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Gentle panic -AQA gcse science - higher or foundation??

(29 Posts)
Cathpot Thu 22-Feb-18 20:32:56

Background is I’ve got an intervention year 11 group I picked up at the start of this year. Targets are between 4-6 , all of them did badly in year 10 (between Us and 3s) Don’t or can’t revise productively independently and I don’t have time to re-cover all year 10 work. If I hold their hand and revise in class before a test they do ok . If they are asked to revise year 10 material alone ( as just happened for a chemistry mock - not my choice) they fail in some style.

Main question is I’m really stressing about the decisions I have to make about higher or foundation papers. Our dept is working on grade boundaries ( not sure where from-but apparently not plucked from thin air) that put a higher paper 4 at about 30% and a foundation paper 4 about 65%. We have been letting them loose on higher papers because the 4 seems more obtainable but I am worrying about them falling off the end and getting Us, but then a 4 in the foundation seems much harder to get. I just want to make the best choice for them and I don’t feel I have enough information to do that. Any thoughts??

noblegiraffe Thu 22-Feb-18 20:39:49

If they're getting Us then Foundation. That's not borderline!

CatAndFiddle Thu 22-Feb-18 21:07:29

Foundation. Any of mine that were not averaging a 5 over the course of y10 and y11 to date, are going for foundation. It's just not the worth the risk. When you look at the specimen papers AQA have released for foundation and higher, the difference is quite stark. Most of the foundation was straightforward recall, quite a bit of multiple choice, very few long answers. The higher stuff was tough. Lots of application questions, challenging long answers, making links across the spec. Foundation all the way, in my opinion.

StarDanced Thu 22-Feb-18 21:20:38

How are they at extended answers and explanations? If they are not great then I would suggest foundation. The specimen papers for foundation seem quite accessible, with box ticking etc whoch might help them in the exam.

Cathpot Thu 22-Feb-18 22:23:54

They are all over the place- so 5-7 in end of term test at xmas - 4-6s in physics P1 ( after week of revision in Jan) and then Us in chemistry p1 yesterday ( having been told to revise by themselves over half term) . The dept seem to be leaning towards higher for most kids and hoping they can scrabble the marks together and tip over into 5/6s and I’m starting to think foundation is safer.

Cathpot Thu 22-Feb-18 22:31:13

I’ll go in and have a proper chat with the HOD tomorrow and see if I can make plan I’m comfortable with. They’re an eclectic mix and lots of confidence issues and I think for most of them Foundation might be better for them holding their nerve.

Idontmeanto Fri 23-Feb-18 19:53:41

Having a similar dilemma with Edexcel. We are told that maths missed out last year and put kids in foundation who bombed out, but a 4 on higher was really achievable.
I think everybody is stabbing in the dark.

Cathpot Fri 23-Feb-18 21:32:45

I went in today and said I want them all in foundation bar 3 of them who might- if the planets align - hit a six. I’ve also said can I assume my set 4 year 10 are going to be foundation and work hard to get them a 5 rather than drag them through molar calculations which is what we are wading through this week. This feels like the right thing to do for the kids point of view but as you say idontmeanto maybe I should be gaming the system and trying to get them a 4 via higher paper as it will be easier.

noblegiraffe Fri 23-Feb-18 21:35:48

Last year for maths, my group who did foundation got better results in terms of 5s than the group above who did higher. Low grade boundaries on an insanely hard paper don’t mean an easier grade.

Cathpot Fri 23-Feb-18 21:59:15

This is true. And the more I think about the sort of kids they are - very wobbly self esteem- the more I think foundation is the way forward.

Cathpot Fri 23-Feb-18 22:00:26

It’s bern really helpful to write it down and listen to different voices- thanks. Can’t believe how stressful I’ve found this - never felt this way about exam entry!

TheletterZ Sat 24-Feb-18 20:46:16

I went to an AQA marking meeting and they said the higher paper is a lot harder than foundation and even though it might seem easier to get a 4 on higher paper (i think they said only 20% or maybe a bit less) it would be very daunting to have to sit a paper that the students couldn't access.

I think in your case pushing for foundation would be a better bet.

user1471530109 Sat 24-Feb-18 21:12:22

There is v little chance of 30% on the higher paper being the 4 grade boundary! Bloody hell. Have they done the aqa papers available on e-aqa? Have you seen the boundaries of last year's English and maths?!

Realistically, you need to look at their actual targets (and are these stupendously over inflated?). The 6s really should be put into higher unless you think they will get Us. I would expect a lot of evidence from a teacher in my department who wanted to enter a student targeted a 6 onto foundation. But that's because I would have to justify it myself sad

Interestingly, I've found our students seem to be struggling with the chem too. It's a new school for me and I've not had this before. There is some v tough stuff on there. The physics is more doable IF they learn the bloody equations!

Half term here. And this has just bought me back down to reality with a bump!

user1471530109 Sat 24-Feb-18 21:14:20

Just reread what you've written. Does your department expect everyone in each set to be entered as one tier? Rather than on an individual basis? I've never had this is any school I've worked in. I appreciate it means teaching some extra things to some higher tier students...

More interested as to how other schools do this.

Cathpot Sat 24-Feb-18 22:11:05

No it’s not one tier entry and I have free choice up until the cut off next month. I don’t know where the 30% figure has come from but that is what we are working with. I think we are starting to aim towards trying to move kids between sets in year 10 so that we don’t have to drag obviously foundation kids through the higher material, but there is lots of movement in our management at the moment so it would be fair to say the direction of the dept can be unclear at times. My year 10 set are set 4 of triology, so that’s set 4 after all the triple kids have been taken out of the year group. I feel pretty confident already that they will be better off in foundation bar one boy who is much better that the rest of the class but for his own set of circumstances is better staying in the class for now.

My target 6s in year 11, are all capable intellectually of a 6- they did well in the physics mock because they could do the calculations and we got the equations sorted- but it’s like year 10 didn’t happen. They also , for a variety of very different reasons won’t do any effective revision on their own. I am leaving those 3 as higher entry but not without pause.

My group is an odd one as it’s an intervention group- ie they all did very badly in year 10 , but had targets between 4 and 6, and a new very small set was created st the start of the year and given to me to try and get them through. High proportion of dyslexia as I’m seen as having a dyslexic friendly style, couple of behaviour issues and a few just can’t be bothereds. It’s been an interesting process. And yes our school does tend towards wildly optimistic on the targets for reasons I don’t really understand. I’m hoping once we are through this year we will all start to get a proper feel for the exams but that doesn’t help my current class.

donquixotedelamancha Sat 24-Feb-18 22:28:48

Foundation, unless you are very sure a child is a good C in old money. That gives a margin for error. Bear in mind the amount of rote learning this year.

It's unacceptable if kids get no grade because we give them the wrong paper and we have no bloody clue what the grade boundaries are going to be like this year.

There is v little chance of 30% on the higher paper being the 4 grade boundary

Wouldn't surprise me if it was. The spec papers are horrid.

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Feb-18 22:34:40

I think the suggestion there was that a 4 would be much lower than 30%, not higher. Remember it was 17% for maths.

user1471530109 Sat 24-Feb-18 22:36:28

I'm agreeing! I think a grade 4 will be lower than 30%!

The boundaries on last year's maths and English were v low. They can get a grade 3 on higher...

It's been reported that the exam boards are pushing the fact that higher papers are written with grade 7,8,9 in mind. So therefore majority of marks will be grades 7,8,9.
If that makes any sense at all! grin

Cathpot Sat 24-Feb-18 22:39:34

I agree donquixote, it’s the possibility of my choice (based on very flimsy information) meaning these pupils could end up crashing out of the exam, that has me so wobbly. We’ve got a dept meeting to talk it through next week but there is a lot of emphasis at the moment on data analysis of the mocks we’ve done ( each question mark has been entered into a data analysis system individually) and I don’t trust the analysis because it’s based on two very different testing situations. Also it doesn’t take into account the individual kids and their situations/ likelihood of panic/ revision skills etc etc

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Feb-18 22:41:58

They can get a grade 3 on higher...

Not properly, there’s no grade 3 content on higher, only a small safety net half a grade-boundary wise to stop kids falling off the bottom, and for double I understand you can only get 4-3 not 3-3.

Cathpot Sat 24-Feb-18 22:44:33

Who does AQA want entered for higher?? If they drop the pass mark that low what section of the ability range do they want to be testing? Why are we all having to just make our best guesses about this stuff? So fed up with it.

Cathpot Sat 24-Feb-18 22:45:39

What happens noble at 3-3, is that a U?

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Feb-18 22:48:28

Think so, Cath, to discourage inappropriate tier entries.

noblegiraffe Sat 24-Feb-18 22:50:47

DfE says ‘Respondents also commented that for double-award qualifications, the lowest ‘allowed’ grade permitted by our requirements is 4-3. Respondents queried whether there should also be a 3-3 grade allowed in higher tier double-award qualifications. The reason why a 4-3 grade is allowed is to give a ‘safety-net’ of a single grade for students entered for the higher tier who narrowly miss out on a 4-4 grade, who without this, would otherwise receive an unclassified grade. The higher tier is not intended for students that are likely to receive a grade 3-3. Allowing such a grade could encourage schools to enter students inappropriately for the higher tier. We therefore believe it is appropriate that there is no grade 3-3 in higher tier double-award GCSE qualifications and have decided to implement the requirements in the form on which we consulted.”

user1471530109 Sat 24-Feb-18 22:53:46

I didn't know you couldn't get 3-3. I certainly wouldn't be putting target 4s I'm for higher unless I felt confident.

I still think 30% on higher is v high to base your decision on higher or foundation. I think kids on the 4-6 boundary need to be looked at on an individual basis. Yes some and probably most should sit foundation. But those with particularly good English skills may do better on higher.

Nobel, what was the 4 boundary for foundation? What was the 5? For lazy clever kids, I'm not convinced foundation is the safest route.
It's a bloody hard decision this year. Make sure you've got data to back up whichever way you go so if it goes wrong you have your reasoning

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