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GCSE maths early? (sorry, old hat I know)

(27 Posts)
Sadik Sat 14-Jan-17 11:00:27

As of next week, yr 10 dd's maths sets are being re-organised, with 12 A* / borderline A* pupils split off into a separate set.

So far so good - I suspect it's a mix of trying to figure out how to deal with the new 3 tier GCSE papers (we're in Wales, so still have letter grades, but maths split into two GCSEs, each with lower/intermediate/higher tier) and some interschool politics (look! we may have a dodgy intake, but we cater for high achievers!).

But, they've been told they'll be sitting the maths GCSEs early, either this summer, or next November, depending on when the teacher feels they're ready. After sitting the exam, they'll move on to studying the AS curriculum.

I can see this would be helpful for school (gives them a bit of early feedback on the new exams), but I'm a bit twitchy as I know there's a lot of negative views on exams being sat early.

They're already taking English language and Welsh language GCSEs this year - but we're stuck with that, it's longstanding school policy that they do language in yr 10 and literature in yr 11 (though a bit rubbish for dd as languages definitely her weakest point, and she's improving year on year).

So I'd just be interested in any views, suspect there's not much can be done, but I guess we can express our opinions at parent teacher meetings at least. (FWIW I suspect dd will go on to take A level maths and potentially further maths, but at 6th form college as school 6th form being abolished from her year.)

noblegiraffe Sat 14-Jan-17 12:34:29

There's lots of evidence that sitting exams early is bad for students as they don't do as well as they could if they sat them at the appropriate time but aren't offered the chance to resit:

www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/184109/DFE-RR208.pdf

However, if they do get an A*, then the bit that I would be more concerned about is 'moving onto study the AS curriculum'. Are they planning for the group to sit an AS or some modules early (I don't know whether Wales is decoupling AS and A-levels?) or are they planning to just study the maths with no exam at the end? Either would be a disaster.
We know that students who sit AS early don't do well and usually have to resit to get the grades that they should be achieving. If they are not staying onto the same school sixth form, having sat exams early creates issues with whatever sixth form they go to, especially if different exam boards are involved.
If they do just 'study' maths with no exam at the end, then in a stressful year, maths will inevitably become a doss lesson which could well put off students from taking A-level.

The ideal option for those sitting early (apart from not sitting early!) would be to go on to take a bridging qualification like AQA Further Maths GCSE, but I don't know if you can sit these in Wales?

Sadik Sat 14-Jan-17 13:44:39

Thanks Noble, that's pretty much what I thought. From the results POV, I'm a bit re-assured that they're saying 'when the whole group is ready', which since dd is definitely near the top end of the group should be OK I hope.

I don't see how it could make sense for them to sit AS modules early as they can't continue with it at school. There's been talk of an 'additional maths' gcse in the past, but I don't know if that still exists.

DD is very happy with the change as she's found maths lessons painfully slow throughout secondary, so I hate to pour cold water, but I do worry a bit about it all.

noblegiraffe Sat 14-Jan-17 13:51:10

The best option would be to take an additional/further maths GCSE and GCSE maths both at the end of Y11, giving the maximum chance of an A* in maths, while still pushing able students on so that they're not bored.

I'd ask the school for clarification about whether she would be able to resit if she doesn't get an A*, whether they will be sitting AS modules and why not an additional maths GCSE instead. Once the details are clear you could raise specific concerns.

Sadik Sat 14-Jan-17 14:03:18

I'll do that, many thanks Noble.

Sadik Sat 14-Jan-17 14:10:43

Hmm, I've had a bit of a poke about, and from what I can see WJEC don't look to be offering an additional maths qualification any more and as I understand it they're the only board Welsh state schools are allowed to use.
AS are still part of A levels here just as they used to be in England, so really doesn't make sense to sit early at all that I can see.

Peaceandl0ve Sat 14-Jan-17 15:46:02

Hi OP, perhaps we have kids in the same school, I am having the same issues with regard to my DS. It all seems very complicated and I really dont understand why they are forcing students to take their GCSEs early, we were told that students who achieve top grades in the both maths GCSEs with do further mathers next year but they said this is not an actual qualification!

No help or advice to offer but, Aargggh!

Peaceandl0ve Sat 14-Jan-17 15:51:31

Should add that we have been promised that students can resit to get the A* if they wish but I dont trust them. And I think it is additional, not further maths they suggest they will do if the finish the GCSE with a high grade in the Summer.

NotThrowAwayMyShot Sat 14-Jan-17 15:52:41

I know that private schools often do this. It's only seen as a bad thing to sit the GCSE early if a child is likely to get a lower grade. An A* candidate who takes GCSE maths in Year 10 & AS level in Year 11 will possibly benefit from being stretched.

A child in dd's class has done similar but in French.

noblegiraffe Sat 14-Jan-17 16:06:06

AS level in Y11 is a terrible idea, even for those candidates who get an A* in Y10.

For a start, AS level is designed for sixth form students who are only taking 2 or 3 other subjects and have a significant amount of time to study.

So usually students take one module in y11, C1. They then usually need to resit this in Y12 as they don't usually perform at the top grades, or because the sixth form do a different exam board. Even if they don't have to resit it, what do they do in the Y12 classes where C1 is being taught? Sit bored? Expect extension material? Miss the classes and miss out on bonding with their new maths group?

Imagine it all goes perfectly, they sit AS in Y11, then A-level in Y12. If they took 3 other subjects in Y12 (heavy workload), they have to continue with all three even if they go badly, so lose the option to drop one at AS. Or they take 2 in Y12 and then have to pick up another AS in Y13 which could be random and weird depending on how the option blocks fall, because two subjects isn't enough to meet funding requirements.
Then some universities don't resits and prefer A-levels to be all sat in the same sitting.

Bloody nightmare.

noblegiraffe Sat 14-Jan-17 16:07:20

I've had a look at wjec's website and additional maths isn't on there, even though there's a sitting in June 2017 and I can't find any news about it being discontinued confused

Sadik Sat 14-Jan-17 16:07:36

I wonder if we do Peaceandl0ve - is it YBG?

Peaceandl0ve Sat 14-Jan-17 16:10:32

Nope, but not a million miles away will PM you

Peaceandl0ve Sat 14-Jan-17 16:16:28

It shows what a confused mess it is, 2 maths gcses, each with 3 tiers in a small school, I cant see how they will be able to accomodate the various permutations in year 11. And clearly I dont know what maths it is that they will actually do in year 11 if they achieve A or A* in the summer.

Sadik Sun 15-Jan-17 11:18:27

I suspect once it settles down in a few years time it'll all be fine - unfortunate that our dc just get to be the guinea pigs. . .

Berthatydfil Sun 15-Jan-17 11:34:54

I'm in Wales and I suspect that schools will be playing games with the new maths GCSE. Results are out on Thursday and I suspect there will be a huge amount of politics around the results.
We have had the national literacy and numeracy tests but aren't making any improvements on the PISA rankings. School banding won't be helping schools and they will be focused on improving pas rates of results and that probably means that a lot of schools will be doing early entry for year 10 or even year 9 on the intermediate papers. However there is a max grade B on this paper so it won't meet the needs of higher achievers. So they will have to do the higher tier paper at the next sitting.
My ds is in year 11 so is the guinea pig for both the new English and maths.

Bensyster Sun 15-Jan-17 17:50:03

Why would your school reduce their pupils options by arranging GCSE in different sittings, given that a number of universities do not accept exams taken in different sittings and /or resits.

This extract is taken from the Russel Group Informed choices booklet

*A number of institutions ask that grades and number of subjects are
achieved at one sitting. Some do not accept ‘re-sits’ at GCSE or standard
level qualifications. If you think this might affect you and a university’s
published admissions policy is not clear, it is sensible to check with
Admissions staff before applying*

russellgroup.ac.uk/media/5457/informed-choices-2016.pdf

Peaceandl0ve Sun 15-Jan-17 18:44:33

I did raise the issue of GCSE retakes with the schools but they told me I must be confused! I might gather some evidence and go back for a chat.

bojorojo Sun 15-Jan-17 18:57:21

Ofsted hate exams taken early too. Russell Group like all in one sitting so school is stupid!

Sadik Sun 15-Jan-17 19:02:42

Bensyster, I know that's often quoted, but certainly sitting English / Welsh language GCSEs in yr 10 seems to be pretty universal here - and pupils seem to go off to reasonably respectable universities, so it obviously isn't a dealbreaker.
Mind you, I guess the duplication of lang/ lit GCSEs means they will then end up sitting an equal number of exams in yr 11 to English pupils who are only working in one language . . .? confused

Bensyster Sun 15-Jan-17 19:23:19

Sadik I know nothing more than what the Informed choices booklet says - it does a "number" not all. I'd want to make sure my kids had access to as many Universities as possible. Limiting choices at such an early stage is something I'd want to aviod where I could. I think the school's policy is doing just that.

Peaceandl0ve Sun 15-Jan-17 19:36:19

I agree about avoiding the limiting of choices, especalially where a student wants to go down the Oxbridge/medicine/vet science route.

My DD did just that, last year we were in the ,iddle of Ucas apps so I know a bit about the potential implications discussed on this thread.

Sadik Sun 15-Jan-17 19:36:46

"I'd want to make sure my kids had access to as many Universities as possible"
True, but changing the policy of all the schools in the surrounding area might be a bit much for me single handed . . .

Sadik Sun 15-Jan-17 19:37:31

What baffles me then is that a reasonable number of pupils from these schools do go to Oxbridge/Russell group unis.

Bensyster Sun 15-Jan-17 19:42:04

grin - I might challenge my school though.

Way back in the dark ages I didn't do a language GCSE - I limited my choices of Uni as a consequence but at 14 that is what I wanted to do...I still had plenty of choice. Of course there is no longer a language requirement at any Uni excepting a subtle one at UCL.

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