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different s4 subject numbers at different schools-confused about what's best

(29 Posts)
Swallowedbyasnake Tue 08-Nov-16 16:05:42

I have one son in p5 and another in p2. Have opportunity to move within Ayrshire/East Ren so am looking at high school options. Both my kids are quite academic and will probably go to uni. So as far as I can see South Ayrshire schools do 6 nationals in s4 with option to do 6 in s5 (not sure if this means 6 highers or mixed with more nat 5s) East Ayrshire do 7 in s4 then 5 in s5 and east ren do 8 nationals across s3 and 4 then 5 highers. I'm not sure which of these arrangements would be the best. Does having more nat5s make a difference for uni admission? (I am pretty sure when I studied medicine no one was concerned how many standard grades I had) but does only doing 6 close down future options too much? Why is this not standardised across Scotland, it just doesn't seem fair!

Groovee Tue 08-Nov-16 16:43:32

My dd needs a B in Nat5 maths so she is resitting it as she got a C but 4 A's in her other subjects.

It will depend on what your child wants to study at university level if they wish to study.

It will depend on the child but some sometimes drop to a Nat4 if struggling. My dd's friend did this with biology as she was struggling at Nat5.

I'd possibly go for the middle ground. I know of a number of schools who have dropped from 8 Nat 5's to 6.

InformalRoman Tue 08-Nov-16 16:56:37

Schools that do 8 Nat 5s at the end of S4 have to do them over two years to be able to cover all the curriculum - the CfE intended the Broad General phase to finish at the end of S3 and for children to specialise for Nat 5s just in S4. I would think 7 Nat 5s covered just in S4 will be a squeeze. Ones doing 8 are likely to be competing with private schools?

Ideally children should be taking 5 Highers in S5 if applying for uni - a few courses (medicine for instance) will require 5 to be taken at a single sitting.

6 Nat 5s can be restrictive, but children may be able to pick up a crash Higher in S5 or S6. Having more Nat 5s won't make any difference to uni admission in Scotland. Some courses outside Scotland may still require a language at Nat 5 level (probably not very common though).

WankersHacksandThieves Tue 08-Nov-16 17:12:09

I'm in a different area and we are in the middle - we do 7 but only over 4th year (starting after Easter of S3) and then we are 5 Highers (or mix with Nat5s in 5th)

Prior to my DC being in exam years, I was definitely an advocate of doing as many subjects as you can in order to keep subject choices open for Highers. However, the Nat5 courses are intensive. DS1 did 7 but one of his was Art so less academic (though still time demanding) and he coped well and got 6As and a C (in Art). He dropped 3 of his Nat 5 subjects though and then picked up a crash Higher to make up his 5. he is again coping well but he subjects are all Maths/numbers related.

DS2 is equally bright but more on the words side. He is struggling with 7 as he hasn't taken any lighter/practical subjects Music/Art/PE) . It's a lot with pressure of coursework to be submitted etc.

I think it's a little easier of an option to be doing 8 over the two years especially if they keep up something a little less intense or are able to focus on their strengths.

Technically 6 should be the standard but people are concerned for the academic children they are basically choosing their Highers at that point, but also for the less academic, they may decide on a change of target and find they haven't taken the subjects they need.

I think the Nat 5s outside school world are not such a big issue if you are heading to Uni based on Hs and AHs. It matters a lot more if they are looking at apprenticeships or college or jobs where they will be measured against people who've done their exams over two years and done more/wider choice and they've done 7 over 1 year or only have 6 - for me that's where the real unfairness comes in.

You potentially have 5 years before your DC has to make the choice and the world may be different then again....although obv appreciate you have to start sorting out High School now.

WankersHacksandThieves Tue 08-Nov-16 17:17:51

Bit muddled there, sorry!

DS2 is doing Maths, English, Modern Studies, History, French, Chemistry and Business Management and is finding it a bit tough.

Swallowedbyasnake Tue 08-Nov-16 18:03:48

Thanks for the replies. It sounds as though 6 might be the best option. My gut instinct was that more subjects would be better, but thinking back to my standard grades there were a few subjects that I had to take to fill my timetable like art and geography that I never had any interest in and would happily have dropped.

WankersHacksandThieves Tue 08-Nov-16 18:11:39

People compare back to when we did O'grades and say we did 8. But that was over 2 years and Maths and Arithmetic were separate, now they are all tested in Maths over the two papers, so effectively on a timetable of 7 they are covering the same as we did with 8, but in half the time.

Both my DC added in a topic they didn't want as they didn't have any other better options on the form so, in retrospect, 6 subjects would have been fine.

celtiethree Wed 09-Nov-16 17:53:42

Personaly I think 6 is too restrictive. DS1 was ok with 7, DS2 is struggling to narrow his down to 7. Yes some can be picked up as crash highers but this is not recommended for some i.e. Science subjects where there is continuity. If we only had 6 nat 5s I'd be looking to change schools.

TrollTheRespawnJeremy Wed 09-Nov-16 18:00:05

Have a look and see which schools are getting the most kids into Uni. That's probably quite indicative.

WankersHacksandThieves Wed 09-Nov-16 18:24:03

celtie - was that over one year?

InformalRoman Wed 09-Nov-16 18:41:48


It won't make any difference whether you have 6, 7 or 8 Nat 5s - the universities all issued statements to this effect when the CfE came in.

DS's school went down the 6 no Nat 5 in S4 - the first cohort have had no problems getting into Edinburgh, St Andrews, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Heriott Watt for a wide range of course (medicine, law, engineering, sciences, arts).

celtiethree Wed 09-Nov-16 19:26:23

Hi WankersHack, yes over one year. I think it would be great to have consistency across all schools. With 8 nat 5s starting after s2. The bgc in the first three years is too slack and then all pressure from S4 up.

WankersHacksandThieves Wed 09-Nov-16 19:35:58

I think a measure of consistency would be good but I guess schools are taking advantage of the flexibility to suit their own kids in some cases and in others are following their regions guidance. My DS1 was fine with 7 but I think it depends on the subjects and their character. I think DS2 will do fine but he's feeling a bit overwhelmed and I think he would be happier with 6. It's an academic school though so I think maybe feels the pressure of that plus his brother's success.

celtiethree Wed 09-Nov-16 19:47:31

Agreed a lot does depend on the kid, I'm in roughly the same situation as you with my DS2 who is v aware of his older brothers success. Fortunately they have very different interests and will take a very different mix of subjects. The trouble I'm finding is that once you take out maths and English 4 or 5 seems limiting esp if they haven't decided what to do at uni and want to keep many options open.

WankersHacksandThieves Wed 09-Nov-16 19:54:58

Mine have taken a different mix completely but I think it's worked to DS2s disadvantage. DS1 took Maths. English, Physics, Engineering, Computing, Geography and Art. DS2 is taking English, Maths, Chemistry, History, Modern Studies, Business Management and French. He has no light relief, he hates French and is struggling with Maths. DS1 hated Geography (and parts of English) but he just gets his head down. DS2 indulges his misery a bit.

celtiethree Wed 09-Nov-16 20:07:29

My DS2 is choosing for next year, will definitely take maths, English, music, art. Leaving 3 to choose from modern, geog, French, chemistry, biology. We are going round and round on what to drop, I think French and biology are def, but a second science would be really useful for some of his potential career choices but he'll do better in modern!!! He's waited 3 years to get more art and music so don't want to cut either one of those to fit in an academic option - it's driving me crazy.

WankersHacksandThieves Wed 09-Nov-16 20:53:03

Biology is the easiest science to pick up as a crash higher imo if that helps.

That is definitely a less stressful list than DS2s - that's what I meant about it depends on which 7. I should have talked him into doing something less pressured. He could have done PE in the French column but he's a bit of a lazy shite though he is regretting that decision now. grin

prettybird Wed 09-Nov-16 21:40:24

Ds had to drop Art/Music as they were both just in the three columns that had Physic, Chemistry and PE so ended up doing Computing Science instead.

His school allows up to 8 Nat 5s, courses started at end of S2. However not all kids will do 8 - weeding down to Nat 4 starts in S3 and continues in S4.

Glasgow allows individual schools total autonomy in deciding how many Nat 5s pupils present for, as long as the principles of BGE/CfE are adhered to.

Ds is bright and academic so 8 was no problem but has friends who did Nat 4s rather than Nat 5s (the ones doing fewer than 6 - or 5 + PE as PE didn't have an exam - didn't get study leave) and who are working towards their Nat 5s this year.

prettybird Wed 09-Nov-16 21:53:50

Pressed post by accident.

Meant to refer back to the OP: in terms of Uni entry, it's the Highers that count (although I suppose if you're applying from S5 I suppose have results under your belt is useful).

As far as I recall, the original idea behind CfE was supposed to be that Higher candidates didn't need to be sidetracked by Nat 5s, with all the disruption that prelims, study leave and exams cause. hmm

Iirc, very few schools took up that flexibility - I think Hermitage in Ayr did.

Problem with that approach is that a) kids' first experience of "important" exams is when they are really important and b) if something happens during that period, then the bright kid is left with nothing - except a few Nat 4s (as they are internally assessed).

prettybird Thu 10-Nov-16 07:43:53

Correction: Hermitage in Helensburgh blush

LunaLoveg00d Thu 10-Nov-16 07:49:56

I'm in a different area and we are in the middle - we do 7 but only over 4th year (starting after Easter of S3) and then we are 5 Highers (or mix with Nat5s in 5th)

Yes our area is the same and the local secondary gets some of the best exam passes in Scotland and regularly sends children off to Oxbridge and other great Unis. I have a child in S2 who is starting to look at options, he drops down to 9 subjects for S3 and then 7 for S4 and exams. There's not a massive choice for S3 though - you have to take English, Maths, French, at least one science, one of Geo/History/Mod Studies, at least one "arty" subject...

Beebeeeight Fri 11-Nov-16 00:11:41

East ren schools are better than Ayrshire schools.

Don't get too caught up in how many nat 5s they do.

TrollTheRespawnJeremy Fri 11-Nov-16 18:52:22

InformalRoman, that was my point. I don't think the number matters but the intake to University is probably a more indicative measure of academic success.

Im0gen Sat 19-Nov-16 21:16:18

I agree with PP, it's not that important. In reality pupil choice is limited however many subject they allow.

Most schools require English, maths, at least one science, a modern language, one social subject, one art / drama /music , one computing type subject etc etc

And they all do PE, RMPS and and PSE.

It makes no difference when they apply to university and the school reference for UCAS contains information about the numbers of subjects allowed at N5.

trixymalixy Sun 20-Nov-16 07:35:36

Surely it's better to choose the school where they have the flexibility to do 8, for the more capable? I presume not all children have to sit 8? Otherwise they'd maybe be at a disadvantage compare to private school kids who have the option to do 8?Disclaimer: my kids are in primary and I know very little about the nat 4/5s.

I agree though that how many go on to university from the school is probably a better criteria to choose a school.

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