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GCSE level teaching in year 7!

(8 Posts)
ArcherQueen Sat 25-Mar-17 06:59:48

Yr 7 son is struggling with English language lessons, although his creative writing is very good. His spelling and grammar are good, he just feels overwhelmed by the questions and texts, which results in him not writing much at all in tests and class work.

At parents' evening last week this was all discussed and I mentioned that even I found some of the work he is set quite challenging (tests with poor results are sent home to re-do in the holidays). Teacher then explains that they are all being given GCSE level texts and questions as they need to get used to this level of work. He suggested my son was removed from standard class to receive specialist tuition (which I would pay for).

I hear of other local schools doing similar things, i.e. options chosen early and GCSE curriculum followed from year 8. My feeling is that this is a bit sad and desperate, entirely driven by the desire to improve results at the expense of a well rounded education. Is this an approach that schools have only recently decided to follow? If so where is the evidence that it improves results? Or is it just one big experiment?

My son's school is private and non-selective, and struggles to get results that are better than the state alternatives, so probably under more pressure than most to improve. But I am really worried that my son is losing out in a subject like English and I suspect they will ignore my concerns as it appears to be an approach adopted throughout the school for many subjects.

Is anyone else's school doing this? If so is your child getting on ok with it?

GeorgeHerbert Sat 25-Mar-17 09:37:18

No expert here but my ds (Year 10) has been told that the expectations for the new English GCSE are very different from the older ones. His school have been encouraging them to read more widely, more classic texts, Victorian literature. Could it be that the school are just starting to prepare student earlier for the raised expectations?

tiggytape Sat 25-Mar-17 10:29:18

My DS is in Year 11 and the new English and Maths GCSES are exceptionally challenging - more content, harder work and no tiers in English (everyone of all abilities attempts the same papers). The maths papers cover som eof the old A Level topics. There is a lot of work to cover and the expected standard is high.

Most schools are responding to this by starting to teach GCSE topics much earlier. It is too late for my DS and many in his year have struggled. My DS picked his GCSE options in Year 9. Until Year 10, he was doing Art and Music and a broad range of subjects that he dropped to start GCSE studying just his option subjects in Year 10. Now children pick options in Year 8 and drop the broad range of study much earlier to solely concentrate on GCSE subjects.

The downside is that the younger students study a narrower range of subjects at a higher level and prolong the GCSE stress for much longer.
But the bright side is that they will be able to cover all of the work they need to. My DS's year have really struggled - they started secondary school at a time when GCSEs were expected to be coursework based and relatively accessible
They are in their GCSE year facing far higher expectations than anyone imagined, far more exams and little time to get to the required level. They really weren't prepared for this but younger students will be.

ArcherQueen Sat 25-Mar-17 10:43:02

Thanks this all makes sense and yes the teacher mentioned that much of the literature was rather dry, so I can see what they are trying to do. But this stuff is too advanced for some children at this age and I think my son is not learning anything and his confidence is suffering. I cannot support teaching an 11 year old in the way you would teach a 14 year with no build up of skills. He is going to lose out :-(

DitheringDiva Sat 25-Mar-17 10:43:32

It sounds awful TBH. I'm a science teacher, and to me Y7 is all about making it fun and instilling a lifelong enjoyment of the subject whilst also learning the basics of some of the big topics that underpin all of science e.g.. atomic theory, energy etc. I can only speak for science, but I would guess other subjects should be the same?

Yes, the GCSEs have got harder. However, I don't see how teaching them GCSE stuff in Y7 is going to help them in anyway at all when they sit their exams in Y11 - it's just going to turn them off and make them feel like a failure. Maybe starting the easier GCSE stuff in Y9, but not Y7!

Maybe it's different for English, but I feel so sorry for your poor boy, surely they can find texts for his level, and change the questions slightly so they're more like GCSE, but for his level. There's a massive lack of differentiation, which the teachers wouldn't get away with in a state school. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the class are struggling.

And why should you pay out yet more money when the school aren't doing their job properly? The job of teaching is giving your child work at the correct level, which he can do, but also challenges him. The teachers have plenty of time to gradually increase the difficulty over the next few years before he sits his GCSEs.

ArcherQueen Sat 25-Mar-17 12:36:10

I agree with all of that, Diva. I will be speaking to the school but they won't change anything I am sure.

tiggytape Sat 25-Mar-17 14:14:28

I agree that Year 7 is far too early to be starting actual GCSE texts - pupils will be bored rigid of them if they do that. Our school is starting the actual GCSE topics in Year 9 now whereas it used to be Year 10.
Mt DS's year - the current Year 11's - have struggled to cover all of the new maths and English content in just 2 years.

The school are now using Years 7 and 8 to prepare for the new set of skills that the reformed GCSEs will require. For example English is now 100% exam so there's more focus on the skills needed to interpret unseen texts and ensure marks for accurate spelling and punctuation than, for example, producing coursework to a good standard knowing the title in advance.

The only thing that strikes me as odd about your school is that yours is private yet going down this route. My son is at state school which has no choice about adopting these new GCSEs and changing how they teach younger children to prepare for them.
The private schools near us however have opted to continue with or adopt IGCSEs - a friend attended her DD's options day at a local private school recently where they were told the horrors of the new GCSEs and how lucky they were to be able to escape them and continue pretty much as normal.

ArcherQueen Sun 26-Mar-17 12:16:49

Yes I think Year 7 is far too early. Interesting what you say about private schools favouring IGCSE. However our school is run by a "chain" so I suspect the school's agenda is set by them and as such is not as "independent" as I would like.

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