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Anyone else having problems with students who managed (just) to do 'well' at GCSE, but now can't cope with AS?

Discussion in 'English' started by Malu, Jan 14, 2012.

  1. This is now the second year where I have felt that a significant number of my Year 12 group simply cannot cope with English Lit at AS level (never mind A2). This is only my second year at this school - they have a track record of really getting 'good' results at GCSE - and my second year of teaching KS5. It seems to prove that the teachers of this particular cohort were probably working harder than the students - some of them can't even write in grammatically accurate sentences, never mind construct a logical argument. God knows how they managed to get Bs!
    Has anyone else encountered this problem? And how did you remedy the situation - I already have three of them coming for 'extra' help one lunchtime a week...
     
  2. This is now the second year where I have felt that a significant number of my Year 12 group simply cannot cope with English Lit at AS level (never mind A2). This is only my second year at this school - they have a track record of really getting 'good' results at GCSE - and my second year of teaching KS5. It seems to prove that the teachers of this particular cohort were probably working harder than the students - some of them can't even write in grammatically accurate sentences, never mind construct a logical argument. God knows how they managed to get Bs!
    Has anyone else encountered this problem? And how did you remedy the situation - I already have three of them coming for 'extra' help one lunchtime a week...
     
  3. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    There's a massive jump. I've got a weak Year 12 group, some of whom are quite arrogant - "but we got A*s last year sir, we're not exactly going to get Cs are we?". Argh.



    This is an obvious technique, but I just do lots of modelling of A-Level standard paragraphs. One thing that they get a grip on quite easily is referring back to GCSE texts so they can begin to see the difference between GCSE and AS standard analysis.
     
  4. Not an English teacher anymore but I am a parent of a child who got a B at GCSE last year and has been told she is 'wasting' her teachers' time at AS level. She is probably going to drop it but I cannot understand how someone could get a B at GCSE...and lots of A graded work...and then find the AS such a tremendous struggle! Her elder sister achieved A* at A level 7 years ago and she has been trying to guide her through the coursework but still the teachers say she hasn't been tackling the points they have raised. As she cannot seem to do it, she thinks it best to drop the subject...the decision will be finally made with the deputy head this week. (By the way, I have an English degree and she CAN write in grammatically accurate sentences AND construct a logical argument!)
    What is going on?
     
  5. sianna

    sianna New commenter

    The A-level specifications changed in 2008 and the Lit course is a lot more difficult than it used to be. Students now have to study twice as many texts as they used to do and they have to compare and contrast a range of different literary texts at AS level - they didn't have to do this in the old spec. And there was no A* at A level 7 years ago. Writing grammatically and constructing arguments are absolutely not sufficient skills to ensure a good grade. Students also need to be insightful and perceptive in their reading and be able to analyse a variety of different and difficult texts and apply and engage with a range of different arguments/critical views.
    The GCSE exam seems to have got easier as the AS course has got harder. There is a massive leap from GCSE to AS. Students have to read a large number of texts independendly at AS (this isn't a requirement at GCSE) and they also have to read whole texts (they can get away with extracts/short stories at GCSE) and they have to compare texts with one another (ie a Shakespeare play with another pre 1700 play) and apply critical and contextual material.
    I am tired of students and their parents thinking that because they were good at GCSE then they are going to be good at A-level Lit too. The new post 2008 A level Lit specification is a lot lot lot harder than the old one and requires students to do a lot of work by themselves. They need to be self-motivated and be prepared to spend a LOT of time reading by themselves because there is, quite simply, not enough time to do all the reading that is necessary in lessons. AND sadly, most AS students can't/won't do this. The vast majority of the students in my class struggle (or can't be bothered) to read the set texts, let alone go away and do some independent wider reading as well!
     
  6. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    To add to the above, I studied for A-Level between 2002-2004, the old Curriculum 2000. Looking back, I can't believe how easy it was, in terms of the requirements and work involved. I still have some of my coursework that got full marks, and as an examiner now would probably give it an A - but only just!
     
  7. You obviously are fed up!
    However, perhaps teachers should be more selective when they accept students on to the course at A level if this is the case. I can only speak from personal experience with my own children- and I'm sorry if I have got her grade wrong...I know she only had A* and As at A level and thought Eng Lit was an A*....but we were not told that the course was now a lot harder or that a B grade at GCSE was not good enough. You might be tired of what we, as parents, are thinking but we only have what you tell us as professionals to go on!
    My daughter may not be able to cope with this course but she IS self-motivated, does read avidly around the set texts and is willing to go the extra mile but doesn't know how to improve....yes,she is struggling but she has not done anything 'wrong' to find herself in this position. (Isn't there an element of 'teaching' in here somewhere?)If what you say is true then I think that both she and we were mis-sold the course!
     
  8. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    There were no A*s at A' Level seven years ago. Perhaps your daughter got an A* at GCSE. That aside, any A' Level is a big jump for students who achieved Bs in GCSEs especially those who needed help to redraft coursework. I have several students who got As in English and English Lit at GCSE, but are struggling to get Cs this year and feeling despondent. We ask for two Bs in English and Lit at GCSE and well motivated students with just the minimum often do better than lazy students who did better at GCSE. But, many students find the subject difficult. If your daughter is not covering the points raised, then that's what she must do and, if she doesn't know how, she must ask. Most teachers will sit with a student and go through something that is not understood. I teach a girl who almost gave up before Christmas because she wasn't getting anywhere but I've just given her back a good Grade B essay. When I asked her what had changed, she said, 'Well, I spent ages on it and I did everything you told me to!". This term often seems to be a turning point for students who either comes to terms with the workload or take on board advice and see what they need to do. I wouldn't suggest a student gives up this term unless they are not prepared to try.
     
  9. No- my eldest has just walked in and told me she got an A at A level and it was 5 years ago, not 7! Glad to have cleared up that minor point!
    I shall leave the discussion at this point - probably shouldn't ever have joined in. Just so glad this is my last child to get througn our education system.
     

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