End of year report - how can I help ds improve these recurring issues?

(15 Posts)
HeadMeetDesk Wed 01-Jul-15 13:36:14

Ds's end of year report has just dropped though the door. It's not great, and I'm starting to feel a bit frustrated with it all, so I need some advice to help me tackle this in a productive fashion, before he gets home and I just end up being shouty instead blush

I should say that he's only year 7, but it's his second year at the school because they had a 10+ intake. It's independent, and he's there on a bursary, the continuation of which is partly dependent on him maintaining an 'appropriate academic standard'.

The main issue is that he's not doing homework, or he is doing homework but doing it badly, or doing it and then not even handing it in. He has also performed poorly in end of year exams, putting him in the lowest quartile of the year for most subjects (including maths and science). He did a minimum of revision for these, despite my best efforts to engage and reward and encourage. He has been on 'monitoring' for a few weeks (has a form that needs to be signed after every lesson to highlight issues with participation and homework) but even that seems to have made no difference.

His report seems pretty balanced in that they are really encouraging of the stuff he's doing well (and all say he is a delightful chap!) but there's a very strong message coming through that he must do much, much better and get organised. I don't know how to help him do this.

I have always said that I don't expect him to be top of the class, but I absolutely do expect him to put the effort in. I'm wondering if I've made a mistake with the school? I am struggling a bit even with the bursary and tbh I can't help feeling a little fed up that I'm sacrificing stuff and he's making minimal to no effort. But I don't want to move him; it's a great school and he has opportunities there I could never hope to give him.

I don't want to end up getting cross with him. But I am beyond frustrated and worried that, even though it's only year 7, the bad habits are going to get ingrained.

Has anyone got any advice (or stories of lazy unmotivated boys coming good by GCSE?!)

noblegiraffe Wed 01-Jul-15 13:41:52

Does he want to be at the school?

Also, why do you not want to get cross with him? Pissing away this excellent academic opportunity because he can't be arsed is an excellent reason to get cross.

HeadMeetDesk Wed 01-Jul-15 13:48:13

He says he really enjoys school - well, as much as any 12-year-old boy enjoys school grin He's got plenty of friends and has settled in really well.

I don't want to get cross because I've done that already, several times, and it makes no difference to him and I just end up feeling stressed and crappy. I need another strategy. But yes, I do feel as if he's pissing it away at the moment. We could do a hell of a lot with the money I put aside each month.

And then the other part of me thinks he's only just turned 12 and there's still a long way to go...

Bonsoir Wed 01-Jul-15 13:50:22

I actually think that it is easier to give your DC very clear goals ("you need to be in the top 5 of the class") that ambiguous ones ("try your best").

Seeline Wed 01-Jul-15 13:54:39

If the main issue is homework then try working on that.
do you check with him night what HW he has been given, when it has to be handed in etc. I have a white board for my DS which we write it all on for each day so he knows exactly what has to be done by when.
Do you know how long he should be spending on each homework - is he doing that? Does he struggle with the work, or seem unsure about what to do?
What is the handing-in system? How does he forget to do it - can you set up some sort of reminder system?
It does take time. My Ds started also at 10+ and now at the end of his 3rd year he does seem to be getting it! I think the whole organising thing can be a bit much for boys.

Have you spoken to his form tutor/subject teachers to see if they can pin point the exact problem. It would make coming up with some help easier.

HeadMeetDesk Wed 01-Jul-15 14:08:35

He has a planner in which homework is meant to be written, but he 'forgets'. I ask every night what homework he has, but short of emailing his teachers every single day, if he says he doesn't have anything then it's difficult to check until it's too late.

I don't think he really struggles with the work - all his teachers say he more than capable but just cba! He also knows he can ask me or my dp for help any time, and the school provides extra clinics and catch-up sessions etc for kids that feel they need extra help. But even bribery hasn't worked blush

The school is certainly far more academically focused than his state primary and I understand that it's been a big change - but he's two years in now! He knows full well what the expectations are. Encouraging to know that yours didn't get it either until the third year though seeline!

Seeline Wed 01-Jul-15 14:15:00

I use the school computer gateway quite a lot - most of their homework is posted there by the teachers which is really useful. Is there something similar at your school?
With my Ds is wasn't so much he cba'd but that he really didn't seem to know how to work. His primary was very casual, and he was bright so just coasted.

TeenAndTween Wed 01-Jul-15 14:17:11

I would ask that as part of the monitoring the school checks that homework is written down clearly and correctly.
Then you check each day that he has done homework to a good standard.
All homework done before TV/Xbox/Whatever.
You also make sure that it is in his bag the next day or whenever.

You find a big reward that really grabs and motivates him and set a goal to reach it, but not a 'one mess up and you lose it' type of criteria.

Does he need help with organisation skills? My DD1 has dyspraxia and I had to organise her whole GCSE revision for her this year, she did not have the ability to sort it for herself. But ultimately she wanted to do well, and worked very hard.

HeadMeetDesk Wed 01-Jul-15 14:22:50

I don't know if there's a website for homework, will check though! That would be really useful.

And yes, ds is exactly the same. The reason I started him at 10+ was because he was just faffing around at a very lovely but very relaxed primary where he filled in a worksheet every fortnight for homework and really coasted, not pushed at all. He is bright, not a genius by any stretch, but bright and capable - when he wants to be. I think you may have a good point about not knowing how to work, though. He certainly has no idea how to revise grin

And there is also a bit of small fish/big pond thing going on. At primary he was doing very well, now he's in a cohort of much more able and competitive boys and he's been taken by surprise a bit, I think. And given up somewhat. Argh.

Decorhate Wed 01-Jul-15 21:23:08

I am slightly surprised that the school are rather passive about engaging & supporting their pupils. The bog standard state schools I have dealings with have some or all of the following:
homework available online
Teachers willing to remind pupils to write down homework & check they understand what is required
Reward systems to penalise things such as not completing homework with carrots to encourage good behaviour such as trips etc
Most make a big deal about homework in the first term so the pupils know they won't get away with not doing it properly

mummytime Thu 02-Jul-15 07:26:50

What are the school doing about this?

At my DCs state school they would be in detention a lot, for missed homework or if it wasn't done correctly (with allowance made for SEN).
At friends private schools they would be requiring him to attend "late class" to get homework done.
I would request a meeting at the school to discuss this report. Ideally they would also call your son in to discuss how they can help him to correctly record homework, and to ensure he realises how serious his lack of application is.
Do also see if they think there is any kind of SEN, is he struggling to pay attention? To understand instructions? Is copying from a board an issue? Or is he just more interested by other things?

camptownraces Thu 02-Jul-15 08:24:21

This is all a pain, but is something that has to be dealt with at home, not at school.

Presuming that parents have been given a homework timetable, OP should be able to check the diary/planner to see what has been set, whether it matches what should have been set, and when it has to be handed in.

If there's no entry in the planner when there should have been, it's time for mum to phone other mums to check their ds's planners. You'll have to keep at this, OP, but eventually your DS may become embarrassed and get the info down before he leaves school in the afternoon.

Is he slow at finishing his work in class, or slow at copying from the board? Either of these could account for the gaps, but need investigating. Topics to raise at the next parents' evening, if not before.

If he is completely incapable of recording what work is set, and no internet access to this provided by school, kind teachers may be prepared to write the work on a sticker for him, to be entered in his planner. But he shouldn't need this, unless there is an underlying problem.

OP really has to supervise homework sessions if son is not reliable. That means downstairs at the kitchen table, not in his bedroom.

simbo Thu 02-Jul-15 11:28:25

Oh, this sounds so familiar that it could have been written by me! I have exactly the same issues with my ds. At parents evening the teachers all agree to write in his homework for him but it peters out after very few weeks. It is only in detention that he gets homework done. He just doesn't see it as a big deal. It doesn't help that at our state school the issuing of homework never sticks to the timetable either. I think it is a boy thing. I really hope mune gets his finger out next yr as he will be in Y10.

PastSellByDate Thu 02-Jul-15 12:19:13

Hi HeadMeetDesk:

I've had similar experiences of a child coming from a 'coasting primary' and finding adjusting to secondary a bit tricky.

The thing we've tried to work on is the virtuous circle concept of homework.

If you do your homework thoroughly there are rewards:

merit points
understanding the concept
well prepared for in-class tests
well prepared for end of year exam

Most importantly for DD1 is that our state school does not set in Y7 - so she totally gets that doing well improves her chances of moving into a higher set and escaping more disruptive pupils.

I have to say that it hasn't been easy to get to this armistice of DD1 doing a thorough job on her homework - but inch by inch over the year we've got there.

Our issues were multiple:

Finished homework was considered more important than well done homework. At first DD1 would just rush through worksheets/ essays/ art projects - get it done and get off to play/ watch tv/ read.... It was a real battle to make her realise that poorly written, sloppy, misspelled homework wasn't finished and showed little effort. In part this was a hangover from her primary where homework feedback was always a tick with no comment & very infrequent. She just didn't see that homework could have value.

Moreover post 11+ and at a school with a no homework policy (once Gove dropped homework requirements in primary schools) - she got used to doing very little indeed in the run up to year 7 (which in hindsight was a real mistake and made the transition to a culture where working hard gets you noticed/ gets you rewards all the more tricky).

Her first Science report project came home and she wrote complete gobbledygook about a chemical solely based on Wikipedia where she clearly had only copied large chunks of text and didn't even understand what she'd written. I read what she'd been writing & went on to wikipedia - reading wikipedia out to her and asking her to check what she'd written. I explained this was plagiarism (and obvious at that, as she would never naturally write in that way) and that you can get chucked out of a University for doing this - so it is definitely not a habit she wants to get into.

I then encouraged her to start again - starting with the good old BBC Bitesize website and then trying a few searches on google. We made a few great discoveries - including the fabulous University of Nottingham Periodic Table videos: www.periodicvideos.com/ & the Royal Institution My Favourite element videos: www.richannel.org/collections/2012/my-favourite-element

DD1 huffed and puffed, sighed and cried (well whined really) - but in the end kind of got into it and we both learned a ton. We researched over several evenings in smallish bites of 30 - 45 minutes & then she wrote up an outline (30 minutes) and then wrote out her report (1 hour or so). She ended up writing several pages with a few drawings/ tables of information. The end result was a Well Done! smile from the teacher and her first merit points on a homework.

I'll be honest - I resented taking so much time to help her with the assignment at the time - but to be honest she wasn't equipped at that point to tackle it. She'd never had to do anything like that before and was at a school where the majority of kids were from the better primary and had regularly had projects like this for homework.

Any as a result of the merit points and smiley note she was hooked on working hard on her homework. She started to do that bit more on all her homework and started raking in the merit points. Her motivation was simple - I want to have the most merit points (they use an on-line merit point system - so she can see her relative position in the school).

Then she started to get better results on her tests - even more reason to work hard on the homework.

and... slowly but surely... we got there. She has book marked her favourite websites and tends to do her own work these days - I just hear about it because she comes in to read me her essay/ report/ etc... or show me her art work.

Now I do have one advantage in all of this - DD1 in Science/ Maths mad and wants to be an engineer - so I really push the idea that she needs to do well at GCSE for both subjects (especially as AS levels are to be dropped - Universities will soon only be able to judge on GCSE and predicted A-Level scores to base offers on) - so I can use that against her. So my other piece of advice is try to find out or work with your DS to work out what he might like to do in future and then explore what is required to do that. It can really help to make doing well in certain subjects a priority. And I certainly found that spills over into performance in subjects which are less interesting to your child.

I think the only other thing I'd raise with your DS would be to point out where he would be going to school (I presume local state school) if he were to loose his bursary. Sometimes kids don't get the financial sacrifice but they do get that actually they don't want to go to this or that school. So that may be a useful tool to motivate your DS in your arsenal.

HTH & keep fighting the good fight! He's lucky to have you in his corner flowers

HeadMeetDesk Thu 02-Jul-15 13:10:00

Thank you past, really encouraging post. Ds has been guilty of the Wikipedia thing too; we have looked at lots of sites and I've encouraged him to think further afield but wiki does seem to be the default!

I know it's going to take even more input from me than I've been doing so far - and I feel like I've been doing a lot! But I suppose I've underestimated the jump from primary to secondary and I'm just going to have to hold his hand for a bit longer until those good habits start to stick.

We had a long talk about his report last night, but it did still feel like going over old ground. However, I think he was a bit shocked when I pointed out that his results had put him in the bottom quarter for several of his subjects and the lowest 10% for a couple! I think his attitude atm is "I'm doing ok", when actually he really isn't, so hopefully that's hit home.

We came up with a couple of targets for next year that I think are wholly realistic and I agree with focusing on the huge positives of doing well, rather than the negatives of not. And yes, I agree about the competitive aspect - in one of his MFLs there is an online table and he gets a real kick out of being top or near top of that, so that's something I need to exploit!

Thanks to everyone who's posted - it's really helpful.

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