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Poor uptake & my subject not being offered at KS4 & 5

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by miranda-s, Jan 22, 2016.

  1. miranda-s

    miranda-s Occasional commenter

    I don't want to say which subject I teach for fear of identifying myself on here, but it's a faculty which is divided into several similar subjects and most of us teach at least 2 of them. Our subjects traditionally tend to get low numbers opting for them, but they have always run at both KS4 and 5 regardless of numbers. However this year we have been told that our subjects are not even being offered at A Level (even though some pupils were interested in taking them at options evening and were unhappy to be told they weren't running, because we would still only have small classes even if all of these pupils were doing it). It also appears that they may not run at GCSE if we don't get enough pupils opting for them.

    This would potentially leave us with our faculty teaching virtually nothing but KS3, apart from the current Y10 and Y12 classes as they go on to Y11 and Y13, and the year after the situation would obviously be even worse unless they are offered again. SLT have made it clear that this is a temporary situation and it will be reassessed next year depending how many pupils would be interested in going on to A Level, but as we only get small numbers at GCSE (currently around 15 in a Y10 class) it is highly unlikely that we would get enough opting for A Level for it to run.

    We are obviously unhappy about our subjects apparently being phased out - we feel that we do everything we can to promote them and to encourage pupils to take them, but it's clearly not having the desired effect and we really don't know what else we can do. Pupils tell us they enjoy our lessons, and they achieve their targets, but when it comes to choosing their GCSEs and A Levels they go for subjects that are perceived as being easier to get a good grade or more useful. We don't feel there is any conspiracy to deliberately phase us out, and SLT have been quite open and good about communication with us regarding the issues with uptake and the subjects not being offered, but nor are they particularly doing anything to encourage pupils to consider us for their options or to promote our faculty.

    The lack of GCSE and A Level means that we will obviously be significantly overstaffed as a faculty next year. We've been told that they will not be looking at redundancies, but that we may be timetabled to teach lessons outside our faculty. All of us are unhappy about this, particularly if it turns into an ongoing situation, and we are all considering leaving, but other than this, we like our school, we get on very well as a faculty and we don't know that the situation would be better elsewhere, so we feel a bit stuck! I don't really know what I'm looking for in posting here - maybe advice from someone who's been in this situation in the past, or just some sympathy so we know we're not alone!
  2. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Sympathy for sure. It must be tough.

    Supply and demand, I suppose. I think students choose GCSE for three reasons:

    • enjoyment
    • considered a doss
    • necessary for future progress (Maths and English for all and Sciences if you want to be a medic)

    In days gone by, when higher education was free, you could afford to choose what you fancied. Now I think students consult their own inclinations less and less. It's all about churning out the grades. As many as possible.

    So I can imagine it is tough to get recruits for Humanities. Assuming your subject could come under that broad umbrella.

    How would schools promote this? Well, they can't really as teachers of other subjects will counter with 'what UCAS looks for is MY subject'. Sorry to sound a bit defeatist but you may have to add strings to your bow. Maybe?
  3. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    If you've been reassured that there won't be any redundancies and your salary won't suffer then I'd grin and bear it, especially as you're happy in the school. These things happen. Teaching another subject will be great experience and will look good on your CV.
    I bet it's MFL. :cool:
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  4. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    Even the grammar schools in some areas no longer offer German at A-level. So moving to other jobs may not always be possible for staff.

    Even if it's not MFL, a subject where numbers have fallen drastically in one school is not likely to have large numbers of vacancies locally or even nationally, for those who could move.

    Teaching lessons outside your faculty would need clear support from the HoD and other colleagues in the new subject. Might be interesting, though!

    Best wishes

  5. miranda-s

    miranda-s Occasional commenter

    I'm currently happy in the school, but I don't think I will be if I only teach KS3 and subjects I don't know much about myself! It's one thing if it's definitely temporary, but another thing entirely if it's ongoing. In theory I wouldn't mind teaching another subject if I was given adequate support, but in my experience everyone is too busy to offer this so it ends up with you constantly not being entirely sure what you're doing and uncomfortably using other colleagues' resources that don't really suit your teaching style while pupils ask you questions you don't know the answers to and suss out quite quickly that you don't really know what you're talking about. I haven't studied anything other than my own subjects for nearly 20 years!

    I'm keeping my eyes on the job ads but I won't make any quick decisions about it as my school is mostly a good place to work in comparison to some (including my previous school). Unless something amazing comes up, I'll probably stick with it for another year after this one and see what happens. My partner and I have been thinking about going abroad for a while and it's looking increasingly like that might be something that happens sooner rather than later, if things continue heading this way at my school.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
  6. lucyrose50

    lucyrose50 Occasional commenter

    Do you know anyone who works in other schools in the area, who could give you an idea about the situation of your subject in their school? That would at least allow you to make a more informed decision about whether you would be better off moving, it would be a shame to leave a school you like working at only to end up in a similar situation in a different school that might not be such a pleasant place to work.
    It does sound like now might also be a good time to keep an eye on jobs abroad, if that's something you'd been thinking about anyway. It may be that at some point in the next few years the government and schools will come up with yet another new initiative that favours your subject, so you might find that if you went abroad for a couple of years, you might then find yourself in demand if you wanted to come back to the UK! I don't know if you do teach MFL, I know someone guessed at that, but if you do then things might well be quite different in a few years once the kids who've been doing the new KS2 curriculum since Y3 start to come up to secondary school, if your partner primaries didn't do a lot of MFL before.
  7. fudgeface

    fudgeface Occasional commenter

    I presume your subject doesn't fit into the progress 8 criteria?
  8. Yoda-

    Yoda- Lead commenter

    I think you see this as a deal breaker. This is not what you signed up to. Your convinced you have to move for long term job satisfaction.

    Promises made by one Head Teacher about redundancies, even if you could trust them, are not reliable as Head Teachers can leave and be replaced by who knows who? You are right to look for an escape route. Make sure it's a good school to work in. Good luck!
  9. baitranger

    baitranger Senior commenter

    [QUOTE="miranda-s, post:
    I haven't studied anything other than my own subjects for nearly 20 years!
    I can sympathise and know it can feel that it's almost impossible to teach a new subject, but it can be done and after a while you can even enjoy it-unlikely as it sounds.
    You can enjoy it because you'll be learning yourself, and thinking of ways to teach it, preparing materials and taking a fresh approach.
    Of course, you can always tell yourself that there isn't time , what with all the other pressures you are under, and simply put all of your energies into looking for another job. I wouldn't criticise anyone who did decide to do just that. However, if you like the school and if you can see for yourself that redundancies can be avoided, consider making the effort to stay.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  10. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    To give some encouragement, perhaps. A colleague ended up teaching an A Level subject in which this teacher had never gained any qualifications. Minority subject, relevant teacher left, needed to fill the gap. Rather bravely took the same exam as his pupils. A grade for teacher and for some of the class, too.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  11. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    That's admirable. We all ought to do it!
  12. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    I'd be scared to death. Did a First Aid qualification with some school pupils once. The exam gave me more nerves even than Finals!

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