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Is it usual to need a grade A GCSE to do A level maths now?

(436 Posts)
Jella2u Fri 23-Aug-13 16:59:37

Disappointment here too. Son has got 10 GCSE's grade A-C. So what's the prob? You have no prob! Yes I do!!!
He got a grade B, yes that's right, B for Bertie for Maths. The school (which is a comprehensive turned Academy ) will let him do his Physics, Chemistry and Biology, but not Maths for which they say a Grade A is required unless you've clocked up a total of 224 points between the last 2 module papers. Unfortunately his tally was 205. Husband went up suited and booted to the school this morning to plead son's case. Phoned us this afternoon - no go. Have said this to all who got a B. So nothing personal there.
Have tried to contact other schools this afternoon. Needless to say all are shut. Local Authority very helpful and recommended emailing. Are schools running a clearing system that I don't know about? Do tell.
School did offer Statistics as a replacement this morning, but by this afternoon that was off the menu as no-one wants to do it. There are 7 pupils in this maths grade B situation who want to do A level Maths. Strangely the school says Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Maths are the most difficult subjects. So they might be for most people, but what if your child is the one that has had to struggle with French, Music, English Language and bid their time to do the supposed hard four?
We feel he needs A level maths to support science subjects.
Unfortunately, I said we would be back with an answer as to taking up a place with some sort of substitute for Maths before term starts. Every chance if I can't get something sorted fast he will be a well educated NEET!!!
All ideas welcome. Thanks in advance.

Changebagsandgladrags Sat 24-Aug-13 08:19:22

Would the school let him redo the GSCE while starting the AS? I agree with the others, it will be hard.

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Aug-13 08:52:03

Have you also considered the implications of taking a subject and putting no effort in? Will he turn up to lessons? Take notes? Do homework? If yes, he's effectively sitting 5 subjects. If no, he will have to deal with a pissed off teacher, a pissed off head of sixth form and a potential problem when they come to write his UCAS reference.

BlehPukeVomit Sat 24-Aug-13 09:06:46

Not bothering with his fourth subject may effect your sons personal statement. Is he able to just take 3 A's at school.

LRDPomogiMnyeSRabotoi Sat 24-Aug-13 09:22:17

I hope you don't mind me replying as I don't know how helpful this will be. When I did my A Levels (over a decade ago, now, so may be too out of date, but we did do the AS system that's current now), my mum decided to teach me the maths for AS. I had an A* at GCSE, but I'd struggled to get it (btw, you must've known the school requires an A not a B ... any chance of a remark?). Mum has a doctorate in maths and tutors adults in it. It was still extremely hard going, not least because it takes longer than you might think to learn the requirements of a syllabus.

You're saying that you think of maths in terms of 'steps' and found the booklet useful. Look, sorry if I am getting this completely wrong - but I think he might struggle to get through A Level if he's doing it by rote and learning from the booklet. He needs to understand the concepts, not in terms of 'step 1 and step 2', but in terms of thinking through what he's doing and why. Excuse me if this is obvious and you'd been planning to change the teaching method anyway.

Anyhow - I won't blame my mum at all. She gets brilliant results tutoring other people, when they're doing the subject properly and not just through lessons on top of four other subjects (one of her pupils got 100% in the A Level module mum taught her this year). But I got a C at AS. And that is fine, because I do not want to be an engineer and I dropped it at that point.

I know this is just an anecdote, but I really don't think it's as easy to teach someone yourself, without knowing the syllabus, while he's trying to do 3/4 other subjects, as you might think.

BeckAndCall Sat 24-Aug-13 09:23:05

Jelia, - you seem to have a good handle on what you intend to do,s o that's great progress.

bUT - does the school not require physics students to study some maths? At my DD's school they run extra classes for those doing physics but not doing maths, which would be helpful to you if they did at your school?

And in you're teaching maths to him, make sure you choose the right modules for physics - they need to be, as well as core, the mechanics modules, not statitistcs.

And although your husband employs engineers, thats not quite where your son is at - he needs to study what he needs to get on the engineering course in the first place, - what employers want is premature at this stage. If he's planning a degree in engineering, you really need to look at the admission requirements of the course he wants to do. If he doesn't have maths or further maths at A level, that rules him out of the majority of courses. So you need to make sure he does get that qualification from your teaching!

But also, some unis will not accept students with low grades in their 4 th AS - which you are proposing. Eg I recall that Leeds don't offer to students with less than a B in their 4 th AS ( might just be for some subjects?) So don't assume that putting no effort into an AS will be OK, is all I'm saying. Better not to do it at all and get school to accept that he is doing his 4 th subject independently.

englishteacher78 Sat 24-Aug-13 09:25:33

At our school most of the subjects require an A at GCSE for A level study.
My subject is a bit more flexible, mainly because we've had issues with GCSE marking in the past.

hellsbells99 Sat 24-Aug-13 09:31:05

My DDs school will allow A level with a B, however they all took maths a year early and those considering it at A level have all spent year 11 either doing Addtional maths and/or edexcel level 3 algebra. This allows the school and pupils to decide if they may have the capability for AS level. The school also recommends doing AS maths if taking physics and chemistry at A level. This is a comp turned academy.

QuiteOldGal Sat 24-Aug-13 09:34:01

Did he get A/A* GCSE's for his Chemistry/Biology/ Physics because if not he will certainly struggle to do all these subjects as well as Maths at home and another subject, especially as he will want to get AAB at A2 to get on an engineering course at a good Uni.

Lonecatwithkitten Sat 24-Aug-13 10:41:41

No comment on the actual topic, but interested in how the world and results have changed. I got one A at GCSE (physics) went on and did chemistry, Biology and Maths at A-level getting three As and becoming a vet.
My sister got a fist of As at GCSE then a D,E and N at A-level was accpeted by loughborough for the masters in construction engineering with management and is now a dual chartered engineer.

nextphase Sat 24-Aug-13 11:34:09

Noble the alternative conclusion would be that only a small % of people have the innate ability in those subjects, hence intelligent people without inbuilt ability will not succeed.
There is NO WAY I would have got A's in many of those soft subjects - it just wouldn't happen, however many hours I put in.
Maybe I just confuse the stats.

Sorry, OP. Hijack over.

HmmAnOxfordComma Sat 24-Aug-13 11:43:49

I am querying the whole physics without maths thing, too, because I understand that it makes it very difficult to get a good grade in physics if you're not a natural mathematician?

But without wanting to add to the stream of scepticism directed towards the OP's son's suitability to do maths AS, it doesn't sound like a dc with level 4 KS2, then middle sets, then a grade B GCSE even with lots of coaching and help at home is a natural mathematician. Sorry, OP.

I think you had some good advice upthread, though, about the algebra content and finding out from school (and through your own testing using that paper in the link?) if he does show some ability in the areas which are more important at advanced level. Maybe he's not an arithmetician but is a more natural at algebra?

Good advice too about not deliberating 'bombing' the 4th AS. It won't help his PS or anything else if his attitude is seen as less than good?

waikikamookau Sat 24-Aug-13 11:44:47

can he do an engineering diploma? which are equivalent to a levels?
now there's an alternative?

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Aug-13 11:47:09

Suggesting that only people with innate ability and not simply general academic ability can succeed in maths is a major problem for STEM recruitment. Biology also came up as one of the hardest subjects but I've never heard of anyone suggesting you need an innate ability in Biology to study it, just general intelligence and a lot of hard work.

Jella2u Sat 24-Aug-13 11:47:25

SlowlorisIncognito. Thank you for your helpful advice. Unfortunately Psychology not offered at his school. We looked at Business Studies, but son thinks this is too much work. He wants to go for Sociology with Criminology as he doesn't want to sit there bored stiff for hours and there are only two written examinations. Lets hope all the places haven't gone for this great little filler.

Maths A Level course to be followed will be the same as the school EDEXCEL (8371 9371). Pure maths and statistics or Pure maths and mechanics in Year 12. Whichever has not been done as regards to Statistics or Mechanics will be done in Year 13. Bearing in mind that if we succeed son may get a chance to enter A level maths at Year 13 (if it is supposedly so hard there will be drop outs won't there) any advice on what to do first, Mechanics or Stats, would be welcome.

I am surprised at how defeated people are. I've looked at the TES link regarding grade B and there is absolutely no way we can do worse than them. There is no risk. We don't have a league table showing failure. I do have sympathy with Secondary Maths Teachers - the rot sets in in Primary School. The Secondary Head is unlikely to have a maths degree and probably does not understand that maths is like playing the piano - regular practice is required. Not enough timetable is devoted to the subject.

All helpful comments will be read. Many thanks in advance.

We are getting there!! Anyway we are out to celebrate tonight. The boyo did well!!!

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Aug-13 11:50:34

Not all schools require maths to do physics now, as I believe that they removed a lot of the maths content from physics a few years ago. Doing maths still is an advantage, however, especially if you sit Mechanics in maths as there is a similar module in Physics meaning a lot of the work is duplicated.

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Aug-13 12:01:29

Re drop outs with maths being hard - my most recent class started with 22 in Y12, we lost a couple in the first few weeks, another after the Jan module and a few more at the end of AS. A couple switched option blocks, another couple had to resit Y12, anyway I ended up with 9 in Y13. So yes, there might be room.
As for which modules to sit first, if you want DS to have the possibility of joining in Y13, the best advice would be to do whatever the school do.

A query - I think if you want to enter as an independent candidate, you have to do it through a registered exam centre (he can't sit the exam at home!). So would you be wanting him to sit the exam at his current school? In which case you would need to let the school know well in advance of exam entry deadlines of your plans.

longingforsomesleep Sat 24-Aug-13 12:01:31

Jella - if maths is just a matter of practice, why did you not ensure your son did enough practice to secure A/A* at GCSE? Was his B a surprise? If he was working at a level A/A* throughout the year and his exam was a blip then he should be OK. I hope you don't mind me asking, but if a B is what he was being predicted throughout the year, and you are now prepared to be so hands on, why didn't you step in sooner?

I think it is asking for trouble to embark on A level maths without having a really solid grounding in GCSE.

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Aug-13 12:07:44

The 'defeatist attitude' in this case at least is borne from many years of experience of it not working. The boy that I mentioned earlier wasted an entire year of his education on unsuitable subjects. Like in your case, the teachers advised again and again against it, but both he and his parents thought they knew best and carried on. I helped him as best I could. Trust me, there was no joy when we were proved right, he got a U and had to start his A-levels again.
And that same story has played out too many times to be sunnily optimistic.

Takver Sat 24-Aug-13 12:42:03

This isn't really relevant to the discussion, but just out of curiosity, is maths A level harder than it used to be?

I did maths back in the 80s - old enough to have done O levels before A levels - and I would have said it was considerably easier than English lit A level back then . . . ?

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Aug-13 12:49:12

No, maths A-level is easier than it used to be. In 2005 a reasonable amount of the content (can't remember what proportion) was removed and put into Further Maths. When they changed it with Curriculum 2000, it was seen to be very difficult (not sure how that compared to previous versions) and uptake plummeted. As we need a reasonable amount of mathematically literate students, they made it easier and uptake rose.
A big problem with maths a-level is that GCSE simply isn't good preparation for it. It may have been more difficult back in the O-level days, but probably fewer people took it and they would have been better prepared for it.

Takver Sat 24-Aug-13 13:02:52

Ironically I was only persuaded into maths by school because I got B in O level French (which I had wanted to take). School were quite right in my case, it must be said! I love studying languages but sadly have no natural aptitude for them grin

longingforsomesleep Sat 24-Aug-13 13:32:54

It really annoys me that A level maths is such a step up from GCSE but some schools (ours anyway) insist on top set maths taking it early. DS1 took it at the end of year 10 and got an A. Didn't want to start AS maths straightaway so did GCSE statistics in year 11 (big mistake we now know) then started on A level maths in year 12. Despite several resits he has ended up with a D. He was on course for a C but really messed up C4.

DS2 got an A for GCSE maths at the start of year 10. I never felt he had fully consolidated his GCSE but was made to start AS C1 during year 10. He got an E for it. He resat it with his GCSEs and got a C. He got 10 A*/A grades at GCSE and probably did more revision for C1 than he did for all his other GCSEs put together.

The school's argument is that, because A level maths is such a step up, getting the GCSE out of the way early allows students to spend longer on the A level. That's fine in theory - but NOT if they haven't really had time to consolidate their understanding of maths at GCSE level. And for some students (DS1 in particular) resits don't work - he managed to get lower marks every time he resat a module.

It's been quite demoralising for DS2 to get such grades in everything else but be struggling with maths.

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Aug-13 13:40:08

Doing stats in Y11 is an even worse start to A-level than maths as they have then had a year to forget their algebra. Doing C1 in Y11 is also not good because stats show kids do worse in it than in Y12. Getting GCSE out of the way early is fine for those kids who get an A* in it in Y10, they should then spend Y11 doing an additional maths GCSE (not stats). Those who don't get an A* in Y10 should do the GCSE again to get an A*

That said, Gove is totally against early entry so I'm not sure that sitting a GCSE at any time other than the end of Y11 will be allowed in future.

Takver Sat 24-Aug-13 13:43:47

Is there an equivalent of further maths at GCSE? If there is such a gap, it seems like a shame there isn't something that maths-y pupils could do during their GCSE years to help prepare themselves.

Fancies40Winks Sat 24-Aug-13 13:45:03

noble how would that work for students wanting to do gcse additional maths? (Or am I showing my age and that has been scrapped as a subject?)

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