Key Stage 3 – KS3 – is key to GCSE and perhaps A-level success

It appears that not a lot is said about KS3,  while we tend to focus on GCSE and A-level when we speak about education achievement at secondary school. The reality is that KS3 is when students at secondary school build the foundation for GCSE and beyond. For many young people, it is sadly too late for them by the time they start GCSEs officially.

Please help – the teachers say my son can’t cope with GCSE

Often parents come to us saying things like: “my son, who has just started KS4, in Y10, has been put in the BTEC group as opposed to the GCSE group – can you help. I do want him to do GCSE as he cannot study A-level with a BTEC and the chances being admitted to a good university are very slim?” Or “my daughter is in the foundation set for GCSE Maths and I worry, as the best grade she can get is a C and, a C grade is hard with the foundation paper”

Redemption is sometimes possible

Yes, both of the above statements of concern that were raised by parents  are genuine. In most cases we have been able to help by working with the students and parent, achieving improved performance and consequently persuading the school to move the child up to a GCSE group, especially from the foundation to the higher set. When it comes to students who have been put in the BTEC group, it is often more difficult to get the school to move them up to a GCSE group but it is not impossible, as it has been done before. It usually depends on how far the child is into the course and also how much they have to catch up if they were to be transferred to the GCSE group.

Does GCSE actually start in Y10?
Officially, the stating year for GCSE is Y10. However, the reality is that in most good schools, students start GCSE a year early than the officially recognised Y10. They usually start in Y9 and in some cases in Y8 – particularly in subjects such as Science and Maths. The last year of KS3 – Y9 – is when teachers usually make up their minds about which set a child will be put in for GCSE in Y10 or if that child will be entered for GCSE at all, or for a vocational course such as BTEC or GNVQ.


Why poor performance at KS3

Too many young people make a very bad start at KS3 because they do not have the skills they should have when leaving primary school at the end of KS2. I attribute the main reason for poor performance in KS3 Maths and KS3 Science to the fact that, sadly, there are not enough specialist Maths and Science teachers at KS2. For Science, it is not quite as bad, as students can usually catch up in the first couple of years of secondary school. For Maths, the damage that has been done in terms of lack of interest or confidence can be long lasting and irreparable.

My advice to parents is to ensure that they pay close attention to their child’s performance from the start of KS3 in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science – particularly from the start of Y8, as often it is too late to do something about it by the time the child is in Y9.
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