Streaming in Primary Schools

(23 Posts)
BertBert Mon 14-Mar-16 08:52:58

DS is currently in Y5. The school have "streamed" the kids in literacy from reception and started streaming in maths in Y3 (DS's year was the first year this was used for). I have not been happy about this as it has dented DS's self-confidence. DS is dyslexic which means he has always struggled with literacy which has affected both his literacy and maths attainment (school say that as he is achieving for his age he doesn't need any support despite reports from specialists saying otherwise - whole other issue). I told DS's teacher at parent's evening in October that DS felt like the school had written him off. DS's teacher made lots of right noises, but nothing really materialised form this.

I found out over the weekend that the tables in class have now been streamed according to ability. Apparently the teacher told the kids this was how he was going to do this and he then said he was calling the tables in order of ability form best to worst. DS's name was not called which meant that he was left to sit on the bottom table (or the loser's table, stupid table, wasters table - take your pick from the names that the other kids have labelled it).

I was told this by another parent. DS doesn't talk about school. If I ask how school was, I will get the response of fine/ok. If I ask a specific question, DS will answer in full. I asked DS and his response matched what I was told by the other parent. DS has taken this as proof that there is no point in trying. I am fuming.

The research I have found online states that streaming at this age only increases the attainment gap, the only ones who benefited are the more able pupils and that it damages the self esteem of those at the lower end (I can vouch for this).

We have parents evening tonight. Does anyone have any advice on how I can approach this contructively (at the moment I want to go in & rip the teachers head off). I will be verifying the tables issue with the teacher tonight and writing a letter of complaint if it is true.

SAHDthatsall Mon 14-Mar-16 09:10:47

It's good that they stream as there is such a wide range of ability and children will be working on different things at different levels and at different speeds.

DS1 was put on the bottom table in maths in Year 3/4 I think and we were a bit surprised. So we stepped in and helped him improve and by the end of Year 6 he was one of the top performers in maths and continued thereafter to achieved A*s at Maths and Further Maths GCSE and now doing A level.

So you need to step up the help from your end as you can't rely on the primary schools these days to support everyone. At least by streaming they can potentially give more support and target it to the less able. DS2 was a natural at maths and always top of top table and was pretty much left to his own devices in Years 5 and 6.

TeddTess Mon 14-Mar-16 09:53:23

I think streaming is good and is commonplace, in DDs primary the teacher and TA always spent nearly all the lesson with the bottom two tables. The two top tables were left to fend for themselves.

The ability gap in a class primary is massive. The teachers need the kids to help each other. High attaining kids can do this effectively with each other and doesn't hold them back. Spreading low ability kids out round the class doesn't allow the teacher/TA to focus on them.

It sounds like this teacher is mean - reading names out by ability shock that is what i would be complaining about, not the actual streaming.

cantthink11 Mon 14-Mar-16 11:08:02

I would explain to your DS that where he is currently does not mean that he will be stuck there and to just try his best.

I went to school with a girl who in year three could not string a sentence together let alone do basic maths.

At 36 she is now a top scientist and widely published and in the media.

I always explain to my DS that even though he may be at the top it does not mean he will remain there and vice versa and all he can do is try his best. It is not a competition between peers but within yourself, to be your best self.

BertBert Mon 14-Mar-16 12:05:11

We do support DS & have a privtae tutor for him once a week to focus on his dyslexia. Our school don't recognise dyslexia as a problem (not just DS). We do encourage DS - we often remind him that Einstein was dyslexic and was most certainly not stupid! We have also tried to sell the dyslexia as a positive for the future as DS seems to have developed a photographic memory!

Whilst I understand that streaming can have some benefits, the negative impact it is having on DS's self esteem can't be measured. He is of the opinion that the school have given up on him so there is no point in trying.

We are lucky to be in a school where the bottom of the class would be at least middle of the class in another area & we do explain this to DS but any work we do at home is completely undone by the comments of the kids who are on the 'top tables' and seem to be the ones who get all the perks at school - Eco Council, School Council, best parts in school play/assembly.

I am really annoyed by the teacher telling the class that he was seating people by ability as it has made the situation worse. My real bugbear is that one of the boys on DS table is not there because of his ability but because he is disruptive (bug boy). He is actually one of the brightest kids in the class & I think he might be disruptive because he is bored but rather than put him with kids who are on the same ability level they put him with the children who actually need less distraction.

I understand (even if I don't agree) with the reason for streaming in maths & literacy but I don't understand why geography, history, science etc are streamed in a primary school when you only have results in literacy & maths to go on. DS is a real history buff and we spend a lot of time together researching topics that they are covering in school. He is able to articulate well in class but is still on the bottom table because his literacy results are not great...

I don't want to go in all guns blazing so any advice on how I can approach this without seeming all PFB is appreciated. I want to understand why they are streaming outside of maths & literacy, why parents were not informed and what the hell was the teacher doing calling the kids out in ability order.

merlottime Mon 14-Mar-16 12:17:31

It is common place in my experience that schools group children of similar abilities for literacy and maths together. To me that was much better for my severely dyslexic DS and his self esteem than being sat next to someone working at a much higher level; this would have been much more demoralising for him.

BertBert Mon 14-Mar-16 12:24:36

Merlot - did they stream them for everything in class & if so, how did this affect your DS?

mouldycheesefan Mon 14-Mar-16 12:32:16

The photographic memory should be a real asset for both literacy and maths e.g spellings, times tables etc.
Does he go to a dyslexia centre for any lessons, do you do maths with him at home every day?
I would set myself the target of supporting him to get into the next groups by the the ned of the year by doing lots together at home.
Boost his self esteem through scouts, drama etc

JimmyGreavesMoustache Mon 14-Mar-16 12:36:25

my DCs school puts them in ability groups for maths and literacy, but other stuff is taught in mixed ability groups which I think is a nice balance

the groups are called things like "whales" and "panthers", and the kids aren't supposed to know which groups are where on the ability scale. Obviously they all work it out sooner or later, but at least there's a degree of plausible deniability, which I think is as it should be.

guerre Mon 14-Mar-16 12:39:48

As long as they're not cheetahs and donkeys!
They just stream maths and literacy at DS's school, all the other subjects are done on the tables they sit on in class, which theyve chosen mainly themselves (a couple got moved for being too chatty).

Lurkedforever1 Mon 14-Mar-16 13:07:49

Streaming is stupid in my opinion, because a child can be top in one and bottom in another. Setting however is usually the only realistic way to teach kids at an appropriate level.

And whether kids figure it out or not, it's entirely out of order for the teacher to read out a list of names and assign ability groups that way. Dds at a ss secondary, where even the bottom set would be top set anywhere else, and they still don't do anything as cruel as reading out lists of names for sets. So beyond me why it's ok at primary.

I think you should phrase it as an objection to how it was publicly done. And an objection to streaming based on the fact lots of kids are uneven in subject ability. And perhaps an objection that the brightest child has been placed in the bottom group to disrupt it, instead of offering appropriate work if the top set is too easy. Can't help on how you go about objecting to setting by subject in order to teach to ability though, because done without the public humiliation aspect I am in favour.

TeddTess Mon 14-Mar-16 13:35:16

only maths and literacy at DDs school. i didn't realise you were talking all subjects.

can you move him?

BertBert Mon 14-Mar-16 13:40:31

Mouldy - we do something with him every night i.e. maths one niht, literacy the next & he has his tutor once a week. Our school won't move a pupil down a group in case if affects their self esteem. Major issues in September when child A was not moved up despite having better results at the end of year 4 than at least 3 other children!! DS does cubs & drama which he really enjoys. I am struggling to motivate him in his school work when he feels that the school have written him off.

Lurked - Thank you or your suggestions. I don't want to seem like I'm throwing my toys out of the pram because DS is in the bottom group as I know someone has to be. It is more the way that it was done. I also object to the fact that DS is probably not bottom of the group when it comes to history but has effectively been told he is bottom at everything!

BertBert Mon 14-Mar-16 13:43:28

TeddTess - Can't move him unfortunately unless we go private and we can't afford that! Getting him a tutor was the nest we could stretch to. We are seeing progress with the tutor but not at school. DS hasnt brought a reading book home this year. Everytime I've asked, I've been told one will be sent home tomorrow...

irvine101 Mon 14-Mar-16 13:56:06

I wonder why you are so upset about streaming now in YR5, since they were streamed at least in literacy from reception. I don't think they will change that now, so I think you need to focus on how to get more support for him in school, and what you can do to help him at home. Like pp said, photographic memory should help him in a lot of areas other children may struggle, like spelling, times tables, geography, science etc.

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Mon 14-Mar-16 14:17:19

History has a literacy element - it's not knowledge based as such

That said he should be able to use laptops or a video camera to explain what he has learnt rather than actual written work.

DS school will assess in year 5 say knowledge on time and then stream accordingly -

Then asses for multiplication and stream for that method - so no groups are the same each week -

Literacy is best taught in mixed ability groups IMO as they help each other along

I think not is a poor show how the teacher treated your DS no child wants to be last

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Mon 14-Mar-16 14:19:19

For the meeting - it should be DS felt - DS is upset because -

Then How can we help him over come XYZ?

What can school do to help his maths etc?

Ask to see his targets so even if you aren't sat at a desk you can count in fractions - talk about you need 6 g flour or if John had 5 time more sweets than Jane etc

mouldycheesefan Mon 14-Mar-16 14:34:37

I would do 10 mins of maths every day at home. It has to be short regular sessions. We do ours in the morning before school so they are not tired etc.

BertBert Mon 14-Mar-16 15:33:59

Irvine - I wasn't upset about the literacy streaming or maths. I can see the advantage of it although I think an approach taken by Sally's school would be better as there are some maths concepts DS gets easily and others he struggles more with. I'm sure it's the same for all kids. It's the 'you are the bottom of everything' streaming that has damaged DS's confidence and upset me.

mouldy - we do the Carol Vorderman 10 minutes maths every other night. We focus more on DS's literacy as that seems to be the key holding him back. For example, DS's maths homework this week was made up of some 'wordy' questions and some written out as straight maths. He did the straight maths ones without issue but due to having to keep re-reading the same line on the wordy question, struggled to see what he needed to do. i.e. he could do the 6 + 4 = 10 easily but phrased as 'Tom had four apples, Bella has six. How many apples do they have?' took him an age (not his actual questions but you see what I mean!)

Sally - I will use the "DS feels" approach. Based on last parents evening, I get the impression that DS's teacher is one of those who says one thing to a parents face without any intention of following up on what was said. There were several things he promised at last parents evening that havent materialised...

I know teachers have a nightmare but it seems at our school the pushy parents are the ones who get what they want. I've always thought the school know best in matters of education but am now thinking I was wrong...

cece Mon 14-Mar-16 20:51:11

My school does not have any grouping or streaming at all as we feel it limits a child's achievement and progress.

We provide 3 or 4 levels of challenge for each lesson in maths/English and the children select what is most appropriate for them on that day for that lesson/concept.

uhoh1973 Mon 14-Mar-16 21:20:33

I would tell the teacher honestly but gently how your child feels and see how they respond.

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Mon 14-Mar-16 22:10:36

How did parents evening go?

BertBert Tue 15-Mar-16 07:07:11

Parents evening went well. I have a feeling other parents had complained about what has gone on re. the table streaming. DS teacher told me that he was going to change the tables again and that he was going to trial grouping the children on ability for each topic (excluding maths & literacy). He asked if i had any concrens and I said that I was concerned that DS was on a table with the same children again as I didn't think it was benefitting DS. He agreed and said that he wanted to speak to me before putting DS with children of slightly higher ability in case I objected. He thinks that without the distraction, he might focus better. I resisted the urge to remind he that I sugested he try this at last parent's evening!

The teacher did say that the biggest issue with DS was getting him to put enough down on paper. He said that orally DS grasped concepts very quickly but that he struggled to transfer that on to paper. I reminded the teacher that DS was dyslexic and his response was that he wasn't talking about reading but writing confused. I'm not sure he really understands dyslexia...

I asked why DS had not brought a reading book home since Christmas and the teacher said that it was up to the children to take a book. I asked if anyone assessed DS's reading and he said DS was assessed every half term to see if he needed to go up a band. I asked when his last assessment was & the teacher couldnt tell me! We have agreed to start a reading diary between home and school so we can monitor what DS is doing. Let's see how long it lasts.

Not entirely convinced by the teacher - I get the feeling he is one for telling the parents what he thinks they want to hear but fingers crossed. There are 2 teachers in year 6 and hopefully we will get the better one...

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