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Is BTEC Applied Science Yr 9/Double Science GCSE ok?

(35 Posts)
Mima1 Tue 29-Jun-10 21:24:12

Hi - this is my first ever question so apologies if I get the protocol wrong! I have 3 chn and f/t job so never had time to use Mumsnet except look odd thing up but now stuck with Year 8 son's science options and thought someone might have been through this before.

Son is technically in Year 8 but school promote to Year 9 curriculum after Whitsun. Children have been already been set as Year 9 for Maths, English, Science, Languages and PE. He used to be quite good at Science (5+ at KS2) and is still very interested but since starting secondary has erratic test scores (due to fluctuating levels in revision I think). He has been told is doing an 'accelerated Applied Science BTEC course in year 9 followed by Double Award Science GCSE in years 10 and 11'. Part of the year group is doing 'triple science' but he is not eligible as his level (after 2 years of secondary) is still 5+.

I have spoken to his science teacher who says science is not a subject where knowledge builds unit by unit so it is not unusual not to make any progress in terms of NC levels. But because he has not reached Level 6 he cannot do triple sciences. She feels it is better to get 2 A's or B's via this BTEC/Double GCSE route than 3 C's via traditional GCSE's. In fact the BTEC is done at the end of Yr 9 (next summer - when some chn in the class will still be 13)then they have two years to do the Double Science so they can end up with 4 Science GCSE's rather than 3.

If anyone has stayed with me this far, my question is...is this actually better for my child and will he still be able to do Science A'Levels if he wants to or is it a way of maximising the school's value added or average point scores. I don't want to be cynical just work out whether I need to support him in swapping now. School have not offered swap and even if does well by end of Year 9 it is not possible to swap onto three GCSE's at that stage.

We don't get any info on other GCSE options until next year so I feel a bit in the dark about it all. Do I need to worry?!!

I have seen other threads on BTEC and Double Science but not on taking together. Apologies if I have logged this in the wrong place!

Any views much appreciated!

MmeRedWhiteandBlueberry Tue 29-Jun-10 21:32:14

I would avoid BTEC if your son is bright. It does not open doors.

I am concerned that your school is talking about 'double science' - there is no such thing.

Your son will not realistically be able to do A-levels from B-Tech, but can from Science/Additional Science. Triple Science is a bonus. A-level courses say that they take over from Sci/Add Sci and do not require triple.

For your son, it is better to have good grades in Sci/Add Sci rather than mediocre grades in triple. B-tech grades are not worth much to an otherwise academic child. B-techs may be worth more to the school, which is probably why they are pushing them.

From what you have said, I would fight for the middle course - Science in year 10 and Additional Science in year 11.

cat64 Tue 29-Jun-10 21:46:16

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cat64 Tue 29-Jun-10 21:46:59

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MaamRuby Tue 29-Jun-10 21:49:57

Whether academic or not, if DS has fluctuating test scores, he might benefit from the ongoing evaluation from BTec in year 9.

Mima1 Wed 30-Jun-10 06:40:21

Lovely to get all these responses - everyone is so busy so thank you all for taking time out to give me such detailed replies. And no, didn't notice any typo's...too excited to get replies!!

I guess school background (popular state school, reputedly academic) and son's personality (great marks if he tries but incrediby lazy, scruffy presentation etc) have an effect here too. I can't say he's bright or academic (sorry!); more middling. From what he does at home, effort is very erratic (homework is like blood from a stone!), not sure if this is feature of boys or age 12/13 or both! Most of the children I read about on Mumsnet are very bright or special needs so must google the middle ones to get motivational tips! Am constantly trying but any new ideas appreciated!

Maybe the BTEC route is to shake the children up a bit by giving them an exam/mark while still in Year 9 so they work harder on the real GCSE's (Maam Ruby's point about evaluation of BTec makes sense). I do understand the bit about 2 good grades being better than 3 average ones and am going to check with school whether the two GCSE's are Science/Additional Science. The 'Double Award Science' bit is copied from school letter so possibly not. Letter also says he is part of a target group to improve attainment at Year 11 and mentions vocational qualifications so a bit worried now about what we will be presented with come the rest of his options in Year 9. I also don't understand why secondary school ability has little relation to KS2 SATS (English KS2 was 5- but school have set target for GCSE as A-A*. Science was KS2 5+ but secondary target says 2 Grade C at GCSE).

What I don't understand though is that if I get him to pull his socks up and his marks to match his interest/understanding, the teacher says he can't swap to triple science at end of Year 9 as it is too much to do three sciences in two years. Most schools only choose options then and surely GCSE's are designed as two year courses... so not sure why.

I can see triple science in 2 years is a tall order and why schools might pick top classes to do this but at this school the selected children get 3 years to do it which I would have thought makes it more accessible to wider ability range.

I am sure lots of 13 yr old boys are a bit lazy but wondering whether realisation dawns when they start GCSE and they pick up later. If not then I guess the 'pathway' that the school have chosen is ok. If they do, then they are already on a course that seems to limit scope & much earlier than other schools.

Also until choose rest of options next year, not sure of direction of rest of timetable. Son not fantastic at languages so without much science might just leave art/humanities which are great but not much balance. Is it normal to make science choices so early without chance to re-evaluate at end Yr 9??

MmeRedWhiteandBlueberry Wed 30-Jun-10 07:23:23

I think the school is reasonable in doing triple science over three years. It allows those children to get greater depth without having to drop another option subject.

If they are filling that slot on the timetable for everyone else with BTEC then that also sounds reasonable, although I personally would prefer them to keep a language going and do an ASSET exam in it. Year 8 is very early to be dropping subjects.

snorkie Wed 30-Jun-10 07:30:13

The GCSE predictions may have been done on CAT scores rather than SATs results. CATs are often done on entry to secondary school and can I think assign different target grades to different subjects according to how well you score on the various subsections. Supposedly they test raw ability whereas SATs test achievement so far.

'Double Award Science' is an outmoded name for Science/Aditional Science but which is still in common use. The two are broadly the same although the structure has changed slightly. The key difference is that with the old Double Science Award both GCSE grades awarded were the same (ie: BB or AA etc) whereas with the new system you get a separate grade for Science and another, not necessarily the same grade for Additional Science (eg: AA, AB or BB are all possible).

Triple can be done in two years but only if it is allocated more timetable space than many schools offer (ie the extra GCSE takes away another option). Until recently many schools didn't offer triple as it left students with a more restricted range of other options at GCSE but it has come back into vogue recently and schools are supposed to offer it to their more able students. To get around the timetabling problems this causes with the GCSE option blocks a lot of schools start the science GCSE course a year early (as your school is doing) so that the triple science group have three years of a double option slot to learn the course, effectively doing one GCSE per year (although they won't be certificated until the end). They will complete the 'Science' GCSE work in year 9, the 'Additional Science' work in year 10 and the extra bits needed on top to turn it into triple in year 11. That's why it won't work to join that group in year 10: your ds would have missed out on the 'Science' coursework and exam modules (though to be fair I'd have thought the BTEC would have some overlap with the work and the exams can be sat at any stage over the three year course and indeed can and often are resat several times).

snorkie Wed 30-Jun-10 07:33:34

Some schools do do triple in two years in a double option slot for their most able sets by the way, but it's very rushed to get through the work and often requires a few lunchtime or after school sessions on top.

circular Wed 30-Jun-10 08:15:26

Our DDs school do triple in two years but it is at the expense of another option - often a language as this is no longer compulsory. But as this is just top sets, I would imagine they would have covered much of the core science. Also, AFAIK the " triple" involves separate GCSEs in physics , chemistry and biology.

As for the OPs issue, I would check that the double really is two proper gcses, not just equivalents. It needs to be gcses yo be allowed to go onto A level. Although, having technically coveted only two thirds in each subject, it may be necessary to have extra tuition in the required A level subjects. This recently happened to a friends DC wanting to take A level biology after 2 gcse science.
As for the underacheiving bit, I think it's a bit of a yr 8 thing, and also the boys messing about more. My DD is always complaining that in top set maths & science, the boys are always disruptive - and it's often the very bright ones being the worst offenders.

kritur Wed 30-Jun-10 10:48:33

OK, I'm a science teacher so might be able to clear a few things.

BTEC - not worth the paper it's written on, no exam. Unless he follows a BTEC route throughout (eg, by taking BTEC level 3 post-a6) it'll barely even be looked at. That said it'll bank the school a grade for him however there is now a new rule where 40% of the award needs to be submitted in Y11 so I think they may be jumping the gun here.

You need to clarify what the 'double science' being offered is. It could be core + additional (fairly traditional, leads onto A-levels in all 3 sciences), it could be core + applied (does not lead to 3 sciences) or double applied.

Only then will you be able to make an informed decision.

L5 at KS3 after L5 at KS2 is not unusual. The L5 at KS2 was on 12 topics, at KS3 they cover 36 topics. To be honest, many primary schools do coach towards that test which is easy on so few topics. I know we often get grades where you wonder how on earth the kids sat in front of you achieved it.

Hope this helps

cat64 Wed 30-Jun-10 12:55:25

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MmeRedWhiteandBlueberry Wed 30-Jun-10 17:52:52

Good info, kritur

snorkie Wed 30-Jun-10 20:10:57

If what he's being offered is Science + Applied Science GCSEs or double Applied Science GCSEs (I'd not actually heard of that one before), then I'd be tempted to make a fuss and try and get him into the triple group or at least a Science and Additional Science group (if one exists) as otherwise he'll be restricting his choices for A level - and if he doesn't like languages he may well want a science.

violetqueen Wed 30-Jun-10 20:23:44

How parents can follow all this amazes me .
I sometimes think the schools want us to be confused .
Then they don't have to deal with parents querying the decisions they've made .

busymummy3 Wed 30-Jun-10 22:39:47

I agree with violetqueen please could someone-possibly kritur- please explain to me what core+ additional and core +applied and double applied actually means? My daughter is currently in Y8 so will have all this to come to next year. She is currently in top sets and in her school she studies Chemistry, Biology and Physics as three seperate subjects - a double lesson in each subject every week.

Mima1 Fri 02-Jul-10 07:28:01

Hi - thanks again for all these replies (no time to log on earlier - sorry!). Agree re. SATS really (primary school do school to the test but this is the system so surely sec have to ensure 2 levels of progress on from that by end Yr 9 or put additional support in place to do that). Also agree CATS tests are used in some schools but I don't think ours unless secret!

I am generally very happy with the school (pastoral side is fantastic) but in this case science options (not being really options but selected by the school) come nearly a year earlier than the GCSE option choices so don't have the associated communication/meetings to set in context.

I have asked Head of Science to clarify 'Double Award Science' and will come back to share details.

I hate sounding fussy to the school (esp as haven't got top performing pupil!) but as parent feel I need to make sure isn't unwittingly shutting any doors so early on.

Any suggestions for science motivational websites from teachers would be great. Son the practical stuff and 'whizzbang' experiments but needs to learn investigative techniques/presentation/revision etc. If I can get him off skateboard that is!!

eatyourveg Fri 02-Jul-10 07:59:26

Our school say you have to do triple if you want to do science A levels

lyndilou Fri 02-Jul-10 18:55:15

Hello there, can anyone help me out? my daughter has come home with a letter saying she is going to be doing btec science course in yr 9, 10 , 11. I dont feel happy about it as she is doing really well with her grades although she doesnt like exam situations. Can I object and insist that she be allowed to take a science GCSE, when we recently went to a parents evening this wasnt mentioned to me and I was told that Science, maths, english and R.E were compulsory GCSE's !!! please help

TheFallenMadonna Fri 02-Jul-10 18:57:50

What level is she working at? We wouldn't enter a child for BTEC if they could get a good GCSE grade.

But apparently for some schools it's Triple Science or BTEC.

TheFallenMadonna Fri 02-Jul-10 19:02:33

And to the OP - the consequence of the BTEC followed by the GCSE is that they will be covering the same stuff twice. On the one hand it's consolidation, on the other it's "we've done this before" - switch off. It's not a route I'd take with my students, although it does play the numbers game very well. And we would let any student with 2Bs in Core and Additional Science, or a B inthe relevant individual Science plus two other Cs do A level Science. But check it out with the school. And find out his target grade.

LissieF Fri 02-Jul-10 22:24:03

Hi, This is the first time I have posted anything but my son is in year 10 doing triple science so I have some experience of this issue. All of year 10 take core science where they cover modules in the 3 sciences and all of year 11 take additional science where again they cover modules in all 3 sciences. My son goes to the same lessons as the rest of his year but then has 2 extra lessons a week (one double and one single) where they cover one extra module in each of the 3 sciences. He also needs to do 3 practicals (known as ISAs) instead of 2. At the end of year 10, he is about 2/3 through the extra triple science requirement already. I would say that triple science is not really harder, there is just more of it. After taking all of the compulsory subjects, my son was allowed 3 choices of subjects and taking triple science used one up. I think that triple sciences are much more highly regarded than the other options and unless your son is particularly keen on other subjects I would push for the triple option.My son took Geography and French as his other options so still has a balance. Another idea would be to find out which exam board your school use for Science. Ours use AQA and then you can look on the internet for the full course specification and see for yourself what is involved. All of the Science exams are taken in short modules which are usually covered in one terms work so although revision is really important, any work examined will have been done in class fairly recently. Hope this helps and does not cause further confusion. Good Luck !

scarymamma Mon 05-Jul-10 21:22:53

Hi I teach BTEC Applied Science at both level 2 (GCSE equivalent) and level 3 (A Level equivalent) as well as standard GCSE's and AS/A Level chemistry and I take some exception to people saying the BTEC is 'not worth the paper it's written on'. It's a level 2 qual so counts towards GCSE scores. It is all coursework so if your ds/dd is having difficulty applying themself to his/her revision then it might be worth considering. The BTEC Applied Science covers all the 3 sciences, giving a good grounding in the basic knowledge (atoms, molecules, forces, cells etc..) plus has an application (science in the work place/industry/society) and skills base (experiments 'n stuff). If he/she applies himself to his coursework, pays attention in class and is quite bright he/she should be able to achieve a distinction. It's not a walk in the park and there is a lot of coursework but if you do it consistently, that is, when you get given it, it is perfectly manageable.
Them doing the BTEC is not going to adversely affect his/her future in anyway - if exams don't suit him/her as a learner then a good BTEC will do them far more good than a crappy GCSE if they can't knuckle down to revision/struggle with exam situations. All qualifications require some level of input from the learner - as with most things in life you get out of them what you put in (sorry to rant but a little fed up of students who just think all the have to do is turn up each week and they'll pass!)

snorkie Mon 05-Jul-10 22:45:12

Thanks for that perspective scarymamma. However, I'm not entirely sure when you say "doing the BTEC is not going to adversely affect his/her future in anyway". If a child may want to take a science level then my understanding is they need to have done science + additional science GCSE - is that not the case?

Marney Fri 23-Jul-10 14:26:58

My daughter was at a school which let very few pupils do gcse science at a level they found they were not able to do biology or chemistry a level even though thts what they wanted At the sixth form college acourse for applied sciense was put in for them but after just a couple of years theyve stoped the course It wouldnt be so bad if it was actually about which course best suits your child in our experience it was about the school getting more points in the league tables

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