Choosing Subjects for National 5s (Scotland)

(62 Posts)

I know it is still nearly a year away, but we have just had parents meetings so it's a bit at the front of our minds at the moment.

No1 son is due to start 3rd year after Easter and will be choosing his subjects for National 5 next December/January.

He is very quiet but academically able in all subjects. He likes everything except Social Subjects (Geography, History and Modern Studies). Given his obsession with Lego and Minecraft, and his abilities in Maths, tech and Physics, we were all thinking along the lines of Engineering. He is however very good in English and likes anything to do with Computers and a late meeting yesterday with the Art teacher reveals that he is "very talented" and she would love to see him continue (he also loves Art).

So, given that he can only choose 7 subjects, it's all getting very tight. By looking at last years options forms English and Maths are compulsory (that's fine) and also one of the columns only gives and option of one of the Social subjects (not fine in his opinion). Giving him only 4 subjects left to choose. Out of those he'd like to do Physics, Chemistry, Engineering Science, Computing Science, Graphic Communications, Art & Design and feels he should probably continue a language. There will be lots of combinations that are simply not possible given the structure of the timetable.

The Art teacher was suggesting that he go into Architecture or Product design which would combine the artistic qualities with his mathematical skills. I think we are less sure of his employment prospects with those types of qualifications.

It's really hard to know how to guide them isn't it? He is showing no clear opinions himself, he tends to be overly compliant which makes it hard to know whether you are guiding him to what you think is better from your own point of view or what would make him happier. Garrrgghhh!!!

What is everyone else thinking with their own upcoming childrens choices or what would you think you would choose given the above circumstances.

I know we are lucky btw that he is a good all rounder, but it does make it harder to narrow it all down.

Megrim Fri 21-Feb-14 13:38:05

If he is competent in maths and physics, and does graph com at Nat 5, then he might be able to pick up Engineering Science at Higher in S5 without doing the Nat 5? Will depend on the school and the child but this is what my son is planning (currently S4 and doing 6 Nat 5s).

Geography would probably sit best as the social science subject. Wouldn't worry too much about a language if he looking at architecture / landscape architecture / product design.

Have a look at what the universities are looking for - try Strathclyde and Napier for product design engineering. They also give you employment ideas.

Thanks Megrim - I hadn't really thought about being to pick up subjects at a Higher level straight away in 5th year - though I think the Highers may be gone by then and it will be National 6s?

We will definitely have a look at the Uni sites too. Great idea. Thanks smile

I went to see the Art teacher half hoping she would say that he was competent but no more as it would have been easier to seer him towards something else he enjoyed but more in line with the other subjects. But, after speaking to her it has made us feel that to stop him doing art and stifling his creativity would be a sin. Her view was that it is the creative element that adds to the ability to do those jobs with flair rather than just producing bog standard albiet very competent work.

What else is your son doing and how is he finding it? What are his plans for Career/Uni?

Megrim Fri 21-Feb-14 14:41:29

My son is doing English, maths, physics, chemistry, geography and PE at Nat 5, and is planning on doing maths, physics, chemistry, geography and engineering science at Higher ( the new Highers, which follow on from Nat 5). Currently thinking about doing chemical engineering at Uni. Prelims went OK, we are limited to 6 subjects for Nat 5 which I think was sensible as they are just finishing the various units and will have a bit if class revision time before going straight into exams after Easter.

Thanks again - they are starting the year at Easter to allow enough time to complete 7 subjects - this is supposed to give them enough hours over the year to fit it all in.

I'll defitely have a look through the Uni courses later to see if that helps narrow it down better.

Sorry, my reply was a bit short, I was heading off to do the school pick-up.

That sounds like a good plan your son has and hope he does as well as he hopes in his upcoming exams.

kaumana Fri 21-Feb-14 20:40:40

I'm always glad to see discussions re the new exams.

Here in Edinburgh we choose 8 N5s in Jan/ Feb which start immediately after the summer break in the beginning of S3

Subject choices are english/maths/mfl + 5 others.

So they are ignoring the BGE that they are supposed to do for S3 then kaumana? This is where I think it is going to get difficult for when they are all applying to Uni - but I guess if the Nat 6s/highers etc are still pretty much level, maybe it wont make any difference confused

But for those who choose to maybe go down an apprenticeship route after 4th year, maybe it will?

kaumana Fri 21-Feb-14 22:11:16

No, they are studying two years for the N5 + 1 year for higher + pe/ rme/art but not to exam level.

I really disagree with councils who have agreed for 6 N4s. As English and maths are a given it only leaves you 3/4 (poss mfl).

I think the narrowing of subject choice is awful; but as I am in Edinburgh. I'm ok.

So, please complain. It is not right.

It may not be right, and I do agree with you that I'd rather they were doing 8 subjects over 2 years, but the system is supposed to be that they do BGE until 4th year, so individual councils (or schools) deciding to do their own thing and do it over 2 years isn't right either.

I do worry that it is our children that are going to have to deal with the fall out of this whole new system. I don't disagree in principal with the philosophy of what they are trying to do, however it against the grain in terms of what the whole rest of the world (in particular Asia) are doing and I think that our children may be at a disadvantage.

I guess time will tell.

What they are trying to do at my boys school is award them National 4s where possible for the subjects they don't take on to National 5 so that at the end of 4th year they could possibly have 7 National 5s and some national 4s as well (and a 3 in a 2nd language) They are hoping that that way the kids can still show that they have a breadth of education even if they don't take a language or PE or Music or something onto external examination in 4th year.

I've heard that there is a pupil challenging the insistence of taking English at National 5 as she is a native Mandarin speaker (and an apparent genius) and wont need a qualification in English - it will be interesting to hear how she gets on.

Megrim Sat 22-Feb-14 09:00:57

In Aberdeen City you do BGE until the end of S3 (8 subjects) and then drop to 6 subjects for Nat 5s as they start the Senior Phase in S4. As we are the guinea pig year I am quite happy for DS to be doing 6 Nat 5s, very able students have the opportunity to do Highers in some subjects in S4 and they can pick up additional subjects in both S5 and S6. I would rather the kids got 6 good qualifications this year than struggle to do more and do poorly, so it's not something I feel the need to complain about. Uni places will still be offered on the basis of Highers, and Uni's have made statements about how they regard the new qualifications.

So Edinburgh seems to be introducing the Senior Phase in S3 as opposed to S4 then? That would the only way they could adequately cover the syllabus for all subjects and still have some revision time.

Taz1212 Sat 22-Feb-14 11:36:08

Kaumana do you know if the decision to go with 8 in S4 is right across Edinburgh or just some schools? I'm wondering whether they've been influenced by the fact that most, if not all of the independent schools are sticking with a choice of 8 courses. I.e. such a high % of Edinburgh pupils go private as it is, so Edinburgh Council didn't want to lose yet more top students to the independent schools? Some of the independent schools are using it as a selling point, along the lines of, "one advantage the independent schools have is that we can cherry pick the parts of the CfE that we like and leave the parts we don't..."

kaumana Sat 22-Feb-14 11:54:41

As far as I am aware it is 8 across all the CEC schools. It was only by reading a previous thread re CfE that I realised there were regional differences re the N5s.

There are more than regional differences, individual schools here are doing different things.

Ours is doing 11 subjects (English, Maths, Social, Science, Tech, RME, PE, Home Ec, Languages, Art, Music) for 3 years, well, just short of 3 years as they start the new year at Easter. Then 7 subjects for National 5 in 4th year.

Others schools have a different programme, some doing 14 subjects in first year, then narrowing down in 2nd year, then again in 3rd year and then doing 6 national 5s in 4th year.

prettybird Sat 22-Feb-14 21:24:21

At ds' school (Glasgow), he is choosing his subjects just now (S2), to be signed off by 6 March and they'll start them in June.

I think they're breaching the principles of CfE slightly as they are supposed to keep the 7 areas of the Broad General Curriculum until the end of S3, yet ds seems to be able to drop all "Expressive Arts" (is going to choose Computing Science instead as he thinks it will be more useful - although he was torn after doing a recent excellent oil crayons still life).

He's going to be doing English, Maths (both compulsory), French, Geography, PE, Physics, Chemistry, Computing Science and then PE and RME in the compulsory column.

Not sure if he'll have to drop one at the end of S3 - if he does, it'll be Computing Science. He's capable of taking them all to Nat 5 but at the moment he's planning on being a professional cyclist or rugby player and failing that a geography teacher or a geophysicist. grin

Other schools in Glasgow seem to be doing things differently - although at least none of them seem to be doing what Lanarkshire is doing (or at least one of the schools in East Kilbride) and making them choose at the end of S1 shock

Hi prettybird - I remember our sons starting High school at the same time. Seems just like yesterday - hard to believe they are heading into 3rd year soon!

prettybird Sat 22-Feb-14 22:24:18

I remember too smile

Sounds like our sons are similar academically - but ds is not quiet and he is also very sporty! grin What was good though at his Parents' Night was the way that all the teachers said what a joy he was to teach not so stealth boast wink and how they wanted him to pick "their" subject, how motivated he is and - which I found even more pleasing - how motivatING he is smile

I was taken aback at how encouraging his Art teacher was (and impressed at the still life she had brought to show me): I'd previously been somewhat disparaging about his drawing skills blush

I'm pleased with the way that the school seems to cope with the academic kids. There doesn't seem to be any issue with being seen as "nerds". By all accounts, the cohort ds is with is an exceptional one - and as he is highly competitive don't know where he gets that from winkblush (from his dad of course grin), that will keep him on his toes.

Megrim Sat 22-Feb-14 22:27:52

My son (now S4) had to choose his subjects at the end of S1, but for the subsequent years they changed that to choosing at the end of S2 (6 subjects plus maths and English, plus compulsory PE and RME). They then drop two choices at the end of S3 to leave 6 subjects for Nat 5.

kaumana Sat 22-Feb-14 22:29:03

pretty At the end of S1 shock

In my DS's(S3) timetable he has his 8 chosen subjects but also RME, PE and art so I guess they are still following the BGC to an extent

Neither of mine are overtly competitive or sporty - I wonder where they get that from?! blush

No1 son is still very quiet but gets on with his classmates - the art teacher said they are a particularly nice bunch of boys. No signs of the bullying he had at primary which was the main reason for choosing the school we did. Obviously a lot more academic and driven than he has experienced before. He got very used to coasting along at primary and still being the top of the class.

No2 son will be going into 2nd year and is enjoying it - a lot less quiet than his brother - he's got "the swag" and I'm surprised he is doing as well as he is considering that he spends most of his day admiring his own reflection and adjusting his hair!! He wants to own work for Sony in Japan.

earlyriser Sat 22-Feb-14 22:43:33

Remember prettybird, the teachers have a vested interest in pupils taking their subject. Especially when they can only choose 4 for Nat 5. I'm not doubting your son's ability in Art, but perhaps the art teacher is also a very good salesperson!

prettybird Sat 22-Feb-14 22:46:21

Middle of S1 is crazy to have to make choices: one of ds' cycling friends was having to work out what she wanted to do and what the requirements were when she was still in S1. This included having to decide which of the Sciences she wanted/needed to do shock. They've barely started doing full science let only getting into the detail of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, less than two terms into S1 angry. I was so sad on her behalf.

earlyriser Sat 22-Feb-14 22:46:39

Also as many of the brighter pupils are encouraged into taking 3 science subjects, it only leaves one 'free choice'. Subjects like Art are bound to see a drop in numbers taking up their classes in S4, hence the hard sell

Megrim Sat 22-Feb-14 22:51:41

Our kids couldn't choose physics, biology and chemistry - they could only choose any two of the three sciences, or do triple science.

DS chose physics and chemistry, but is thinking of adding biology in at Nat 5 level in S6.

When I saw the Art teacher it was just meant to be a normal S2 catch up. It was me that had the hidden agenda of trying to see if she felt he had any talent or was just "good at drawing". I'd barely gotten seated when she said "No1 son is sooo talented" grin

She showed me some of his work...I was impressed - impressed enough that I am going out to get some canvases and get him to run up a few things for the house!

I agree tho that they could very well have a hidden agenda - she was a bit disappointed that they need to wait till S3 to move into classes where they actually want to be in Art as she feels he would flourish better in an environment where they all wanted to be there and work.

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