gcses in year 10

(70 Posts)
kennyjent Thu 03-Oct-13 14:39:14

My children's school just announced to year 10 parents that all yr 10 pupils will be taking maths and eng lang gcse at end year 10, in order to try and prevent stress of doing all subjects at end year 11, and to teach to failings for resits if need be. Gove says early entry damages pupils and the 'evidence' says pupils entered early do less well overall, even allowing for resits. Anyone know what his evidence is? Thoughts?

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sat 05-Oct-13 07:54:00

Firstly I apologise for the Eton mistake.

We find A* pupils get an A* in Year 10 and have seen no drop in pupils achieving their target grade. By focusing on English Lang in Year 10 and Lit in 11 we have seen an improvement in results in both subjects. No child who has not achieved their target is denied the chance to do so and neither is any child who just wants to try to improve. For example we have a pupil who has a target of F, he got a D in year 10 and is resitting to try for a C. Equally we have a boy with a target of a B, got an A last summer so is resitting in November because he wants an A*. To facilitate this I will be in school this morning, as I have been every Saturday this term, running revision classes.

What infuriates me about this is all the 'cheating schools' comments. Whilst there might be some schools doing this the blanket condemnation of all schools is totally unjust. In English, in particular, exam technique is crucial and messing up the timing can turn an A paper into a D so easily. That is why the driving test analogy fits, a mistake that does not reflect the pupil's skills can cause them to fail to achieve.

I teach because I love it. I had a very successful career in publishing before I retrained 10 years ago. The majority of my colleagues are exactly the same and whilst league tables have an impact on all schools they are in no way a motivating feature. When we were badly hit by the 2012 grade boundaries I can honestly say I didn't give a stuff about percentages, it was the children's devastation that upset me.

I have no gripe about where people are educated although having been at Oxford with some of the current Cabinet I possibly am influenced by memories of their attitude/behaviour then.

friday16 Sat 05-Oct-13 08:31:28

I have no gripe about where people are educated

So why did you raise where Gove went to school? There are lots of reasons, depending on your political views, to think that "George" Osborne and/or "Tony" Benn are wrong: I don't think the fact that they happened to go to the same secondary school explains much.

By focusing on English Lang in Year 10 and Lit in 11 we have seen an improvement in results in both subjects.

So that's great. They get better results, and it improves your league table placings, even under the new proposals, because people are doing better in the first sitting of the exam than they might otherwise. That's good for pupils and good for the school. Why would Gove's announcement on first sittings affect anything? The only schools that will be affected are those that are gaming, and you aren't. In absolute terms you won't be affected, and in relative terms your excellent work will look even better, because results obtained by gaming will drop away from the comparisons. Honest, good schools will benefit from changes that shine a light on dubious practice.

The schools that will be affected are those that are doing early entry crudely such that children get a lower grade in Y10 than they would have done in Y11. But that's not your school.

What infuriates me about this is all the 'cheating schools' comments.

Even Geof Barton has given up on that one. He was, you may recall, one of the main people outraged at the suggestion that wide-spread cheating had occurred in 2012, and one of the prime movers behind the legal action that failed earlier this year. He wrote last week:

"Note: I’m not denying the root-cause - the allegation of cheating. Because, with the greatest of regrets, I now have no doubt that cheating in English has happened and that we have all paid the price, especially those of us working in departments where our speaking & listening grades and our controlled assessments have been scrupulously fair.

But I also recognise why we find ourselves where we find ourselves. Some schools have flogged the system to its near-destruction. It’s a sign of the way accountability measures have driven school behaviour. It’s sad and rather sordid.

Thus we hear of schools where students gaining F and G for their reading and writing have miraculously been granted A and A* equivalents for their speaking and listening assessments.

This may be theoretically possible (there will be a few young people whose speaking is extraordinary and their writing, for specific reasons, very weak), but it’s pretty unlikely here in the real world of normal language capability.

We have also heard too many examples of controlled assessments being undertaken by students with heavy prompts, word banks and writing frames provided by their teachers. Their first drafts, we hear, are then - scandalously - marked and given back in order for students to rewrite them, thereby bumping their scores up considerably.

Most schools haven’t been doing this. Many have used early entry quite legitimately as a motivator for students seeking their college places. They haven’t been cheating at all.

But some schools, it seems, have. It may be the febrile world of inter-school competition and an accountability regime that means one school can only get better if another gets worse that leads to such stories.

It does feel, from where I’m sitting, as if English in particular is in a bad way."

HSMMaCM Sat 05-Oct-13 08:44:09

My DD's comp school lets them take maths a year early if they think they are capable of getting their best grade. If they take it, they do further maths or statistics, if they're not ready, they don't take it til year 11. I'm very happy with this arrangement.

nkf Sat 05-Oct-13 08:54:24

Early entry used to benefit schools because they banked grades of C and above. Gove has removed the incentive to do that by insisting that only the first exam counts. I get the impression he is determined to see all students take the same (no tiering) and much harder exams in Year 11. Your child's school is probably hedging its bets and hoping they can get some benefit from early entry. The only thing you can do is insist that if your child doesn't get the grade all evidence suggests they are capable of, they are allowed to do a retake.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sat 05-Oct-13 08:59:02

Well as a school whose pupils did significantly worse in S and L assessments than the rest of the country ( 10% less on average ) I can say we did not cheat. Indeed we will benefit by the change. However I feel it would have been better for the pupils if they had changed the marking, such as all pupils being recorded, because this is a skill most people need in the workplace. Indeed even the CBI said that they felt it should continue to be part of the GCSE English exam.

However I do feel that to accuse all schools of cheating if they enter their pupils early is wrong and insulting. Yes I should not have raised where Gove went to school. However it is significant that we currently have a government who want to force schools into being Academies which clearly, using current data, does not improve education. Just look at the AET schools. Yet very few send their own children to one, in fact I have read reports saying not one member of the Cabinet sends their child to an academy.

Yes we have no issue with the change but that does not mean that some schools will not change their policy because of this and it will have a detrimental effect on pupils life choices. Just because it will not affect my school does not mean I shouldn't object to another announcement made after pupils have started their course. Indeed the disrespect shown to teachers by such a change being dropped into a lunch with 'The Telegraph' is quite telling of Gove's attitude towards us.

friday16 Sat 05-Oct-13 10:59:20

However it is significant that we currently have a government who want to force schools into being Academies which clearly, using current data, does not improve education. Just look at the AET schools. Yet very few send their own children to one, in fact I have read reports saying not one member of the Cabinet sends their child to an academy.

Fortunately, no state-sector school teacher has ever gone private for their own child, so this sort of hypocrisy is entirely restricted to Tory ministers. Which is good.

I also find it hilarious that anyone who suggests that some schools cheat is greeted with howls of "how can you be so offensive to honest teachers?" and yet it is axiomatic amongst teachers that Ofsted and Ofqual are staffed solely by corrupt politically-motivated charlatans who are part of an evil conspiracy to do down schools for entirely malevolent reasons. I would have thought that the vast majority of honest schools would have been rather keen to see the small minority dealt with, because the effect on the whole sector is toxic.

Teachers appear quite willing to impute the basest of motives to Michael Gove and Glynis Stacey and Michael Wilshaw, and all their staff, pets and household retainers, and yet take instant offence at the suggest that there is a single school in the country that needs improvement or a single teacher that has ever been dishonest. This ends up with the blanket dismissal of the Ofqual report on the 2012 English debacle, on the grounds that obviously the people that wrote it are dishonest, it stands to reason, dunnit?

What do you think happened in 2012? What would you have done about it?

Yes we have no issue with the change but that does not mean that some schools will not change their policy because of this and it will have a detrimental effect on pupils life choices.

So a policy introduced to prevent abuse of the system should be delayed, because some schools will make decisions that are bad for their pupils and are a further abuse of the system? Other than spite or crass stupidity, why would schools do things to harm their pupils? And if they do, shouldn't they be prevented from doing so?

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sat 05-Oct-13 12:16:54

What is your issue friday? Cannot you accept that not all schools are cheating? Plus, is allowing a child the best possible chance to achieve a C grade at key GCSE's cheating when their life opportunities are hampered by not having this grade?

My issue is that I want my pupils to have the opportunity to have happy, successful lives. If it takes them a retake to be able to progress to the college course that will facilitate this that is fine.

Parents want the same.

Not everyone is politically motivated.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sat 05-Oct-13 12:21:45

Plus I like OFSTED - they always think I am outstanding!!!!!!! Plus when we were inspected in Dec 12 they said that "given the high quality of the teaching in English and the 'dubious' quality of the grading last summer we will disregard the dip in English grades."

I am not saying every school is perfect what I am saying is that early entry can be in the best interests of the pupil.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sat 05-Oct-13 12:51:11

Well friday if you want to copy Geoff Barton, an amazing man, I will post this from an equally talented man. Michael Gove answers questions during the National Association of Head Teachers' annual conference

I've been reading an article you wrote in September's issue of Standpoint magazine, where you make many claims for what you're doing to the education system in England. You start by drawing conclusions from your own personal experience by contrasting the secondary school experience of some students at a Merseyside school with your own. Fair enough – except that you forgot to tell us that your secondary education was at a private school. Whatever the virtues of Robert Gordon's college, the two ways to get into the school – by paying or by scholarship – were not available to all. But then isn't that why such schools exist? Precisely in order to bestow something exclusive on a tiny minority, with only a tiny minority of that minority being offered – as you were – admission by exam.

You imply throughout your article that it is the excellent education you received at Robert Gordon's that you want everyone to get. It's an honourable objective, and in order to explain why England's state schools aren't as good as yours was, you conjure up the image of teachers, unions, local authorities and a Labour government straining to deprive poor children of a good education. By contrast, you say, your government has been "setting out to prove that every child can succeed". The problem with this argument is that your government has put in place rock-hard structures and processes that will guarantee that every child can't succeed.

So, you claim that you've been "recruiting more highly qualified teachers", but neglect to remind us that you've "freed up" academies and free schools to recruit non-qualified teachers. You say that you've "restored rigour and honesty to our exams", but forget to tell us that your interference with exam-grading has, for political reasons, fixed the marks. It has become impossible for pupils at 16 to improve on the scores they got at 11. Rigour? You mean "rigged". You say you "reward schools that teach the traditional subjects", but neglect to mention that this means by default students are getting less technology, drama, art and music, as if these are less valid or less useful. You say you've "toughened up inspection", but I hear from schools that this translates as Ofsted inspectors becoming increasingly unwilling to listen to teachers.

You talk about wanting every school to be as good as the best, but schools are placed in league tables, which by definition rank all the schools bar the first as not "being as good as the best". You claim that the academy programme will bring about school improvement across the board, but you deprive your readers of any stats on how many academies are failing Ofsted, how many you ordered to change their management, how many have called for help from the "local bureaucratic monopolies" (your words).

You conjure up the picture of a "we" hoping to "compete internationally" and "providing jobs for all" being held back by low marks. Perhaps you didn't notice your party choosing to withdraw from international competition in labour-intensive industries, opting instead for financial services. Perhaps you didn't notice that it wasn't low exam marks that blew Britain's productive capacity out of the window, but the greed of those same financial services. Perhaps you didn't notice your own government re-jigging the labour market so that "jobs for all" means lower pay, zero-hours contracts, a pool of the unemployed and part-time work for millions. The international competition your government believes in has nothing to do with good exam grades. It's all about low pay.

In the article you talk of the virtues of a knowledge-rich curriculum as if this is good because it is "traditional". It is indeed "traditional" in that there was a long tradition of the knowledge-rich curriculum being used as a means of segregating pupils. It proved to be ideal for selecting pupils for different kinds of school, different kinds of course, different streams and different exams. You seem unable or unwilling to explain how a "knowledge-rich curriculum" is of itself liberating for all, whilst in my time at school it was so ideal for excluding the majority from its virtues.

You trumpet the glories of what you call our "world-class" A-levels. I've been in an international school this week and their view of the international competition you go on about is that only the International Baccalaureate will do. There's a clue in the name, I guess.

Of course you tell us that performance-related pay is going to improve teaching. No, it will be an obstacle for improvement because it will inhibit many teachers from sharing their skills, knowhow and knowledge. Surely, it's when we share expertise that we raise standards?

Your legacy is the near-complete destruction of local democratic running of schools. You adopt a rhetoric in this article and elsewhere that dresses this up in the language of liberty. You cite Tony Blair, who talked of schools being "freed" from "politically correct interference from state or municipality", but then you forget to tell us that this new freedom is controlled by a political interference from somewhere else: from one person – the education secretary.

And the sum total of all this is improvement?

(By the way, according to your criteria – not mine – your own international competitiveness will be held back by the fact that you spelled Massachusetts "Massachussetts".)

Yours, Michael Rosen

greyvix Sat 05-Oct-13 15:29:44

Friday, you clearly know a lot about education, yet you are very cynical about teachers and schools' motives. Most teachers are proud of the work they do, and do genuinely put students first. As with any profession, there may be a small minority who get it wrong, as suggested by Geoff Barton's article.

friday16 Sat 05-Oct-13 17:08:04

"As with any profession, there may be a small minority who get it wrong, as suggested by Geoff Barton's article."

And on that note of agreement.

Barton's original blogs last August claimed that the very idea that there was the slightest hint of gaming anywhere in the system was offensive and wrong-headed. That he has now changed to a more reasonable position is good (Luke 15:7, etc).

This is a very interesting, and I think well argued, piece from a left-leaning teacher.

friday16 Sun 06-Oct-13 10:40:14


"Thanks for all your responses.

I am really concerned that the school expect the children to take this exam early.
Ds is thinking I'd a career in haematology and I believe that he should be taught the curriculum fully before any exams take place.
The school has been a farce from day one. They push the kids through, he took Spanish gcse at the end of yr 9 got a D, apparently was a few marks away from a C, the teacher talked him into re doing it the following year although he wasn't have Spanish lessons but the teacher did offer an after school club after school on a Monday.
History was taken in June (yr 10) along with the Spansish, English lit (that no one knew was being taken til the exam list came through!) science foundation level.
The history grade was a D again a few points away from the C, the teacher wanted ds to retake but we said no, teacher was not happy at all. I said tough! If he wants to do haematology then he needs to concentrate on his sciences, English and maths, without the pressure of another exam.
The Spansih he did was a 2 year course that was condensed into 1 year which actually turned into 9 months as the exam was early may!

My husband and I have been talking and I am going to speak to the head teacher tomorrow about ds not taking the exam early as like the general opinion we believe it's more damaging than helpful.

Again thank you for taking the time to respond x"

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sun 06-Oct-13 12:04:49

Well friday it does sound as if your son has been let down by his school's policy, it does sound strange. However my point is that some schools do it in the best interest of the pupils and it works. Good luck with your son.

friday16 Sun 06-Oct-13 13:29:01

Sorry, that's not my son. I merely cited it as an example of the sort of malpractice that schools are getting up to.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sun 06-Oct-13 14:28:37

I think the missing word is 'some' in the same way that some politicians/lawyers/journalists/doctors/police/nurses etc are corrupt/inadequate/just bad at their jobs. However I would object to the sweeping condemnation of any profession and you are rather unbalanced in your viewpoint. Have you analysed the results of every school in the country that allows early entry?

creamteas Sun 06-Oct-13 14:32:54

* I merely cited it as an example of the sort of malpractice that schools are getting up to*

So you have no evidence of your own, just hearsay then?

But if what you claim is true, that the majority of schools can't be trusted, then the butt stops with the freedom of headteachers.

Hence if Gove really cared about the potential for malpractice, he would stop the expansion of free schools and academies and ensure all schools were regulated by an LEA. That would be a logical move wouldn't it?

But no, instead he is constantly moving the goalposts of the exam system to his image of a golden past, were we all just had a memory test at the end of year 11. You didn't need to understand anything, just write down what you could remember. With normative referencing for grades so a fixed percentage fails just to prove the exams were tough enough.

But that is what he wants isn't it, qualifications for the elite and everyone else thrown aside.

friday16 Sun 06-Oct-13 14:37:55

"Have you analysed the results of every school in the country that allows early entry?"

No, but Ofsted have. And a key finding is that although there are some school where it is a net benefit, schools themselves are bad at assessing the consequences.

"Some schools are using early entry highly effectively as part of an overall strategy to raise standards. However, other schools are using high levels of early entry where there is no, or limited, evidence of positive impact on raising standards and yet the view the school has of early entry is still very positive."

Another key finding is:

"Schools with low standards and that have been judged in inspections to be no better than satisfactory, appear to be using early entry more extensively."

So a reasonable conclusion for a parent to reach is that schools with extensive early entry don't understand the consequences and have low standards. Sure, there are exceptions. But for parents of able children, the conclusion is more clear cut:

"Students who take English and mathematics early are less likely to achieve the highest grades. For both GCSE English and mathematics the proportion of students who achieve grades A or A* shows a general decline as the percentage of early entry increases, although this is also related to their attainment on entry to the school."

And there's been a massive increase, too:

"The use of early entry has exploded in English and mathematics in the last few years, with only limited use in other subjects. Some schools enter all of their students early in one or both subjects. *In 2011, 458 schools entered 99% or more of their students early in English and 321 did so in mathematics.*"

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sun 06-Oct-13 15:10:36

To quote my schools OFSTED report 12/2012 "the School's policy of early entry in English has no negative impact on pupils' progress". Not all schools and often a clear response to the grade boundaries issue of 2012 where early entry 'gifted' thousands of pupils a grade C. Perhaps the rider: "although this is also related to their attainment on entry to the school" is significant. interestingly our data identified target for A/A* at the end of Year 11 was 23% we achieved 31% at the end of Year 10, damaging? Plus any pupil who wants to re-take can and do. Perhaps reasonable parents are intelligent enough to assess schools individually. Personally I have enough respect for our parents to inform them of our policy, show them the data and allow them to decide if our policy would suit their child. Gove clearly has less respect.

friday16 Sun 06-Oct-13 15:28:24

Gove clearly has less respect.

Why wouldn't your school continue to do early entry under the new rules? Gove's precisely giving you respect: he's saying you can do what you want, so long as it benefits pupils. The schools that are screaming that they can't continue with their policy under the new rules are admitting that the results of early entry were not beneficial.

Perhaps reasonable parents are intelligent enough to assess schools individually

Except if you're concerned for your own child, you may not have the luxury of being able to look at past performance. Early entry has increased ten-fold over the past few years, so most parents presented with the news the school is doing it cannot see data for how the school does, because it's a new initiative. In which case, the best you can look at is how schools do generally.

And withdrawing a child at the end of Y9, to start at another school for Y10, is the nuclear option. Very few parents will be able to do that. So if a school's policy on early entry changes, it's pretty much a done deal for the pupils in the cohort. How many schools have the same policy on early entry for current Y10 that they did when parents considered the school prior to Y7?

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sun 06-Oct-13 15:53:42

Firstly we will because it is in the best interests of our pupils. My issue is with the 'cheating' schools attitude by Gove. Any parent concerned for their child will be able to look at data regarding any school's achievement, it is in the public domain.

"How many schools have the same policy on early entry for current Y10 that they did when parents considered the school prior to Y7?" By the same argument education policy changes overnight with no warning so any choice could be flawed. What about parents who like early entry and now find their schools are changing it mid year due to Gove. What about children who are great at 'Speaking and Listening' and halfway through their GCSE course it no longer counts?

You cannot defend sudden change and then use change as being an argument for it. It is nonsensical.

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