To Be Shocked That DS Got A 'D' In His First Half-Termly Report At Grammar School

(114 Posts)
gazzalw Mon 12-Nov-12 13:19:12

Not sure if I'm looking for reassurance or what but here goes...

DS has always been regarded as very good at maths by his teachers and us (well he was at primary school) and got a Level 5A in his KS2 SATs. He did do Level 6 and didn't pass but we assumed that was because he was actually ill when he did the exam (not an excuse but he did have slapped cheek virus quite badly) and the primary school teacher who was coaching his year to the Level 6 curriculum was off sick for the last half term so they didn't complete the work.

We had always assumed that he had passed his three 11+ exams on the basis of his maths, NVR/VR skills rather than his English (for which he got a 5B in KS2 SATS) which has never been his strongest subject not one that particularly interests him.

Note he hasn't been tutored in maths at all.

Anyway, going to a super-selective we were under no illusions that he would be a top dog in any subject, but in maths would have probably expected him to be average in the class. Looking at how he's been getting on in his homework it doesn't look as if he's had any major issues with not understanding the work.

So imagine our shock (and his) when he got his first report and although he has got Bs for most subjects (including English) which put him in the middle of the class (no problem with that especially as he is quite lazy), he got a 'D' for maths and is apparently one of the bottom three in the class of 30 boys!

What would your opinion be? I guess it might just be a reflection of the fact that in a boys grammar school they are generally maths whizzes, that a lot of them have been tutored and are working well above the baseline levels that you would expect even of grammar school children, that maths is one of those subjects that it's easier to coach ahead in and a lot of them have been coached ahead (he says that most of them have tutors although difficult to know whether that is indeed true), that he wasn't taught to such a high standard as other boys at his primary school or that he just isn't naturally as good at maths as his cohort?

I know that as parents we can think our children are brilliant when they're obviously not, but the thing is we have always wholeheartedly felt he has some latent skill at maths - maybe he has but just compared to his classmates it doesn't seem that way!

That would essentially put him in the bottom group in his Year (unless he just happens to be in the class most capable at maths!) which I find hard to believe as he is quite clearly a lot more competent than we were at the same age (and we went to grammar schools and were not in the bottom sets)

Hope to get some insights rather than being shouted down....I guess the bottom line is that in high achieving grammars someone has got to be at the bottom ;-(....

Sparkleandshine78 Mon 12-Nov-12 13:27:58

I think this is probably quite simple.....

He is clever enough to pass the 11+, and get into a good selective school.

however especially as he is quite lazy is your key comment....

he needs to understand (and here is the wake up call) that he needs to work harder and probably have some tutoring to make the most of the fantastic opportunity he has.

I imagine if you have gone from state school to grammar, it may be a shock but the 'top set' put in lots of outside work. He has probably been able to float towards to top of the class up to now and coast a bit, whereas now the writing is on the wall - in a class of 30 boys, they are all working harder.

mateysmum Mon 12-Nov-12 13:29:57

It could be lots of reasons. You need to talk to his teacher and seek clarification, ideally have a meeting with your DS present.

Sounds like it's the shock as much as the actual mark that is bugging you and if your DS is performing below par, then the teacher should have made him/you aware of this.

If this is his first term at the gammar school, don't panic, some kids just take a bit longer to settle in and pick up the pace and it sounds like suddenly he has come up against lots of other talented mathematicians. Once you know the background, you can agree an action plan with the teacher to support your DS.

Yellowtip Mon 12-Nov-12 13:34:40

This is D for attainment rather than commitment I assume? I only ask because on the reverse side of our reports there's an explanation of each grade. If he's D for commitment in his first half term I wouldn't get myself wrapped around the axle tbh, I'd probably just say sharpen up. If he's D for attainment but B for commitment I might dig a bit deeper but it really is very early days. Even my golden child got Cs in his first report (never mind the less golden DC smile). He's a boy, don't panic!

gazzalw Mon 12-Nov-12 13:35:15

I think you are right.....he has coasted right through primary school and never really been stretched.

Always felt it would take him a time to actually see what they would expect of him at a grammar school and I think he's now beginning to see. He did say himself that the "only way is up."

I just think that there are other subjects (such as Art or DT) which we might have expected him to get a 'D' in (but he didn't) because he would himself admit that he has neither aptitude nor interest in those but would never have had him down as being 'weak' at maths which is what this report is currently indicating....

Sparkleandshine78 Mon 12-Nov-12 13:35:43

.... I would be talking to other parents about how much their kids are doing / being tutored etc.... and the teacher - have a special appointment to see what she thinks.

Yellowtip Mon 12-Nov-12 13:36:07

Eek: 'probably have some tutoring' Sparkle. No! Why? Bad!

Blu Mon 12-Nov-12 13:36:30

Hello gazza!
If he was shocked, it sounds as if he has not been struggling with the work - do you know how this level was arrived at? Was it the result of a one-off test or based on the whole half term's work? How do you know he is one of the bottom 3? Maybe they have ALL been marked relatively low? By which I mean is the D relative to everyone else in the class or relative to some absolute benchmark?

I think you need to talk to his tutor or maths teacher. There could be all sorts of explanations - they have been covering ground that the heavily tutored have covered, he hasn't quite adapted to secondary school pace and environment, he had an off day, or whatever.

I don't think you should assume that this result defines his school career from now on.

I am watching anxiously - DS has gone into the top stream of a comp not a million miles from you, with the same SATS results. he comes home saying he feels 'rubbish' at maths because the girls sitting next to jim is much faster. They seem to work at great speed in secondary, and the naturally genius and the Kumon tutored seem to be shining.

How does your DS compare in age with his cohort? DS is late summer born and while enjoying it all has sometmes felt daunted and overwhlemed by the overall-ness of secndary school, and gets very tired.

musttidyupmusttidyup Mon 12-Nov-12 13:36:52

Might be interesting to find out what the grade is based on (test score? Homework? Classwork? Teacher assessment?) and whether its a grade which has used his ability as a baseline (ie his ks2 score) or is assessing him in line with his peers? Has he been given a target or expected level for the end of the year? Is it judged against that? Does he get any other grades in his report - ie is this an attainment grade? Or effort? Or both?
Difficult to assess what the problem is unless you are sure of the criteria.
Also - did he do cats tests? If yes what is his Q and NV score? These combined can give a good indicator or his ability and strengths/weaknesses in the subject.

Yellowtip Mon 12-Nov-12 13:38:14

Maybe an e-mail Sparkle, not a special appointment - or poor gazzalw will be flagged up as an over anxious dad.

GooseyLoosey Mon 12-Nov-12 13:39:17

Sounds a lot like me in my first report at secondary - the grades were not good at all. Having coasted through primary, I believed I could do everything without trying and put little or no effort in to my work. Homework was not focused on at all and I did nothing outside of school. The report came as an almighty shock to the system. It took another term or so, but I became (and remained) a straigh A student. All it took was the shock of doing badly. This may be the case for your son - certainly sounds like he could do with working harder.

middleclassonbursary Mon 12-Nov-12 13:42:39

My DS is at a super selective boys independent he very very good at maths he finds it very easy got an A in a maths GCSE at 12 when at prep. At his senior school he changed at 13 he's in the third set out of 8 the first term was not great he didn't like the teacher methods and he didn't really like him he was near the bottom of the class after the first half term and hating maths. We spoke to the teacher who I didn't feel was overly helpful. He was offered a few weeks extra help by another maths teacher persevered and by the end of the first year he was top of the class and now talking about keeping it up to a level and beyond. OP it's early day and its a new environment have a chat to the teacher maybe he can just give a bit of help to get over this little blip.

Blu Mon 12-Nov-12 13:44:56

When is the next parents evening?

tiggytape Mon 12-Nov-12 13:49:05

Being near the bottom of a class in a super selective grammar schools is not really bottom by any stretch of the imagination. All of the children at his school will be exceptionally bright but within that category there will be degrees of 'brightness'.
Some children will be comfortably above average but the very top children will probably be 3 or 4 years ahead of the norm. Yet all of them would have been top of the top group in previous schools - it is just getting used to that adjustment in expectation now that they are all grouped together.

Maths is also a subject that a lot of children seem to excel in at this age. My DS is at comp, he got a 5A in Maths but is not top of the year (and some boys in our area do travel to grammars so are 'creamed off' and not at the comp). He is in the top group at comp but there are children who appear to be streets ahead in maths. Some of them have been tutored (and are still tutored) but some of them just shine at maths (but didn't pass the 11+ because their English is only average for example).

I think overall though, it comes of being at grammar school where being comfortably above average for their age equates to being merely average compared to other grammar school boys. That isn’t a bad thing of course – it doesn’t alter the fact that your DS is exceptionally good at maths, it just means he will have to get used to being compared to boys who are all above average and some who are truly exceptional. And also maybe as he gets older, his focus and talents are shifting more to English?

gazzalw Mon 12-Nov-12 13:54:25

Thanks everyone for responses - will try to answer as best I can:

No we have asked him how he's been getting on and he implied that he considered himself "in the middle of the class".

I am not sure what the grade is based on (whether it's a combination of classwork, homework and tests or any combination of the above).

We know he was in the bottom three because the grade one's son got is highlighted in black and includes a white number indicating how many boys in total were given that grade!

No Blu we haven't 'written him off' yet grin - it's just a shock!

No unfortunately he doesn't even have the summer born factor to work in his favour - he is a 'middling' in his year child! Well he was at primary school but not sure now!

I think he's been assessed in line with his peers rather than on the basis of his KS2 score.

He got a D for attainment and a 3 (average - 15 boys in total out of 30 got that score) for effort.

I am not aware that he has done CAT tests - how would one know? I know that his peers who went to comprehensives did those before they started (or right at the beginning of term) but don't think that DS has.

I'm sounding a bit vague but only because the report sheets didn't really give any additional information which would have been of any use to me!

I guess we will just have to sit it out until his parents' evening (at the end of the month).

What I do know though is that the last teacher DS had at primary school wasn't very good at maths at all (which is why they had to have another teacher to teach for the Level 6 stuff) and DS only made one sub-level of progress twixt Years 5 and 6 (which we didn't consider good enough really)

Well yes, there's all this huge thing with the grammar schools saying that they don't want heavily tutored children but then those who haven't been (such as DS) then seem to be disadvantaged for being naturally able but not tutored to higher levels.....

HMMMMM

HellothisisJoanie Mon 12-Nov-12 13:55:51

you know though. s1 is in hte bottom set for maths at a grammar.
I was all GASPY then the teacher said
"oh yes at least half of them get As"

HellothisisJoanie Mon 12-Nov-12 13:56:43

its VERY old fashioned to give places in the class and tbh slightly pointless

difficultpickle Mon 12-Nov-12 14:03:22

I went from top of my year mostly and top of my class always in primary to 26/30 first year in grammar. It was a real wake up call as I had been having too much fun with my new friends. I pulled my socks up in the second year and came third in the year. I got a prize for the most improved pupil (which I felt a bit of a fraud in accepting).

Sounds to me as if the mark will be the wake up call he needs. I wouldn't be overly concerned but I would have chat with the teacher to understand what has been used to compile that grade (ie assessments, homework, classwork etc).

gazzalw Mon 12-Nov-12 14:03:28

Yes rationally I can see that, HellothisisJoanie - one has no idea about his cohort and unless one does know what levels they entered at it's not necessarily helpful.....

It is difficult to interpret data presented in such a way...maybe a shortcoming of the grammar system????

Well the remark from your DS1's teacher puts it in perspective, doesn't it .... mind you it certainly wasn't like that at the grammars DW and I went to - I failed my O Level and DW got a C- from Division 3!)

Yellowtip Mon 12-Nov-12 14:05:10

gazzalw don't worry, really. Your DS got a 5A from an ordinary state primary which didn't stretch him and he wasn't tutored. He's very able. The fact that he was surprised by his mark is good. Even if he is still lazy for a while the teachers will get his measure very soon and these superselectives have ways and means to get the slightly lazy boys moving. Even if it takes time, don't worry - he needs to get there in his own time, up to a point. He needs to enjoy school too. I still can't fathom what makes boys like yours and mine spark up: DS1 got moving quicker then DSs 2, 3 and 4 but they all seem to get there in the end (in some cases right at the very, very end!). I think the fact that he hasn't been tutored is very positive indeed. Give him time.

Sparkleandshine78 Mon 12-Nov-12 14:06:28

I think you do need an appointment with the teacher - mainly because this is a surprise... it is counter to the way you (and he) thought things were going. Forget over anxious parent, so what? isn't this about getting the best for your DS? If neither you or DS understand what this report means or reflects you need a one-to -one chat with the teacher.

Re: tutoring, this was mainly a thought about your DS may need help with 'how to work' 'how to study' 'how to do homework' etc. rather thank help with a specific subject. I went to comprehensive and really lacked studying skills as was relatively bright and did well without too much effort, fast forward to A-levels and very nearly failed completely as didn't have ANY skills needed.

tiggytape Mon 12-Nov-12 14:08:29

That is true Hello - at the end of the day all children are aiming for similar GCSEs and A Levels. They don't need to be 3 years ahead to get fantastic grades in these exams although I am sure the grammars would help a child achieve this if they had the potential. They may also help them to get a higher number of high grade GCSEs or get them a bit earlier.

When DS was placed in the top groups, I told him he must work hard to stay there because I want him to have the option of triple science and other subjects at GCSE (he is capable but also prone to coast).
At parents evening however, they told us all of set 1 and set 2 are expected to get A* or A in maths and that all of them will be doing triple science whether they want to or not! Set 3 can also opt to do it and are expected to get grades A-C in core subjects and even the lower sets are still expected to get C's in the core subjects and do double science.

What I'm saying is that even at comp (so especially at grammar), a child does not need to be top of the top group or even in the top group to get brilliant results later on. And that is what counts really. Employers and universities will look at a child's grades / personal statement / academic record not at whether 27 children in the same year were maths geniuses

gazzalw Mon 12-Nov-12 14:11:52

Thanks everyone for putting things into perspective - I guess the telling thing that he is generally a 'B' so he is holding his own. As my SIL so wisely put it, some subjects require maturity and depth of knowledge whereas maths is one of those subjects that children can be pushed ahead in from a young age....

OwlLady Mon 12-Nov-12 14:12:07

Personally I think they go through peaks and troughs with maths, if that helps?

gazzalw Mon 12-Nov-12 14:15:23

Well maybe the measure of it will be when they start doing things in maths that not many of them have previously studied. I will have to ask DS whether he's covered lots of new ground this half-term. Maybe he is learning new things and a lot of the others are just reinforcing what they already know?

Yes, OwlLady I think you are right, and you can just 'get' some parts of maths and not others.

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