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GCSE Options - information from school

(66 Posts)
louisea Wed 19-Dec-12 22:53:13

When are the parents in your schools given information about your DCs GCSE options? DTs are in Year 9 and have so far had a couple of assemblies giving them information about some subjects. So far no information has been sent home to parents. I contacted the school to find out when the parents information evening will be and was given a date in mid January.

Other schools have already sent home booklets with the DCs and have given guidance. Should I be concerned that the school is going to give us a very tight deadline to make choices or is this time frame normal? These are my first children going through secondary school so we're all learning as we go.

lljkk Thu 20-Dec-12 17:25:23

Is there such a thing as "the school board" in England? I know what those words mean in California, but not in UK. Who or what is "the school board"? I imagine that school GCSE options mostly depend on LEA policies which depend on national guidance, how much leeway does any local school have in varying the offerings?

How many GCSEs do kids in private schools usually do? DS was in aprivate school & they encouraged GCSE completion for some yr9s & yr10s.

I thought that I read on MN that computing was a pretty low value GCSE. But maybe that was wrong.

whistlestopcafe Thu 20-Dec-12 17:34:37

Choose a school?

It doesn't work like that around here. In order to get into a school you have to live very close to it. There is no choosing. You can choose where you live I suppose but not always that practical to move house.

creamteas Thu 20-Dec-12 17:37:47

I'm assuming 'school board' = governors.

Apart from anything else, outside of the core subjecs GCSE subjects can vary depending on staff interest and expertise!

My DCs school currently offer Astronomy. It was introduced by a particularly enthusiastic teacher and whilst it is popular, I can't imagine that it would stay very long if he left!

Jux Thu 20-Dec-12 18:08:13

Ibizagirl, GCSE choices in Y8???!!!shock

DD's lot chose pathways last year; I'm not entirely clear what purpose pathways have, as dd chose the one which had music, art and drama, and it looks like she won't be able to do any of those at GCSE at this rate, well, maybe one.

louisea Thu 20-Dec-12 18:30:32

We didn't really have a choice. We contacted 3 schools while still overseas and went with the one that offered first. Who was to know if either of the other two would have spaces when we got back to London.

BackforGood Thu 20-Dec-12 19:17:25

I'm assuming Chloe74 you don't have a lot of experience of education in the UK ? grin
Firstly, the idea of 'choice' of schools is very much a theoretical idea for a lot of the population.
Because I live in a City, I do actually get a choice, but things change very rapidly in education - not by choice of the schools, I can assure you. Schools are such a political football, nothing ever has time to 'bed in' before it gets changed again. It is not the schools fault, and if it's changing in one school, it's very likely to have to change in the next school to.
I have dcs in Yr12, 9, and 6 currently, adn, although I asked all the right questions when we looked round for each child in both Yrs5 and Yr6, so many things change before they take their GCSEs, it's untrue!
My ds took his in the Summer, using a very different format from what dd1 will be presented with, which is again going to be different for dd2. Not the schools' choosing, but political interference again.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 20-Dec-12 19:27:14

>How many GCSEs do kids in private schools usually do? DS was in aprivate school & they encouraged GCSE completion for some yr9s & yr10s.

The ones I know of 10 or even only 9, AFAIK done in Yr11. Nearly all trad academic subjects.

>I thought that I read on MN that computing was a pretty low value GCSE. But maybe that was wrong.

ICT is low value - I meant Computer Science - totally different thing.

chloe74 Thu 20-Dec-12 20:10:54

I know many parents don't get a lot of choice of school, sadly. Its the school Board, of Governors, that have the authority over which subjects are studied, obviously informed by the head. If you don't like the choices the school offers, get on the board and get it changed.

The idea that they offer Astronomy because a teacher is 'interested' in it is ridiculous. That's bad management, what happens to the kids when that teacher leaves.

Computing/ICT is a waste of time at GCSE for most kids.

WynkenBlynkenandNod Thu 20-Dec-12 20:21:15

I had a bit of a choice with DD and went for the one where I thought she'd be happy over the one which offered German. I would have loved for her to have the option to do this as I have German family we visit but felt that her happiness was more important (she'd been bullied).

We're a term in now as thy all start a new school Year 9 and her grades have soared way beyond what I could have expected at this point. Am very glad I didn't push on the basis of options.

titchy Thu 20-Dec-12 20:34:16

I wonder where Chloe gets her ideas from too - certainly not experience! The national curriculum pretty much determines the subjects kids study, not parental pressure on the governors. There'll be a bit of tinkering around the edges - some schools with a performing arts specialism might offer dance and drama, others a wider choice of languages, or business studies. Larger schools clearly have economies of scale and can usually offer more subjects than a smaller one can.

Time tabling and the choices of the rest if the cohort will also influence what your child is able to do - no school will offer a subject if there is only one child that chooses for instance. It will probably also be impossible for a child do to 2 languages, both humanities, art, music an drama as well as their EBacc subjects.

Oh, and GCSE computing is pretty rigorous and highly regarded. GCSE IT isn't - they are two separate subject!

titchy Thu 20-Dec-12 20:39:22

Oh yeah astronomy sounds fab! I'm fairly sure that when the teacher leaves the school woul make sure those that had picked it as a GCSE option would continue to be taught! (Quite ironic you Chloe you say complain to the board, whoever they might be, if you want something to be taught, whilst mocking a school that response to demand!)

creamteas Thu 20-Dec-12 20:44:30

The majority of subjects are in the national curriculum, so up until recently state schools didn't get get a lot of choice. Academies and free schools can opt out of this, but are unlikely to deviate much from the core subjects so they will all cover English, maths, science, history, geog, MFL, IT, PE, RE.

There is more flexibility around areas such as technology and performing arts, so for example some offer dance and some don't.

Why is offering an interesting subject like Astronomy ridiculous? My DC love science, and they would rather do an extra science (so 4 sciences GCSEs in total) than subjects they are not interested in like art, drama or business studies. What is so wrong with a school using the expertise of the staff they have?

lljkk Thu 20-Dec-12 20:56:08

Ah, in USA "the school board" is very different thing, more like the governing board for the LEA, and they are elected from general population.

Thanks for explaining difference between ICT & computing GCSEs, very helpful.

On back of that I managed to find Options Booklet for DS1's high school which is juicy reading. He's in yr8 now, do I assume he will do "old" style GCSEs or new style EBC?

gelo Thu 20-Dec-12 21:28:52

You can distance learn astronomy GCSE anyway, so if the teacher left part way through there is always the option for existing students to continue that way. Or any reasonable physics teacher should be able to cover it. It would be a great shame if minority subjects like that were removed entirely even if most children don't get the opportunity to study them - it's the kind of thing that makes school fun (for those that way inclined).

chloe74 Thu 20-Dec-12 21:48:47

I accept most Board of Governors are patsies in state schools, but never the less they still have a legal duty to run the school. In the public sector you always get the same answers 'we cant do that because of this'. If you tell schools what to do, and don't give them the option to moan, they will find a way to make it happen. Parents shouldn't leave these things up to head teachers, stand up and make a difference!

Astronomy does sound good, the problem here is what happen if the teacher is sick/leaves? Is there another great astronomy teacher waiting to take over, what if there isn't? Its a gamble just to teach niche subjects on a teachers whim. Obviously if a school has a strong long term commitment to the area its different.

creamteas Thu 20-Dec-12 23:07:02

Personally, I would run a mile from any school that was dictated to by parents. I object to both academies and free schools for that reason. I trust my DC's school, and they wouldn't be there if I didn't.

I don't want my child's education to be decided by whichever twit parent shouts loudest.

chloe74 Thu 20-Dec-12 23:13:10

I would accept an honest disagreement with creamteas. I think parents know best she hates that idea, choice is a good thing.

gelo Thu 20-Dec-12 23:22:33

If the teacher leaves, the school signs them up with a distance learning provider such as star learner which some schools use to offer the option in any case. Another teacher can be given a supervisory role and it gives the children (who are likely to be quite keen anyway) a chance to work independently too. I would say it gives a school less of a problem than if the physics or latin or spanish teacher leaves. The schools job is to manage such eventualities and it's really not that difficult.

ravenAK Thu 20-Dec-12 23:26:12

IME, if you tell schools what to do, they won't bother moaning - they'll just suggest that you try a different school if you don't like what's on offer. Or HE.

Quite often the courses on offer are dictated by staff expertise. We do Latin because a recently retired Deputy Head was a Classics teacher - he hired me, mostly I think because we'd shared the same Greek tutor at Uni, albeit 25 years apart!

There are now two of us qualified to teach Latin, & the one who isn't me is now nearing retirement herself. When she leaves, the idea is that I'll take up the torch. It's a very popular subject. Hopefully, we'll be able to tweak my timetable in order to find space for me to offer it.

But if I fell under a bus, the school would advertise for a replacement English teacher & 'must also be able to teach GCSE Latin' would not be a realistic requirement.

chloe74 Thu 20-Dec-12 23:27:25

I would not be happy if my DC ended up at school being taught by a "distance learning provider", can you believe this is even an option. Point made.

gelo Thu 20-Dec-12 23:41:33

Well I know several children for whom this scenario arose. They came out with good grades and learned a lot more than just astronomy from the experience. Excellent result for them I'd say.

chloe74 Thu 20-Dec-12 23:54:50

well good for them gelo, but I would not go to a school (I pay for as a tax payer) to then have them distance educated. I can do better than that at home.

gelo Fri 21-Dec-12 00:03:42

I'm slightly confused as to what you think is wrong with distance education? We're only talking one subject here, not the whole set. Personally I'm all for variety in learning experiences, but each to their own. And these situations can arise whether you like it or not however it is paid for. Good life lesson to learn to make the best of non ideal scenarios imo.

Jux Fri 21-Dec-12 00:21:56

RavenAK, I am so envious! Are you teaching at a state school? DD wanted to learn Latin. In Y7 the head teaches Literacy and he included a bit of middle English and Latin. DD loved it, and even started trying to read some of my dad's old Anglo-Saxon books too. We asked if she could take Latin at GCSE, but the HT said they don't do it because it's not on the NC. I got the impression he would love to be able to include it.

I can't find a Latin tutor for her round here (probably couldn't afford it if there were to be one anyway).

chloe74 Fri 21-Dec-12 00:41:08

gelo - There is nothing wrong with distance leaning. The problem is when you pay a school, p2p teachers, to educate your DC then you support abdicating that responsibility to a third party. That is messed up.

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