There's a "culture of low expectation" in secondary schools. Do you agree?

(712 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 13-Jun-13 13:01:49

Hello. You may have seen/heard on the news today that Ofsted is warning that thousands of bright secondary-school-age children are being "systematically failed" at school.

And we'd like to know what you think about this.

Ofsted says there is a culture of low expectations in England's non-selective secondaries - meaning that, according to a new Ofsted report, more than a quarter (27%) of pupils who achieved the highest results in primary school fail to achieve at least a B grade in both their English and their Maths GCSE.

The most academically able, says Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, arrive "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" from primary school, but things start "to go wrong very early. They tread water. They mark time. They do stuff they've already done in primary school. They find work too easy and they are not being sufficiently challenged."

Do you think this is a fair reflection of life at secondary school? Do you think your child's secondary school has a low expectation of its pupils/your child? Does/did your child "tread water" in Year 7? Do you wish secondary schools did more to challenge their more academically able pupils?

Please do tell!

motherinferior Thu 13-Jun-13 13:04:17

Not at DD1's school there isn't. She seems to have been pulled up by her bootstraps in stuff like maths - which was never her strong point before - and is doing three languages (in a school that ostensibly specialises in maths and science) and remains enthused and energetic about education.

motherinferior Thu 13-Jun-13 13:05:22

Is entirely non-selective comp, btw, though is all girls so is not Dragged Down By Underachieving Blokes I suppose you could argue...

arcticwaffle Thu 13-Jun-13 13:07:42

Not at my dds' comp either. My yr8 and yr7 and their friends are absolutely bursting with enthusiasm and the school seems to be pushing them quite nicely. Lots of setting from yr 7, high expectations of the brightest kids. Lots of extra challenges and groups.

yr7 dd2 currently aims to get all A*s and read PPE at Oxford. Then she'll be the first Labour woman Prime Minister. Or perhaps a world dictator. I'm not too worried about her aspirations being too low.

hellsbells99 Thu 13-Jun-13 13:07:49

They are quoting that "62% of pupils (at non-selective secondary schools) who got Level 5 in their English Sats did not get an A* or A grade in this subject at GCSE in 2012" but then you have Gove complaining that far too many get an A or A* - the pupils cannot win!
My DCs are at a non-selective secondary - was a comp now an academy, and I think they are being constantly pushed to get the best results possible. My younger DD is taking GCSE maths this year (Year 10) as did my elder DD. They then spend year 11 doing a harder maths course in preparation for 'A' level.

LackaDAISYcal Thu 13-Jun-13 13:09:35

Not sure as DS is starting Y7 in September, but I will be watching this thread with interest, given the current thread in AIBU on the same subject!

i don't have dc, but from hearing about my teacher dp's targets i would say that in his school there definitely isn't a culture of low expectations

Lemonsole Thu 13-Jun-13 13:12:45

This stunning observation owes more to the huge weight placed on KS2 Sats, which few teachers regard as a reliable predictor because they are coached for relentlessly by primary schools, and are testing a tiny part of the pupil's overall curriculum.

On another level, when schools' reputations hang on the 5 A*-C measure, it's not rocket science that they channel more of their efforts into converting Ds to Cs than into Bs to As. That doesn't make it right; it's a logical consequence of making league tables a key measure of a school's worth.

It also reflects the reality that primaries find it a lot easier to counter the impact of a difficult home environment than secondaries, when adolescence and peer pressure kick in. Most children in Willshaw's report are described as being those from families more likely to be vulnerable.

Lemonsole Thu 13-Jun-13 13:14:29

This carefully timed announcement follows on nicely from "too many top grades" on Monday to "not enough top grades" on Thursday.

And the ongoing demonisation of teachers continues apace.

bigTillyMint Thu 13-Jun-13 13:19:52

Not for my DC at their inner-London comp either.

Infact, last night at Parent's Evening, DS was bemoaning the fact that most of his teachers want him to try harder even though he is doing OK -he definitely could put more effort in.

And like MI's DD, both of mine have improved greatly since arriving at their comp compared to their KS2 SATs. And they were level 5's there.

SuffolkNWhat Thu 13-Jun-13 13:22:40

Is this taking into account other factors such as puberty and outside pressures. I was all set to get A*s in my GCSEs and then I started seeing my first boyfriend, nothing my parents or school could do to make me focus more on my studies than him. I still got good grades (As and Bs) but not as good as I could have got.

tethersend Thu 13-Jun-13 13:34:53

It's a rare thing on MN to open a thread and find that somebody has posted exactly the points you wanted to make... But Lemonsole has put it perfectly.

tethersend Thu 13-Jun-13 13:36:34

The only other point I wanted to make was that Michael Wilshaw is a massive, massive wanker.

Goldmandra Thu 13-Jun-13 13:45:16

I am sure this is about spin and also based on SATs results for which Primary pupils are specifically coached.

Having said that, my DD is expecting good GCSE results which will be greatly attributable to the fact that I have made an enormous fuss about teaching which wasn't up to scratch and insisted that she was moved to groups where the teacher was more competent. DD herself has worked hard to fill gaps left by her teachers and I, in common with many parents at this school, have paid for 1 to 1 tuition where the teaching was still wanting.

I have made myself a right royal PITA to get her the teaching she deserves - something many other parents can't or won't do. Their children will be let down by low expectations and poor teaching. I have no doubt of this.

The fault lies with the senior management team of the school who appear to have taken no steps to support teachers who were struggling or make improvements in response to complaints and the fact that the school is an academy which gives them far too much autonomy.

They moved DD to better teaching groups to shut me up and left other pupils floundering.

defineme Thu 13-Jun-13 13:48:52

Firstly, the KS2 tests are not a reliable indicator. Primary school children are very different to secondary school children.

I would say the culture of low expectation is not produced by the schools, but has its origins in the wider world and is very difficult for schools to counteract.

Our children need to be supported and inspired within their homes and given inspirational role models by the media. Children bring what they experience in the home and on the street into school with them.

How can they be overachieving on the one hand (too many A*s) and underachieving on the other?

Schools simply can't win.

tethersend Thu 13-Jun-13 13:52:35

I worked with one school which was telling its students that they should all be getting above the school's average results confused

happyyonisleepyyoni Thu 13-Jun-13 14:11:32

I can relate to this. My DS was top of the class at primary school and is now in Year 8 at a state comp, which has recently been downgraded from outstanding to good. At parents evening the teachers said he was doing fine, and seemed surprised when we asked what could he do to get on even better. He is bored and frustrated by repeating work he has already done in primary school, and other kids disrupting lessons.

Unfortunately we have left it too late for him to change school now and I am not sure what to do, see my other thread.

SuffolkNWhat Thu 13-Jun-13 14:35:04

tethers sounds like Gove's wet dream.

chosenone Thu 13-Jun-13 15:11:26

spot on lemonsole why they never factor in puberty and peer pressure is beyond me! It is simply cooler to do 'ok' and spend your time hanging out with mates, watching crap on Youtube and plodding along for some kids.

granita Thu 13-Jun-13 15:11:36

The brightest state schooled pupils are still not smashing through the invisible barriers to elite tertiary education. So Wayne with three A* from Wakefield, who does street athletics, is still going to be at a disadvantage to Hugo from the rowing club at Westminster. Hugo can ring up Oxford's rowing club and get advice on what to put in the application. (Look on the website for corroboration of this.) hmm

timidviper Thu 13-Jun-13 15:15:32

There is such a huge variation between the best state schools and the weakest that it is hard to generalise.

My children are older and have left school now so things might have changed but the expectations at the local independent school they went to were certainly higher than those at the local high school (graded as good by OFSTED)

Bonsoir Thu 13-Jun-13 15:19:48

Agree with Goldmandra. Her scenario is very common. Woe betide those DC who cannot plug the gaps the way she has.

Good for you, by the way. It isn't nice or easy to deal with that type of school management team.

ivykaty44 Thu 13-Jun-13 15:19:50

If it is the case that they find work to easy and are not being challenged - then why have the GCSE marks gone up and up and up since they were introduced in 1988?

I don't understand how pupils are not getting better marks when they are getting better marks

hardboiled Thu 13-Jun-13 15:22:34

Yes, to some degree. The answer is very simple but lots of people don't like it: proper streaming from day 1 in all subjects. The comps that do this in London are all successful schools who send the brightest to Oxbridge (Graveney, Fortismere...etc).

Justfornowitwilldo Thu 13-Jun-13 15:23:40

I agree that brighter DC are often let down by secondary schools. I don't think 'a culture of low expectation' is to blame. I think it's a focus on bloody targets. Schools are judged by the % of A* to C grades they get, so it makes sense that they focus more effort on the bottom of that group. If all politicians stayed out of education it would be a lot better.

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