Gransnet forums


Advice from ex-teachers out there....

(65 Posts)
Luckygirl Mon 20-Jul-15 13:52:34

A friend of mine has been told that her son cannot study German at A level, as there are two few pupils wishing to start it in September. He is in an academy with its own sixth form. German is clearly listed on their website as an A level option.

The school has suggested that he search out a distance learning course, but that his family would have to bear the cost and there would be no financial help or learning support from the school.

There other suggestion is to change schools!

Where do they stand over this? I would have thought that if a pupil was registered at the school then his education was the school's responsibility.

J52 Mon 20-Jul-15 13:59:07

Academies are autonomous. They choose their own rules within the broad outlines of legal Educational requirements.

This has happened to youngsters I know. They voted with their feet and went to 6th form colleges.

It reflects the state of education today, I'm afraid.


soontobe Mon 20-Jul-15 14:09:31

Not an ex teacher. But there is another slight possibility.
That he finds other pupils who also want to study German.

My DD did this [non academy school]. She was told that if she wanted to do a certain subject, she needed to find 9 others to do it as well, to make a class viable.
Which is what she did. The teacher who would take the class was delighted as it gave her work. And the subject is still going now as far as I know [sewing].

mcem Mon 20-Jul-15 14:27:31

Is there no possibility of working with a neighbouring school?
One young family friend travelled to another nearby school for advanced physics.
I realise, however, that there still exists a level of cooperation between schools in Scotland run by local authorities, which has perhaps been lost in a system which encourages competition more.
Would a transfer to a 6th form college allow him to continue with his other subjects or would that be too disruptive?

Penstemmon Mon 20-Jul-15 15:01:42

Often 6th forms do 'share' students to make courses viable but perhaps with 'independent' academies this is happening less often. I bet on the website, in smaller letters, it said that courses were dependent on numbers of students.

However this is not a new problem. When I was going into the 6th form I could not do the combination of A levels I wanted to do and had to do German 'O' level rather than Geography A level.

Geog clashed with the A level RE course I also wanted to do.

It is frustrating. Has he approached other schools who are running A level German to see if there is anyway the two schools could co-operate to help him do the course he wants? Might be worth a go.

suzied Mon 20-Jul-15 18:01:25

Funding for sixth formers has been severely cut, so many schools have been forced to cut A level teaching time and non viable subjects. The school is perfectly at liberty to do this, at least he hasn't started the subject and then it has been cut, as I have known to happen. I would advise against distance learning for a language as they are notoriously difficult A levels and the jump in level from GCSE to A level is huge. Checking on neighbouring schools is an option or maybe local independent schools have 6th form scholarships which may be worth perusing ( of course independent schools run A levels with tiny classes).

annodomini Mon 20-Jul-15 18:20:23

If there's an A-level German evening class available for adults he might be allowed to attend that. However, he might feel a bit awkward.

Alea Mon 20-Jul-15 18:36:01

"Tell me about it" -how I hate that phrase! But I was Head of a large MFL department when the powers that be decided to axe German (my subject along with French ) I suspect because it is notoriously difficult to get an A or starred A unless one is a native speaker. Granted there are exceptions, but the way the exam boards set their grade boundaries is skewed by native speakers who make the top part of the results "top heavy" and so to avoid too many A grades the boundaries are moved higher. As schools are in the business of league tables and numbers of A grades in Sociology/Theatre Studs/Law etc are easier to achieve, there is a bias against languages in timetable g and by senior management. There was a vogue for Spanish with German losing out in popularity (also French, but to a lesser extent) but of course numbers dropped and my school set an impossible minimum class size of 15 students to run an A level language course, then phased German out altogether lower down the school. That was when I decided to retire! If only they realised that when Germany is running all of the EU as Angela Merkel seems to be in the current Greek crisis, our young adults who had a bent for languages will be at a disadvantage vis a vis their European counterparts who generally have 2, 3 or even 4 languages at their fingertips.
Sorry I can't offer more help in addition to the suggestions above, but I can mutter " I told you so" sad

Luckygirl Mon 20-Jul-15 18:37:54

Thank you all for your suggestions.

I guess, as an academy, it can do what the heck it likes; but the real point here is that this is designated as a modern languages college - you know how academies label themselves; then insist that they offer the full range of educational opportunities - so why the label I ask myself?!

It does seem crazy to be designated as a languages college and not offer at A level the languages that have been on offer at GCSE.

Unfortunately, sharing between schools is hampered here by transport problems, as this is a scattered rural population with poor transport links, and the schools are very far apart.

durhamjen Mon 20-Jul-15 18:50:19

A friend's son had a similar problem wanting to study Spanish.
He ended up using an online study course, and going to evening classes.
He got an A* and has just started university.
Not impossible, Lucky.
Is there any reason why the school should say he could go to another school? Schools are normally keen to keep sixth formers.

Gracesgran Mon 20-Jul-15 19:44:05

Can I go slightly off topic? The cuts seem to effect the 16 - 19 age group and I can't work out why. Is there a drop in the numbers in these years currently or does the government have other intentions.

At my daughters college they are cutting the length of the lessons so the teachers will fit more lessons into the contact time they have. Her view was that they want employers to pay for this stage of education through increased apprenticeships but I am not sure if that was just a bad day smile

Luckygirl Mon 20-Jul-15 20:00:47

The school in question is the only one in the area with a sixth form. The only other option is the 6th Form College, which is a long journey away; as well as involving separating from all his friends etc.

I just think it seems bonkers to have a modern foreign languages academy that does not offer a German A level.

I do understand the funding issues - money has been cut to the bone, and the poor teachers are struggling.

I too love languages and did English, French, German and Latin in the sixth form.

GillT57 Mon 20-Jul-15 20:06:53

My DD desperately wanted to study Primary Education with German but the only University in the whole of the UK to offer it was Edinburgh. Luckily her 6th form college does offer German, and at class sizes better than private schools grin she was in a class of 4 with a language class often only of 2. She got a very high mark. But generally, when a school/college says it offers languages, it is French on offer, maybe Spanish too. Very poor show really as we are falling behind other countries on this. DD is going to study Primary Education and just try to keep her German language skills going by herself.

MargaretX Mon 20-Jul-15 20:07:16

Lucky girl has your friend's son got an 'O' level in German? If so he could do well with a distance learning course especially if he has had some practice speaking it. If he wants to go from absolute basics then it would be better he does it in his full time education.
Living in Germany like I do and seeing the advantages young foreigners have who have already learned some German, with apprenticeships and loads of jobs to choose from.
I hope he can find a college. Its true about the young people here and languages. I have 2 12 yr old GCs and they are learning both French and English at the moment, with Spanish or Chinese for later if they want to.

suzied Mon 20-Jul-15 20:08:55

No there are far more students in this age group than before which is probably why they receive far less funding than they did in the past. Consequently there are fewer hours of tuition and much larger classes. The idea of subject specialisms to achieve more funding has also been cut, so whereas a " modern languages" college would in the past have received more funding for this specialism now they don't, so they might as well drop this title. Just shows how education is so,dependent on political whims and changes every year or so. I retired when Michael Gove started to bring in changes which were the same as when I started teaching 30 years before....

Luckygirl Mon 20-Jul-15 20:26:10

This lad has taken GCSE French and German, so has a good grounding - results predicted to be good. I am not sure where to start when it comes to distance learning and how this might fit in with school. And how it might be funded - this family are on a limited income.

janerowena Mon 20-Jul-15 22:55:44

We had the same problem, with music. They borrowed a teacher from elsewhere, as we were furious - then the teacher died. DS tried to teach himself for the rest of the year, but his results were poor. It was such a mess from start to finish, but the only other school in the area doing music was a really expensive private one. Only two other pupils wanted to do it.

Gracesgran Mon 20-Jul-15 23:13:56

So generally these are young people going into "A" level with no provision for pretty standard subjects. How demoralising for them. I know we are lucky with the 6th form provision in our local town (five schools all with 6th forms) but I am shocked at the lack of choice for these students.

It sounds suzied like frozen budgets and a growth in students from what you say. All I can see is that if the economy does eventually pick up teachers will leave in droves.

suzied Tue 21-Jul-15 04:28:37

The budgets haven't been frozen, they have been cut for post 16 students. With increases in costs, pension contributions etc many schools are struggling and having to reduce staffing numbers as this is about the only area they can save money .

thatbags Tue 21-Jul-15 06:29:29

Too few pupils for a particular A-level subject has always been a problem for schools. It's nothing new. Happened to my sister at a grammar school in the seventies and to my daughter at a comprehensive in the nineties.

For this reason I don't think it's about funding cuts so much as funding limits, which will always exist. Schools cannot cover everything. What they cover partly depends on demand. Obviously the subjects with little demand will be the ones to 'suffer' in any particular cohort.

Hope he manages to find another way to study German if that's what he wants to do.

Anya Tue 21-Jul-15 07:03:23

Yes bags it has always happened but this shows how poor the academy system is when a school designated as a Specialist Language College cannot offer an 'A' level in a subject like German.

It is getting harder to find teachers of certain subjects and this will only get worse. The crazy truth is that by not getting more young people taking these subjects at 'A' level and then beyond to degree level the situation I'd being exacerbated.

I don't know the legal situation but I'd be inclined to contact the local newspaper and try shaming this school into providing your GS with the means to study his subject. Being the silly season it may well be they would run a story on this.

Anya Tue 21-Jul-15 07:04:00

Bring back the LEAs!

thatbags Tue 21-Jul-15 08:37:52

My impression from the OP was not that there wasn't a teacher available but that there were too few pupils wanting to do A-level German for the school's funding to cover a teacher's salary. The difference may be subtle but it is real. Hard to know what is actually the case here, but I agree that not having German A-level does look odd for a so-called specialist language school. What other foreign languages do they cover at A-level? Arabic? Chinese (Mandarin)? Spanish? Dutch? Urdu? I'd be interested to know.

I presume the specialism is in foreign languages rather than English.

thatbags Tue 21-Jul-15 08:39:08

I have no axe to grind about English academies, btw, and none about LEAs either. I happened to live in an area with an excellent LEA when my older kids were at school.

absent Tue 21-Jul-15 10:17:31

I agree with thatbags that this is not a new problem, although the problem that I encountered was slightly different. I was clobbered back in the 1960s when the teacher whose second language was Spanish but whose primary language was French moved to another school. Her replacement French teacher had combined her French language degree with Italian. I joined an adult education class for Spanish, which I'm pretty sure my parents paid for, and although the method of teaching and the pace was somewhat different, I managed okay. I did quite a lot of work on my own too and I guess I was helped a lot by having a father who was a fantastic linguist and spoke fluent Spanish. However, I lived in London at a time when such classes were widely available and relatively inexpensive. I am not sure that a 17-year-old could do that so easily or inexpensively now, even with the same level of parental input.