GCSE options: should DS do French even though it's his weakest subject?

(45 Posts)

We had tears tonight when I suggested that DS ought to take French as one of his GCSE options. He does struggle with it but I think it is important to have some grasp of a second language. Also I'd like him to do the Ebacc and he will need it for that. He's interested in robotics and computer programming, but the school has decided not to offer computer science this year which has also really disappointed him. If he did continue with French I would try and get a tutor for him, depending on how much it cost, but if he's upset just talking about it is it worth it? Thanks in advance for any advice.

seeker Wed 09-Jan-13 22:05:17

Whwt sort of marks is he getting in French? What other subjects is he taking?Does he know what he wants to do for A level?

creamteas Wed 09-Jan-13 22:48:02

I think languages are a useful skill. But you need to be realistic about his situation. If you push him into studying French, will he leave with a reasonable qualification in it?

Does he have any long-term plans? Would having all good grades and no language be better than many good grades and a fail. Tutor or no tutor you can't make a child learn anything.

If he is really against it, I would say look for something else. There are always opportunities to learn languages later on (evening classes, outside options at uni)

Virgil Wed 09-Jan-13 22:50:16

If he's no good at it and doesn't like it why push him to do it. He's unlikely to use it much one he finishes his GCSEs and he's les a likely to get a good grade than if he does something he has more interest in.

Virgil Wed 09-Jan-13 22:51:52

GCSEs language is not a useful skill.

Unless you're lost in Paris and need to ask the way to the train station.

deleted203 Wed 09-Jan-13 22:52:47

I wouldn't. He's in tears at the very idea of it. And it is his weakest subject so he's unlikely to get a very good grade if he hates it and is struggling. Your offer to get him a tutor for 'extra' French lessons is unlikely to encourage him. If he loathes the subject the idea of doing extra lessons in the evenings will be purgatory. TBH I think you should allow DCs to choose their own options at GCSE. It's their life - not yours. If you wanted to support him the best thing would be to see if he could sit computer science at GCSE externally - and get him a tutor for that. He'd be far more likely to work at something he was keen on.

ThinkAboutItOnBoxingDay Wed 09-Jan-13 22:53:17

I have an a in both French and German at GCSE. I don't consider myself to have anything beyond a rudimentary grasp, in fact my German is now pretty much non existent. In any practical sense if you don't keep up languages gcse isn't worth the paper they are written on.

So if he would want to keep learning then yes, take french. Otherwise take something he will get the best grade in.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 09-Jan-13 22:58:14

I've seen little evidence that the EBacc is useful to individuals as opposed to league tables.

Shame the school isn't doing comp sci - can he do electronics tech, that might fit with his interests? What other options are available?

busymummy3 Wed 09-Jan-13 23:06:43

I would agree he would be better to do a GCSE in something he is interested in and therefore will get (hopefully) a good grade in. Nothing worse to be made to take something not interested in and not particularly strong at.
Will only result in 2 years time in a fail which is a shame.
Is there not some part of DT he would be intersted in where computer used eg Product Design

Thanks for the replies. His target and projected level in french is 6B, although he feels his level is nearer 4. I'm surprised most seem to be against it, I wasn't relishing the idea of him being miserable doing it, although if the consensus here was that it was important I think he would have took that on board.

He's really annoyed at the options offered, no computer science, no engineering although they've had it as a tech module and up to now the tutor has been talking about it like it would be an option. The closest to what he wants to do are graphic products(maybe?) And ICT.
For A levels at the moment I think he would choose maths physics computer science and engineering. He wants to build robots for NASA!
I wondered if I should be looking outside the school to fill the gaps it's not providing. At the moment he is working through the first computer science module on Udacity, but maybe I should look at what more formal study oportunities there are. He was on a gifted and talented thing for science but that seemed to fall by the wayside after a couple of trips in Y7.
Sorry for long post. I'm on my phone so it will probably post twice as well so sorry in advance it it does!
Thanks again

Thanks for the replies. His target and projected level in french is 6B, although he feels his level is nearer 4. I'm surprised most seem to be against it, I wasn't relishing the idea of him being miserable doing it, although if the consensus here was that it was important I think he would have took that on board.

He's really annoyed at the options offered, no computer science, no engineering although they've had it as a tech module and up to now the tutor has been talking about it like it would be an option. The closest to what he wants to do are graphic products(maybe?) And ICT.
For A levels at the moment I think he would choose maths physics computer science and engineering. He wants to build robots for NASA!
I wondered if I should be looking outside the school to fill the gaps it's not providing. At the moment he is working through the first computer science module on Udacity, but maybe I should look at what more formal study oportunities there are. He was on a gifted and talented thing for science but that seemed to fall by the wayside after a couple of trips in Y7.
Sorry for long post. I'm on my phone so it will probably post twice as well so sorry in advance it it does!
Thanks again

RiversideMum Thu 10-Jan-13 05:04:33

Please remember that Ebacc is not anything "real". With the types of courses he is looking at, it is unlikely that universities would have a language on their entry requirements. My own view is that a language is useful because it demonstrates the capacity to learn in a different way than, say, maths. But I wouldn't force it if he is so dead against.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 10-Jan-13 09:45:16

There may be some ideas in this thread for out of school activities.

If he didn't get a Raspberry Pi for xmas he might like one - you can use it to do robotics stuff (DD got the Pi for xmas, DH is planning to get some sort of robotics kit for her b'day so not sure what it entails). Does he have electronics kits/soldering iron etc? There's quite a lot a keen child can do at home if you don't mind spending a bit at Maplin! Programming is the sort of subject which is quite amenable to self-teaching so long as the person has ideas about what to write.

It sucks badly that his school isn't doing those techie subjects though...really need more good STEM educated people!

GrimmaTheNome Thu 10-Jan-13 13:32:58

Hang on a mo ...

> His target and projected level in french is 6B

is that the levels expected for the end of yr9? according to the info we got with DDs levels, at her school that would be expected to yield an A at GCSE - the MFL and ICT levels are on a separate table to the other subjects as they are assumed to have started from nothing in yr7 so lower. (other subjects an A would need ~ 7B and maths would need a bit higher)

Assuming the teachers are better at assessing levels than he is, that doesn't sound too 'weak'...not that this means that he should do the subject if he dislikes it but he does know that the levels in different subjects aren't all equivalent, doesn't he?

Thanks for all the input. I've had a look at Hully's spacecraft thread and got some ideas from there and written some interesting looking events on the calendar! His focus seems to fluctuate, at the moment it's definitely towards robotics, he can reel off all the specs of the Mars Curiosity Rover. He got a Lego Mindstorms for Christmas, never heard of the Raspberry Pi, and having looked at the website still a bit confused!

I was feeling a bit better about him dropping language until I looked at the thread on What languages does your child study- now I'm panicing I didn't start him on Mandarin when he was five! I've had conflicting advice as to whether a top flight uni would reject him for no MFL, although maybe it's a moot point as I'm not sure we could afford to send him to one anyway.

These are the non core GCSE options he has been offered;
Media studies
History
Geography
RE
French
Spanish
Art
Drama
Dance
Music
PE
Business
Graphic products
Textiles
Catering
Design
Resistant materials
ICT

Now is it me or is that a bit of a uninspiring choice for a so called specialist technology college. At the moment his choice is Geography, Graphics, Resistant materials and ICT

As regards his French levels, he isists he is about 2 levels behind the rest of his class. I obviously need to talk to his teacher don't I.

ISingSoprano Thu 10-Jan-13 15:55:56

Good (Russell Group) universities do look for a language at GCSE. So if your son has any intention at all of going to university I would encourage him to continue with it.

deleted203 Thu 10-Jan-13 15:59:51

Actually I'm amazed that they offer such a GOOD choice of non compulsory subjects, TBH. I don't think you can honestly complain if he has a choice of 18 things he could take for GCSE (although they might not all fit in with the timetabling). At many schools I've taught in the choice has been far more limited. And calling themselves a specialist technology college is just one more scam as far as I'm concerned - schools got extra money for 'specialising'. Our local one is a specialist 'business' college - which means that they make 'Business Studies' compulsory at GCSE but little else. Similarly I used to teach in a specialist 'music' school - where very few of the kids actually did music, TBH. Apart from possibly dropping Geography for Business, I would think the GCSEs he is taking are as suitable as he could realistically get for designing robots. A top flight uni would not drop him for having no MFL if he was taking a degree on the science side. They don't honestly care what GCSEs you have (as long as you have reasonable grades) provided your A Levels results are good and suitable to the degree you are interested in. If he is intending to take maths, physics, computer science and engineering at A Level, leading to some kind of engineering degree NO university will care that he can't limp his way through the kind of low level French conversation required for GCSE.

deleted203 Thu 10-Jan-13 16:02:29

And my son is at a Russell Group university taking an Engineering degree - without having done a language at GCSE. It was never, ever mentioned that he would have been a more attractive choice if he'd had one.

titchy Thu 10-Jan-13 16:56:25

There are two or three (ucl, Bristol maybe one other possibly - check!) that prefer an MFL at GCSE. With EBacc more may add it to their requirements. Remember current a2 students were dumped with EBacc after they'd selected their options, so who knows what universities will offer to current year 10 an below. And please don't say you couldn't afford to send him to a top uni - if he's capable of RG he should go. Fees and living costs same for top and bottom quality institutions.

fuckadoodlepoopoo Thu 10-Jan-13 17:02:58

Considering what he wants to do a language in my opinion would be a waste of an option. He could do it at night classes if he wanted to, but it doesn't sound like he is interested.

He DOES NOT need a language to study in that area and he doesn't need to go to a Russell group university (does anyone on here talk about anything else!) to follow that sort of career.

He should chose the options that most appeal to him (ie. Not you)

ISingSoprano Thu 10-Jan-13 17:53:40

He may not need to go to a RG university or need a language for his current favoured career choice but what if he changes his mind - teenagers do y'know! wink My advice is to keep as many options open as possible at this stage which at GCSE means keeping a broad selection - maths, english (x2), sciences, a language and at least one humanity. By sticking to traditional subjects you keep many more doors open. But that is just my opinion. grin

Summersbee Thu 10-Jan-13 17:55:17

Just guessing, but maybe part of your son's upset is that he hates having to try and speak French in class? A bit of oral practice on the computer at home might make all the difference. Put 'French listening for kids' into google and you will find things he could listen to for 'fun' at home which might help with that problem?

whiteflame Thu 10-Jan-13 18:04:55

hi dreamofwhitehorses, i'm a scientist and just wanted to stress that if your son wants to go into this area, the ability to write properly in English is absolutely essential. I would suggest your DS think about taking a humanity at A level.

just chipping in because a lot of people are under the impression that science is all maths and programming.

Thank you for everyone's input. I wouldn't force him to do any subject, TBH I haven't got the stamina, but if was the case that he needed to do it then he would accept it if he had to (and spend two years moaning about it). However if I showed him the responses to this thread I think he would take it as supporting evidence that it wasn't necessary, and although I appreciate the view of the posters that argue for a broad spread and keeping his options open I don't think it would carry much weight with him.

We haven't really thought very far ahead up to now but we'll start thinking about A level choices as well. he really excels at English so it would be great if he didn't have to drop it at A-level.

Another question for the techie types. I've been told that ICT isn't a substitute for computer science but is a soft choice that's not worth doing. Is this a general consensus?
Thanks again everyone. It's very kind of you all to take the time to answer, I really appreciate it.

Goes of to find out what exactly a Russell Group University is blush

BackforGood Thu 10-Jan-13 19:05:46

I too think that's a lot of choice.
dd has just come home with her information and ther are nowhere near that many.
ds's school used to specialise in Science and Technology, all it meant was they got money for a teacher to go out to local primaries with something exciting that went bang, and it meant that all pupils - whether they wanted to or not - hHAD to take a technology and waste one of their option blocks if that wasn't a strength or interest.
Also agree with others - The E Bacc is to measure schools an give the Gvmnt a tool to whip teachers with, it's not expected to affect the dcs particularly.
Also agree that a 6B at this stage is a good mark / level. My dd has excellent reports for her languages, is in the top set, and her report states 6L (they do 'higher / middle / lower) for French which she's been doing since Yr7, and 5H for German which she took up in Yr 8. She's mid-Yr9 now, and hoping to take both to GCSE.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 10-Jan-13 19:43:47

>Now is it me or is that a bit of a uninspiring choice for a so called specialist technology college

Doesn't sound great to me. Lots of 'tech' subjects but not 'high tech' subjects, which is a shame for kids like your DS.

DDs (science specialism, they all do triple) offers options in:
History
Geography
RE
French
German
Latin(twilight)
Spanish
Art
Drama
Dance(twilight BTEC)
Music
PE (I think)
ICT
Computer science
Food tech
Design &Technology
Electronics

...shorter list but guess your DS would like it better.

I just googled cambridge entry requirements for engineering (oxford doesn't do much engineering) - this is probably as good an idea as you can get of the subjects likely to be valued for engineers. Can't see any mention of GCSE subjects at all (anyone know). One thing to note is the praise for some D&T A levels - might be worth finding out if the GCSE is this sort of useful D&T in which case it might be a better choice than the Resistant materials.

There's a recent thread here which discusses some of the differences between ICT and Comp Sci.

HTH!

Clary Sat 12-Jan-13 01:28:29

I would ask his French teacher what grade she realistically thinks he would get.

If she says C/B and he is on for B/A in other subjects (for example) then I would say it is worth it, MFL is a good option to show skills that can be useful to employers (among many other advantages).

But if she (or he of course!!) says D/E and he is on track for good passes in other subjects, and has another subject he wants to do, then don't do French. And I speak as a teacher of MFL. There's no point doing it if he is going to hate it and get a poorer grade than he could get in something else he likes. Don't worry about the EBacc, IMHO it's a red herring.

sashh Sat 12-Jan-13 05:07:44

Another vote for the Raspberry Pi.

Summersbee Sat 12-Jan-13 08:57:21

Your DS sounds bright and able. Perhaps he can't see the point of learning French? He might change his mind in years to come, so to help him/you make best decision now, could you make it over to France for a day or two? Brittany Ferries do great offers - e.g. visit the Landing Day beaches for a couple of days. This might also be worth looking at: http://www.agreenmouse.com/category/blog/

Thanks all, epecially Grimma for the links We've had a look at the various entrance requirements for robotic engineering degrees, and engineering in general, and those that mention GCSE at all only include maths and English, Even the Russell group Universities don't want a language for Engineering ( as far as I can tell from the Internet anyway) The most highly regarded qualification seems to be the further maths A level, which the general consensus seems to be is completely nails, so it looks like any extra time and effort should go towards pushing his maths skills.

We also discussed how important the creative side was to him, he's full of ideas he wants to invent and design. He wanted to be an architect for a while so I think the design courses are a better match for him than French.
Summersbee this was something we discussed. He doesn't want to be able to speak French. If it was Japanese for example he'd be well up for it as he loves Japanese culture.

I'm going to ask his ICT teacher about the Pi. He can't have it for the moment as he's just got his Mindstorms, but maybe they could buy one for school for the ICT club.

oldebaglady Sat 12-Jan-13 17:45:57

I'ld say no. I took languages I was weak at them. I then went to uni where they offered free language courses to people who didn't do them in school. I wasn't allowed on the course because I "had" languages (even though I couldn't string a sentance together - was taught for the tests by tutors)

I think being shoved through languages with loads of extra tutoring at school just to "have languages" has given me a mental block about learning any as an adult

and I don't "have" them even though I passed! I can't speak them!

oldebaglady Sat 12-Jan-13 17:46:41

its something you can easily top up later if you need to

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Sat 12-Jan-13 17:55:34

My DS has similar tastes to your DS, wants to do Maths, Physics, Computer Science and either Chem or Further Maths at A level. He did take French as one of his options, despite not being keen as we had both been persuaded that it might help with university admissions. I'm a little worried that he may fail the GCSE or scrape a 'C' and wondered if that would look strange up against all his predicted 'A' s in his other subjects, as if he didn't try hard at a subject he didn't like? confused

He also does ICT GCSE, and, yes, it's computing for office use, not programming at all. Bit of a waste of time. I'm glad he does Geography and Triple Science to balance it out.

I've been telling myself that at least the ICT skills may come in useful if he signs up for agency work if he finds himself in that position at any point in the future.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Sat 12-Jan-13 18:27:16

Too true, we all need to know how to use Word and Excel, I suppose. smile

vj32 Sat 12-Jan-13 21:55:05

Don't know about robotics/engineering side - but if he wants to concentrate on computer programming he just needs a good maths degree from a top uni - they won't care if he can speak French. (I know someone who recruits graduates for a big IT company.)

Also, as others have said, I got an A in French GCSE, and when I got to France I could ask for a train ticket for the week and that was it. I can also tell you I am going to go on holiday to Spain. Future tense = higher marks (how do I remember that?!?) but absolutely no practical purpose.

And ICT in schools is a spectacular waste of time unless the kids have never seen a computer before. (Having taught some of it a few years ago.)
Whatever they get taught in schools will be out of date by the time they are working. It is far more valuable for people to have the confidence to play with things and work them out for themselves, otherwise you will be going on a training course or having a panic attack every time they bring out a new version of Office. Spending weeks and weeks filling out a spreadsheet is pointless.

Biscuitsneeded Wed 16-Jan-13 17:54:56

I'm an MFL teacher, and if I'm being very honest, rather than toeing the party line (which is that languages are for all, an essential skill in the global market etc etc), I have taught too many students at GCSE who have been forced to take a language against their wishes. They do no work, and they are bored, and they end up with a pretty rubbish grade anyway. I wouldn't force him.

Don't get me wrong, I wish more people chose languages, I think it is shameful that as a nation we are so dreadful at bothering with anybody else's language... but unless he is targeting top universities or willing to carry on to A-level and beyond with French, what he will learn at GCSE won't be of particular use to him later on. If there's something he would much rather do I'd let him do it...

cricketballs Wed 16-Jan-13 18:33:59

Whilst I ill agree that for the future that your ds wants that ICT is not the best option it is no longer the 'easy' option that most of mn think wink

There was a period that due to certain qualifications OCR did turn the subject into a laughing stock. The new spec GCSE and BTEC are very relevant and not as easy as some think being able to use facebook is not ICT

If your ds feels that strongly about not taking a subject then I would go with that - its his life/likes/talents the ebacc is just a sledgehammer to hit schools with and not as required as mn will lead you to believe

Well he's pretty much decided not to take MFL, I'm still uneasy but feel better about it thanks to the input on this thread. He's also going for two Tech subjects, resistant materials and graphic products as well as ICT and Geography (the only one we didn't have any angst about) I'm hoping the tech subjects aren't too similar, I may have to ring school tomorrow as no ones replied to my email about this. (On phone will probably double post, sorry in advance )

Reachforthestars16168 Fri 08-Feb-13 21:48:51

Hiya my son was in the same situation with French and doing the ebbacc he went on to do it and has struggled at times but through shear determination and hard work and me helping and supporting him he is getting better and more confident ! I employed a tutor he has one early evening a week after school and I have seen a vast improvement , it is hard for them but when they do achieve they feel more empowered , hopefully it will give him the view as he gets older that if he really puts his mind to anything he will get there in the end !
Good luck with your sons and your decision I know how much of a struggle making it is because you want to do what's right for them , but for my son his friends were doing it and potentially he may of had to change classes if he had not done a language allowing him then to do the ebacc !!!!

Coconutty Sat 09-Feb-13 15:28:33

Don't make him do a language if he doesn't want to. Some of the info you have been given on here is wrong. RG universities do not insist on a language. Nor do Oxbridge.

Let him do a subject he he will enjoy and can get a good grade in.

Knowsabitabouteducation Sat 09-Feb-13 21:41:18

Will he get a C in it? Is that pretty much guaranteed? If not, he really shouldn't do it. It will not be in his best interests, and it will make him miserable.

Russell group universities do ask for a language at GCSE. For example, UCL has a language as one of their standard entry requirements, alongside Maths and English.

Waitingaround Sat 09-Feb-13 22:28:18

I had this same issue with my son, in the end we contacted several top RG university's and they all replied that he should choose subjects that he was good at and enjoyed . They also stated that they liked to see high grades across all subjects at gcse, and other than Maths, English and science were not worried about individual subject choices. I think some parent's have been fed a school line about the ebacc as its good for their league table results, the universities Don't care!

Coconutty Sun 10-Feb-13 15:34:23

RG Do not all want language. DN just started at on in September and had no languages. UCL want one according to website but they don't all. Honestly. Nor do Oxbridge. Check entry requirements.

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