too early to push it?

(42 Posts)
Ladyday Sat 28-Sep-13 22:50:41

Hi, apologies if I'm repeating the substance of earlier posts - just would appreciate some advice. My five-year-old has just started Year 1; she didn't start properly reading (sounding out words) until the start of Reception so was not particularly an early reader though she has always been v articulate. During Reception she made quick progress and ended the school year reading Year 2 level books (PM Nelson series). Before the summer holidays, I was told by her (Reception) teacher that she was one of two in the year who are far ahead of the rest, though she is still not especially keen on reading. We read a lot at home (eg bedtime) but I don't ever make her read and she prefers artwork and running around, which is fine. Her school doesn't give any homework but I do the Bond books (age 5-6) and tests with her instead.

My concern is that she is under-stretched at school and I am not sure how much to intervene at this stage; I feel it might be too early. Her teacher seems very laid back. She said they'd be getting reading books two weeks into term, but we've only got a book this last week. The book she got was a very simple non-fiction book she wasn't interested in. This new (Year 1) teacher didn't know what had happened to last year's reading diaries (a record which I used to track progress and write down vocab). I emailed her, asking for levelled books, and my DD did bring one home this weekend, which was great. However, DD is still very resistant to going into school and one of the things she says is that 'the activities are short and I get bored'. I was told last year she was also very ahead in maths.

It seems from other posts that some schools have such a thing as a G&T coordinator. Do all schools have these, and do primary schools generally have a written policy on G&T (and can it be accessed easily)? How do children get put on a G&T register? I am concerned about the laid-back approach, combined with very poor communication from the school (there is virtually no opportunity to talk to the teacher except for a five-minute chat once a term). I am also wondering whether to look at switching her at 7 to an independent school, but am aware that some schools set exams at this stage, and don't want her to get behind for such tests.

Thanks for reading and for any thoughts you may have.

RedHelenB Sun 29-Sep-13 08:37:07

There's a lot going on in your post. Just as an aside - I think reading Y" books in Reception isn't "miles ahead" - offhand I think there were maybe 5 in ds's reception class that were doing the same. Usually in Y1 there is half a term of transition to more formal learning as opposed to the free flow of Foundation so i don't think you have anything to worry about. I would just carry on with the Bond papers needed to get her into the independent school you want her to go to.

Ladyday Sun 29-Sep-13 12:51:57

Thanks. I didn't say that she was miles ahead; only that the teacher said she and another girl were far ahead of the others. I went in to do reading with the class last year and about half were at the first level or below, so I know this is true.

My concern is that, though they've identified these children are ahead, the activities at school at present may not keep them occupied and learning; hence my DD saying she is bored. Obviously it's early days yet. I am not set on an independent school - far from it - but I am concerned about whether there is sufficient differentiation, and if needs be would look at other schools.

I was just interested in the experiences of others with regard to accessing G&T policies, co-ordinators, registers, etc, and wondered whether I ought to attempt to get into this loop at this stage.

RedHelenB Sun 29-Sep-13 15:40:11

I would be very careful of "I'm bored" statements. At that age there is always something they can be learning, even if it down to presentation of work, speed, checking for silly mistakes etc. A lot of Y! activities will be in short bursts. precisely to avoid boredom & concentration issues.

Ladyday Sun 29-Sep-13 19:04:28

The issue seems to be that the activities are short and not especially stimulating and for those who finish quickly there is nothing further to do. That's why I'm concerned. Perhaps they will move into a higher gear soon.

RedHelenB Mon 30-Sep-13 07:06:34

As teacher & parent I am fully aware that what a child reports & what actually happens can be quite different!

christinarossetti Mon 30-Sep-13 07:18:52

Your first port of call needs to be the teacher. Give it another week or so, then ask to meet her with some specific concerns ie reading books don't seem to be the right level and go from there.

FloresCircumdati Mon 30-Sep-13 07:59:02

I think you biggest task as a parent this school year is to switch your child on to wanting to read and reading for enjoyment. If you wait for it to happen, it is more likely to be from the other girl who reads than the class teacher. They pick up the motivation to read from home, because it is something they see everyone else doing.

Don't rely on the school for reading books. Read books and magazines (anything really) to your DD at every opportunity and make sure she sees you reading and using books for enjoyment every day. Eventually she will do the same and be happy to read as many books for her ability level as you can get your hands on. Until then, don't push her too much. She has a lot of other information to process besides the words on the page to be an independent reader. The school level books are really just a tool for the school to see how more able children are getting on, not a way for them to learn to read!

FloresCircumdati Mon 30-Sep-13 08:18:58

As for the extension work, perhaps it is a good idea to go into school to see if the class teacher can set more extension work. However, the more able children might have been given more work (or play) which was less directed and relied on the children themselves to be imaginative or to involve themselves with the activity (quiet reading in the book corner, group activity in the writing corner/ home/shop corner, construction toys, games or puzzles. It could just be that there were a number of activities for the class to take turns with (while the teacher concentrated with helping them with core subjects in small groups or individually) and your daughter didn't want to take part in some of the activities. If there are really no other activities and they are sitting with nothing to do at all after, say, a 5 minute class introduction and a 10 minute maths activity, and this happens every lesson/day, yes I would be a little concerned. My concern would not be that the children are not being stretched at least in the first half of year 1) but that my normally well behaved child would learn to misbehave to entertain themselves.

lljkk Mon 30-Sep-13 08:49:41

Go the library & get her books that you think are at her level.
Most public libraries have many early readers to choose from.
The amount of actual learning time at school is very small.
Most of school time is following rules, waiting in queues & socialising.
So if she's bored, she's bored of socialising, not academics.

claraschu Mon 30-Sep-13 08:58:12

I always ignored the books sent home from school, which were invariably boring. Just find books she likes and let her read those. If you have fun reading and playing with numbers at home, (and don't worry so much about vocabulary lists and tracking progress), I think she is very likely to sail ahead enjoying everything she is learning, as she sounds like a bright little girl.

It is far less trouble and more fun to come up with interesting books and activities for your own children than to get overworked school teachers to do the job.

iseenodust Mon 30-Sep-13 10:43:27

I wouldn't worry too much about exams at age 7 if you are outside London. DS recently did exams at age8 and the independent school set them based on what is covered in the national curriculum so tutoring is not necessary. The headteacher said just do one Bond book of VR & NVR and we took him at his word. DS has made the move and is not behind those who went to prep school (except he'd never touched a rugby ball!).

herdream1 Mon 30-Sep-13 14:18:17

I have been pushing (or may I say supporting) my DD from earlier than 5 years old. In the earlier ages, I would try to make it a game. As she gets older and it gets more like proper works, which makes her less keen. She still does it every morning, but just about 15-20 minutes. I find it difficult to know how much work she should be doing. I think that is a question I would always wonder.

I grew up in Japan where all work hard (some incredibly so in UK standard), but teaching in all schools (really) is excellent with clear curriculums, plannning and textbooks. Communication between school and home is not a problem, as school provide very clear objectives, and children take all textbooks and notebooks home everyday.

Teaching at her state primary here in UK was really poor. Although she enjoyed going there, she was by the end of year 3 growing out of this small school and getting bored. I have now moved her to a private school where she seems to have renewed her interests in learning.

The private school my DD attends is not particulary accademic, more for round education, but yet there seems quite a few children who are ahead of what is expected of the age. Maybe it just so happened or maybe children in private education tends to do better as the school focus on the top end children rather than low end in state schools?

Ladyday Mon 30-Sep-13 17:51:38

Thanks everyone - really helpful advice!

keepsmiling12345 Tue 01-Oct-13 21:46:34

No herdream1 you are wrong. State schools do not "focus on the low end". What a horribly dismissive statement.

herdream1 Wed 02-Oct-13 10:33:28

Hi AlienAttack. My experience is limited and I would love to know dirrerent stories from others. Would you share your experiences behind your comment?

At my DD's state primary, more help was given to the DSs trying to get to the average levels, rather than the DSs who are already above those levels.

It's not the same at all schools though

My ds2 state school obviously puts effort into helping DCs achieve the required level.
They put equally as much effort into supporting the DCs that are ahead, and helping them to move further.

I would think it would be incredibly difficult to assess a 5 year old as gifted and talented because although some may be slightly more advanced in reading etc, there isn't too much actual academic work in reception and it is only just the start of the school year.

5 is very young because they are all just getting used to school and the way it all works.

But, I am not a fan of gifted and talented unless we are talking about remarkable, outstanding talent, I don't think "better at reading" should be the criteria.

And I say that as a parent with 2 DCs on this "register"

Yes, they are bright and hardworking. I don't necessarily think that equals gifted.

PiqueABoo Wed 02-Oct-13 12:52:02

Individual school are different, but at a national level, the floor thresholds used to judge schools clearly do affect the teaching. A while ago I knocked up a graph of KS2 results and it's essentially a normal distribution, a 'bell curve', but it's significantly distorted around level 4c i.e. suggests children drilled/boosted/dragged-screaming from level 3 to an 'average' SATs score.

Haven't tried it with recent data including L6 (which is slighty different given that it's pass/fail where pass is interpreted as a 6b), but with a maximum of 5a the graph is clipped at the top i.e. suggests that quite a few children could have done L6 work.

@TantrumsAndBalloons: "I would think it would be incredibly difficult to assess a 5 year old as gifted and talented"

I agree. Entertainingly DD's school sent a letter home in Y3 asking parents to say if they thought DC was gifted and/or talented in something. I'd have loved to have seen the responses ;) We passed on that but by-and-by school put her on for piano (courtesy of her peripatetic in-school piano teacher). I agree with the vanilla dictionary definition re. her having a some significant natural ability, a definite knack, but meh..

mistlethrush Wed 02-Oct-13 13:03:19

My DS was saying he was 'bored' and that there wasn't anything else to do... It turns out he was thinking 'this is easy and there's nothing else to do afterwards' so daydreaming, not getting down to it and not finishing accurately so wasn't getting given the 'extra thing' that was available had he actually knuckled down... He seems to have got the message now (two years on).

richmal Wed 02-Oct-13 13:06:11

State schools do have a ceiling of level 6 being the highest level a child can reach at the end of KS2. There is no incentive for schools to teach above this as they are considered to have achieved the required two levels of progress, no matter what their starting level.

Ladyday Wed 02-Oct-13 14:29:35

herdream1 thanks for your comments about your experiences. My DD's reception teacher could not have been clearer (at a one-to-one parent/teacher conference) in saying that the resource in the classroom was directed to those who might not meet the targets; hence there was no support (eg one-to-one time) for those who were ahead.

TantrumsAndBalloons You're right; the gifted and talented thing is not helpful. Bright is a less divisive word to use. I was assessed as G&T very early on in primary school, a long long time ago, and the definition shaped my perception of myself (and subsequent feelings that I hadn't lived up to the label).

Achievement wasn't my point; only that if the school (seemingly quite openly) does not make it a priority to stimulate those who can do the 'easier' stuff, what action should and can a parent take (without being labelled pushy)? I want my DD to have a good school experience, as I'm sure most people do.

PiqueABoo Wed 02-Oct-13 21:46:12

@richmal: "There is no incentive for schools to teach above this [L6]"

Given that two years ago there was no incentive to teach above L5 I wouldn't complain too much. Meanwhile I think there's a disincentive: Read all about it here (a report for Dfe on 2012 L6 tests):

If you're in a hurry, just read the Findings, section 5 on page 16 and the skip to Secondary views on page 86. It's depressing and as my favourite primary teacher remarked: "I'm reluctant to teach it [L6] because they'll get very bored later when secondary will make them do it all over again".

richmal Wed 02-Oct-13 23:05:16

@PiqueABoo. I had a quick look through. I had not realised level 6 was considered so rare, especially in maths. Where does that leave the child who is above this level? One of the reasons I now home educate is dd got tired of repeating maths. I'm hoping that if dd does GCSE before secondary it will not be open to questioning in the same way as a level. I can see the argument that reading does need a maturity of understanding, but not so maths.

Thanks for the link.

PiqueABoo Fri 04-Oct-13 12:23:56

@richmal, "Where does that leave the child who is above this level?"

Out on a limb.

My DD is a 10yo, which means Y6 and secondary admissions. Having lightly quizzed a few secondary maths teachers they do seem fond of having them start at the beginning of the KS3 curriculum in Y7 regardless of primary levels. One of the comments I like on this from one of the more prominent educational bloggers re. the Ofsted 'most able' report:

"I’d suggest that OfSTED is correct in highlighting KS2-KS3 transition which is hardly a national success story; I hear this all the time. I’ve called it the Berlin Wall of our system and far too often, Y7s are babied and patronised instead of allowed to fly from the position they reached in Year 6. From Day One, some children are systematically under-challenged; they are not expected to work as hard as they could and their sights are set lower than they could be… in some schools. Maybe not yours"

Mandy21 Fri 04-Oct-13 12:38:46

Going back to the OP, I think you need to speak to the teacher, question the books she is given and what is available if she finishes more quickly than her classmates. Having said that, I agree with everyone else that there is lots that you can do at home with other books and the important things I take from your post is that she needs to develop a love of reading and a love of school - just my view of 2 things that encourage achievement. If those things aren't there yet, I'd spend my time encouraging that. Just as an aside, I think the reading levels which school expect are quite low - my DD at the start of Year 2 was off the scale (I think the scale goes up to age 11) but then the vast majority of her (female) classmates (state primary) were there or thereabouts too.

On the more general question of quality of teaching and whether there is an emphasis on the lower performing children in state school - this isn't true of all schools and you have to look at individual schools. Some schools (like my DCs school) is in a selective grammar school, so there is definitely an incentive to support more able pupils in order to get them through the examinations. But the support is there for the children at the other end of the scale - I think the quality of teaching is fab, and I doubt it would be any better in a private school. I think you need to look into the schools you're considering specifically - private doesn't always equal better in my view.

Good luck!

Mandy21 Fri 04-Oct-13 12:40:01

Sorry meant its in a selective school area!

keepsmiling12345 Fri 04-Oct-13 13:12:31

My point was that all state schools are different and all private schools are different. I am fortunate in that my DD's state school does differentiate for able pupils as well as for less-able. it seems to be abe to strecth the very cpapable and still support those striving to get to level 4. I find it really annoying when people dismiss all state schools on the basis of their single experience. It would be just as wrong for me to dismiss private schools on the basis on my single experience of attending one.

Bumpstarter Fri 04-Oct-13 13:25:36

So is there an age at which schools start identifying t&g?

I can see that ks1 is too soon.... So many early developers just end up caught up with after a few years.

iseenodust Fri 04-Oct-13 14:36:36

Schools do spot them in KS1 but in ours they didn't label them. So were told DS was 'very bright', working well in advance of expectations etc. We didn't really cotton on to what this meant at that stage especially as he's a late Aug birthday and we sent him to school not able to read. G&T as a phrase/register came after yr2 SATs.

lljkk Fri 04-Oct-13 20:03:55 favourite primary teacher remarked: "I'm reluctant to teach it [L6] because they'll get very bored later when secondary will make them do it all over again".


"I've learnt loads of new ways to work out sums!" DD, y7, just exclaimed. For y6 she got L6 in almost everything, especially math. On the back of 6 weeks specific preparation (or less).

the only thing she's struggling in is IT (ironic since her parents are programmers). Says teacher is terrible. Loves every other moment at school. Not least the explosive social life.

And what IS the point of accelerating them above L6, anyway? I don't want DD completing GCSEs in yr8.

PiqueABoo Sat 05-Oct-13 00:37:22


::sigh:: I thought programmers were supposed to be analytical. Do you genuinely think it's reasonable to extrapolate your DD's experience to the entire education system and every child therein? Did you read any of that report I linked? Notice the view that Y7 is a "consolidation year" etc?

lljkk Sat 05-Oct-13 09:18:34

We are looking at same picture but seeing different things. DD could have thought "Oh this is stupid I already know how to do sums." But instead she engages & makes the most of it.

I guess there are at least 2 types of gifted people. "Terribly clever but needs a boot up the bottom to achieve anything" vs. "Terribly clever & self motivated, will find own opportunities."

Some people think its school's job to plant that boot. Some people see strong self-motivation as intrinsic part of the Giftedness. DS1 is probably as clever as DD innately, but lacks self-motivation; I see lack of self-motivation as his problem not the school's. I see DD's terrific self-motivation as her true Gift, not so much her brains.

yr7 is so overwhelming in so many ways, I'm glad to hear lots of it is consolidation.

PiqueABoo Sat 05-Oct-13 12:39:18

My DD is currently in currently in the primary Y6 consolidation year that precedes the secondary Y7 consolidation year. For maths she routinely, cheerfully tells me that something was both 'pipsqueak' and 'fun' i.e. she finds an way to make the most of easy work and that's typically by racing.

I'm not sure how long her childish enthusiasm for new experiences will last so I see the education system doing so much 'housekeeping' across two year as significant wasted opportunity. Yes I accept that much of secondary is largely new, but you can track primary numeracy and literacy straight into to secondary maths and English and unless you're very lucky with schools on both sides of transition, despair at the fundamental inefficiency.

Note it was @richmal talking about accelerating to a GCSE for their reasons. I just want my DD's time at school to be time reasonably well spent and that could be on 1001 things, including aspects of social development. She has acquired lots of interests, is typically very good at anything she sets her mind to, but there is never enough time so poor use of that at school is frustrating and I can go ballistic over school demanding large amounts of home-time with crocky, box-ticking homework.

Have you read the Ofsted 'most able' report? It's a bit mangled but is quite damning on the efficiency and continuity around primary-secondary transition. It's also worth noting that like the DfE the Ofsted definition of 'most able' is apparently anyone who gets an L5, roughly the top third of the ability range. That range will include whatever 'gifted' means, but given the normal distribution the majority of their 'most able' won't be too far away from the mean, 'average'.

richmal Sun 06-Oct-13 08:14:17

The reason I want dd to do GCSE is because I do not want dd to spend 4 years of revision in maths. Taking this exam is the only way I can think of to prove she is at this level. It seems bizaar that children are not limited by age in taking music exams. If a child were to have passed grade 7 at 10 another teacher would not say "We'd better go back to grade 5". Yet our education system does not seem to accept children could be a vastly different levels in maths.

keepsmiling12345 Sun 06-Oct-13 15:27:24

Excellent post lljkk. I fully agree that it is essential to understand the different approach. I believe my DD's true " gift" which, if I can support and encourage her not to lose is that she is in the "terribly clever and self-motivated, and will find own opportunities" camp and her school is really excellent at providing her extension work...which is seldom "harder questions" but more often going into the topic or task in more depth or more breadth.

PiqueABoo Sun 06-Oct-13 16:16:27

"children are not limited by age in taking music exams."
There is a bunch of headteachers, the Headteacher's Roundtable, who are attempting to claw some initiative back from the inept dogmatic politicians and they have proposed a system loosely based on piano grades. The catch-phrase for this is "stage not age" and they're serious i.e. genuinely think our mass education system could accommodate that approach.

Pistillate Sun 06-Oct-13 16:36:26

While I see the point about the frustration for a bright child of. 2 years of consolidation during transition, I think richmal's comparison with the music exams is flawed.

Our local regional orchestra invites people to join their youth orchestra with a grade exam requirement. However, they found that they had many applicants who met the necessary grade requirement for entry, but were unable to keep up with the standard required because of a lack of training in Rhythmn.

. After trying to get these young people to go back and learn some basic stuff that had been missed in their previous teaching,they created a programme of training for children age 4 plus in order to provide opportunities for local children to learn everything they need to play in a professional orchestra.

Grade 8 is a great achievement, however, in music and other areas of learning, when there is widespread teaching to the test, many aspects of skill are left behind because the tests are not assessing those areas.

Currently, good teachers will be picking up on what bits and pieces kids have missed out on, and enriching their lessons by assessing individual learning needs and addressing them. However, this kind of teaching is not, I believe, valued by the powers that be who would like to see the national curriculum, which never fails, adhered to at all times.

richmal Sun 06-Oct-13 19:01:32

Surely any child who has reached GCSE maths or grade 8 music could have gaps in their ability, be they 10 or 16. Equally there will be some at either of these ages who will be ready to progress to the next stage. Why should one person be ready to study A level because they are 17 and another not because they are 11 if both have attained a good grade at GCSE?

Pistillate Sun 06-Oct-13 20:46:19

I don't understand why the focus on the qualification? A levels are a useful qualification if you want to go to university, or do an advanced apprenticeship etc. they are a ticket to the next stage. Which is probably not appropriate for an 11 year old.

Sure, once a child's learning needs move on, the teacher needs to provide relevant work.

Like I just said, teaching to the test leaves gaps, and the obsession with sticking to the curriculum meaning teachers cannot always respond to children's learning needs.

The answer is more responsiveness to individual learning needs, not allowing 11 year olds to sit A levels.

richmal Sun 06-Oct-13 21:41:52

But in a class of 30 children how is a teacher to know what an individual child's learning needs are if there is a ceiling on what a child may be assessed at?

PiqueABoo Sun 06-Oct-13 23:54:26

@Pistillate I think you're demanding a little too much from the music grades analogy. I understand your point, but I could just as easily say grades don't teach you improvisation or composition. Those 'traditional' grades are what they are and don't purport to make someone entirely fit for every possible path they might take as a musician.

You've clearly got some issue with children being constrained by the NC and think they should be able to go off-piste. The difficulty I have with that for primary age is that they'll spend a week of "additional maths" lessons doing that, working out the first 50 items of the Fibonacci sequence or something similar scraped from the web, which seems absurd when they could be learning say algebra. The upstream curriculum contains the core maths concepts and skills so it's sensible to want to go there next...

Pistillate Mon 07-Oct-13 21:23:28

Yeah, maybe I ranted on a bit.

I do feel very strongly that mixed ability teaching can be very successful,in an environment where invididual learning needs are assessed and addressed. That's not what you are describing with a week of Fibonacci, I think.

It is possibly something not seen much in mainstream uk children's education.... With so much focus on level attainment, and top table ssecond table etc heading towards streaming in secondary.

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