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Edexcel GCSE French Oral - please tell me this can't be happening

(24 Posts)
eatyourveg Thu 11-Oct-12 16:58:51

ds3 is only half a term into Y10 and has come home today to say his french teacher has told them next thursday they will all be taking their french oral exam! They will be called out of class one at a time every 15 minutes to go to a different classroom and answer questions and give a talk on an essay he has to write this week.(?? ) I told him it wouldn't be the real thing but a practice run and he is adamant it is half of the 15% (??) and really is the real thing.

I know GCSEs have changed for his cohort but can this really be right seeing as he only started the course last month and re-takes have been abolished. One weeks notice seems ridiculous. He's in the top set but doesn't stand out as being anything exceptional. I haven't been sent anything from the exam officer with confirmation of his exam entry which is what the school usually do. ds1 didn't do his oral until half way through Y11 which seems a lot more sensible.

Can I withdraw him from the exam and ask them to put him in for it next year instead?

schoolchauffeur Thu 11-Oct-12 18:16:54

My DS is also in Year 10 and I think that whilst the exams are now "linear" they do still have "controlled assessments". We got an email home from school last week with a timetable of controlled assessments and coursework for this academic year. DS has French speaking and writing over a two week period in December and some kind of English literacy task too. After Christmas looks like he has some more French and English again. Third term Geog project and a Tech project.
So could well be that this is a small part of the real thing. I am seeing DS French teacher next week so will get more info then. I think one week notice is not much. I can imagine that my DS will have done work on all the speaking stuff now and will have half term to "perfect/practice" it. If I find out anything in the short term I will let you know!
It's scary isnt it??!!

LineRunner Thu 11-Oct-12 18:21:02

This happened to DD and she failed it. Although she took it again the following year, and got a C, and got A and A in the other components, it seemed to still be taken into account and dragged her overall final grade down to a C which she didn't deserve.

MaureenMLove Thu 11-Oct-12 18:29:26

DD did exactly the same two years ago, when she was in yr10. She did pretty badly, but she had the opportunity to do it another couple of times during yr 10 and 11. I think she nailed it on the 3rd or maybe even 4th attempt, much to the delight of all involved!

I think, the thinking is, if they get a good grade early on, it's one thing they can put to bed, so to speak, to concentrate on the other elements of the GCSE.

Give the head of MFL a call and ask them to confirm this is the case, before asking him to be withdrawn. smile

LineRunner Thu 11-Oct-12 18:33:12

We asked and were told that it would be superceded by the re-take. Which is why we were surprised that A+A+C = C.

Definitely ask; and I wish I'd got something in writing now, via email, in hindsight.

spg1983 Thu 11-Oct-12 18:38:58

Yes, this is correct. I teach GCSE French and we have exams at the end of yr 11 in listening and reading, but speaking and writing are assessed via controlled assessment (i.e. mini exams) over the 2 year course. We have to submit 2 speaking and 2 writing pieces per child. There are 6 topics over the 2 year course, 1 of which is not completed by the deadline for coursework submission in yr 11. We are not allowed to submit 2 pieces of coursework on the same topic, leaving us 5 topics to get 4 decent pieces of work from. Therefore if one piece is awful, we can drop it, but this can only happen once!

Please, please do not withdraw your son from this. He will have studied the topic in detail and it will be the most simple topic on the course to allow for transition from yr 9. He will be allowed a maximum of 5hrs in class to prepare it from work in his book which has already been marked and is therefore perfect. He does not have to write an essay from scratch, all of the material he needs will be in his exercise book. If you withdraw him, you will either take away the 'fall back' position of being able to discard the weakest mark next year. He will also need to do this assessment next year having not studied the topic since the start of yr 10. Also, if you tell him that he can afford to discard this mark, you're potentially denying him the chance to get a decent mark on the easiest topic, if he messes this one up then they only get harder from here.

He can re-take if things go wrong, it's only the listening/reading exams at the end of yr11 which can't be repeated. Controlled assessment can be repeated with minimal changes to the original task.

I strongly suggest you really encourage him to knuckle down now, while his other subjects are still quite low-pressure. My yr 11s last year were a nightmare but this year my class have all just completed their final piece as they tried really hard every time and we've not had to discard any marks. They are now able to focus 100% on their terminal exams, meaning that 60% of their final grade is safe.

Your son's upcoming assessment is potentially worth 15% of his final grade, so very important. Please ask if you need further help - it sounds like the school hasn't made the course requirement clear...

spg1983 Thu 11-Oct-12 18:45:45

Aaargh, just seen other people have replied while I was writing my essay(!). I want to repeat - do NOT withdraw him! He will have a copy of the exact questions he will be asked. He will also have a copy to the answers he's prepared in class. The conversation is in no way spontaneous, he can learn everything in advance. There is no need for him to miss the exam and making him wait until next year will only mean he's had a year to forget it all!! He will not do any better on it as he will not study this topic again!

Linerunner, the marks you were given for coursework would only have been the teacher's estimate. We do mark the speaking but it's subject to change if the examiners don't agree, and we don't mark the writing. Obviously we look at the work to see if we think it's good enough to submit so we estimate a grade for it but it's the examiners who ultimately decide. Sounds like the teachers were over-generous in your case sad

Again to the OP- DO NOT WITHDRAW HIM!!!!

LineRunner Thu 11-Oct-12 18:47:58

Those were the grades on her final GCSE results sheet, spg. It's a mystery to us, tbh.

But thanks so much for the advice and more to the point for the advice for the OP.

spg1983 Thu 11-Oct-12 18:54:59

Oooh, line that IS weird! The only thing I can think of is that some parts of the exam are weighted more heavily than others (listening 20%, reading 20%, speaking 30%, writing 30%). Maybe the As were only just an A grade (i.e. close to a B) and were for the components which aren't worth as much, whereas the C was a low C, and was for a part of the exam which counted for more, so maybe it was for speaking/writing?

I had a pupil last year who got a D on one exam but ended up with an A as they'd got A and A* grades on their coursework... You'd have thought that D+A+A* would equal something lower than that but the A and A* were both really close to the upper end of the grade boundary, as was the D.

LineRunner Thu 11-Oct-12 18:59:00

I guess it must be the weighting, spg. I am very grateful DD passed her MFL, of course, and is happy at her sixth-form college.

spg1983 Thu 11-Oct-12 19:57:49

Glad all is good, line. Just hoping that the OP comes back to this and reads it - once it's been explained it's not as scary as it originally seems, and sooooo much easier than the old-style exam where every topic had to be revised for speaking and you didn't know what was coming up in the exam. This time, it's only 1 topic at a time, you know what the questions are and have just had 5 weeks worth of teaching on it, meaning all the answers are already in your book - all you have to do is memorise them!!

LineRunner Thu 11-Oct-12 19:59:50

OP! spg is talking sense.

eatyourveg Fri 12-Oct-12 07:59:10

Thanks all and especially spg I have emailed the teacher to ask for clarification on what exactly the exam next week is.

So the whole exam is just all rote learning and there is not much requirement for actually understanding what you're saying. All he needs to do is pick out a couple of familiar words in the question to work out which answer goes with that. So its testing his memory rather than his comprehension. confused

Would still like to delay it tho - one weeks notice is very short. Are the dates fixed nationally or do schools do them anytime within a set timeframe?

eatyourveg Fri 12-Oct-12 08:57:08

Had an email back from the teacher just now to say it is actually a rehearsal but to be treated as the real thing. The real think is next month. Very relieved. Won't withdraw him now I know he has longer than a week to get his pronunciation up to scratch.

Thanks again for all the replies

DialMforMummy Fri 12-Oct-12 09:39:19

So the whole exam is just all rote learning and there is not much requirement for actually understanding what you're saying. All he needs to do is pick out a couple of familiar words in the question to work out which answer goes with that. So its testing his memory rather than his comprehension

Yes, pretty much. Be aware that the grade boundaries might be pretty high for this component, I teach AQA and you need to score about 27/30 (IIRC) to get an A*.
For the children's sake, I would recommend NOT to learn the whole speech by heart as, under pressure, relying solely on your memory can be a bit of a risk.
Like spg said, he will have a copy of the questions that will be asked (bar one, one has to be unknown but will be predictable). However, he should not have a copy of his answers (it should he his own work) nor should his draft answers marked or corrected. This would be in breech of the spec. He can use the marked work form his ex book. and adapt copy phrases from his textbook.
It is worth knowing that the children are meant to prepare for 6 hours (at home or/and at school) for this exam (how are the teachers are going to police it, fuck knows). You can't expect the whole prep time to be done at school, if any. But being given just a week to prepare for this exam, makes hard to find the time to devote 6 hours for the exam alongside the rest of the school work.
Reality is, there is plenty of room for cheating in this format of exam. It is quite a complicated and unrealistic spec and a serious pile of crap.

spg1983 Fri 12-Oct-12 16:34:29

Agree with everything dialm said - yes it is more a memory test and teachers don't rate it as much as the old spec but unfortunately we have to go along with it.

However, I don't see how he can't have a copy of his answers - surely if he's prepared answers to the set questions then he's written his own script. And...this is dodgy I know but in an INSET session with the chief examiner I was told that although a teacher can't mark a draft script, the pupil can use previous class work to base the script on, and of course class work has to be marked, so the pupils have a "perfect" piece of work to base the script on. Plus, we were even told that we should plan the questions before starting to teach the topic and therefore make sure that when the time came that it matched their class/home work. She actually stood there and said "you can stand in front of your class and say "hmm, now question 1, have a look through your book and see if there's anything that matches that, oh yes, it was homework 3 weeks ago, what a coincidence!!"

Personally I think that's crossing a line but if that came from the chief examiner's mouth then it just goes to show the state of these qualifications.

OP, your son is always going to have a maximum of 1 week to learn this type of thing so it's not worth asking for extensions as you'll just invalidate his controlled assessment as he'll then have breached the preparation conditions. Plus the teacher is being a bit naughty in using this as a practice one as they shouldn't really use the same task for what essentially will be a re-take. If someone from the exam board found out then they'd take a very dim view of it. My advice is to get your son to do a brilliant job on the "practice" one so that he doesn't have to re-do it and potentially get that one invalidated too for being a repeat sitting of the same task.

BackforGood Fri 12-Oct-12 17:10:29

Yup, sadly the "learn a script" for a test is what MFL GCSEs have been reduced to - the children can pass without being able to hold a conversation in the given language.
You've had some great advice from spg1983 and dialM though.

schoolchauffeur Fri 12-Oct-12 17:28:21

my DS is also having a "practice"- but the real thing will not be a "re-run". The teacher has made up something completely different herself just to give them the experience of the pressure of trying to prepare for the test and a chance to be in the "exam room" apparently. The real thing will be done in the proper way- this practice is just a chance for them to practice their skills. She told me that to practice the real thing was not allowed!

eatyourveg Fri 12-Oct-12 18:33:38

maybe our teacher is doing something similar to yours schoolchauffeur It does sound very dodgy otherwise

LettyAshton Sat 13-Oct-12 14:50:42

I almost had a heart attack when I heard Yr 10 ds is doing his French listening exam soon. As has been discussed frequently on these threads, MFL teaching ain't what it was, and to my mind ds's French is abysmal. I had thought he could make decent progress by Year 11, but now I find that they're straight into it. I can only hope that the format is dodgy otherwise I do not foresee a particularly high mark!

BackforGood Sat 13-Oct-12 15:29:54

Well, my ds passed, with terrible French (and that's compared with me who only managed a 'C' when I did my O-level - I really am no linguist).

Startailoforangeandgold Sat 13-Oct-12 16:50:47

CA are a bad joke.

English ones appear to be much the same as these French ones.
Write a practice essay with a very slightly different title. Get it marked.
Learn it and churn it out again.

Utterly ridiculous that my dyslexic DD who's English and ability to proof is gradually getting better should be doing parts of her GCSE TWO YEARS EARLY!!

Her written work will never be beautiful, but she is improving all the time, growing up, learning to read stuff through, take a step back and spot her mistakes. Even write a whole piece in the same tense!

I don't want future tutors and employers judging her on the work in progress that she (and I'm sure many of her class are) at 14 and thinking that is what she can do at 16sad

TheFallenMadonna Sat 13-Oct-12 16:58:22

We are doing a CA with our year 10s soon. I teach Science, and those doing Core Science only have one year to complete. We can do up to three and pick the best mark to submit. We will do two with everyone, and then the third with the ones who most need to improve. We have been instructed to make sure out CAs don't coincide with those of other departments. Not entirely sure why, as they are done entirely in lesson time, but there you go. And we are doing a practice one now to prepare them.

Startailoforangeandgold Sat 13-Oct-12 17:17:08

Science, Geography, history and English lit, I can understand up to a point.

I can see you might learn photosynthesis this term and something quite different next. So testing it while it's fresh makes some sense. DD doing Romeo and Juliet next term does.

But English language skills and MFL vocabulary and accents surely mature over two years. Maths certainly does and my school stopped doing the exam early because grades improved with more practice. Even though this was along side additional maths papers for the brightest.

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