The 'new' English GCSEs (Summer '17). DS has had it.

(257 Posts)
Draylon Wed 07-Oct-15 11:37:21

DH went along to a Y10 parents info evening last night where the nitty gritty of the 'new' GCSEs was spelled out.

It would be fair to say it's all over for DS2 sad. He's an old style B/C grader in English; he is absolutely, 100% going to fail this.

Macbeth? Closed book? Far more points for grammatical accuracy, none at all for speaking? The 'unseen text' will be 'considerably harder and longer than in previous years'. The chosen text may now be drawn from the 19th century. Q: 'If your child is not a keen, natural, avid reader, they are going to struggle to get a pass in this new GCSE'.

Paper 1 (40%)
Macbeth 20% (the whole thing with memorised quotes)
Jekyll & Hyde 20% (ditto)

Paper 2 (60%)
An Inspector Calls 35%
Poetry 32% (15 poems which they'll need to learn)
Comparing unseen poems 32%

What's with all the effing poetry?? Why the heavy weighting in favour of it?? (and why doesn't the maths add up??!). There's a '20th century play' in there somewhere as well, apparently.

My hatred for that wanker, Gove, has just ratcheted up another notch.

WildStallions Wed 07-Oct-15 11:41:36

Why do you think he'll fail?

Does he have a specific problem with reading or with memorising?

You don't know what the pass mark will be. At the moment they're saying the same number of pupils will get a 4 as would have got a C.

Yes the paper will be harder. Yes he might have to work harder. But if he wants to pass, and the same number pass as last year, he's got every chance.

Sonnet Wed 07-Oct-15 11:41:39

Did it used to be an "open book" then?
sorry mine have always done IGCSE Eng Lit and it is all closed book. One of mine is due to take in 2017 and not sure if the school is sticking with IGCSE or the new GCSE

Autumnsky Wed 07-Oct-15 11:45:56

If you have the list now for 2017 exam, I can't see why you think DS would just fail. there are still nearly 2 years for preparing.

Enb76 Wed 07-Oct-15 11:50:22

That sounds like my GCSE experience. All closed book, memorised poetry etc... I wouldn't worry if I were you, you do what you're expected to do and if he's B/C now, he'll still be B/C he'll just have to work harder for it.

homebythesea Wed 07-Oct-15 11:50:24

I'm guessing you didn't do O levels? My DD will be doing this new style too and I think it is good that it will be more rigorous

dingit Wed 07-Oct-15 11:53:14

My heart sank a bit too, came away thinking my cleverest child did the easiest exams. ( dd year 12, ds year 10 currently).

But at the end of the day they are all in the same boat. He should be fine, they will have to be won't they?...

Draylon Wed 07-Oct-15 12:13:48

..."and if he's B/C now, he'll still be B/C he'll just have to work harder for it" ...hmm... Why, if it's all just the same? Why should his B/C be harder won?

I did O levels. I have an English A level. But back when I did my O levels, DC like DS2 could do CSEs which measured different types of grasp of English, or grasp of Maths etc. These GCSEs don't.

I am happy for those of you who are cracking your knuckles in delight at how much brighter your DD or whatever will now be able to shine, those of you at the A/A* boundaries- good for you, but, as ever, it's the C/D'ers now looking down that barrel who will be in trouble.

They may 'all be in the same boat' but that won't help the DC who suddenly can't undertake his post Y11 education as he got a 5, not a 6 or whatever in English, will it? I mean, the whole point of messing with the exams was so that more DC fail them to keep the DM readership happy about 'standards'. It's just that this exam will 100% push my DS into the 'fail' camp. He is currently working around the B/C boundary in Lang; probably C in Lit, but this is with open books, shorter passages, modern texts, contextualised quoting. Not memorised quotes, 19th century texts, 15 poems and unseen poetry.

It does 'amuse' me how many frothers out there, bleating about 'standards' appear to be unable to pen a coherent letter to a paper, or make an elegant, properly spelled, grammatically correct point on social media- yet think kids should be memorising Shakespeare or comparing unseen poetry.

Anyway, good to see the positive action towards improving our economy.

Draylon Wed 07-Oct-15 12:16:13

TBF, if my DS was sitting in a class of 15 focused, purposeful forensically managed DC, with no disruption, no SEN; yes, he might stand a chance.

But in his class of 32 all-comers, well, it's as good as over for him.

But I guess that's the point of these reforms, isn't it?

pointythings Wed 07-Oct-15 12:17:59

I just do not see the point of all the memorising. The exam should be about understanding literature, not parroting it. It's perfectly possible to set a tough open book examples. Very lazy curriculum design which will inevitably lead to endless teaching to the test. My DDs will pass it but it will be a meaningless qualification.

Draylon Wed 07-Oct-15 12:24:26

Indeed, pointy.

Gove is looking back to an imaginary golden past of education where the ability to memorise stuff was all-important.

It's one reason why we in the UK appear to do badly in international educational league tables, and why the DM readership think standards are plummeting: because we (unlike say, the French) have invested in teaching how to use and analyse knowledge, a far less precisely measurable skill than 'learn this and recite it back to me, even if you have no idea what it means'- but a far more useful skill in today's world. If you want the base knowledge, use Google intelligently.

The British are good at innovating and creating; not just copying.

TeenAndTween Wed 07-Oct-15 12:36:15

Don't panic (yet).

You must be talking about English Lit, which is less important than English Lang. (Mind you DD1 would have failed both Englishes without the CAs)

Using logic (which with education doesn't always seem to apply), one might expect that the level of detailed analysis on the set texts that our DCs have just had to do in 2015 will be higher than will be expected with the new closed book exams.

In the 'old days' you did a whole play and were examined closed book, but you just learned a handful of quotes to support basic arguments, and I'm guessing things will go back to that. It may appear harder because it's closed book but I think it will have to be less forensic and more global understanding.

(I do kind of agree with you wrt poetry though.)

WildStallions Wed 07-Oct-15 13:23:45

They have said the same number of pupils will get a 4 as used to get a C. And that a 4 will be good enough for post Y11 courses.

This isn't good news for my DC. But, seeing as they have no choice, I don't see the point in ranting and raving. I prefer to be positive and keep my expectations high.

You still haven't said why you think he can't pass. Does he have SEN?

dingit Wed 07-Oct-15 13:49:08

When I said they are all in the same boat, I meant they will set the pass marks accordingly. So if your ds is in the B/C boundary, he will be in the equivalent new grades, so why will that be a fail? He's got two years ahead of him, who knows what will happen? I can understand your angst, and I worry about my ds all the time. All I can do is support him in the next two years, we can't change the exam system.
Don't let him see you panicking!

titchy Wed 07-Oct-15 13:59:48

Draylon, meant kindly, but you have a habit of catastrophising your kids' education. If the same percentage of kids gets C and above as gets 5 and above in the new exam he'll be there won't he.

The move to not having books in the exam will mean that a question that needed say 35 out of 50 for an A, will now only require 25 out of 50 for an A. The marks will be adjusted because EVERYONE'S answers will be of less quality.

SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Wed 07-Oct-15 13:59:55

I think you do need to be a bit less fatalistic about it OP, though I know it's hard. As others have said, he's got two years of teaching first! Oh - and the c20th play would be 'Inspector Calls', from what you've said, so at least there isn't another

Teenandtween I didn't know English Language was considered more important than Lit at GCSE - why's that, when Lit at A level is a facilitating subject and language isn't?

I loathe the practice of 'memorizing quotes' should be QUOTATIONS apart from anything else as it does nothing at all to help a student engage with the text properly and reduces the process of analysis and argument to a memory test in which you throw in your memorized handy lines to your sentence - often not actually embedding them properly, either. Do literary critics have to memorize a text and then shut it in cupboard before they get to write about it? No - they have a well-thumbed, annotated, copy to hand throughout the writing process.

I think the literature curriculum at GSCE and A level is largely crap, but I also don't think your son is doomed, OP - stay positive!

eddiemairswife Wed 07-Oct-15 14:30:02

Looks very like the O level paper I did (pre CSEs). These were designed for Grammar Schools, as most children left school at 15. I don't think it's a bad thing to have to learn poetry and quotations by heart. I read today that, because people rely so much on looking things up on the internet which is constantly on hand, they are losing their ability to retain knowledge.

tiggytape Wed 07-Oct-15 14:34:03

You don't know what the pass mark will be. At the moment they're saying the same number of pupils will get a 4 as would have got a C.

That's true but the trouble is they are also changing it so that a grade 5 not a grade 4 will now be considered a "good pass".
And a grade 5 is equivalent to an old grade B or high grade C.

My DS in in Year 10 too. The new English exams will probably suit his way of working (good memory, good at spelling, reads a lot) but the new maths exams are a whole different story. They're the ones he's really panicking about and (judging by the complexity and volume of homework coming home) the staff must be a bit worried too.

SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Wed 07-Oct-15 14:36:33

I don't think there's anything wrong with learning some things by heart - a poem or so, perhaps. But condensing a complex novel or play so that your encounter with it becomes simply the memorizing of it into its easily quotable phrases seems to me very reductive and a bit of a shame.

homebythesea Wed 07-Oct-15 15:09:31

But this is the way it was done 30 years ago- why do we think our children are less capable if this style of exam than we were then? All sorts of jobs require things to be memorised, from the code for apples for the till operator to the relevant case law for the barrister. Why wouldn't we want to teach those skills to our children at the earliest possible opportunity? I just don't get the hysteria.

And no my DD is not on course for A* (in anything) and yes she might struggle with this format and yes my older cleverer DC did the "easier" exam but I can see the bigger picture.

AnyoneButAndre Wed 07-Oct-15 15:22:17

It must be scary, but I agree that there's no reason to expect him to fail unless he's much worse at, say, memorising than all the other DC in the C grade stream because of some very specific learning disability. Do you think all his class mates are finding Macbeth a piece of cake?

SeekEveryEveryKnownHidingPlace Wed 07-Oct-15 15:49:06

Home - yes, and memorizing is very important in a lot of subjects. I just don't think the emphasis on 'quotes' is the best way to encourage engagement with the literary text. Many jobs, equally, require a sustained, close and immediate relationship with a text (of whatever kind), and that should also be embedded in the curriculum.

30 years ago there wasn't all this nonsense about PEE paragraphs or whatever godawful acronym any school chooses - among other things, this endless emphasis on 'quotes' means children lose any agency and ownership over what they are writing/arguing.

homebythesea Wed 07-Oct-15 16:21:40

Well given I can still recall "quotes" from my O and A level texts I don't think things have changed that much, and I don't recall lots of discussion about engagement with the text. We read (and re-read) books, analysed characters, the historical context, language etc and wrote essays using relevant memorised extracts to illustrate the point being made. It's just what was expected, didn't take away from the enjoyment (or otherwise) of the text. My DS did a GCSE controlled assessment on Macbeth where they hadn't even read the whole play, so no context or real understanding. I know which one I'd rather be on the curriculum.

Draylon Wed 07-Oct-15 16:32:03

Q: "Draylon, meant kindly, but you have a habit of catastrophising your kids' education."- I know why you might say that but you have been reading about the slo-mo car-crash that is my elder DS's AS levels, haven't you?! And he's 'the clever one'! shock

Thing is, DS2 is not a reader. He makes daft grammatical and spelling errors. To date these haven't massively impacted on his ability to be a B/C grader as his understanding of English has been fine, (though he can't see the point of poetry). I fear if 20% of the marks are at stake for spelling and grammar, and a further 20-odd% for comparing the unseen poetry.. he's in trouble already!

He needed tutoring to get a 4 in his KS2 English, but, under the English GCSE syllabus to date, he was doing 'okay'; it was working for him, he could be guided towards what the question was examining. Under this new syllabus, I believe he will panic once forced to recall tracts of text to illustrate points made. He knows what he wants to say he does well in English 'speaking' (now zero marks), he's just not brilliant at articulating it on paper where his misspellings and grammatical convolutions will trip him up.

It's just a pity that these new GCSEs came along when they did, for him. Modular, bit by bit, would have suited him far better.

And DH got the impression the teachers at the best academically performing comp in the county are also fearful for their middle-of-the-road pupils! Bear in mind the English powers that be didn't allow a mass remark of English Lit (I think?) in summer 2014 (Wales did) where straight A* x 10 pupils...got B in that exam. Gove's legacy will be to show how rigorous he's made GCSEs, and there'll be casualties.

Anyway, I'm sure this'll all be revisited in June and August 2017.

Draylon Wed 07-Oct-15 16:34:38

home- my DS will be just memorising tracts of text, too. But taken from any part of say, Macbeth. But it won't be 'a controlled assessment', it will be an all or nothing final exam.

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