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Bloody Gove! Dd in state of total discombobulation re early entry GCSEs - please help me get my head round this in practical manner!

(132 Posts)
Northernlurker Tue 15-Oct-13 21:40:10

Because what I want to do is get a train to London, doorstep the git Gove and give him an earful.

So- dd1 attends a comprehensive school. Pretty good school tbh with conscientous and committed staff. She is doing 11 GCSEs:

Eng Lan
Eng Lit
Triple science

They also completed the RS short course whatsit last year. She got an A*. Her targets for all of the above are A* except for art where it's an A.
She's so far done some controlled assessments for English and also speaking and listening and achieved well in these. The school's plan has always been to enter all the cohort this November with retakes in June if needed. Dd1 has worked hard all term (plenty of stress on her and me both) with November in mind. They did a mock just two weeks ago. Last week we got a letter telling us about a meeting tonight, called due to the school's uncertainty of how to proceed in the light of the recent announcements re early entry. Upshot is they won't be entering any student in November. It's quite clear from the meeting that dh went to taht it isn't the school's league table performance that is their concern. They have some very able students who should achieve well above a C but they basically dare not risk putting them in because every sign they can see suggests that there will be further interference with grade boundaries. We are horrified by this but I totally take their point. In May their speaking and listening was scrutinised and the moderation moderated or whatnot. It was rated excellent. Yesterday they got a letter saying it would be reviewed. There's no way to see that other than as a threat to discourage early entry.

Dd1 is devastated by this. She's working well and was winding herself up (in every sense) to take the blooming exams next month, get A/A* and if she did that then it was done. Finished. Allowing her more time to stress about the others in June. Now that 'second chance' option has been taken away and she'll lose the speaking and listening marks already done.
School are also talking about doing Further Maths or similar because that's what the plan for the top set was anyway. I do NOT want her doing MORE bloody summer exams.

So my questions wise mumsnetters are:

1) What would you do in this scenario. Dh and I think we have to accept the school's decision. Are we right to think that?

2) How do you reglue a totally unglued 15yr old who likes structure and order and is struggling to accept that grade boundaries can be mucked around with and no it isn't fair (anybody giving me an answer that works on this one can pretty much name their price)

3) Should I resist any attempt to enter her for further qualifications?

4) has anybody else come across this scenario and what is your school doing?

Poor dd, 4 boubon biscuits and some popcorn have just disappeared in to the living room where she's trying to watch the Big Bang Theory wrapped in a blanket but she's still stifling sobs. sad

Northernlurker Sun 20-Oct-13 23:05:57

I think one entry is a good system though it is clear that the current system has for example benefited those kids unlikely to stay in school until the end of the year.
The whole point though is that more dd and everybody else in year 11 was told from the minute that they started their course that there would be more than one entry. And now, right before the exam, that's been changed.

ninja Sun 20-Oct-13 23:05:35

Bruffin is right. There's a lot of evidence that whether they resit or not, students do better if they don't early enter (certainly in maths)

There's also no reason why they can't do the certificate in further maths ALONGSIDE GCSE, that way they have an even better chance of improving the gcse grade. That's how it's designed.

Interestingly it's schools in deprived areas that are more likely to early entry, with a mistaken belief that it'll improve results.

Starting AS levels in year 11 is in general a really bad idea both from the pov of universities and progression from there - ask anyone who works in a 6th form college.

Also - yes, kids do too many qualifications.

Gove, however, us an a**e and shouldn't have changed things at this stage.

MrsHerculePoirot Sun 20-Oct-13 22:34:29

bemybebe I am not sure about being on here same page exactly. I would love just to teach about maths, with no exam constraints, but I can't. The lower ability sets, in particular the C/D borderline need to be taught to pass the exam, they need to understand what the examiner is looking for, they need to understand they have to show specific steps hit certain marks. Every single one of my lessons needs to improve their exam chances or else I will be letting them down. Of course I try to make it relevant and interesting to them, but they also just need to learn some things for the exam that they will in loll honesty never, ever use again.

soul2000 Sun 20-Oct-13 22:22:21

Talkinpeace. It is totally disgusting to the kids who have put in massive effort with their course work. Also it sends out the wrong message that putting in effort does not always get rewarded.

I can not believe you can change the rules in the middle of the game, only
a member of the taliban or a educational zealot does that.

Talkinpeace Sun 20-Oct-13 21:37:23

lainie I have no problem with the change - but is should have been done to the current year 10 - who are just starting their GCSE course - not the current year 11 - who have nearly finished theirs.
THAT is why we are pissed off. Work that has already been done is now to be put in the bin.

lainiekazan Sun 20-Oct-13 21:34:37

I agree with the few voices who are saying that there should only be one entry.

Some schools have been playing a game of entering kids several times. I learnt that dh's niece sat history three times. She eventually achieved an A. How is this fair to kids at schools who only enter at the end of year 11?

Exams are supposed to sort the wheat from the chaff; they are not there to squash the chaff through at all costs.

Northernlurker Sun 20-Oct-13 21:12:30

Wuldric - dh and I have had our feet well off the parental anxiety peddle for the last year. It doesn't make any difference to dd (except to hopefully help her cope a bit better) She can go from 0-60 in the anxiety stakes all by herself.

Wuldric Sun 20-Oct-13 14:43:51

My DD is in year 11 and is in exactly the same position.

What I think is that you as a parent should not get too het up about it. Your anxiety (no matter how well you try to conceal it) will be transmitting to your daughter, and by reading your posts, undoubtedly making things worse.

Just remember it is the whole cohort of Y11s that are affected. Not just half leaving the other half advantaged against their peer group. All of them are affected.

Forget about it old love. You can't change it. The only thing you can try to manage is yours and your DD's reaction to it. Have a brew

dancemom Sun 20-Oct-13 14:33:11

I'm not in England and don't have any lo in secondary school so I'm not familiar with what's going on

Am I right in thinking that previously schools could enter pupils for their GCSE grade twice and the school could use the best grade for the league table? And if pupil got grade they were happy with GCSE was finished and they could focus on other studies?

And now Gove has changed the rules mid GCSE to say schools can only use first grade achieved so schools are reluctant to do two sittings as majority if pupils are more likely to get better grade if they study over longer period? But this results in multiple exams being taken at same time therefore more stress?

And also prior to Gove announcement pupils has already say verbal part if GCSE and attained a grade or percentage of grade for this but Gove now says this can no longer be used?

Have I got it right?

jchocchip Sun 20-Oct-13 14:19:42

I wasn't talking about internal exams, which I would expect. I did internal exams every summer too. I mean that one or other of our dcs has had an external exam or assessment every summer/ autumn/ and some in spring throughout the last 7 years. The school seems to me to be an exam factory, it has cut almost all extracurricular except music and sport and doesn't even have a lunchtime any more for societies. It is just focused on exams and league tables and never seems to go off at a tangent just because something in the news would be interesting to learn about.

Talkinpeace Sun 20-Oct-13 14:09:51

I have two older dcs and so the last 7 years have been one long treadmill of constant exams and revision
but my private schools had internal summer exams in every subject from the age of 4 to 18 .....
and then I went to University and had exams every six months
and then I trained as an accountant and sat 21 more three hour exams ....

bemybebe Sun 20-Oct-13 14:03:35

jchocchip totally agree

bemybebe Sun 20-Oct-13 14:02:20

Talkin I was in a comprehensive. I am a foreigner, we did not have selective schools and because of my schooling I was able to gain BA Economics and studying for MA Art History, not counting the two years in the Medical School, which I abandoned because I decided to not to pursue a medical career (my results were all v good).

Sorry OP, I won't derail further

jchocchip Sun 20-Oct-13 13:39:52

emphasis was on the learning process This is exactly what a good school teaches, how to learn. I have two older dcs and so the last
7 years have been one long treadmill of constant exams and revision. I would be much happier if a school educated children and put them in for exams at the end (or controlled assessment if more appropriate) But we are caught up in this and whilst I agree with the principle, nothing should be changed without a years notice to the schools and pupils involved.

Talkinpeace Sun 20-Oct-13 13:26:51

The C/D boundary kids at single English are the lower 20%
You really need to get a bit more of an understanding of life outside selective education.
Then again so should all politicians.

jchocchip Sun 20-Oct-13 13:26:09

My dd is caught up in this too. Only got a B in maths in June so plan was to retake in November and then further maths. She has had to take an extra mock so school can decide whether she gets to enter in november after all. More stress. Actually I'm with Gove on this one and would much prefer that the schools taught the gcse courses over 2 years rather than one. Dd may have followed English lit for A levels but she is not doing lit at all this year as she got an A in the summer...

bemybebe Sun 20-Oct-13 13:17:48

But "Dickens" IS "speaking and listening" at a right level... I did not realise we are speaking about the tails, I thought this is about the vast majority of students who revise for the purpose of the examination only.

Talkinpeace Sun 20-Oct-13 13:02:56

I am amazed how much time is devoted to exam preparation and not to learning itself.
There are children who really struggle to grasp basic concepts like times tables.
They are the ones at the opposite tail of the IQ normal distribution curve from the kids at superselectives.
You are insulting them even more by expecting them to faff about with stuff they will never use (like Dickens) and then remove from the qualifications the part they will need while serving you at the department store - Speaking and Listening.

bemybebe Sun 20-Oct-13 12:54:48

MrsHercule sounds like we are on the same wavelength as I am amazed how much time is devoted to exam preparation and not to learning itself.

Talkin No experience whatsoever. But I do not buy "understanding of the finer points of Charles Dickens is utterly pointless". I cannot really go into this debate right now as this topic is vast, but there is certain basic knowledge and skillset that makes one prepared for adult life and everything it throws at this person and proverbial Dickens is very important in this case. Otherwise, why should everyone have a voting right if all they are equipped to do is "cut hair" or "drive tractors"?

Talkinpeace Sun 20-Oct-13 12:40:17

What experience do you have of lower ability pupils in non selective state schools?
They are most certainly there to get through the tests and then they escape from education as fast as they can.
They go and cut hair and drive tractors and lay bricks and mend cars.
For which an understanding of the finer points of Charles Dickens is utterly pointless.

MrsHerculePoirot Sun 20-Oct-13 12:33:54

bemybebe because much of that time has been learning and practising specific skills in order to jump through controlled assessment and exam hoops. Those hoops have just been removed. Had they not been there from the start then hat time could have been spent learning as you suggest. Sadly there is too little teaching time, to cover ever changing specifications, most teachers would love to instil a love of their subject over teaching to the exam, and much as we try, it is almost impossible not to focus on the specifications. That is how students are measured, how we and our schools are judged. The grade boundaries are being moved, it is harder and harder to achieve grades, and if students don't achieve what they need to, that can affect all their choices post 16, including job possibilities.

bemybebe Sun 20-Oct-13 12:15:15

I sympathise immensely with the children involved and it is not fair to change the rules so close to the finishing line BUT

but I do think parents are really not helping here.

"So all the work she has done for 3 and a half terms is wasted. "

But surely the end goal of going to school is not "to gain a mark" but to learn. Or am I missing something here.

Disclaimer. I am a foreigner. I don't have any kids in education yet in the UK, but I do have experience of studying here at university level (in a brilliant school). I was glad to see that the work was marked but the emphasis was on the learning process. How come it is so different at secondary school level, especially with GCSEs?

Northernlurker Sun 20-Oct-13 09:48:10

Greenfolder and Raven - so sorry about the situation you're both in. Give must be held to account for this.

ravenAK Sun 20-Oct-13 01:31:25


greenfolder, we've taken the horrible decision to move a borderline C/D set from doing Eng Lang & Lit (2 GCSEs) to English (single GCSE combining Lang & Lit).

Your dd may well be doing the same - it's unlikely she'll be dropping Eng Lit & doing just Eng Lang, as Eng Lang doesn't count towards performance measures without Eng Lit, whereas English does.

I'm having to re-do all their Controlled Assessments with my group. At least one CA - which took half a term to teach & complete - is now entirely redundant. Three others will now be replaced. One entirely new CA task will now need to be completed.

The silver lining, such as it is, is that they now won't be preparing for two tough Eng Lit exams - just the English/Eng Lang exam - which is also exacting, & was planned to be taken in two weeks time before Gove played silly buggers.

Frankly, that's proving extremely cold comfort to my y11s & probably also to your dd...

There are LOTS of words. I'm just trying not to utter them in earshot of my students.

What's being done to our teenagers is cruel & dishonest. Simple as.

MrsHerculePoirot Sat 19-Oct-13 18:35:59

green so sorry for your DD. It is an awful situation.

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