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How can I help DD with GCSE English??
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Author:  sasha [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:00 am ]
Post subject:  How can I help DD with GCSE English??

My DD is currently in Year 9 and will be taking her GCSEs (AQA) in Year 10. She is doing really well - gifted and talented in a number of subjects - BUT she is really struggling with English. How can I help her? She is in the top set for English at a grammar school and her target grade is A* - but recently her grades have been D and on occasions her teacher has refused to mark her work. I am really worried as she has started her assessed coursework and is not doing well. Students in the lower sets are getting much better grades than she is.

I have contacted the English teacher who promised to help - but that was over a month ago, and the help given has not improved DDs grades. For example, she was given a mentor who worked with DD in preparing a plan for an essay. Her mentor said her plan was very good and she could not see any ways to improve it - but her teacher marked it with a D. On a second occasion (this week) DD was given another mentor who helped her work on a plan for an essay. She had to produce a plan with five paragraphs which she did. However, when DD came home yesterday she was really worried as she has written three paragraphs of her essay following the plan and the word count is only 400, and the whole essay needs a word count of 1200!

Moving DD to a lower set is not an option as they have covered different books. Also DD wants to take her GCSE in Year 10 to leave her Year 11 options open. DD is trying really hard to improve her grades in English - she spends hours on her homework - but is now resigning herself to getting a low grade for her GCSE.

Are there any books that anyone could recommend? How can I get hold of sample A/A* essay answers so that DD can see what she should be writing. She just seems to be missing the point. I'm sorry to ramble on but I just feel so helpless. Any help/advice would really be appreciated.

Author:  daughter [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How can I help DD with GCSE English??

I am sorry to hear of your worry - I haven't got any good advice but hopefully someone will be along soon with some. However we were in a very similar situation with DD last year. The school kept sort of offering help (she was targeted A but likely to get a B - we really felt that she was capable of the A) ... eventually we got to the week before Easter when it turned out that she was not bad enough to warrant extra help. We hired a tutor- an ex-teacher at their school and a current examiner/marker. DD had four x 1.5 hr sessions - the best money I have ever spent. She taught her about structuring essays, knowing what was being looked for etc and importantly boosted her confidence. DD got A's in both papers. I don't know if this option is open to you but if you can find the right person at the right price I would highly recommend it.
Good luck and best wishes.

Author:  Guest55 [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How can I help DD with GCSE English??

Find out the exam board and look for past papers and mark schemes. These tell you want they are looking for.

Does the teacher not give detailed feedback on her essays? You must ask for this.

Author:  sasha [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How can I help DD with GCSE English??

Thank you for your reply. It's certainly an option worth considering. Can anyone recommend a tutor in the Maidstone area?

Author:  sasha [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How can I help DD with GCSE English??

Thank you. I've just looked at the AQA website and they do have past papers and mark schemes. This will be useful. With regard to the comments written by the teacher, unfortunately her writing is very difficult to decipher. What I can decipher tends to be more critical than constructive.

Author:  Guest55 [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How can I help DD with GCSE English??

The school SHOULD be doing more - extra sessions at lunch are normal where I teach. Parents should not be expected to pay for extra help.

Can you arrange to see the Head of English; feedback should highlight good points as well as areas for development. If you can't read the comments then they are useless.

Author:  daveg [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How can I help DD with GCSE English??

sasha wrote:
Thank you. I've just looked at the AQA website and they do have past papers and mark schemes. This will be useful. With regard to the comments written by the teacher, unfortunately her writing is very difficult to decipher. What I can decipher tends to be more critical than constructive.


There are also "revision" books for GCSE English which include sample essays at various levels (this is what C looks like, this is what A looks like). Assuming your daughter is reading a standard text, there will also be books that cover the individual set works, again with sample essays which show what C looks like and what A looks like. Look for "gcse english aqa revision" on your favourite online bookstore.

If you can't read the teacher's comments, she may as well not be writing them. Make an appointment to see her, and if you get no joy, escalate it.

Is your daughter reading more generally? Newspapers, decently written magazines, etc?

Author:  daveg [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How can I help DD with GCSE English??

sasha wrote:
Also DD wants to take her GCSE in Year 10


A lower grade in year 10 is just a lower grade. You get no credit for doing it earlier. Unless you are going to get an A*, taking GCSE English or Maths a year early is not doing you any favours. The only people who benefit from early entry are very strong candidates who can move only something else, or weak schools that are fiddling their data. Maths teachers (Guest55) will tell you the problems they have at A Level caused by early entry for GCSE maths.

Author:  ourmaminhavana [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How can I help DD with GCSE English??

daveg wrote:
sasha wrote:
Also DD wants to take her GCSE in Year 10


A lower grade in year 10 is just a lower grade. You get no credit for doing it earlier. Unless you are going to get an A*, taking GCSE English or Maths a year early is not doing you any favours. The only people who benefit from early entry are very strong candidates who can move only something else, or weak schools that are fiddling their data. Maths teachers (Guest55) will tell you the problems they have at A Level caused by early entry for GCSE maths.


I completely agree with Daveg.

Please be aware that I was an English teacher many moons ago when reading the following, but I was really concerned by your post and feel very sorry for your poor DD. I think there are a number of issues here. Isn't it the school who is deciding whether your DD takes the exam early or not?
You need very direct, clear feedback as to what she needs to do to improve.
Is it the structure/organisation of her essays (possibly not if the mentor assisted with this, but it depends on the ability of the mentor!)
Is she addressing the question precisely? This is critical, naturally, as everything stems from this.
Is it the content?
Does your daughter understand the set texts well? Character, motivation, plot etc
Does she understand how to make and substantiate her points eg quotations from the text?
Is it the grammar, spelling, expression, clarity?
Does she understand literary devices and their usage ie not just there is a simile in line 4 but why is it being used? What does it add to the image etc (eg simile, metaphor, alliteration etc) and concepts such as irony, satire etc (Obviously it depends on what the set texts are as to what extent she needs this)
I hope that you get some joy, but clearly you need to begin with where your DD is and in what ways she is not yet succeeding.
Very good luck!

Author:  magwich2 [ Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How can I help DD with GCSE English??

I completely agree with daveg concerning early GCSE entry. DD2 did maths at the end of year 9 because it was obvious that she would get an A* and she might as well get it out of the way and make a start on statistics GCSE ( a waste of time but its a numbers game). DS did foundation level when he was 9 mostly to get his maths up to speed for our local 11+ which requires them to have covered the entire year 6 curriculum and because he will not do any work at all unless he knows that his lack of knowledge will be exposed in an exam!
As far as the aqa english language GCSE is concerned words fail me except for those which are banned in polite society. Poor DD1 had to endure this dreadful course with a teacher to match ("we do have a lot of concerns about her, Mrs Magwich" - head of english).
DD2 is at a different school with a marvellous teacher but same old same old rubbish and hoops to jump through. I remember the days of O level english language - comprehension, précis and an unseen essay -vastly better in my opinion.
The main thing to bear in mind through the endless turgid controlled assessments is that most of them can be repeated ad infinitum depending on how helpful the teacher wants to be. Most of the written tasks can be done in quite short chunks of "high control" assessment so that they can easily be memorised.
The speaking and listening tasks can be done in groups numerous times and where some or all of the group are being assessed. The teacher can evade any failures by calling all the sessions "practice" but conducting them under proper exam conditions so that any good performances can after all be counted.
AQA themselves have told me that the guidelines are hopelessly vague and can be interpreted variously by schools.
The whole thing is desperately unfair with the AQA website even saying that the teacher can give extra help to low ability students!!!

"Controlled Assessment titles can be bullet pointed to give a little extra guidance to lower ability students...."

Bl***y ridiculous - the lower ability students SHOULD end up with lower grades, otherwise why are we all participating in this GCSE circus at all!!??

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