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Pros and cons of starting GCSEs in Y9

(60 Posts)
musicmum75 Sun 13-Oct-19 10:29:00

My DS is in Y6 so we are currently looking at secondary schools. One of the major differences between our top two options is that one starts GCSEs early in Y9, whereas the other starts in Y10. In both cases they sit the exams in Y11.

Can anyone who is a teacher or has older kids who have experienced either of these routes tell me what they think the pros and cons are l? I can see benefits and negatives on both sides.

OP’s posts: |
TeenPlusTwenties Sun 13-Oct-19 11:10:25

DD is in y10.
Her school has taken a middle path.
For going in to y9 they had a 'mini options' process with the creative and performing arts whereby they could choose 2 of each to continue, or 3 and a second language.
In y9 they also started the GCSE syllabus in Science (and RE short course to be taken end y10).
But they didn't choose 'options' until mid y9 for starting in y10.

What worries me about choosing in y8 for starting in y9 is they are choosing after less than 5 terms in secondary. Both DD1 and DD2 would have made different (and less good) choices if they had had to choose then. DD1 would only have been 12.5 - far too young imo.

LolaSmiles Sun 13-Oct-19 11:19:46

For me, this would be my list.

- An extra year to get through the content
- Students who are showing limited skill or interest in creative arts or DT can drop them, which lowers disruption for those who enjoy it or are good at it.

- The focus seems to always be teach the content in y9/10 then spend all y11 revising. It make some questions how effective the teaching was in the first place. There's no need to finish GCSE courses really early if it's being taught properly and the idea of months of revision is a bit of a throwback in my opinion.
- Not all schools offer a broad KS4 so students end up on a very narrow KS4 pathway and have their curriculum limited from the age of 13 (e.g. some schools most students don't study any humanities at ks4)
- at my school many of the BTEC courses are easily taught in under 2 years so 3 years would be ridiculous, and probably would lead to students suddenly being told they have 3 hours extra maths and English a week, which isn't good for most pupils in my opinion
- I think it's a sign of a school that isn't confident that it can get results because GCSEs are a 2 year course
- based on schools in my area, it usually means the school sees kids as data in a spreadsheet
- It gets boring for everyone. There's only so many times you can teach the same question 3 for English language before it becomes white noise to the students

MonChatEstMagnifique Sun 13-Oct-19 11:31:33

My son is in Year 11. He chose options at the end of Year 9 so GCSE courses are taught over 2 years. It seems plenty of time as most teachers say they will be finished teaching the syllabus by Xmas and then it will be revision until the exams. I can't imagine what they would have done with another year.

However, my son couldn't wait to drop subjects like Art, Drama and Music so that would have been a definite advantage if they chose options at the end of Year 8.

I know kids at schools who do start GCSEs in year 9 and they seem to be doing fine though so I'm not sure it makes much difference. I would base school choice on other things.

RedskyLastNight Sun 13-Oct-19 11:32:13

Starting in Year 9 has been great for my DS who had a number of subjects he really hated, and so was able to drop at the end of Year 8, rather than being forced to study them for another year. As he has a - shall we say- "laid back" mentality, the fact that a lot of Year 11 will be spent on revising is also going to really help him.

It was not so good for DD, who had a genuinely difficult choice, which might have been easier if she'd had another year to choose. Plus she's a hard working steady student, and I suspect she'll find year 11 deathly dull by the time she gets there.

another benefit has been that the curriculum was so broad in KS3 there were some subjects they only did for 2 hours a week for 10 weeks. At least specialising early has meant that they can study these subjects properly!

mnistooaddictive Sun 13-Oct-19 11:33:45

There has started to be ofsted backlash against schools who start GCSE in Y9. They feel it narrows the curriculum too early. I imagine that schools who currently do this will stop in the next couple of years.

TreePeepingWatcher Sun 13-Oct-19 12:39:23

Ds1 finished his GCSEs this year. They choose option subjects in year 8 so year 9 is their option subjects only. He started GCSE History content after Easter of year 9 maybe May?

It meant that they were still covering their final topic in February of year 11 when they were sitting mocks asking them questions on a topic they had not completed. I think the content may have finished in March/April time.

Most other subjects started their GCSE content in Year 10 and were still on-going well into year 11, it meant they were revising stuff they had done and also still completing topics in English Lit or German etc.

Ds2 is in year 9 and they have definitely already started History GCSE content but it is a hell of a lot of information to take in. I know this because I tested DS1 for his revision and the facts, figures, dates, names of people etc was huge in comparison to other subjects.

English literature alone was 3 books - one Shakespeare, one 20th Century modern and one 19th Century book, 15 poems not only to know but to compare. History was much more content heavy.

ExpletiveDelighted Sun 13-Oct-19 12:48:13

My DS's school is mid-way, initial options chosen in y8 for y9 then narrowed down to final options in y9 for y10. Allows them to stop a couple of subjects after y8 if they really don't like them and try new ones such as sociology and photography for a year before committing to GCSE. They start the gcse work for content heavy subjects such as history towards the end of y9.

onewhitewhisker Sun 13-Oct-19 12:52:43

I think it does depend on what your DS is like. I looked at both yr 9 and yr 10 start schools for mine and felt year 10 would be much better for him. He is dyslexic and has a very spiky profile so it's really hard to tell if he's going to be quite non-academic or suddenly fly, neither would surprise me. So I felt the longer he could go without being pigeonholed the better. plus he loves arts subjects and responds well to the breadth of the curriculum.
However my DB is a teacher and he is a big fan of the year 9 start, he reckons as monchat says it allows DC to get shot of things they dislike and thus often have a negative attitude towards, and really focus on the rest.
Another thing to think about is what opportunities the school offers to DC on top of GCSEs. at one year 9 start school I looked at it seemed as though once GCSEs were chosen DC had just one hour a week 'enrichment' where they could choose between everything else - dance, drama, music, sport, Art etc. this was a school where bands and sports teams etc were pretty inaccessible therefore it felt like DS would be getting a pretty narrow education from a young age - which in his case would have been likely to turn him off school.

Milicentbystander72 Sun 13-Oct-19 12:56:16

Our school used yo start in Y9 but have now changed to Y10. I prefer it in Y10.

If dd had to narrow in Y9 she would have chosen some subjects she hated by the end of Y9. J think it's too soon.

LolaSmiles Sun 13-Oct-19 13:59:21

Plus she's a hard working steady student, and I suspect she'll find year 11 deathly dull by the time she gets there.
Even for less than hard working students it gets dull.

The longer I'm in schools, the more I've realised that this obsession with "revision" in class is, more often than not, re-teaching ineffectively taught material that was rushed through in order to say "we finished the course and will have months revising".

The best years results I've had, I've been teaching right through to spring of the course.

The school should have redesigned the English mocks around what had been covered so far.
To be honest the literature content isn't anywhere near as bad as some schools and teachers make out. I was worried about it but found adapting my teaching made it really enjoyable. The teachers I know who find it stressful are the ones (excluding those with tricky groups or SEND classes) who haven't changed how they teach so keep doing the same old approaches and then complaining when the results don't come out where they should.

averythinline Sun 13-Oct-19 14:06:17

DS picked at end of year 8 - he would have probably had the same tricky choice wether end of yr 8 or 9 and it has really worked for him..
no more being tortured in art/dt!
his school say they think it gives more focus to yr 9 and tehy found behaviour/attitudes improved
his school use the extra time to maintain the level of pe/sport all they way up to yr 11 (3 x double sessions a week) wheres our other possible dropped a pe session

BubblesBuddy Sun 13-Oct-19 17:40:41

Around me, the Grammars do 2 years GCSE and the secondary moderns do 3 years for GCSEs. They get less disruption, better results (they think) and can take the syllabus at a slower speed. It means DC have a less broad education and it’s exam driven. 9 subjects in y9 is too narrow. Whilst we have universities and colleges that only care about subjects and grades this is the result. Poor general education.

LolaSmiles Sun 13-Oct-19 18:25:58

Wow bubbles that's even more of a two tier system!

In my area we don't have grammars so the pattern is more independent schools and strong comprehensives do 2 year GCSE (often with a broad KS3 and a range of enrichment) and the less good schools or those with low attainment or historical issues of behaviour etc do a 3 year KS3 (often with a very narrow KS3 and limited enrichment).

musicmum75 Sun 13-Oct-19 19:02:21

Thank you all. It's been really interesting to hear the points of view of people who have experience of both sides of the system.

OP’s posts: |
GreySheep Sun 13-Oct-19 19:19:20

DD is in year 9 of a school that’s now achieving massively improved results. As part of this improvement they’ve started GCSE courses in year 9 (choosing options in year 8).

I absolutely approve of it.

DD could get rid of her most hated subjects a year early and therefore use those timetable slots for GCSE subjects.

It also takes the pressure off her as she knows she has longer to take it all in.

Lastly don’t forget that Year 11 is not a full year. They leave early and much is taken up with revision. So any schools starting GCSEs in year 10 do not have a full 2 years of study.

All round I highly approve of it and it’s certainly working wonders at DD’s school.

Rosieposy4 Sun 13-Oct-19 21:38:01

Read some recent ofsted reports, they ( not unreasonably imo) dislike the 3 year gcse practice and I suspect as this becomes clearer fewer schools will offer it. In practice choosing in y8 means just after Christmas when you are possibly still 12 and may have studied some subjects for only 4 terms and then closing off future paths.

AChickenCalledDaal Sun 13-Oct-19 21:43:11

My younger daughter would certainly have wanted to drop her foreign language if she'd been made to chose in year 8. Given another year, she got into her stride and now it's her favourite GCSE course. She just needed to stick at it a bit longer and grow up a bit. I fundamentally think year 8 is too early to be dropping so many subjects. Great for exam results. Bad for a broad education.

They did get an early start on the maths and science courses in year 9, though. That seemed a reasonable compromise to me.

Oblomov19 Sun 13-Oct-19 21:46:30

Loads of schools I know sit one GCSE in year 10. Often English literature. This means you have one less subject to sit in Year 11.

Seems a good idea to me. I'm very cross Ds1's school doesn't.

LolaSmiles Sun 13-Oct-19 21:46:49

Lastly don’t forget that Year 11 is not a full year. They leave early and much is taken up with revision. So any schools starting GCSEs in year 10 do not have a full 2 years of study.
The point of year 11 isn't to spend half the year revising.It is absolutely possible to teach a GCSE course well in 2 years.

And most schools have students in until the exams start anyway, often with them not officially leaving until may half term.

I would imagine when you talk about your DC's school having massively improved results that probably means they're like other schools in my area who do 3 year KS4:
- history of low performance so any intervention at KS4 will see improvement
- high turnover of staff especially in core departments and/or largely inexperienced teaching staff (usually but not always)
- much narrower offer at ks4, often with humanities and ebacc subjects heavily restricted
- many students pushed into open bucket options to pull up the progress 8 score (BTECs for example are completed easily in 18 months in my school so who knows what they're doing in 3 years other than using option time for extra core subject revision in y11).
- limited curriculum at KS3
- may get lower entry from primary and so by pushing certain qualifications can make it appear that the school has done something wonderful but really it's putting headline figures above a balanced education

I could be wrong, but that's usually the profile in my region for schools with longer ks4, not all but most.

Teachermaths Sun 13-Oct-19 21:49:53

The longer I'm in schools, the more I've realised that this obsession with "revision" in class is, more often than not, re-teaching ineffectively taught material that was rushed through in order to say "we finished the course and will have months revising".

I think this is hugely subject dependent. In Maths we are constantly revisiting and re teaching. Not because it was badly taught, there's just a lot of knowledge to retain and skills to apply. For us, revision on a mix of topics is vital throughout the year and also in the run up to exams (from March /April latest). I can see how this would be different in say English.

Ofsted have slated 3 year GCSEs so I don't think many schools will be offering them soon. I prefer 2 year. (Though it's irrelevant in Maths, everything you ever learn is GCSE content).

Redcrayons Sun 13-Oct-19 21:52:17

Mine is in year 11 after having done options at the end of year 8. They had finished the curriculum last year and are now doing revision lessons till exam time.
On the plus side he got to drop the things he didn’t enjoy, drama, art & music.
On the minus side he has to drop subjects he enjoyed but didn’t fit with his timetable, history and cookery.
I personally feel it’s too early, but The school gets great results so hopefully it will all be worth it in August.

LolaSmiles Sun 13-Oct-19 22:49:49

Yes I should have acknowledged subject differences teachermaths. I don't know much about maths but colleagues seem to do lots of spiral learning coming back to set topics year on year.

For English what tends to happen (and the same in similar subjects) is that staff rush through the set texts as quick as possible, often with paragraph formula, teach a bit of writing skills, drill the English language reading questions and then seem surprised when they've completed the courses in 14 months that students don't know the set texts well. Who'd have thought 🙄.

I had a colleague who used to pride herself on telling her class how far ahead they were and how they'd be done by Christmas of year 11 to revise and so on. It was like a teacher doing that primary school pupil thing of rushing the maths worksheet, not showing your marking, missing out your units but itching to be the first pupil to put your hand up to say you were done.

BubblesBuddy Sun 13-Oct-19 22:57:26

Lola: yes it is a two tier system but the secondary moderns pride themselves, in some cases, with great results that are way better than many comprehensives. They play the system but lots of schools are doing it. They can also have upwards of 30% higher achievers. Therefore they should have decent results. They just don’t go at the pace the Grammars do! Few parents seem to dislike it.

Doing anything early can lower grades. No DC needs more than 10 GCSEs. Maturity can come quite late to some DC and revising skills may not be honed. I don’t think taking an exam early does any DC any favours and Ofsted don’t like that either!

RedskyLastNight Mon 14-Oct-19 07:49:07

DC's school starts GCSE subjects in Y9, but they don't start their English Lit set texts until the very end of the year, when the DC are given an introduction to the first text prior to studying it in detail at the start of the next term (beginning of Y10).

For maths and English, which a student is obliged to take, I don't think the 2/3 year GCSE should make any difference. Maths and English Lang are both subjects where everything you've ever learnt is relevant for your GCSE and both would continually build on what's been done before, regardless of 2/3 year pattern.

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