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GCSE options - should school's individual subject results be taken into account?

(33 Posts)
Oinkyoinky Tue 08-Mar-16 11:43:31

DC is about to take her GCSE options. Overall her comprehensive gets pretty good results - in 2015 around 70% got 5 GCSEs A-C including English & Maths.

However looking just at A* & A grades for individual subjects, some get great grades - ie individual Triple Science subjects around 65%, but some subjects much lower ie Geography 25%, Computer Science 9%, Product Design 8%. DC is very able and we have been told she is in theory able to get all A & A* grades (in old money - but hopefully 8s & possibly 9s in the new system).

So should she avoid subjects where there is historically & statistically less percentage of students get a high grade, or should it not matter?

tiggytape Tue 08-Mar-16 11:56:38

On first glance, those figures don't take into account the relative abilities of the pupils who may choose each subject.
Triple science for example tends to be taken either by top set children or by children who are especially keen on science and plan to take it at A Level. As such it makes sense that they are probably going to end up with good grades through natural ability and / or lots of effort.
Even then 65% is high so possibly this natural selection is also teamed with a fantastic teaching staff for those subjects.

Some practical subjects are taken by those whose talents are more creative and artistic but also sometimes by those who think creative subjects are an easy option and may be less motivated students or those keen to avoid academic subjects (even though many creative classes do involve essay writing and other skills).
Sometimes a subjective element to marking (where there is no right or wrong answer) can make it harder to get higher grades but otherwise, she should probably do subjects that interest her and that she feels she would do well in.

senua Tue 08-Mar-16 11:57:34

If she was dead keen on a subject then perhaps you could risk it and supplement with tutoring.
If it's a case of deciding on the 8th/9th/10th subject, then why risk it?

Are the GCSE results consistent over years or are we talking a one-year blip?

Oinkyoinky Tue 08-Mar-16 12:14:05

Thanks tiggytape & senue - results are a bit up & down year on year but generally fairly consistent. Agree re triple science - they do have great teachers & they restrict who can take it to having to get a high level at the end of year 9.

DC can't decide between 3 subjects for her last option - product design, computer science or Spanish.

Product Design had a low uptake of less than 20 students, and there were no A*s, 1 A , 1 B and the rest Cs and Ds. In previous years the results have been fairly similar. But other design options get much better results, so think it's maybe just a product design department thing which is a shame as my dc is really keen and it's not the kind of subject you could easily supplement with a tutor.

Computer Science is a new subject I think, (the school didn't offer it last year) & I would have though it would attract the more able students. But out of 25 students only a couple for As and Bs and the rest Cs and Ds. Maybe as a new subject they are finding their feet, but not sure I want to experiment with my dc!?

Spanish is more of a dead cert I think - only 18 entries but 50% got A / A*. Again I suppose if you're good at mfl then Spanish is perhaps a fairly easy option.

Have parents evening in a couple of weeks so will discuss in more detail then I hope.

senua Tue 08-Mar-16 12:24:06

What's the plan for sixth form and after - does that have any bearing?

Is she already taking a MFL? If not, then Spanish all the way.

Gruach Tue 08-Mar-16 12:25:51

The differences seem fairly stark.

In addition to the very sensible points above it might be worth bearing in mind that if other parents are making the same comparisons it may be that all the children who can take other subjects will be encouraged to avoid the less successful subjects. So, if your DD decides to take Product Design for example (at this school) it's possible that the participating cohort may be largely made up of children who for one reason or another were not encouraged to take other subjects.

<Ties self in knots>

Oinkyoinky Tue 08-Mar-16 12:52:40

Thanks for the replies. Yes she is also planning on taking French, so Spanish should be fairly easy for her, but equally may be unnecessary.
She is unsure as to which direction she will go in post GCSEs / for A levels - as equally able & keen in Sciences, Art & languages.

Only "missing" option on GCSEs is History or Geography - but she does not want to do either and I'm not sure I can force her. However they are forced to do RS, which is a humanity, but is, from what I hear, seen as a soft option.

Product Design probably not that sensible an option as sure there are plenty of product designers out there who don't have it for GCSE!?
Just a shame about computer science - odds don't look that great at the moment and again I'm not sure how useful it is at GCSE if not considering a career in programming or IT?

RhodaBull Tue 08-Mar-16 13:06:17

RS is not one of the English Baccalaureate subjects, but it is not a soft subject by any means.

As others have said, pupils roughly sort themselves at GCSE with the more able ones doing Triple Science, MFL and possibly History, and the less able ones leaning towards Graphics, PE etc and, just from personal observation, Geography. So it's self-explanatory why the results may be higher in some subjects.

In some subjects there is a bit of a mix, though, eg Music which when ds took it had some very able pupils (two in ds's class have Oxbridge offers now) and some who really struggled so there was a wide spread of GCSE results in this subject.

catslife Tue 08-Mar-16 13:09:58

dd is taking RS GCSE this year. It definitely isn't a soft option. You should see all the pages of notes that she has to revise from.
She is also taking Product Design. It wasn't a particularly heavy workload in Y10 but she has had to stay at school till 6pm on some days to finish the coursework this year. Last year 25% of pupils received grade A (no A*s) in Product Design (with similar percentage of pupils with 5A*-C including Maths and English.) GCSEs in either a DT subject or Art would be needed for a career in design. (I wouldn't recommend doing both).
You can take degrees in Computer Science without having studied the subject at GCSE or A level (usually need A level maths and a Science subject), so not essential to have taken the GCSE career wise.
If taking Science subjects at A level could be possible, I would recommend Triple Science as the best option.

Oinkyoinky Tue 08-Mar-16 13:18:44

Thanks Rhoda Bull - interesting reading. At my dc's school they only have 1 period a week for RS, as opposed to 3 for other options, so from that it does seem odd that a GCSE is possible from such a small amount of classwork, hence the 'soft' option label. I would like her to take History or Geography but I think the non choice with RS has meant that she doesn't want to do another 'essay' subject.
It's tricky for my dc as she is equally able in academic subjects and art, but if some other students are not academically able and have chosen creative subjects you would think they have been 'vetted' to check they are still good at the art subject, so in theory it should not be relevant to their results - ie you don't have to be academic to get a good result in art, but whether academic or not you need to be good at art to get a good result? Does that make sense?!

Oinkyoinky Tue 08-Mar-16 13:26:02

Thanks Catslife. Great that your dd's school gets 25% A / A* in product design - way higher than my dc's.
Agree that if my dc wants a career in art then 1 Art or design GCSE is enough - then A level and possibly foundation year if she wants to take it further. No need to specialise early - but equally her mix of science and art does make product design tempting.
She will def take Triple Science, Art and French and for the last option I think Spanish is looking like the best option - assuming I can't persuade her to take History or Geography!

tiggytape Tue 08-Mar-16 13:50:50

To put it in context, 65% A and A* at GCSE is phenomenal and 25% is very good. Obviously schools vary depending on their intake as much as anything (top grammar schools expect a far higher % of As and A* grades) however nationally, the % who get an A or A* in the subject rarely exceeds 25%

Numbers from last year nationally:
16.5% got an A or A* in maths.
In English it was 14.6%
In Geography it was 26.9%
In Design & Technology it was 17.4%
For all subjects averaged out, it was 21.2%

Interesting stats here (although 2015 figures don't exist for all subjects so you sometimes have to pick the nearest equivalent)

Grelton Tue 08-Mar-16 14:17:29

Is the RE a 'half GCSE'? This would explain the lack of timetabling hours and many schools do offer it on this basis.

tiggytape Tue 08-Mar-16 14:36:43

That's true Grelton. It is called the GCSE Short Course. Quite a few schools seem to do that although I am not sure why to be honest.

Ladymuck Tue 08-Mar-16 14:45:38

It might be worth checking on staffing. Locally we have had a huge shortage in DT, Geography and Science teachers. Not uncommon to find that whoever is teaching Geography hasn't even taken it to GCSE (seems common to expect History teachers to teach it).

Oinkyoinky Tue 08-Mar-16 15:01:31

Thanks for all the replies.
Tiggytape - appreciated the detailed info,
Just checked and RS is definitely the full GCSE - but they do only allocate 1 lesson a week, which does not seem much time.
I think staffing is an issue in certain subjects - science especially, but it doesn't seem to have affected their results. Not sure re Geography - may try & check.

irregularegular Tue 08-Mar-16 15:11:24

I wouldn't worry about it too much. I think it is more important that she overall chooses a good balance of subjects and chooses subjects she is interested in. I would also try to get some feedback on the quality of teaching other than pure grades (i.e., from other pupils and parents and your own impressions if you have met them). Clearly there will be differences in the average ability of pupils taking Triple Science versus those taking Product Design.

Also, as an Oxford admissions tutor, I wouldn't worry about Bs in a couple of non-academic subjects, even the odd C. But I would worry about Bs in Maths, English, Sciences, Languages, Humanities. Even the brightest, most hard-working child can't guarantee an A in Art, Drama, Product Design etc. They are testing for something different. But that doesn't mean that students shouldn't choose them for breadth and interest.

Oinkyoinky Tue 08-Mar-16 16:00:30

Thanks irregularegular - I will ask around re quality of teaching in certain subjects. Good to know that a lower grade in an arts subject isn't necessarily detrimental to university admissions.

bojorojo Tue 08-Mar-16 17:26:54

I would really try and get her to take History if you can. It goes very well with languages and is a "heavyweight" subject. RS surely cannot be just 1 lesson a week for the full GCSE? My DDs found RS really easy! A*s without too much effort. For arts subjects, essays are required at university level. Doing an essay subject at GCSE is always worth it! Langages are rarely easy as there is lots of grammar to learn, especially at A level.

catslife Tue 08-Mar-16 17:26:58

For current GCSEs, Geography is the only subject to have 2 tiers Higher (grades A*-C) and Foundation (grades C to G) so some schools may enter less able pupils for Geography Foundation to increase their EBacc percentage.
I don't think the new (9-1) Geography GCSEs that will be taught from September 2016 will be tiered.

Oinkyoinky Tue 08-Mar-16 17:42:45

Bojorojo - thanks for your input. I would agree I would love her to take History - but although more than capable, she is really not keen and not sure pushing her to do it would be a good idea, as she may not put in the work if she doesn't enjoy it.
From all the info from the school so far, RS is definitely the full GCSE but just 1 lesson a week, but I will query this with the school as it does sound crazy!

SueLawleyandNicholasWitchell Tue 08-Mar-16 23:00:10

RS is possible in one hour a week. Skills are picked up through other essay subjects.

QuadrupleL Tue 08-Mar-16 23:32:14

I am an RS teacher - the current RE GCSE can be (although , lacking depth and being very selective about what you teach) IS doable in 1 hour a week. I did it until 3 years ago, now I have option classes and we can do the subject so much more justice! However anyone / school trying to do that next year will be on to a massive loser. The GCSE has been rewritten so that it is inline with all the other GCSEs and contains for more compulsory knowledge.

I would strongly urge your daughter to do a Hums aside from RS (which is fantastic anyway!). If she is not into essays, Geography is for her. There will be no tiering from next year in geog.

Oinkyoinky Wed 09-Mar-16 08:13:40

QuadrupleL & Sue Lawley - Thanks for the info. I'm now rather concerned that the school is continuing to teach RS GCSE in 1 lesson a week. However, I don't really have enough experience and knowledge to challenge their timetabling successfully and am concerned that my DC's year will be an experimental 1st year of the new RS GCSE to check what happens if they try to continue with the 1 lesson a week (& fail!) - although they must know the requirements have changed and that they are taking a risk?!

Oinkyoinky Wed 09-Mar-16 10:36:07

Think I may start a new thread on the RS debate!

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