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How should I tackle this with the school? Any teachers with advice?

(57 Posts)
cherryorchard Wed 08-Sep-10 19:28:50

DD was disappointed to have a B in one of her AS-levels.

She's hoping to try for Oxford, so this could make a big difference.

Looking at the details, she had a good A in the exam, but a C in the coursework.

I'm cross that her teacher let her submit coursework which only achieved a C. She's a bright and conscientious girl who achieved two other As.

She's going to ask if the coursework can be re-marked in the first place (if the mark isn't far off a B), but I'm still none to happy at the discrepancy with what the examiners expect and what the school allowed to be submitted, especially as she submitted a number of drafts to her teacher first. (The teacher for the coursework is also head of department).

How should I tackle this with the school? Ultimately it may make no difference to her, but it might affect my other child - and if the teaching/coursework isn't what will impress examiners, the school needs to address it.

Apparently she'd have to completely re-do the coursework if she wants to "resit" - is that correct?


londonmackem Wed 08-Sep-10 19:30:51

We need to know course, exam board, I assume AS?

durga Wed 08-Sep-10 19:35:01

A child that hands in C grade coursework is not, in my opinion an Oxford candidate. They need to be self starters.

I am not saying there are no issues with coursework and teaching, it is not unlikely as there will be a new specification and as a teacher you get a feel over time what they are looking for.

When my students do coursework I do not guide them through draft after draft, it is to be their own work which reflects their ability.

cherryorchard Wed 08-Sep-10 19:45:13

It's English, WJEC londonmackem

cherryorchard Thu 09-Sep-10 08:13:21

Bump - anyone? thanks

nigglewiggle Thu 09-Sep-10 08:17:42

I'm not a teacher, but surely it renders pointless any assessment of coursework if students are allowed to re-submit until it achieves an A grade.

nickschic Thu 09-Sep-10 08:22:18

My ds got a c sad in his English language As too.........fortunately for him it was a marking error to do with coursework submitted or something I think and its now been pulled up to an A !!

No help to you trhough sorry- i think you need to find out how far from the B she was .....ds was 5 marks from an A in history and was gutted.

gingeroots Thu 09-Sep-10 09:21:07

I know 2 people with DC's in similar positions regarding coursework getting low grade while all other work excellent .
Subjects are English and Art ,but there seems to be a suggestion that coursework can't be remarked .
Is that correct ?

snorkie Thu 09-Sep-10 09:39:35

It's not really how far off a B that the coursework was that matters but how far off an A the overall grade was. It's probably only worth remarking (if a remark of coursework is possible) if the overall AS grade is just a few marks off an A unless the teacher feels that the coursework has been unfairly judged.

One question that might be worth knowing is whether the teacher judged the work to be a 'C' or if the exam board moderated it down. If they moderated it, was it just hers or everyone's? Sometimes if they think a teacher has been too generous they will downgrade the whole set I think.

If she handed in several drafts to her teacher then I suppose it might be interesting to know if:
1) The standard of submissions improved each time. If so, then it sounds as though she was taking advice on board but from a low starting point so you can't really complain. It doesn't seem reasonable to expect teachers to take and mark endless submissions.
2) The successive drafts didn't get any better but the teacher was giving pointers as to how to improve them. Again you can't really blame the teacher here - if a child won't take advice there's not much they can do.
3) The successive drafts didn't get any better but the teacher wasn't giving pointers as to how to improve them. Here it depends whether or not the teacher is allowed to give pointers as to whether or not they are at fault.

The cause is probably that your dd took a while to adjust to the jump in standards from GCSE to AS, so the exam (at the end of the year) reached a higher standard than the coursework that had been done earlier. Or else it is just one of those statistical things where the questions on the exam agreed with her better.

cherryorchard Thu 09-Sep-10 19:53:22

Thanks everyone, and especially snorkie's considered answer - she spoke to the teacher today but didn't get all the information she wanted (i.e. breakdown of marks) as he didn't have the breakdown in marks with him. But he did know which part of the coursework had let her down.

Apparently he didn't check the work before handing it in, but I guess, wrongly, I'd expected him to as this is what had happened at GCSE with her history coursework - the teacher handed it back several times for re-drafting by her.

Had I known, I'd have helped her more as English is a subject I studied myself!

nigglewiggle Fri 10-Sep-10 08:51:22

But then it would be a measure of your abilities and not hers.

<bangs head against wall>

mummytime Fri 10-Sep-10 08:54:29

Thats why they are moving away from coursework to controlled assessment. She will have to study by herself at University, and Oxbridge lay great store on essays, writing and arguing your case.

tokyonambu Fri 10-Sep-10 09:12:39

"Apparently he didn't check the work before handing it in...Had I known, I'd have helped her more as English is a subject I studied myself!"

Someone who needs their mother and their teacher to hold their hand while they write an essay isn't an Oxford candidate.

And thank God coursework is being killed, so that children who actually do the work aren't competing with candidates whose mothers are doing it for them.

gagamama Fri 10-Sep-10 09:40:43

Surely the coursework will have been marked on the merit of her work and not on whether the teacher thinks she is 'bright and conscientious' or what she is expected to get in her exams. I'm another who finds it strange that you think she should have been coached to acheieve beyond what she would have acheived herself, or that the teacher hasn't done their job if a pupil doesn't get an A. (C is 'average' anyway).

Of course, if you think the coursework has been marked unfairly then by all means get your DD to take it up with the school and exam board. Your DD should be able to get a picture from other students as to whether coursework has been marked harshly.

Adair Fri 10-Sep-10 09:45:51


THIS is what is wrong with our education system

We teachers are expected to tell students exactly what they need to do to get an A and woe-betide them if they don't/can't do it. 'But I worked really hard, Miss'

<once again ponders Adair's radical overthrow of education system to one with no grades and which fosters love of learning instead>

thelastresort Fri 10-Sep-10 09:48:07

Absolutely agree with tokyonambu and nigglewiggle.

I am so glad coursework is being phased out, esp at GCSE. So many parents cheat 'help out', it is outrageous and not a true reflection of their child's abilities. Still they are only making a rod of their own back in the end, unless they are going to accompany them to university......

IMO many teachers know this is going on but what can they do about it?? One of my DCs class got a rather sarcastic letter back once re the sudden brilliance of his coursework though and was asked to repeat the work in school rather than at home

juuule Fri 10-Sep-10 09:56:56

With some work that I've seen it seems that teachers also 'help out'. Suggestions to improve a piece of work written in the margins and returned to the student for resubmission. Student told that if they included xxx then that would raise the grade.
I get confused as to where it is instruction in a subject or possible cheating.

tokyonambu Fri 10-Sep-10 10:12:06

Course work was a handy way to boost the grades of the middle classes. Educated parents can either write it for the children, or at least act as an oracle to provide a "yes/no" appraisal.

When I did an OU Arts course recently, I was careful not to show my work to my OH until after I'd submitted: they have an English degree, while I have a science degree. I don't see the difference with children.

Decorhate Fri 10-Sep-10 10:17:53

I know someone who admits her dh did all their dd's maths homework for her in Y7 as she was finding it difficult & getting upset. The dd went on to get all A & A* in her GCSEs - do wonder how much that was due to her own ability/hard work....

thelastresort Fri 10-Sep-10 10:19:01

Yes, the giving in and giving back of work is also 'helpful' in getting a top grade. Agree with Adair.

Still when pupils apply to Oxford, they have to basically take their own entrance examination which does rather sort out who is actually naturally bright as opposed to someone who is very good at getting a grade A in the present examination system.

So to the OP, if your DD's coursework mark did not reflect her true ability, she will be able to show what she can really do in the separate entrance criteria that is required in the Oxford entrance tests.

tokyonambu Fri 10-Sep-10 10:23:41

juuule, that's why course work has to stop. Because the rules are vague and unenforceable, it places the teacher in the impossible position of being both the custodian of the grades and an advocate for the child's interests. They also know that there are other teachers and parents who will help, even if they don't, so they can rationalise the help they provide as just levelling the playing field. Were I a teacher at a school whose children didn't in general have degree-educated parents, damned right I'd help: the children at the leafy school up the road are all being helped at home, after all.

The only way to remove that debate is to move back to exams and, if necessary, course work done under controlled circumstances where the teachers are invigilators rather than tutors.

thelastresort Fri 10-Sep-10 10:28:29

Yes, it is so unfair on those who do not have 'help' from educated parents.

JaneS Fri 10-Sep-10 10:30:48

"Apparently he didn't check the work before handing it in...Had I known, I'd have helped her more as English is a subject I studied myself!"

And you and he would both have been breaking the rules. Come on, surely you know this?

Decorhate Fri 10-Sep-10 10:50:51

I think part of the problem is that what pupils need to do to get a particular grade has become very prescribed. So they end up working to a formula. Even in primary school pupils are told what sort of things they would be expected to do if they are working at a particular level.

I can see why it is needed to ensure consistency but think it can be bad for originality

tokyonambu Fri 10-Sep-10 11:34:59

Originality is complex, though. It's unlikely that someone doing GCSE or A Level (or, usually, a first degree) is going to produce something truly original. It's a fine judgement: a rough rule of thumb for a first is that it's publishable in a journal, or more bluntly that the lecturer would be happy to have written it themselves. But at A Level? It's about understanding the course material, being able to do the prescribed tasks and being able to write coherently about what you're doing.

Originality is like the endless claims about "creativity" in primary schools: with a handful of exceptions, creativity requires fundamental skills which are not themselves creative, and people who are creative do so using those skills. Artists can draw and paint vases of flowers, even if their well-known work is not still lives; writers can construct an essay about Macbeth's marriage, even if they're going on to write plays in the manner of Sarah Kane.

There's a place for originality. It probably isn't A Level English Literature.

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