Q. My son has not achieved the grades in his GCSEs which his school required to keep him on for sixth form. What can we do? James, south London
Unfortunately, these days, grades are all important, and although independent schools will not lose pupils willingly (not least as they prefer to show 100 per cent progression, let alone lose fees), they are getting tougher. Asking for papers to be re-marked is probably not the solution, says former head and Ofsted inspector David White, an education consultant in the Midlands. ‘Last year, English GCSE grades were down across the country thanks to a change in syllabus, but overall individual results rarely tend to be far off expectations.’
He adds: ‘The school may also be considering other factors such as attitude or behaviour, so have a frank discussion with your son’s teachers and ask if any input at home will change the decision’.
Be aware when looking at other schools that similar ones will expect similar GCSE results. You could consider sending him to a tutorial-style college, or, says Dr White, look up foundation programmes at private colleges which were designed to prepare overseas students for British universities. They can augment high school qualifications and replace the need to take A-levels.
More UK students are now enrolling in foundation programmes. They are not cheap – costing on average £10,000 a year, but as long as you pick a good one – and there are some bogus ones around – they can be good value compared to an expensive sixth form, and can prepare pupils for liberal arts, science, business, engineering or specific subjects such as pharmacy at a Level 3 qualification.
Dr White suggests parents look on the Quality Assurance Agency website for colleges with education oversight, and which run foundation programmes. ‘And,’ he says, ‘don’t give up hope. Children mature at different speeds. Perhaps your son needs more time now, but he will get there in the end’.