GCSE English Language only(29 Posts)
Just had a letter back from school on the last day of term concerning my ds. He has just finished year 9. Nobody has told me of any issues regarding his English ability and he is supposed to be bright. At parents evening he was predicted 2 Cs at GCSE or if he worked hard 2 Bs. However all of a sudden school is recommending that he drops English Literature entirely and just concentrates on English Language. They are now saying that he may struggle to get even a C grade. Does anyone elses school do this? Is it likely to be in his interests or just for school league tables?
We went through this with DS, but it was I who demanded to drop Literature against school's opposition. In our case DS has special needs. I don't know your circumstances, but for some DC Literature can be a hopeless battle that drains self esteem and derails other subjects. I would only insist on it if it were the strength of DS, which it was not.
I asked questions here and talked to the exam board.
The conclusion generally was
- Literature GCSE is not compulsory - the contrary is a myth.
- You can drop literature. English language GCSE would stand valid on its own whatever anyone says.
What do they replace Literature with? If it saves time, pain and misery and your DS can do something he enjoys more, and can get better grades, why not take it? Only you can judge obviously.
What was his English NC level at the end of y9?
At DD1's school a set amount of time is timetabled for English in y10 and y11. As far as I understand it, those that are struggling with English (language) concentrate on that and do GCSE English only. Those that can manage do both English Language and English Literature. As there is overlap between combined English and the separate Lang& Lit, the school only makes the decision some time in y10 (not sure when).
They may be concerned/panicing that passing English seems to be getting harder so someone previously on target to get a C may now only get a D.
imo It would be better to get a passing C in one English GCSE than 2 Ds. May even be better to get one B over and above 2 Cs.
I will have this to come as my DD is entering y10 in Sept and has struggled to make progress in English in secondary, though her final level seems OK.
There is English Language GCSE (language only, no literature at all) , and there is GCSE English (combined language and literature in one, they have to do 4 controlled assessments including Shakespeare, there will be the latter and another literature text in the exam).
If you DS struggles with literature, English Language is the way to go - you really cut the losses and focus on one good grade to English. Indeed it is very important to have a good grade in English for future employment prospects. Having both language and literature just continues the misery. Literature is a distraction that could bring his combined grade down.
The schools are obliged by law to teach literature, but DC are not obliged to sit the lit exam. So whatever anyone say, if you decide to drop literature, just drop it completely and do English Language.
I think his end of year 9 level was a 5b/c. His target was a 6b, clearly he is considerably below target. He reads very well but has minor motor skills problems which means his writing is very poor. I wondered if he has dysgraphia but no one at school seemed to know what to do about it if he did. School have said he can use a computer to help. He also seems to struggle with structuring essays, he knows what he needs to write about but somewhere between his brain and his hand that information seems to go awol and what he does write is quite immature.
As I understand it, if he drops the literature, he will just use all his English time for language and won't be given an "extra" option.
This will be for the school's benefit - which they will argue is also for your son's benefit. I'm a school governonr, and our school has focussed relentlessly on English Lang and Maths this year, and is working with parents and families of kids lower down the school to ensure kids take the "right" choices (aka the subjects the school thinks the child will do best at - which are not necessarly the ones he likes best and wants to take as GCSE).
They also insist its better to do fewer GCSEs and get better results - there is no advantage to doing 14 or 15 GCSEs (allegedly) - most unis will be happy with good grades in just the usual 8 or 9,
I can see pros and cons for school and pupils either way.
OK, if he is a 5b/c then I can see where the school is coming from.
From what I can gather from threads on here, generally to be targetted a C for GCSE you need to be at 5a/6c end Year 9. So he is working below that threshold, which is why they think he'll need the extra attention to get the language pass.
OP, what you describe might be an undiagnosed special need. It sound very much as lighter form of dyspraxia and problems that come together with Asperger's syndrome. Many parents with bright high functioning Asperger's kids would recognize the issues with writing, structuring and essay writing. Many struggle with Literature.
Don't get distracted by challenges that it is all for the school and your DS can perfectly make it. You don't really need to worry about benefits for the school. Just focus on what is right for your DS. Most schools would fight against dropping literature because they need to show they teach it. You are in good position not having to fight the school.
Just to clarify, I only want what is best for ds, I don't want to be perceived as a pushy parent. Turns out both my husband and father both failed their English Lit O levels! They've both done okay without it.
I am seriously thinking that the school might be right in saying just do language GCSE. What surprises me is that the left the letter right until the last day of term so there's little I can do about it until September anyway.
I think when he goes back to year 10 in September, until Christmas or maybe just half term all students follow the same course anyway. Perhaps we need to discuss with his teachers then.
Ds seems keen to do literature, but perhaps if it's going to be detrimental to his language he'd be better off dropping it. I'm not sure if the GCSE course they will offer him is all language or the combined one.
English is maybe just not his thing. He is bright and is predicted A/A* for maths.
He also struggles with organisation and is really untidy and disorganised, easily upset and quite immature both emotionally and physically, also very easily distracted and liable to wonder physically and in a day dreamy kind of way. We did have him assessed by CAMHS as we thought he may have had ADHD, but they said he was fine. School were complaining about all the issues just mentioned, but when the psychiatrist
went to school everything was suddenly fine!
tbh as a English graduate I'd find it odd to do one without other unless there are very exceptional circumstances (ie . ld). Literature feeds into the language course and without the opportunity to explore a range of texts his writing could be lacking. If he is a potential C grade it is worth doing. Can't imagine you couldn't review it again during year 10 if needs be.
Everything you mention is typical for Aspergers. Is he good with twisted and convoluted questions in RE, history and geography? There is a lot of information and good advice on Special Needs board here on MN. There was a thread "Aspergers (or autistic spectrum disorder) in lay man's terms" and "You know your DC has ASD when..."; something like this. These threads provide life examples that make it much easier to relate to.
You might want to find out which specialist in your area is the gatekeeper for AS diagnosis and get referred to them. Ask a referral to the pediatrician. Ask the school to involve the educational psychologist re-aspergers. It might help you to get exam accommodations just in time to GCSE. If your DS is bright and wants to go to university, a diagnosis will really help with adaptations, support, reasonable adjustments. It is much more difficult to get it in adulthood.
tbh as a English graduate I'd find it odd to do one without other unless there are very exceptional circumstances
um, no, not at all exceptional
- any child who has no interest in literature : technical : and just wants language
- any child in the lower 2 / 5 of the cohort
lots and lots of kids get to drop Shakespeare - it won't help them with literacy which is what they need
and engineers do not need literature
I would check that the school are not telling you that he will be doing GCSE English rather than GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature. If he is studying English he will still have to study a play by Shakespeare, a novel and a collection (15+) of poetry. Whilst studying Eng Lang alone is fine for the pupil it will not be included in govt statistics unless Lit is also studied.
This exam series there has been a lot of concern about schools who have entered whole cohorts for Lit yet the pupils have written nothing. I would imagine this loophole will be closed by next June. IMO there is something very wrong about a school that expects to sit pupils in a room with an exam twice having not taught them the texts. Just because it is statistically easier to get a C in Eng Lang rather that English.
The govt do not let KS4 drop Literature just some rather corrupt schools do. A senior Lit examiner told me last week it had been a clear problem this year after last summer's debacle. It is the same for iGCSE both Lang and Lit have to be studied.
I would check with your school.
My DD has just taken her GCSEs and has done English Language only. She has struggled with this, and it will be touch and go to get a C grade.
Asking her to do literature as well would have been absolutely pointless, and would have reduced the time that she had to work on the language course.
Getting a C grade in English Lang is so crucial for later life, if there is any doubt about this, I would always want a school to focus on this.
Call the exam board and ask them whether English language GCSE would stand without Literature. I did and they confirmed that it would. Your DS doesn't have to take literature neither as a separate GCSE nor as GCSE English (i.e. he can take English Language alone). If your DS wouldn't sit literature exams, his English language GCSE will not be included in statistics, but this is not your DS's problem, is it? Your school seem to really understand your DS priorities, IMO. I would take the offer before they change their mind.
When my DS was in year 9, I was thinking: "He will be more mature; he will work harder; he is bright and well rounded; he will rise to the challenge ...blabla". Then the reality of year 10 sank in - the relentless controlled assessments, tests and mock exams, revision, homework, preparation. English and literature were taking disproportionate time, like stones around DS's neck pulling down everything else, including DS's self esteem. The only way to keep him going and to salvage English Language was to cut loose the literature.
The thing is you cannot please the purists either way. Your DS will struggle and they would say he is not working hard enough, he is not this and not that and he should not spend time on maths but put all his effort behind English and literature instead. (we were told that!) You DS may end up not having any good GCSE to show.
To progress onto most things after GCSE you generally need a min of 5 GCSEs at grade C to usually include maths and English language. If dropping lit means your son has a better chance of getting grade Cs in his other subjects then that's a good thing. What does your ds want to do after year 11?
It'll probably be combined English, not Lang without Lit. Combo does involve some Lit, & is definitely a safer option for a C if your ds isn't right at the top of level 5 by the end of year 9.
To put it into context, I've just made the same decision for a year 9 student I teach. His mum isn't happy (in fact for a moment I thought you were her!) - the lad I teach is a solid 5b, 5a on his exam but too much of a 'coaster' to maintain that standard consistently.
It's unlikely to be set in stone - we deliberately organise our combo Eng v Lang + Lit courses so kids can transfer (either way) most of the way through year 10.
Your options are: encourage ds to work his butt off & make it clear to HOD for English that he really, really wants to transfer to dual award course OR try to persuade HOD to put him in for the dual award on the understanding that he'll move down if his y10 teacher concludes he can't hack it.
But tbh, based on 5c/5b I'd be inclined to accept that English really isn't his thing.
He could easily get a B on the combined, which is better than C/D for Lang & D/E for Lit - if he's borderline & doing both, school will almost certainly ultimately concentrate on the Lang to the detriment of Lit anyway!
I will admit I was very angry when the letter came home recommending that he just take English GCSE which according to the letter is just language. Mostly because I had been told for the last 3 years that everything was fine, plus the letter was sent right at the end of term. Anyway, now I've calmed down I'm not in anyway disappointed that he might not do literature. I think he is just more mathematical. I would rather he didn't do literature if its going to cause him stress and leave him less time for his other subjects. I'm certainly not worried that if he doesn't do lit that his results won't be counted for school stats.
If he does just do language he'll have a good chance of getting a grade B/C.
Think I will any decision until the autumn and then discuss with his teachers and DS.
Thank you everyone for your comments and advice.
Well - I do think you have a point in being spectacularly pissed off if you've been told everything was fine, & he's actually a full level off target - that's over a year's expected progress.
Not (at all) unheard of for year 9 students - at the risk of stereotyping, especially bright Maths-y boys - to be underachieving like this through lack of interest/effort - & if that is the reason, it's definitely recoverable.
Again, if it's because of problems with writing, there are strategies to help with this.
But both you & ds should have been left under no illusions by the school that he's been underachieving. That's poor practice.
My ds has similar issues with handwriting due to fine motor skills being poor - his reading levels have always left his writing levels in the dust.
I definitely think you should discuss his progress with school in the Autumn - Eng Lit aside, any dyspraxia or dysgraphia won't help with his other options.
Lots of schools these days seem to only be allowing their top sets to do English Literature.
It's because schools are now graded on the percentage of students who achieve 5 or more A* - Cs INCLUDING Maths and English. English has suddenly become so crucial that schools aren't risking it, especially with those like your DS who are targeted Cs.
It's much more likely to be about that than about your DS underachieving. But that's probably not how they'll explain it to you!
Yes & no, IHeartKingThistle.
The goalposts for getting into the three sixth form colleges in our town now are:
1) Nationally rated, academic college - people have been known to take their dc out of surrounding private schools & send them to us for KS4 because they know we feed to this college - no admission without a C in Eng Lang/English. B required for any essay heavy subject. Totally non-negotiable.
2) Good all-rounder college - does a wider range of qualifications, arguably less academic, but solid reputation for Uni entries - officially, no admission without a C in Eng Lang/English. Some flexibility for re-taking English with a D & an excellent school reference, on condition of dropping one A Level or equivalent to concentrate on this. Cannot progress to y13 without a successful English re-take, & this option's heavily oversubscribed.
3) More vocational college - will accept students for a restricted range of courses without a pass in English; expects excellent school reference. Students required to re-take English GCSE, or, if that's totally unrealistic, functional skills qualification. VERY oversubscribed.
So yes, there's a definite element of league-table pleasing. Also, the increasing emphasis on performance related pay means teachers have to enter students for qualifications they'll hit target at, or the teacher doesn't get a payrise/could find themselves on capability.
But equally, Year 9 teachers will look at current performance before recommending the GCSE pathway for a student, on the basis of maximising their attainment so that they have as many opportunities as possible.
Given a student like OP's ds, I'd unhesitatingly be putting him in for combined English so that he will hopefully get a C, 'unlocking' college 2 & some of the courses on offer at college 1, & if he does well, a B which will 'unlock' everything at college 1.
Put him in for dual award Eng Lang + Lit, & he might well struggle & end up with a pair of Ds. That means college 3, except they are oversubscribed - so that could easily mean no college place at all.
I've never recommended that any student follow a particular GCSE pathway without having their best interests at heart. I game the system for the student first, my Performance Management second, & the greater glory of the school a long way third.
That's good to hear - think I was being a touch cynical last night!
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