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A level English - wtf?

(51 Posts)
bibbitybobbityyhat Thu 16-May-19 18:59:48

I'm flummoxed that I'm in this situation.

Dd (high achieving perfectionist putting herself under A LOT of pressure and feeling the stress quite keenly now) has come home in floods of tears because she has had her English course work mark given to her by her teachers at school and it is lower than she had hoped for. It was 1 mark less than the grade she is aiming for. So now she has completely lost her confidence and feels she can't get the grade she wanted and is in absolute bits about it.

How is this helpful? Tbh I had no idea that 20% of her A level is even marked by teachers. She is now obsessing over the fact that she didn't ask for more help from the teachers when some students asked for and got a great deal of input and got that 1 or 2 magic marks more than she did. She is really shaken up and not in a good way and I find it unbelievable that anyone thinks it is a good idea to share these marks with students before all the exams are over!? Why do it?

Have to admit to being astonished that exam papers are even assessed in this way!

Piggywaspushed Fri 17-May-19 22:01:21

Your DD's hard work will see her through OPsmile

gin for you, not her!

Thanks for the username love , people. I am so attached to it, I think I am called Piggy!

Shadowboy Fri 17-May-19 21:49:59

Schools are obliged to give students their grade to allow them to appeal in case the mark scheme has been misapplied. Marks were due to the moderator by the 15th so it’s too late for that anyway.

Grade boundaries are nominal anyways as exams are no longer modular. Boundaries will also change although not usually by much. It’s unlikely to be changed by moderation- I believe only 7% of marks submitted were regressed last year and 1% increased (teachers tend to mark to the top end of what could be deemed permitted)

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Fri 17-May-19 21:48:20

Well, yes they are. But most of them are able to understand that the difference one mark makes to the overall UMS score is not worth catastrophising about at this stage. And they also understand the utter pointlessness of any speculation about grades based on the completion of the module with the least weighting. As many have said, there are still 80% of the marks to play for, so obsessing over this one mark rather than focusing on the exams to come is actually quite damaging in terms of what effect it might have on her performance in the exams.

There are very strict rules on how much help teachers are allowed to give, by the way, so I'm interested by her observation on that aspect of the coursework...

bibbitybobbityyhat Fri 17-May-19 21:43:58

Thank you to everyone who has replied on this thread - it has been enormously informative and helpful. Dd is much calmer today. I told her the pertinent facts as I understood them from this thread. Interestingly, she said she thought her teachers at school were too busy and understaffed. She has one teacher who is part-time but who has been coming in on his days off recently. She said there are 31 pupils in her English class.

If she drops a grade she's still going to get on to the course of her choice. It's a matter of pride for her I guess, and the culmination of 13 years of consistent effort at school!

TheRedBarrows Fri 17-May-19 21:03:53

“It does sound as if your DD has massively overreacted, though.l

Is it any wonder? They are under such grade driven pressure.

Bibbity, I hope some of the info will re-assure her. I can quite see how her confidence is knocked just as they are at peak nerves before exam week begins.

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Fri 17-May-19 20:24:42

I teach OCR A Level English Lit.

We are required to release coursework marks to the students: this is not optional, so the school had no choice there. This should be done in a timely fashion so if students believe the marking criteria have not been correctly applied to their work, they have the chance to request it be re-marked by another marker (it will usually get sent to another school at this stage).

Crucially, any discussion of grades at this stage is meaningless. The boards have not yet set this year's grade boundaries, nor will they until the exams have been sat and marked. So your DD's mark is just that - a numerical mark. Her getting upset about where she thinks she is in relation to a grade is utterly pointless because she has no way of knowing and nor does her teacher. All she can do is use last year's grade boundaries as a very rough guide.

It does sound as if your DD has massively overreacted, though. I'm also worried that she seems to equate having one mark fewer in ONE module with having "missed the grade above" overall? She does realise that she still has 80% of the marks to play for, doesn't she? confused

DobbysLeftSock Fri 17-May-19 20:22:41

Aw, fanks! blush

LooseAtTheSeams Fri 17-May-19 20:18:33

OP if your dd cried, that's fine - that's how she felt and no one has the right to criticise her for how she feels. I have to cope with a DS who says 'but I was only x marks away from Y. It's quite annoying!
However, to cheer her up:
The teacher is wrong to equate marks with grades - PPs are right to say you can only connect Marks with bands. Honestly, she needn't worry at this stage. And I know it's easy to say that.
If the ones getting 1 or 2 marks more had help they are not going to do as well in the exams when you're all on your own.
It's only20% of overall grade - 80% of her grade is up for grabs! So the teacher's timing was bad but honestly it is fine.
Oh, and piggy and * Dobby* both have very cool usernames!😀

NonHypotheticalLurkingParent Fri 17-May-19 19:49:14


I hope your dd has had time to digest her mark. Is she doing AQA English? If so she’s got 45/50 which is 90% and puts her slap bang in the middle of band 5 (the top one).

You can’t put a grade to coursework only know what band it is. Unless it’s moderated down, it’s a solid mark to have ahead of her exams and one to be proud of.

LolaSmiles Fri 17-May-19 16:20:42

Whether staff are at fault will depend on whether any marks were shared earlier in the year. If they had their marks earlier pending moderation then the school are fine, but the whole '1 off a X' isn't helpful. If they haven't shared any marks until this late then they haven't met JQC guidelines.

I find the grading coursework by last year's boundaries not terribly helpful yo share with students. It's useful for internal referencing but it is meaningless to students.

Piggywaspushed Fri 17-May-19 15:16:20

Thanks harper. Poor old Piggy sad

harper30 Fri 17-May-19 14:43:01

On a tangent, I love your username @Piggywaspushed 😂

DobbysLeftSock Fri 17-May-19 14:31:04

Super I haven't said anyone is at fault for anything. It's relatively late to be giving out the coursework marks at this point, in comparison to when I have done so in the schools I've taught at. Generally I think we've done so at the end of april/ start of may ish, as that is when we've finished our internal moderation. Too early and you get students (and parents!) whinging at you to let them have another draft to improve, which isn't allowed. Too late and you risk upsetting them unnecessarily right before the exam. Maybe this school has had problems with students & parents mithering for extra drafts / help / remarking in the past and that's why they do it so late. Maybe it was a cock up. Maybe they didnt think the students would mind. Who knows?

It may also be the case that everything I've explained on here re grade boundaries has already been explained to the students as well. God knows I've said it til I'm blue in the face only to have students say "I only need two more marks to get an A". Sometimes people don't listen!

Piggywaspushed Fri 17-May-19 13:57:17

Not sure what that face implies super but in this case : yes, it is. All of the experienced teachers on this thread are saying this has not been handled very well.

harper30 Fri 17-May-19 12:12:34

Hmm yes I would maybe drop the teacher an email, explain that your daughter is upset, and ask why the students weren't told about their marks slightly earlier, or ask when the work was sent off for moderation. Our deadline was the 15th of May, with Eduqas exam board, but we sent ours a bit earlier as we've had it marked and ready to go for so long.
If it was me I'd also maybe ask if their marks have been changed during moderation in previous years or not? Just to get some idea of how accurate their marking is.
Although obviously at this point, what will be will be with that component of work, all your daughter can do is aim to work hard in her exam and hope for the best, I'm sure that mark won't have an impact in the end as it was only 20%.
Best of luck to her in her exams in the next few weeks!

bibbitybobbityyhat Fri 17-May-19 11:28:05

Harper30 she is in Y13 - about to sit her A levels. Also, she and I have no way of knowing that this is "late in the year" (but this thread has been illuminating) so is it something we should be raising with the school?

SuperSange Fri 17-May-19 11:27:57

So, once again, it's the staff at fault. 🙄

DobbysLeftSock Fri 17-May-19 11:25:28

Ok so it sounds like the teacher is using last year's grade boundaries to give the numerical marks some meaning.

So - first point, these are only last years grade boundaries, they change year on year. So her 45 may have been a C last year but could be a B this year. If she'd got a 46 that might have been a B last year, but it could be a C this year. This is why I said that it is a nonsense to say that she has any particular grade for the coursework element. She doesn't. She has a number.

Her final grade will be worked out by the addition of her coursework mark and her exam marks. The coursework 'grade' doesn't pull down or cap the exam mark beyond the fact that the board add 45 marks to the exam score rather than 46. So, all she has to do to 'fix' this is get obe additional mark in the exam. In my experience (10 years A level English teaching) a mark in an exam is easier to pick up than a mark in c/work.

Grt online and find out last years gradw boundaries. You can do the maths to work out how many marks she would have needed in total (exam and cwork) for the grade last year. This will give her a good idea of how many marks she needs to get in her exams.

harper30 Fri 17-May-19 11:12:20

Just tell her the boundaries change every year, so her 'one mark' might not actually make any difference; the boundaries might be lower and therefore she's on track for her desired grade already, they might be higher and therefore that one mark makes no difference at all, she'll still just have to try very hard in the exams regardless, to account for a worst case scenario that the boundaries are higher.

I'm a bit confused about why she was told that mark so late in the year though, is she in year 12 or 13?

I teach theatre studies not English, but generally my students all do the 'coursework' element in year 12 so they know their marks for that first component for a whole year by the time they sit their final exam? Although it's all subject to moderation anyway so my students also know that although they know those marks now, they might change if my marks are moderated up or down.

So your DD's marks might get changed anyway.

Piggywaspushed Fri 17-May-19 10:58:51

Honestly, I'd take this up with the teacher : s/he really should not be attaching grades to marks. Are you SURE s/he didn't say 'band' or 'level'?

tapas, there are strict rules for very subject which still has coursework at A Level but I doubt it is ever 'no' input. I think in Eng Lit the teachers are permitted to look at one draft, but are not permitted to make corrections : they can just give general guidance for improvement. In Film Studies, all drafting materials have to be kept and logged and submitted to the board on request and only one draft can be looked at by the teacher (again no corrections are allowed). Any conversations have to be logged! It's a faff. The rules are outlined in specifications.

TapasForTwo Fri 17-May-19 10:43:39

At least it was on only 20% of the marks. She has another 80% to ace her exam.

bibbitybobbityyhat Fri 17-May-19 10:31:54

"What does she mean when she says this? Is she one mark under the band in the mark scheme? Or one mark under last year's grade boundary?"

I don't know. Her teacher told her she got 45 and if she'd got 46 she would have been at a grade higher. Neither she nor I know exactly how the marking works, nor how it changes year on year.

This is why I started a thread on Mumsnet - to ask for more information by those in the know. And to say I don't think it was a helpful thing for the teacher to have said to her at this precise moment!

TapasForTwo Fri 17-May-19 10:02:40

The teachers shouldn't have helped the others. DD took the new spec geography A level last year, and there were strict rules about the work having to be the student's own work with no input or guidelines from the teachers. Why aren't other subjects given the same treatment?

DobbysLeftSock Fri 17-May-19 09:48:01

But you have to explain that shes hasn't missed a grade by 1 mark. That is a nonsense. There are no grades!!!

What does she mean when she says this? Is she one mark under the band in the mark scheme? Or one mark under last year's grade boundary?

bibbitybobbityyhat Fri 17-May-19 08:33:22

Thanks TheFallenMadonna.

I'd like to see any A level student not be in tears about a situation like this at this stage in the whole exam process. She is quite definitely NOT an overreactor, re. school or anything else in her life. She is a model student who wants to do the best she possibly can - of course she's going to be upset by apparently missing her grade by 1 mark! Her confidence has taken a knock just before she sits her exams ... crazy.

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