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Has your school made mistakes with your childs GCSE exams too?

(21 Posts)
mottecorner Sat 08-Oct-11 20:10:04

Is my childs school a one off or have other parents suffered from the school making mistakes that have cost your DD dear. My child was entered for the parts of her french exam with two different exam boards so got a GCSE from neither, had coursework lost and had her actual RE exam subjected to a noise interruption every 5 minutes (invigilators log) incliuding a teacher getting her sandwiches and arguing with the invigilators they were in her room. The govt is threatening to get tough with the exam boards over mistakes but are they missing the big picture. What about mistakes by schools ? The exam boards will not give any allowance for these or even enter into a discussion. Has anyone else had a similar experience ?

Kez100 Sat 08-Oct-11 20:26:46

Your poor daughter.

Closest I've come myself (which also shows incompetence isn't new) was 20 years ago when a calculator paper was sat in a drama hall with black Walls and no windows. Half the calculators wouldn't work for lack of solar power! Luckily many still did as it was the days when batteries were still common. The invigilators had to delay us by an hour and buy in all the battery calculator stock from WHSmiths!

My daughters science exam was also interupted by an invigilator discussing how long the paper was with another, who disagreed. She said she felt like telling them, it's 45 minutes now STFU and give me a chance to pass.

RandomMess Sat 08-Oct-11 20:32:30

Fortunately this was in the mock exam, we were in a mixed exam hall, friend told to sit at certain desk - given the wrong science paper - chemistry instread of integrated science. Funniest of all she realised half way through and was then given the correct paper, she came about mid point from all those who took the chemistry paper grin

MindtheGappp Sun 09-Oct-11 07:47:08

No school is perfect, but a student should not suffer if the school makes mistakes. There are systems to rectify this.

I am struggling to understand how she was entered and sat exams in two different boards. Did she not check her exam entries? Was she entered for some modules early, which have since expired?

Lost coursework is usually the fault of the student for not handing it in. The advice is to make sure that it is on one computer file, and backed up in several places. If it does get 'lost', it is quick and easy to print a new one.

If there is an incident in the exam room that causes the student to lose concentration, this should be reported immediately to the awarding body. There are standard forms for the invigilator to use. I do struggle with a notion that a teacher will argue with invigilators about the room they have been allocated for the exam. I can't really imagine this happening. A likely thing to happen about rooming is that there is a clash that has not been spotted, but this is all sorted out before the exam starts.

For Science exams, I would always recommend that a teacher from the department is in the room at the start of the exam to make sure that everyone has the right paper. This is in addition to students signing their own entries and knowing which papers they are sitting.

EvilTwins Sun 09-Oct-11 10:16:58

AFAIK, teachers, particularly subject teachers of whatever the exam is in, are not supposed to be in the room during the exam - that's what the invigilators are for.

Exam boards have processes for lost coursework - we had an IT disaster last year which meant that an awful lot of work (students' and teachers') disappeared. Anything exam related was reported immediately to the various exam boards, and didn't go against the students.

I find it odd that one subject would enter students into exams from different boards - unless it was one set doing GCSE and one set doing BTEC, or something similar, then what would be the point?

mottecorner Sun 09-Oct-11 10:42:08

Thanks for your thoughts. The French situation occured because the school was changing exam boards. Parents recieved a letter saying coursework already done would be accepted by the new exam board but this turned out not to be the case. The head of modern languages and her number 2 had been sacked by the time this was realised for a unrelated matter. The new exam board will not help saying its not their problem . As for the disturbed exam - it did happen. A report was sent to the exam board but they refused to make any allowance for noise disturbance saying it was the schools fault. That is the problem . If an exam board makes a mistake they make allowances to compensate but if a school does nobody wants to know. The student has no more control over their teachers than they have over the printing of an exam paper. The exam results this year were a shadow of what the school achieved a few years ago but although the LEA and Ofsted have watched it happen (we wrote to both at the beginning of year 11 with our concerns) they now say there is nothing they can do. My DD has made a great start at a different college for A level but the teachers there are saying her lack of 10 A*s will rule her out of applying to for courses she should be competing for on the basis of early A level performance. Any ideas anyone ?

Kez100 Sun 09-Oct-11 11:08:40

Can she get written confirmation from the school of the issues to support any Uni application?

I've a friend whose brother died from a major accident during GSCEs and she obtained her predicted exam results in those that went before but not in those that she say after. She has a letter confirming all of this from the school should she need to use it for Uni applications (in her case she probably won't need it as she has now taken a more vocational and less competitive route).

gelatinous Sun 09-Oct-11 11:50:23

There aren't many (any?) courses that need 10A*, what is it she wants to do? If it was just those two subjects and she has 7 or 8 other A* GCSEs then I don't think doors should be closed for her.

I think the idea of getting a statement from the school to outline the problems and state what her predicted grades were is a good one. Some universities 'contextualise' GCSE results, so to have the statement put her results in the context of the results of the rest of the year group would be a good idea too.

But most important of all, she needs to do really well this year at AS - stellar results here will go a long, long way to offset any GCSE deficiencies.

MindtheGappp Sun 09-Oct-11 12:50:08

That is not true, Evil. Subject teachers cannot be the only invigilators in the room, but they can be there suitably chaperoned.

MindtheGappp Sun 09-Oct-11 12:56:50

I have heard of 7A* as being a gateway to courses, but not more than that. Certainly not 10.

The personal statement takes over at this point.

I have never heard of a school changing specifications mid-way through a two year GCSE course. Are you sure your DD wasn't entered in Y9 for the modules that are now not being accepted? If so, she is not at any disadvantage to students whose schools start GCSEs in Year 10.

Sometimes when a school does long-term planning for courses, eg by starting in Year 9, the exam boards do move goalposts and previous assumptions are null and void. We have a situation in our school where the time on the specification is running out and the last exam sitting is in March rather than June of this year. This was not clear when students set out on the course.

mottecorner Sun 09-Oct-11 13:18:12

Thanks very much for those suggestions. My DD wants to do Law and the stats for the UNi's she would like to apply to show 90% of students have 10A*s. Sixth form say if she applies without a realistic chance she could end up with no offers from anywhere at all. I think the suggestion for an "explanation" note to send to Uni's is a good one, however as her old school has stopped replying to emails/phone calls that may be hard to achieve!
I think I might try my MP. Maybe the Dfes may be able to make something happen. The Chair of Governors at her old school admitted to a prospective parent at an Open day that the "educational experience given to the previous year 11's fell far short of satisfactory, but we are confident it'll be right for your child if they come" Charming !! But if she is admitting this then hopefully the LEA realise this so maybe the MP could get someone to commit to writing. I have told my DD to do as well as she can and so far so good. She has been approached to go in the Oxbridge group as she is judged capable of A*'s but the sixth form have said her GCSE's will lower her chances esp on such a competitive course as Law ,so advised me to do all I could to try and sort her GCSE's

MindtheGappp Sun 09-Oct-11 13:34:59

I honestly can't see what good contacting the universities will do. All GCSE students have disturbances in their exams - invigilators changing shifts, five minute warnings, pupils coughing and sniffing and dropping pencil cases, ambient noise from the rest of the school.

While you can look at Unistats and see that their current student body has so many A*, this does not mean that it is an entrance requirement.

The GCSE cut-off for top courses at Russell Groups is reputed to be 7A* at GCSE. This is to get your UCAS form read rather than binned. Once they read your UCAS form, more important criteria take over - your personal statement, teacher reference, and predicted A-level grades.

Nitpicking over exam procedures smacks of your DD's best not being good enough. If she wants to be a lawyer, she will have to overcome many difficulties of being in the big bad world. She should not whinge about things being not just so at school or she will give the impression that she isn't tough enough to hack a top law course.

mottecorner Sun 09-Oct-11 13:38:18

MindtheGapp - thanks for your thoughts. The school did indeed change halfway through. Thse students already had two modules marked by AQA when they changed to WJEC. If you took the 4 marks she achieved in French it would have been an A*. The teachers said it had been agreed WJEC would honour AQA's mark but this seems not to have been the case.
The replies I have had do suggest this is rare so that encourages me to pursue the "letter of explanation idea"
It is difficult to judge how much impact the A*'s issue will have on Uni's. When you compare the official guidance with the stats on who actually got in then you realise how "perfect" their offering has to be. It is just so competitive with so many students aspiring to the same thing. She was actually moved up a year in primary school so she did all her GCSE's a year early and some two years early. She is still only 15. Maybe this will be taken into account as well. You just want them to be judged on how capable and committed they are not to be capped by how capable and committed the school were.

MindtheGappp Sun 09-Oct-11 13:46:50

Has she finished her GCSEs now? Is she in L6 starting out on AS levels?

If so, she has a year to worry about the impact of her GCSEs and in that time I am sure the worry will fade.

She needs to be forward looking and figure out a course of action to show how passionate she is about pursuing law as a career. This means reading books on the subject, getting some work experience with a variety of legal practices in the holidays, demonstrating transferable skills (teamwork, leadership, perseverance etc) via extra-curricular activities.

If she is a year younger than her peer group, she may not be accepted on a law course until she is 18, so will be looking at a gap year which will give her an ideal opportunity for work experience (although she should complete the UCAS process and defer while still at school).

mottecorner Sun 09-Oct-11 13:47:00

Mindthegapp - I hear what you are saying about complaining. But does not just jumping to that conclusion allow weak schools to get away without being challenged and therefore be more likely to fail the next year 11 as well?

mottecorner Sun 09-Oct-11 13:55:20

Mindthegapp - thanks for your advice. The work experience is a really good angle. She is hoping to combine Law and German so if she did her gap year working in Germany or maybe doing an internship for an MEP or similar that would outweigh her GCSE's.

MindtheGappp Sun 09-Oct-11 13:57:31

Won't that show up in school league tables and added value scores?

Is your DD is a situation where she meets Widening Access criteria?

I'm of the opinion that shit happens to pupils up and down the country during Y11 and unfairness balances out.

At my DS's school, a Y11 student died in her sleep in the middle of her GCSEs this June. Can you imagine showing up for your exams and seeing her empty desk?

MindtheGappp Sun 09-Oct-11 13:58:30

Gap year in Germany or Brussels sounds fab! Honestly, she will forget her GCSEs.

Kez100 Mon 10-Oct-11 01:35:57

Jeeeees Mindthegap. I had that happen to me when I was in year 2 - girl had accident one night when I was at Brownies and died (fell over a cliff). She sat on my table. Following days and weeks just an empty chair. I can still remember the feeling to this day: nearly 40 years later. They must have been distraught.

Yellowstone Mon 10-Oct-11 23:52:31

mottecorner you are worrying far too much, the 10A* thing is rubbish.

MindtheGappp Tue 11-Oct-11 17:44:24

I know, Kez - it was awful. I didn't know the girl as she wasn't in DS's year, but I personally was quite welled up by it. When I supervised GCSE and A-level exams, I kept thinking about the empty seat at DS's school.

It certainly puts collecting sandwiches into perspective.

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