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Help, how to change GCSEs at the end of Y10 ?

(78 Posts)
HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 16:54:17

Ds with SEN in grammar school is struggling with English and Literature, which are both compulsory. He was left behind by the school in those subjects for the last 3 years and now there is simply no time to catch up. He has 6 hours per week of those lessons at school and he sits there not understanding anything. The school advises to take a tutor, but it is not possible to compensate with a tutor for the 6 hours he is wasting at school. This time is taken away from his good subjects that really matter. We just had mock exams, which clearly shown that even with a tutor the Literature cannot be done. It gets nowhere and compromises his good subjects: he didn't have time to revise, was too tired. He also has a DT subject that is not looking good and taking disproportionate amount of time.

I understand that normally you just bite the bullet and get on with those subjects because employers want them. However we crossed the bridge where those appearances can be saved. The dilemma now is to get an E in Literature and C grades in all other subjects, or to cut the losses and to get on with the Maths and Sciences where he gets his A* at the moment. In the future he wants to study Maths at uni and he looks perfectly capable to do this if he stops wasting time on things he doesn?t get because of his SEN.

Although the school says that Literature is compulsory, I asked uni admissions and they say it is not - they don't need it.
So ideally we would drop Literature and DT and would take further maths instead.

Is it technically possible at the end of Y10? What is the deadline?
What to do if the school doesn't offer those alternative subjects?
Is there a further maths GCSE where one could enrol outside of school?

Vivacia Fri 10-May-13 20:36:34

"The main problem now is that if DS doesn't drop literature and DT, he would compromise the English and his strong subjects."

I'm not clear on how doing literature and DT compromises his stronger subjects.

I think you should go in and talk to the school, find out what they're doing and why, and also suggest your own solutions for what he should be doing in his English lessons.

There's been mention of taking GCSE English, is this a third option to the GCSE Lit and GCSE Language qualifications?

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 20:40:15

Adoptmama, according to the SEN code of practice it is English teacher's job to teach my son, not TA's and not Senco's.

I am sure English teachers are busy, but teaching my son is part of what they are paid for.

When I was at school, teachers were passionate and cared for the future of their pupils. Teachers arguing that they are too busy not to fail one of their pupils sounds very off-pitch to me. Just my opinion.

educatingarti Fri 10-May-13 20:42:42

adoptmama There are many extremely competent and caring teachers and I am not criticising you - I wrote my post before I read yours as we x posted!. I am not ignorant of teachers under time pressure - I am in a family full of teachers and have taught in mainstream myself. I am I suppose speaking with a certain degree of frustration because I come across many situations with my tutees where the parents/students are at their wits end and particular teachers/ school show very little understanding of the SEN, even denying that the student has a particular issue (until the parent keeps pushing for diagnosis and it turns out 2 years down the line that actually they have the particular SEN). I am a supporter of Grammar schools in general but hear about how they seem to be particularly ill equipped to deal with/understand SEN and I know that many teachers' training (including my own PGCE) included little or nothing on SEN. If you are in a mainstream Comp than I would suspect that your SEN unit and TAs would be far better equipped to help this student than many Grammar Schools.

The thing is- I do come across accommodating schools where some of the flexibility I outlined in my post is given. They may not be able to teach 1 to 1 but they are open to ideas where the student can be supported. Then there are schools where they refuse to even consider anything different. In these cases I do think that sometimes a tutor ends up doing things that the school should be providing or considering.

Local Education Authorities have a duty to provide an "appropriate education" for every child. Clearly the OP's ds's English education does not seem to be appropriate so something needs to be done. If the teacher does not have any time to give one-to one support to the OPs DS then at least the school might be open to considering some variation of options b or c in my post

LizzieVereker Fri 10-May-13 20:45:17

There is an English GCSE but it's usually taught as 2 year course, rarely taught in grammar schools, and it contains some elements of Literature (Shakespeare, prose fiction such as Of Mice and Men, and some poetry.) These are assessed by controlled assessment, but the exam is a language only exam. There are also 2 creative writing CAs.

educatingarti Fri 10-May-13 21:04:56

Ah Ok - I didn't realise the school weren't actually doing the English GCSE. That makes things harder! Will your DS continue at the grammar school in 6th form HisMum? If he will attend a 6th form college, the best bet might be to see if he can drop English Lang/Lit for now ( and work on English his tutor sets him on his own /with TA during lesson times?) and pick up English GCSE at college with his A Levels.

I can quite see how it compromises his strong subjects. The OP's ds will be spending so much time trying against the odds to get somewhere with the English and getting very stressed in the process (he is clearly a bright boy who wants to do well and Autistic students often have a very strong perfectionist streak as they see everything in very black and white - eg 80% is not good because it is not 100% right) that it will be affecting his other studies, both in the time he will have available to spend on it and the emotional energy when so stressed!

creamteas Fri 10-May-13 21:06:32

Sorry I can't help with tips on negotiating 6th form entry without English, as there was never any battle over this for us.

The school know that my DD is good at maths/science and her issues with English are related to her disability so to them it was a not even an issue.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 22:07:56

Edica, thank you very much for dealing with the time issue and for your suggestions. It gives me more confidence to know that some schools are accommodating of the things you suggest.
I must say our school so far has been very accommodating, but we didn't address the tough issue of Literature yet.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 22:09:24

Thank you all very much for your contributions, all well noted.

I will certainly ask the school to do GCSE English. I will negotiate about the teacher doing more, the flexibility of doing some 1:1 and homework at school and about the tutor getting into school etc.

Startail Fri 10-May-13 22:28:20

Lizzy that is exactly the corse DD1 is doing, but they are using the same texts for literature too, so the teacher is teaching both GCSEs mixed together. I can't see how you'd easily drop literacy lessons as it is being used for language CAs.

In my day it was easy to drop literacy, because their were no set texts for language and no overlap. That is no longer the case as the Government is obsessed with Shakespeare for all.

Startail Fri 10-May-13 22:34:17

I think OP the best you can do is find a tutor and get them to help your son work through lots of past questions until he can answer them by rote. It would be great to get the class time back to do something useful, but I think the intertwined nature of English exams won't make that possible.

DDs comp has lower sets doing language only, I'm certain a grammar school won't.

DT it ought to be possible to drop, but there may be supervision issues. Most schools don't give study periods to non sixth formers.

educatingarti Fri 10-May-13 22:35:14

As the school aren't actually teaching English ( as opposed to the Joint English Lang and Lit - I hadn't realised this to begin with!) it is unlikely they will be able to offer it to your DS next year - although there is no harm in asking. They might be happy for him to work towards a GCSE English by himself in library (doing work set by tutor?) in yr 11 school English lessons with a view to him entering for it elsewhere (evening class? local college?) during 6th form. What you could also ask is whether they would accept him into 6th form without English if he does it as an extra somehow during year 12/13.

They won't be doing Language only as it's not allowed - or at least not in any board I'm aware of. English only is allowed, but Lang has to be taken alongside Lit.

HisMum4now Fri 10-May-13 23:05:06

A minefield.

But if the school agrees to drop the double English now to take it as Single English later, DS will be short on GCSE UCAS points? Or won't he?

Shouldn't we replace the dropped subjects with an extra-curricular maths qualification?

greyvix Sat 11-May-13 00:22:20

I may have missed some posts, so apologise in advance. There are two qualifications, so your DS could sit English only. However, most schools choose to sit English Literature alongside English language. Whether your DS gains the qualification in literature or not is immaterial. He needs to focus his attention on the English language exam, which will be of future benefit to him.
There is a combined exam called English, but this also includes some literature. Your DS would be better off doing the two subjects, with the view to maximising effort in English language.

adoptmama Sat 11-May-13 08:50:57

^"Adoptmama, according to the SEN code of practice it is English teacher's job to teach my son, not TA's and not Senco's.

I am sure English teachers are busy, but teaching my son is part of what they are paid for.

When I was at school, teachers were passionate and cared for the future of their pupils. Teachers arguing that they are too busy not to fail one of their pupils sounds very off-pitch to me. Just my opinion."^

OP with all respect I have not in any post suggested that it is the TAs or SENCOs job to teach your son. I have suggested you meet with the school and discuss the matter. I have pointed out why your desire to have him drop 2 GCSE subjects at the end of year 10 is hugely problematic from a practical point of view. I have made productive suggestions as to what could work instead. I have not said it is ok to let your son fail.

Twenty years teaching experience means I am very well aware of where responsibilities fall in a school. What I have said is that you cannot expect a mainstream school to simply allow your son to drop one or two subjects because there are legal issues and issues of supervision, and that the financial realities of staffing means it would be very difficult to arrange. You did not mention the fact he has a TA in your original posts. If he has a full time TA then supervision may become less of a problem. It does not change the curriculum issue for him regarding English and the dual nature of the course. You need to find out the exam board being used and the options for him ie can he simply sit a language exam. Which is what I suggested to you from the beginning.

From what you have said the teacher is already differentiating for your son. He is therefore teaching your son and the fact that your son is still unfortunately struggling may not be due to the teacher being at fault. Nothing you have written suggests the problem is related to the teacher not taking into account your child's special needs. An individual subject teacher does not have the authority to decide whether your child can sit the exam, be withdrawn from the course or anything else of that nature. The teacher also does not decide upon the curriculum - that is set by the exam board and it is impossible to differentiate out certain aspects of the course. If the teacher were to deny your child the opportunity to access the curriculum then he would be failing in his legal duty. Therefore, as I suggested, you need to talk to the school about how to best support your child.

It is not as simple for a teacher as simply finding some time to work one on one with your child at another time as has been suggested. Teachers may have clubs or duties at lunchtime. Their non-contact time is small - I get 5 hours a week for example and as I teach 11 different classes over the week over 2 key stages - that does not leave a lot of time to mark, plan, photocopy, produce resources and, indeed, meet with individual students as they need it. I do not start work at 9 and leave at 3, contrary to popular belief. Teachers are passionate. The suggestion that a teacher is unprofessional, uncaring or disinterested in your child (or any child) because they cannot find the time to devote to one-on-one education out of class time to a SEN child is quite insulting and inaccurate. In twenty years I have not lost my passion, nor do I care less about the futures of the children I teach. I spend a lot of time in the evenings, at weekends and in the holdiays developing and differentiating work, taking part in online training etc. Taking time away from my own (SEN!!) children in the process.

I understand very clearly that this is an emotional and stressful thing for you to have to deal with. To help you deal with it effectively with the school you need to meet with them and be open to realistic solutions. You can't simply expect them to be able to allow him to drop subjects without a concrete idea of how he will be supervised and what he will do in the time freed up. Only if you actually accept the limitations available to the school due to staffing levels, time and the restrictions imposed by the law and the exam board they are dealing with, will you be able to negotiate something which can work better for everyone. There are very real restrictions on how mainstream schools can deal with issues like this. That is unfortunate but it is not necessarily the school's fault and it does not at all suggest that teachers are less caring or professional than in years past.

Vivacia Sat 11-May-13 09:03:20

Excellent post adoptmama.

HisMum4Now, I think that you've come up with a good solution, going in to school, talking to the teachers and with a list of suggestions ready.

educatingarti Sat 11-May-13 09:13:21

Your DS may get offers of University places conditional on passing English GCSE, but I would have thought that as long as he then passes it alongside his A Levels, it should be OK. It is worth checking this with the school though as it is a while since I was involved with University Admissions.

EvilTwins Sat 11-May-13 09:14:19

UCAS points are nothing to do with GCSEs, they come from A Levels.

creamteas Sat 11-May-13 11:00:32

Exactly educat. Our general admissions requirements ask for GCSE English and Maths grade C (or equivalents) for all subjects, but it does not matter when you get them. Some people are surprised at this as it does not always appear on the subject course pages which focus on A levels.

Each year we have a very small number of students who hold conditional offers on their GCSE results. In all the cases I know of this is Arts/Humanities students retaking GCSE maths, but it could happen the other way round.

HisMum4now Sat 11-May-13 11:12:32

Adoptmama, I don't think I stated that teachers are uncaring and unprofessional and I certainly didn't mean this in respect of you personally. I am prepared to apologize if it came across this way.

This being said there is a contradiction. On one hand you describe how caring and passionate teachers are, on the other hand you support the status quo of the "limitations" of the system, which failed my son. With all these good intentions and procedures, basically he was left behind for 3 years and now hit the wall. Everybody did everything right according to the system you support, yet the only solution the school came up with is to tell me to pay for a private tutor. It doesn't add up.

The thing that would really help DS is the English teacher spending some time setting and marking his extra practice. There is a lot of funding that is delegated to the schools for the SEN budget, not to mention the robust statement provisions of my DS, so I don't understand how all these resources are not enough to pay for the one thing that would make it work for DS.

If teachers care, why can't they ask to be payed for this one extra hour that would make such a difference, why don't they lobby the system from within to make it work for pupils like DS? I do hear the passion when teachers lobby about their pensions, why do I hit a wall when talking about DS?

Oh, no I don't mean to attack you and many caring professional teachers. Yes, teachers absolutely deserve the higher pay and the right pension and should defend their rights. We owe them more respect and recognition. I absolutely agree they do an incredibly important job well in sometimes difficult circumstances .

I gather that less than 50% of pupils don't get any good GCSEs. This means the system is designed and calibrated to fail most. Why do the caring teachers put up with the system that fails most?

creamteas Sat 11-May-13 11:57:10

Hismum part of the issue might be because the structure of the grammar school is not set up to support a wide range of abilities. They might also have have the experience needed in this area.

At my DCs comp, they are set in each subject and are used to dealing with a wide range of abilities. They set for each subject, so DD is in the top triple science set doing higher papers, but also the foundation level language only for English.

Clearly you are not necessarily going to be able to change the school, but I think you need to find out what is possible. I would be looking for an agreement to do language only at foundation level. The questions on the foundation level paper are much more literal, so they are easier for ASD DC to understand. If they agree to this, then hopefully you should be able to work out a plan with the school to support this.

Vivacia Sat 11-May-13 12:32:15

HisMum4Now, it's not about money. If a teacher doesn't have an extra hour to spare, it's irrelevant how much they might be paid. And what school offers a teacher extra pay to tutor one student? Teachers already work far beyond the hours they are paid for, for free, because they care and they are professional.

You seem very naive about the conditions in our schools and the pressure that teachers are already under.

HisMum4now Sat 11-May-13 12:54:38

I am many things but naive I am not. You would know how much parents would have gone through with an ASD child with diagnosis, provisions, statements, tribunals, tutors... I am a battle hardened warrior and it shouldn't be this way.

The school should pay the teacher to tutor DS because he is where he is as result of "correct" work of the system.

The taxpayers' funded state education should work in a way that dominant majority of mixed ability pupils succeed with a passing grade for basic employ-ability. If it is a C in English , then all school should graduate 16 year olds with at least a C.
Scandinavian countries, Germany and France manage to do this, so stop saying that it is naive to expect it in this country.

Arisbottle Sat 11-May-13 12:55:08

I am a secondary teacher and ever day before school at lunchtime and after school where I am not doing other things I am providing tutorials for either single groups or smaller groups . Most of my colleagues do the same , it is just part of the job.

My son, in a grammar has never been offered this . He has even attended sessions with the staff at my school instead .

mummytime Sat 11-May-13 14:00:59

Actually you seem to be mistaken at least for Germany, as this UNICEF report suggests their low attaining school leavers are very far behind in reading skills.

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