Alex Hems: Head's Blog February 24, 2017
Subject Options Parents’ Meetings: Qualifications and Examination Choices at St George’s
It has been so good to hear the purposeful buzz of conversation at the recent Upper 5 and Lower 5 Parents’ Meetings, which the girls attend as well. The discussions have focused on specific targets for revision and fine-tuning of exam technique. The fact that the girls are present for these conversations means that they hear at first hand the advice and encouragement of their teachers. There is a shared, three-way understanding of any problems that they may be encountering and of what needs to happen next.
Just before half term we held our Options Evening at which girls in Lower 4, Upper 4 and Upper 5 and their parents came to hear about the transition into Upper School and the choices available at GCSE, Higher and Advanced Higher. We were joined by a number of families who are considering taking up places at St George’s in these year groups. Choice can often feel very daunting and I know that girls frequently worry about closing down future options when they have to drop some subjects.
A broad range of subjects at GCSE
To help them as they make their choices all girls in the Upper 4 year group are currently having individual meetings with senior members of staff who are able to listen and advise. The range of GCSE courses available to girls here, complemented by some offered at National 5 and our core programme, means that they will all enter the Lower 6 with a very broad selection of subjects under their belts, usually 9, in some cases 10. Everyone is expected to take Mathematics and English, at least one language from a choice of French, Spanish, German, Mandarin and Latin and at least one social science. Every girl must take one science subject and indeed about a third of the year will take all three, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. With a wide range of practical and creative subjects also available, there is no danger of anyone making too narrow a choice at this stage. Because GCSEs are two year courses which demand a grasp of sophisticated skills and substantial subject content we find that girls develop excellent study skills and a work ethic that serves them extremely well when they embark on Higher level study. GCSEs are offered by three exam boards, and our Heads of Department have the opportunity to choose the courses and specifications that they feel will best meet the needs of our girls, both by challenging them intellectually and in the preparation that they offer for the next two years. The A* to E grading system, now gradually being replaced by grades 9-1, is discriminating and demanding; the top grades are truly rewards for hard work and a token of a significant level of achievement.
Meeting the individual needs of each girl at Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers
The size of our Sixth Form means that we are able to offer a really broad range of courses, while the opportunity to combine Higher and Advanced Higher qualifications in the Upper 6 year and the variety of subjects available at both levels, brings great flexibility. Girls here are able to design for themselves a bespoke portfolio of courses that suits their needs and aspirations and will be recognised and highly valued by universities in the UK and abroad.
Whether at GCSE, Higher or Advanced Higher it is by achieving the best possible grades in stretching courses that they will open up the routes to future success. Our advice to everyone making choices at the moment is to choose the subjects that they love, as it is their commitment to a particular course that will help them over the bumps that they will inevitably encounter along the way.
Mrs Alex Hems
Head of St George's