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Constant Exams

(27 Posts)
Y10Parent Wed 29-Mar-17 09:28:08

At DD's school, they have started doing exams 4 times a year.

I'm all for monitoring progress and raising standards but this is getting ridiculous. DD is getting obsessed with her Levels/grades and making progress. Some of this is, of course, a very welcome attitude, but I am worried about the constant level of stress she is under. It's putting strain on the whole family.

The cycle starts with a build up of revision with lists of topics and DD getting anxious that she won't have enough time to revise everything, then we have the exam week followed by anxiety over what the results will be. Last week was exam week and all this week she's constantly evaluating her performance and speculating as to how many marks she's dropped in each question or analysing what grades she'll be happy with and at what level she will be disappointed. Revision lists for the next set of exams have already been put up online and she is already starting her next revision schedule.

If she was getting into this state for her actual GCSEs then I would be slightly concerned but take it as part and parcel of external exams, if it was end of year exams, then again it would be acceptable but 4 times a year?

I actually wonder how the staff manage to get any teaching done with all the lessons 'lost' to revision, exams & analysis and whether the students will have 'burnt out' before they get to their external exams.

Is this constant assessment with this level of pressure the same in all secondary schools or is DDs school particularly bad?

lottachocca Wed 29-Mar-17 09:41:57

It's six times a year at my dc's school. Sometimes more - some subjects test at the end of each half term, some at the end of every topic. The more distressing thing for my dcs is that they all sit the same exam, regardless of what set they are in or how much of the material they have covered - they are often told to ignore the last question as it hasn't been covered - yet their mark is still given as a percentage of the whole paper. .

Y10Parent Wed 29-Mar-17 10:06:55

6 shock

DDs school decided that the results for top set were too low so estimated that approx 2/3 course had been covered and adjusted marks/grades accordingly. DD had well over 100%. confused

I'm sure all these exams inform the teachers of their students progress, but, call me cynical, I think it's all about making the school's statistics say what OFSTED want rather than any other reason. As a parent, I don't find these quarterly reports particularly informative and would rather teachers spent the time they spend producing these reports actually teaching/marking/preparing or balancing their work/home life.

lottachocca Wed 29-Mar-17 10:18:27

We don't get quarterly reports, reporting to parents is fairly basic and always feels a bit rushed

Y10Parent Wed 29-Mar-17 11:05:42

When I say report, I mean a data sheet with each subject's exam result colour coded as to whether ahead, on or below target for the minimum expected grade.

Targets are based on SATS results and DDs targets are so high she can never be above. Another 'top set' pupil had poor SATS results and is always exceeding as her targets are so low.

As I said, being cynical, these targets are purely to do with OFSTED statistics and have nothing to do with challenging/inspiring students or really informing parents of their childs actual progress.

End of year reports have become less and less individualised. We've even had text containing a name that wasn't even DDs - classic cut and paste error. (Not that I can really blame teachers cutting corners with all the other crap paperwork they have to deal with)

PiqueABoo Wed 29-Mar-17 11:30:02

Y9 DD has been doing her latest round of termly tests. The summer ones are much the same but in the hall in formal exam conditions. She just reported doing very well in one where she thought she'd done badly because she'd had to 'guess lots of answers'. One peer's reaction was apparently: 'That's coz you revised' which was true, although it was another typical hour the night before.

They might have revised too, who knows, but I told DD to just keep doing what she does because spaced-repitition/revision is significant to learning and she'll be in a more comfortable position in that run-up to GCSEs.

I agree the reporting to parents side can be a crock, and that's the only thing I decided to go give the school a hard time about. That bleeping two sub-levels progress a year to make the data look pretty scenario was very frustrating and very little use. It was also completely broken for any child with a high KS2 baseline via one or more L6 passes.

Ignoring her nerves immediately before them my DD is relatively cool about tests, but between those KS2 SATs and a string of music grades I've had lots of time to work on the fraction of her character that can be influenced. One of her friends sounds much like your DD.

One size doesn't fit all and there is no easy answer. It is easy to blame the parents, but I think that 'fraction' is rather small. The fundamental problem is a 'perfectegenic' environment (just hacked that word with the real 'obesegenic' in mind) i.e. we're just living in times that aren't so good for some character types.

Allthebestnamesareused Wed 29-Mar-17 13:31:25

4 times a year at our school but they cover just the topics since the last set of exams. That way they can learn the topics fairly in depth and then when it comes to the final set of exams at the end of the school year it covers all the material but which has already been learned in depth previously so the revision is somewhat easier (provided they revised sufficiently for the end of topic tests).

It seems to be fairly standard at other friends' kids schools too.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Wed 29-Mar-17 16:53:26

There always seems to be some sort of exam looming on the horizon for my Y10 DS too.

Education is all about performance monitoring these days - of children and teachers alike. And initiatives like PISA, apparently showing that we are not up to the same standard as some Asian countries, just ratchet up the pressure.

Certainly my DS’s school seems to do its best to foster a competitive spirit around learning, turning education into a marks-oriented, ego-driven activity.

I actually think education should proceed at a more measured pace than is currently the case. The ultimate objective should be to produce an innovative and effective workforce in the future rather than students who can achieve impressive exam results but whose knowledge might very well have a short half-life.

There should be more time in schools for pondering, for letting information sink in and for allowing ideas to germinate. But pursuing this more reflective style of learning would not necessarily produce the best PISA ranking.

I rather suspect it would bear fruit in the longer term though.

ZombieApocalips Wed 29-Mar-17 17:32:56

Every half term from primary school here.

My y9 dd has them every half term, the exam seem to coincide with the end of a topic/unit. It seems smart to end the topic with a test considering that it might not be revisited until y11.

TheSecondOfHerName Wed 29-Mar-17 20:27:16

My children have a round of assessments (in pretty much every subject) several times a year. The assessments tend to fall within the same ten days or so. Most often, the assessment takes the form of a test (although it can be a presentation or a big piece of homework). It took a while for them to get used to the ebb and flow or workload, but they have got used to it as time goes on, and they now know not to plan too much out-of-school stuff during the assessment periods.

Sostenueto Thu 30-Mar-17 05:49:27

At my dds school they have assessments every term. They consist of 1 unit in the first assessment, 1 and 2 in the second, 1,2 and 3 in the third and 1,2 ,3 and 4 in the mock. She is in year 10 and constantly seems to be sitting assessments.

GHGN Thu 30-Mar-17 06:52:03

Spare a thought for the teachers that have to mark all exams on top of everything else sad
It took me around 3-4 hours for one GCSE Maths mock paper for my top set. Imagine the marking for essay subjects sad

kesstrel Thu 30-Mar-17 07:04:14

Regular testing to ensure things are learned thoroughly throughout the GCSE period is a LOT better, IMO, than leaving everything to be crammed in the last few months before the exam, with the dawning realisation for the child that there simply isn't enough time. Been there, done that, it was hell.

Also, children need time to develop their study skills and revision strategies, in order to discard what doesn't work for them and find out what does, before they have to face the real thing.

Sostenueto Thu 30-Mar-17 09:07:01

Revision is becoming a real problem for my daughter. On languages (French and Spanish) she finds making her own flashcards invaluable and works well. But other subjects this method is not so good and she seems to be spending an awful lot of time compiling flashcards for everything and carries them around in bulging pockets. I say it is not so good but as she is a high achiever with no subject below a 7 ( she is in year 10 and will sit all exams in the new format) it is working to a degree for her. Maybe others might try it. If anyone has a better idea it will be appreciated. Also my dds doesn't use testing herself enough. Dies that matter though?

Trifleorbust Thu 30-Mar-17 09:43:50

You are right. It is about Ofsted. Heads live or die by the accuracy of their assessment versus end of KS4 results, and termly assessment is the only way to show regular progress and accurate, consistent assessment across subjects. You're not wrong about it being unfair on the students or on families, but until the pressure of Ofsted is removed this will continue to happen.

Sostenueto Thu 30-Mar-17 10:00:23

My grandson who us in year 9 has reading age of a year 5 and has been completely let down by the system. He has working memory problems but his support at school is dire. The school itself is on special measures, in fact last year all 4 high schools in our town was on special measures. That is why my dds travels 35 miles each way to school everyday to go to a better school, as dies loads of children in our town all shipping out to other schools.

Autumnsky Thu 30-Mar-17 13:39:09

DS1's school has end of term exam, these are formal ones. And they also have small tests along the way after each unit finishes. I think it is effective to get the students to form a habit of revision and also it tells if you have mastered what you have learnt so far.When you did some question wrong, then you learn how to do it, this will fill up the gaps. DS1 cares about his exam results very much, but he never gets stressed about it.

Sostenueto Thu 30-Mar-17 14:02:32

I think stress is worse for those in top sets because they are constantly expected to get the high grades and as the exams are a lot tougher that can be a real bug ask. My dds has always had to spend double the amount if time on homework and revision than some of her friends in lower sets.

Y10Parent Thu 30-Mar-17 16:15:03

^Spare a thought for the teachers that have to mark all exams on top of everything else
It took me around 3-4 hours for one GCSE Maths mock paper for my top set. Imagine the marking for essay subjects ^

Oh I do, GHGN.

Ragwort Thu 30-Mar-17 16:18:56

I know this is of no use to you and your situation but I would love my DS (Y11) to take his exams seriously and actually discuss his subjects and results with me. grin. Be grateful you have a motivated child smile.

Y10Parent Thu 30-Mar-17 16:23:44

Ragwort, I am very grateful and proud of DD's work ethic but it isn't all roses and we are having to keep a close eye on her MH.

lottachocca Thu 30-Mar-17 16:25:33

I think stress is worse for those in top sets because they are constantly expected to get the high grades and as the exams are a lot tougher that can be a real bug ask. My dds has always had to spend double the amount if time on homework and revision than some of her friends in lower sets.
Sostenueto Ds tells me lots of the kids in his top set don't need to study because they can figure stuff out and have great memories - so according to him the really bright kids have it easy, ds however has to work hard to stay in the top set but that's his choice, he wants to stay there.

Y10Parent Thu 30-Mar-17 17:38:53

Please tell Master lottachocca that it might look that way but my DD is at the top of her year and she most definitely works VERY hard and puts in long hours - too long in my opinion but she is adamant she wants to understand/learn everything.

She is lucky in so far as she is blessed with intelligence but every mark and every success has been earned. She most definitely does have to study.

I'm sure there are those looking up to him thinking he has it easy not realising the amount of effort he is putting in.

Good on him for putting in the hard work and wanting to achieve his full potential. Hopefully, his efforts will be rewarded.

Sostenueto Thu 30-Mar-17 17:39:19

The pressure to stay up in top set is more because there is only one way to go and that is down. My dd doesn't have to worry about that though, but unlike over 50% of the top group children she doesn't have a private tutor or parents that are teachers. All her achievements are done without any outside help.

lottachocca Thu 30-Mar-17 17:48:44

Thing is ds used to be in the bottom sets at primary - he's had to work very hard to make his way to the top sets...does he work harder than others - I have no idea but really what others do is of no concern, if others can get through on a wing and a prayer, it doesn't help or hinder ds, he's determined and motivated.

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