Choosing

I went in to the school yesterday (Thursday) for 14yr old’s meeting with his Guidance teacher to choose Highers.  The school’s letter of a couple of weeks back outlined the process in very general terms and said:-  “Pupils  take 5 subjects of their choice….  Maths and English are compulsory”.  With my own rudimentary grasp of English and Maths, I made that 7 subjects and assumed that they would drop some at the end of S4.  The Course Choice booklet came home on Friday, progress report on Monday with the Course Choice form showing the subject columns and options.  Suddenly it was clear that in fact they choose 3 subjects, not 5, with Maths and English compulsory, and so now the pressure was on to decide what to do.  Easy choice changes to difficult decision and with the interview yesterday there were 3 days to make that decision. 

For the past few months GP1 has been fairly set on the idea that he wants to do Engineering when he leaves; a very worthy ambition but I won’t be in the least surprised if that changes in the next few weeks/months/years.  There is still a whole lot of life in front of you at 14.  However, a choice it is and we’ve been looking into what subjects he would need to get into University.  Maths and Physics top the list but unfortunately he’s not doing Physics at Standard Grade; Engineering wasn’t even on the radar two years ago.  This may be where the benefit of S3 Standard Grades comes into play as we finally agreed that he would do Chemistry Higher and Physics Int 2, with Physics Higher in Year 6.  There was one other choice to make and that was between Music and PE.  This turned out to be the real stumbling block as he didn’t know which to choose; I had thought we would be able to discuss the options and then go away and think about it for a few days and perhaps talk to the two departments. However, the Guidance teacher was keen for a decision to be made there and then and although he reluctantly offered to hold off for a day or so, I could see that GP1 felt under pressure to make the choice.  So it’s Music.  Which is fine by us.  Let’s hope that Mr Frost sees it the same way.  And that GP1 doesn’t decide next year that he wants to be an archaeologist.  Or a Geographer.  Or a linguist…

I came away feeling that we’d been bulldozed into making decisions although it’s more than likely that we’d have come to the same result even if there had been longer to think about it.  But is three days, with only partial information available, really satisfactory when you’re helping your child to make choices that could fundamentally his career?  I’d be happier if I felt confident that the school was slightly more than half a step ahead of the parents.  I’m sure all these things will be much easier for future S3 cohorts, but that doesn’t help us now.

Oh well, I don’t have too much moral high ground here as the literature review I’m working on should be in today and it’s nowhere near finished.  Just like homework really. But first, another of my twice weekly trips to the vet with Tripod the cat.  Those leaflets about pet insurance no longer seem like junk mail.

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4 thoughts on “Choosing

  1. I know parents of pupils who are about to enter Ross High after the summer and this seems to be a real worry for most of them. I know one of them already has a child in S3 as you do and has felt the pressure. They have gone from this is a great idea to wishing they were the same as other pupils in the area having 2 years for standard grades. I’m not sure my child will have the maturity to make these decisions that will affect the rest of their lifes being that they are one of the youngest in their P7 class at the moment

  2. I would hate to put people off Ross High with what I’ve been posting as I do think they seem to have a good group of very professional teachers. However, when my eldest was in P7, we were told nothing about the changes until very late in the day and I really think it’s the lack of information and opportunity for discussion that is the biggest problem. I suspect that the problem is more one of management than teaching and it’s very unfortunate that the first year of this initiative has coincided with teh Head Teacher’s ill health and subsequent replacement. It must be particularly difficult because there are 2 year groups going through SGs and Higher choices this year and I feel that the school has been playing catch up all the time, only realising at the last minute that they can’t necessarily put out identical information to S3 and S4.

    There is going to be a Pathways evening for S1 to help them choose their subjects – perhaps they should have had a similar one for choosing Highers so that we could have had an opportunity to quiz the teachers about what is really involved in each course (The Course Choice booklet was very little help and I think the PE sheet was inaccurate). I’m sure a lot of things will be much better sorted for future Year groups and I have far fewer concerns for my son presently in S1. This is partly because we will know the system by then – at the moment, we are Standard Grade and Higher virgins! And it may well be that more & more schools will go down this route until it is the norm. 2 years for highers as a pay off for the present pain is certainbly attractive.

    Alan Coady’s recent post about questions seems to me to be very pertinent. You can’t ask questions until you know there is an issue or a problem. That is really my rationale for writing these posts – I hope I can raise the awareness of these issues in the public domain for some discussion. I am aware that I seem to be complaining the whole time but we do support the school and there are a lot of good things going on. I’d just like to help keep them on their toes – teachers and schools can get very complacent with the “We know best” attitude.

  3. You must have been relieved to discover that GP1 would be doing 5 and not 7 Highers. I know only one person who sat 7 Highers in one go. I shall spare his modesty by anonymity, but am proud to say that he is an instrumental colleague in East Lothian.

    p.s. it wisnae me

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