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5 tips to help navigate the uncertainty of GCSE Maths and English results

Updated: May 11, 2020

In lockdown or not, there is always a little concern as to whether students have managed to achieve the crucial grade 4 in Maths and along with other subjects so that they can pursue A levels or a Level 3 course at college.

But this year is different. We know that many students would have been hoping to invest significant amounts of time in study and revision over the coming weeks to achieve minimum grade 4s where possible. Sometimes it can be pulled out of the bag on exam day as I am sure many of us have done in the past! However, this year teachers will have to assess their students based on coursework, mock exams, grade predictions and other non exam assessments.

The intention is that schools will provide a fair assessment and more information can be found in this latest OFQUAL Guidance document below on how this will work.

So what can you and your child do In the meantime, here are 5 key tips to help you:

1. Check for resits

The government is saying that students who don't believe their results reflect their ability, will have the chance to retake exams in the Autumn with results being available before Christmas. They will be able to use whichever is the higher grade. However it is not commonplace for schools to do this and therefore it is important to check with your school whether this option is available. The school is within their rights not to accept students into the 6th form unless thye have the required grades which includes Maths and English Language or Literature at Grade 4.

I suspect schools and colleges will review each individual's situation including the demands of the curriculum and the student’s overall profile and if the grade result is only one or two marks off a pass at grade 4 they may show some leniency towards allowing a student onto an A level programme although that is not by any means guaranteed. Also, at some point, resits may need to be taken so students are eligible to apply to university or certain higher level/degree apprenticeships.

2. Level 2 Option

It will be worth discussing with your child whether they would prefer to opt for a one year L2 college course in their chosen subject which accepts a grade 3 GCSE Maths/English. Retaking Maths and/or English can then be done with relative ease as the workload is not as pressured as a L3 course. This will mean an extra year’s study but certain subject areas require you to take the L2 course before moving to a L3 in any case. Colleges normally offer both an Autumn and Summer series of exams for Maths and English.

3. Functional Skills

Another option might be to consider studying Functional Skills Maths and English Level 2 over the next few months. If passed, these qualifications equate to a grade 4 at GCSE. Runway Training in Tonbridge are offering free courses to anyone in Year 11 and upwards.

The student would study online and currently there is a possibility of being able to sit the exam at home. However, Runway Training will be able to offer a socially distant environment if this cannot be arranged.

This would show to the college/school the committment and determination of the student to study for a GCSE equivalent and prove competence. This funding is available to all students in South London, Kent and Sussex.

These qualifications are widely accepted in colleges but you would still need to check with the school/college that your child would, if they achieved a pass, be able to follow the Level 3 course/A levels originally chosen.

If your child is looking at going to university or aiming for a higher or degree apprenticeship you need to check that a L2 Functional skills qualification is acceptable. Some degree courses such as the sciences/engineering stipulate a GCSE in Maths and quite often at a grade 6/7. Some organisations insist on Maths and English GCSEs for their apprenticeship schemes at higher/degree level too. However I have also seen many universities accepting the 'equivalent' of a grade 4 GCSE such as Functional Skills Level 2 so it is important to check this out.

4. GCSE English Literature Connundrum

Also, worth noting that whilst GCSE English Literature is acceptable for college courses and A levels, in lieu of English Language GCSE, colleges have noticed that some students struggle with the written aspects of the course work. I would suggest if the English Language grade is likely to be a 3, then the student considers obtaining a Functional Skills Level 2 in English as it will give them, if passed, the grade 4 and may help them cope better with further study. Also universities may not accept GCSE English Literature as the equivalent of English Language but they may accept a Functional Skills Level 2 English I checked with a local university last week who confirmed that they insist on English Language and English Literature on its own is not an acceptable alternative. This is worth checking very carefully.

5. Gather Information

I do recommend finding out as much as you can now so that you can identify, with your child, the options available to choosing best steps towards their future study pathway.

I hope you find this information useful - see below for further resources:

West Kent College: Email them on: The college is planning an opening day on Sturday 20th June,10am-2pm although I would advise checking nearer the time.

Functional Skills Qualifications: contact Runway Training: h

And of course please do contact me if you would like a free chat to talk through options on 07910 273740.

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