Help, how to change GCSEs at the end of Y10 ?

(78 Posts)
HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 16:54:17

Ds with SEN in grammar school is struggling with English and Literature, which are both compulsory. He was left behind by the school in those subjects for the last 3 years and now there is simply no time to catch up. He has 6 hours per week of those lessons at school and he sits there not understanding anything. The school advises to take a tutor, but it is not possible to compensate with a tutor for the 6 hours he is wasting at school. This time is taken away from his good subjects that really matter. We just had mock exams, which clearly shown that even with a tutor the Literature cannot be done. It gets nowhere and compromises his good subjects: he didn't have time to revise, was too tired. He also has a DT subject that is not looking good and taking disproportionate amount of time.

I understand that normally you just bite the bullet and get on with those subjects because employers want them. However we crossed the bridge where those appearances can be saved. The dilemma now is to get an E in Literature and C grades in all other subjects, or to cut the losses and to get on with the Maths and Sciences where he gets his A* at the moment. In the future he wants to study Maths at uni and he looks perfectly capable to do this if he stops wasting time on things he doesn?t get because of his SEN.

Although the school says that Literature is compulsory, I asked uni admissions and they say it is not - they don't need it.
So ideally we would drop Literature and DT and would take further maths instead.

Is it technically possible at the end of Y10? What is the deadline?
What to do if the school doesn't offer those alternative subjects?
Is there a further maths GCSE where one could enrol outside of school?

mummytime Fri 10-May-13 17:42:48

You need to talk to the school. If at all possible they should be throwing everything at getting him a C grade in language. Not having a C grade in English Language will prevent him from applying for most jobs, college courses, nevermind University. If he is good at Science and Maths he still needs to get that C grade, and that is regardless of whether he has a Specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia.
I am also amazed that the school spends 6 hours on English Literature and Language, 3 hours is far more usual, as both subjects can be taught together. The reason most students study both subjects is because teachers teach the language aspects using the Literacy course. In fact from my sons experience, put of the assessed material for Language can also be on the Literacy set books.

If your son cannot access the language and is really not getting anything from the lessons, then I wonder how he is managing to access the curriculum in other subjects.

Vivacia Fri 10-May-13 18:06:56

There's a lot of blame being laid at the school's door and little of you and your son taking responsibility.

There's also some confusion. GCSE English might not be an entrance requirement of a university degree (which is unusual) but the school is obliged to teach it and give your son the opportunity to sit the exam.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 18:48:09

They way the school is throwing everything at English it is by advising me to take a tutor. In class they do 6 hours per week of Literature. It is supposed to be Language and literature together, but the language aspect of it is too basic for the class cohort, so they don't do anything in lessons that is on actual English exam paper. Hence the advice to hire a tutor. I gather DS improved a lot by practicing English exam questions with a tutor, so I think he can do English language at a C or even a B.

What he can't do is Literature because he is autistic. Even if they explain in class how characters feel, it doesn't "stick" to him, because he can't relate to it. It's like learning a telephone directory. There is no time to try harder, because time should be spent on English and other subjects.

DS is good at Maths, sciences and MFL because these subjects don't need the inferences of how characters feel, why they act the way they do and what the author is suggesting by choice of language.

The school don't want to drop literature because English and Literature are merged.

What would you do in my place?

Could anyone suggest whether it is possible to drop the subject half way?

Any idea of further maths qualification that can be taken outside/independent from school? (the don't do any additional maths)

I'd be very grateful.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 18:53:09

What responsibility are you talking about, Vivacia? It is well known that he is autistic with a statement - we recognize now that he is not as well rounded as we would have hoped... So what next?

I think the way to take responsibility is to feed the strengths, focus on what he is good at and cut the losses, even if doesn't look as good for the conventional wisdom.

LIZS Fri 10-May-13 19:00:16

Were it possible for him to drop English I doubt timetabling would allow him to do a Maths subject instead. If he is good at Maths ask if he can sit it early (although suspect it is too late) and then do Additional Maths. English Language at grade C or above (GCSE) or equivalent is a basic requirement of most FE and Uni courses in UK, even Maths and Science, and is often embedded in Literature lessons.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 19:10:34

The school policy is to not do any exams early.

LIZS Fri 10-May-13 19:12:43

In that case what have you/ds got to gain by changing now. He can do extra gcses in 6th form or college alongside whatever he does next.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 19:24:12

Thank you LIZS for reminding of conventional requirements and arrangements. I agree with you that these are desirable. We tried to satisfy them, but given autistic spectrum, it looks at the end of Y10 that we can't might not be able to even after trying hard.

Not everyone can be Olympic champion. DS can't do literature...

Do you also argue against those students who decide to take single science instead of the triple, or to avoid MFL and to take general studies?
Other students have the freedom to avoid doing subjects difficult for them.

creamteas Fri 10-May-13 19:24:34

The English issue is the major one, if the lessons her is getting are not going to allow him to get a C in language that is of serious concern. Really needs to be focused on the skills for this rather than lit, if he is behind. Could he attend the lessons, but have differentiated lesson?

Have you raised this with the SENCO? What is in is IEP?

My DD also ASD is taking her GCSEs this year and is only doing English language and that is a struggle. She will be allowed into 6th form without it (and retake there), but as others have said, it is a standard requirement across universities, so will not get further without it.

Arisbottle Fri 10-May-13 19:28:36

I have a son at a grammar with autism and we have has similar issues. It is one of the things that makes me regret not sending him to the comp.

In our case it is not affecting his other results but he will leave with straight A stars and a C in Lit. School will do nothing to support because if a student is not an A/A*

adoptmama Fri 10-May-13 19:28:46

First off, since the courses are taught together it is difficult to simply drop one of the subjects. Instead of talking about him dropping, talk to the school about him simply not sitting the literature exam but only doing the language exam. Lit. is not generally at all necessary for further education. It would also be very difficult for them to simply allow your son to stop attending lessons as there would be a supervision issue - where would he go in these lessons for the next year - as well as the fact that the language aspects of the course are dual taught. I would advise you to meet with the SEN teacher at the school and see if together you cannot work out a way for your son to get support. Maybe instead of paying for an after school tutor, you can pay for the tutor to work with him during his English lessons.

LIZS Fri 10-May-13 19:32:46

hmm Agree with pp , ask whether the lesson can be differentiated ( which might be tricky in in order to cover the literature for others ) or could he have one to one in some of them focussing more on language ? It might help him to take a amore scientific approach to literature - finding specific types of words to use in comprehension answers but that depends on the presentation of his SEN. do you have a current Ed psych report to substantiate your doubts and discuss with SENCO.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 19:44:53

The teacher differentiates as it is, but obviously it's not working. Because the rest of the class is so strong in English, the teacher focuses on literature on a level that is too advanced for DS. The SENCO & school are doing a lot of good things, but nothing that involves the English teacher doing anything individually. So we are where we are.

The main problem now is that if DS doesn't drop literature and DT, he would compromise the English and his strong subjects. As you say, Cream, the English is struggle enough.

Any idea of an "extra-curricular" way to take an additional maths subject?

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 19:53:30

LIZS, he has a statement of SEN which includes a speech therapist. They are all doing a lot of helpful things, but what DS needs is an English teacher to go with him through exam style questions 1:1.

The idea of having a tutor in the lesson is very helpful. Would the school accept this? Any experience / precedents?

EvilTwins Fri 10-May-13 19:54:06

Have you spoken to the school? Could it be possible for him to drop DT and spend that time in the SEN dept (assuming there is one) working on his English Language?

If the school is teaching Lang/Lit together, then there is little point in him dropping the subject. How does he cope with the level of linguistic analysis necessary for English Language? As other posters have said, it will be very very difficult for him to get anywhere without a C in English, though I agree with you that Lit isn't necessary. There is plenty of time for the school to withdraw him from the Lit exam, and if he doesn't have to do coursework for that, it would take a certain amount of pressure off.

In my school, students who need to, for whatever reason, drop a GCSE subject (usually an inappropriate MFL) are allowed to do so and then they work in SEN/Learning Support during those lesson times. In terms of how late a school will allow a student to do so, IME the only reason for having any kind of a deadline is that exam entries have to be paid for, and after a certain point, the money cannot be refunded. That point isn't until at least Christmas of Year 11 though (I think - it might be even later)

So in answer to your OP, yes it is possible for a student to drop a GCSE after the end of Year 10, but you would need to think about the long-term effects of DS dropping English Lit if there is an impact on his English Lang. I would strongly recommend making an appointment at the school and talking to his form tutor/Head of Year and SENCO (and maybe Head of English) all at the same time.

EvilTwins Fri 10-May-13 19:55:16

One other thing - does he have a TA? Is there a TA who could do the 1:1 thing during English lessons?

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 20:04:44

Creamteas, thank you for sharing about your daughter. It is very encouraging to me. How did you negotiate with the school that your DD will be admitted in 6 form without English and retake there? (I think this is what we will have to do) When did you start? What procedure? What was the pivotal thing that made the school accept it?

As far as I'm aware, the Language won't count unless he at least enters SOMETHING for the Literature. GCSE English would count as a standalone but it's probably too late for him to start it now.

It is also highly unlikely that there will just happen to be a spare Maths teacher lying around who can suddenly start teaching one to one further Maths, and I think it's quite naive of you to think that might be possible tbh.

The only thing I think most schools might be able to do in a case like this is have a TA who could sit with him in another room during Lit times, to supervise him doing his own revision for other subjects. However, if the lang and lit are both taught in normal English lessons, then it's probably not even that simple, because they might do all Lang for half a term and then all Lit the next etc.

adoptmama Fri 10-May-13 20:05:32

He's already well into year 10 so missed this years registration for the current exam schedule. Depending on the exam board there are exams in November, e.g. for IGCSE exams by CIE/OCR. However their IGCSE curricula are not the same as GCSE, so may not help. You can register as an independent candidate at an exam centre if they are willing accept him, but I would ask you what you hope to accomplish by doing this. From what you say he is on target to achieve a good grade in his maths and sciences, and there is little to be gained by pushing for the additional maths which is very demanding.

I don't see how you can expect the school to let him 'drop' the literature when they use it as the vehicle for teaching the language. They would essentially need to set up a 1-to-1 class for him, which no mainstream secondary can do for staffing reasons. You would have the same issue for supervision if he were to drop the DT - where else would he go during that lesson time? You cannot reasonably expect the school to make special supervision arrangements for one child like this. I am sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is the reality in mainstream education; there is simply not the flexibility to do it in staffing levels. And nor is it what mainstream is about - it simply cannot be done. If the school can allow him to drop DT and go to the learning support room for extra 1-on-1, then that could be a possibility, but again it would depend on timetabling.

From what you say the teacher is already differentiating. Unfortunately with a set curriculum from an exam board there is a big limit on how far you can differentiate and still be curriculum-relevant. As your son attends a mainstream school there is also a limit to how much the school can modify his curriculum.

Again, I advise you to meet with the school and discuss with them what can happen over the next year to help your son. Frustrating as it is for you - and I do fully understand your concerns - you also need to accept that, for a mainstream school, what seems like a simple solution to you (dropping a couple of subjects) is a huge problem for many legal reasons. I think you would be better looking at what kind of in-class support can be provided over the next 12 months before his exams come around, and also at whether you can lessen the pressure/work load in some respects by agreeing he will not be entered for some exams (and therefore does not have to complete all homework/class assignments but can do more individually focussed tasks at those times).

OK - I'm a tutor and I would say that you should try and get the school to make some sort of reasonable adjustment for your son's SEN.

If it were me, I would ask the school if he can drop English Lit in year 11 to concentrate on his other subjects. Ask if he could do a combination of these things instead when the rest of his class are doing their English (Lit) lessons.

a) work in the school library on English Language past papers/ workbooks that could be marked by his teacher and could she find time once a week to go through some of it with him.

b) work with his tutor - either in school in library or wherever ( I have done this in exceptional circumstances) or be given authorised absence to be at home ( if that suits your circumstances) to work with his tutor (I've also done this as well)

c) work on his own in the library on work set by his tutor that his tutor could then go through with him in his tutor sessions.

To be honest - the school should be addressing it themselves not asking you to get a tutor however pragmatically a tutor is probably the way to go, especially if your Ds has been making progress with his English Language since having one. Explain to the school that you are being more than accommodating by doing their job for them paying for a tutor but it would be helpful if in return they could be flexible about suitable arrangements for your DS. Don't allow the "it will set a precedent" argument. It will only set a precedent for other students with a dx of autism and a SEN - how many of those do they have?

Many teachers - especially in a grammar school will have very little experience or understanding of autism!

At the very least, get them to agree he will only be entered for English GCSE and not English Language!

adoptmama Fri 10-May-13 20:21:19

Well, as a teacher I would say that I have a lot of experience of teaching ASD/Autism children in mainsteam, and a very good understanding of it. Secondly to suggest that the teacher should just set extra, different work and 'find time once a week to go through some of it' really does show a blankly ignorant understanding of the amount of time pressure teachers are under during the school day.

But hey-ho, I suppose we are all lazy, uncaring, ignorant people, who can't stand the inconvenience of SEN children in mainstream, rush out the door at 3pm and live for those long, long holidays where we do nothing.

No tutor has ever 'done my job for me'. Some children need more than can be provided for in a mainstream setting. Suggesting a child receive addtional tutoring does not mean the school is not addressing the problem - it means there is a limit in the real world to what they can achieve.

LizzieVereker Fri 10-May-13 20:22:36

I really feel for you and your DS, OP, I have taught students with autism in a high ability setting and know how hard Lit can be for them, even if they are strong at Lang.

Unfortunately I think Remus is right, it's not possible to completely drop the Lit element of the course because then the Language GCSE becomes invalid, even though they're two separate GCSEs. (I'm most familiar with AQA so my comments relate to that).

I have got students through Lit, by pretty much learning likely empathetic responses and analysis almost by rote. There is only a small"unseen" amount on the exam, so it is possible. I hope that the school will help you find a workable solution, it must be stressful for your son.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 20:23:47

EvilTwins, yes he has a 1:1 TA in lessons and additional SEN 1:1 support sessions outside lessons. With all the statement provisions I hoped they have everything in place to make it work. Given the mock exam results, I thought the only new and different thing we could do is to involve the English teacher.

Discussion with the SENCO and Head of English is a very good idea. The SENCO approached them, but my impression was she hit a wall. Arisbottle's comment suggests this might be the culture in grammar schools - SEN pupils are the job for the Senco, not for the teachers.

Vivacia Fri 10-May-13 20:36:34

"The main problem now is that if DS doesn't drop literature and DT, he would compromise the English and his strong subjects."

I'm not clear on how doing literature and DT compromises his stronger subjects.

I think you should go in and talk to the school, find out what they're doing and why, and also suggest your own solutions for what he should be doing in his English lessons.

There's been mention of taking GCSE English, is this a third option to the GCSE Lit and GCSE Language qualifications?

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 20:40:15

Adoptmama, according to the SEN code of practice it is English teacher's job to teach my son, not TA's and not Senco's.

I am sure English teachers are busy, but teaching my son is part of what they are paid for.

When I was at school, teachers were passionate and cared for the future of their pupils. Teachers arguing that they are too busy not to fail one of their pupils sounds very off-pitch to me. Just my opinion.

adoptmama There are many extremely competent and caring teachers and I am not criticising you - I wrote my post before I read yours as we x posted!. I am not ignorant of teachers under time pressure - I am in a family full of teachers and have taught in mainstream myself. I am I suppose speaking with a certain degree of frustration because I come across many situations with my tutees where the parents/students are at their wits end and particular teachers/ school show very little understanding of the SEN, even denying that the student has a particular issue (until the parent keeps pushing for diagnosis and it turns out 2 years down the line that actually they have the particular SEN). I am a supporter of Grammar schools in general but hear about how they seem to be particularly ill equipped to deal with/understand SEN and I know that many teachers' training (including my own PGCE) included little or nothing on SEN. If you are in a mainstream Comp than I would suspect that your SEN unit and TAs would be far better equipped to help this student than many Grammar Schools.

The thing is- I do come across accommodating schools where some of the flexibility I outlined in my post is given. They may not be able to teach 1 to 1 but they are open to ideas where the student can be supported. Then there are schools where they refuse to even consider anything different. In these cases I do think that sometimes a tutor ends up doing things that the school should be providing or considering.

Local Education Authorities have a duty to provide an "appropriate education" for every child. Clearly the OP's ds's English education does not seem to be appropriate so something needs to be done. If the teacher does not have any time to give one-to one support to the OPs DS then at least the school might be open to considering some variation of options b or c in my post

LizzieVereker Fri 10-May-13 20:45:17

There is an English GCSE but it's usually taught as 2 year course, rarely taught in grammar schools, and it contains some elements of Literature (Shakespeare, prose fiction such as Of Mice and Men, and some poetry.) These are assessed by controlled assessment, but the exam is a language only exam. There are also 2 creative writing CAs.

Ah Ok - I didn't realise the school weren't actually doing the English GCSE. That makes things harder! Will your DS continue at the grammar school in 6th form HisMum? If he will attend a 6th form college, the best bet might be to see if he can drop English Lang/Lit for now ( and work on English his tutor sets him on his own /with TA during lesson times?) and pick up English GCSE at college with his A Levels.

I can quite see how it compromises his strong subjects. The OP's ds will be spending so much time trying against the odds to get somewhere with the English and getting very stressed in the process (he is clearly a bright boy who wants to do well and Autistic students often have a very strong perfectionist streak as they see everything in very black and white - eg 80% is not good because it is not 100% right) that it will be affecting his other studies, both in the time he will have available to spend on it and the emotional energy when so stressed!

creamteas Fri 10-May-13 21:06:32

Sorry I can't help with tips on negotiating 6th form entry without English, as there was never any battle over this for us.

The school know that my DD is good at maths/science and her issues with English are related to her disability so to them it was a not even an issue.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 22:07:56

Edica, thank you very much for dealing with the time issue and for your suggestions. It gives me more confidence to know that some schools are accommodating of the things you suggest.
I must say our school so far has been very accommodating, but we didn't address the tough issue of Literature yet.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 22:09:24

Thank you all very much for your contributions, all well noted.

I will certainly ask the school to do GCSE English. I will negotiate about the teacher doing more, the flexibility of doing some 1:1 and homework at school and about the tutor getting into school etc.

Startail Fri 10-May-13 22:28:20

Lizzy that is exactly the corse DD1 is doing, but they are using the same texts for literature too, so the teacher is teaching both GCSEs mixed together. I can't see how you'd easily drop literacy lessons as it is being used for language CAs.

In my day it was easy to drop literacy, because their were no set texts for language and no overlap. That is no longer the case as the Government is obsessed with Shakespeare for all.

Startail Fri 10-May-13 22:34:17

I think OP the best you can do is find a tutor and get them to help your son work through lots of past questions until he can answer them by rote. It would be great to get the class time back to do something useful, but I think the intertwined nature of English exams won't make that possible.

DDs comp has lower sets doing language only, I'm certain a grammar school won't.

DT it ought to be possible to drop, but there may be supervision issues. Most schools don't give study periods to non sixth formers.

As the school aren't actually teaching English ( as opposed to the Joint English Lang and Lit - I hadn't realised this to begin with!) it is unlikely they will be able to offer it to your DS next year - although there is no harm in asking. They might be happy for him to work towards a GCSE English by himself in library (doing work set by tutor?) in yr 11 school English lessons with a view to him entering for it elsewhere (evening class? local college?) during 6th form. What you could also ask is whether they would accept him into 6th form without English if he does it as an extra somehow during year 12/13.

They won't be doing Language only as it's not allowed - or at least not in any board I'm aware of. English only is allowed, but Lang has to be taken alongside Lit.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 23:05:06

A minefield.

But if the school agrees to drop the double English now to take it as Single English later, DS will be short on GCSE UCAS points? Or won't he?

Shouldn't we replace the dropped subjects with an extra-curricular maths qualification?

greyvix Sat 11-May-13 00:22:20

I may have missed some posts, so apologise in advance. There are two qualifications, so your DS could sit English only. However, most schools choose to sit English Literature alongside English language. Whether your DS gains the qualification in literature or not is immaterial. He needs to focus his attention on the English language exam, which will be of future benefit to him.
There is a combined exam called English, but this also includes some literature. Your DS would be better off doing the two subjects, with the view to maximising effort in English language.

adoptmama Sat 11-May-13 08:50:57

^"Adoptmama, according to the SEN code of practice it is English teacher's job to teach my son, not TA's and not Senco's.

I am sure English teachers are busy, but teaching my son is part of what they are paid for.

When I was at school, teachers were passionate and cared for the future of their pupils. Teachers arguing that they are too busy not to fail one of their pupils sounds very off-pitch to me. Just my opinion."^

OP with all respect I have not in any post suggested that it is the TAs or SENCOs job to teach your son. I have suggested you meet with the school and discuss the matter. I have pointed out why your desire to have him drop 2 GCSE subjects at the end of year 10 is hugely problematic from a practical point of view. I have made productive suggestions as to what could work instead. I have not said it is ok to let your son fail.

Twenty years teaching experience means I am very well aware of where responsibilities fall in a school. What I have said is that you cannot expect a mainstream school to simply allow your son to drop one or two subjects because there are legal issues and issues of supervision, and that the financial realities of staffing means it would be very difficult to arrange. You did not mention the fact he has a TA in your original posts. If he has a full time TA then supervision may become less of a problem. It does not change the curriculum issue for him regarding English and the dual nature of the course. You need to find out the exam board being used and the options for him ie can he simply sit a language exam. Which is what I suggested to you from the beginning.

From what you have said the teacher is already differentiating for your son. He is therefore teaching your son and the fact that your son is still unfortunately struggling may not be due to the teacher being at fault. Nothing you have written suggests the problem is related to the teacher not taking into account your child's special needs. An individual subject teacher does not have the authority to decide whether your child can sit the exam, be withdrawn from the course or anything else of that nature. The teacher also does not decide upon the curriculum - that is set by the exam board and it is impossible to differentiate out certain aspects of the course. If the teacher were to deny your child the opportunity to access the curriculum then he would be failing in his legal duty. Therefore, as I suggested, you need to talk to the school about how to best support your child.

It is not as simple for a teacher as simply finding some time to work one on one with your child at another time as has been suggested. Teachers may have clubs or duties at lunchtime. Their non-contact time is small - I get 5 hours a week for example and as I teach 11 different classes over the week over 2 key stages - that does not leave a lot of time to mark, plan, photocopy, produce resources and, indeed, meet with individual students as they need it. I do not start work at 9 and leave at 3, contrary to popular belief. Teachers are passionate. The suggestion that a teacher is unprofessional, uncaring or disinterested in your child (or any child) because they cannot find the time to devote to one-on-one education out of class time to a SEN child is quite insulting and inaccurate. In twenty years I have not lost my passion, nor do I care less about the futures of the children I teach. I spend a lot of time in the evenings, at weekends and in the holdiays developing and differentiating work, taking part in online training etc. Taking time away from my own (SEN!!) children in the process.

I understand very clearly that this is an emotional and stressful thing for you to have to deal with. To help you deal with it effectively with the school you need to meet with them and be open to realistic solutions. You can't simply expect them to be able to allow him to drop subjects without a concrete idea of how he will be supervised and what he will do in the time freed up. Only if you actually accept the limitations available to the school due to staffing levels, time and the restrictions imposed by the law and the exam board they are dealing with, will you be able to negotiate something which can work better for everyone. There are very real restrictions on how mainstream schools can deal with issues like this. That is unfortunate but it is not necessarily the school's fault and it does not at all suggest that teachers are less caring or professional than in years past.

Vivacia Sat 11-May-13 09:03:20

Excellent post adoptmama.

HisMum4Now, I think that you've come up with a good solution, going in to school, talking to the teachers and with a list of suggestions ready.

Your DS may get offers of University places conditional on passing English GCSE, but I would have thought that as long as he then passes it alongside his A Levels, it should be OK. It is worth checking this with the school though as it is a while since I was involved with University Admissions.

EvilTwins Sat 11-May-13 09:14:19

UCAS points are nothing to do with GCSEs, they come from A Levels.

creamteas Sat 11-May-13 11:00:32

Exactly educat. Our general admissions requirements ask for GCSE English and Maths grade C (or equivalents) for all subjects, but it does not matter when you get them. Some people are surprised at this as it does not always appear on the subject course pages which focus on A levels.

Each year we have a very small number of students who hold conditional offers on their GCSE results. In all the cases I know of this is Arts/Humanities students retaking GCSE maths, but it could happen the other way round.

HisMum4now Sat 11-May-13 11:12:32

Adoptmama, I don't think I stated that teachers are uncaring and unprofessional and I certainly didn't mean this in respect of you personally. I am prepared to apologize if it came across this way.

This being said there is a contradiction. On one hand you describe how caring and passionate teachers are, on the other hand you support the status quo of the "limitations" of the system, which failed my son. With all these good intentions and procedures, basically he was left behind for 3 years and now hit the wall. Everybody did everything right according to the system you support, yet the only solution the school came up with is to tell me to pay for a private tutor. It doesn't add up.

The thing that would really help DS is the English teacher spending some time setting and marking his extra practice. There is a lot of funding that is delegated to the schools for the SEN budget, not to mention the robust statement provisions of my DS, so I don't understand how all these resources are not enough to pay for the one thing that would make it work for DS.

If teachers care, why can't they ask to be payed for this one extra hour that would make such a difference, why don't they lobby the system from within to make it work for pupils like DS? I do hear the passion when teachers lobby about their pensions, why do I hit a wall when talking about DS?

Oh, no I don't mean to attack you and many caring professional teachers. Yes, teachers absolutely deserve the higher pay and the right pension and should defend their rights. We owe them more respect and recognition. I absolutely agree they do an incredibly important job well in sometimes difficult circumstances .

I gather that less than 50% of pupils don't get any good GCSEs. This means the system is designed and calibrated to fail most. Why do the caring teachers put up with the system that fails most?

creamteas Sat 11-May-13 11:57:10

Hismum part of the issue might be because the structure of the grammar school is not set up to support a wide range of abilities. They might also have have the experience needed in this area.

At my DCs comp, they are set in each subject and are used to dealing with a wide range of abilities. They set for each subject, so DD is in the top triple science set doing higher papers, but also the foundation level language only for English.

Clearly you are not necessarily going to be able to change the school, but I think you need to find out what is possible. I would be looking for an agreement to do language only at foundation level. The questions on the foundation level paper are much more literal, so they are easier for ASD DC to understand. If they agree to this, then hopefully you should be able to work out a plan with the school to support this.

Vivacia Sat 11-May-13 12:32:15

HisMum4Now, it's not about money. If a teacher doesn't have an extra hour to spare, it's irrelevant how much they might be paid. And what school offers a teacher extra pay to tutor one student? Teachers already work far beyond the hours they are paid for, for free, because they care and they are professional.

You seem very naive about the conditions in our schools and the pressure that teachers are already under.

HisMum4now Sat 11-May-13 12:54:38

I am many things but naive I am not. You would know how much parents would have gone through with an ASD child with diagnosis, provisions, statements, tribunals, tutors... I am a battle hardened warrior and it shouldn't be this way.

The school should pay the teacher to tutor DS because he is where he is as result of "correct" work of the system.

The taxpayers' funded state education should work in a way that dominant majority of mixed ability pupils succeed with a passing grade for basic employ-ability. If it is a C in English , then all school should graduate 16 year olds with at least a C.
Scandinavian countries, Germany and France manage to do this, so stop saying that it is naive to expect it in this country.

Arisbottle Sat 11-May-13 12:55:08

I am a secondary teacher and ever day before school at lunchtime and after school where I am not doing other things I am providing tutorials for either single groups or smaller groups . Most of my colleagues do the same , it is just part of the job.

My son, in a grammar has never been offered this . He has even attended sessions with the staff at my school instead .

mummytime Sat 11-May-13 14:00:59

Actually you seem to be mistaken at least for Germany, as this UNICEF report suggests their low attaining school leavers are very far behind in reading skills.

Vivacia Sat 11-May-13 14:10:14

I said I think you are naive about the conditions of our schools and the pressure teachers are under. I should have clearly said "working conditions", but I don't feel you have addressed my point in your reply. I don't for a second have a reason to think you are naive about parenting.

You say the school haven't acted for three years, but what have you done about his learning of English Literature? I suspect you've done a lot in terms of helping him with his homework, reading with him and discussing fictional characters in films etc. I suspect both you and the school have done the best you can for him.

netherstowey Sat 11-May-13 17:00:11

I think you will find that under the present GCSE arrangements it is not possible to simply enter GCSE English Language without also gaining a grade in English Literature. The Lit grade is irrelevant , but without a Lit grade the Language will not be awarded. Anecdotally, I have read of schools spending hours on Language skills and ignoring the Literature syllabus ,not expecting C or better grades in Literature, in the hope of a C in Language.At the moment , there is a qualification called GCSE English which combines lang and lit. Maybe your son could be entered for this specification . It does have considerable lit. elements and different controlled assessment pieces,so the school might not plan for a group taking this course. I think that this combined course will not continue when the revised GCSE specifications are published. The target group for English GCSe was C/D borderline students.

Nether - I keep saying that! smile

OP - It would be easier to be entered for the Lit even if he does badly in it, than to have to start the English single award now. And if the school hasn't already got a group doing single award, I doubt they'd be able to offer it just for one pupil.

netherstowey Sat 11-May-13 17:09:56

Absolutely,Remus. Just sacrifice the Lit grade in the hope of a Lang grade.This ,of course, is hard for a conscientious year 11. Who would go into an exam knowing the result would almost certaily be poor?

True - but better than getting nothing and having to do it again in college.

netherstowey Sat 11-May-13 17:16:21

The pragmatic approach1

creamteas Sat 11-May-13 17:45:44

Not sure if it is all exam boards but with AQA English Lang and Lit GCSEs are linked but it is onesided.

So you can take English Language on its own (and it does count).

But you can't take English Literature on its own without Language (unless post-16).

Lots of DC take Language alone at my DCs school.

HisMum4now Sat 11-May-13 19:13:08

The point is we can't continue spending time on Literature- doing homework and controlled assessments. It takes disproportional amount of time at the expense of good subjects. The school is pressuring us just to carry on. I receive emails every week reminding me of how much homework is outstanding, how much everything is very important ... It just can't be done.

EvilTwins Sat 11-May-13 19:23:02

I really do think you need to go into the school and discuss this. The only person who can really explain what needs to be done is the English teacher/HOD. There are a number of exam boards and a number of options, and obviously none of us know what is actually being taught in your DS's school.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Sun 12-May-13 19:46:30

You cannot take English Language alone only English. It is a requirement that all pupils study a Shakespeare text, a prose text and poetry so GCSE English involves CA on each, Eng Lang involves just a CA on an extended reading text because the other elements are studied for Lit.

I teach an autistic boy with speech difficulties and his main difficulty is the Speaking and Listening element. However he does look as if he achieved a B in January, they haven't given a grade yet, but I know that he listened to the literature texts and I recorded key lessons and his parents went through them with him. He is doing the Literature exams this month and will hopefully get a C but it has been hard. Try and arrange a meeting with both the SENCO/HOD for English to sort out options.

creamteas Sun 12-May-13 20:40:39

You cannot take English Language alone only

Yes, you can. It is a stand alone GCSE.

It might not count in the school performance measures, but it is fine for the student studying the exam.

HisMum4now Sun 12-May-13 20:53:32

I will certainly find out whether legally one can take English language alone - i.e. would it count if DS doesn't attend the Literature exams and CAs.

HisMum4now Sun 12-May-13 21:05:42

Some of the latest comments made me think of another aspect.

DS put huge time and effort in Literature controlled assessment, which looked very decent to me (home draft) but the teacher marked it a D. I asked to explain why and got boggled up the incomprehensible intricacies. They refused to show me the paper because it would invalidate it for the exam board. The sense that I got was that the teacher marked DS versus the very high benchmark of other grammar school students. The tutor, who works in a comprehensive, looked at DS work and couldn't see why it was a D.

I don't want to stir a conflict with the school or diminish the high standards... But is there any way I could ensure DS's work is marked appropriately against other students across the country?

The exam board procedure states "Talk with the school about your concerns". It is the school who can start the appeal. So I don't know how to act and whether it is a worthy avenue?

Well it shouldn't be marked in grades at all, but in bands. And then the board will moderate the teacher's assessment. Grades are not awarded until the end of the course now.

HisMum4now Sun 12-May-13 21:16:37

The school gave me a percentage - 40%. They explained that some of the points he made in the paper were not credited for reasons I didn't fully absorbed. The question is would a different teacher in different school give credit for those other points because he wouldn't be pedantic about expecting to see all that high level stuff she was teaching and that my DS "didn't give back" as it were.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 12-May-13 21:24:30

CAs are moderated. If the school is over- or undermarking, this will be picked up. We can't give specific feedback on CAs, only general.

I don;t teach English, but I assume it's the same.

And yes, no grade boundaries until results day!

Ilovegeorgeclooney Mon 13-May-13 11:42:57

I hate to be a pedant but Literature has to be taught to pupils at KS4. They don't have to pass it but they do have to be taught it and be entered for a qualification where it will be assessed, in the state sector anyway. So they either have to be entered for GCSE English or English Language and English Literature.

The school are actually breaking the exam board's guidelines. CA should not be drafted but written under controlled conditions. They should never be taken home. This is the major reason for the change from coursework. Whilst some schools practise the essay the question for the actual CA has to be different. No draft is permitted to be taken in just clean copies of the texts and an A4 note sheet. I moderate for AQA and the rules are clear.

Most schools are careful about internal moderation so youy son's essay will almost certainly have been checked by another teacher.

Vivacia Mon 13-May-13 13:29:20

The reason the teacher's explanation about marking controlled assessments was incomprehensible and full of intricacies is because marking controlled assessments is complicated and full of intricacies. I think at this level of detail you need to trust the expertise of the professionals who can comprehend it or consider home schooling or a change of school.

HisMum4now Tue 14-May-13 09:17:11

bump
There is a contradictory range of opinions whether Literature is compulsory or not. What is the final authority on this (i.e. which office) so that I can get an answer independent from the school?

Bering also in mind that curriculum can be modified for pupils with statements, although I don't know how and what the drawbacks are.

OK as I understand it - all students need to either be studying GCSE English (which is one GCSE that has literature and language components) or 2 GCSE's English Literature and English Language. If I were you I'd check with his school that the Literature and Language elements stand separately ( eg if he fails the Literature assessments/exams but passes the Language elements he can still get a GCSE in English Language).

If this is the case, your best bet may be for the school to give an acknowledgement that he doesn't need to concentrate on the literature elements or do the literature coursework but just on the Language elements ( with possibly some private/tutor-tutor led study instead of attending all the English lessons - as discussed previously). If he has to be entered for the literature elements, then he could just not do the coursework/ turn up for the exam and would obviously get 0 marks but would get his marks and (hopefully) pass the GCSE Language.

HisMum4now Tue 14-May-13 10:48:08

Is it the department of education, the exam board or anything else that is the final authority whether English language mark will stand alone if DS scores 0 marks in Literature or doesn't do the controlled assessment?

I know the school will push us to try harder the literature and shout at us for not trying hard enough...

It will be in the Exam board regulations

HisMum4now Tue 14-May-13 11:30:25

Thank you flowers

You need to really explain the impact that trying to do the literature is having on your DS and the impact it is having on his other subjects. Maybe make a list so that you are clear about all the things beforehand?

YoniWidge Tue 14-May-13 20:06:47

The teacher will have marked the ca according to the mark scheme, not by comparing his work to that of other pupils. Its actually pretty offensive to suggest otherwise. Do you generally think badly of this teacher?

If he's got a lower mark than expected it is probably because he's written a narrative response (retelling story) rather than an analytical one. This tends to be the difference between D grade responses and better ones.

Have you areanged a meeting witg the school? Without knowing which exam board he's doing and which assessments he's already taken it's hard to offer advice.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Tue 14-May-13 20:21:05

English Language stands alone for employment, university etc but since the govt require certain elements of Lit to be studied it has to be studied in conjunction with Lit. Your son would have to submit his CA or turn up to one of the two exams but then could forget the grade. An A* in Eng Lang can be achieved with a G in Eng Lit. With your son's difficulties with Lit it is probably advantageous the school does not offer GCSE English where 20% of the mark is for Lit based CA.

circular Tue 14-May-13 20:55:40

If its AQA, according to the website, Language can pen be taken without Literature but nit vice versa, unless post-16.
My yr11 DD took AQA Language in yr10, and as she is not retaking, the school have already banked the grade and have her certificate. She is taking Literature this year, but that won't impact her language grade.

What it did say on the AQA site was that the English Language, when alongside Literature counts towards the Baccalaureate.

So perhaps its a league table issue that is making things awkward here.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Tue 14-May-13 21:42:20

The NC states that all pupils have to study Shakespeare etc in KS4 therefore they have to do either Eng Lang and Eng Lit or Eng at GCSE. It is not up for debate, they do not have to get even a grade but must have studied Lit. Just explain to the school that your son cannot manage the course, bung in the CA and ignore the rest of lessons by doing Maths etc

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