to think that level 6 maths at primary is pointless

(85 Posts)
ReallyTired Thu 30-Jan-14 11:40:04

Having children pass a level 6 primary paper puts unrealistic pressure and expectations on secondary school children later on.

Our primary school headteacher is convinced that level 6 at keystage 2 is the equivalent of GCSE grade B. I believe that if a talented eleven year old with a level 6 in maths sat a GCSE higher level paper they would fail. Maybe a year 6 child with level 6 could pass foundation GCSE maths, but they have not covered the majority of the secondary school curriculum. I don't think that a primary level 6 is even the equivalent of a secondary level 6.

Many level 6 children have been moved down to the second set at ds's secondary because they have huge holes in their subject knowledge. I feel that primary school school should extend their gifted mathematicans sideways rather than pushing them through exams. (Ie. maths investigations, questions that require thought rather than mathematical knowledge ie. nrich.maths.org/frontpage) Improving mathematical thinking gives a good foundation for maths in later years.

BreconBeBuggered Thu 30-Jan-14 11:55:59

I suppose it depends whether they have natural ability or they've been coached through an exam. Don't have much time for SATs myself, but it's all DS2 knows. He can't wait to sit the level 6 paper, and loves playing around with GCSE maths stuff online, but he's very much a self-starter in that department.
I know the local secondary school are fairly cynical about the level 6 though, and I imagine he'll be in the same set as the level 5 children, which is fair enough. It's all part of this huge drive to exceed expected levels of achievement, isn't it? Primaries feel coerced into stretching their most able children by whatever quantifiable means available, and the secondaries sigh and have to deal with the results.

Acinonyx Thu 30-Jan-14 11:57:10

Aren't all the levels about to be scrapped anyway?

lljkk Thu 30-Jan-14 12:01:06

mmmm, you've not convinced me it's a waste of time. But then, DD only did L6 for her own satisfaction, and she hasn't been moved down in y6. Not gifted either, not really, but very hard working & adequately clever.

If you're saying that single snapshot tests are rather poor indicators of overall ability, then I 100% agree. It's not how I was assessed at any level of education and I find it shockingly obviously terrible. Yet I often get told by British people that I'm completely wrong to take that view. Presumably because the problem applies equally to traditional structure 11+/O-level/GCSEs/A-levels/Uni exams.

DS is in y9 doing GCSE options and tells me repeatedly that a high L6/low L7 is a C at GCSE. It's what he's heard at school.

When you say many children moved down... how many? And how do you know so much about them?

ReallyTired Thu 30-Jan-14 12:02:16

"Aren't all the levels about to be scrapped anyway?"

Yes, and no. School still have to show progression.

A Level 6 keystage 2 paper is a different type of challenge to a level 6 paper in secondary school. I suspect that many secondary school children with a level 7 would not pass a key stage 2 level 6 paper.

Its non sensical to see a level 6 at primary as an equivalent ot a level 6 at secondary.

mollypup Thu 30-Jan-14 12:04:25

I remember sitting the Level 6 English SATs many moons ago. It was difficult but certainly not comparable to a GCSE paper.

flatmouse Thu 30-Jan-14 12:07:59

I had a look at a KS2 L6 maths paper online yday. I took the simple question that could be asked verbally and asked both my two last night. Neither had a clue (DS Y9 (2nd set), DD Y6) - however DD's thought processes were going in the right direction.

I actually felt it was more "logic" than maths, and was surprised by the L6 questions. (Dragon in cave, doubles in size each day, fills cave at 20 days - how many days til he half-fills cave).

ReallyTired Thu 30-Jan-14 12:11:58

In ds's secondary school there are 6 maths sets. All the children in set 1 have a level 6. I believe this as I know that ds's best friend started off in the second set inspite of getting a level 6 in his keystage 2 SATs. As parents we were told that SATs results are used for the first half term for setting in Maths until the school has had a chance to know as assess the children themselves.

After the first half term test three children were moved down from the top set and three children from the top set moved to the second set.

pointythings Thu 30-Jan-14 12:15:43

I don't think you can quite generalise like that, but I do think the push for L6 is a bit pointless. And I say this as a parent of 2 DDs who went for it/are going for it. I'm letting them do it because they want to and enjoy the challenge.

DD1 got the L6, wasn't moved down at all, sat a higher tier GCSE paper in Yr7 for practice (but under exam conditions) and got a C, so it is not entirely impossible for some children to achieve this. She just has a maths brain (which she by no means gets from me). Her middle school was good at differentiating so she had already covered a lot of the GCSE curriculum in Yr6, but that is unusual. Her secondary doesn't use SATs for setting, they CAT test during induction so that may be why it works for them - they aren't using the snapshot.

I'm a bit shock at your example, flatmouse - that's not really maths, it's a brainteaser question. I suppose it tests lateral thinking and method, but definitely more logic than maths.

tiredoutgran Thu 30-Jan-14 12:16:40

It is all rubbish anyway, the way they teach maths at primary level nowhere near compares to how it is taught at secondary, it is like they have to learn all over again when it really should be only revision and fine honing understanding. I know when I have 'tried' to help with maths homework we do nothing but confuse each other because I know all the tips and tricks and they have strange ways of doing everything that make it all more complicated than it needs to be.

Perhaps they mean equivalent with regards to age/skill rather than actual equivalent in the content/achievement.

pointythings Thu 30-Jan-14 12:19:42

tiredoutgran I don't think you can generalise like that either... Certainly the transition to secondary maths teaching was seamless for DD1. Like anything else in education, I think there is too much variability in what is taught, when and how.

Dromedary Thu 30-Jan-14 12:36:14

At one point I was told that my DC (in primary) was 2 years ahead of her actual age. This made no sense to me at all, as she hadn't covered any of the curriculum for the 2 years above her. If she'd been given something from 1 or 2 classes above her in maths, she wouldn't have known how to do it. So the 2 years ahead obviously meant something different, but I couldn't get my head around it and decided to disregard it as a bit silly but basically indicating that she was doing well. Perhaps that is happening here too.

ReallyTired Thu 30-Jan-14 12:38:39

"I'm a bit shock at your example, flatmouse - that's not really maths, it's a brainteaser question. I suppose it tests lateral thinking and method, but definitely more logic than maths."

I think that having brain teasers for gifted eleven year olds is benefical. It helps develop their thought processes. Development of problem solving skills is good for anyone.

It's going to be even worse for English. The pressure on those kids, not to mention the teachers, is going to be huge. As it stands, lots of the 'Level 5s' we get into Year 7 can't consistently perform at a 5. So by the end of the year they may have made loads of progress, but it won't look like that on paper. So what on earth is it going to be like now? It's really quite hard to get a genuine Level 6 in English, even for older children.

It almost makes me laugh - if Gove is saying that 6 sub levels of progress per key stage is no longer enough, and is simultaneously introducing Level 6 into primary, he's going to run out of levels. A bright kid who gets Level 3 at KS1 is pushed to get Level 6 in their Year 6 SATS, then where, Michael? Level 9 in Year 9? There are only 8 levels and I can count on one hand the number of genuine level 8 students I have encountered in more than a decade. Most kids who achieve a 5 at KS2 are targeted As/A*s at GCSE - is that somehow not high enough?

For years I have gone by the rule of thumb (although of course there are exceptions) that if they can get a 5 in Year 9, they can get a C at GCSE. If they can get a 7 in Year 9, they should be aiming for the top grades at GCSE. Over-reliance on a stressful test they do at age 11 doesn't benefit anyone IMO.

<and breathe>

pointythings Thu 30-Jan-14 12:42:06

Agreed, reallytired - but let's not put them in the tests. My DDs love these kind of things, they see them as huge fun. Testing them is going to take all the joy out of it, and I think the joy of maths is vitally important for young mathematicians.

jeee Thu 30-Jan-14 12:48:17

The most important reason for level 6 SATs papers at junior school is clearly to allow parents to boast, normally by stealth (i.e., "the trouble is, X has so many tests, what with the level 6 papers being in the afternoons....")

Laura0806 Thu 30-Jan-14 12:51:29

ha ha Jeee, v true

MargotLovedTom Thu 30-Jan-14 12:51:37

What is the answer to the dragon question?! I want to say 10 but I'm tired and ill and it seems too obvious.

AbiRoad Thu 30-Jan-14 12:54:33

19 is the answer, isn't it?

jeee Thu 30-Jan-14 12:55:24

19 days - dragon doubles in size every day, so is half the size on day 19 that it is on day 20.

'twas on an 11+ practice paper which is how I know!

CrohnicallyFarting Thu 30-Jan-14 12:58:13

We frequently have this argument- but in terms of levels at foundation stage (reception) and national curriculum levels at year 1. The government wants us to convert FS scores to NC scores so we can see the progress. However, they measure different things. At FS you are looking for things like 'can count and recognise numbers to 10' whereas at NC level 1 they need to know 1 more/1 less, count out numbers of objects, know that adding is putting 2 groups together, etc. And of course there are other areas of maths like telling the time. So a child can be above average in reception because they can rote count to 20, but it doesn't mean they'll be above average in year 1.

Dromedary Thu 30-Jan-14 13:02:26

Love the dragon question - can't wait to try it on my DCs!

ReallyTired Thu 30-Jan-14 13:03:09

I feel the present focuss on exams sucks the lifeblood out schools. Even gifted eleven year olds need time to play and be children.

I wish I could send my daughter private or at least had a choice of state schools.

Songofsixpence Thu 30-Jan-14 13:04:52

My eldest did SATs last year and was really, really pushed to do level 6 maths.

She was given so much coaching by the school it was ridiculous, she was put under so much pressure I threatened to remove her from school for SATs week if it continued.

She was basically taught to pass the test in order to up the school's ratings. It didn't really reflect her actual ability.

When she did CAT tests when she started secondary, her levels were much lower

flatmouse Thu 30-Jan-14 13:09:03

Margot both mine said 10. I had thought DD would get it when she said "well you need to halve it" - but she halved the wrong thing smile The rest of the questions were more 2 or 3 steps problem solving. I certainly had to stop and think a little. Would like to see how DD gets on tackling them, but no point if they use these past papers as tests as would give unrealistic results if she did it twice!

I majorly disagree with L6 testing at KS2, and think that extension work can be done with the more able (more sideways than upwards). I would certainly not be asking if DD could do L6, but she is aware of it. Not sure she would be offered - if she was, i've told her it's up to her (as she's asked me about doing it) - but in no way is it a "failure" if she doesn't get to do the paper, or does it and doesn't achieve the level.

I'd imagine they would need to be a comfortable 5b/5a at this stage to be put forward for L6?

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