do any additional maths)

I'd be very grateful.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 18:53:09

What responsibility are you talking about, Vivacia? It is well known that he is autistic with a statement - we recognize now that he is not as well rounded as we would have hoped... So what next?

I think the way to take responsibility is to feed the strengths, focus on what he is good at and cut the losses, even if doesn't look as good for the conventional wisdom.

LIZS Fri 10-May-13 19:00:16

Were it possible for him to drop English I doubt timetabling would allow him to do a Maths subject instead. If he is good at Maths ask if he can sit it early (although suspect it is too late) and then do Additional Maths. English Language at grade C or above (GCSE) or equivalent is a basic requirement of most FE and Uni courses in UK, even Maths and Science, and is often embedded in Literature lessons.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 19:10:34

The school policy is to not do any exams early.

LIZS Fri 10-May-13 19:12:43

In that case what have you/ds got to gain by changing now. He can do extra gcses in 6th form or college alongside whatever he does next.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 19:24:12

Thank you LIZS for reminding of conventional requirements and arrangements. I agree with you that these are desirable. We tried to satisfy them, but given autistic spectrum, it looks at the end of Y10 that we can't might not be able to even after trying hard.

Not everyone can be Olympic champion. DS can't do literature...

Do you also argue against those students who decide to take single science instead of the triple, or to avoid MFL and to take general studies?
Other students have the freedom to avoid doing subjects difficult for them.

creamteas Fri 10-May-13 19:24:34

The English issue is the major one, if the lessons her is getting are not going to allow him to get a C in language that is of serious concern. Really needs to be focused on the skills for this rather than lit, if he is behind. Could he attend the lessons, but have differentiated lesson?

Have you raised this with the SENCO? What is in is IEP?

My DD also ASD is taking her GCSEs this year and is only doing English language and that is a struggle. She will be allowed into 6th form without it (and retake there), but as others have said, it is a standard requirement across universities, so will not get further without it.

Arisbottle Fri 10-May-13 19:28:36

I have a son at a grammar with autism and we have has similar issues. It is one of the things that makes me regret not sending him to the comp.

In our case it is not affecting his other results but he will leave with straight A stars and a C in Lit. School will do nothing to support because if a student is not an A/A*

adoptmama Fri 10-May-13 19:28:46

First off, since the courses are taught together it is difficult to simply drop one of the subjects. Instead of talking about him dropping, talk to the school about him simply not sitting the literature exam but only doing the language exam. Lit. is not generally at all necessary for further education. It would also be very difficult for them to simply allow your son to stop attending lessons as there would be a supervision issue - where would he go in these lessons for the next year - as well as the fact that the language aspects of the course are dual taught. I would advise you to meet with the SEN teacher at the school and see if together you cannot work out a way for your son to get support. Maybe instead of paying for an after school tutor, you can pay for the tutor to work with him during his English lessons.

LIZS Fri 10-May-13 19:32:46

hmm Agree with pp , ask whether the lesson can be differentiated ( which might be tricky in in order to cover the literature for others ) or could he have one to one in some of them focussing more on language ? It might help him to take a amore scientific approach to literature - finding specific types of words to use in comprehension answers but that depends on the presentation of his SEN. do you have a current Ed psych report to substantiate your doubts and discuss with SENCO.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 19:44:53

The teacher differentiates as it is, but obviously it's not working. Because the rest of the class is so strong in English, the teacher focuses on literature on a level that is too advanced for DS. The SENCO & school are doing a lot of good things, but nothing that involves the English teacher doing anything individually. So we are where we are.

The main problem now is that if DS doesn't drop literature and DT, he would compromise the English and his strong subjects. As you say, Cream, the English is struggle enough.

Any idea of an "extra-curricular" way to take an additional maths subject?

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 19:53:30

LIZS, he has a statement of SEN which includes a speech therapist. They are all doing a lot of helpful things, but what DS needs is an English teacher to go with him through exam style questions 1:1.

The idea of having a tutor in the lesson is very helpful. Would the school accept this? Any experience / precedents?

EvilTwins Fri 10-May-13 19:54:06

Have you spoken to the school? Could it be possible for him to drop DT and spend that time in the SEN dept (assuming there is one) working on his English Language?

If the school is teaching Lang/Lit together, then there is little point in him dropping the subject. How does he cope with the level of linguistic analysis necessary for English Language? As other posters have said, it will be very very difficult for him to get anywhere without a C in English, though I agree with you that Lit isn't necessary. There is plenty of time for the school to withdraw him from the Lit exam, and if he doesn't have to do coursework for that, it would take a certain amount of pressure off.

In my school, students who need to, for whatever reason, drop a GCSE subject (usually an inappropriate MFL) are allowed to do so and then they work in SEN/Learning Support during those lesson times. In terms of how late a school will allow a student to do so, IME the only reason for having any kind of a deadline is that exam entries have to be paid for, and after a certain point, the money cannot be refunded. That point isn't until at least Christmas of Year 11 though (I think - it might be even later)

So in answer to your OP, yes it is possible for a student to drop a GCSE after the end of Year 10, but you would need to think about the long-term effects of DS dropping English Lit if there is an impact on his English Lang. I would strongly recommend making an appointment at the school and talking to his form tutor/Head of Year and SENCO (and maybe Head of English) all at the same time.

EvilTwins Fri 10-May-13 19:55:16

One other thing - does he have a TA? Is there a TA who could do the 1:1 thing during English lessons?

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 20:04:44

Creamteas, thank you for sharing about your daughter. It is very encouraging to me. How did you negotiate with the school that your DD will be admitted in 6 form without English and retake there? (I think this is what we will have to do) When did you start? What procedure? What was the pivotal thing that made the school accept it?

As far as I'm aware, the Language won't count unless he at least enters SOMETHING for the Literature. GCSE English would count as a standalone but it's probably too late for him to start it now.

It is also highly unlikely that there will just happen to be a spare Maths teacher lying around who can suddenly start teaching one to one further Maths, and I think it's quite naive of you to think that might be possible tbh.

The only thing I think most schools might be able to do in a case like this is have a TA who could sit with him in another room during Lit times, to supervise him doing his own revision for other subjects. However, if the lang and lit are both taught in normal English lessons, then it's probably not even that simple, because they might do all Lang for half a term and then all Lit the next etc.

adoptmama Fri 10-May-13 20:05:32

He's already well into year 10 so missed this years registration for the current exam schedule. Depending on the exam board there are exams in November, e.g. for IGCSE exams by CIE/OCR. However their IGCSE curricula are not the same as GCSE, so may not help. You can register as an independent candidate at an exam centre if they are willing accept him, but I would ask you what you hope to accomplish by doing this. From what you say he is on target to achieve a good grade in his maths and sciences, and there is little to be gained by pushing for the additional maths which is very demanding.

I don't see how you can expect the school to let him 'drop' the literature when they use it as the vehicle for teaching the language. They would essentially need to set up a 1-to-1 class for him, which no mainstream secondary can do for staffing reasons. You would have the same issue for supervision if he were to drop the DT - where else would he go during that lesson time? You cannot reasonably expect the school to make special supervision arrangements for one child like this. I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is the reality in mainstream education; there is simply not the flexibility to do it in staffing levels. And nor is it what mainstream is about - it simply cannot be done. If the school can allow him to drop DT and go to the learning support room for extra 1-on-1, then that could be a possibility, but again it would depend on timetabling.

From what you say the teacher is already differentiating. Unfortunately with a set curriculum from an exam board there is a big limit on how far you can differentiate and still be curriculum-relevant. As your son attends a mainstream school there is also a limit to how much the school can modify his curriculum.

Again, I advise you to meet with the school and discuss with them what can happen over the next year to help your son. Frustrating as it is for you - and I do fully understand your concerns - you also need to accept that, for a mainstream school, what seems like a simple solution to you (dropping a couple of subjects) is a huge problem for many legal reasons. I think you would be better looking at what kind of in-class support can be provided over the next 12 months before his exams come around, and also at whether you can lessen the pressure/work load in some respects by agreeing he will not be entered for some exams (and therefore does not have to complete all homework/class assignments but can do more individually focussed tasks at those times).

OK - I'm a tutor and I would say that you should try and get the school to make some sort of reasonable adjustment for your son's SEN.

If it were me, I would ask the school if he can drop English Lit in year 11 to concentrate on his other subjects. Ask if he could do a combination of these things instead when the rest of his class are doing their English (Lit) lessons.

a) work in the school library on English Language past papers/ workbooks that could be marked by his teacher and could she find time once a week to go through some of it with him.

b) work with his tutor - either in school in library or wherever ( I have done this in exceptional circumstances) or be given authorised absence to be at home ( if that suits your circumstances) to work with his tutor (I've also done this as well)

c) work on his own in the library on work set by his tutor that his tutor could then go through with him in his tutor sessions.

To be honest - the school should be addressing it themselves not asking you to get a tutor however pragmatically a tutor is probably the way to go, especially if your Ds has been making progress with his English Language since having one. Explain to the school that you are being more than accommodating by doing their job for them paying for a tutor but it would be helpful if in return they could be flexible about suitable arrangements for your DS. Don't allow the "it will set a precedent" argument. It will only set a precedent for other students with a dx of autism and a SEN - how many of those do they have?

Many teachers - especially in a grammar school will have very little experience or understanding of autism!

At the very least, get them to agree he will only be entered for English GCSE and not English Language!

adoptmama Fri 10-May-13 20:21:19

Well, as a teacher I would say that I have a lot of experience of teaching ASD/Autism children in mainsteam, and a very good understanding of it. Secondly to suggest that the teacher should just set extra, different work and 'find time once a week to go through some of it' really does show a blankly ignorant understanding of the amount of time pressure teachers are under during the school day.

But hey-ho, I suppose we are all lazy, uncaring, ignorant people, who can't stand the inconvenience of SEN children in mainstream, rush out the door at 3pm and live for those long, long holidays where we do nothing.

No tutor has ever 'done my job for me'. Some children need more than can be provided for in a mainstream setting. Suggesting a child receive addtional tutoring does not mean the school is not addressing the problem - it means there is a limit in the real world to what they can achieve.

LizzieVereker Fri 10-May-13 20:22:36

I really feel for you and your DS, OP, I have taught students with autism in a high ability setting and know how hard Lit can be for them, even if they are strong at Lang.

Unfortunately I think Remus is right, it's not possible to completely drop the Lit element of the course because then the Language GCSE becomes invalid, even though they're two separate GCSEs. (I'm most familiar with AQA so my comments relate to that).

I have got students through Lit, by pretty much learning likely empathetic responses and analysis almost by rote. There is only a small"unseen" amount on the exam, so it is possible. I hope that the school will help you find a workable solution, it must be stressful for your son.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 20:23:47

EvilTwins, yes he has a 1:1 TA in lessons and additional SEN 1:1 support sessions outside lessons. With all the statement provisions I hoped they have everything in place to make it work. Given the mock exam results, I thought the only new and different thing we could do is to involve the English teacher.

Discussion with the SENCO and Head of English is a very good idea. The SENCO approached them, but my impression was she hit a wall. Arisbottle's comment suggests this might be the culture in grammar schools - SEN pupils are the job for the Senco, not for the teachers.

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