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Setting them up for failure

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Lalad, Jun 19, 2011.

  1. Lalad

    Lalad Senior commenter

    <font face="Times New Roman">My 17 year old is doing AS levels and has been getting more monosyllabic and morose as the exams progress - his last exam is on Wednesday. Earlier today he said that if he failed this exam he didn't really mind as he could retake it next year with his other A-levels and then stay on at college a further year to take the A-level.</font><font face="Times New Roman">I was quite taken aback, telling him that someone of his academic ability shouldn't be going in to his exams thinking along those lines, but it has obviously backfired because tonight he spent several hours revising / doing past papers and then told me that there's no way he is going to pass - and it is my fault that he is stressed because now he will feel a failure for not passing his exam! He also said that he felt ill-equipped for the exam as much of the preparation in class had focused on past papers but the actual input was limited - some of the things that were coming up in the papers were being covered for the first time there and then.</font> <font size="3">Meanwhile, his younger brother in Year 10 has been doing GCSEs early that he is so obviously not ready for - I don't mean he hasn't worked for them, just that he doesn't seem to have the necessary maturity. He is also feeling under a lot of pressure and seems destined to underachieve, not because he is not able, but because he and his friends are being pushed into exams too early. It's such a waste - they seem to spend so much time doing exams that there isn't any time for learning, so they are actually being tested on things before they have had a chance to really understand them.</font> It really worries me that we are setting up a whole generation of bright kids to fail &ndash; and all because of our obsession with exams.

     
  2. Lalad

    Lalad Senior commenter

    <font face="Times New Roman">My 17 year old is doing AS levels and has been getting more monosyllabic and morose as the exams progress - his last exam is on Wednesday. Earlier today he said that if he failed this exam he didn't really mind as he could retake it next year with his other A-levels and then stay on at college a further year to take the A-level.</font><font face="Times New Roman">I was quite taken aback, telling him that someone of his academic ability shouldn't be going in to his exams thinking along those lines, but it has obviously backfired because tonight he spent several hours revising / doing past papers and then told me that there's no way he is going to pass - and it is my fault that he is stressed because now he will feel a failure for not passing his exam! He also said that he felt ill-equipped for the exam as much of the preparation in class had focused on past papers but the actual input was limited - some of the things that were coming up in the papers were being covered for the first time there and then.</font> <font size="3">Meanwhile, his younger brother in Year 10 has been doing GCSEs early that he is so obviously not ready for - I don't mean he hasn't worked for them, just that he doesn't seem to have the necessary maturity. He is also feeling under a lot of pressure and seems destined to underachieve, not because he is not able, but because he and his friends are being pushed into exams too early. It's such a waste - they seem to spend so much time doing exams that there isn't any time for learning, so they are actually being tested on things before they have had a chance to really understand them.</font> It really worries me that we are setting up a whole generation of bright kids to fail &ndash; and all because of our obsession with exams.

     
  3. I think you're right to worry but I can't think of anything that can be done about it without a radical overhaul of the school system we have.
    I'd also add my own little bit to your statement
    that there is also little time left for children to be children anymore (under this system). Depressing, isn't it?[​IMG]
     
  4. I think it is awful. I have great memories of my lower sixth, gaining my independence, running an Amnesty group, playing sport etc. Now they don't have time for it.
    I teach a subject that examines in year 10- not my choice, only option given to me by SLT. So they start course in year 9. (it is RE though, so you might think it doesn't matter!
    At my school they start being examined in year 10 for Science, Maths, Languages and RE. So they practically do exams from year 10-year 13. Doesn't seem right.
     
  5. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Lead commenter

    I work in a boys' comprehensive, and we also used to operate this system for a fast-track group. It was an experiment that failed and mercifully has been abandoned. The very boys who would have achieved the highest grades had they sat the GCSEs in Year 11, were gaining a few As, but predominantly Bs and lower. We were disadvantaging those boys as the best universities want to see straight As and A*s at GCSE. The most able of the group came out relatively unscathed, but the majority bore the scars for the remainder of their school career in terms of feeling they had been hard done by, which they had. Most of us could see this coming, but all it took was one career-driven member of smt to set the wheels in motion and then leave on the back of this "innovation" - the rest of us had to pick up the pieces. And your point is right - boys at that age do not have the maturity to thrive in those conditions.
    More broadly speaking as far as the GCSE exam is concerned, I feel that we have arrived at the point where the straw may well break the camel's back. The current regime where controlled assessment has gone mad is resulting in a situation where pupils are being stretched to the limit with endless tests, and the hapless teachers have no time or option but to teach to those tests, resulting in a limit to the actual learning that is taking place. It is a dire situation.
     
  6. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    Not so long ago I was instructed to remove a number of successful and enjoyable KS3 schemes of work and run a GCSE-level course starting in Y7, in one hour a week with mixed ability groups. I attempted this fool's errand for a year then told SMT that in my professional judgement the course was sh*te and the whole silly scheme was unworkable. I was overruled, then told to teach it in a more OFSTED-friendly style (ie time-consuming group work, passing post it notes round, discussion etc) despite it being assessed on individual performance and time being extremely tight. I informed SMT that large numbers of them would fail to complete the necessary units if I did it that way. I was told to get on with it anyway because the pilot year could be considered expendable, and pleasing OFSTED was far more important than the children's results. The next September came along and I had a new, keen, sparky and enthusiastic Y7 year group all raring to go, and we did a one term general intro to skills which they lapped up. The problem was I knew they'd have this huge steaming dollop of impossible unworkable sh*te dropped on them after Christmas and for the rest of KS3, and they would rapidly become over-pressured, despondent, and large numbers of them would be unable to complete the course. The final straw came when SMT dictated my Performance Management objectives to me (no negotiation) and all of them were based upon the success of the above nonsense. I was ordered to sign them without amendment. In the end, the only thing I put my signature to was my resignation. There was no way I was going to subject either my students or myself to any of that rubbish any more. I've been on supply ever since, and I'm enjoying that a whole lot more than what I was doing before.

    And people wonder why I'm sometimes cynical ;-)
     
  7. I teach in a school that is about to join a group of academies. This academy group starts GCSEs in year 9, and does options subjects intensively, meaning that the brightest students could take GCSE option exams in years 9, 10 and 11.
    I teach the two top sets of our current year 8 cohort, and some of them are going to struggle. They do not have the maturity to cope with GCSEs. And I worry that even the brightest, most able, maturest will crack under the pressure that the school puts on them.
    Luckily my subject is not part of this madness, and we'll have 3 years to teach a GCSE Short Course. But then, I guess they'll all be expected to get A*s. Or, in 2 years time all but the weakest students will be withdrawn for extra Maths and English.
    MSB... that sounds hideous! I'm not surprised you resigned.
     
  8. Henriettawasp

    Henriettawasp New commenter

    Did none of the parents complain? I certainly would if my children were being guinea pigs for such nonsense.
     
  9. Lalad,
    I am in exactly the same postion as you - my children are doing AS and year 10 GCSE and I feel exactly the same as you about the whole thing. The low ability year 10 class that I teach have absolutely no idea what is happening to them, and very little understanding that they are doing "actual" GCSE exams and they are floundering to answer questions that they have not had enough time to build up the skills to answer on. My daughter is also in year 10, and although pretty bright, has similar difficulties. Son in year 12 got through his AS exams and worked hard but isn't it sad? School has become a constant round of exams and controlled assessment from year 10 to year 13. There's no time to build up skills, to gain a wider perspective or, in fact, to just coast a little bit. Ah well, "survival of the fittest" I suppose.
    And if they do get through it all, what is at the end of it? &pound;9000 a year university fees? &pound;50,000 worth of debt for 3 years at uni? Hmm.
     
  10. Lalad

    Lalad Senior commenter

    I think more parents are beginning to complain now, particularly as this is a policy that has been gathering momentum over the past few years, and results are starting to show that maybe it wasn't such a great idea after all. As a parent, you do tend to accept that the school is doing what is right for your child...until it becomes clear that it isn't, by which time it is often too late to do anything about it.
    It's sad that it is the bright kids - and especially the summer born boys - who are losing out the most. You are right, Wildmillie - why cant we focus on breadth of learning and reflect that in the exams at the end of Year 11, instead of narrowing the curricular content in order to fast track them through exams earlier and earlier?
    ,
     
  11. guinnesspuss

    guinnesspuss Star commenter

    Look like possibly Gove (or whoever thinks for him) might be on the same lines and wants a return to end of 2 year course exams instead of current unit/block system. Thoughts?
    Did some invigilating at a school recently (I'm not Sec) and one GCSE exam had been piloted for the yr 10s and the number who finished a LONG time before the end was incredible, to me anyway, and apparently many had done the 'wrong' questions.
     

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