Science GCSEs

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ElectronBlue's picture
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year ten BFG

What has happened is... ok Essex chart the progress of all children with statements for autism by centiles. Alex started his school career pretty much right at the bottom of the chart. Year on year he's crossed those centiles, rather than following them. His actual achievement has outstripped his predicted achievement. He's now near the top, for a statemented autistic. Everyone keeps saying it will taper off soon, but it hasn't since he was 6 or so...

When Alex got his SATS, everyone (including me) was totally gobsmacked, and when he had his Annual Review (May in Year 7, so end of year 7) we did discuss 'shall we do mainstream'. And we decided not to. For many reasons, but one was his dire experience with his mainstream childcare placement, for which he was still having therapy at that time. Another was that I was really ill at the time and it was just a bad time in general to be putting these huge new demands on Alex. And another was that he wasn't ready in the way he is now. it was the right decision at the time although I expect people will disagree with that.

I SHOULD have started this process a year ago, in year 8 for year 9 entry... but I didn't. In retrospect these things are obvious, but it wasn't at the time. And actually he's had experiences this year, like the sailing trip etc, that I wouldn't have wanted him to miss.

Also he has been sufficiently challenged up to this point but that's been tapering off and he's spent the last year or so coasting which has NOT been good for him. His current school are no longer meeting his needs. At the same time, his school is moving towards the severe learning difficulties. Alex's class is the year 11 class, it is the final MLD class in the school and when they leave as they all will in July there's nowhere for Alex to go, so he would have had to either transfer to another special school or to mainstream. I realised this before his school did but they would have got there in the end, he has to move on to somewhere.

And also, I don't know if he will cope. It's all a great big fat scary experiment and I shall spend the next couple of years with bottom permanently clenched. Hopefully we'll get away with it. but I don't really know.

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although- and you are a genius BFG- year 9 isn't a bad idea and I have just phoned our local LEA to that effect. And they didn't say 'we don't do that in Essex' or anything like that, they said make the case and we'll take it to panel to discuss!! Which probably will amount to a no, but it wasn't an outright 'no we won't even consider it' (which Essex are a leetle bit fond of doing, in my limited experience... so the fact they didn't isn't bad)

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Have you been in contact with any organisations for "twice exceptional" (2e)kids -  i.e. those with high ability who also have learning/neurological/etc disabilities.  These kids (of which I was one!) are almost never well catered for in the school system, and often the most let down by the system, because so many people, including most teachers, just don't *get* that a child can be both very able in one area of the curriculum and disabled in another.  It really sounds to me like Alex is in that category (i.e. 2e) if his tutor says he's capable of doing all three sciences, and is also very able in maths, while having quite serious difficulties in other subject areas.  Einstein was also 2e, he had severe difficulties in school and didn't learn to read until he was 9, he possibly had dyslexia, ADHD and aspergers, and everyone knows what he achieved.  Not every 2e kid is a mini Einstein, but it's very common for schools to totally underestimate 2e kids abilities.  One of three things tend to happen: the system helps them with their weaknesses while being unaware of their strengths and abilities, so they're never really given a chance to develop their strengths and show what they're truly capable of; or they're recognised as gifted but their disability is never recognised so they're berated as lazy, unco-operative, bad attitude, not trying etc when they're actually working extremely hard to overcome a hidden disability; or they're assumed to be average because the ability hides the disability (through developing their own set of coping strategies) and the disability hides their true ability (because you can only go so far with coping strategies and the child is already working a lot harder than other kids just to hide their disability enough to keep up with the average kids).

From what you've written I'd say that Alex could be somewhat in the first category, i.e. always had his weaknesses addressed by the system, but it's always been assumed (by teachers, etc) that sooner or later his disability is going to limit his potential, that he'll plateau, that he won't cope with anything that's for very able kids, etc.  Meanwhile you and his private tutor can see that he does have a fair bit more ability than the school system is giving him credit for.  I'm not sure what their reason is for not allowing him to do triple science, but if the decision is based on the fact that he's got an ASD, then I would challenge that right away.  If he's capable of doing triple science and the *only* reason for not letting him is his disability, IMO that's getting into the realm of disability discrimination.  Which is why I'm suggesting getting advice from an organisation for 2e kids, because this kind of thing is common unfortunately, due to a complete lack of understanding about ability, intelligence, disability etc, due to teachers typicaly having had very little decent training in SEN.  2e kids have the right to have their educational needs met, and that means *both* the right to be working at the right level of challenge and to be able to succeed in areas of strength *and* the right to have suitable help and support for their areas of disability.  It's harder for schools to cater for 2e kids as they don't fit neatly into boxes of "high ability" and "low ability" but they have the same right as every other child of having their needs met.

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In all fairness I don't think it is disability discrimination Umm.

Alex has little practical science experience. He has more theoretical experience, but not to the level required- yet.

My request for him to go into the three sciences group was based on 1) his current school's opinion of his potential, with teaching at the appropriate level, 2) his tutor's opinion of his potential ditto (I employed a private tutor in October, one hour a week, so that doesn't amount to much although he's working hard) and 3) My experience of how he learns and his rate of progress.

But there's no concrete evidence of his ability, it's all opinion on what he is capable of, not where he is now, how could he be there now, he's never had lessons! And they don't know him, and probably have all sorts of preconcieved ideas - special school, autism etc etc. They probably think everyone is exagggerating.(He'll do a SATS paper, but given he won't have done the whole curriculum, perhaps not even half of it, that won't give a true indication either) That combined with the lack of lab work is why they won't let him do triple science.

My feeling is that he'll be behind and have gaps anyway, and he'll still need to learn how to do experiments and so on whichever group he is in, and that he will rapidly catch up (and already is) but hey, they don't know him I guess. But I don't think it';s discrimination, just that this is an unusual situation.

I spoke to Al's link worker at school, she says I definitely didn't imagine what they said about some option lots being used for library and learning support and ASDAN and the like, so she's going to liaise with the head of key stage at his present and get back to me. Also thinks entry in year 9 would be spot on.

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I can't help but feel that year 9 entry would be a much better solution.

He gets a year to do the baseline work needed to support his GCSE work - the teachers in year 9 have more time and scope because they aren't teaching a GCSE syllabus to another 30 kids - and when it comes to selecting his options then they will have a years experience of Alex to back up decisions rather than other people's 'opinions'.

And it wasn't BFG who said it, it was me.  Not that she isn't a genius - but there are a lot of us about Smile

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LOL whoops!

I think its a fab plan, but the trouble will be getting the LEA to agree to it. It means an extra year of paying for His Lordship's education, you see, and Alex is expensive.

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Ummbintaini wrote:
Einstein was also 2e, he had severe difficulties in school and didn't learn to read until he was 9, he possibly had dyslexia, ADHD and aspergers, and everyone knows what he achieved.

Yeah, and he possibly, probably didn't.

I don't think it's right to try to attach labels to historic figures when they were not diagnosed as such at the time. (Equally, it’s not right to use labels historic figures did have to try to extrapolate common experiences – Hitler was a vegetarian and everyone knows what he achieved!)

(Sorry, sidetracked)

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Daedy I agree with you about that actually, especially diagnosing people with things when they're not alive any more Smile but he did have significant difficulties at school, and his life and way of thinking followed a lot of general trends and patterns for people with different to average brain wiring (or however you want to describe it).  I used it as an example because people (in general) can easily accept the idea of Einstein being like that, but can't seem to apply the same concept of someone having high ability in one area and low ability/disability in another to ordinary children.  Einstein wasn't an alien from another planet, there are many other people with different brain wiring (or however you want to put it) that don't fit into the education system easily, because they don't learn in the same way.  It's not always about disability, in the case of 2e kids, it's about uneven ability (or asyncrhonous development to give it the technical term).  It's a lot more real and common than teachers and the general public realise.

EB - I agree with Corris about year 9 entry, because this would give a pre GCSE option for science teachers to get a clear idea of what his actual abilities are.  But what you said about them making assumptions based on autism, special school etc, is *exactly* what I was getting at in my post though, whether you want to label that as "disability discrimination" or not, it's exactly what *shouldn't* be happening.  There are many people on the autistic spectrum that are extremely high achievers in physics, maths, IT and similar.  The school absolutely shouldn't be judging his capablility based on "autistic/special school" before he's even had a chance to show them what he's capable of.  You do have evidence of his ability, you have his current school's assessment of his potential, his tutor's assessment of his potential and your own assessment.  Teachers can, and always have, taken previous school's/tutor's reports about a child's ability into consideration when putting children in sets or advising them about GCSE subjects.  That's why I suggested getting in contact with an organisation with experience of 2e kids, so that they could give you advice and information etc about how to tackle this with the school.  If the school were basing their decision on their experience of him in science and how he coped with (say) year 9 science, it would be a different matter, but they're not, so it begs the question of exactly *what* they're basing the decision on...

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To get back to your original question about double science and science A Levels, EB, I can tell you what was said at DD's school at her recent Options Evening.  The Head stressed how lucky our girls were that they had the choice of doing double or triple science because, according to her, "most" schools only offer double.  I have no idea whether the "most" bit is true, but it makes me think that many schools must only offer double science and that students at these schools can go on to do science A Level.  Head then went on to say that there was absolutely nothing to stop a child doing science A Levels if they had done double science.

At the individual appointments, I asked each of the physics, chemistry and biology teachers what they thought.  All three teachers said that it was perfectly possible to do a science A Level from having done double science, but that such a student would have to work harder than someone who had done triple science at first, because there would be some catching up to do.  One of them said that the catching up should've been done by Christmas (of lower sixth), and from then on all students would be on an equal footing.

Anecdotally, DD's best friend's sister did double science, and is now reading medicine at Oxford, so I don't think it held her back!   Also anecdotally, several parents have said to me that their children have found the step up from GCSE to A Level in science subjects, regardless of whether they had done double ot triple, to be incredibly hard, particularly chemistry.

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Thank you Leeds Smile That is very helpful.

He'll probably decide to do painting and decorating at college now, and that's fine, but I want him to be able to choose to do that because he wants to, not because he has no options and his pathways advisor says oh, he'll have to do this then.

Umm, how can they NOT make assumptions? They will have sent children from them to special schools or specialist units and they will have been the neediest, most difficult, most problematic, most low ability children they have dealt with, how can this possibly not colour their judgement? (is colour my judgement a term with race implications, incidentally? Does anyone know??? I'm curious!)

And actually Alex is going to be needy and problematic and low ability in many areas so it's not as if they are wrong!

If he could enter in year 9 though they would have a proper estimate of his abilities before GCSE. And he'd be able to do a year of French. That will please him no end!

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