Is such a lack of movement between ability tables normal in Y1?

(76 Posts)
averywoomummy Sun 08-Dec-13 19:08:06


I have written before about ability groups and my views as DC had entered Y1 on a lower table. Anyway she and I have worked very hard over the past term and she has improved massively but still no movement up for her.

The thing is there has been no movement at all amongst the class over the Autumn term which is nearly at an end now. They all started off on tables (which were apparently given by the reception teacher) then there was a bit of a shuffle round in the first couple of weeks and since then nothing (I know this because I go in to help).

I would have thought that even if the groupings were correct at first that there would be quite a lot of movement as children don't all learn in a linear fashion and that some children would suddenly grasp things whilst others might plateau etc. It would seem strange that they had all progressed in an equal fashion.

I am a bit concerned by this lack of movement especially as in DCs class there are a fixed number of children on each table so for someone to move up or down a corresponding child has to be moved too. I am wondering if this creates extra work for the teacher (and maybe unhappy parents coming in) and so they just haven't bothered to do it? Or would changing groups be something that would be done once at the start of each term?

Flicktheswitch Sun 08-Dec-13 20:46:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

averywoomummy Sun 08-Dec-13 21:04:33

diddle and flicktheswitch

I do understand your sentiments and we would never show any disappointment to DC. In fact I am always very very positive and proud of her achievements. I would also say that she is not at all "heavily tutored" I just make sure that I do some extra work with her at home which she enjoys - I don't force her to do it, go to the library with her, choose good books to get her enthused about literature etc.

The thing is I am not prepared to totally right her off aged 5 and to assume that as she has been placed in a lower ability group by one particular teacher then that is where she will always be and that is the course of her life set. I know what she is capable of and it is certainly more than she is being given by being in this group.

I also agree that whilst some children may just be naturally able that does not mean that a less able child cannot achieve the same things with hard work. For instance I am really not naturally talented in maths and with a normal amount of revision I probably would have achieved a D in maths. However I put so much hard work into my revision (I can still picture the text book 20 years later) that I achieved a B grade - a significant difference and one that made a big difference to my employment chances.

Actually this thread has depressed me and worried me a bit as it does seem as though the general feeling is that she will never move up groups now. I feel very conflicted as I don't want DC to feel pushed or unhappy but likewise I want to help her achieve her maximum potential and I'm not sure that anyone knows what that is at age 5.

diddlediddledumpling Sun 08-Dec-13 21:17:44

Please don't feel that she has been written off, and don't feel depressed!
I'll tell you about my eldest, who's 7. In p1 (age 4-5, NI) he was one of the slowest to pick up phonics and blending sounds into words. I could see he just didn't get it at all. I was never in the classroom, but I'd be pretty sure he was in a lower ability group, despite me knowing that he was very bright, and the teacher would comment on his verbal vocabulary and general knowledge.
He's now a brilliant reader, I have to prise the books out of his hands to get him to go to sleep. He tells me he's in the second top reading group (no idea how he knows, I've never asked) and he regularly gets full marks in his numeracy tests too. But his teacher only reports to me that he doesn't sit up straight, that he's very sensitive, that his handwriting is poor. As a teacher, I honestly couldn't care less about those things. He has an enthusiasm for learning that I know will serve him well at secondary level.
My point is that, as long as you keep your daughter interested in learning (not achieving, that's different), she will fulfil her potential. That's what I see in the girls I teach now who are both successful and happy. And that's what it sounds like you are doing. With that attitude, her ability grouping in Y1 means bugger all, frankly.

Talkinpeace Sun 08-Dec-13 21:26:49

please do not ever be depressed about children never moving sets

DS refused to read or write until well into year 2
he therefore spent quite a long time on the 'lower' tables (rightly)
before deciding to attach his brain
and has been doing well ever since

in DDs year a lad moved from set 4 to set 1 during year 7 because he was a late maturer

good teachers look at the kids as they are on the day, not how they were in the past
or, for that matter, how their parents think they should be fwink

simpson Sun 08-Dec-13 21:26:59

DS (now yr4) started yr1 on the lowest group/table for everything (probably because he did not speak much as he was/is very shy) within 3 weeks he moved to the top group.

Did the teacher actually say that there was no movement between the tables? In DD's class, all the kids do the same (ish) task to the best of their ability and the top group have an extension task too.

All kids get the same homework in parts of 1, 2 and 3 and they can attempt all of it or just one part. They do have different spellings though (top 2 tables get set 1 and the 3rd and 4th table get set 2. Both sets have 6 words.

averywoomummy Sun 08-Dec-13 21:28:45

Thanks diddlediddledumpling! Really nice to hear a positive story. I probably do need to relax a bit but it's just all these NC levels and ability groups and predictions for the future i.e if they don't get NC4 they won't get c grade at GCSE seem to add a lot of pressure!

mrz Sun 08-Dec-13 21:31:03

NC levels are being scrapped

Flicktheswitch Sun 08-Dec-13 21:33:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

averywoomummy Sun 08-Dec-13 21:35:04

Thanks for some more positive stories simpson and talkinpeace!

simpson that's great that the children in your class get the same homework and the same amount of spellings I would love it if it worked like that at our school as then all children get the chance to do the same work and the same chance to prove themselves.

I think this is one of the key things that worries me about the grouping in DC school because the groups get different homework and the higher 3 groups get more spellings than the lower 2. I get concerned because this instantly means DC learning is capped in that over the course of the year she will learn about 50 spellings less than the higher groups and won't get to practice the harder phonics words (they get phonics homework). This will then make it harder for DC to catch up and she never gets the chance to prove she can do more. I think if they were all give the same work and chances I wouldn't be so concerned about her group.

averywoomummy Sun 08-Dec-13 21:39:33

flicktheswitch I have worked hard with her as she started Y1 behind and in a lower group and surely like any parent I wanted to help her catch up and the way I could do that was by helping her at home. As I said earlier I have not been hothousing her but have simply been doing a bit of extra work and supporting her learning.

Why would any parent whose child was struggling not want to help and support them to catch up? Would it have been better just to leave her floundering? In fact by helping her I have actually increased her happiness and confidence at school as she no long dreads reading or their "big write" days as she feels confident to do it.

toomuchicecream Sun 08-Dec-13 21:41:11

See what happens after Christmas. When I had fixed groups last year, I needed the space to sit down and think properly about moving children and I simply didn't have the available brain cells to do that in term time.

diddlediddledumpling Sun 08-Dec-13 21:43:30

Forget about NC levels. Keep spending time and energy on visits to the library, museums, nature walks, chatting about the world, as well as the extra work that she enjoys. An enthusiasm for learning is such a valuable thing to pass on. I imagine NC levels wouldn't take it into account much, though, which is why I'm glad to hear they're being scrapped.

AbbyR1973 Sun 08-Dec-13 23:39:32

Also is it actually true that many children of this age "plateau" for some time in a good learning environment?
I know this is often said but does this actually happen in this age group. My thought is that children might progress faster or slower at times as they hit concepts they find easier or more difficult to grasp, but plateau? I'm not sure.

Aeroaddict Mon 09-Dec-13 09:41:59

I think you need to stop focusing on ability groups, and just look at your DD, and how she is progressing. If you are happy with her progress as an individual, then all is well. If not then maybe have a chat to the teacher about how she can be helped to progress. What other children are doing has absolutely no bearing on how your DD is doing.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 09-Dec-13 10:19:26

Like Aero has suggested stop worrying about where she fits in with the other children and just reflect on her individual progress.
What you have done is amazing she is happier and more confident and this maybe what the teacher is trying to build on - so big fish small pool.
Every class is different and there are a different range of abilities in the class, so the difference between the group she is in currently and the next group maybe quite large and the teacher doesn't want to damage her new found confidence.

glastocat Mon 09-Dec-13 10:29:45

Oh my goodness she is only five, you are really over thinking this! It's not a race, there is really no need to push her when she is still so little.

I think you should stop comparing your dd to her classmates and where she is sitting - neither really tells you anything about your child's abilities. If you have spoken to her teacher and your DD is enjoying the work she is given and is working well, then I would step back from worrying about what is happening in the classroom and just enjoy the extra activities that you and she share at home.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Mon 09-Dec-13 11:28:37

OP - you are getting a lot of stick here which you don't really deserve. I know and understand exactly where you are coming from. It isn't about trying to be pushy, it's about you being concerned that the current classroom set up is such that your child won't get the opportunity to ever progress from the bottom. Even if they are ready for it.

I have to laugh at comments telling you to stop comparing your child to others. Oh, for goodness sake, everyone does it. It's one of the few ways of getting any idea if a child is genuinely making progress or not.

My ds started yr1 very behind and comfortably on the bottom table. His teacher kept them in very rigid groups for the whole year and I too got similarly frustrated. He had SEN (a speech/language disorder) that he was rapidly overcoming but still the gap between his table and the one up seemed to be ever widening. Was he happy with the slow pace? Well, yes actually, and besides he didn't know any different. I ended up doing stuff with him at home to make sure that he'd be able to bridge the gap when he was ready, which is exactly as you have been doing.

He's now in yr2 and I definitely get the feeling that there is much more movement with the new teacher. Even if it isn't him who is doing the moving, it's reassuring to know that things aren't static. He's probably still in the bottom half of the class, but he's now going at the normal pace so I can now stop worrying.

The spellings that you mention is an interesting one. My ds was in the bottom set so he got things last year such as 'I', 'me' and 'the'. The bottom set spellings became far too easy so he's now in middle set. But suddenly he has to spell things like 'especially' and 'unfortunately' which is a ridiculously big step up given that he missed out on learning so many key words last year. But then this is perhaps simply evidence that teaching should ideally be differentiated for the child rather than the group...

How does comparing your child to others help you understand if they are progressing? Genuine question.

How do you know the abilities of all the children in the class? If you aren't able to judge if your own child is progressing (despite spending a lot of time with them) how on earth can you tell what sort of progression the other children in the class have been making? How can you tell if your child is doing well - but happens to be in a high-achieving class. Or if they are coasting at the top of a lower-achieving class?

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 09-Dec-13 12:13:45

I have never compared my child to the others in the class, never knew what reading levels the others were on and didn't care.
MrsCakes makes some excellent points about the cohort and how comparisons can give you a false feeling for how your child is doing. My child would fall into one of those categories if I compared her to others.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Mon 09-Dec-13 12:33:06


How do you ever know your child is making any progress? Genuine question.

If my child didn't know a single letter of the alphabet but now knows five of them then they've made progress. The question is whether it's good enough progress and if I should be happy with it or not.

There are NC levels, of course, but how helpful are they really? Apart from in yr6, they are are subjective. My own 14 years of schooling taught me that not all teachers mark the same and unless the current crop have turned into Stepford-like automaton I doubt that will have changed.

In reality, I have very little idea of the children in my dcs' classes' abilities beyond what their parents mention. (And that may or may not be accurate anyway.) However, if I know the usual spread of yr2/yr6 NC levels of the school and it has a fairly large intake, I can make a reasonable guess at what the ability spread of my dc's class is likely to be. Whilst knowing a child's relative position within a class may have some in-built flaws (such as you mention) it doesn't mean that this data should be disregarded. Instead, you should always make sure that you put it in context with all the other information you can find out.

It's a bit like forecasting weather, though, you take in as much data as you can but you might still get it wrong...

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 09-Dec-13 12:48:34

How do you know if your child is progressing? You ask the teacher. This is always my first question at parents evening is she making the progress you expect? If not why not?
When books come home from school or at parents evening I look through them how many questions are being got right or wrong what are the teachers comments.
Even between year groups in a single school it is possible to have very different spread of abilities. Range can be single peak to bell curve very high up the ability range so your DC could be above average nationally, but at the bottom of that class. Equally you can have double peaks and so on an so forth.
You could also limit a very able child by being satisfied with top of the class.
Avery I would arrange a chat with the teacher to ask are they happy with your DC's progress is it what they expect and are you supporting it correctly.

theweekendisnear Mon 09-Dec-13 14:48:40

averywoomummy, I'm on your side! I have to go pick up the children now, so I'm not going to write a long story, but my DC was similar to yours. It seemed that I was the only one that could see that he could do more than what he was given by his teacher - he was in bottom group 3 years ago (aged 6). I am sure I was perceived as a pushy parent by his teacher. Anyway... we worked at home, and he moved to middle group 2 years ago, and to top group this year (and it seems like it is very unusual to move group). This year he has a very experienced teacher, who "gets" him, and she has decided that he was ready to move up to top group. I have to say that a couple of years ago I had given up - I mean, I kept on working with my DC at home, but I didn't care anymore about what the teacher thought/what group she thought he should be in. I made sure that he actually understood the logic behind the maths that he was doing, and trusted that in the long term he would blossom in school.

I disagree with the posters that say that you should back off - remain vigilant! You are the one that cares the most about your DC, teachers do their best, but have 30 children in a class.

cloutiedumpling Mon 09-Dec-13 18:49:42

averywoomummy - I can see where you are coming from too. There seems to be very little movement between the maths and English groups in my DCs school, particularly as the kids get older. Could you ask the teacher for some of the extra work that the next group gets so that you could work on it at home? If there are spelling tests etc this would give your DD a chance to show the teacher what she can do.

youarewinning Mon 09-Dec-13 21:23:36

But it's not as simple as simply having a spelling test and being able to get them right in a test. My DS continues to get 9/10 correct out of 10 weekly - always has. But he remains in the lowest group for literacy/ spelling because in the work he cannot apply his knowledge and is actually making a slower than average rate of progress despite being behind and therefore should be making accelerated progress. He has SN/sen which complicates things though.

You have to remember what you do with your child at home is 1:1 and will likely be a much higher standard than she can produce on her own in a classroom setting.

My advice would be to encourage your dd to produce her best work in school and to show the teacher all she can do. There is a chance she
is in a group where she's not challenged by what she's asked to do so produces work to the standard of the group and not the standard at which she is able to work iykwim? If she doesn't show anymore than what is expected the teacher cannot know what she is capable of. Having said that I know many schools and teachers who level literacy on outcome rather than differentiate to level. So all children will be asked to produce a story and they know what children can do by what they produce.

I expect ATM they'll be doing assessed writes and numeracy etc so the teacher can reassess where children are and group accordingly next term. I doubt they'll be much movement now as many schools are doing a lot of Christmas things and plays etc.

Please don't think that because your dd is in a certain group now they'll always remain there. Ime teachers generally know what they are doing!

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