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Maths GCSE Mock - Foundation Paper Fail

(54 Posts)
TheWalkingDude Thu 17-Nov-16 17:25:55

Hello all,

I'm looking for some advice from parents and teachers regarding the new maths foundation paper.

DD is in year 11 and sat her maths mock just after half term. She sat 3 papers and received her result today, which was 1 shock. She was predicted to get a 5 in the exams next year.

She has come home and told me that nearly everyone failed the maths mock, with the majority scoring a 1 or 2. The highest grade received was a 3. There was even a big discussion at the school assembly today regarding the low scores.

It would appear to be an even bigger issue with the higher paper as a letter has come home explaining that it has now become apparent to the school that the content of the higher paper had "changed dramatically" and that a number of pupils will be better suited to the foundation paper. The letter further adds that the Government advice is that the higher paper is aimed only at those intending to pursue a career in maths or the sciences.

The whole of year 11 will have to resist the mock in Jaunuary.

Now, I am quite concerned about this. Although DD is sitting the foundation paper, scoring 1 is very worrying. DD should be getting the papers back so we can take a look and see what has gone wrong.

Anyone out there know anything about the new maths papers? Does this sound like the school are failing to teach the correct subject matter?

Any advice would be appreciated.

TeenAndTween Thu 17-Nov-16 18:41:22

No advice on new paper.

From a parent with a child with limited natural ability in maths who eventually got a high B, my advice would be to get the paper back and look for trends in where she lost marks and work on that.
Mistakes in basic adding, times tables etc
Not reading the question properly
Not being able to read graphs
Dealing with negative numbers
Wordy questions
Wasting time on questions outside her ability rather than time on questions she can do

It is amazing how many marks can be lost to just a few types of errors.

I would also personally get hold of the syllabus and check with DD what she thinks she's actually covered.

I think it must be really hard for this year group as they don't have hundreds of practice papers available to them.

No doubt noblegiraffe will be along shortly full of knowledge and ideas. smile

fourcorneredcircle Thu 17-Nov-16 18:59:18

I second TaT You need noble, the woman has secondary maths God status smile

TeenAndTween Thu 17-Nov-16 19:29:45

Also, this may sound a bit stupid, but when deciding where to focus effort, also consider what maths is needed for her science papers.

So for DD we found the following very helpful for both maths and science
- graph reading
- re-arranging equations
- units conversion (changing metres to cm etc.) and watching out for units in equations in case you need to convert them

FifiForgot Thu 17-Nov-16 19:40:53

I was having a discussion with the Head of Maths at school today. We have Y11 mocks starting in a couple of weeks and I queried the number of foundation papers copied. He said that the new higher papers are VERY hard and we will be entering far more students for the foundation paper this year.

I get the impression that the higher paper has been ramped up. No one is really sure how the new papers are going to pan out and as PP has said, there aren't huge numbers of practice papers available. In pervious years experienced teachers could take a good guess at what would be on the papers, but it is a whole new ball game this year.

Don't panic too much, the school should provide targeted revision sessions to help students and th advice from PP's is also good!

DereksGotATail Thu 17-Nov-16 19:40:57

I'm place marking for this as we are in the same situation.
Dd2 did an mock exam a few weeks ago and failed. She is in the top set for her year. The teacher has recommended that she drops down a set which may help her understanding of the subject.
I've since found out that she actually scored 11% and the average for her class was 24% which I find disturbing when the real exams are only months away. Dd2 insists that 50% would mean an A/A* equivalent in the new scoring system.
Dd1 looked over the questions from the mock and commented that some of the stuff was A level work confused
I will be emailing the teacher tonight asking for a meeting so we can address our concerns. We had no indication of any problems in the patents evening at the start of the term.

TheWalkingDude Thu 17-Nov-16 20:08:50

Thank you for all of the replies.

DD should be receiving her papers tomorrow so we will be able to have a look through. DD has said that she does not know which exam board she is studying and the school website has not been updated with the current exam boards. Previously it was Edexcel so I am assuming that they have remained with them, but I'm not 100% sure.

We will definitely print off the syllabus and I have looked at the Edexcel new syllabus and sample papers. DD did say that there was material that they had not covered yet so she could not answer those questions. They were only informed at the end of September that the mocks would take place directly after half term so not a great deal of time to revise.

I just found it worrying that the whole of year 11 have failed and the mocks have to be retaken in January. The letter home also reassures parents that it is possible to achieve a Grade 6 on the Foundation paper, yet everything that I've seen indicated that Grade 5 is the highest.

Interestingly, I have recently found a maths tutor for DD and at our first session she asked DD what she found the most difficult and DD replied "circle theroms". Tutor said that this was not needed for foundation and was for higher tier only, yet DD has sweated embryos (sorry - stolen from In The Thick of It grin over this topic. I checked the Edexcel spec and sure enough, circle theroms is only for Higher Tier. Obviously I will show the papers to her tutor too.

The good news is that she did pass all of her other mocks though and we are really happy for her. She needs a grade 5 in maths to get into her first choice 6th Form, so she's really keen to pull the stops out.

TeenAndTween Thu 17-Nov-16 20:19:29

Our school always does 2 maths mocks, one with the full set mocks in early January, and a later one in March. This year they have also done an extra sort-of-mock in October to get them used to the new style paper.

I forgot to mention general time management above. Knowing how many minutes each mark equates to and not letting questions over-use their time allocation is important.

e.g. For DD we knew that multi-part wordy questions (like post office, different package weights and costs, how much to send a complicated order, then what if there is a price increase) were not good. She often couldn't see how to do them, they took loads of time, and even if she did she went wrong. So the rule was unless very confident miss them out and only try at the end if time.

TheWalkingDude Thu 17-Nov-16 20:44:29

Teen and Tween

Our DD's sound identical. Maths does not come naturally to DD either and the wordy problems have tripped her up in the past, so will need more practice.

The only reason the school are holding a resit is because a great number of pupils that they had planned to sit the Higher paper have failed - DD said highest grade was a 3. The school will make the final decision on which paper pupils will set after the resit, but like a PP said above, only a few will now sit the higher tier. I'm wondering if the foundation paper has also been ramped up too. I think I did read that it now contains topics that would have only previously been taught at higher tier.

She wants to study Psychology for A level and knows that statistics feature as part of the course. The only requirement is that she gets the grade 5 in maths.

I'm new to all this exam malarkey as DD is an only child. Suppose the good news is that I'll only have to go through it once grin

TeenAndTween Thu 17-Nov-16 20:54:57

Only doing it once is definitely good news. smile DD1 is now y13 so did the old system, DD2 is y7 so will be in the new system so I will have to relearn everything!

DD1 was 'lucky' in that I am very confident with maths so I was able to give her 1-1 tuition as and when needed, totally tailored to her needs. I realise that many people don't have the time / inclination / skill for this, but any 1-1 time you can give either yourself or via a tutor will help.

We got there in the end, despite in year 11 her still looking blankly at me at times if I mentioned percentages, or asked her the answer to 2 x -3. Familiarity with the type of question makes a big difference. I think I have read that the new paper is more wordy, so picking out the technique to be used might be an issue for loads of them. In DD's year there was the 'Hannah's Sweets' question which mixed probability and algebra and threw many students (DD just missed it out).

Hopefully noble will turn up when she's done her bedtime stories, marking and lesson prep!

noblegiraffe Thu 17-Nov-16 22:42:13

Crikey, now I feel under pressure! I've done a parents' evening tonight so am not at my most coherent.

Some things are worrying about the letter:
1. Foundation paper only goes up to a 5 not a 6
2. If it is only now apparent to the school that the papers have changed dramatically then I wonder if they have been living under a rock. Most schools put a new style GCSE paper in front of the kids for Y10 exams.
3. Circle theorems confused Does your DD definitely mean the angles in circles questions and not area/circumference of a circle?
4. There are no grade boundaries for these mock papers. No one knows what will be required to get a 1/2/3/4/5 so how can the school be so certain at assigning grades and failing all their students?
5. Higher tier is much harder than it used to be, but I'd hesitate to describe it as only for those wanting careers in maths and science; it's not A-level! However. I know that many schools are now going to be entering way more students for foundation over higher than they used to, and I know that early estimates for grade boundaries for the new papers are on the floor at the lower end (I've seen suggestions of <15% for a 4 which is an old C).

If they have given your DD a 1, that's equivalent to an old G grade which is roughly an old level 3 - below the expectations for an 11 year old. Either the school grade boundaries are correct and your DD has regressed to primary school level, or the school is using too-high boundaries.

When you get the papers back, please post what she got on each paper and which board it is?

I'd like to confidently state that your DD did OK and the grade boundaries are wrong, but the school doesn't sound that great TBH and there might also be a problem.

GHGN Thu 17-Nov-16 22:43:30

The new paper is hard. I teach a top set in a non-super selective grammar and they struggle. I have done a lot of tests already and give them a lecture/read the riot act after every test. They are slowly just about getting the hang of it. In the previous spec, I normally finished at around end of year 10 or end of September of year 11. For the new spec, I just finished this week. Definitely not looking forward to result day this year.

How confident are the school about their grades? Grade boundaries for the new maths and English GCSEs don't exist so we're all making them up tbh. If I were you I'd be asking how they'd come up with the '1'.

How good is your own maths knowledge? Could you download an old spec exam paper and mark scheme (all available on exam board website) and test her using that? If she's getting roughly b/c grades on those she should get 5/6 on new spec iyswim.

TheWalkingDude Fri 18-Nov-16 08:27:08

Thanks to most recent posters who came on to give advice when I was tucked up in bed!


I will try to clarify some of your points.

I have emailed the school regarding the Grade 5/6, but is concerning that they seem unaware, although may be a typo in the letter.

I think this must be first time with new papers as letter states that "it has become apparent" that Higher Tier paper has dramatically changed.

Circle Theorems - these are the ones that there are 7 rules to learn? (I went through them with DD to see what the angst was about). If they are not needed for Foundation, then I wonder what else has been included. Once I know the board for sure I will print off the spec and go through with DD to see what is still to be taught.

Grade Boundaries - This makes sense now. DD said that in yesterday's assembly the Head was banging on explaining that the teachers didn't know how to mark the papers. It made no sense to me at the time, but he was probably referring to not knowing the boundaries.

I feel for DD as she has done so well in all other mocks and is predicted to get A in the subjects she wants to take a A level and B in everything else. The only thing that will stop her from getting into her first choice 6th form is if she fails to get a Grade 5 for maths. Not sure if there would be any flexibility on this if she scored a 4.

I will definitely come back when we've been through the papers to give you all an update and will follow up when she resits in January.

tiggytape Fri 18-Nov-16 09:35:19

This is the first year of the new maths GCSE but that doesn't mean the content has only just been disclosed this year.

It is true that the exam changes for maths have been hastily (too hastily) introduced but it isn't the case that schools are only just being told at this point in Year 11 what will be included and how much harder they will be. They did have a fair idea last year too (admittedly not so much before then).

It just seems a huge leap to push so many students from higher to foundation papers based on very little. Nobody knows yet - nobody has seen yet what a Grade 5 student looks like. The grade boundaries may well be really low just to facilitate enough passes

The exam boards aim to ensure that the same proportion of students get a Grade 4 or above as used to get a C or above under the old system.
It is true that a Grade 4 isn't really going to be seen as a good pass anymore (so low-C-grade students are going to be hit by this) but those predicted to get a B for example in the old system should still be able to get a 5 or a 6 in the new system.

mudandmayhem01 Fri 18-Nov-16 09:46:07

I saw the maths predictions for a load of Y11 students, lots of 2s and 3s for students who fit the profile of applying to sixth form. The grade boundaries must be wrong or there is going to be a massive problem in the summer when a school which normally gets 65% of students getting 5 good GCSES ( including maths and English) suddenly drops to 35%. Its making a very stressful situation for students applying for sixth form places.

Badbadbunny Fri 18-Nov-16 10:02:28

The grade boundaries may well be really low just to facilitate enough passes

Exactly. The marks will be normalised (or fiddled) so that say the top 5% get 9, the next 10% get 8, the next 10% get 7 etc, so the actual marks for each grade can swing widely from year to year. If no-one scored more than 90%, then the grade boundaries would be adjusted so that you get a grade 9 with 80 or 85% depending on the actual scores. The grades are adjusted to fit something like a normal distribution graph.

In a recent year, you could achieve a grade C at higher level maths GCSE with around 35%!

noblegiraffe Fri 18-Nov-16 10:15:00

It just seems a huge leap to push so many students from higher to foundation papers based on very little

At my school we haven't swapped previous higher groups to foundation based on very little, but based on the papers put out by the exam boards on which these groups have scored very few marks.

It's all very well saying that the grade boundaries will be low, but no one has any idea how low and gambling on very low grade boundaries for weaker students is risking the very real chance that they could fall off the bottom and get a U.

Also a lot of weak students will totally panic when faced with 4.5 hours of papers that they might only be able to do roughly 15% of and fall apart and get nothing.

tiggytape Fri 18-Nov-16 10:43:27

My comment was based on the highest grade awarded being a grade 3. I know other school will be using their own methods to assess the best course of action and I agree sticking people in for the higher paper when they're borderline this year is probably not a good idea. It was just the fact that, at OP's school, everyone failed that led to questions over their decision making process.

Even at this stage, with 6 months still to go, the method OP's school is using surely cannot be indicative of the actual grades many students will eventually achieve. Not unless they are a school where the vast majority ordinarily fail maths GCSE (i.e. lower than an old C) or not unless they really haven't prepared for the new style exams at all and are literally only just realising what it entails (which cannot be the case - surely?)

Nobody really has any idea how low the boundaries will go but we do know that the aim is that the same proportion of students who achieved a C under the old system will achieve a 4 or higher under the new one (and the same proportion who got an A or higher will get a 7 or higher). Therefore there should not be any schools where every pupil is expected to fail the maths GCSE and if a school is predicting that, they are likely to be setting the boundaries too high.

Megainstant Fri 18-Nov-16 10:46:14

In a recent year, you could achieve a grade C at higher level maths GCSE with around 35%!

it was 28% a year or so ago

I do not understand it. dd1 got a C but could do a third of the paper. There is nothing more demoralising than sitting in an exam literally not being able to understand the questions.

They used to have an Intermediate paper which sounds like a much better idea - aimed squarely at the Bs and Cs among us

tiggytape Fri 18-Nov-16 10:52:28

- I do appreciate though that those predicted a Grade 5 are in the difficult position this year of not knowing whether a Grade 5 will be easier to achieve in Foundation or Higher.

It might be a grade 5 is easier to get on a very hard paper where they answer far fewer correctly but 'just enough' of them to get the 5 (but risk dropping off to a U grade if they make too many slip ups).

But, equally, they might be better off taking the easier paper where they would be hoping that Grade 5 can be achieved without having to score near perfectly in the foundation tier (and risk slipping down to a 4 if the Grade 5 for foundation papers is set very high).

Those decisions are hard but, I read from OP's post that these changes also applied to pupils who weren't borderline and were clearly higher tier pupils up to now (i.e. predicted A*-B under the old system). If all of those pupils are getting Grade 3's or lower and are being moved, that doesn't sound accurate.

noblegiraffe Fri 18-Nov-16 11:03:56

The OP said a number of higher students were moving to foundation, which would fit with what's going on nationally.

mudandmayhem01 Fri 18-Nov-16 11:09:02

Moving between higher and foundation can have a lot consequences for students. Many A levels have particular Maths GCSE grade requirements, as do some university courses. Foundation might be a safer bet for a school but isn't always the right decision for the individual student.

mudandmayhem01 Fri 18-Nov-16 11:11:41

Moving between higher and foundation can have a lot consequences for students. Many A levels have particular Maths GCSE grade requirements, as do some university courses. Foundation might be a safer bet for a school but isn't always the right decision for the individual student.

tiggytape Fri 18-Nov-16 11:25:50

The OP said a number of higher students were moving to foundation, which would fit with what's going on nationally.
That's the bit that concerned me. I can see why they might do this for the grade 5 borderline students as a safer option (less risk of falling off the bottom of the exam grading and getting a U), but what about the ones predicted A*-B under the old system? Surely they shouldn't be moved at this stage?

OP's school seems to be assuming only those hoping to take A Level maths and science should be taking higher tier GCSE maths and surely that's not right? There's a fine line between playing it safe for borderline students and artificially limiting the grade that higher ability students might get.

Given that a Grade 5 will be the minimum considered to be a good pass, it seems risky to limit higher ability students to the lowest acceptable grade that many of them will need for the future.
Of course a 'U' grade would be worse but it cannot be right that higher ability students are limited in this way unless they are those who were always on the grade 5 borderline? And I assume (and again I might be wrong on this) that is lots of higher ability students sit the foundation paper, it will possibly raise the score required to get the top mark on that paper and risk others slipping to a 4 which won't be a pass)

Is it not somewhat reassuring that they seek to ensure that the same proportion of pupils will get a Grade 7 or above as used to get a grade A? On that basis alone, you'd expect schools to enter at least their top groups (in an average school) for the higher papers?

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