Is it usual to need a grade A GCSE to do A level maths now?

(426 Posts)
Jella2u Fri 23-Aug-13 16:59:37

Disappointment here too. Son has got 10 GCSE's grade A-C. So what's the prob? You have no prob! Yes I do!!!
He got a grade B, yes that's right, B for Bertie for Maths. The school (which is a comprehensive turned Academy ) will let him do his Physics, Chemistry and Biology, but not Maths for which they say a Grade A is required unless you've clocked up a total of 224 points between the last 2 module papers. Unfortunately his tally was 205. Husband went up suited and booted to the school this morning to plead son's case. Phoned us this afternoon - no go. Have said this to all who got a B. So nothing personal there.
Have tried to contact other schools this afternoon. Needless to say all are shut. Local Authority very helpful and recommended emailing. Are schools running a clearing system that I don't know about? Do tell.
School did offer Statistics as a replacement this morning, but by this afternoon that was off the menu as no-one wants to do it. There are 7 pupils in this maths grade B situation who want to do A level Maths. Strangely the school says Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Maths are the most difficult subjects. So they might be for most people, but what if your child is the one that has had to struggle with French, Music, English Language and bid their time to do the supposed hard four?
We feel he needs A level maths to support science subjects.
Unfortunately, I said we would be back with an answer as to taking up a place with some sort of substitute for Maths before term starts. Every chance if I can't get something sorted fast he will be a well educated NEET!!!
All ideas welcome. Thanks in advance.

SlowlorisIncognito Fri 23-Aug-13 17:11:13

I think you could find somewhere that would let him do maths with a B. Have you got an local sixth form colleges? These might have someone available to talk to. Unfortunately, it's unlikely you will be able to speak to the school by phone until September (when it may be too late).

Does he have a plan B, in the form of another subject to take at AS if he cannot find another place and cannot do maths? I don't think not doing maths will cause him to many problems with university applications as he's doing three sciences, but not having a fourth AS might, as doing 4 subjects at AS is pretty much standard these days.

I suppose a final option (if you are willing to pay for a tutor) is for him to do the other three A levels at school and take A level maths independently. The school may not be suportive of this, but they couldn't stop you doing it.

Maths A level is hard, and a real step up. I took it in the not too distant past, having gained an A* at GCSE and ended up with a D for A level (much lower than my other A level grades). I do think asking for an A is pretty strict, but presumably you knew this before GCSEs were taken? Unfortunately, if the school lets one child with a B onto the course, it really has to let them all on, and 7 is a bit of an awkward number- enough to make the A level class too big, but not really enough to justify another class (even if they could timetable one).

ISingSoprano Fri 23-Aug-13 17:20:51

Does he have a plan for post A-level? Is Maths really necessary to achieve that?

By the way - well done him for his 10 GCSE's grin

ArgyMargy Fri 23-Aug-13 17:27:06

Both DS got A at GCSE, both started A level and got U at AS level. It is a hard subject and the leap from GCSE to A level is big. Also both DS were good at some aspects and not so good at others - for A level you have to be good at all of it. Having said that, I do think you should push for it, if he really wants to do it and is prepared to put the work in.

glaurung Fri 23-Aug-13 17:37:01

You might want to read this thread on the TES forums where maths teachers are discussing this. It does seem that the outcomes for children atrtempting A level with 'only' a B at GCSE maths are not usually very good.

Phineyj Fri 23-Aug-13 17:41:24

There is a massive gap between GCSE maths and A level. There is another option - do any local schools offer IB? In IB he can do all those subjects, Maths is compulsory and it would be at a suitable level - there are 3 or 4 different versions of Maths.

ISingSoprano Fri 23-Aug-13 17:41:39

Wow - the TES thread makes interesting reading. I am very interested in this as dd is about to go into yr11 and will be applying to sixth form college. She has expressed an interest in doing Maths AS level. I'm not convinced.

ajandjjmum Fri 23-Aug-13 17:46:32

DS got an A* at GCSE and came out with a B at A level. DD got an A at GCSE and an E at AS.

Jella2u There is a very good reason for requiring an A to do Maths A level. A level maths is much, much tougher than GCSE.
DS1 is doing Maths and Further Maths. In his class there are many who got A* at GCSE who really struggle with A level. One friend who got a clean sweep of GCSE A*s is having to redo the whole first year in Maths after getting a D.
Lots of threads on here about DCs who have just had disastrous results at AS level.

Haystack Fri 23-Aug-13 17:48:37

Congratulations on your ds's results!I have just tried to contact my dd's school by phone today and no-one was picking up but there were staff in the office when I went down in person to try to make contact. It maybe that other schools are similar. The school is also officially open on Monday as well for potential A level students with queries so it might be worth trying.

School/college prospectuses should all be online as well and will include information about what grades are necessary to take what subjects at that school. My dd school also requires a minimum of an A at GCSE for A level Maths, but her friend's school would take someone with a B.

That said my dd is changing all her A level plans having got her Add Maths grade. She got an A* taking maths early in November then took Add Maths as it has always been her favourite subject. She became very withdrawn and upset a few weeks before the exams, it turns out it was because she found the step up so hard and it knocked her confidence - she got a U, as did the 3 other girls we knew taking the exam- not seen the other results - it is a really tough jump up. So dd is having a rethink having always wanted to be an engineer it is hard.

Good luck whatever you decide to do.

tiggytape Fri 23-Aug-13 18:02:31

When the school say maths is one of the hardest subjects they mean it is hard even for those who are naturally better at maths than other subjects.

For some subjects, the step up from GCSE to A Level is manageable for anybody who is already proficient in that subject. For maths and physics however, the leap is much greater. Hence a high GCSE grade in maths doesn't translate to a high A Level grade quite as readily as a high GCSE grade in English or French might lead to an expectation of doing well in those subjects for 6th form.

The TES forum comments seem to back this up and I know many other schools have similar rules to yours - requiring an A as absolute minimum. Unless maths is absolutely necessary for his career plans, it is a really difficult subject to get a decent A level grade in and he might be better off rethinking it anyway.

Jella2u Fri 23-Aug-13 18:05:40

I hear all you say and thank you for ideas and time.

I suspect I am the only person in the country with a grade 5 (sign the paper in those distant years ago) CSE in maths and ended up with a degree mainly in maths. I was actually put off by the reaction of the boys when I came first and vowed never to let that happen again. Most of my education happened after school. I would like to think things are better for girls now.

Loads of people could be good at maths they just don't get the encouragement needed.

Yep, I could teach it to him myself and actually have had to do that with some of the GCSE Maths because his set seemed to miss some topics out. I'll never forget his face when he succeeded with the sine and cosine rule having said "You might as well not bother Mum". I was astounded. This is easy peasy stuff as he was shown. The school should have succeeded. There are no excuses.

Anyway, not too keen on making him different from his peer group by teaching him at home. Why shouldn't the school teach him. They get the money from the Taxpayer.

His problem was that he was 2 marks off a Level 5 on leaving primary and got stuck in a boring middle set for 5 years steadily losing confidence. Confidence can grow, but not if you are with negative people who don't really want to teach the subject as often happens in primary schools.

It was good doing maths revision with him we got quite close as we knocked off one topic after another, but if you do it this way you never get the level of practice the top sets have because you're still teaching it. We tackled every formula on the Physics paper and he came home so happy I knew he'd got his A* module before the results arrived. Maths can be done - you just need to know the missing steps they often don't show you in the book. The CGP Maths tutor booklet with DVD is very, very good. They talk you through the missing steps. Many thanks.

I have tried the local college. They answered, but the woman there couldn't get anyone to answer their extension. Helpfully she gave me a mobile number, but the number didn't exist!!!

Still one way or another he will probably end up being an Engineer as is father and eldest brother. Son did very well getting high B from the middle set he was in. Well done boyo!!

Loshad Fri 23-Aug-13 18:30:17

Even if he was in middle set if he was naturally good at maths he probably still would have gained an A or A*. It would be considered very ill advised by most schools to allow a B grade GCSE candidate to do A levels maths, as there is loads of evidence to suggest they will gain a U at best if not giving up part way through the course.

SvarteKatterogFlosshatter Fri 23-Aug-13 18:38:19

I think the issue here is actually that A level maths is VERY hard. It is very often seen, as many people on this thread have said, that a B student at GCSE may not actually be good enough to do A level, and indeed A and A* students often find the step up too hard.

I think he maybe should be looking at the entrance requirements at universities he's interested in and for subjects that he wants to do, to decide what the A levels he needs to take are. It is possible, as other people have said, that taking three sciences mean you may not need maths anyway.

I would also say that taking 4 STEM subjects might not actually work in his favour for admissions, and he might actually do better taking an arts subject for AS year and then dropping it, to give him more breadth.

Leeds2 Fri 23-Aug-13 18:45:47

My experience from DD's friends, as others have said, is that those who don't have an A* at GCSE usually struggle at AS.

Was your son close to an A? Wondering if a remark is a possibility.

BalloonSlayer Fri 23-Aug-13 18:51:19

I have heard say re Science subjects such as Chemistry that a B at GCSE results in an E at A Level.

Sounds like a similar story with Maths.

SantanaLopez Fri 23-Aug-13 18:54:43

He is better doing another subject and getting a grade than dismally failing maths. Encouragement is all well and good but A levels are hard.

I'm in Scotland and my old maths teacher used to say that only half of the amount of people who got an A in our GCSE equivalent were suitable for even tackling the Higher paper (and A-levels are more advanced I think).

Beside, a B is not a fail! It is a very good grade and while it's maybe not what he hoped for, it's certainly not the end of the world.

koutaliaphobe Fri 23-Aug-13 19:00:40

Still one way or another he will probably end up being an Engineer as is father and eldest brother.

If engineering is currently his/your aim, I think you need to have a realistic discussion with him about this. Most university courses will require Maths, Physics and at least AS Further Maths, if not the whole A2 - with a B at GCSE then I doubt any school would encourage him to take Further Maths, even if he can sit Maths.

One option is to attempt to teach him the A level yourself, and enter the exams at school as an external candidate. This will cost you, but might be the best way to go about it, particularly if he has lots of gaps in GCSE knowledge which he'll need to address first. Maybe just try the first module, with the aim to sit it in January - if it proves too much you can call it a day then before it affects his summer exams.

basildonbond Fri 23-Aug-13 19:06:36

At ds's school the requirement for A-level or IB higher level maths is A* - they won't let you do it with 'just' an A as they would obviously not have got to grips with sections of the GCSE curriculum and they need to be absolutely solid for GCSE before embarking in anything harder

Ds got an A* in IGCSE maths but is only doing it at standard level for IB as even though he got close to 100% at GCSE thinks anything above that would be too hard!

ethelb Fri 23-Aug-13 19:10:14

I had to have a predicted a/a* to do maths a level 10 years ago. And there was far less demand for science and maths a levels then too.

noblegiraffe Fri 23-Aug-13 19:16:58

If a student starts A-level maths with a grade B, years of experience after which we raised our entry criteria to an A suggests that the student will fail, or drop out early on. Even with a tutor. A rare student may do ok, but it is rare.

Now we would only accept a B if they just missed an A and their teacher vouched for them being capable and hardworking enough to cope. It's not fair on the students otherwise to allow them to waste an option on an unsuitable subject. I taught one boy whose parents kicked up a stink, promised tutors, hard work, and this boy worked his socks off and he still got a U. It was so frustrating. He ended up resitting Y12 with a different selection of subjects.

Now that January modules have gone, it's even more important as we won't have that clear marker that a student is struggling from the start of the course.

OddBoots Fri 23-Aug-13 19:19:08

The college here let you do A level maths with a B but everyone doing A Level maths has to do a week long intensive 'bridging' summer course.

If he is absolutely fixed on Maths could he study it independently at a distance learning college which doing the other subjects at his school?

BackforGood Fri 23-Aug-13 19:21:28

I have to agree with everyone else, if you don't sail through GCSE with an A* in your maths, you are really going to struggle with A-level. I think it's a good thing that the school are being realistic now rather than letting him drift onto a course they know will be difficult.

creamteas Fri 23-Aug-13 19:24:32

DS1 got A* in Maths, and struggle terribly at AS level, scraping a E in the end. Was offered a resit, be honestly felt he couldn't do better no matter how many times he took the exam.

The school should be able to see the breakdown of marks for each question, and will know whether or not he has skills in the right areas to take the A level. I would trust their judgement.

Some universities have a foundation year that students without the right A levels can take to access STEM subjects so that might be worth considering.

longingforsomesleep Fri 23-Aug-13 19:25:12

Yes, our school requires minimum A at GCSE to do A level maths. For all the reasons quoted above - it's very very hard. DS1 got an A at GCSE at the end of year 10 and has just got a D at A level.

I'd be surprised if they'd let him do Physics without maths though? DS2 was considering Physics but not so keen on maths (despite an A at the beginning of year 10). Physics teacher told him it would be ok to do physics if he did at least AS maths. If he didn't want to do A2 he would be able to teach him the maths required for physics.

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