Bad situation with dd and secondary transfer (warning: VERY long)

(79 Posts)
transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 05:52:12

Am not even sure that anything can be done about this, so feel free to ignore my pointless ranting.

My dd is 10 and about to start her last year at primary. In our area (not England), there is only a grammar/secondary school system. The grammars in our locality operate a common transfer test based half on numeracy and half on literacy. Dd’s test is in October.

These may not be “grammar” schools exactly as you’d understand them: the range of pupils attending grammar is much wider than in the English system. Instead of only the top small-ish percentage of academic ability, around 70% of pupils go to grammar here. The rest are left into a secondary system with little academic ethos and a bad reputation. Many people, including myself, object to this, but it’s all there is. There are no comprehensive or private alternatives.

All through primary we’ve been told that dd’s literacy is well above average, whilst her Maths is average or slightly below. We therefore felt that dd had a fair chance of being in the 70% grammar intake, as her literacy score in the test would compensate for a lower numeracy performance.

Starting in January this year, we did another thing that EVERYONE (literally) in dd’s school does – we took on a tutor to help her practise for the test. Most of the rest of her class use the same tutor. Again, we don’t agree, but felt steamrollered, in that dd couldn’t afford not to have a tutor if everybody else had one sad. We also thought it would help her confidence with Maths, as the school said that lack of confidence was one factor affecting her performance.

The tutor has now told us that dd has virtually NO chance of making it to grammar. She says that dd lacks a fundamental understanding of how numbers work together, and has huge gaps in her knowledge, including things that she should have mastered in Y3/Y4. She said that coaching her for the transfer test isn’t appropriate as dd can’t follow the work. So she isn’t coming back any more.

She called round with some Y3/Y4 workbooks for dd to go through during the rest of the summer –whilst her classmates will be practising past papers of the transfer test. Although we didn’t discuss this in front of dd, the departure of her tutor and arrival of these workbooks made it obvious. What little confidence she had is in tatters. sad

We can’t say that the tutor has got it wrong, or that the school hasn’t covered the curriculum properly, because this tutor is also teaching everyone else in dd’s class and they don’t have this problem. It’s just dd. The tutor has been successfully coaching children for the transfer test for years, so can predict pretty well.

I asked the tutor if she thought that dd had some SEN involving numeracy. She said she can’t judge that, but assessments are “only offered in failing schools”, which dd’s primary is not.

So I said that – whilst we’re shocked at getting such conflicting messages from the tutor and the school – we aren’t precious about dd not going to grammar. If the point of the transfer test is finding the right school for a child, and a secondary school is the right place for dd, then that’s where she should go. We would opt her out of the test.

But the tutor said it isn’t that simple. She said that whilst it’s normal for a child to be better at one area over another in numeracy/literacy, she has never seen a difference as pronounced as with dd. She says that dd is academically bright, and extremely able in literacy, but it’s the Maths bringing it all down. In her opinion dd will be unhappy and frustrated in a secondary school, and won’t achieve her potential, but she stands little chance of getting into a grammar. sad So that’s that. And off went the tutor.

So dd apparently fits into NO school. All the time we were being told that she was “average”, huge gaps were apparently being missed, which we knew nothing about. If there is any SEN involved, there is no chance of her being assessed. And the transfer test is in 3 months’ time. We can’t get into school to discuss this as it is closed until September.

I’m not actually sure that anything can be done, but we are very worried, angry and frustrated, and we feel that dd has been badly let down. If anyone has advice on how to proceed it would be gratefully received. I’m very angry but think that blaming people at this late stage won’t help poor dd. I’m more interested in thinking of anything we can do to make things better for her.

Thanks for reading.

SarahStratton Fri 27-Jul-12 09:06:35

Please, please don't despair. My school reports were the same, glossed over the problems I had with maths. It wasn't until I failed the 11 plus that anyone sat up and took notice (I'm like your daughter, academically very hood at everything else). At age 11, I couldn't do long multiplication or division.

I ended up going to a rubbish comprehensive. I was pulled out and sent to a private school when they didn't even notice I'd been off for 3 weeks with a burst appendix. I was put into the remedial maths group at my new school, where I was taught by a fantastic and incredibly patient teacher.

And eventually maths 'clicked'. I saw the patterns, saw how it worked, and I could do it.

I went on to take A level maths. Please don't despair, find your daughter a kind and patient tutor, with a genuine love of maths, rather than a love of a 100% pass rate, and hopefully she will 'get' it eventually.

Pastabee Fri 27-Jul-12 09:09:06

I agree with ifelephantsworetrousers. Children who struggle with maths but don't have SEN usually just need it explained in a different way.

I didn't struggle with maths until A level when I just couldn't grasp the syllabus for the second mechanics paper. The teacher didn't have time to explore why I couldn't grasp it and I got a D in my mock.

My parents got me a lovely, young tutor who was studying at Imperial at the time and she explained everything differently and I pulled myself up to an A grade. This has always impressed the importance of having things explained differently on me.

belgo Fri 27-Jul-12 09:11:04

Agree with that Pastabee - and the exact opposite happened with me. I got an A grade for my AS-level maths; then my teacher changed, and I got an E grade for the A-level.

OhYouGreatGreatBritain Fri 27-Jul-12 09:11:58

Perhaps she might benefit from a dyscalculia screening. It's nothing to do with intelligence, but all to do with just not having a sense of number. There are really good ways to teach children who do have dyscalculia.

this might be of interest

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 09:12:21

Thank you all. You're giving us hope that we can help dd2. She is who she is - a wonderful girl. smile

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 09:13:15

Will check it out. OYGGB - thanks!

assessments are “only offered in failing schools”, which dd’s primary is not

I think you can take all you need from the tutor's attitude right here. She likes her success record, and maintains it by refusing to teach anyone who isn't a cert.

I'd go and speak to DD2's teacher, obviously, and ask how much s/he agrees with the tutor's view - but I'd also find another tutor (as others have said), consider an assessment and make it clear to your DD2 you don't think much of tutor 1. It might not lift her confidence right away, but it'll be a start.

This woman is a tutor, not a minor deity.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 09:25:01

Indeed, Josie. It's particularly sad that one of the main reasons we brought her in was to help dd's confidence. Unfortunately it has wrecked it instead sad.

SarahStratton Fri 27-Jul-12 09:25:40

OUBBK is right, I taught DD1 area using sugar cubes.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 12:03:23

Heh - I can see that (literally) going down very well grin. Seriously, though, that does illustrate how you can fit the teaching method to the learning style - in that case, helping to visualise using solid shapes. Dd has a very "verbal" memory (like me), so using particular phrases, for example, might help keep things in her mind.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 12:04:39

BTW, I asked MN to move this to Education instead of Chat, because I've had great advice and wanted to be able to come back to it. Very much appreciated thanks.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 13:25:08

Right. A bit of insight into the discrepancy between what the tutor said and what the school has been saying re. dd's ability.

- The school has not yet covered all the curriculum work that is needed for the transfer test. Many examples of this, but one would be that they have done hardly any work on angles and triangles.

- Each week the tutor gave them a practice paper, which she then marked and went through with them at the next tutorial, so as to cover the bits that they needed help with. Her classmates have all been doing the same papers and getting higher marks, whilst dd has been struggling. It turns out that the parents of her classmates have (mostly) been sitting with their children, going through the papers, and taking time over them - as a teaching exercise, not a practice test. I had been getting dd to do them as timed practice papers. I didn't realise I was meant to be teaching her this stuff first. She was sitting doing timed tests trying to work it all out herself.

- Meaning that the first time dd encountered each new concept was when the tutor was going "No, that isn't right - this is how you do it" and THEN explaining. Great for that confidence, eh? sad

She's still not brilliant at maths and there are indeed some basic gaps, but considering the position she was in she's doing very well indeed. I feel awful for letting her down like that.

I did tell the tutor that she was doing the practice tests on her own - but nobody ever mentioned to me that there was work that the school hadn't yet covered. We didn't use a tutor for dd1 as she was so academic, so I didn't know how it was done. I thought it would be the tutor that was doing the teaching.

So we've got more information now. Poor wee thing sad. Hopefully we can salvage her confidence and start tutoring her properly now (with a different tutor).

lammy4goldinsinglescull Fri 27-Jul-12 13:29:54

Transfer I've pm'd you

Sounds very similar to my dd1 who was finally diagnosed age 14 with dyscalculia.
The contrast between her performance in other subjects and maths is huge. It doesn't fit in at all, I found it really strange at first.

She has ended up in a school that is not great as she did not pass 11plus. She is ok though and with the help of a tutor, she is predicted a C, which a couple of years ago would have seemed impossible.

She has a very bright younger brother who flies high at a superselective grammar , so I understand how hard it is for the other child.

I would get your dd seen by ed pysch, I don't know how the appeal process works in NI but you might find it useful for that too.

Sorry- just seen your latest post. Best of luck.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 13:36:48

Got it, lammy - aye, you're right enough wink.

Tough - that's great that your dd1 has the help now. That's what I'd love for my dd2 in the future: a nice pass at GCSE, and then she can get on with what she enjoys and is good at. Best of luck to your girl! And yes, we're going to look into dyscalculia as a real possibility. Many thanks.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 13:38:12

Tough - certainly she isn't as weak as the tutor is saying, but she does still have some basic gaps. We have to work out whether they came from panic at seeing so much incomprehensible stuff, or whether it's a fundamental problem of processing the numbers. Now that we're on top of it, this will hopefully come in time.

RandomMess Fri 27-Jul-12 13:41:30

Have you explained to your dd that you have made a mistake, that you didn't realise she hadn't covered the topics before and that she needed to be taught it?

I would tell her that you want to spend some time with her going back through early stuff to find out exactly what she understands and what not so that a new tutor knows which areas to concentrate on. Also invaluable is just to rote learn her tables, will give her more time in the tests to spend on other things and the whole concept of them may click into place anyway.

Viperidae Fri 27-Jul-12 13:45:06

Just thought our DDs story might give you some comfort for the future OP although the situations are very different.

DD was always excellent at literacy but struggled to be good at maths. She battled on and, by great effort and the unexpected support of one particular teacher, managed a B in maths GCSE. On reaching Sixth Form College the students were all assessed and college were astounded at her B as she showed as having elements of dyscalcula but she decided to press ahead with her chosen A levels regardless. She did drop one of the sciences as she found it too hard but went on to get 4 A levels and has just completed a science degree.

Don't let this tutor knock your DDs confidence and limit her horizons.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 13:50:59

Random - yup, I have. And apologised as well. I've told her it was my mistake and said how well she's done, considering the fact that she wasn't being taught properly. If she could get marks like THAT before even being taught the work, etc. Trying to bolster her up.

Viperidae, that is indeed a very hopeful story. How fantastic is your dd? smile

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 14:00:51

Although I wasn't supporting her in the way I was expected to, I'm still angry at the tutor.

- I made it clear to her that dd was doing the tests on her own. She never once mentioned that things were cropping up that dd clearly hadn't ever heard of. (Dd also didn't tell me, but I think it was up to the tutor as the adult.)

- If she was finding fundamental gaps in dd's knowledge, why did she wait from January all the way to July to tell me? Okay, it wouldn't have been right to say that in front of dd, but she had my phone number...

- And when she did pull out, she ruined any attempt I'd made at not letting dd know the real reason by turning up at our door and handing dd the Yr3/4 work before saying goodbye and driving off.

Won't be getting any recommendations from me sad.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 14:10:36

Just to say once again how much I've appreciated all the help on this thread smile. I have to go offline now as we are going on holiday this evening, so won't be back here for a while. But I'll come back to it for all this great information, and will also update once things start to pan out.

All the best - T thanks

RedHotPokers Fri 27-Jul-12 14:15:14

OP - I'm sure you can turn this around, hopefully within the timescales you need, but if not in the longer term.

I was like your DD. I was terrible at Maths and good at English and related subjects. My crapness at Maths didn't come to light until the end of priamry school assessment. I happened to have a teacher in the latter years of primary that didn't focus much on Maths, which didn't help. I went into Secondary School in the bottom set for Maths and the top set for everything else! My Mum (who had been unaware of how I had been let down in school, and the difficulty I had with grasping the basics of maths - and who ironically happened to be a Maths Graduate!!!) spent a year tutoring me from the absolute basics (think apples and oranges), and by the following year I was in the top set. I had just spectacularly missed the point and the basics, and once I started from scratch it stuck.

I have a very good friend, who was similar but sadly had no tutor or parental help to rectify the situation. She got a 1st in her English degree, and failed her GCSE Maths an amazing SIX times. Eventually she passed aged 23, and qualified as an English teacher!

Good luck, and don't think all is lost.....

snuffaluffagus Fri 27-Jul-12 14:25:37

Yes I was exactly the same. Nobody had ever sat down and gone through the very basics step by step with me, and because I had a fair level of common sense and was brilliant at reading/writing, it had gone fairly unnoticed. As soon as a teacher sat me down (when I was 10) and explained it all step by step to me, it all fell into place (after some practice/teaching!) and I became ok at maths - never my strongest subject but passable! So there is hope!

RandomMess Fri 27-Jul-12 17:58:58

I have to agree that the tutor has behaved very unprofessionally, I would ensure you tell as many people as possible what she has done!

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