Foundation Tier : Almost Condemned To Failure

Posted: August 29, 2010 in Education
Tags: , ,

Foundation tier GCSEs. Luckily, I only got entered for one of them (Welsh as a second language), so I can’t really be personally outraged. But why does it need to be personal anyway? I can be just as angry about a system that’s failed my friends as one that’s failed me.

For those of you who don’t know, a foundation course is one in which the highest grade possible is a C. It’s the default setting for anyone who isn’t quite good enough to put in a really good showing on the higher papers. Bear in mind, in terms of higher education, you have to have at least 5 A* to Cs. That means that anyone on foundation tier has only one grade at which they can pass. It’s also harder to get a C at foundation than higher (apparently).

Why is it the default? Out of any number of sets, a significant majority could be sitting foundation (four or five out of seven, I believe, in our case). That’s a majority of people with a ceiling over their heads. A majority of people who will have to work like beavers to pass, and only be able to pass barely. A majority of people who won’t get the chance to have outstanding results.

There’s little or no flexibility in the system. Once you start on a foundation or higher course at thirteen/fourteen, you’re stuck there for the next two years no matter how your skills come along. That means that results you had at the age of thirteen from year nine will determine what the school believes is your potential, and that becomes your potential. No matter how good you get, for those in foundation, or how bad you do, for those in higher.

And when classroom overcrowding becomes an issue, then it gets even worse. My higher tier maths class had four people sitting on desk ends and everyone crammed into way too small a classroom. Once it gets to that point, you start thinking that there’re people in the foundation classes who could’ve done the higher paper but didn’t get the chance because of space issues.

In some ways, I can see the point of offering a foundation course – for those who really need the extra cramming on the basics it gives, who won’t understand the more advanced topics at all and who may be leaving school after GCSEs. But not for the majority. There’s very few people not capable of the higher paper, if given the chance to do it.

It should be that you do the higher paper unless several teachers really think you’re incapable of it. At most, that would probably work out to two sets. The way I see it, it makes no sense to have too many students sitting the foundation paper – much easier to fail.

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