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.

Ozziegirly Fri 27-Jul-12 06:08:06

This is awful, your DD has been really let down. And I can see the problem, if she's only "behind" in maths, but this will basically drag her down in everything else then you have a bright girl in a not so good school.


So, I guess you have a few options;

1. Can she go to a private school out of the area?
2. Maybe the non grammar school won't be as bad as you think and actually she will be top of the class in English and everything else and in the middle in maths which will actually give her a boost?
3. You move and she goes to a normal comprehensive schoool.
4. You work with her like absolute buggery over the summer break to coach her for the exam, she passes and then you give her extra maths tutoring outside of school so she can maintain the standard.

Are the non grammar schools really awful? I guess that's the issue here. If 30% of kids go, then surely even if say 5% are your "typical" no work slacker types then there will be the remaining pupils who will all just be like your daughter. Is there anyone you can talk to whose children go to these schools?

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 06:31:13

Thanks, Ozziegirly. It really helps to see options clearly set out like that, as my head is full of confusion just now!

Options 1 and 3 aren't possible because by "our area" I mean our actual country, not a county/borough where there are different types of school elsewhere.

Option 2 - some of the non grammars aren't too bad, but the ones in our area do have a very bad reputation. Moving out of our area is a problem as our house has been on the market for 2 years now. We could move in the future, if we managed to sell, but it's likely that dd would have already started secondary by then.
A teacher friend has suggested that I visit the secondaries and find out how they stream, which she says is key. If they have separate streams for Maths and English then this is fine - she'll be top set English and lower set for Maths. However, some of them stream jointly for both, which would be a big problem and to be avoided. Apparently the top set in our closest secondary is encouraged to work hard and has most of the same GCSE options as the grammars. But if dd is streamed by Maths and isn't in the top set she'd miss out academically for all the rest. I might have a chat with the Principal as perhaps they could stream dd differently because she is so skewed.

Option 4 is probably good as Plan A, and we would maintain it with maths tutoring if she did make it into one of the grammars. We will try this, but it woudl have been a heck of a lot easier if this problem had been identified sooner. Even her homework was fine. I just don't understand it.

I think we'll coach her like buggery for the rest of the summer and put her in for the test - although I'm concerned that this will be worse for her confidence if she doesn't pass. TBH it's rock bottom anyway so can hardly be worse sad. We'll also try to find the secondary that would suit her best as far as the streaming goes. If it was just a simple matter of her not being academic then I wouldn't be worried at all.

Thanks for your help thanks

FinnBuckingham Fri 27-Jul-12 06:31:47

were her problems with maths never mentioned at any parent evening or in any report, ever? if not I would be seriously annoyed with her primary school.
My daughter is in the special ed class at her comprehensive, and it is a shame really, as she is quite keen and hard working and bright enough, but because her writing is poor, she and some others like her are lumped in with the rude and disruptive idiots.

IfElephantsWoreTrousers Fri 27-Jul-12 06:35:34

You need a different tutor certainly. If she has lots of pupils she is wanting them to go through her "process" like a factory and she probably has no spare time for tailoring lessons individually.

Is there a University nearby to you? University students (ideally postgrads as you need some maturity) can make excellent tutors even with minimal experience as they have relatively recent memories of learning these things themselves.

Look for "education consultants" in your yellow pages - there will be private individuals who cater for special needs, tutoring of people with dyslexia etc (not that dyslexia is relevant to DD but the people who offer these services will understand your needs and know what you should do).

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 06:40:51

Finn - never, ever mentioned. We knew that she was no mathematician, but the school reports, all meetings, etc. described her as "average" or "slightly below average" with explanations about how very slight that "below" was. It isn't that we were't asking the question. Some of these descriptions came from their computerised assessments. If it wasn't that this tutor has been successfully coaching students from dd's primary school for years - so can recognise an average/pass candidate when she sees one - I'd have been saying that she was wrong. If we hadn't called the tutor in, we still would have thought that dd was average.

If dd just wasn't an academic child then secondary would be the place for her - it would be better for her confidence than struggling in a grammar. But we're being told that she is academic, just brought down by the Maths.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 06:42:20

Thank you, Elephants - I will look for that type of help. Certainly the tutor had a system that didn't seem to be very flexible - but she had a very successful track record with other pupils from the school, which is why we chose her. Dd clearly doesn't benefit from this approach.

EatingSwansHorror Fri 27-Jul-12 06:42:55

You need an educational psychologist ho will evaluate her profile. Having a large variation in ability in one or more areas suggests a processing problem(dyslexia is just one of many). An ed psych report will give you, her and her teachers valuable info about what the problem is and ways you can cope with it. Good luck.

FinnBuckingham Fri 27-Jul-12 06:45:10

I imagine you live in NI.
it is so sad, all this testing and coaching and assessment and stress we have to put our kids through. I am so disillusioned.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 06:46:38

Thanks, Swans. I wonder if she'd need a school referral to an Ed. Psych. or could we do that ourselves (e.g. via the HV?). It's not a thing that I'd thought about - and it's maybe too late to help with the transfer side of things - but obviously it would be great to identify any problems so that we can start helping her properly.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 06:47:08

Finn, that is exactly where I am. You too, eh? sad

FinnBuckingham Fri 27-Jul-12 06:50:26

no, tw, I just guessed..I live in Wales, where the schools claim to be 'truly comprehensive' - such a load of monkeybollicks.
definitely try to get a report from ed psych, I wish I had pushed for that for my daughter.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 06:53:21

I'll definitely do that, Finn - will starting looking into it.

Ozziegirly Fri 27-Jul-12 06:58:50

It seems madness that she can be so disadvantaged just by one subject. I hope once you have visited the schools they will seem like a slightly better option, but maybe the best bet is just to almost go back to basics with maths over the summer, get her confidence up by starting with easy work and just build on that?

It's very frustrating that the school didn't pick up on this, as presumably you could have worked with her to improve her understanding much earlier.

But you have nearly 3 months, if you set aside some time every day to work through it all she may be ok. I think with maths if you don't get the basics it's quite easy to get left behind, BUT on the plus side, once you do understand the basics, it's fairly easy to catch up.

Good luck.

EatingSwansHorror Fri 27-Jul-12 07:00:55

If you can get a referral go for it. It's around £300 privately, funding for it in Engand has been cut dramatically and referrals are becoming rarer. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better. Good luck.

KateUnrulyBush Fri 27-Jul-12 07:01:43

Firstly, sorry for your situation, we are in a grammar system here and I sympathise. I think your options have been summarised pretty well already so I won't go over those again but:

This tutor sounds like one who only likes to deal with definites, IMO. By that, I mean certainties to pass. This can happen with tutors, they like to keep their stats high, ie: a 100% pass rate for pupils tutored by them. It is not uncommon for some students to get ditched a short time ahead of the exam for this reason. Particularly mercinary types will take your money for as long as possible before telling you they can't help your dc.

Your tutor sounds a bit like this to me (just from what you've posted, obv). They have possibly laid it on a bit thick to ensure you give them up.

So, in short, don't despair just yet. If she is 'exceptionally able' in literacy you still have a good chance.

Investigate all options for specialist maths tuition (don't try and do it yourself unless desperate). Uni students is a great idea, but interview a few if you can first too, before choosing - genius mathematicians don't always make the best teachers as they don't 'get' why you don't understand.

Try another local tutor familiar with the exam as well, and get hold of some past papers.

In other words, get some second and third opinions and don't take everything you have been told as gospel just yet.

Good luck smile

MattDamonIsMyLover Fri 27-Jul-12 07:06:45

I can't believe the tutor was happy to take your money since January but only now mentioned how fundamental your DD's problems are. There's dyscalculia etc which an ed psych may diagnose. Your poor DD, such pressure on her.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 07:08:03

Thanks to all.

Having looked at the waiting list info, with such a short time between now and the transfer, I'm trying to find a private Ed Psych, just in case there are any SENs involved. It would be good to have these identified before the test, as it would help us know how to proceed. However, there are of course, very few of those here Northern Ireland. Will consult some friends who may know, once it's a reasonable time of the morning.

The tutor did indeed go very suddenly from telling dd she was doing well to telling me about these problems. However, I think that was probably because the "doing well" was in front of dd and the "no point" was on the phone to me without dd listening in. All the same, if she'd seen these issues it would have helped one hell of a lot if she'd mentioned it sooner. She's been working with dd2 since January.

Certainly, transfer exam or not, dd needs help with her Maths and we will find a Maths tutor rather than one who is geared towards this bloody exam.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 07:10:50

I'd been trying to be vague in case I was identified, but now that I've accidentally said "dd2" I might as well add that she has an older sister who is off the scale academically and currently storming her way through a very academic grammar school. As far as dd2's confidence goes, this is also not ideal sad.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 07:14:45

This is why a proper comprehensive system would be so much better. The system we have is working fantastically well for one of my dds but is failing the other one. Dd1 would be fine in a proper comprehensive school, and dd2 would have been as well sad.

HidingFromDD Fri 27-Jul-12 07:39:14

Just to say, don't discount the idea of tutoring to get through the maths and then help whilst at the school. My eldest sounds like yours was at primary, I would have said 'good average' but weak maths. For a variety of reasons, we chose independent school which was academically selective and tutoring for the entrance exam.

All through the school, maths has been a struggle but she has managed to keep up (it's streamed and she's 3 of 4). In her other subjects though, my 'good average' has really blossomed, is predicted A/A* in most of her other subjects, and has just selected her A levels (fingers crossed for results day).

One of my dds problems with maths was also confidence. As soon as she couldn't understand a question she fell apart and has had some truly appalling maths results (18% in one exam). Working on strategies to get around this has really helped (has taken years though). It does sound like the tutor just wants a 100% pass rate, and because there may be a possibility your dd doesn't pass has decided it's better if she is no longer on the tutor's list

carabos Fri 27-Jul-12 08:06:51

Don't panic. Get another tutor. If its a confidence issue, then the tutor may be part of the problem, not the solution.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 08:30:09

Thanks all (getting ready for the day now so not around so much!)

Hiding that is a very encouraging story. I'm glad that your dd is now doing well smile.

It looks like a different (probably non-exam-focused) tutor is definitely the way forward. I'm also going to gather together all the notes from dd's lessons with the tutor, to try and identify precisely where the gaps are that she found, and what type of questions she's having difficulty with.

I think part of it may be that when a question is put in a different way from what she's used to, she either doesn't understand, or panics and thinks she doesn't understand. Either way, she gets the wrong answer.

There's also an issue that I know from her homeworks - she can be taught a method of how to do something, and whizz through getting everything right at the time. But she hasn't grasped the concept behind it, so can't build on it, and is liable to forget the method as well if you do something else and come back to it a few days later. In fact, I went into school and discussed this with her teacher. I was told that teaching method alone is the way Maths is taught at primary level, so dd not getting the concepts wasn't a problem. But the tutor seems to be saying the opposite, and dd's classmates being tutored by her are apparently not encountering these problems hmm.

Anyway, the plan of action for now is:

- Find a new, non-exam-oriented tutor specifically for Maths.
- Go through the tutor's notes and dd's work, to try and find the problem areas.
- Visit the secondaries to find out how they stream, and how they might deal with a child whose abilities are unusually skewed.
- Get a meeting with the school at the start of term to explain the situation and try to find out what's been happening.
- If there seems to be an actual processing problem, consider an Ed Psych investigation.
- Depending on how things go, possibly enter her for the test, tutor like mad and be prepared to keep tutoring her up to GCSE level.

Thank you - things are definitely looking clearer.

DormouseInATeapot Fri 27-Jul-12 08:40:07

I do feel sorry for you and your DD. Not much advice I can give because I'm not a teacher, but you can hunt down an Educational Psychologist here:

Hope that helps in some way.

transferworry Fri 27-Jul-12 08:50:31

Thanks, Dormouse. There are a couple of possiblities in N.I., albeit quite far away from us. I have a friend who may be able to recommend the best of the available ones.

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!

ohmygosh123 Fri 27-Jul-12 20:38:41

Just a bit of encouragement ... I coached a kid for entrance exams with very little time to spare. Instead of trying to cover everything, we focused on what would give her points. We also worked out which questions would be a nightmare, and to not worry about those and to focus on the other 80-90%. The plan was that she wouldn't run out of time and so would definitely answer the questions that we knew she could do. If there is one element that she can't get then ditch it. Also look for things that are quite easy to get, that she hasn't yet done at school, and that you can teach her at home.

For DD I've found Singapore Maths is very good for understanding concepts - maybe you need a two pronged approach. Some things just are and she has to learn them (eg an obtuse angle) , other things can be done in a tangible way. Then once it is over topics can be reinforced more slowly so she is confident for secondary school after she has got through the exam.

ohmygosh123 Fri 27-Jul-12 20:48:19

If your DD has a mental block on one type - teach her to identify the question, and leave it until the end or ignore it. Will be way better than getting upset and panicking, and therefore screwing up other questions. If she realises that one question ignored is pretty irrelevant to overall mark - it might help her not get as upset.

The kid I helped was in tears over verbal reasoning - so we focused on what she could do, and not what she couldn't do, and built up from there. V sensitive, high achiever, probably not disimilar to your daughter. We did a list of what she needed to do, and ticked them off in order of how easy she found them. And kept practising what she found easy so she was fast, and had time to do the other questions.

Also I think the more questions she practices, the more likely there will be something similar on the exam paper, and therefore the more chance she will be okay, simply because she recognises what she is meant to do, even if she doesn't completely understand the concept. thinks back to physics GCSE when we had a clueless teacher but a fab revise guide

trinity0097 Sat 28-Jul-12 12:59:09

You said that there are no independent schools but there are 17 listed on the NI education website.
My experience is that good children will always do well regardless of the school, as long as they keep their head down and don't misbehave.

Olympicnmix Sat 28-Jul-12 13:13:33

Your dd is probably like me, not bad at maths actually but not taught in a logical, systematic way that makes sense to her. She probably needs a 'story' attached to the math's process you're teaching her as a way of an aide memoire and then repeat the process again and again until it's drilled in. You then need to look at the exceptions so she's not thrown when she sees them. And practice the type of questions she is going to encounter over and over again, so she gets the 'code' for what the question is asking of her. You will then need to speed her up. Lots of positive reinforcement.

Olympicnmix Sat 28-Jul-12 13:14:41

Do you have plenty of 11+ resources to use with her?

Caoimhe Sat 28-Jul-12 13:26:20

trinity0097 - those are not "ordinary" independent schools - they are either Christian or Irish medium or special schools or not senior schools.

OP are you not near an integrated school? Some of those are closest to being comprehensive. My nephew is an integrated school and got all A grades at AS level and is predicted A* AA at A-level.

NotLikeThatYouWont Sat 28-Jul-12 13:42:45

trinity, I don't know where you are but I'm originally from N.I. and still have family there. There really is very little culture/awareness of independent education, and what there was is very religion-centred. I checked the list as I was really interested on seeing if things had changed.

10 on the list - possibly more, but definitely the ones with "Christian" in the name, will be tiny schools run by particular fundamental Christian groups, to protect their children from the evils of non-Creationist teaching.
1 other is a prep school.
1 other is an Irish-medium primary (Bunscoil)
2 are special schools

That only leaves 3 that might be suitable (depending on where the OP is and their finances.) One is Steiner, one has no website so is an unknown, and one looks like an ordinary independent school.

Howmanyteachersistoomany Sun 29-Jul-12 08:52:47

Of those 17 schools, the buddy bear trust school is for conductive education for children with special needs.

The "independent Christian" ones are all free Presbyterian ones. Run by religious zealots. And you have to be free Presbyterian to attend. I'm not.

Bunscoil ones are Irish medium - ie all taught in Irish Gaelic

Glencraig, again, is a school for those with a special need.

The Steiner school is, well, Steiner.

Living rivers is attached to a completely nutty fundamentalist Christian evangelical church

And Rockport is miles away (70) from me.

So, basically, in northern Ireland, the independent that you think of in the uk doesn't apply.

SophySinclair Sun 29-Jul-12 15:17:58

Had a bad experience at that particular Steiner. My DD left after 2 years.

Turniphead1 Sun 29-Jul-12 15:54:42

I'm appalled at the tutor. When you return from holiday I would be having another word with her. I would be asking why this so-called fundamental problem wasn't mentioned during 6 months of tutoring - and be asking for your money back. As others have said - she is clearly protecting her pass rate.

I think your plan is a good one. Indie just isn't an option in NI. One of the reasons they were never needed was I guess because in general the grammar / secondary system served a lot of people well. And anyone truly posh would send their kids off to a Public school on the " mainland".

Good luck.

MaryHansack Sun 29-Jul-12 17:42:54

I would be asking why this so-called fundamental problem wasn't mentioned during 6 months of tutoring - and be asking for your money back. As others have said - she is clearly protecting her pass rate.
too right, she was happy to take your cash for six months......

Mutteroo Thu 02-Aug-12 01:16:32

Another saying please don't worry. My DD was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 15, 11 months before she took her GCSEs. We were told she had a Maths 'age' of 8 by the educational psychologist who was very concerned with the lack of support DD was being offered. 11 months later she passed all her GCSEs with a grade C or above; so even with a Maths age of 8 & minimal support, she still gained that C she needed for 6th form. Your daughter could pull the rabbit from the hat also (so to speak) but would the grammar be the right environment for her?

Call the secondaries, go & look around. There's no harm in you helping your daughter with Maths catch up, but it more important to make her feel worthy & find out of there's a reason why her Maths is where it is. Good luck OP. All is not lost.

transferworry Wed 08-Aug-12 14:34:42

Thank you. We are now back from holiday. (Have been a couple of days, but didn't get back to thread until now blush.)

We very deliberately didn't mention anything about the bloody Transfer all through the holiday because we all needed the break! However, since we got back we've arranged to get some help a couple of nights a week from a family member with a Maths degree. He doesn't have teaching/tutoring experience, but he did manage to help his own ds through the exam a couple of years ago, with Maths being the focus there as well. Someone also recommended an online Maths thing called Mathletics, so she can do a bit of that.

I've been through all her school work, including a few test papers that she brought home from school. Everything - apart from the tutor's opinion - seems to back up the school's take on it, which is that her Maths is on the low side of average but not dreadful. In fact, nearly all her errors show that she does understand the work, but she does silly things like doing all the calculations and then forgetting the last, simple part. Because of this I'm inclined to think that her level isn't as low as the tutor think - it's more that she knows her Maths isn't brilliant so she panics and rushes, or zones out somehow. I'm going to sit in with her the next time she does a practice test - will tell her it's to get her used to having an invigilator - and see if this is happening. However - surely the tutor would be able to tell a silly mistake from one that shows a lack of understanding. So maybe I'm in denial.

I'm also going to ring the friendliest of the other Mums whose ds is visited by our former tutor, and find out whether she goes through the papers with her ds before the tutor arrives, or whether he's doing it blind. I want to make sure that the tutor's opinion about dd was formed on a level playing field.

Finally, I'm going to try to get into school either just before term starts or as soon as possible afterwards, to discuss all this with the teacher.

So it's good to have a plan of action, at least. We want to make sure that we've tried the best we can to find out why she's struggling.

Thanks, Mutteroo. Re: whether a grammar would be the best place for her - this is the basic problem. Her English and all other work is academically well above average - it's just the Maths that is low. "Grammars" in our particular area aren't like English grammars - they have a much wider intake, meaning that the secondaries (or at least the ones local to us) really do have very low academic expectations. I don't think she'd fit into the very academic one that dd1 attends, but there are others that take far lower Transfer grades, stream the pupils by ability and give lots of support when required. I think her best place would be in one of those.

Pythonesque Wed 08-Aug-12 20:12:26

I hope you've been able to contact an Ed.Psych. My mother has worked as a private remedial teacher for years and I've heard all sorts of interesting stories about children she's taught with very specific difficulties. You need a more experienced tutor to deal with this situation - once you have the difficulties defined.

I've heard things elsewhere about the rigidity of the N.I. school system, but I hope that with assessment and support that there may be a good way for your daughter to be appropriately placed for secondary school.

transferworry Thu 09-Aug-12 09:50:12

Thanks, Python. Right now we just don't know what to do about getting in an Ed Psych, because of how close we are to the date of the transfer test. Dd is hugely sensitive, a real worrier, and (possibly because of highly academic sister) her confidence in her abilities is very low, despite our best efforts at boosting her over the years. Because of the way the ex-tutor went about things, she thinks that she isn't being tutored any more because she is "rubbish at Maths". sad

From looking at the answers she's been giving, and the inconsistency between what the school says and what the tutor says, it's possible that her Maths really is approaching average, and the problem is panic and rushing due to lack of confidence. If we start with the Ed Psych at this stage - knowing dd as I do - it's likely to confirm her belief that she's "rubbish" and there is "something wrong with her". If she does have the ability to answer the questions, this would just make things worse when it comes to test time. She'd get a low grade in the test and end up in a school which doesn't suit her.

But if we don't get an Ed Psych in, and she does have a processing problem with Maths, then she won't be getting the help that she needs. This happened to one of my best friends when he was at school - a perfectly bright guy with dyslexia - and he was pretty much dismissed academically when he got to secondary school. He had to work for his English and Maths GCSEs after he left school because so many jobs require them.

So we have to try to second-guess whether we think it's the confidence or the processing that's her problem. We're probably going to speak to the school before going down that route, unless the new tutor raises the issue as well. It's all because we don't have any time before the test, as we had no indication of any issues before now.

transferworry Thu 09-Aug-12 11:05:21

Caoimhe - sorry, I just saw your question now. There is an integrated school about 15 miles away. I looked into it a few years ago for dd1, but it has a completely dreadful reputation - said to be the worst school in the area, including the secondaries I mentioned earlier. It's a real pity because integrated/comprehensive is much better IMO.

transferworry Mon 03-Dec-12 12:19:12

Hi - thought it might be good to update, as the N.I. transfer tests are now over, and everyone was so helpful when we were worried.

As I mentioned earlier, my BIL came round a few times to see if he (as someone she knows well) could work out the source of her troubles. He was able to iron out a couple of small issues where she had the wrong end of the stick, but nothing out of the ordinary, and could find no fundamental problems such as the tutor had mentioned. By then I had also been into school and spoken to the Principal, who was also confused and showed me standardised annual tests dating all the way back to P2. They all showed her literacy above average, numeracy pretty much exactly average for her age. The only comment they had was that dd tends to be blinded by panic when she meets something new in Maths, but that this isn't a problem of understanding. It's very odd. If we'd never brought in a tutor, there would never have been any mention of dd having a problem. Her teachers, the standardised tests, homeworks, school exams... all of that consistently says the same thing.

On that basis, and with school keeping an eye, we pulled dd out of any tutoring outside of school, with either the original tutor or with my BIL. We considered asking for help with anxiety, but by now it was so close to the test that we didn't want to rock the boat still further. Dd's work hasn't suffered at all as a result - in fact, her Maths has improved. We don't know how she's done in the Transfer test but the main thing is that she is much happier.

It does make me extra worried for the children who have to transfer under this system, with all the stress that's involved. There is yet another big overhaul on its way in our area, which may help the intake of the local non-grammars, but I'm not sure how this will affect dd's year.

But that's where we are for now. Thank you again for all the advice.

AnnIonicIsoTronic Mon 03-Dec-12 14:02:59

Glad it finished well.

Sounds like a self important twat of a tutor

transfer.... I was very weak at maths all through school, always average or severely below in tests. Never grasped the concepts and honestly felt like it was a different language and I didn't have a phrase book. I failed my leaving cert maths.

Funnily enough I've done/ am doing science at third level and did a maths module last year that I got 96% on grin

As it turns out my problem was nothing more than a lack of confidence and needing to have things explained in a different way that the Irish education system was doing.

I'm sure your daughter will surprise you in the long run.... once maths stops being a chore she has to get through she may find it enjoyable. Just don't count on that being during her school career.... I was 24 when I had the realisation that actually maths could be enjoyable

transferworry Tue 04-Dec-12 09:25:15

Thank you, Summer - I do suspect we're dealing with something like that with dd. Having these tests at 10/11 really does add a huge layer of stress on top of that, and it sounds like you had similar issues with your Leaving Cert. Very glad it's worked out for you! smile

Ann - yes, I'm pretty sure there's been a strong element of "I'm the tutor and I know best" with this. Certainly her one size fits all approach hasn't worked for dd. Ironically, we had brought a tutor in partly because we felt that dd needed a more personal approach. She seemed to be more of a factory trying to marshall children through this bloody test.

Blu Tue 04-Dec-12 19:25:34

Bloody hell, Transferworry, as a London parent (and goodness, some of us get our knickers twisted over secondary transfer grin) I have never encountered anything as anxiety-inducing as your OP - my chest was tightening for you!

Well done for getting to the bottom of it and keeping calm, a big boo to that 'tutor', and a biger one to the system you are in.

Fingers crossed for your dd's place - it sounds OK, doesn't it? When will you know?

transferworry Wed 05-Dec-12 10:08:29

Thanks, Blu. Yes, it's a nightmare of a system - has coloured the entire year for the children involved, especially those like dd who seem to be natural worriers to start with. We find out the results in Feb - but that will be just a number, because the minimum scores for entry to particular schools vary year on year. The schools aren't allocated until May.

Our plan is to put it out of our minds now, for as long as possible! The main concern is that dd is happy, and has given a good account of herself in the test - not artificially low because of anxiety or high because of cramming, which we also never wanted as that would increase her anxiety levels when she got to secondary. We're quite hopeful now that this is what she's done smile.

LoopsInHoops Wed 05-Dec-12 10:21:58

Keeping my fingers crossed that your DD gets her place, or if not that she gets into a lovely school and is happy smile

transferworry Wed 05-Dec-12 10:36:45

It's what we can hope for them all, Loops. Thank you - you've all been lovely smile thanks

transferworry Sat 02-Feb-13 18:22:32

Here I am again for one last time, on the N.I. Transfer test results day.

Dd has done extremely well in the test. Her score is excellent, easily enough to get her into the same school as her sister, or another grammar if that's what she prefers.

It is pretty much exactly the score that I would have predicted for her, if we had never had any remarks from the tutor. It fits with what the school was saying and what we thought ourselves, based on her schoolwork, etc. However, it goes completely against everything that the tutor was saying about her "fundamental problem with understanding maths", and not being a grammar school candidate.

We are all delighted with dd, who did this on her own despite all that was done to undermine her confidence. We stopped all tutoring and did no extra work with her, after BIL had checked that she did understand the concepts. So we know that her result reflects her ability, which is all we ever wanted.

I still haven't decided what I'm going to say or do about the tutor and her attitude, but today is about dd and I'll think about that tomorrow.

This tutor was recommended to us by the parents of older pupils at the school. As I said, I was against the idea of tutoring to begin with, but hoped it would help dd's confidence (ha!) if not her innate ability. I really didn't want her to be struggling in a school either above or below her ability level.

It has worked out well for my dd in the end, but I'd advise parents considering tutoring to be very, very wary of who you choose.

Thank you all, once again, and now we can draw a line under all this. I hope that anyone else whose child was doing these tests got the result that works best for them smile

DazR Sat 02-Feb-13 18:45:31

Just read the whole of your story and am really pleased for your daughter and the whole family. A big well done to her smile

Rainbowinthesky Sat 02-Feb-13 20:47:14

What a lovely story. Well done for updating.

transferworry Sat 02-Feb-13 20:49:26

Thanks to all for the support! thanks

just read this.fantastic newsgrin best of luck to your daughter, sounds like with sensible parents like hers she will fly highsmile I went to uni in ni and it is definitely a system long in need of reform in many ways.

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