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How closely do university admissions analyse a school's GCSE record?

(32 Posts)
madmummad Wed 18-May-11 00:32:29

i keep reading that universities will put an applicant's GCSE score in the context of how well the school does generally but does anyone out there know how closely they look? My DC is at a selective school but it isn't super selective. The school does perfectly well at grade A but really struggles in the A* category compared to other grammars. I can't see DC getting any more then a couple of A* when I look at the results historically - she'd have to be in the top 1 or 2 % of her year group to get them in most subjects which she isn't. Id put her in the top 25% and when i look at the results of other grammars and even bog standard private schools, I see she would probably pick up a string of A*s with hard work because those schools clearly have the knack of delivering them for half the year group. Would a uni admission tutor look that closely or would they just say "Grammar school should equal a string of A*. ". We chose the school cos we love it for its ethos and atmosphere but I'm now panicking that in the current climate I may have done her a disservice!!!

lljkk Wed 18-May-11 04:57:10

I doubt the analysis is that detailed, they don't have time?! Probably just use very broad quick statistics.
But don't know for sure, so will mark my place to watch for answers.

Yellowstone Wed 18-May-11 09:19:49

I understood that from next year UCAS will be providing universities with detailed contextual data. At the moment different universities have different approaches. Durham uses something called a moderator which in effect 'adds' points if a student is at a poorly performing school. I doubt that students from any grammar would get an uplift. Oxford already takes a closer look, details of which I think can be found on it's website. At the moment I don't think there's any universal approach. Presumably once this close contextual data is available your DD will be compared to those within her school, which should count in her favour?

marialuisa Wed 18-May-11 14:38:46

Ours gives "credit" if % 5 A*-C is below the national average. but it's one of several Widening Participation indicators and a candidate needs more than one to benefit from things like amenderd entry requirements.

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Wed 18-May-11 15:57:32

madmum, no school can "deliver" a string of A*s, the child has to earn them.

alice15 Wed 18-May-11 17:26:08

Excellent point, CarrotsANTOV.

lazymumofteenagesons Wed 18-May-11 17:57:00

If you look at durhams list (and I think other universities use it) only schools that really underperform are given positive moderation. I looked up DS2s school which is non-selective independent and there is zero moderation for it. This list only deals with As not A*s. Strings of A*s are only expected for either courses like medicine or at very popular courses at top universities.

OP the school isn't struggling with the A*s, the pupils are.

GnomeDePlume Wed 18-May-11 21:23:15

A slight hijack but how would a student from a school with a record of 5 GCSEs A-C of 44% and an EBAC of 4% fare please?

Yellowstone Thu 19-May-11 00:05:46

lazymum a school has to be extreme and at the very bottom end for Durham's moderator to cut in in such a way that it would make a difference. I'm not sure what you mean about the list only dealing with A's not A*'s? Durham takes the top eight GCSE's at each school and compares those scores across the board. A*'s are counted into that sum.

Gnome I'd have thought a decent adjustment would be made. Whether enough to balance the disadvantage, God knows (because I bet the terrestrial experts don't). Have you looked at the list?

Anyhow, isn't it all change from next year?

madmummad Thu 19-May-11 08:56:51

thanks for all the helpful answers. It's obviously more complex than I thought and all about to change anyway. Maybe?,

To Carrots and Alice. I think I did say that the child would have to work hard to get a string of top grades, clearly the school can't do it all for them.

Lazymum. I don't quite agree with your last comment. When a selective school has only 1 child out of 200 getting an A* in history for three years running then it's the school. I would have thought exam technique alone would make an appreciable difference in helping a pupil improve performance. All schools have strong years and weaker ones but I do believe that if a school can get 40% of its year group a grade A but only 2% a grade A* and we are dealing with kids who were creamed off at 11 then it's not just a case of lazy kids - though I have the utmost sympathy with the staff in trying to motivate the average stroppy teen!

Thanks again for all your help.

senua Thu 19-May-11 09:34:47

OP You could consider tutoring when the time comes. You tend to think that people only get tutors for struggling kids but it is surprising how many able kids are also tutored - because their work ethic doesn't match their potential, as a diversion because they are bored by school lessons, to bump them from A to A* (or even beyond!). The reasons are as diverse as the kids.

senua Thu 19-May-11 09:44:36

PS I totally understand your point about an underachieving selective school. Nationally, never mind at a selective, the number achieving an A* is 7.5%. See here (additional tables 7 to 17 - table 11).

Can you raise this with the school. Was it highlighted in their last ofsted? Do they have an action plan?

Elsjas Thu 19-May-11 10:05:23

Most only make an adjustment for very poorly performing schools, and a selective school really wouldn't warrant any uplift. If you are unhappy about the teaching at your school and you feel that the grades are being adversely affected, you should look at alternative support at home to increase them.

madmummad Thu 19-May-11 13:26:02

Senua - yes it was highlighted in the OFSTED along the lines of the school not quite meeting the needs at GCSE of the ablest pupils. And yes they do have 'a plan' which seems to be along the lines of 'monitoring pupils to check they're still on target.' but as my DD is still well down the school I have to be honest and say I feel a bit 'pushy parent' grilling the staff too closely about it from the foothills of Yr 8. Also I assume the plan will take a couple of years to work its way through to results. I also think that when a school has strong results at grade A it's very easy to lump them all together and declare a great performance at A*/A which is fine until I came on MN and see that if DD wants to do medicine, or a very popular course at a popular uni she will need A*'s unless she's at an underachieving school - which she isn't by national standards!!! sometimes reading forums isn't a good thing - I'm sure a lot of the other parents at the school are perfectly happy but you're either a neurotic parent or you're not and I realised long ago that I am.

Tutoring is a very interesting thought! I do try to keep abreast of the curriculum at home but there's the small matter of the parent/teenager personality clash - or blind rage in our case - from DD not me!! (well not all timeblush) Not wishing to change tack, but if anyone has used a tutor to get their DC's grade up a notch to the top grades I'd be interested to hear about it. Maybe I should start a different thread?

Thanks again

senua Thu 19-May-11 15:18:50

<looks back nostalgically to the time when she was a neurotic Y8 parent>
Que sera, sera. It all depends what she wants to do. DD got mostly Bs at GCSE but still ended up at a Russell Group Uni. It all depends on the subject they are reading. Yes, some Uni do want 8x A* GCSE for medicine but, there again, the magic A* are no guarantee of anything.

Does that make you feel better or worse?grin

mumalot Thu 19-May-11 15:29:43

Oh I feel better...because I have always carried this totally unfounded notion that if I obsess long enough about how my DC's are doing at school then it will negate their own completely blase attitude and everything will be alright in the end.

TBH I secretly wouldn't want any of them to want to medicine - all that money, time and effort!! And I'm talking about me not them!!!

ChishAndFips Thu 19-May-11 15:29:47

DD2 had a tutor for maths in the last few months of Year 11 OP. She could do the maths but was very unconfident at it and I think would have been thrown in the exam by apparently difficult questions. She was top set and predicted an A* so we felt a tutor would help her reach that. It worked grin.

Penthesileia Thu 19-May-11 15:57:56

I am a lecturer and admissions tutor at a 1994 Group university.

When selecting for interview or rejection, I consider GCSE results in a number of ways:

- as proof of consistent performance (so, if a student is predicted decent enough grades, and their reference is fulsome, but their PS is underwhelming...) but conversely;

- in conjunction with AS levels, as evidence of upwards trajectory (if such a trajectory has been suggested by the student themselves in their personal statement, or by their referee);

- as evidence of prior academic attainment if there are mitigating factors in the student's A level predictions (e.g. bereavement, illness);

- to look for evidence of ability in subjects outside that they're applying for, but which I consider necessary or indicative in some way;

- to consider how they do in " traditional" vs "non-traditional" subjects, or subjects which, depending on their schooling, they should ace (e.g it worries me if a student can't do well in, say, Class. Civ. if they go to an independent school);

- for a fuller picture of the student if it is brought to my attention that they attend a weak school. If the school's average is, say 5 GCSEs at grade C, and this student got 9 Bs, then they have clearly excelled. With regard to the OP, this wouldn't apply for a grammar, first because I would not distinguish between different grammars, and secondly, because no grammar school referee would ever say in their reference that they are a 2nd tier school, if you see what I mean. (I should say, however, that at my current institution, despite my colleagues' and my best efforts, we have been unable to retain a more flexible approach to entry requirements, meaning that we are seeing fewer students with potential from weaker schools, which is regrettable).

All of this, however, only matters at the first stage if they are borderline for our entry tariff (i.e. they fall just short); then it would contribute to whether I think they should be called to interview or not.

If they come to interview, and impress, chances are the GCSE results will not be looked at again; if the interview is less strong, then the results might come into play as to whether an offer is made.

I have also taught and interviewed at Oxbridge, and there GCSE results can be taken into account when "grading" the candidate at interview or if they go to the pool. But a strong interview and (if applicable) excellent score in any entrance test can overrule a weaker set of GCSE results. If a candidate is considered a 9 or 10 by their interviewers, they will receive an offer; 8 probably; 7 other factors come into play; 6 almost certainly rejected.

Hope that helps.

Yellowstone Thu 19-May-11 16:10:16

Penthesileia do you know anything about the use that is to be made of the detailed contextual data that UCAS is to start supplying?

Penthesileia Thu 19-May-11 16:19:34

Not yet. That will be summer fun! hmm grin

However, I'm not going to hold my breath about how successfully they're going to deliver on that... The system is a mess, IMO, and there's scarcely room on the current forms for primary information, let alone more detailed stuff. Plus, it's not uncommon that I have to chase up results or predictions missing from a form, and no-one seems to know what happened, etc.

What about you?

GnomeDePlume Thu 19-May-11 18:50:17

Yellowstone I tried to find Durham's list but couldnt locate it. Any road up if it is all change again I dont suppose it matters!

Yellowstone Thu 19-May-11 22:41:05

Gnome in essence it awards an uplift of 5 points to students at Special Schools (= 5 A*'s), no uplift to independents/ grammars/ top comps and mostly I to 2 points (= 1-2 A*'s) to comprehensives which are reasonable. That's broad brush but it really means that a school has to have exceptional circumstances to warrant a significant 'artificial' uplift to a student's raw results. I hope I haven't misrepresented that, I don't think I have.

Penthesileia my concern is that detailed contextual data will be used to compare students within rather than between schools and I can see real problems with that.

Penthesileia Fri 20-May-11 10:22:14

That's a good point.

But - interestingly - I've heard someone suggest that it could disadvantage the indie schools just as much, if not more (in terms of their historic dominance of better universities), than students from weaker schools. Not sure about that (I mean, if they have all As, they have all As). But still...

I just dread the implementation of any major new data scheme like this. <awaits disaster>

GnomeDePlume Fri 20-May-11 13:41:42

Yellowstone many thanks for that, that helps me understand a bit better. I will be interested to see how the more detailed contextual information works.

My DCs attend a decidedly average comp which has focussed heavily on GCSE equivalents. DD1 is unusual in the school in that she is studying a full range of academic subjects including two mfls. I'm not sure if or by how much DD1 is disadvantaged by such a school. I am happy that DD1 is able to take full advantage of the education available to her. On the other hand the culture of her school is one of under-age drinking and smoking and non-achievement. The EBAC score for last year was 4% ie 2 students.

Yellowstone Fri 20-May-11 14:41:57

Penthesileia I believe that if individual student scores are compared to the average score of their school then many grammar school kids at the top grammars will be disadvantaged. In a school where the average number of A*'s is 7 and a student works really hard to achieve his full potential of 6, is this new data going to classify him as an under achiever?

The same argument could obviously apply to the better end of the independent sector.

I'd like to have an understanding of how the data will be used because if it's as simplistic as I fear it may be, it's also dangerous for certain groups who work hard and have more academic potential and strength than many applicants with say 2 A*'s from a middle of the road comp where the average is 1. I'm all in favour of those with the most potential getting the places whatever their education and background, but could the use of this data skew the aim rather than help to achieve it?

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