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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Unfinished courses bring exam panic
Some teenagers are complaining that with only a few weeks to go before their GCSE exams - when most are busy revising - their teachers still have not finished their courses.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
In some cases the problem is that their course teachers have left and the lessons have been covered - or not - by a series of temporary supply teachers.
Students are posting messages on internet bulletin boards saying it is unfair and something should be done.
"Suicide is becoming a very attractive alternative," writes one girl.
"Fight for your rights," says another.
But ultimately the only redress of sorts that individual pupils have is to complain to the local education authority - exam boards say they cannot review test papers on the basis of inadequate teaching.
'Should be sacked'
On BBC Education's Bitesize revision service message boards, one GCSE student writes: "I know my teacher can't teach either she hasn't even finished the syllabus and the exam is three weeks away she hasn't helped with the non-calculator paper either she should be sacked I only know what I know because of my maths tutor."
Another replies: "I know exactly how ya feel. Our English teacher hasn't finished our syllabus yet!!!!! That's why I'm here trying 2 do it my self on this programme!!!! How do they expect you 2 pass ya exams when they don't even teach you!!!"
The messages have struck a chord with others.
"Both my physics teacher and my chemistry teacher STILL haven't finished teaching the syllabus and it's not long till the GCSE's start! I tried a revision 'test bite' and I was crap!
"I need a C grade or above in science for what I want to be in the future! But I really don't want to re-sit my exams because of these two hopeless teachers!! People have complained but they are still 'teaching' - it's not fair on us!"
Another writer who is in a much happier position adds: "I think u betta get ya parents to in to school cause this is your future your teachers r playin with en its not fair.
"Most of my teachers have finished the syllabus. & r going over the complicated parts that people don't quite understand. GOOD LUCK & FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS."
This is followed by a despairing note from a girl whose information technology teacher left at Christmas "cos he had a nerv. breakdown and whateva" and who has since had "3 dappy supply teachers".
"This really isn't right and sommat should be done, with now 12 dayz to go till my IT exam, suicide is becomin a very attractive alternative and no teenz should feel like we do ..." she writes.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which oversees the curriculum and the assessment system, sympathises but says there is nothing it can do.
A spokesman said complaints would go initially to a school's head teacher. In exceptional circumstances they could approach the exam boards.
This happens every year when major mistakes are made, such as the wrong books being taught in English.
Exam boards say they try to ensure that students are not penalised when that sort of thing happens.
But a school's failure to get through the work for a course is a different matter.
At the AQA board, spokesman George Turnbull said: "It's a case of whether you have got a good teacher or a bad teacher."
Special consideration would usually only be given where, say, a student was suffering from a major illness.
A syllabus typically covers far more than will form the subject of exam questions, and a risky strategy adopted by some teachers is to concentrate in more detail on aspects they think are most likely to come up, rather than try to cover everything in less depth.
But with exams only weeks away teachers would typically by now be getting their students doing practice papers and going over previous work - not continuing to teach new work.
Tell us your experiences.
I can not agree more, I took my GCSE's a few years ago and exactly the same happened to me, not only did our science teacher not finish as syllabus, we lost 20% of the paper because one major section in our exam had not been covered.
I can sympathise, the same thing happened to us at GCSE with some subjects
But, in others, especially at A level we finished the syllabus in March, having rushed
through, and then were forced through
revision, by the exams we were totally
stale and sick to death of the whole
Who cares whether people spell correctly in e-mails or not? The fact that they are using "short-hand" does not mean that they are stupid, unruly, or unnecessarily spiteful towards teachers. Maybe teachers that cannot understand the language used by today's youth should not be doing a job where it is necessary to be able to communicate and interact with the students.
Many correspondents flag up the issue of temporary and supply teachers covering their lessons, and one person writes of sudden departures of staff being "badly handled". Students and their parents are painfully unaware of the severe recruitment crisis affecting schools, which makes sudden departures very difficult to fill at short notice.
I am in 11th grade and have an AP History test to take next week. Our teacher hasn't taught us how to properly write the document based question or the free response essays. Despite the fact the exam is next week, we did not begin a review of nearly two years worth of information that we should have been taught until this week.
I did a modular A-level course, and the degree I am reading is modular-based. The last time I experienced the "too-much-work-in-too-little-time" scenario was when I did my GCSE's (which weren't modular). The only drawback to this is that students as young as 14 may need to take exams.
C Mistry, UK
Can those students say, with their hands on their hearts, that they have allowed the teachers to get on with teaching the subject for the past two years. Unfortunately they often don't realise, until it's too late, that it's not clever to disrupt lessons and waste valuable teaching time. Do they ever wonder why they have so many substitute teachers?
In stark contrast my Russian teachers were brilliant. Our class worked through the syllabus at a steady rate, finishing it in time to re-cover any aspects of the course we wanted to. On top of this we were encouraged to seek them out after class if necessary, and they were prepared to give up their spare time to help us.
Although I can empathise with those who are frustrated, we must forget that there are so many superb professionals who shouldn't have their reputations tarnished because of the short-comings of others. I firmly believe teachers should gain a certain amount of experience before teaching classes for important exams such as GCSE and A-level.
Degree students experience this situation every year, as part of their course. The time between finishing a year long course and taking the exam at my university can be as short as one week. Coursework deadlines are also structured to coincide with this date. So one week of revision really is in some cases one week of available time.
It's not a new problem. When I took English for A level in 1963 we discovered that the master had given us the wrong books
to study for two years. Needless to say we all failed!!
In the worst case we didn't get set any work at all and spent a whole double lesson talking instead, with no supply teacher either. He has been away constantly either for long periods of time or intermittently, and he moans at us when he comes back for not doing work which we were not set.
I think schools and teachers should get their act together and instead of debating whether to go on strike they should think more about our future and have adequate systems in place to prevent such problems from happening.
Ben Coates, England
Pupils are being treated as numbers (again) - and not very significant numbers, at that!
Why doesn't someone stand up for them? Where are the headmasters? The teachers? The LEAs? Are the media ignoring them, or is the profession silent?
Many of the people complaining about their poor teachers
are writing in a ludicrous (or is it supposed to be "cool") manner.
By writing in this way, people give the impression of being slack
and unprepared to buckle down and work.
Unfortunately this is nothing new, my education started when I entered college. The teaching profession has a problem but rather than concentrating their energies on a solution to the "under pay, over work" problem they perceive, they seem content on passing the buck to politicians who know little about their industry.
If the course is not complete, get a syllabus outline and study up on it yourself. Although in some subjects this is not possible (i.e., practical chemistry), in others it is. If people really want to succeed, they can overcome poor teaching and time-management!!
Claire, Southampton, UK
I ploughed my A-levels as a direct result of desperately poor advice at the time (namely, never do Further Maths as part of a set of only three A-levels). All the students should bear in mind that
a) There are lots, and lots, and lots of very underqualified staff out there. Your qualifications might not eventually be what you want, but they're probably a lot more useful than you imagine.
b) You can do what you want with your career. Seriously. Poorer qualifications might affect how soon and for how much money you can do your desired job, but there's always a way in that doesn't involve big fat qualifications.
Take heart, all GCSE and A-level students. I ploughed my A-levels, but at the age of 24 I now earn more than any teacher can *possibly* earn without being a Head of Department. You can - and will - do the same. Poor old Mr ****... still stuck on £22,000... badly paid for a job he can't do!
And for any teachers reading: this is why people are so keen for your profession to be inspected - because everyone who ever went to school knows that there's a heck of a lot of dangerously ruinous teachers out there.
When most school kids use 80% of their energy to be unruly and teaching process is largely degraded to zoo keeping plus some teaching and learning, if at all possible, what do you expect?
There are many factors at play here, and to blame the teachers is unfair and simplistic. Red tape and form-filling is on the increase, in some classes the most a teacher can do is to hope to maintain order (I wonder how many of the critics would be able to control 30 teenagers intent on causing disruption?), understaffing and so on. The situation is unfortunate, but it is not new and it is not surprising.
If the standards of English spelling and grammar are reflected in the above quotes then all English teachers should be sacked. I have never known such appalling spelling and grammar as above, and my GCSE English teacher certainly would have failed me if I had come up with such rubbish. The government needs to tell teachers to start teaching spelling and grammar again if the GSCE exams aren't to be devalued any further.
Rich G, UK
My GCSE exams were 5 years ago and
I can still remember some panic in
many subject areas because the syllabus
had not been covered. In some subjects
it was fair enough you could make up the
ground easily, but others it was blind
panic - technology for one.
Take it from someone who has been through it, it is time for you all to stop moaning and get on with it. I know it may seem harsh, but with only a couple of weeks left it is your only option. If you do all fair badly complain OFFICIALLY - your class notes, class work and coursework will demonstrate what areas you were and weren't taught giving grounds for investigation by examination boards.
When I did my GCSEs all our syllabuses were finished before the Easter holiday - I think it depends on the school and on how attentive the classes are - some only realise weeks before how important the work actually is and blame the teachers for not doing the work properly!!!
Glenn, Liverpool, England
It's a tragedy that the
students are left helpless
in this situation, but one
must look at the root
cause of these problems:
terrible working conditions
for teachers leading to stress
and breakdowns, more
teachers on contract
employment instead of
permanent positions, lack
of funding for schools in
poor areas, etc. It's the
same story in Australia.
Looking at the standard of the emails - if they can't spell, they shouldn't be sitting the tests.
R White, London, UK
It was considered a part of proverbial process that particular areas of the syllabus would be focussed upon to a greater extent, and others skimmed over.
Staff departures were also often poorly handled - the sudden departure of a history teacher within the school I attended at the time resulted in the use of a substitute who barely "taught" at all, simply presented us with "fill in the blanks" worksheets and told us to read the most basic of our textbooks.
D.A. Hoghton-Carter, England
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