Stuck in the bottom group!

(66 Posts)
Wintermelonsoup Tue 19-Feb-13 13:15:41

Y5 DS has to stay in bottom group maths because there’s no space left in the other groups. He knows all his timestables and division tables back to front since y4 while some of the children still struggling with 3Xs and 4Xs. The problem is that a lot of the time he finds maths lessons too easy. If he finishes the tasks too early he will be given extra work to do or play computer games instead. What should I do?

TheBuskersDog Mon 11-Mar-13 21:57:37

I think you are getting too stressed out about which class he is in. If there are ninety children and three teachers then it makes sense that one teacher will take the most able thirty, another the next thirty and the other teacher the remaining thirty. Each of those teachers should then differentiate according to the abilities of the children in each class.
Children should be moved if for example they are in the top set but are actually working at a lower level than a child/children in the second set, in which case they should be swapped. I would expect the teachers to reassess the classes termly and move children as necessary.
Do you actually think your son is working above the level of all the others in his maths class? Also you have no way of knowing if there are children in the set above who are working at a lower level than him. If this is the case the teachers will be aware, there is no benefit to them to have children in the wrong set. I would just say to the teacher that your son feels the work is too easy and see what she says.

wintermelonsoup Mon 11-Mar-13 12:58:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

learnandsay Mon 25-Feb-13 22:53:33

mumsnet is for parents. Sometimes some of the teachers get a little more passionate about their favourite subjects that the rest do, but that's life. I don't see any complaints, so I guess the system works.

I mean teacher of course. Breaking in new glasses.

"Mumsnet should be for parents " ... can't we be a teacger and a parent? I suddenly feel very unwelcome. Tolerated at best.

mrz Mon 25-Feb-13 17:15:08

"Doesn't the NC do that to a degree though? The cohort is split into Low, middle and high abilities and there are different expectations for each group." That has nothing to do with the National Curriculum that is the policy of individual schools.

derektheladyhamster Mon 25-Feb-13 14:50:31

We have had a new head this year. And I think he's done away with 'tables' per se.

All children have a learning partner which changes every Monday, they sit with, and work with, their partner all week. I assume that each child is given differentiated work. There certainly seems to be no complaint from parents or children and my son is making good progress. It seems to work that one week they are the 'stronger' partner and some weeks the 'weaker'. And of course this can change with each subject, as well as with each partner.

gabsid Mon 25-Feb-13 13:01:32

I think it would be a good idea to speak to the teacher and find out what's going on.

My DS (Y3) is in the bottom group for maths (again!), however, he came out as a 2b in his sats and with me at home he seems to be moving nicely towards L3. When I asked DS what he was doing in school it seemed too easy for him.

Then I spoke to the teacher, she told me that several DC who scored 2b are in bottom group, what DS told me they were doing was only part of the lesson, she said DS is at the top of that group but she is reluctant to move him up as DS is not concentrating or working on his own well and in the bottom group are only 18 DC plus support as opposed to 27 without TA. She assured me that DS is streched, I saw his books and we agreed that if DS isn't doing the work because he is dreaming or playing with his pens then she will send it home.

I was happy and reassured.

wintermelonsoup Mon 25-Feb-13 12:05:58

Thanks GlobalGill - I have been doing more maths with my dc at home since year 4 especially in word problems and he is improving all the time.... thank God! He seems to get on reasonably with 11+ questions either. Sometimes I feel like taking dc out of school maths lessons altogether and just do it all by myself!!! Anyway I am arranging to meet his class and maths teachers asap to hopefully make the situation better.

wintermelonsoup Mon 25-Feb-13 11:03:36

How do schools differentiate ability and knowledge? I agree some people naturally have higher ability in maths (as in other subjects) but schools are supposed to teach knowledge and skills. Just take last week as example my dc hasn’t been taught any new maths knowledge. While he already knows enough to take the next stage of learning. This is my concern.

GlobalGill Mon 25-Feb-13 10:42:01

Doesn't the NC do that to a degree though? The cohort is split into Low, middle and high abilities and there are different expectations for each group. Schools are judged on how much progress each group makes.

In our school the middle sets are not challenged as much as the higher sets and the curriculum is delivered out of synch with the top sets and at a slower pace. I think the main issue may be if you are at the top of the middle or bottom of the top. Perhaps the mistake is not to consider the end goal? Is a child who is capable of a top grade at GCSE really going to be penalised etc? Generally not I imagine.

Wintermelon in your position I think I would take matters into my own hands and get a tutor & keep an open dialogue going with the school.

GlobalGill Mon 25-Feb-13 10:35:41

In our school, at any rate, the groups are not fixed. It's true to say that movements are reasonably rare though - maybe one every couple of terms. The school believe strongly in setting for Maths by ability. They do give CATS type tests I believe also inform the setting process too.

wintermelonsoup Mon 25-Feb-13 10:34:12

GlobalGill - I agree there may never be a perfect system. If the school just have different ability groups or sets in each class so the children can still have the same lesson together ……… okay.
The issue is the school separates the children in different ability classes so they are not being taught the same topics each week probably not even to the same depth in each topic . For example last week he told me that in his class they were doing timestable and dividing numbers by 10 and 100 which he knows too well already. So he didn’t learn anything new for the whole week. But in the same week the middle group was doing fractions which I know he is capable enough to at least seat in the lessons. But if 30 is the maximum number of children per teacher so I just don’t see how different ability classes system will work effective. Once one or two of the classes became full then flexibility reduces or ceases. I kind of feel that the school has condemned the bottom group children as low achievers by nature.

HorribleMother Mon 25-Feb-13 10:02:56

I don't think anyone around here had even heard of Kumon.

I find it shocking that any school could be so stupid as to have fixed ability groups for all of yr3-6.

GlobalGill Mon 25-Feb-13 00:30:46

Whilst it's very unlikely IMO that those children of key school people will be promoted blindly, I think there may generally be an over representation of the children of middle class professionals etc in a top group. Ours has a very high percentage of children whose parents ascribe high cultural status to maths. Some children in it been doing Kumon or similar since they were rising 4 years old. This won't make a child brilliant but it will make a child with a perfectly average intellect extraordinarily quick at arithmetic over time (it most cases) - all those years of daily extra practice. Sometimes they'll have a tutor too who will show them how to use that arithmetic tool to make connections. They might attend a Maths club after school too or chess club etc. It all makes a difference.

In other schools I know it is impossible to gain access to the top group as all are being tutored to remain at a very high level indeed - talking about a large international school with lots of maths sets. Many very able mathematicians will be in sets 2 or 3 (where there are 8 or 9 in total). I am not sure it matters really as most will be doing very well and the school gets phenomenal results in Maths.

In other schools you have a situation that I think Watermelonsoup (?) was describing. The curriculum is slightly less ambitious/challenging for those around set 3 in the juniors perhaps. They are not given the very difficult problems and they work at a slower pace and don't take the concepts/topics that bit further - e.g. just perimeter in Y4 rather than area and perimeter and area etc. They will be trying to give those children that can do more the stretch within the set but again if this set is following a less stretching curriculum overall there may be casualties at the margins. E.g. you might have a 3a who could be a 4c or 4b at a push with work/extension etc. But does that matter? We hear that they all catch up if they have the ability to do so in time. In fact a Maths teacher I know has actively asked that all her children are moved down Maths sets as she thinks that solid foundations do not trump extra stretch in the junior years even for relatively able mathematicians.

Maybe it's more of an issue for lower sets with late developers working at a slower pace? Maybe you need to see how the school does in SATS for Maths at the end of KS2? If it gets good results generally most are served very well? I fear no system is perfect.

Ruprekt Sun 24-Feb-13 23:21:21

I really cannot believe that children who are pta, governors etc are being put into the higher groups to make it look good.

What would be the point? The children who could not do the work would struggle and the teacher would have to re teach them! No progress for child or teacher.

Got 2 gov's children in my class. One top and one bottom. My ds is top set and i am pta, but he is bright and can do the work. He would never be put into a group he could not cope with.

Absurd.

ipadquietly Sun 24-Feb-13 09:07:47

We set (flexibly!) two ways for maths and I still have to differentiate widely within my set in the way woolly describes. There is an overlap between the lower and the upper set. as we follow the same curriculum policy, which means that the 'middle' children are all accessing the same thing.

Winter there will definitely be overlapping abilities between the three sets at your ds's school. I would talk to the teacher to find out how much the third group overlaps with the second and this may set your mind at rest.

WoollyEyedandWittering Sun 24-Feb-13 08:52:08

Oh ignore me, I've just seen your mid-thread post about them being taught in separate classes blush

WoollyEyedandWittering Sun 24-Feb-13 08:50:19

If a child whizzes though their group's work in maths I would automatically give them a go on the next level up or an extension exercise (what seems to be happening with your son)
However, If this happened consistently I would give them the next group's up work every time (no matter where they were sitting).
I also move children around sometimes on their response to the main teaching input, for example time is a topic that sometimes your most 'able' students find confusing and yet those who struggle with more straight forward calculations are great at. I would therefore group the strugglers together so that myself or the TA could support them.
This is less 'formal' than the top, middle , bottom groups, could your school be doing this <fingers crossed>?!

mrz Sun 24-Feb-13 08:38:53

I'm afraid it does sound as if this might happen in your child's school wintermelonsoup

wintermelonsoup Sat 23-Feb-13 22:48:29

Another query I have is that if all the children stay in the same ability group since year 3. Does it mean that each of the ability group will progress at different rate because the top group presumably will progress the fastest and middle second and the bottom will always be in the bottom. So as the years go by the ability gap between the three groups will grow bigger therefore harder for late developers to catch up. In other words the kids in the bottom group will get further and further behind?! Also if the bottom group children never get to do the more challenging questions when it comes to exam they will always find the test more difficult won’t they. The problem is that each group is in an seperate classroom and being taught differently. Am I being over paranoid. Will really appreciate some expert opinion.

jalapeno Fri 22-Feb-13 18:48:47

I don't either. I think our school is stuck somewhere in the '80s! I wish some of you taught my children grin

cumbrialass Fri 22-Feb-13 14:34:21

Me neither! I know you don't "do" groups at all but for those that do, tables move, chairs move and children move!

mrz Fri 22-Feb-13 14:18:36

I honestly don't understand why the groups have to be the same size

wintermelonsoup Fri 22-Feb-13 13:57:38

I agree with PastSellByDate in my dc's school children rarely move in or out of any ability group. Nearly all the children stay in the same ability group since beginning of year 3 and then in that group every – day, week, month, term, year. My dc and I work very hard since year 4 to hope that he will move up group in year 5 at least. The school teachers and head teacher know that he put in a lot of extra work in his maths as well. All he got are awards and being the maths teacher’s pet. We both are feeling very demoralised by it all. Since Christmas we gave up on the school. I told my dc that he has to accept to do more work with me at home instead and just forget about this moving up group nonsense for now. I have to keep reassuring him that all the extra work he does now will be worthwhile when he gets in year 7. I had meetings with his year 4 teacher several times already. However I will talk to his year 5 teacher again. Thanks ladies for your thoughts on this. Feel a little better now.

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