Can you decide which GCSE tier your child takes?

Pupil and parent meeting with teacherThis issue comes up again and again. You are told that your son or daughter is being entered for a particular tier – usually foundation – but you disagree with the decision. You want your child to get more than a C grade.

Do you have the power to change the decision?

Firstly, the decision on tiers should be taken by you and the teacher, in consultation. The qualifications and curriculum agency (now taken over by the Teaching Agency) says, “You and your teachers will decide which tier you should enter for some of your GCSE subjects.”  quoted from  ‘GCSEs – the official student guide to the system’.

However, most teachers will say that they are using their professional judgement in determining tiers; it’s their job. And of course this is true, and normally you would go along with the teacher’s judgement. However, there may be situations where the teacher doesn’t know best. If your child has been entered for the foundation tier based on class work, but  is beginning to do well and is motivated to succeed, there may be a case to enter for the higher tier. If so, you must point this out to the teacher. A pupil may have changed their attitude to a subject without this being obvious to the teacher. You may have hired a private tutor to fill in gaps in knowledge and inspire your child to work harder and smarter.

It is possible for a C grade student to improve to a B or even an A – I know this from my  own experience as a tutor. But as far as the school is concerned, your child may be labelled from the beginning as a foundation level student.

There are risks though. There can be quite a difference between foundation and higher. This is especially true in Maths where there are many extra topics to learn. Do you have the time to cover these new topics in sufficient depth? Have you looked at past or specimen papers to see what you’re letting your child in for? Are they up for the challenge?

The most important thing is to have a good relationship with the influential members of staff – both  teachers and heads of subject – not forgetting the examinations officer who has all the technical knowledge about exams entry. If you feel you have a good case and your teacher will not change their mind, get in touch with the head of subject. Don’t give up. Make sure you put forward a compelling case for a change.

Is this an issue for you, or someone you know? Do let me know.


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