Help - DS2 has been given the 'dumbos' set of GCSE options!

(42 Posts)
OneMoreMum Thu 24-Jan-13 16:41:28

Poor DS2 has come come today with his GCSE options sheet, coloured bright yellow which marks him out as non - English Bac material (what a great idea to make it so obvious that all the other kids know who's got the 'dumbos' form - other kids words not mine!)

He is down to do Maths & English, BTEC science instead of GCSE, some sort of BTEC IT thing, lots of Citizenship-style rubbish and has only 2 proper options. The only language on offer (as one of the 2 options) is German, which he dropped last year when they came up with the great idea that you chose a language a year early so you could concentrate on it!!!!

He's only 12, they are choosing options in year 8, I am gutted that he has been written off so early.

He's never been very academic, his English skills were behind for a long time, due in part to a disastrous start to school before we moved him to a private primary who really helped but he's struggled to catch up, I think he's progressing much faster since he started senior school (good state comp).

Anyway, realistically do we have any chance (and should we) challenge this? He is currently working at a high level 4 maths, a middle level 4 english and a high level 4 science, is forecast to be at low 5 for maths and science by the end of year 8 and a high 4 in english, mid to high 5s in practical and art subjects.

deleted203 Thu 24-Jan-13 16:51:58

I think you could make an appt with the school to discuss whether there is the possibility of him doing different GCSEs. But in all honesty reading the part where you say 'he's never been very academic, his English skills were behind for a long time,' etc I wonder whether there is much point. Based on his predictive grades he would be probably a C/D borderline in Maths and Science and unlikely to achieve a C grade in English. His English skills would impact on his Science certainly as they need to understand what the question is looking for and write a reasonably fluent reply for most exam boards. Is he upset about it? And is he prepared to work very, very hard? Or is it you that hopes for more for him?

Theas18 Thu 24-Jan-13 17:11:41

Agree with sowornout. He's working now at levels that would fall below a C in English in maths. That is the level assuming he made progress at an average rate. He is going to have to work hard to make that progress and, if I were his parent I would be praising the work he does, not the level he achieves .

He isn't "written off" he's been offered subjects and exams that are within his reach.

The government hates it, but we as parents have to accept that for as many children who are above average (all mums net kids are of course LOLOL) there are children who are still with in the range of normal who lie below average.

You could push/ change schools etc and maybe get him moved into GCSE science groups etc but he may well have a flippin miserable time being always at the bottom of the class and end up with a not very useful grade. Where as he might thrive in a BTEC group and get some good results . Don't diss the " citizen ship type rubbish" either. If he has strong inter personal skills and emotional literacy it will open many doors eg in caring as a career path, and a non academic lad might find that very satisfying and be very employable there.

OneMoreMum Thu 24-Jan-13 17:56:05

We do of course praise effort levels over all else, they are all very high in his reports.

I suppose you always hope they will catch up which now will be too late since the door is already shut.

They seem to have used up all the available time on a whole bunch of subjects he doesn't like or need like citizenship and then not offered him the language (French) he's been doing all year or the proper design technology GCSE he really wanted to do.

Thanks for the honest comments, it's really hard when DS1 is only a year above him and is bright but lazy.

happygardening Thu 24-Jan-13 18:15:17

My DS1 (admittedly high IQ top 5% but very low processing ability) whose at a good state school now yr 11 up until a few months ago was on track to fail badly both maths and history. He's just got B's in the history course work and has now been entered into the higher maths paper as he got 99% in the foundation paper mock! We nearly gave up on the history last yr but he wanted to persevere and I thought he would be still resitting maths when he retired. I personally think yr 8 is to early to write him off.

psammyad Thu 24-Jan-13 18:17:47

From another perspective, and looking further forward, I work in a traditionally male dominated technical industry - and my workplace is full of bright, competent blokes who are a pleasure to work with but usually simply weren't academic in school - and some of them are doing very well, career wise.

I'd focus on trying to get him onto the subjects he wants to do - the French & especially the Design Technology. Do you know why he hasn't been offered those? Is it just that no-one's realised he wants to do them? There might be some leeway there.

lastSplash Thu 24-Jan-13 19:08:44

If he is willing to work hard and you are willing to support him, then I think you should definitely challenge the school and even move school if you need to. Have a serious discussion with him about what subjects he would like to take and then make an appointment with the school. Let them know you do not accept the limited options he has been given, and that you are not interested in BTECs (if that is the case).

I am interested to know what the subjects are specifically that he has been put down for.

Skinnywhippet Thu 24-Jan-13 19:14:54

Get him on the more academic course then, pay for private tuition. He needs to have decent goes options and a variety of subjects. Aim to get him at least 8 proper GCSEs and that doesn't include IT! You sound supportive so he should be able to do it. Please challenge the school. They probably are thinking of their statistic, but you are obviously looking at your child as an individual.

Picturesinthefirelight Thu 24-Jan-13 19:18:23

I'd be looking for a different school

Options in year 8 and btec in a core subject such as science would be a real deal breaker for me.

Booyhoo Thu 24-Jan-13 19:18:42

"I am gutted that he has been written off so early."

well who is the one calling these the dumbo subjects? hmm it's hardly going to make him feel great about his choices!

LurcioLovesFrankie Thu 24-Jan-13 19:35:35

OP, this is so sad. I thought this was the sort of thing comprehensive schools were meant to free us from, early selection with some children being consigned to a second-class education from age 11 (or in your case age 12). The comprehensive I went to back in teh mists of prehistory took on board the idea that children develop at different rates and that some could have a sudden surge in ability later in their teens - you could change sets right up to age 14/15. It may be that your son will continue not to be particularly academic - but even if this is the case, how weird of the school to force him to do German after a year of being encouraged (at their insistence) to study French. Go into the school. Also, if you managed to find fees for a private primary after the state one failed him, is there any chance you could consider private for secondary school?

OneMoreMum Thu 24-Jan-13 20:02:26

Thanks everyone
I've calmed down a bit now so can be a little more logical - I hope!

Booyhoo I didn't call him a dumbo, it was another kid that spotted he had been given the bright yellow form, the Ebacc kids were given white ones.

DS1 is in year 9 and started his option subjects this year (same school) which is going really well for him, means he can get going in practical subjects such as art before he needs to do anything he will be assessed on. He had loads of options and choices. It seems DS2 is getting the thin end of this wedge, though.

There are plenty of parents evenings / drop in sessions etc before they have to make their choices so I will definitely be heading off to school to discuss.

I think the big things (for me) are:

1 - do they think there is no way he could achieve a C in GCSE science, or is he borderline, in which case I think with some support he may make it (happy to pay for a tutor). I don't think it's like maths where they can switch from foundation to higher paper nearer the time, BTEC is a different syllabus. If he's moved onto the GCSE course then I think all the other subjects will open back up.

2 - if we stick with the BTEC science, why are the rest of the options so limited? Is it a timetabling issue (I suspect this is the case) and can we swap anything in / out. Why is he being forced into Philosophy & Ethics, Citizenship, ASDAN (what the hell even is that?) and business / IT leaving him only Geography or History and 2 other option blocks (one of those not even being DT)

3 - what the hell is going on with the languages - after speaking to DS2 about it the languages on offer this year to yr 8 were French, Spanish and Italian, his only option for him for GCSE is German????

outtolunchagain Thu 24-Jan-13 20:02:54

This sort of stuff makes my blood boil, your poor little boy is 12 , still a little boy and already the school are limiting the chances he has in life.The paucity of expectation is maddening.

Our high achieving local comprehensive told us that ds2, who has dyscalculia and dyspraxia would not be put in for any GCSEs. We were lucky enough to be able to get a place elsewhere and he is now doing 7 and is targeted Cs in most and even Bs in one or two .

Our eldest got an A in maths IGSE despite only being a level 4 in year8 and possibly year 9 , he just took longer to get it together .Not all children follow a linear path.

Moving is very drastic though , I would definitely go in and discuss the options with the school.It may be that the BTEC is the right option but tear8 seems very early to decide that.

LynetteScavo Thu 24-Jan-13 20:09:59

OP, I too would be very cross with the whole situation.

But to make you feel better, DS1 who is very able (apart from languages) will not be doing EBacc (because his school is not insisting he do a language!). He will probably do very well in all other subjects, and tbh I am secretly glad he will get a B in some random subject, rather than an E in a MFL and not get the EBacc anyway. So please calm down about the bright yellow letter.

Yes, I would challenge it, but I would also be looking at tutoring for English and Maths.

OneMoreMum Thu 24-Jan-13 20:13:27

PS Lurcio, we could (in current circumstances at least) afford to transfer him back into private, but of course he wont be getting in anywhere selective.

There is a school that is relatively lenient with its entry requirements, that some of his old school friends went to, not that far away, so we may have to go back to considering that if we're not happy with the outcome here. It seems a shame to move him again though...

Also I do think from what I've seen so far (with both DSs) that the teaching at the current school is of a very high standard, definitely better than some of the teachers at the old private primary and their facilities are much better than the private school.

I've already been on the website of the private school checking out fees, open days etc, just in case....

TheFallenMadonna Thu 24-Jan-13 20:29:06

I am a Head of Science in a school that does a 3 year KS4 and I have strongly resisted choosing between BTEC and GCSE Science at this point in year 8. I really do think it is too early to tell. It's been 4 terms! We do a common start to year 9, covering content common to both courses (BTEC has to cover the KS4 programme of study) and assess in different ways before we make the decision as to which course is most appropriate. Obviously, at either end we can already tell, but there are lots of students who need more time to develop their skills. We would always give the benefit of the doubt too, so a likely D would do GCSE and be pushed for a C. A student on a sound 4 now would be someone I would want to keep an eye on before I made a decision.

LurcioLovesFrankie Thu 24-Jan-13 20:35:52

Good point about vetting private schools carefully - I remember an article in the Times pointing out that you don't have to go all that far down the league tables before good comprehensives outperform the sort of private school that survives only by exploiting parents' social insecurities. 12 yo just seems so crazily early to be channelling children down such a limiting set of options.

Incidentally, while I'm a big fan of genuine comprehensives, I know not everyone is, and there are sometimes circumstances where one's local school just isn't any good.

Startail Thu 24-Jan-13 21:12:55

12 really feels too young, DDs don't choose options until after they do their Y9 CATs (basically IQ tests).

They also get given one of 4 different coloured booklets and I really felt for the DCs carrying the lower ones on options evening. The codes on the web site so all the parents know your ~IQ too.

All you can do is talk to the school and talk to the private school too. That sounds a horribly limited set of options and I have no patience with PHSE/Ethics etc.

OneMoreMum Thu 24-Jan-13 22:08:12

Madonna honestly what would you suggest I do / say to the teachers?
It seems to me you are timetabled as GCSE or BTEC science so I bet it's not possible to change once you start yr 9.

He's a summer baby so very young and immature compared to many in his year.

Can I just ask a question? My son is in year 6, so this is not relevant for me for a couple of years. But when you are referring to level 4, does this mean that the levels start again from 1 when they enter secondary? Or do they continue on from levels set in primary?

Forgive my ignorance, but being Norwegian and never had any experience of UK secondary schooling, I am keen to understand.

It seems awfully early to start closing off options at the age of 12. For us, this happened age 16 when you more realistically would know if you had interest or aptitude really.

OneMoreMum Thu 24-Jan-13 23:31:53

Yes they are the same levels as at primary, they continue on until they start working on their GCSEs when grading (predicted, working at etc) moves to the GCSE grading system of A to G, a damn sight easier to understand!

The Norwegian system sounds like a better option, perhaps we should move there.....

noblegiraffe Fri 25-Jan-13 00:00:05

The headline figure today was that only 16% of students nationally achieved the Ebacc, so your DS is unlikely to be disadvantaged by not being offered it. However I agree that 12 is too early to select options and if he has particular subjects in mind then a meeting with the school about his limited selection would be useful.
Citizenship (PSHE I assume, not a GCSE) and ICT are compulsory so the ebacc students will be doing those too.

CocoNutter Fri 25-Jan-13 00:06:44

Minor point - don't write off philosophy and ethics - it's very like RE and it's a good subject for developing written skills in evaluation and extended writing so it may help his English too.

sashh Fri 25-Jan-13 04:04:01

The only thing I would challenge is the science. GCSE science is a gateway to a lot of things including teaching.

If you have the money to go private get a tutor and tel the school that is what you are doing.

All anyone needs are 5 A* - C including maths and English with science being useful.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 26-Jan-13 09:36:46

A C grade in GCSE Science is important. An F isn't. That's why you need to pick the right course.

Sorry to be late replying OP. I expect BTEC and GCSE classes will be timetables together, but yes, they are likely to be following a different curriculum if they have decided now. I would ask them what their timetable is for teaching and assessment of each course, and whether they have identified any points at which students could move from BTEC to GCSE. We also allow students who have achieved well in BTEC by the end of year 10 to cash that in then and do a Science GCSE in year 11. Our system is complicated, but it is flexible and allows for students who progress later in KS4 to widen their options.

cardibach Sat 26-Jan-13 19:53:35

I'm an English teacher. A cold getting high level 4 in the middle of Y8 is likely to make it to level 5 by the end of KS3 and as such would be capable of a C at GCSE so I disagree with some earlier posters. The thing I think is bad is making these big decisions so early. It's a prime example of the sort of policies which are formulated with the school's best interests in mind not the students'. On this basis I would want to move him if he were mine.

cardibach Sat 26-Jan-13 19:53:59

Child not cold. Stupid phone.

OneMoreMum Thu 31-Jan-13 17:57:53

Ok thanks for all the comments, very helpful.
Bit of an update, Science have said he's fine to go in for double GCSE, it appears that it's his low English score that is barring the language option and a few other things, so we are in discussions about that.

Hopefully we will be able to convince them to let him do French and not the silly lifeskills-type certificate and all will be well.

Now just need to work out how to fit the three arty subjects he want to take into two choices......

socharlotte Mon 04-Feb-13 10:50:26

German is much more difficult than French, why on earth would they make him do that!

socharlotte Mon 04-Feb-13 10:51:37

what are the arty subjects? and if he does a language will that leave him one 'arty' option

Snazzynewyear Mon 04-Feb-13 10:55:25

Making him start a totally different language doesn't make any sense! Either he's not suited to languages so shouldn't do any, or he is and so should carry on with one he's already started! All sounds odd.

OneMoreMum Mon 04-Feb-13 16:46:07

Basically German is the second language option, included in the option blocks for everyone, but since DS has not been given a first language option it looks very strange.

If they agree he can do French it will be in place of some sort of basic skills certificate that really doesn't look like it's worth the paper it's written on so I'm not accepting that.

Arty subjects are DT, art and music, even though he gave up learning an instrument a few years ago, he's still quite interested, plus they can take the technology rather than performing path if they wish. Not sure which of those will be most rewarding / difficult for him.

Still waiting to hear about the French, any advice on the other subjects gratefully received.

RichardIII Mon 04-Feb-13 16:54:07

What grade is he in the instrument he played?they need to be grade4/5 standard as a minimum.
I think DT would be the best of the 3 choices

FreckledLeopard Mon 04-Feb-13 17:00:25

Choosing options aged 12? I had no idea that schools did this. We chose at the end of Year 9. A lot can happen between aged 12 and aged 16....

If I were you I'd move him. Drastic, but better than being written off so early on. I had some dyslexic friends and some people in my year (private school) who were not terribly bright, but all managed to get at least Cs in 9 subjects.

If you can afford private, or can move to a state school where he has more time to choose options and get him a tutor, then I'd give that a go.

socharlottet Mon 04-Feb-13 17:15:57

Yopu say it's a good school, but it isn't.
They are putting their stats in front of the best interests of their pupils

JoanByers Mon 04-Feb-13 23:03:08

No doubt. A very cynical exercise. They have to do the GCSE Maths and English for the league tables, but then they do 'equivalents' for everything else.

It's always worth checking on the DFE website average number of GCSEs per pupil by low/middle/high achievers group.

Sparrows12 Tue 05-Feb-13 08:37:43

I'm horrified that he is forced to make these choices so early. Michael gove has a lot to answer for.

teacherandguideleader Tue 05-Feb-13 22:45:28

I hate the way children who are given btec routes are described as being 'written off'. I teach btec and love it. I love working with children who are not academically gifted but their eyes light up when they are told the award they will achieve is equivalent to a grade C (or higher)

Many of the children I teach have discovered that their btecs have enabled them to go on to further education, not held them back because it has helped them achieve level 2 qualifications that they may otherwise not have got. A level 2 is GCSE grade A-C equivalent.

I won't deny that some schools use them to manipulate league tables, but often the league tables are similar to college / sixth form entry requirements so the child benefits too.

Btecs are a good thing as not every child learns at the same rate or in the same way, when organised properly and taught by teachers who don't see it as 'being stuck with the thickos'

Sorry - rant over!

socharlottet Thu 07-Feb-13 19:33:52

equivalent in whose opinion, that is the point!

teacherandguideleader Thu 07-Feb-13 22:26:07

You are right - I don't think they should be seen as 'equivalent' as that's when they get seen as the easy option (which to be honest they probably are). I think they should be seen as an entirely different set of qualifications and not constantly being compared to GCSEs as its not a fair comparison. However tis will never happen until the way success is measured changes and the government accept that GCSEs don't suit everyone.

JoanByers Thu 07-Feb-13 22:30:16

It's very complex. Parents want to know that their little darling is going to get 18 A*s, even if they are as thick as two short planks.

So they look at GCSE stats, which actually contain non-GCSE qualifications.

Personally I think they should scrap the 5 A*-C nonsense, and instead go for net progress, or something of that kind.

racingheart Sun 10-Feb-13 17:51:20

OP, it's way too early to limit his options in this way.
You really need to get his English sorted. Once he's growing in confidence in that, all the humanities subjects will rise accordingly.
What are his difficulties with English?

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