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Size of AS/A2 classes.

(50 Posts)
hanginginthere1 Fri 02-Nov-12 09:32:34

My daughter has chosen to stay at her school to follow her aA level courses. Did well at GCSE' and has A*,s in all her chosen subjects. She liked her teachers at GCSE, and wanted to continue with them at A level. She is, however becoming more and more concerned by the size of the classes, especially in the Sciences. Her Chemistry class has 25 kids in it. Many of them did not take the separate science option at GCSE, and some of them did not achieve particularly high grades in the Core Science exams that they took. Over the weeks the class has steadily increased in size, to the point that the teacher, who is very good, is having to spend lots of time with the lower end of the class helping them to understand stuff that my daughter did last year. Daughter not exactly being neglected completely, but there have been times when she and few others have been waiting for help, in order to move on, and the teacher is unable to give , because she is run ragged trying to deal with the middle/ bottom end. Add to this the fact that some of the class are beginning to disrupt by being disrespectful/ talking over the teacher whilst she is trying to teach etc.
Has anyone any experience of this situation? My daughter feels, and I am beginning to agree with her that after the high standards of her GCSE Science lessons, she now feels aSs if she is in a mixed ability class.
Surely this is not right, a similar thing is beginning to happen in her English lessons too. She is a clever girl, she wants to study medicine, and I fear that she is not going to achieve this whilst in this situation.. She will need a lot of help if she is to get on to a medicine course, and I see the potential for things to go wrong. Am in the process of trying to speak to her Head of Yr, but I don't know if anything can be done.
It is so frustrating. I have never known an A level class t have 25 in it before. There seems to be a huge difference between those who did separate sciences, and those who did not.
The school is high achieving one in a middle class area, and otherwise quite good, but for my daughter it feels like a completely different place to the way it was last year

Moominmammacat Fri 02-Nov-12 11:47:42

If it's anything like my DSs' comp they are running bigger classes because they have less money for sixth forms ... so what would have been say, two French classes of 15, is now one of 30.

MrsHerculePoirot Fri 02-Nov-12 11:51:00

We now have classes of 20 - 25 in Maths and Science at our school - simply saves money as you essentially are talking about saving the cost of one teacher for the year. It is very difficult to teach a class that size and regularly mark their work, help them individually - I am working so many more hours outside of school this year as a result and really struggling to support all of them individually as they deserve to be supported.

hanginginthere1 Fri 02-Nov-12 11:59:54

I understand it is all down to money. Have just spoken to local 6th form college, and unfortunately the same situation applies. So frustrating. How are these kids supposed to realise their potential? I can see that in my daughter's case it will probably come down to the goodwill of individual teachers, giving up their free time. They shouldn't have to do that.
Alternative is private school. Really do not want to have to go down that route, but I can't see my daughter being able to get on to a med course at this rate.

BlueStringPudding Fri 02-Nov-12 12:15:18

DD has 17 in her Chemistry AS class - also at a local 6th form college - so it isn't the same everywhere (yet). Are there other 6th forms locally you could look at as alternatives?

Innat Fri 02-Nov-12 12:26:46

It's up to the individual school to set the entrance requirements to their AS/A level courses, and i would be surprised if it was below a B in GCSE. I'm assuming the other kids you refer to did double science and it would be unfair not to let them do a-level because they didn't do triple science.
I would hope that the school has planned their courseso they will cover all the content required. Can you look at this first half term as revision for your daughter and be pleased that she is handling it so well. Many kids find the transition from GCSE to sixth form incredibly hard. It might be the case that some students are only doing AS so the class size might be smaller next year.
I know this doesn't help your personal situation but unfortunately schools are now measured by cost and numbers and league tables so this is why they see these as a priority. Although they will also be looking to get good grades too, so should provide support for pupils to achieve top grades.

hanginginthere1 Fri 02-Nov-12 12:37:57

Points taken Innat. but I don't want her to be revising, I want her to be getting on with the new course, which will be challenging enough.
She has kids in her A level English language class who are still struggling with the use of the words "to/too'.
I am dead set against private education, but I feel like I am turning in to Mr Gove!

Arisbottle Fri 02-Nov-12 12:41:29

25 is too many, we don't go over 15

hanginginthere1 Fri 02-Nov-12 12:57:18

What kind of school/college are you, Arisbottle?
I really struggle with this concept of setting science classes in yrs 10/11, and then basically turning them in to mixed ability, [middle/bottom heavy] at a level,and still expecting the brighter students to come out with the top grades. How are they supposed to do this? l

BlueStringPudding Fri 02-Nov-12 13:25:23

What was the entry requirement for the course? At DD's college I think it was either a B in Chemistry if Triple Science was taken, or a B in both Dual Science exams. So the ability range should only be B to A* so not as wide as a mixed ability class at GCSE level.

In the meantime it might be worth getting a Chemistry tutor that knows the syllabus and can take her through some of it - cheaper than going the private education route and they should be able to give you an idea as to whether she's at the level they'd expect.

SecretSquirrels Fri 02-Nov-12 15:47:31

I really don't like the sound of that. Did you look at other 6th forms? Were they the same?

DS1 got A*s in all his A level subjects and he says the pace is very fast, which suits him.
He has around 20 in his classes but, crucially in Maths at least they had to get at least an A. Plus they had to take tests at the 6 week point to ensure they were on the right course.

webwiz Fri 02-Nov-12 16:28:16

I thought DD2's Chemistry A level class was too big with 17 in it. In your situation OP I would be very concerned. I think I would at the very least be encouraging your DD to take an independent approach to her studies - checking what is on the syllabus, looking at revision guides, making sure she understands what she has been taught. A tutor as back up wouldn't hurt either.

TheFallenMadonna Fri 02-Nov-12 16:30:55

I have 26 in my year 12 science class. It is too many, without question.

NamingOfParts Fri 02-Nov-12 17:54:10

I asked DD what her class sizes were:

Maths 23
Bio 20
Chem 13
French 5

How to handle students who did double science at GCSE is a classroom management issue. DD said in her class that the double science students were encouraged to put in the extra study to come up to speed after school and in free periods. This means that the class is moving along at a reasonable rate.

The real message though is study MFL! If DD goes through to A2 then on previous experience she will be practically on her own!

SlackSally Fri 02-Nov-12 18:08:50

A limit of 15. That's got to be a private school, surely? At my sixth form college, 15 is the number, apparently, at which a class BEGINS to 'pay for itself'. My average group size is about 18, which isn't too bad, but there are a couple of classes over thirty. It's all down to funding, unfortunately. More popular subjects subsidise less popular ones, e.g. the French class of five.

It's not fair on the students OR the teacher. It's a hell of a lot more work to mark thirty coursework essays than it is five. Total lack of parity.

Should add that since my college is in an area where results are well below the national average, most courses require only a C in the relevant subject. And many kids are really pushed to get that C since schools are judged on that. It means there is an enormous range of ability in each class. From the Oxbridge candidate to the student for whom any pass is a result.

EvilTwins Fri 02-Nov-12 18:45:41

I have 13 in my 6th form Performing Arts class. Other groups at my school range from 2 (A2 History) to 28 (AS Business Studies). It is entirely down to timetabling and money, which is rotten, but that's the reality. For the same reason, subjects which didn't attract more than 10 were not included in the yr12 timetable this year- no AS history, for example. Despite the large class, our A Level Business results are consistently excellent- we have fantastic teachers. Ironically, History is one of the worst performing subjects at A Level, so size of class isn't everything. I would be surprised if you found many state schools with a particularly different situation. I went to an excellent 6th form college over 20 years ago, and all my classes were about 25. Didn't stop me from getting AAB (back in the days when As were worth getting wink) and IIRC the college itself was number 6 in some national league table or other. OP, I think you need to look at your DD's situation in terms of teaching rather than class size. If you find the teaching unsatisfactory, contact the head of dept or head of 6th form. I honestly don't think you'd get anywhere raising the issue of class size with the school, crap as that is. And if you're looking for someone to blame, go for the government who continues to slash school budgets.

Arisbottle Fri 02-Nov-12 18:51:37

No, state school. I think our base figure is 6, maybe lower. If students want to do an A Level that very few other students want to do, sometimes staff will run it after school. I think we may have done that with latin. I think the ideal is between 10 and 15. Our sixth form is growing as we now take quite a few outside students but in the past when groups have gone over 20 it has not been fair on students or teachers.

Felicitywascold Fri 02-Nov-12 18:58:46

It is too many without a doubt. And you are right to be concerned.

In your shoes I would look at tutoring. For consolidation and stretching purposes. And I would get DC to ask teacher for extra work/extension projects to be getting on with while others are being 'caught up'.

But I'd only do all that because I can't afford private. If I could I would.

Coconutty Fri 02-Nov-12 19:04:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

alreadytaken Fri 02-Nov-12 19:23:29

her chemistry class is quite large but it is likely to drop a lot for A2. If you can't find a tutor locally it's also possible to do distance learning as she can do coursework at school. She could also develop some independent study skills - suggest she has a look at the khan academy www.khanacademy.org/

Medicine is very competitive, 60% of applicants get no offers. To get in she will need not only good grades but work experience. Long term volunteering at a care home, nursing home or hospice would be well regarded. It also tests if they have the stamina and determination they will need to cope with the long training.

Phineyj Fri 02-Nov-12 23:03:45

I agree with the tutor suggestion, or looking for suitable holiday courses as a top-up. There may also be a Chemistry clinic within the school that your daughter can use? A good number of the students will drop out after AS, so really her focus should be on maximising her AS grades at this point.

This could be a valuable experience for her if she's serious about medicine. Learning in sixth form should be as much about independent study as what the teacher teaches you, and students without independent study skills are really going to struggle on a medicine course.

I more or less taught myself two of my A levels and it was really valuable experience as I was then essentially proofed against useless lecturers!

hanginginthere1 Fri 02-Nov-12 23:27:57

Head of Year has said that he is going to speak to Chemistry teachers. I have explained about independent study, so she will have to really begin to take this on board. Think we will be going down the tutor route sooner or later.

prh47bridge Sat 03-Nov-12 07:58:09

A few people on this thread saying this is about money. It may be but not in the way you think. Schools get more money for sixth form pupils than they do for younger pupils. There is therefore an incentive to get as many sixth form pupils as possible even if it leads to larger class sizes.

MrsHerculePoirot Sat 03-Nov-12 08:08:40

prh that is true, but is about money in both ways. We are at capacity in our 6th form - we have the same number of students, doing the same number of courses as last year. Is year we can only save money by doubling up classes. Last year I had 13 and 15 in my year 13 classes and another teacher had similar this year I teach them all and have 22 and 25.

mumzy Sat 03-Nov-12 08:37:38

I think the problem is the mix of ability levels rather than the number of pupils. I don't think the school will change this policy unless they have got the money to run another class so the options are seeing if other sixth forms run smaller classes/ set for A levels or getting a private tutor.

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