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Is this usual- sixth form class sizes of 15 and no setting (maths and sciences)?

(22 Posts)
Walkinginfog Thu 11-Dec-14 10:28:28

DS is in year 11, so we have been looking at sixth forms. He wants to stay at the school he is at now, and tbh there is no realistic alternative.
At the open evening we spoke to teachers and current yr 12 students, and they said there were 15 to a class. The requirement to study maths A-level is a B grade at maths GCSE, and to study science A-levels a B in the relevant science GCSE (if studying triple science) or a B in Additional science (if doing double).
When I asked how they managed the different levels of prior learning (eg. some students will have spent year 11 doing science unit 3s, whereas others will not have even met this material) they spoke of differentiation, and support for anyone struggling.
Does it seem reasonable for teachers to support both students who have scraped a B and those who have A*s in a class this size? DS is hoping to do well, and get good A-level grades, then go to university. I suppose I am hoping for re-assurance.

NorwaySpruce Thu 11-Dec-14 10:32:35

Yes, that sounds right.

Students are considered capable by virtue of having qualified for the course.

A relatively high number of students drop out of maths and science A-Levels, so as the course progresses, class sizes often dwindle.

CrispyFern Thu 11-Dec-14 10:40:24

Thats what it was like when I did A Levels.

mummytime Thu 11-Dec-14 10:40:45

15 is fine, often its 18 here, and I dislike much above 22. They are expected to work independently a lot at A'level, it is preparing them for University. They are also pre-selected by interest and ability to get into the class. The smaller class size enables the teacher to spend more time with each student. They are often willing to give time to help outside the lesson time.

It will be very different to GCSE. It can be a good idea to do some work over the summer, reading around the subject and looking at "Bridge the Gap" books.

Clavinova Thu 11-Dec-14 10:41:50

What were the maths and science A level results for 2013 and 2014? These results can be your only re-assurance I think.

Walkinginfog Thu 11-Dec-14 10:54:28

Thank-you for the replies. It seems it is normal then.
The results for 2013 were fine -plenty of high achievers- however I hear the sixth form has expanded considerably in the last 2 years, presumably as a result of raising the 'Education Participation Age'.
I haven't seen the 2014 results yet.

Leeds2 Thu 11-Dec-14 10:58:19

Sounds like how it works at DD's school.

MillyMollyMama Thu 11-Dec-14 11:24:21

Very few young people took sciences and maths with only a B at DDs schools. I think these young people would struggle and the A level group may therefore self select with a majority being the brighter ones. If the A level results have plenty of A and A*s in these subjects, then I would not worry but I would get last years results. What does Ofsted say about the teaching of these subjects in the school in the 6th form and do plenty of the students do science courses at University? The results may be ok, but what are the leaver destinations?

Walkinginfog Thu 11-Dec-14 11:59:33

Thanks again for replying.
MillyMollyMandy- where would I get that information? Would I have to ask the school? The latest Ofsted report (2012) was generally positive about the sixth form, but made no mention of specific subjects.
% A/A*s in 2013 was 20-25% in sciences and 40% in Maths. I don't know if that is good or not?
TIA

skylark2 Fri 12-Dec-14 22:11:23

DS's school sets for A level maths but not for any other subject. I'd never encountered setting at A level before (and I have a DD who's just gone to university - her school does no setting at A level).

I think you might want to ask what grades the pupils who start A level maths with a B at GCSE get, if that's likely to be your DS. The top 40% getting A and A* is only relevant if your kid is one of the top 40%. I've seen some pretty grim statistics for A level maths grades achieved by students with a GCSE B.

Noodledoodledoo Fri 12-Dec-14 22:42:55

We only take students A grade and above for A level Maths based on past experience of grade B's getting U's in year 12. Would love classes of 15 we have two option blocks offered and end up with 25ish initially in both classes.

As for ability not set as only one class runs in one option block so depends on students other choices.

titchy Fri 12-Dec-14 22:45:26

The thought that A level students would be set never even crossed my mind tbh. Class sizes of 15 sounds great - go for it! Were you really expecting all the B grade students tone lumped together and never taught anything beyond an A level B grade?

circular Fri 12-Dec-14 23:04:32

DD1s sixth form had about 100 start maths in yr12 last year. Had one set for further maths, then set 1 and 2 for those scoring highest at GCSE, and 3 equal mixed ability sets for the rest, which would have been all A grade. So between 15 and 20 in a set.
Over 50% A/B at AS that year.
Similar setting currently in yr13, but one class less.

Physics not set, about 50 of them in 3 groups, so similar numbers. All with A grade Maths GCSE.
Around 40% A/B at AS that year.

roguedad Sat 13-Dec-14 18:05:20

I'd expect schools to group kids for maths depending on whether they were doing just maths, or maths and further maths - the GCSE required for the latter would often be A*. If the school only does single maths then a broader ability group might well be the norm.

circular Sat 13-Dec-14 19:21:36

The further maths kids at DDs school take the full maths A level in yr12, then full further maths in yr13. so have to be taught separately, and yes A* GCSE is a pre-requisite. But so many taking maths, partially set the rest too.

stn24 Sun 14-Dec-14 10:54:31

Not many schools have enough pupils in Further Maths to set them separately. Even in schools with 2 or more further maths sets, it still quite difficult to timetable them so the most common thing to do is having mixed classes. A class size of 16-22 is normal at AS, 14-18 is normal at A2. FM is a bit different, class size can be anything from 4- 20 depend on the school and timetable and the number of teachers available that can teach it.

Imo, pupils with B grade and even low A shouldn't be doing A Level Maths. they most likely to get U E D and drop it after one year.

SlowlorisIncognito Sun 14-Dec-14 17:34:36

If the school only has around 15 pupils doing maths and each science, then it's not going to be feasibly possible to set them.

When I was in sixth form, I remember there were two biology classes- however, these weren't set, they were split based on when people had timetable space. Unless you have lots and lots of pupils opting for a subject, it's unlikely there would be multiple classes on at the same times.

With 15 in the class there is more time for differentiation and individual teaching. Also, it's likely some students will drop each subject at AS level, leading to even smaller class sizes at A2.

skylark2 Sun 14-Dec-14 17:46:35

At both my kids' schools there's more than one A level set in many subjects - but who's in them has nothing to do with ability, it's to do with what their other options are to make the timetable work.

Walkinginfog Mon 15-Dec-14 10:48:12

Thank-you everyone for your replies - it's really helpful, and I now feel re-assured.
I suppose I was just surprised they would stop setting, in subjects which have been set previously, at a time when the work gets harder, and it is so important for everyone to get the best grade possible. However, I can understand the practical problems, and it seems to be normal, so I'll stop worrying (or start worrying about something else...)

BackforGood Mon 15-Dec-14 23:20:03

but they are setting, by default - only people who want to be there are in the group, and only those who got A*,A, or B

15 in a group would be lovely - does depend on the subject, my ds had much bigger classes in Yr12.

TheWordFactory Tue 16-Dec-14 07:13:46

DS school does have a sort of setting in sixth form, but there is massive take up of STEM so easy to do.

Youorns Tue 16-Dec-14 20:20:57

To be honest, in my experience as a teacher, don't choose Maths if DS/DD gets a B at GCSE. They'll get an E at best at AS, most likely a U. Better to go for a different subject.

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