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Should lower ability students be entered for both Lit and Language?

Discussion in 'English' started by tonymars, Nov 21, 2018.

  1. tonymars

    tonymars Established commenter

    My understanding-and please correct me if I am wrong- is that this is currently the norm. It happens mainly because the Progress 8 stats take the higher of the two grades and, if entered for both, the grades count as double.

    One argument against this is that lower ability students spend too long on the Lit texts (closed book exams) to the detriment of language study.

    It is a while since I was a permanent, but is this still the case?

    Also, since I am posting here, has the levels 4 or 5 controversy moved on yet? And indeed the whole results/progress nonsense. Call me a cynic if you like, but I always thought that the whole aim of this was to provide an excuse for mass academisation, and now that this has happened...
  2. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    English Literature is a compulsory subject at GCSE: there's no option not to enter students for Literature.

    Of course, English HoDs might chose to deliberately under-teach Literature to some sets so that students don't spend too much time on it to the detriment of Language study (I wouldn't, but I'm not going to damn those that do...) This is also why some schools start the GCSE course in Year 9. However, it is also entirely possible to develop and integrated Lang/Lit curriculum whereby you teach the Language skills through the medium of the Literature texts.
    tonymars likes this.
  3. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    Speaking from an FE viewpoint, If a student has achieved a 4 (Lang or Lit I believe) they do not have to retake Language. If not, they do have to retake Language.
    Personally, with low ability cohorts, I would do everything I could to get them through Language. This would save the angst of re-sits and allow them to move on to whatever they wanted to do with their final two years of education.
    Most schools ask for a 5 in order for kids to stay on to 6th form. (In reality they will usually accept a 4). Most Grammar and independent schools ask for a 6 in order for students to stay on to 6th form. (Occasionally they will really accept a 5).
    I think the whole thing needs rethinking now that students have to stay in education until 18. Late developers should be allowed to develop late etc.
    Also, students are now old enough to drive a car, buy a house, have a credit card or loan, get married - but not leave education or give up GCSE English. The whole system's mad!
    pepper5 and tonymars like this.
  4. tonymars

    tonymars Established commenter

    Thanks for you replies.

    tb9605. I didn't know Lit was compulsory. Even for academies? I agree it's possible to Lang skills through Lit texts, but one still has to plough through the Lit texts.

    saluki. the angst of re-sits. Ah yes. Sounds like the level 4 or 5 thing is still alive and kicking. I agree that the whole system is mad.
    pepper5 likes this.
  5. pianopete

    pianopete Occasional commenter

    We teach lit to both. I know some providers accept a 4 in lit as an English pass to avoid retake. In my experience, lower ability actually stand a better chance in lit because they can go in with learned knowledge. Having to read extracts, unaided and unseen in timed conditions is often harder for them - depending on the nature of their needs/ability.
    saluki and curlcurlcurl like this.
  6. curlcurlcurl

    curlcurlcurl Occasional commenter

    The two now hold equal weighting and you’ll quite often find the lower ability students actually have a better chance at passing Lit than Lang as it’s more in their control.

    They can revise themes and ideas, learn quotes, complete lots of past questions, ask their teacher to help support them on parts they don’t understand. These same students lack the ability to decipher and understand texts independently and write accurately which actually puts them at a huge disadvantage for Language. Colleges and 6th forms will now accept a pass in either English GCSE so Language doesn’t maintain the former glory it once had.

    I don’t think this is true of the new specification. English is compulsory but schools can choose to enter for both GCSEs or one. There are swathes of schools not entering low ability students for Lit whatsoever, I can’t imagine they’d be allowed to continue if this wasn’t an option.
  7. lynne33

    lynne33 New commenter

    Our local colleges only accept Language and ask all to resit even if they have Lit.
  8. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    Really? Do you have a link for that? I've been trying to find a list of compulsory GCSEs on the DFE website (or, indeed, any website) but can't find one. I've been out of the UK for two years now, so perfectly willing to be wrong on this one...
  9. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    This is not true. Only Language is compulsory. It would be very hard to persuade a Progress 8 happy SLT not to enter for Literature, but it's not statutory.

    In terms of Progress 8, it is much, much. much more beneficial for students to be entered for both (you can't get the double weighting unless students are entered for both: also, if the Lit grade is better it goes in the first bucket; but, even better, if Language grade is better, then the Lit grade can count towards the other buckets).

    Even before the new GCSEs/Progress 8 measures I've always been a firm believer in students studying both (from bottom sets, C-D borderline and mixed ability). I have been forced to teach Lang-only in one school and the students did no better thana comparable cohort in another school who entered for both (and did well in both). Over the summer, we had an SEN student who, at one point, our Learning Support didn't want her to enter for GCSE (preferring Functional Skills route instead) - she achieved a Grade 3 in both Language and Literature which was amazing.
    install likes this.
  10. install

    install Star commenter

    The issue sadly seems to be more to do with time and money. Despite the new challenging 100% weighting Exams - some schools have not upped the lesson time for their English or Literature lessons. Also, no extra budget.

    So many learners are often left with the same teaching time say for Maths.(one gcse - double weighed on Progress 8) as say for Eng Lang plus Eng Lit ( 2 GCSEs.double weighted plus a further Progress 8 bucket possibility).

    The saddest part might be that Progress 8 comes before an English Language grade in some schools and the 'Every child matters' agenda is truly gone. League Tables matter more than individual results. In reality a grade 4 or better ( in Eng/ Maths and three other subjects). would be a great result for.a weak student with say targets of a 3 grade. Sadly, some schools push for the '3' grade in 8 gcses instead.

    So in answer to.your question - No,.a lower ability student should not be pushed to.be entered for both Lang and Lit. But schools are trapped by the seemingly current agenda of ' Progress 8 and League.Tables.matters more than students.or their futures':(:(:(
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
    saluki and pepper5 like this.
  11. pianopete

    pianopete Occasional commenter

    Totally agree about teaching time but that is another reason we enter all students for both. We teach together, lots of interleaving and overlap. If we took all the lower ability students out and put them in a special "lang only" class, it could be a group from hell and it might mean a teacher does not get the experience of teaching lit that year...

    But forgetting the P8 and league tables (oh I wish we could), is it right to deprive students of the chance to read some fantastic works of literature? Sure, they might've got a better lang grade if they'd only entered for lang but they might have had a really boring time. The vast array of extracts we use across lang is great, but the satisfaction of reading a whole text (even if it has been as a class) is immense.
  12. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    I am starting to use short stories for Lang. Applying exam skills to different parts of the story. I am hoping that this will provide a more interesting experience.
  13. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    It is not compulsory to do any subject at GCSE. However, the National Curriculum is closely-tied to the GCSE subject content, so taking both GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature ensures full coverage of the Key Stage 4 English content.

    In other words, if students are not studying GCSE English Literature, then they should be doing the same subject content (a Shakespeare play, poetry including the Romantics etc.) somehow else.
    never_expect_anything likes this.
  14. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    Well explained, @CandysDog . I was just about to say the same. In my understanding, Literature is compulsory at KS4 under the National Curriculum, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is compulsory to sit a GCSE in it. I had this argument with SLT when the new curriculum and new GCSEs came in, and lost - even though I work in an independent alternative provision, where we have autonomy over curriculum and exam entries and don't need to worry about Progress8 and league tables! (There was little chance most of our SEMH cohort could cope with the quantity and length of the exams for both GCSEs.)

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