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St Cats Bramley and foundation maths

(48 Posts)
pieinthesky1 Tue 20-Feb-18 14:43:14

I've just found out that St Cats has girls doing foundation GCSE maths. No doubt helps to improve the stats. When is this decided? Does this happen at any other selective schools around Guildford? I don't think Tormead does, my friend's DD is there. What about other selective schools in the area?What about foundation in other subjects? Just interested as it ridicules all the league table results!! We need to decide where to send our DD as has several offers, including St Cats.

ScipioAfricanus Tue 20-Feb-18 16:17:48

I’m very surprised about this. I used to teach in an independent not far away (but not one of the Guildford area ones) and we had no foundation pupils for any GCSEs - very different from my previous state school experience.

FWIW, there’s a case to be made for it. It is in some children’s best interests to do foundation and it bothered me that this wasn’t an option at my last school. It may marginally affect the statistics in terms of a pass grade, but I think it is a price worth paying for the individual pupils affected. I wouldn’t think it affects the standard of teaching or the amount covered for the majority.

jeanne16 Tue 20-Feb-18 17:08:06

Why would sitting Foundation affect the league tables? It won’t. Most schools have been putting pupils through th Higher exam as they generally get better grades. It has been easier to get a C grade on the Higher paper than on the Foundation. I know that’s ridiculous, but that’s how it has been.

However with the change to grades 1 to 9 and the significant increase in the degree of difficulty on the maths papers, schools are now considering putting pupils through Foundation. This may be what has happened at St Cats.

madworld67 Tue 20-Feb-18 17:14:05

They probably wouldn't include foundation results in the league table , I suppose. The A*/A % would include only those who sat the higher paper. It depends how many sit foundation......can you get a 5 on it?

Jesamine Tue 20-Feb-18 17:20:08

Yes, you can get a 5 at foundation.

madworld67 Tue 20-Feb-18 17:30:19

How do you know whether a child who gets a 5 in foundation, might have actually been capable of higher than that had they been given the opportunity to be taught the greater content?

ScipioAfricanus Tue 20-Feb-18 18:02:22

madworld you don’t - it’s a trade off. I haven’t taught the new GCSEs yet but in the old ones, you’d go for foundation to hope you’d get a safe C for a child when if they took higher they might get a D etc (at least in my subject). It was also about league table results for my state school. At the independent I taught at, since we were measured by A*-B, getting a C would still not be good enough for league tables/school publicity and therefore foundation wasn’t used (also it was quite an academic school so I don’t think they wanted to appear less so).

noblegiraffe Tue 20-Feb-18 18:46:48

It will only help the stats if the kids were going to fail maths if they sat the higher paper. Otherwise it would damage their stats by artificially capping their results at a 5.

noblegiraffe Tue 20-Feb-18 18:49:01

How do you know whether a child who gets a 5 in foundation, might have actually been capable of higher than that had they been given the opportunity to be taught the greater content?

Because by Y11 we actually know the kids pretty well given that they've been tested regularly since Y7!

homebythesea Tue 20-Feb-18 19:16:26

Yes some other selective girls schools allow some pupils to do Foundation because for some it would be cruel to push them through an exam they are doomed to fail. I would actually see this as a positive for the school - they are putting pupils needs before any concerns about league tables

madworld67 Tue 20-Feb-18 20:22:49

Noble giraffe, sorry but I disagree with you. I have a DD in a selective girls school ( not st cats!). She ended up with an 2A* in English/ Eng Lit, better than we could have hoped for looking at her results in years 7-9. She had a fantastic teacher in a bottom set for year 10/11.Basically, it took a good teacher to recognise the ability which hadn't been spotted before. My DD was lucky- how often does this get missed I wonder.

noblegiraffe Tue 20-Feb-18 20:54:06

English isn’t maths. If you didn’t do well on Romeo and Juliet in Y9 it doesn’t stop you from studying King Lear in Y10.

livelifelove1 Wed 21-Feb-18 09:57:08

i agree English isn't maths but I do think there must be kids who slip through the system because they think no one believes in them. Noble giraffe, I assume you are a maths teacher!!

noblegiraffe Wed 21-Feb-18 10:56:16

Loads of kids underachieve in maths for various reasons but if they haven't grasped solving quadratics or solving simultaneous equations then there's not much point in trying to teach them to solve quadratic simultaneous equations.

If they have grasped solving quadratics and solving simultaneous equations, then the decision about whether to teach them solving quadratic simultaneous equations generally depends on at what point in secondary school they have mastered the former. If it's the end of Y11 then they're out of time. They might still be sitting the higher paper, but they won't be able to answer all the questions on it.

fluffyrabbit01 Wed 21-Feb-18 11:22:12

goodness me.. I'm glad my DS and DD don't have you deciding their fate noble giraffe. What if someone bothered to make sure that quadratics and simultaneous equations were understood. This thread appears to be talking about selective schools. I have teenagers at selective schools and to me so much is dependant on whether they believe they can do it. The individual teacher makes all the difference.

noblegiraffe Wed 21-Feb-18 11:30:45

I'm glad my DS and DD don't have you deciding their fate noble giraffe

What, because I understand how the maths curriculum works?

You can't teach them simultaneous equations if they can't solve normal equations or substitute into expressions. The maths curriculum is a tower and it needs the bricks below to be in place before progressing further.

If students in a selective school are being entered for foundation then I would have strong doubts about the quality of the maths teaching at the school, but that is unfortunately not unexpected these days as there is a critical shortage of maths teachers. Believing you can do something is all well and good but if you haven't been given the tools to do it then you're onto a non-starter.

fluffyrabbit01 Wed 21-Feb-18 11:53:16

Noble giraffe- How do you know I don't understand how the maths curriculum works?!! Not rocket science to someone with a Masters in science (won't say what!).
I think you have clarified Pieinthesky's initial post- why is a school like St Cats doing foundation maths? Either the initial 11+selection was poor or the maths teaching is weak!! Or they don't want any higher papers lower than a 6 and can leave the foundation paper results out of their statistics.

PickleFish Wed 21-Feb-18 12:08:16

But that makes no sense - believing you can solve an equation doesn't help. You have to be able to do it. If you can't, they pushing you on to harder and harder equations is pointless. The teachers will be doing their utmost to make sure the child CAN solve the basic equations, and once they can demonstrate that, they'll be taught how to do harder ones. They need to have enough time to learn that before the exam, though. They will start the basics of the curriculum early, and when they are able to do those topics well, the teachers will build on them. It's in all their interests to get children as far as possible, but pointless to force them to sit through topics that are beyond them at that stage. It's not saying that they're beyond them forever - as soon as they can and do demonstrate mastery of the basics, they will be taught harder stuff. You're not holding them back from higher level topics that they might magically be able to do if they just believed in themselves - if they can't do the basic steps, you need to teach them that, and teach it well. And yes, encourage them to believe that they can do more.

Obviously some of it depends on how the timetable and sets work at a given school; you can't be forever moving people at a completely individualised pace for every topic, and there does come a point where decisions have to be made overall about which is the best paper.

but unlike some subjects where confidence and belief mean that you could suddenly tackle harder topics whether or not you've done well in lower years, maths means you do still have to learn the lower stuff and show you can do well in it. Once a student can do that, then they should be moved up and given the chance for harder work.

I do have a pupil I tutor doing foundation maths who i think would be capable of higher, and who just doesn't show what he knows on exams. And has very slow processing speed, to boot. But that is a different issue. He does in fact understand the lower level stuff, and I think could be moved on, if there were an assessment that allowed him to show it. It is compounded by the fact that at his school, there is very little set-changing, and only once a year, so you do run into problems of running out of time to be taught the higher stuff, once you've demonstrated you can cope with the lower level material. And I do think that is wrong.

But that's different that just saying that all children should be taught the higher level stuff just in case they turn out to be really good at it - they need to demonstrate some understanding on the lower level stuff first, because it all builds on those skills.

I'm all for not limiting a child - encourage them to show what they can do, to do well in their current set, and to have the chance to move up to harder stuff - but it doesn't mean that higher sets are right for every child. If you spend too much time trying to learn harder stuff that you don't understand, then you are in danger of not having enough time to really solidify and practice the more basic skills - and then you can end up with nothing.

noblegiraffe Wed 21-Feb-18 12:23:18

Not rocket science to someone with a Masters in science (won't say what!).

I've got a Masters in maths if this is a competition. As someone who cruised to top grades at school it was bog all use in understanding how to deal with students who don't simply power through the curriculum.

Pickle said it way more eloquently than me though.

can leave the foundation paper results out of their statistics

Based on what reason? If you think independent schools are simply dropping crap results from their statistics then it wouldn't matter which paper they achieved it on, would it? If they're dishonest, they're dishonest.

As well as crap teaching and inaccurate 11+ results, another potential explanation is poor health leading to a lot of missed school, or poor mental health meaning they suspect a student might fall apart on the higher paper.

fluffyrabbit01 Wed 21-Feb-18 12:52:35

I'm not competing, merely pointing out that it's fairly obvious how the maths GCSE curriculum builds on itself! Simple to harder.
Picklefish I'm not talking about believing you can do one individual topic. That would be ridiculous. But at a very selective girls school there must be a case for girls giving up when they are put in the foundation class!! I can quote many less selective schools where everyone does higher and the failure rate is zero.

noblegiraffe Wed 21-Feb-18 12:56:33

it's fairly obvious how the maths GCSE curriculum builds on itself!

So you agree that ignoring that to teach pupils unsuitable higher tier content is usually futile?

Then I don’t know what you are arguing about.

PickleFish Wed 21-Feb-18 15:40:19

oh certainly, I can see there is potential for people to give up if they think they aren't going to get further, that they're stuck in foundation class forever, that they are hopeless at maths, etc. Confidence is a huge element of it all, and being willing to keep working at something, to be resilient, to figure out where you went wrong, and so on are all very valuable in becoming good at maths.

But just teaching them the higher content in order to stop them getting demoralised doesn't sound like the way. I think that problem has to be addressed differently. It doesn't have to be called a Foundation class. They don't have to decide on the tier of entry at the start. The teacher can be very clear that they will all be taught to the best of their ability, and that previous performance in maths doesn't mean that you can't turn things around. Indeed, even if you can't turn it around in time for the GCSE exam, it doesn't mean you can't continue to learn and do well afterwards.

If everyone does higher and the failure rate is zero (even with the new paper? and failure meaning below what - 5? 4? even some get 3 I think on the higher paper as an exceptional circumstance), then the maths teaching might be very good. It is also possible to get some of those scores on the higher paper by doing well in a couple of specific topics, yet having almost no idea about any of the rest of it, because of the low grade boundaries. Works for getting the actual grade and thus the school statistics, but isn't necessarily good for the pupil's actual maths development. I'd rather someone spent time in an easier set, learning the maths properly at that level, and understanding it ,than cramming for a higher paper, learning techniques to get the right answer to something, regardless of understanding, and then scraping enough marks to get a 5. I think that's better for their development generally. But I am not a school teacher and not subject to the pressures of having to meet certain targets, and I can see why some people might get entered for an exam more to get certain grades than for their long-term maths development.

fluffyrabbit01 Wed 21-Feb-18 16:02:51

Yes, picklefish. I absolutely agree with you- all in the ideal world. I have seen that you can pass the higher paper with 17%!! The problem is the kids are put into a box/set quite early on, especially in a highly selective school. Not my kids (they are fortunately in top sets), so this isn't a personal attack!! But what would I know- I'm not a teacher either!!

TeenTimesTwo Wed 21-Feb-18 16:03:27

I would imagine that at a selective school there isn't necessarily a 'foundation class' for maths.

There would be the 'bottom set'.

At some point in year 11, a decision would be made who to put in to the Foundation paper and who the Higher. So the 'bottom set' in a selective school (possibly equal to a middle set in a comp?) would have a mixture of pupils, some taking higher, some foundation. They may have been attempted to have been taught some grade 5/6 topics, but not all, and not all will have grasped them.

They wouldn't be permitted to just 'leave out' foundation pupils from the stats, it would be lying.

Oh, and speaking as someone with a maths degree (as we're waving qualifications around) I would be extremely happy to have Noble teach my DCs.

TeenTimesTwo Wed 21-Feb-18 16:11:38

Also, I would say that I could definitely understand someone not very good at maths but having had tutoring to get into a selective school, could then not flourish at maths if they aren't great at less instinctive mathematicians, and that foundation could be the better paper for them, especially with the new exams.

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