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Wisdom From Post GCSE Parents ..... if you could go back in time WWYD differently

(18 Posts)
mulranno Sun 11-Sep-11 01:30:25

My son has just started Yr 9 at a very high achieving grammar. He scraped in on appeal, was off for almost a term thru illness in Yr 8, got poor end of year exam results, has now been bottom setted and considers himself "thick". Like any parent I want him to fulfil his own personal potential and want to do everything in my power to support him to achieve this. I continue to work on the self esteem part - explaining that the reality is that he will never be top of the year group in this school and this does not matter and have given him the option of changing to the secondary modern - however he loves his school and his friends - and I have explained that the only thing he needs to do is put in the time and effort to achieve his personal best. He is conscientious and works hard - although we have been deliberately laid back wrt school work in Yr7 to allow him to settle and in Yr8 as we focused on reintegrating him back to school post illness.

We have all agreed to up the game this year ahead of starting GCSE courses next year putting in more time and effort.

What could/should we be doing on top of homework? How should we structure this? How much time should we put in? What did you do that helped? What didnt?

We have started spending 15 mins at the end of each school day running over what he did in class (going well so far - but only day 3!). Would buying the GCSE books in WHS and running thru these help? Are there any other support materials eg online that help? Did anyone use a tutor etc? We plan to look out for learning opportunities (ie documentaries, exhibitions etc) to inspire and give another dimension to the subjects he is covering.

Should we be getting hold of syllabuses and past papers so we are clear what is expected?

Would really appreciate any dos/donts etc from those who have been down this road ahead of me. thx

moronicatatonic Sun 11-Sep-11 01:40:51

The CGP books honestly are excellent. It takes a while to make sure you've go the right one; they must be the right curriculum for the exam he'll actually be taking, and brand new - the stuff changes all the time. Just learn them, as parrot fashion as you can. If you start early, it should be achievable. GCSEs are funny - as in odd - you need to be able to tick the boxes the exam board wants you to tick and that's all in the CGP books. I write as a mum, not any kind of advocate for CGP. You could get rival brands but I have found CGP the best.

goinggetstough Sun 11-Sep-11 09:11:42

moronic would agree with getting some revision books and I too rate CGP. It is important to remember that DC can often like different types of revision books. My DD loved CGP whereas my DS found them overwhelming as there was too much text on a page. So maybe worth taking your DS with you when you go shopping to look.... They are often cheaper on Amazon. Totally agree with repetitive learning. It might be a little early to be working on past papers etc but they might be interesting for you to see what your DS is aiming for. They can all be found on the web. If you google the particular exam board and download them from there. Do check the answer guides too as there is often a certain way the questions should be answered.
Good luck and I hope he has totally recovered from his illness.

HauntedLittleLunatic Sun 11-Sep-11 09:25:29

I would get gcse books just yet (i assume that he won't actually start gcse's until the very end of yr9 at the earliest?).

Gcse learning builds on ks3 and having only done two thirds of ks3 there will be material that he hasn't been taught yet that he will need. I speak as a trainee teacher.

Probably the better plan is to buy a ks3 revision book and work on the material he finds difficult from last year to give him a better foundation for this year and work alongside the material he is currently learning. Also use online activities such as BBC bitesize.

The other thing to consider is his school right for him. Some children in your ds's circumstance would genuinely do better moved to a comp where they can be motivated by being top set. But that does depend on your ds's learning style and the other schools available.

HauntedLittleLunatic Sun 11-Sep-11 09:26:35

*wouldn't get gcse books yet.

roisin Sun 11-Sep-11 09:59:17

I agree with HauntedLittleLunatic.

I think talking about his day is a great idea, asking him what he learned in lessons. Checking through his exercise book and commenting/querying if it looks like he hasn't done very much work in a lesson.

If he's conscientious and hard working, then it seems likely he'll be doing as well as he can. Obviously illness last year won't have helped his progress and this year is an opportunity to catch up.

Is he below target for some/all of his subjects? Are there any that are particularly problematic? Do you have a parents' evening early in the year? Does he already have clear ideas as to which options he wants to take?

Yellowstone Sun 11-Sep-11 10:31:02

I know exactly where you're coming from (DS3 is taking GCSE's in 2012 and is the sixth DC in the family to do it). Same sort of grammar, same sort of position as compared to his peers - but definitely could do better.

I would honestly do nothing outside school which wasn't part of a coherent catch up plan put together by the school, because you'll risk burning him out. Very high achieving grammars already work them quite hard. For me, striking out alone would be a definite 'no'. A definite 'yes' though would be the exhibitions idea, those would be a really good idea and also fun.

moronicatatonic Sun 11-Sep-11 15:29:42

GCSEs are about rote learning, though; they are not about intelligence, or breadth of knowledge; that's why clever kids can fall down on them. You have to learn how to give the examiners what they want, and that's what CGP books do - the info is kind of ring-fenced - no more, no less knowledge is required. I agree excursions are the fun way to cover the ground, however. What I'm trying to say is that CGP or similar make the curriculum seem manageable. The self-tests at the end of sections are fun, too.

kritur Sun 11-Sep-11 17:56:34

I once tutored a girl for KS3 SATs in maths who was in a similar position. She was in bottom set for maths and thought she was thick. As a teacher in a comp at the time I really boosted her confidence because she was actually working at L6 and I could tell her that in my school she would have been at least in set 2 if not set 1. It might be worth getting some help from a tutor to boost his confidence as a little one to one may help him.

Otherwise CGP books are great, especially the general KS3 maths 5-8 book as it's laid out in topics. Also try and encourage him to mix widely outside his peer group from school so he can see everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Encourage anything he shows an interest in,eg, if he comes home talking about the 2nd world war because of something he did in history then take him to a museum for instance.

moronicatatonic Sun 11-Sep-11 19:13:39

Just to add - for languages, there's a comprehensive list of vocab which is needed for GCSE which you can run off t'internet. If you learn that, you are home and dry. Not saying it can be done quickly but over time you can do it. Good luck.

racingheart Sun 11-Sep-11 19:55:42

I read recently that the children who most benefit from grammar school and get better results than equivalent children in comps and secondary moderns are the lower set children because they do their best to catch up and in doing so, overtake peers at other schools.

Rather than jump ahead to GCSE work, I'd get hold of the right core curriculum KS3 books in maths, english and science, and go through them for ten mins a night asking him if there is anything in them he doesn't understand, or missed entirely or just finds hard. Go over this stuff until he's totally familiar with all elements of KS3 syllabus.

Maybe buy some simple guides to essay technique, with hints on planning, organisation of materials and ideas, and methods of analysing and tackling different types of questions, as this will pay off not only in English but in all essay-based subjects.

Finally, make sure he's reading widely, hears a variety of interesting music, sees some good art and museum exhibitions several times a year, so he has a well rounded view of the world and can put his learning into historical context.

3boys1cat Mon 12-Sep-11 12:22:50

My DS1 has just started AS Levels having taken GCSE's this summer. I agree with HauntedLittleLunatic that it is too soon to start with GCSE revison guides in Year 9. When the exams get close, though, I would recommend using the AQA (or whichever exam board) website extensively. You can print off past papers together with mark schemes (and this was my son's main revision method), but you can also get the Examiner's report for each exam which highlights exactly what they are looking for and common mistakes.

moronicatatonic Mon 12-Sep-11 12:32:06

I had no idea, 3boys. Very useful info, esp re the examiner's report. smile

HauntedLittleLunatic Mon 12-Sep-11 12:53:43

Mark schemes and examiners guides are definitely very valuable. However - again - I would be various about using them too early even within yr10/11.

The teachers will use them as revision aides and if he happens to have done the 2010 paper at home the day before he does it at school that could give the teachers false impression of his knowledge. Unlikely to be that extreme but used with caution will be fine. Also remeber you don't have to sobs whole paper. You can just do one question on the topic you want.

mulranno Mon 12-Sep-11 13:58:21

this has been really really useful - and has allowed me to get an idea as to what is useful to focus on right now....and to pace ourselves...

has anyone a recommendation for a good study technique guide as suggested by Racing Heart?

Theas18 Mon 12-Sep-11 14:14:53


Similar highly selective grammar environment

Feeling guilty now! strategy for DD1 was to stand back and let her do what she thought needed doing with a weather eye on deadlines and gentle interest in what was going on. We also encouraged her to keep her out of school stuff going (and she did /does a lot). IIRC 7 A* 4A so it worked .

Doing same for DS - he's a bit less simple than DD - somehow he seems to keep everything well up and drop a few marks on 1 subject.... He has had modules in this year and all good but he's beating himself up as 3 UMS off A* on english and B in RE Islam module....
As he's beating himself up about these we are putting no pressure and just have said go and chat to the teachers. Ulimately the B may stop him getting an A* in RE but heck that's no tragedy!

ellisbell Mon 12-Sep-11 21:10:00

another fan of the CGP books here. Choose your time to buy and you may get discounts in Smiths. There are lots of online resources, including videos on YouTube. However I wouldn't do too much with past papers as the school will probably do that.

The most important thing you can do is encourage our son's self-esteem. He is not "thick" and mixing with children at other schools would allow him to see that more easily. Support him in something outside school. Voluntary work can be very useful and may point him towards a future career. Martial arts training can also be useful in building self-esteem.

LadyLapsang Tue 13-Sep-11 17:27:56

Think it all sounds a bit pressurised at this stage to me. He has 3 years until GCSEs and 5 years to A2s. Think if you start to pile on the pressure now he will be turned off from learning.

Wonder if he is at the right school? You say he is at a top grammar - do you mean about the top 10% of the cohort? What does his Head of Year / Head think - what would they do if he was their child?

Does he mix with other children who don't go to the grammar? When DS mixed with a wider range of young people (ability, socio-economic) through Scouts etc. it opened his eyes and put things rather more in perspective which I think is helpful e.g. X struggles with academic work but won the swimming gala etc.

When the time comes CGP books were helpful, however I'm sure the school will spend more than enough time on past papers and revision - if they didn't they wouldn't be a 'high achieving grammar'.

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