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Help please with decision to drop a GCSE subject in year 11

(31 Posts)
noavailablename Wed 18-Sep-13 16:48:54

I would be really grateful for advice.

I have a very stressed yr 11 dd. She is struggling with GCSE music. Not because she isn't a good musician, but because her music teacher has left the school, having covered less than half the syllabus in year 10.

Due to building work, the class are being taught in a portacabin and have no access to rehearsal space, computers or recording equipment.

The teaching is now shared between 3 temporary staff, only one of whom has any up to date knowledge, and she has been brought out of retirement.

Realistically I don't think there is time to salvage anything from the situation.

My dilemma is this:

I want to help dd maximise her chance of a place at a good school/college for A level, but the competition is fierce.

Is it better to drop a subject, or continue with the certainty that the only outcome will be a poor grade? Which would be the better option in terms of applying for sixth form?

She is currently studying 11 GCSEs.


monikar Wed 18-Sep-13 16:58:52

I have a DD in year 13 so have lived the GCSE trauma. You say that less than half the syllabus was covered in year 10 - they have two terms left so realistically they may be able to cover the work in the time.

My DD didn't do music but I have a friend whose DC did and some of it was based on performance - is your DD likely to score highly in this?

Personally, I think it would be better to drop a subject which you feel will yield a poor grade as inevitably a certain amount of time will be spent on it which could be put to better use on her remaining 10 subjects. My DD did short course PE as an extra GCSE in the time when normal PE lessons were running for the others - I feared a poor outcome and discussed the possibility of dropping it but the teachers were extremely reluctant, even though in reality it only meant her joining back in with the others doing games at this time, so you might meet with some resistance. Saying that though, if you feel it is best, then with hindsight, I would persist.

LIZS Wed 18-Sep-13 17:00:29

10 subjects would be ample. Doesn't sound like a very viable gcse option. Unless she needs music specifically drop it.

callamia Wed 18-Sep-13 17:05:50

Ten subjects is more than enough. Most sixth forms will really only be interested in the basic subjects (Eng/Maths etc) and those subjects relating directly to her A level choices.

If you're concerned, ask at the sixth form of your choice - but I think removing stress sounds like a good thing. On the other hand, one poor grade amongst the remainder being very good won't really cause her a bother in the future - particularly if it is explained.

noavailablename Wed 18-Sep-13 17:18:24

Thanks all. I am letting her read the replies.

Music is important to her, and I know she would score highly in performance.

I just think the teaching is going to be poor for the next two terms. sad

She is not planning to do Music to A level, but is hoping to apply for Oxford. The sixth form she is keen on is at a school that really values music. That is why we are really torn at the moment.

longingforsomesleep Wed 18-Sep-13 17:36:59

Not sure which exam board your dd does, but if by any chance it's Edexcel the exam only counts for 40%. The other 60% is made up of performance and composition. DS1 did GCSE music with tolerable cello playing skills and a complete unwillingness to do any work whatsoever (in any subject) but still managed a C.

I'm playing devil's advocate here - if your dd wants to go to Oxford then perhaps sticking with this situation might help her develop some of the skills which could help her get there? She could perhaps be more proactive in seeking out help from the teachers. You could get her revision guides and listening tests. Not sure encouraging her to give up in case she doesn't get a top grade is the best thing for her?

What instrument does she play? Would the person she has lessons with be prepared to help at all? DS3 has just started GCSE music and has already done with his piano teacher all of the theory he is currently doing in school.

Moominmammacat Wed 18-Sep-13 17:59:49

Why not do practical music exams instead? G8 performance is worth more than a GCSE ... it's not worth upsetting her if she's doing 10 other subjects. That said, performance is a doddle if you're any good, you can do the composition in an afternoon but I don't have a clue about the listening paper.

noavailablename Wed 18-Sep-13 21:22:54

Thanks. Just got back to this.

TBH, I think she has had a really horrid day today and is exhausted.

Lots of personal stuff going on in the family too. I don't want her to make a decision in a hurry, or in a low mood.

I think the thing that upset her today was the listening tests. They haven't done ANY listening tests or teaching connected with listening tests at all since starting the GCSE course. I think she has realised how little they have done compared with friends who are at other schools.

Also - they have had no support with IT and composition as their teacher is not computer literate.

I think she is panicking (sp) because the workload seems overwhelming.

She is in band, plays 3 instruments and does a bit of composing and arranging.

I am torn between wanting to encourage her, but worrying about putting her under too much pressure.

Maybe things will look better after some sleep.

longingforsomesleep Wed 18-Sep-13 22:50:20

Oh dear - it does sound like a dire situation.

I think you need to make an appointment to talk it through with the school and let them know that you would like your dd to drop music unless they can guarantee putting measures in place to support her (and the rest of her class) and provide an acceptable standard of teaching.

Are there any one-year courses on offer that she could transfer to? (she will only have missed the first couple of weeks). We have a few at our school to fill the gap left by GCSEs taken in year 10.

cory Thu 19-Sep-13 07:10:26

How about going to see the colleges and asking them? Explain the situation, ask how this would affect her chances.

When dd fell ill in Yr 10 and had to drop a third of her subjects we felt this spelled DOOM and DISASTER. She is now at one of the best sixth form colleges in the area, doing her prefererred subjects and loving every minute of it. They were very sympathetic to her situation and were mainly interested in getting a general idea of her ability through her English marks. Ironically, two of the A-levels she is doing are subjects she had to drop at GCSE (drama and history- obviously wouldn't work with maths or science).

Refoca Thu 19-Sep-13 07:27:16

Music should be fun whether studied or advice would be to keep it on, but treat it as a break from the stresses of study. DT was like that for me, and noone ever fusses at me for my 'one low grade'. In fact, with 10 other grades to talk about, she could just leave it off the CV entirely if it didn't fit in with the rest. No need to drop it imo.

longingforsomesleep Thu 19-Sep-13 08:55:34

You may be able to leave grades off CVs, but I don't think they can be left off university applications can they?

Ehhn Thu 19-Sep-13 09:09:56

I only took 9 gcses, got 8a* and an A (cursed maths), went on to rg uni, ma, phd. I am only putting in my gcse grades to make the point that if I had taken more, there is no way I would have received those results as I am perfectionist and stressy - I nearly had a melt down during GCSEs and a panic attack picking up my results. Drop the subject!

SlowlorisIncognito Thu 19-Sep-13 16:44:14

longingforsomesleep Leaving grades off of UCAS applications is technically considered fraud, and if discovered, can result in offers being withdrawn. Doing this would be much more dangerous than applying with one poor grade out of 11- provided she has done well in other subjects, one poor grade in a subject like music (especially if she's done well in grade exams) won't harm her chances of getting a place (unless specifically applying for music).

Will the school allow her to drop it, if she wants to?

alreadytaken Thu 19-Sep-13 23:16:02

if she is going to apply to Oxford drop it. Part of the selection process is based on the percentage of A* grades they get. As she is at risk of not getting an A* she has more chance without it. If the school don't like it they should have provided better tuition. Let her continue with practical music exams if she wants - they give UCAS points for the higher levels but arent counted for A* percentage (I think).

noavailablename Fri 20-Sep-13 08:16:18

She was predicted an A* in music, but it all seems to have fallen apart this term.

Several teachers have left and they are having cover lessons and temporary teachers in at least 3 subjects. It is a real shambles for all of them and they are all quite stressed and worried about their GCSEs.

The music department is in disarray and all the kids are upset. sad

DD is going to talk it through with her "home" music teacher when she has her next lesson. It may be that he can give her some extra lessons and cover the GCSE work. It is annoying though that the school should be providing this and I shouldn't have to be buying extra music lessons.

Also - I worry about her having to do yet more work in her free time.
I also feel really sorry for the other kids. I am sure most of them won't be able to have extra private lessons.

Theas18 Fri 20-Sep-13 08:29:21

If she has 10 strong subjects without the music I'd drop it. Much better 10 A/A* that 10 A/A* and a D...

10 decent grades is plenty for any application to uni. THe stress isn't worth it and will affect her self esteem and the work time put into music could be better spent on other things .

Keep doing the music for fun of course but leave the exam off. If she's that sort of a person keep taking music grades as practical grades have UCAS points in some contexts and a grade 8 or even 2 demonstarates serious musicianship.

minidipper Fri 20-Sep-13 13:22:14

From what you describe she might be better off dropping music as a GCSE and concentrating on maybe getting another grade in her instrument(s).

tiredaftertwo Fri 20-Sep-13 14:39:58

This sounds really stressful and difficult. I don't know anything about music GCSE except that there are lots of different bits that need to be done. Oxford looks at no of A* and nowhere asks for 11 GCSEs. And option blocks at many schools mean kids can't do music even if they are good at it. And she can demonstrate musical prowess in lots of other ways.

I'd bin it, even if she still has to go to the lessons. It might help your case with the school to get the sixth from college to confirm it won't affect her chances there, ditto an Oxford admission tutor or similar. Then if they make her do it it will be obvious it is to boost point score, not in her interests.

What is really important, especially for Oxford, is to maximise the number of A*.

letyourkidsgrowup Fri 20-Sep-13 15:19:13

Happened to come across " Mumsnet " quite by accident and am fascinated to have read all of the above.
I have a daughter at Manchester High School For Girls ! she previously attended a well known south Manchester prep school, both my husband and myself are very obviously involved and interested in her education and want the best for her as the majority of parents do.
I am not surprised that many of the parents here have mentioned how stressed their children are with regard to choices they should be making at school, when their parents are also stressed and unable to make their own mind up about what to do.
If you have a reasonably bright child who is interested in her education, is it not better to advise her to communicate with her teachers about any fears she/he may have and then get involved only if he/she receives no satisfactory advice.
Who will sort out your child's life for them when they go off to uni. An important lesson we, as parent's, have to teach our children is how to communicate with other professionals in their life, in order to solve problem's. This valuable lesson ought to happen while mummy and daddy are still around and not once they have left home and can't cope without overinvolved parent's .
If you are calm parent's when tackling blip's ( and they surely are all blip's )then your kid's will not fall to piece's at the first hurdle.
Get A Life. !!

letyourkidsgrowup Fri 20-Sep-13 15:26:05

Perhaps it may put life into some kind of perspective, for some of you to visit a paediatric oncology ward.

noavailablename Fri 20-Sep-13 15:52:46

Goodness - letyourkidsgrowup. You have just come across mumsnet by chance and used your first post to be quite rude and unpleasant.

I posted in "secondary education" because my question is about secondary education.

I have had some very good advice here, and I am grateful.

FWIW my DD is very sensible and capable when it comes to managing her life, talking to her teachers, solving problems etc. How lovely for your DC that they attend amazing schools where all the teachers are approachable. Not all children are that fortunate.

DD is 15. When she has a situation she cannot deal with easily, she comes and talks to me. I think this is a good thing. We talk it through together. If I feel I need some good advice, I find that mumsnet is an excellent resource. Not the only source of advice and information, but a very useful one nonetheless.

I am confident that DD will be more than capable of solving all sorts of problems when she is grown up. She is not quite there yet though.

Parenting has to be a mixture of encouraging independence, but offering support when needed.

As for visiting a paediatric oncology ward; there are posters on mumsnet who have lost their DC to cancer and they have received wonderful kindness and support on here. Many posters on here have experienced tragedies in their lives. Many more have given up their time to extend friendship and help to those people. You appear to have judged the whole of mumsnet on very little information.

MLP Fri 20-Sep-13 16:08:41


Thanks for that wonderfully constructive contribution. I agree that teaching our children how to communicate with other professionals is a very important skill. I would suggest that includes having a basic grasp of grammar. I hope that your independently-minded (and educated) daughter is learning her grammar and punctuation from her school and not her mummy.

Speaking as one professional to (presumably) another, I haven't seen such poor understanding of the possessive apostrophe in a long time.

I would also suggest that basic courtesy to others is a life skill we should all teach to our children as they grow up.

I doubt the OP or anyone else on this list thinks that a decision related to dropping a GCSE subject is anywhere as significant as cancer (or a multitude of other issues) but this is an education thread where such issues are discussed on a voluntary basis. I don't think it us necessary to dismiss the discussion of such issues because there are bigger problems in the world that this specific one.

letyourkidsgrowup Fri 20-Sep-13 16:29:19

So sorry to have offended you , It was not my intention !!! perhaps constructive criticism may have been a better appraisal of my posting !!
However , my posting has certainly made you reassess your daughter, as you now describe her as a sensible 15yr old who is more than able to communicate with her mother with regards to HER education !!!! wonderful to hear it !!!! and long may that continue.
I had previously read an account of a dramatic scenario, I think you described her music dept. at school as a " SHAMBLES " I would describe that as a rather dramatic and reactionary response perhaps a tad over-emotional !!
I do not think "Mum's net " is FOR ME !! I would not knock it for other people though. However I have found that in life if you listen to, too many, other people, the differing opinions tend to make certain people confused and anxious !!
You describe your daughter as " Listening to accounts of friend's experience's in school in relation to their progress in music !!! ( perhaps it is a family trait to not trust one's own instinct . )
Remember , children use us as role model's !!!
I referred to paediatric oncology ward's as a reminder that above all else we should want our children to live long, happy, and above all healthy lives , I am sure you would agree with that.
I will now sign off , appearing, to have renewed your faith in your child .

ThreeTomatoes Fri 20-Sep-13 17:00:34

I think letyourkidsgrowup needs ignoring, OP. Don't rise to it. It's lovely that your dd has come to you with this problem. smile I don't think I would have talked so openly with my parents at that age.

I did music GCSE, I think it's terrifying the direction education is going in with regards to the arts, music etc. It sounds shocking what's happened in your dd's school's music department.

I do agree though that it would make sense for her to drop the Music, given that she's doing 10 other GCSEs and is not planning on continuing doing music to A Level. What does she want to do at uni? Being able to play all those instruments is great in itself, there's nothing to stop her continuing with all that, is there? Actually enjoy the music rather than it become a stress.

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