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Is it a bad thing to NOT take a language for GCSEs in Year 11?

(75 Posts)
vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 13:41:02

Hi All

A letter has just been received from school stating that my nephew will no longer attend French lessons as he is not achieving his potential and is at risk of failing this particular GCSE at end of year 11. All other subjects he is an A/B student. The letter states he will another option to study something else when he returns to school this Jan. He is Year 9 (13yrs).

I am worried. Should my sister insist on him continuing with a Language or is okay to not have a Language as a GCSE?


Jins Fri 04-Jan-13 15:02:13

So without MFL, he will not be able to apply to Russell Group? it would be nice to have that option when the time comes.

We were told this was the case but DS1 has friends currently applying with no MFL and they have been given offers to RG universities. However I'm pretty sure the EngBacc was introduced the year after him. RG do tend to put MFL down as requirements but they obviously don't stick to them like glue for the right candidate

Oblomov Fri 04-Jan-13 15:12:31

I too thought that it wasn't just that the RG uni's that would require it, but in time, nearly all would , after the Gove decison.

vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 15:17:35

Thanks for all your help.

How do we approach the school with this? is it ultimately their decision or can it be challenged? have spoken to my sister re extra lessons for him - she will try to find the money for this.

I haven't spoken to nephew as of yet but knowing him (he is a massive worrier) he will not want to give it up.

My sister can be quite timid so hope the school does not bully her into submission.

SilasGreenback Fri 04-Jan-13 15:30:35

Can you not speak to anyone at school today? I would have thought most big schools would have someone in (although I guess they may have left by now).

It's the not reaching his potential comment that sounds odd - what does that mean, they think he could get an A but is on line for a C/D? That isn't a reason to give up, but is a reason to call parents in for a meeting.

Can he take a GCSE in the language he is bilingual in? That would give him the MFL, which like other posters I think he should get to keep his options open. I was poor at languages at school, but still had to do an O level in it - I was otherwise reasonably able so just had to apply myself. It wasn't an option not take it (then universities expected bright students to have a language ). I think if he is A/B is other stuff he can at least make a C in French with work.

I do still wonder if it is attitude - it does sound like he doesn't like the teacher and maybe just isn't trying. You mention his marks at his old school - but it's his marks in year 8 that are relevant here. And of course if his cohort is really badly behaved he could still be seen as generally a good quiet student, while still being a bit of a PITA! I have a child who is doing pretty well by most standards in a subject, however his results have slipped since last year and his report in this subject wasn't great. We have told him it does mean they might not take him on for this subject as an option if he doesn't pull his finger out. Ds may still be doing better than 50% of his cohort, but I can see why the teacher might not want him next year!

MummytoKatie Fri 04-Jan-13 15:43:09

Cambridge definitely insists on a MFL. I had friends who had to do GCSE French alongside their 5 A levels. Really not what they needed.

But if he is bilingual presumably he can use that language to get a GCSE?

vivizone Fri 04-Jan-13 15:47:12

Thanks Silas. Have just tried ringing but it goes to V/M.

He is bilingual in an African language that is not taught at the school so I doubt he will be be able to take it in GCSE.

You are right, it may be attitude that has let him down. But I just still don't understand how the school has reached this decision without first having a discussion with parent/child! it seems so final.

The letter indicates that a new timetable will be available for him on Monday. It just seems so unfair to do this first without a discussion.

My sister will call on Monday and if she wants, I will write a letter for him to take on Monday. They need to hold off until it has been properly addressed and a mutual decision has been reached.

I think schools sometime bank on the parent/s being inactive/uninterested to be able to pull this kind of stunt.

Jins Fri 04-Jan-13 15:51:54

If there is a GCSE offered in the language you can sit it privately

shrimponastick Fri 04-Jan-13 15:54:35

Sounds odd to me. Particularly to just inform by letter.

DS is in y 10 and HAD to pick a language at GSCE.

Jins Fri 04-Jan-13 15:56:34

If it's on there then it should be possible to take it fairly easily

peaceandlovebunny Fri 04-Jan-13 15:57:02

no time to read the thread, but take a language at GCSE because otherwise you'll look half-educated.

peaceandlovebunny Fri 04-Jan-13 15:57:20

ideally, take mandarin.

SilasGreenback Fri 04-Jan-13 16:06:47

I think the school will have to have a pretty strong argument to force him to drop it. I've just done a quick goggle and think it is compulsory in KS3 - it can be not taught over 3 years, but they need to reach the standard expected at the end of a 3 year course. So if he has reached that standard 2 terms early, then he is actually pretty good at French and ought to do well at GCSE!

Another reason they might try to stop him is if English is his second language and they can somehow use this to disapply him from a third language (which I'm not sure would be fair but might be a tactic)

Could you attend the meeting with your sister if you think she might be intimidated - I think it is important that your sister doesn't feel she is forced into a decision that she might regret later. Also check your nephew is fully on board with fighting to continue French - if you (you and sister) fight for him to continue and then they speak to him and he does a teenage 'whatever' and eye roll you will look a bit silly!

MrsTerrysChocolateOrange Fri 04-Jan-13 16:08:19

I sat an O Level in the language I am fluent in 'on my own'. My school made it easy and agreed to to supply someone to oversee it. Very worth it if he can get another A grade.

bruffin Fri 04-Jan-13 16:11:08

Cambridge definitely insists on a MFL

Depends on the subject, my ds is looking at engineering and there is no mfl requirement, nor is it a requirement for other RG. Some of the Cambridge colleges recommend it as a contrasting subject but it is only a few of them.

My ds is dyslexic and made the mistake of taking german and ended up with a D (although his course work he got E, C and B) If he had taken other subjects there would have been a good chance of getting an A, so not very happy about that.

My dd is now not taking an MFL because her subjects clashed and we did look at taking italian gcse out of school, but even though there is a big Italian community in our area we couldnt find any courses.

bruffin Fri 04-Jan-13 16:23:05

Some of the Cambridge colleges recommend it as a contrasting subject but it is only a few of them. Ignore that bit its referring to A levels.

MummytoKatie Fri 04-Jan-13 16:42:51

Bruffin - that's interesting. I guess it's changed in the last 15 years. [old face]

When I went it was a mandatory matriculation requirement - 5 A-Cs including English, maths and a language.

Ps dh did engineering - the big advantage of the Cambridge Tripos is that you don't have to decide on the type of engineering you want to do before you even start as the first two years are general engineering. The big disadvantage is that most people decide fairly soon which bits they hate but have to keep doing it all until 3rd year. [Caveat - again 15 year old data!]

susanann Fri 04-Jan-13 18:07:53

Do you think its related to statistics? eg how many pupils get 5 A-C s in their GCSEs? If he takes it and fails it lowers their percentages

sauvignonismydrug Fri 04-Jan-13 18:20:36

I'm a head of MFL and we simply aren't allowed in my school to turn students away from any of our languages. Of course, we can discourage and point out to students already struggling by year 9 that it will get more difficult, but most schools seem to adopt the attitude that language learning should be encouraged, whatever the ability. And I agree with this too.
It seems odd to me that if your nephew is an A/B student, he wouldn't be able to cope with MFL GCSE. It may be that he is in a difficult group this year (most groups in my school are mixed ability and it has a negative effect on those who are able to be in groups with those who don't see the point in learning). Or it may be that your nephew doesn't see why he should learn French, which makes it difficult to motivate him. And I teach a surprising number of bilingual students who don't get why they should!
Ultimately, parent power is king so if your sister really wants him to take French, she'll win the argument.

crazycarol Sat 05-Jan-13 00:30:33

A friend of my dd was applying to unis (not russell group) last year and got a conditional offer asking for a MFL (any at GCSE eq). She had not studied one at school since year 9 as it was not compulsory. The school queried it with the uni in question and were told that it was considered a good qualification to have. She then did a crash course in Spanish for 5 months but unsurprisingly did not get the required grade. At clearing however she found another uni doing same/similar course.

What I am saying is that it is certainly a useful thing to have but not always essential. You need to do a bit of reseach. What does he plan to do (if he has any idea!!) and what are the required or recommended qualifications.

Startail Sat 05-Jan-13 00:53:40

I didn't, 7As and a C would have spoilt my certificatewink

Seriously I'm useless at languages and our only competent teacher went on maternity leave.

Many of my class didn't, we checked prospectus carefully and went to RG universities quite happily.

DD1 isn't, she's dyslexic she can't write in English. School is also aware her Y8/Y9 set rioted and learnt nothing.

soontobeburns Sat 05-Jan-13 01:53:02

I did GOML does anyone know if that is any use for my ucas application? Level 1 im Spanish and level 2 in french.

Damash12 Sat 05-Jan-13 02:17:05

If he is good in all other subjects then I wouldn't make an issue. What does he want to do when he leaves? Does it require a language? I took French in my exams and have never used it since, I. Can probably remember 10 words/ phrases. If you do't use it you lose it but can't say I've lust sleep over it.

LoopsInHoops Sat 05-Jan-13 02:32:02

Those saying it didn't matter for them are missing the point. Times have changed. Good unis are now insisting on it, and will be increasingly so.

MrsTerrysChocolateOrange Sat 05-Jan-13 03:53:33

I'm interested to hear that some people think they are 'useless at languages'. Presumably they speak their first language passably... I firmly believe that there is no reason people can't learn two or more languages very easily with good, regular tuition. One of the reasons I believe this is that I was mediocre at languages then moved to Italy. I was fluent withing six months. Bad method is the issue. humans are pre-programmed for language so baring brain injury, LD or other learning issue, anyone can learn a language.

ravenAK Sat 05-Jan-13 04:08:34

I would say that a generally A/B student should be taking an MFL.

No-one's quite sure where we're going with all this Ebacc malarkey, so for an able dc, aiming at University, it's daft not to take one.

It's a very odd stance for school to take, as 'number of students achieving Ebacc' is quite high profile atm, so it's in the school's interest, in terms of published achievement, for your dnephew to scrape a C in French rather than getting an A* in Drama or for that matter in a second Humanity subject.

(Not saying I agree with this - I don't - but it's how the beans are currently being counted.)

I would be smelling a rat re: staffing (is the school struggling to recruit/retain MFL teachers?) or classroom management.

Tbh, I'd be strongly suspecting that your dn is being a little sod & creating a level of disruption whereby he's being removed from the teaching group for the good of the others - if it were just a case of him slacking & underachieving I'd expect him to be being told to pull his socks up, not bounced out entirely.

Might be doing him a complete injustice there though! I'd definitely suggest his parents contact school on Monday to express their dissatisfaction/ask for clarification.

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