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Genuinely worried about Y7 DS and Gove's new 'O' levels...

(81 Posts)
Erebus Tue 11-Jun-13 09:04:26


DS stands a good chance of getting the golden 5 GCSEs inc Eng and Maths, providing I apply constant, low-grade pressure to him, as will his school, to help him achieve this. He always puts in top effort but simply isn't particularly academically gifted.

I can confidently say he will fail 'tougher exams'. He will be unable to access a 6th form (given that they aren't just about A levels alone, any more), or an apprenticeship.

Unfortunately, having dodged the bullet of Gove's 'new style' GCSEs as proposed a few months ago with his year as the guinea pigs, here we go again. If this gets toppled, Gove has, on his 'new education overhaul plan, issued every 6 months' average, 4 more chances to fuck up my child's educational future.

As DS will be in this guinea pig year, and we can be absolutely sure Gove will insist that the results demonstrate 'new rigour' i.e. fewer passes, there are unlikely to be any 'alternatives' in place to help DS and similar DC on their way- I mean, like the current slow but steady growth of higher level apprenticeships and so forth springing up to accept the DC who can no longer take the risk of the debts of a university degree without guaranteed, reasonably well paid at the end. One Day One of our DCs' emerging, blinking, from this brave new tough-GCSE world, where they, as a result of their 'fails', cannot access 6th form or apprenticeships (as these colleges will be a good year or so, minimum, behind performing the entrance requirement 'regrade' they'll have to do to get kids through their gates)- what will become of them? No amount of media hand-wringing or cold, sober analysis of the first year of results will compensate our DCs for the educational dead end they may find themselves at, all as a result of a trumped up, egotistical, arrogant, self-aggrandising Minister who rides roughshod over decades of hard-won, evidence-based 'good practice' to force a nation's state-educated children emulate what he sees as being his own, unsurpassable 'education'.

muminlondon Thu 13-Jun-13 17:42:47

If you have both criterion and norm referencing (as I think you call it, e.g. percentage mark against consistent marking scheme and alphabetical grade against cohort) it will still be very complicated to express that in your CV. I think grading has to be simple and consistent every year - if you get an '8' then they fiddle around with grade boundaries so the next year's top grade is a 9 or 10, that devalues the 8 for the job seeker and confuse employers no end.

creamteas Thu 13-Jun-13 12:28:48

The other major issue between O levels and GCSE is the way that marking criteria work has changed.

Marking criteria used to have a lot more discretion than it does now. Not just in discursive subjects either. So for example, now in GCSE biology, your answers about the classification system for animals needs to relate to the understanding that is taught at GCSE. If you go beyond this, you will not necessarily get the marks for your answers.

This is one of the reasons that 'teaching round the test' has become such an issue. Some knowledge needs to be 'forgotten' grin.

The good thing about broader marking is that it allows wider knowledge to be brought in, the downside is it is a lot more difficult to standardize. So marker variability becomes more of an issue.

sashh Thu 13-Jun-13 05:11:10

O Levels were harder than GCSEs, but not because of subject knowledge or teaching.

50% of candidates got A-C and 50% D-E so even if you scored 90% you might still get a D grade if lots of people got 99%.

OK I don't think that ever happened but one grade changes certainly happened.

Also O Levels were designed for the top 20%. When did you last hear of a child leaving school with no qualifications? In my day (very old) my year had roughly 100 pupils, for each subject there were two streams (more for compulsory subjects) one was O Level and the other was CSE. There would be 20-30 pupils in each class. In physics I think we only had about 10. The year before me 50% of pupils got O Level/CSE grade 1 in English and maths, the English was double the national average, and the maths was three times the national average.

However we educate children if there are exams then IMHO it would be better to give a % and a grade, the % would be the mark you got in your exam and the grade for where you came compared to your cohort.

Everyone understands A-E, A* not so much, I'm thinking internationally here.

Someone mentioned the use if children are going to be at school until 18, well I think there does need to be a level 2 qualification, but I think some children would be better learning over 6 or 7 years and taking GCSE (or whatever) at 18 and actually passing.

I also don't understand all this messing about, if you look at he exam boards they are still producing O Level papers for other countries.

Crumbledwalnuts Thu 13-Jun-13 01:24:52

It's not just "harder exams" - the idea is that your son will get a better education to prepare him for the exams.

prh47bridge Thu 13-Jun-13 01:20:10

I agree that good schools encourage reading around and going beyond the syllabus regardless of what exam is being taken.

Controlled assessments have not entirely dealt with concerns about coursework and have raised some concerns of their own. For example, research by Ofqual a few years ago found widespread concern that controlled assessments reduce teaching time making it more difficult to teach the full syllabus and encouraging teaching to the course rather than getting students to go beyond the syllabus.

savoirfaire Wed 12-Jun-13 23:12:12

And you are SO right about the way results will look on a CV etc!

savoirfaire Wed 12-Jun-13 23:11:36

Is the difference between O Levels and GCSEs really anything to do with regurgitation of facts versus freedom to read around and go beyond the syllabus? From my understanding (I did GCSEs mid-90s, DB did O-Levels early 80s, so I understand a reasonable amount about both) the difference on that really lies in the schools. I was certainly encouraged to read around the subject at both GCSE and A-Level. The subjects I got my best grades in/was best at / went on to study at uni, were the ones where I had done that additional reading around. And while I understand the concern about coursework, I thought controlled assessments had dealt with this, no? Although, in my case, my parents wouldn't have remotely dreamed of helping me out in my coursework - total anathema. Vague recollection of mum sticking some pictures into my GCSE geography coursework!

Gunznroses Wed 12-Jun-13 20:17:16

I agree with OP's daughter who said she didn't like the way the new results will look. It sounds odd as well not that this is mega important to this debate but currently we have a sample result such as:
4 A*s, 3As, 2B's, 1C.

will now become:

4 8's, 3 7's, 2 6's, 1 5 confused

prh47bridge Wed 12-Jun-13 18:12:02

As I said up thread, this is not a radical overhaul. Coursework and controlled assessment were already on the way out. So strip away the name changes and all you are left with is that they are making the exams a bit harder.

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 17:58:34

To be fair, I know that some states do have different types of diploma (eg) but which one you do isn't typically decided so young (sometimes 10-12 here).

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 17:55:07

Which is good, don't you think, LittleSporks? But it's still basically a continual assessment system, compulsory attendance age hasn't changed, the name of the qualification hasn't changed. The structural parts of the format haven't changed, and there isn't a tiering system where kids get sorted into vocational & academic types of school at the age of 11/14 whatever. I don't mind GCSEs evolving bit by bit, but this full fledged must-change-whole-format-and-the-name approach, because they can't merely be tweaked, a radical overhaul is only option, it's absurd.

LittleSporksBigSpork Wed 12-Jun-13 13:54:11

lljkk - Many American states change their requirements for high school graduation all the time. When I graduated from an American high school, the year before me and the year after me had different requirements than I had as required by the state I lived in - mainly which proficiency tests were required to graduate. Not only did state requirement changes, but it differs wildly by schools - the requirement at my first high school differed greatly to the one in the catchment I moved to in 10th grade.

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 12:49:52

I think whether that's true is very highly debated on here.

wordfactory Wed 12-Jun-13 12:40:18

lljk the reality is that applicants for university are judged (rather heavily) on their GCSE results. Often these results are given as much, if not more weight than their AS results.

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 11:47:47

I do wonder though, if it might be better to simply introduce a new test for the top end?

seems to me like that should be the function of A-levels.

lljkk Wed 12-Jun-13 11:46:38

I am pretty sure the average school leaving age is still 16 or probably a bit below, that's today's 16yos. Average years of schooling for whole UK population is 9.6 (means stopping in middle of current yr10) allowing for the fact that in the past reception was rarely a full year. If Reception is treated as a full year, average stop was middle of y9.

Easy to forget about all the dropouts.

CheeryCherry Wed 12-Jun-13 11:41:41

ILove I agree, Gove and the media are spewing out sweeping Y11 is in the middle of his GCSEs. He has studied full texts in English, not extracts. He has worked really hard, aiming for high results. His school has offered countless revision study sessions during study leave, has prepared many revision/practice papers for them to attempt online.
He is sickened that his efforts are so easily dismissed by a few news headlines. They are getting good results because they are putting the effort in.
He is taking 14 GCSEs, and has worked much harder than I ever did when I crammed for O levels.
So, if there have been too many exams and assessments, why not just reduce them, find the middle ground? Relying on one exam after several months does not suit all... I know many peers who froze with the pressure and did really badly in O levels.
And can anyone tell me why they are changing to 1 to 8? What's the point?

DeWe Wed 12-Jun-13 11:12:04

Just to note: I was wrong on dates, for some reason I read as starting in 2017 meant starting GCSEs (in year 10 )in 2017, hence doing it 2 years later. Dd1 pointed it out to me. blush

There is one thing that really bothers her about it:
She doesn't like the idea of 1-8. She says she liked the A-F grading because it looks better.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 12-Jun-13 11:08:01

My dd is in Yr 7 and yes, I'm worried for her. She's dyslexic and slow and doesn't cope with exam pressure very well.

Saying that she's bright and does homework at NC Lvl 7 which apparently is good for Yr 7.

I think GCSEs would have suited her better. But I can't change it and I suppose all kids in her year will be on a level playing field when it comes to sixth form offers/uni offers.

tiredaftertwo Wed 12-Jun-13 11:05:36

I know, let's get Gove to sit the current GCSEs and see how well he does. It won't matter that he hasn't had any teaching or time to work hard, because you don't need those to get high grades. smile

For most subjects, the curricula seem broad and to require quite hefty levels of understanding and critical analysis - and I think we should go in the direction of more of this, less testing factual recall, not the other way round. Computers have quite big memories, I believe....

A comparison with O levels is pretty impossible to do, and rather pointless, IMO, but it does drive me mad when the press quotes just the "easy" questions, given GCSEs are aimed at nearly the whole ability range.

wordfactory Wed 12-Jun-13 11:01:22

I think GCSEs were a way to unify the system, and test all young people against the same bench mark.

Now that's fine, providing we accept that a decent proportion of young people will get below a C.

However once you get parents and governments demanding that the D grade student get his C, then it no longer is a system that adequately tests the upper end, because the method of teaching required and the manipulating of the system required to focus on the middle does not well serve or adequately educate and test the upper end.

It seems that what Gove is trying to do is address that.

I do wonder though, if it might be better to simply introduce a new test for the top end?

ReallyTired Wed 12-Jun-13 10:53:04

GCSES, A-levels and indeed O-levels were designed when the majority of the workforce left school at 16. We need different skills compared with 70 years ago or even 10 years ago. There are no longer a plethola of unskilled jobs for people with no qualifications.

I have no issue with harder qualifications. Young people can take exams when they are ready. We need a framework that allows people to work at their own pace and not act as a "cap on aspiration". A less able child might sit their I-level English at 18 years old and do vocational qualifications alongside. A more able child may well be able to get their I-levels out the way at 15 years old and start A-level work.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Wed 12-Jun-13 10:31:47

My Year 11's who just left had for their English Literature GCSE read the whole The Tempest and Frankenstein for the CA, studied Purple Hibiscus and Woman in Black for one exam and a cluster of poetry and how to analyse an unseen one for the second exam. If you add that to the study each year of at least two novels, one from the Literary Heritage, a Shakespeare and a modern play and endless poetry I think Gove is making rather sweeping judgements about the content of the current curriculum.

MadeOfStarDust Wed 12-Jun-13 09:47:55

I went to a fab school - in Scotland - in the 70s and we were taught to learn - not to regurgitate, we were introduced to a love of libraries, to entire works of Shakespeare, through the medium of the printed word and the performance - we also put our own "Shakespeare-light" type plays, modernised them etc, etc....

We had compulsory Home Economics classes where we learned to do laundry, cook and clean.

We had compulsory "Technology" classes where we learned to replace a fuse, a washer on a tap and hang a shelf (the last amid much laughter!!).

We learned to touch type and do rudimentary book-keeping as they were skills that many employers valued.

I'm unsure where that "time" has gone to in the current curriculum... it took hours of our week - even during O'Grade years...

Slipshodsibyl Wed 12-Jun-13 09:47:51

Yes I think those you mention can be ill served in some schools like this.

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