To think that sometimes, children are labelled by school as low ability as young as 6....

(51 Posts)
lottieandmia Fri 15-Mar-13 14:31:37

I am not saying in every school and of course I am not saying every teacher. But I do think it's wrong for teachers to make a mental note that a child is low ability at such a young age. I have seen it happen in a school I worked in when I was helping children with their reading. A teacher whispered to me 'oh dear, you've got the thick table'. I think it is awful that children are written off so young and also that they are given the message that your self worth boils down entirely to how academically bright you are.

I can understand that in schools where there are classes of 30 the teacher may need to stream them to remind them of where the children are at but this tends to lead to a fixed idea imo. My friend has been told her dd is low ability and she's only in year 2. The reason was that she is on a lower ORT level than the other kids, apparently.

My dd, when in reception could not read ORT and was the last in her class to learn to read but she was not labelled in such a way and now in year 4 is working at NC level 4 so she's doing fine now.

Labelling negatively is surely a self-fulfilling prophecy isn't it?

MNetBlackpoolLE Fri 15-Mar-13 14:37:25

Yanbu based on my experience.
I was told one of my dc was not academic when they were in year 1, they have gone up FIVE sub levels this year, its suddenly clicked age ten.

My dad was bottom of school until year 9 and finished top of school, again it just clicked.

I think the problem with the education system is when a Childs way of learning doesn't fit that box.

ReallyTired Fri 15-Mar-13 14:37:41

Some times children are labelled as "low ablity" in nursery at the age of 3! (Ie. the August born child who has just turned 3 and is barely out of nappies)

I agree it is depressing and takes all the fun out of learning. Its not good for children on the top table either who can become arrogrant little sods. Telling a child that they are "clever" does not encourage them to work. It can be a real shock for a child to find something difficult if they are used to finding learning easy.

I am sure that with computer technology a less blatent method of differentiating work could be made. Ablity groups is thought to be one reason that summer borns do worse than winter borns. It is a self fulfilling prophecy.

MNetBlackpoolLE Fri 15-Mar-13 14:38:32

Sorry should say I was told they were not and would never be.

SashaSashays Fri 15-Mar-13 14:39:57

I don't think it is self-fulfilling or really that bigger deal as long as there is regular testing and the opportunity to improve.

My DS2 was really slow at school, I thought he would never read, he was put in a bottom set in year 1, and year 2. He pretty much achieved nothing on his SATS.

When he went up to junior school he was tested again and put in the middle sets.When he went up to senior school, he was tested again and put in top sets for somethings. By year 9 he was in top set for every subject and considered in top few children of most classes.

He achieved only A* & As at GCSE and is currently doing A levels, excelling in classes and hoping to study medicine. He spent, the first 11 years being distinctly average, I didn't make a fuss of it, some of us are nothing too special but turns out he was just a slow starter.

DS4 is currently doing something similar, he may improve, he may not.

What I think makes the difference is how parents react to such news.

HoldMeCloserTonyDanza Fri 15-Mar-13 14:40:19

The thick table?! angry

That's appalling. Horrendously unprofessional.

ReallyTired Fri 15-Mar-13 14:50:55
lottieandmia Fri 15-Mar-13 14:52:45

I was shocked, HoldMe. I saw a lot of things that I was shocked about in that school - racism in the staff room and teachers saying they couldn't be bothered to teach that afternoon so they were going to give the children colouring in!

Sasha - exactly. I agree but if your teacher has decided you're a bit 'thick' then I think that would affect a child's self esteem.

Oh yes, the August birthday thing. My friend's dd is an end of August birthday. At 3, 6 months makes all the difference to a child's development.

But anyway, even if you're not academic you are as valuable as everyone else. But I don't think schools promote this way of thinking.

pigletmania Fri 15-Mar-13 16:34:52

Yanbu at all. I was that 'thick' child at school, I hav a 2:1 degree in sycholgy and a good Msc degree. You cannot write off a young Chidren like that they have not yet reached their full potential

pigletmania Fri 15-Mar-13 16:37:38

Wow sasha that is fantastic teir is hope for my intelligent but Autistic dd 6 who as dev delays impeding her learning. She now goes to specialist autistic school and is really accellin, catching up with her peers

Inertia Fri 15-Mar-13 16:43:06

Labelling children as 'thick' is never acceptable, nor is writing them off. But the fact is that children's abilities are assessed from the start of their time in school, and schools and individual teachers are judged on the basis of how much progress the children have made.

If a child is not making expected progress then the school is expected to do something about that. Not saying I agree that children should be judged on the basis of what boxes can be ticked for them, but it's the way schools are forced to work.

mrsjay Fri 15-Mar-13 16:47:57

Yanbu My dd has a slight learning disability and I was told she was a nice girl and very social she would do 'fine' in life,hmm she was 6 years old her primary didnt really do much with her some extra turtoring but they didnt like to push her
, her high school has been brilliant and she passed all her prelims ( scottish mocks) with 1s and 2s and is doing her standard grades in may she has to be scribed but it is all her own work, so I am glad she wasn't pigeon holed in secondary

SashaSashays Fri 15-Mar-13 17:07:59

Having re-read your OP. I can sat yanbu to think that sometimes, children are labelled by school as low ability as young as 6.

But I would still maintain this means very little.

Obviously labelling children as thick isn't acceptable, but I'm yet to hear of school actually labelling a group of children as that in the past few decades.

I don't think its a negative thing to be assessed, I don't think its awful to be in the bottom group, it often means children can get the support they need. I'm a massive believer in setting for nearly every subject.

We can't all be the best and differentiating between the needs of different children is important and as far as I'm concerned the fairest way to do things.

MrsMushroom Fri 15-Mar-13 18:28:02

My DD was also not reading in reception and in year four at a high level 4. Same, same. Now DD2 is in reception she is also not reading yet...I'm not worried.

pointythings Fri 15-Mar-13 18:42:48

I think labelling is hugely damaging, at both ends of the spectrum. Children really develop at very different rates - a lot of the children who could not read in YrR were flying by the end of Yr2.

It's also important not to label children as 'clever' - you want to praise effort, so that you're motivating them to keep working hard, otherwise they may become complacent and stop trying.

MrsSchadenfreude Fri 15-Mar-13 18:44:34

My friend's daughter was labelled "not academic" at her junior school and in first two years at secondary, her parents were told that she would not achieve much, and they should look for a "low level career" for her, such as working in a nursery or hairdressing. hmm She moved school in her third year at secondary and really took off.

She is now reading Maths at a RG University, with a string of GCSE at A * and As at A level...

YellowAndGreenAndRedAndBlue Fri 15-Mar-13 18:50:02

Unfortunately labelling still happens a lot and it is damaging. There are many excellent teachers, but there are a fair number of poor ones out there too, people who always locate the problem within the chld rather than reflect on their own teaching for example.

Iaintdunnuffink Fri 15-Mar-13 18:55:10

One of mine is summer born and was always on the lower end of achievement in primary, he also required extra help and was put on various schemes. I have no problem with children who are working at a similar level to be put together and given appropriate work. A teacher to refer to them as thick in a professional setting is horrible. Personally, I don't think it's right to even define them as bright, not bright, academic or not at that age. That son is now in the top sets at secondary school and the tests he did when starting showed him as having exceptional potential!

exoticfruits Fri 15-Mar-13 19:02:45

As a teacher who failed the 11+ (and is absolutely against testing children that young) there is no way that I would do it. I know perfectly well that education is not a race, and if it was, slow and steady are often the winners.
It won't happen in the majority of cases, but unfortunately it happens- but calling them 'thick' is appalling, not to mention unprofessional.

i was told i wasn't acedemic at infant school, and it really fucked me up, as it was said in front of me, and i thought well it must be true
then i never really tried, as i just thought i couldnt do things

ILoveToLaugh Fri 15-Mar-13 19:20:23

Attended parents evening last week and was told that DS3 (year 2) "will never be a high achiever"! Have been incandescent with rage ever since!

exoticfruits Fri 15-Mar-13 19:36:40

Don't let them get away with it! Have they never read the life stories of famous people-Churchill and Einstein spring to mind! I would go back and talk to the Head.

lottieandmia Fri 15-Mar-13 19:48:21

I do think it's a good thing that the children who need more help are identified BUT where I live we have a few apparently very good state primary schools and in their Ofsted reports, the main thing that they are criticised for is not helping the less able children (or children who appear to be less able) enough.

This reinforces my view that it's not so much streaming a child that bothers me, but a teacher deciding a child is worth less because they think they are not bright. This makes me angry because anyone can teach a super bright child. A good teacher would be able to bring out the best in a less able child or a 'late developer'.

lottieandmia Fri 15-Mar-13 19:50:22

'i was told i wasn't acedemic at infant school, and it really fucked me up, as it was said in front of me, and i thought well it must be true
then i never really tried, as i just thought i couldnt do things'

This is exactly my point. If you tell a child they are x y or z then they will often believe you. What happened to whiteandyellow still happens now sad

jamdonut Fri 15-Mar-13 19:52:43

I've never 'got' this August -born thing.

My DS1 is a 28 August child. He never ever had any problem and left school with his A levels achieved.

My DS2 is a 22 June baby, and is way ahead of his peers in year 8, and always has been.

DD is 2 January baby, and has always been ahead of her peers, and is expected great things in her GCSE's this year.

I'm a TA and I just haven't ever seen this supposed "summer-born" problem. There is a child in the class I am in currently who is a late August birthday, and is a very able child.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Fri 15-Mar-13 19:56:51's good that your DC have thrived with no issues but many summer borns do not. They are a year behind socially and emotionally and developmentally. So it's not "not a problem" just because YOUR children don't suffer.

SunflowersSmile Fri 15-Mar-13 19:57:50

A teacher called me a plodder at school while commenting to another child you could be a high flier but a plodder like Sunflowers will do better than you and she shouldn't.
Talk about damned with faint praise!

Back to the subject- I'm a late summer born and spent my first years at school in a dream. I caught up in most things but my confidence was low for many years and I was an anxious child at school. I needed and did not get support. I hoped these days children did.

ReallyTired Fri 15-Mar-13 19:58:46

jamdonut What you are saying is just an antedote. Stastically August borns do worse across the country. Age has more of an effect in infant school than futher up the school.

lottieandmia Fri 15-Mar-13 19:59:36

jamdonut - the point is that August born children will be at a disadvantage in reception, being just 4 when some are nearly 5 and will probably later catch up, but the teachers are busy putting them on the bottom table early on in their school career, when they would probably do fine later. But the damage is done early and they see themselves as less able. Not in every case, but in some.

As I said, in the early years 10-12 months makes a massive difference to a child in terms of their development. A 4 and a 5 year old may be quite different in a way you wouldn't see between a 14 and a 15 year old.

zwischenzug Fri 15-Mar-13 20:10:47

I was summer born and although I was always predicted to get top grades, I really didn't do as well as I should. I often felt like I understood stuff a lot better a year after doing it in school - so being in the year below would have made a lot of difference.

Of course some summer kids do better than some autumn kids, but on average summer kids do worse. One anecdote doesn't disprove the statistics.

jamdonut Fri 15-Mar-13 20:19:40

I'm sorry,but I don't actually agree that they are at a disadvantage. You just said yourself that there are differences in terms of their development. It can just as easily be a September born child that is struggling and less able. Too many people say, "Ah well, they're a summer child" as if that explains it all!! So how do you explain,then, that there are children born before Summer who struggle?

That's why children have targets to achieve. We work hard (at our school anyway) to make sure that children ARE moving. Some children take a lot longer to do that.Some zip along and get it straight away,others need several re-visits. I don't see how it is possible for children not to realise for themselves that they are working at different rates,because they need to do work that is suitable to the level they are working at. It is not possible to do that ,unless you have a class of Low ability children, a Middle Ability class and High Ability class, so that everyone does the same work in those classes? But even then, you would get sub-sets in those classes, because any ability has different levels !

jamdonut Fri 15-Mar-13 20:20:44

And yes I know the statistics say that, but y'know...statistics can be made to say anything...

FreyaSnow Fri 15-Mar-13 20:25:32

Target setting is definitely a major part of the problem. Children move between key stages and are expected to reach targets based on how they did in the stage before. The schools are monitored to make sure children are reaching the targets. You get a low level early on and expectations of you will then be low. The children with high levels earlier on will be pushed because schools have to make sure that those children carry on reaching high targets.

The whole system is unethical.

jamdonut Fri 15-Mar-13 20:26:51

And, to be fair, where do you draw the line? Even if the school admissions year was changed, there will always be someone who is youngest and oldest in the year. Say it was changed to January 1st...what happens to the child born on 1st December? They'll be "Winter -born" then. So presumably the statistics will change for that.

Satine5 Fri 15-Mar-13 20:26:51

I think uk educational system is highly flawed. Kids are sent to school far too young for too many hours, tested at a young age too! I started school when I was 7, my heart breakes when I think I will have to put dd in school at 5!

FreyaSnow Fri 15-Mar-13 20:29:52

You don't have to draw any kind of line. There are numerous other ways of changing the situation. Age standardized testing for example.

jamdonut Fri 15-Mar-13 20:32:30

Freya,....expectations are not allowed to be low!!! Ofsted sees to that! Otherwise you end up in Special Measures, as I know all too well.

Satine... I totally agree that in the UK we put too much pressure on to young children. Why that is I really don't know, but some parents fret if their child is not reading Harry Potter or Tolkien by the age of 5.hmm

Badvoc Fri 15-Mar-13 20:34:28

My sons year 3 teacher (NQT) told me that i needed to accept the lowest sets "were where my son belonged"
He was 7 and severly dyslexic.
He is now 9 and in year 5.
He is now level 3/4 across the board and doing very well.
Sometimes the teachers themselves are just so crap, it's easier to blame the kids.

thegreylady Fri 15-Mar-13 20:39:37

I was told I was a 'prodigy' when I was 5 because I made up long stories and read fluently when I started school.I once drew a diagram of the human digestive system on the blackboard with misspelt labels-my favourite activity then was to sit in my gran's spare room copying the pics from The Universal Home Doctor!
I was never higher than the top quarter of my year and not that high at grammar school.
I got decent O Levels ,rotten A levels and a Teaching Certificate followed by a degree which I did part time.Nothing prodigious there!

zwischenzug Fri 15-Mar-13 20:44:56

I'm sorry,but I don't actually agree that they are at a disadvantage.

So for example take two children, one born September 1st, and one born August 31st the following year. 364 days apart, but they will be in the same school year.

Which do you think will walk first?
Which do you think will say its first word first?
Which will develop it's motor functions better first?

Are you really trying to suggest there is some magical cut off age where all a childs development suddenly conforms to the same as all the other children in the same school year? What age is it where 364 days makes no discernable difference to a childs development and ability to learn and understand?

So how do you explain,then, that there are children born before Summer who struggle?

Because clearly those children are significantly below average for their age. But the same below average child will have a much harder time at school if they are 364 days less developed than the oldest in their school year, than if they were 364 days more developed than the youngest in their year.

FreyaSnow Fri 15-Mar-13 20:45:22

That is not my experience and I have children who have between them been at five different schools. DS is in an outstanding school. He has low GCSE target grades for English on every monitoring report, because he got a level 3 at the end of KS2. He has A* on all his controlled assessments, but the school cannot change the target grades because they have to use the KS2 data. My DD is in a different secondary school and they have to do the same. There are many children who are told they are doing well because they achieve their target grades when the target grades are a nonsense based on something they happened to do at 11. There are children pushed to achieve GCSE levels they are not capable of based on having happened to do well at 11.

The government judges schools on how much progress pupils make based on their key stage levels. That is not an opinion. It is in Ofsted reports. As such, they have to push certain children harder than others.

The levels are just a nonsense. DD finished primary school with a 4B in Science. As soon as she started secondary she was given another KS2 test. She got a 5A. We did no Science over the holidays. A couple of months later she has a 6B average in her KS3 tests. Yet she is in set 3 for the whole of year seven based on her KS2 level from primary school. Her primary school teacher considered her low ability, so low her targets will remain for the next five years.

lottieandmia Fri 15-Mar-13 23:32:57

Part of the problem is that 4 is too young to begin school imo. Our children cope with it because they have to but I don't believe it is the best thing for them.

zirca Sat 16-Mar-13 07:28:53

Schools do what is 'accepted practice', and a lot of that comes from what Ofsted demands. Ofsted demands evidence of differentiation by task - so you get ability groups, where the lower ability groups are given an easier task, and the higher ability groups a harder one. In theory, that means that everyone is challenged at their current level of achievement, so everyone makes progress. In a good school though, ability groups are very fluid, especially in the younger years. Children move between them regularly, depending on their current ability in that subject, and everyone feels they are achieving and doing well.

CorrieDale Sat 16-Mar-13 07:57:36

Yep. I'm with the OP on this. I can see DD (who is inclined to be lazy and afraid of failure) losing ground before my eyes. She's July born and in y1 with a teacher who has one measure of achievement - handwriting. Dd is on the middle table and coasting. We had the same with ds who was on the bottom table despite being (as other teachers comment) a brain box. We write off year 1 because the other teachers are great but there's no denying that a year of low expectations damages their self-esteem and takes a lot of work to mend.

FirstVix Sat 16-Mar-13 11:22:32

Actually Freya, your school is talking nonsense! You are not allowed to downgrade target levels, but can (and should!!) upgrade where appropriate - we often do at our secondary school. Similarly, having no movement for an entire year based on one set of results is poor - especially in lessons like maths and science. Students should be continuously monitored to make sure they're being appropriately challenged. You can appropriately differentiate in mixed classes but it's less likely to happen in a setted scenario.

OP, I agree, children are judged far too young and I constantly fight students' low self-belief. They're scared to try for fear of failure, lack of trying leads to failure reinforcing their sense of inability etc. It's a hard, long battle at times. It's not just the judging though - teachers need to know what to teach students and how - it's the children constantly having comparisons with more-able others too, from all the testing and publicising of these results.

Fairenuff Sat 16-Mar-13 11:42:12

I don't understand how any child can remain 'stuck' in the group that they're in. They are assessed constantly. A 6 year old might be in the 'top' group for numeracy one day, but work with a lower ability group the next, depending on what they were learning. Partitioning numbers is very different to telling time, for example.

In our school, the children move groups all the time, depending on their level of understanding. It's not a judgement on their ability it's about pitching the work at the right level so that they learn. It's all for the benefit of the child. Any child who finds the work too easy or too difficult will switch off.

As long as the child makes progress, however small, they are learning. Some children with SEN need extra support but none of them can be rushed. They learn at their own rate which means that children can start off on a low average level and end up achieving high average results at the end of their 11 - 13 years in education.

Likewise, children can start school with the advantage of being a year older but over the years, the age gap will not have as much significance and any child can achieve well with the right support from home and school.

jamdonut Sun 17-Mar-13 14:31:37

Fairenuff put that so much better than I did.

YellowandGreenandRedandBlue Sun 17-Mar-13 14:39:56

Fairenuff - not all schools assess constantly, consistently or well.

Not all schools do move kids around a lot.

Too often kids do get bunged on a table and stay there the whole year.

jamdonut Sun 17-Mar-13 14:50:51

zwischenzug. It is anybody's guess who will do those things first. Children develop at different rates. It is not impossible for the 31st Aug child to reach milestones before the 1st September child.

Looking at my own children, (20,16,13), DS1 (28 Aug) DD (2 Jan) both walked and talked at 10m,but missed certain milestones (eg commando crawl)
DS2 (22 June) did every milestone absolutely text book, talked about 12m but didn't walk till 14 months old.He was also very slow to be dry all day.I thought he would start Foundation still in nappies.
He is far and away the cleverest of my three. (The other 2 are both high achieving too.)

I just don't see how there can be any other way of teaching a class. Someone will always be more advanced than someone else. And children do know and recognise this. The trick is to keep them motivated.

As a parent, try not to show your anxiety or keep comparing them to others.

Fairenuff Sun 17-Mar-13 15:07:33

Yellow is this your personal experience from working in several different settings? Or is it something you have observed happening in one class.

I agree that not all teachers assess and move children around into different groups, but the vast majority do. There is no other way to really meet their individual needs.

In my current class of 6/7 year olds there is one child still working at pre-curriculum levels and another working at a 3c in literacy and 3a in numeracy. The difference in age is just a few months but in emotional and intellectual maturity, it's more like 2 years.

Teachers have to cater for all ranges of ability and, of course, these vary enormously from child to child, subject to subject. Fluidity in the classroom is the only way to cope, imo.

x2boys Sun 17-Mar-13 15:08:19

I was labelled as one of the thick ones ok i did nt do brilliantly academically but i manged to pass all my nursing exams and qualify as a mental health nurse have beeen qualified 17 yrs this yr my six yr old i have also been told whilst he works very hard at his own level this is below average with the rest of his class i worry not he will be fine a friend of mine could nt read till she was 8 left school with no gcse passes at grade c or aove [although she was in the first academic year ever to take gcse,s] she qualified as a nurse with me and is a ward manager .

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