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Gove’s boring English GCSE blamed for plummeting A-level uptake

(123 Posts)
noblegiraffe Tue 10-Dec-19 17:27:42

A survey of 200 schools has shown a collapse in English language A-level entry with some schools now with ‘unsustainable’ class sizes.

The blame is aimed at Gove’s English GCSE reform.

I’m not sure the aim of Gove’s ‘more rigorous’ GCSEs was to turn pupils off from further academic study, but here we are.

The response from the DfE is “The Department for Education's position is that the new GCSEs are more rigorous, prepare pupils for the world of work and were implemented after a long and careful process of reform.”

Which is bloody hilarious for anyone who remembers the implementation of the new GCSEs. Long and careful the process was most definitely not.

One for @piggywaspushed

OP’s posts: |
Pieceofpurplesky Tue 10-Dec-19 17:47:59

We have had this very same discussion. It is not exactly exciting to teach to any but the highest fliers - and they have been sold STEM as an only option. Last top
Set I had was five years ago and about ten did English/Lit A Level. Top set this year and only two plan to carry it on. It used to be that over half did it.

The course is too dry, too old fashioned and too damn hard for some.

DS wants to do lit though.

Piggywaspushed Tue 10-Dec-19 18:27:30

I did the survey!

I think the issues are more complex and said so in my response. I don't necessarily think the Lit spec is to blame per se. the texts are standard and quite decent. It's more the way we are told to teach it. A thread on twitter today is about the GCSEification of teaching English even at KS2. So, we use phrases such as 'Paper 2 comparative 'and 'this is Q4' or call creative writing 'section B practice' when talking to students and each other and' you'll need this for your exam in 4 years time'! Many schools also still finish the course by Dec and so then there are 5 months of soul destroying revision.

Everything is relentless exam,exam,exam: and the students perceive the English exams to be arduous, they don't know how they have done and they dread the 2 h 15 exam.

But I do notwithstanding think the biggest single factor is the rhetoric around STEM and most particularly science subjects. Maths has always been popular but is going to be put with the scared cows that are science. The perfect storm is adding this to 3 A Levels, rather than 4 AS.

It's not just English : drama, film, media, music (I think), art : all seeing a decline.

Piggywaspushed Tue 10-Dec-19 18:29:33

And the 'preparing them for the world of work' line is just absolute bollocks.

I do think English needs to start selling itself in a more utilitarian way , though, which goes against the grain and psyche of many purists who think students should study A Level for the love of books. We need to hammer more the employability and transferable skills angle, I guess. Sadly.

TeenPlusTwenties Tue 10-Dec-19 18:30:18

I like the idea of scared cows. grin (sorry, I know it was just a typo)

RemusLupinsBiggestGroupie Tue 10-Dec-19 18:47:35

I also did the survey. I agree with everything Piggy says below.

RemusLupinsBiggestGroupie Tue 10-Dec-19 19:38:58

And to be fair to the Lit spec, I actually think it's good and kids generally enjoy. It's the Language papers that are horribly off-putting imo.

DonaldTrumpsChopper Tue 10-Dec-19 19:45:11

I'm the mother of a year 11 child, and I don't know a single child who likes either Language or Lit, and no one taking it to A Level.

DS (targeted levels 8's in both) really struggles, and frankly may end up with 6's. It's the one subject he is desperate to drop - and essay subjects are generally his thing.

(if anyone can give him some hints on how to answer Q3 on the language paper, we'd be very grateful!)

Piggywaspushed Tue 10-Dec-19 19:58:35

scared cows : whoops! blush

Piggywaspushed Tue 10-Dec-19 20:00:51

See there you go : that's the problem.*how to answer Q3* . The subject has genuinely been reduced to hoop jumping.

I think I may be the last remaining English teacher who does not know what Q3 is without looking it up...

dontletmedowngently Tue 10-Dec-19 20:02:50

My DD has just handed in her sixth form application - she wants to do both English’s, french and art. She’s got targets of at least 7 across the board and has got absolutely sick of having science & maths pushed at her when she doesn’t enjoy those subjects. One of our local schools doesn’t even offer English language for a level, but they do of course have a special STEM stream...

lilgreen Tue 10-Dec-19 20:05:02

My year 11 DD loves English and is planning on taking Eng Lang at A level. Her teacher was very clear it is nothing like GCSE English language.

lilgreen Tue 10-Dec-19 20:05:58

She hates maths and can’t wait to drop it. The higher papers seem soooo hard.

lilgreen Tue 10-Dec-19 20:06:59

DD1 took A level lit last year.

TimeforanotherChange Tue 10-Dec-19 20:07:59

The new History GCSE is definitely putting students off taking it for A level in my opinion. It's SO content heavy - 4 text books on different topics to cram into kids. They grow dispirited and fed up with the whole thing. It's really badly thought out, which depresses me.

And I'm sad that kids who used to love History are so turned off by this point in Y11 that they've decided they won't pick it for A level. My numbers have halved.

Piggywaspushed Tue 10-Dec-19 20:08:43

To be fair most schools don't offer A level English Language.

The whole article noble links to mentions the decline in all Englishes.

doritosdip Tue 10-Dec-19 20:10:49

My dd will be doing a social science course at uni so she wanted an essay subject as one of her A-level choices. She got 7 in Lit and Lang so is decent at English but she found the course a major turn off so would have picked any other essay subject over English. While the set texts are ok, I think that the rote learning of the poetry is a major turn off. Also the formulaic exam format makes it dull. My kids enjoy creative writing though.

Piggywaspushed Tue 10-Dec-19 20:11:05

My DS is in year 11. YY to history. he loved it with his old teacher , now on Mat leave. His new one is much more exam driven and it is putting him off. he still plans to take it to A Level. Not English, though sad

He is actually struggling to pick a third subject as so many put him off with their relentless exam discourse!

BBInSleepsCounting Tue 10-Dec-19 20:11:35

The current English GCSEs have all but killed the love of all things English, and previously expected 9s/thoughts of carrying it on to A Level and Uni, of a DC I know. Such a shame.

Piggywaspushed Tue 10-Dec-19 20:13:28

But that poetry really does NOT have to be rote learnt! This is the issue : the way (panicked and bullied...) teachers are teaching it to 'drive up standards' (ie get results). Our head actually publicly said the Eng dept's results were 'disappointing' last year and this was massively demoralising. they weren't and they were miles better than many non core subject's results. It's very disheartening.

doritosdip Tue 10-Dec-19 20:14:02

Totally agree with History having too much content. Dd seemed to have twice the content to write in half the time.

When I sat O level it was all 20th Century content. Dd has Normans and History of Medicine to learn too.

RemusLupinsBiggestGroupie Tue 10-Dec-19 20:16:09

I'd disagree re formulaic exam format for Literature - essentially Literature remains essay based and the only 'formula' is 'write a decent essay that answers the question and hits the assessment objectives'.

lilgreen Tue 10-Dec-19 20:16:36

My DD was lucky to have fabulous lit and history teachers for her A levels and she got A* & A respectively, because of their teaching in my opinion and hers. They love their subjects and it showed in their teaching.

RemusLupinsBiggestGroupie Tue 10-Dec-19 20:17:19

And no, no, no re the poetry. They really don't need to know poems by heart, just to know a few quotes that they can do plenty with.

Neolara Tue 10-Dec-19 20:19:10

My year 11 dd can't bear English, particularly the poetry. She finds it really hard and she just achieved mostly 8s and 9s in her other subject mocks. If she finds it hard, I can't imagine how tricky the vast majority of kids find it.

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