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How to challenge exam level child entered for?

(10 Posts)
st4th Sat 15-Mar-14 11:46:31

we've just found out from our son (although being a teenager its all a bit vague) that he may have been put in for Foundation GCSEs for some of his subjects this year.
I want to challenge this; can anyone give me some advice please?
A bit of background; they were supposed to be taking Foundation in several last November, but we got a message 3 weeks before that they were all being replaced by Mocks.
He initially got a B in one which was then downgraded to a C (don't know why). This appears to be one he is being put in for Foundation - but if he was that close, why?

TeenAndTween Sat 15-Mar-14 17:19:18

No idea, but to my mind if he has been consistently predicted C or above, and has been achieving this in internal tests, he should be going for Higher papers.

otoh, if it is say maths or Science and they have seen that he does well on foundation level questions but can't cope with complexity of higher level, and he has been scoring Cs or below on internal tests, I can see why they would go for Foundation.

I would start by asking the school whether these decisions have been made yet, what they have decided, and ask they justify reasoning for any foundation papers.

Has he not been given a formal exam timetable yet? This should indicate the papers he is doing I think.

Niknakpaddywhack Sat 15-Mar-14 17:33:43

Due to poor mock results, my ds was entered for foundation paper for 2 of his science subjects, despite having been predicted grade A's for them for as long as I can remember.

I emailed the Head of the Science faculty and explained that by sitting the foundation papers, (that they hadn't had the courtesy to even let us know- we read it on his timetable), it would be limiting his career choices as the highest grade he could get would be a C. I ended up going in to see her and she still wouldn't back down.

So I emailed the exam board and got their advice- school were concerned that if he got less than a D he would get no points if he sat the Higher paper- the exam board said that wasn't possible as he could still get an E on the higher paper and get points.

I copied this to the Head of Faculty and she said 'ok then'! Basically giving in and letting him sit the higher papers. Thank goodness- his overall scores for those two papers were an A(Physics) and an A* (Chemistry).

He is now doing both at A level- something he wouldn't have been able to do if he'd got less than a B grade.

Good luck!

AntiJamDidi Sat 15-Mar-14 17:38:23

Phone school and ask for their reasons.

It is possible that your ds has scored really badly on internal tests this year (without telling you for whatever reason) and they are concerned that he will end up doing worse in the Higher paper than he will if he sits the Foundation paper.

It is also possible that your ds has got the wrong end of the stick and he is still expected to be doing Higher paper.

Until you know WHY your ds is doing Foundation rather than Higher it is very difficult to give advice about how to challenge it, or even to know whether challenging it would be a wise idea.

MrsRuffdiamond Sun 16-Mar-14 00:31:42

If the school stonewalls you over the higher tier papers, and you think your ds would be better served by taking these, it might be worth offering to pay the cost of the exam entries yourself. (This would obviously be as a last resort, as it's not cheap).

Ds (state) school regularly asks for voluntary full or part payment of GCSE/A Level exam entry costs. In vain, as far as we're concerned, I'm afraid. But I would use it as a lever, if the need arose!

creamteas Sun 16-Mar-14 11:01:04

The decision over which tier for borderline kids is difficult, and made worse by moving all the exams to the end.

My DD took a mixture of foundation and higher papers depending on the subject. The only one which was uncertain as to which level was geog. She sat a foundation paper, but did really well so switched to higher. She got a B in the end. But without this confirmation, I would have stuck to foundation just in case. At the end of the day a C pass on foundation is better than a U from the higher.

Talk to the staff as they will know what their rationale was.

steview Mon 17-Mar-14 21:16:10

Schools don't make these decisions lightly and would always do what they believe is in the best interest of the student (in the sense of maximising their grades) - afterall students getting higher grades is better for the school so no school in their right mind would cap a student's grade at a C (Foundation) if they had a realistic chance of getting higher.

Arguments such as "he needs an A* to be a XXXX" are rarely helpful though - entries are not about what a student "needs" but rather what they are capable of at this time.

Having said that schools do sometimes get it wrong and, if you feel this is the case, then I'd suggest approaching the school and asking to discuss it.

The final decisions about tiers of entry can actually be made on the day (although there is a steep financial penalty for such late changes) and obviously if a student had been revising for Foundation a switch to Higher at such a late stage would be very dangerous.

I always took the line that the decision about tier of entry was the schools (using professional judgement) but that the entry belonged to the student so, if the parent/student really disagreed then I'd let them make the final decision but ensure that I, as Head of Department, was covered with a letter stating that the entry was against my professional judgement.

In 8 years (so over 2000 students, sitting over 4000 exams) it happened twice that I relented to a parental desire despite providing evidence for my initial decision.

Once the student moved from Foundation to Higher and ended up scraping a C - which they would also have achieved I believe at Foundation.

On the other occasion the student also moved from Foundation to Higher and ended up with a U grade (they'd have been D/E borderline at Foundation). The parent complained to the school but I had the situation fully documented and was in the clear. Didn't help the student though.

The key is communication - why do the school think this is the correct tier of entry. Don't go in all guns blazing but ask how the decision was reached etc. - if they know their stuff they should be able to convince you.

SamandCat Tue 18-Mar-14 07:13:42

I think the final decision should always be with the student who after all is the one who has to live with the consequences

TheFallenMadonna Tue 18-Mar-14 07:23:56

Talk to the teachers. I have made tier entry decisions that haven't necessarily been popular with the parents, but have always been carefully considered and in what I believe to be the best interests of the student. There is now no benefit to the school in capping a student at a C unnecessarily, as schools are judged on progress and value added, as well as A*-C. The change in November will have been due to the changes to early entries and reporting, which were announced 3 weeks or so before the actual exams. Downgrading was probably due to moderation.

I would generally enter a B/C borderline student for Higher, so it is definitely worth asking his teachers why they are not doing so.

gardenfeature Tue 18-Mar-14 07:40:50

Could he take Foundation with one exam board and Higher with another exam board?

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