AIBU to actually be told which sets DD is in?

(48 Posts)
Iamnotminterested Wed 28-Nov-12 20:49:12

I've posted before about the lack of information from DD.s school (she is in year 7) . They were put into sets a couple of weeks ago and we have not received any kind of info as to which sets she has been placed - DD has had a guess at a few and in some lessons the teacher has said "because you are x set I expect this and this etc" but really it's just guesswork and I think it's a bit poor of the school not to send out some explanatory gumpf to co-incide with the timetable re-jig.

Am I being unreasonable? Is this just the way it is at high school and I should bloody well get used to it?

Kez100 Wed 28-Nov-12 20:55:04

We've never been told. Only know from the descriprion on the front of workbooks. The reports don't even say.

Iamnotminterested Wed 28-Nov-12 20:58:25

What year is your child in, Kez?

Niceweather Wed 28-Nov-12 21:03:15

We have never been formally told but all the kids know. They were set in Maths and English in Yr7 and now in Yr8, there are top sets in Science, Geography and History but anything below top set is mixed ability. I think it depends on the school. Another local school divides the whole school in half and has a top half and "bottom" half for every lesson (glad DS is not at that school but depends on the child - if you were in the top half then it might be better than being in the mixed ability classes at our school).

tiggytape Wed 28-Nov-12 21:13:34

We have been formally told via a letter home
It came with tons of caveats about how placements can go down as well as up - nothing's fixed forever.
A whole paragraph explained it was futile to complain at this stage as it is based on loads of tests as well as the KS2 SATS and all sorts of other considerations and they won’t even think about changing sets until next year now anyway. The letter stated that well over 50% of the cohort had arrived from primary school with a level 5 or higher in their SATS so not to be surprised if your child was not in the expected (top) group. It said that even children in the lower sets would all still be expected to get at least a C at GCSE in all core subjects and that being in the lower sets was no bar to later options.... Then in tiny print it told us the sets for each subject.

The nature of the letter made me think they must be inundated with complaints every year when they inform parents about sets. They’d tried to cover all bases. Maybe that’s why some schools chicken out but I do agree you should be told.

Kez100 Thu 29-Nov-12 02:25:22

My daughter is 16 and is at college. So, she has been right through secondary. Son is in year 10.

I think over the years I have had three communications in total on their sets, all conversations. One when my daughter was put up in English at the 11th hour before her GCSEs, one on my son who is technically in the wrong English set but it means he can be in the right Maths one (and a compromise was necessary) and one - at parents evening - when I was concerned about my daughters English set in year 8 and was reassured it was the right place for her to be. Otherwise I have only known from the schoolbook description, so I do know, just not 'officially'.

goralka Thu 29-Nov-12 02:30:20

have never received any information about this from the school....ever.

senua Thu 29-Nov-12 09:02:27

No, we were never told either. I found out once that DD was in top set, only to find out later that they divide the school in half so there were two top sets.confused

Mine are about to leave secondary, and all I ever knew was that they were in the "fast track" for maths, and the DC told me - not the school.

I'm not sure that parents need to know TBH. What difference would it make if you knew? I don't think you'd have an argument for asking them to move up or down, because you'll have no idea of the ability of the other 240 people in the year group to measure your own DC against.

tiggytape Thu 29-Nov-12 09:20:14

I am really surprised that so few people are told. All the schools around here set children. Some do it just for maths, some do it in all core subjects and some have just a top group with the rest is mixed ability teaching. But all of them tell parents officially in Year 7 or Year 8 where their children have been placed. From what I can gather all of them also have the same caveat-ridden letters home that we got too because I imagine (like reading levels in Infant School) it is something that parents can get overly involved in worried about.

It is only a big deal I think if they have rules like only the top set can do higher papers at GCSE (our school doesn't - children in all sets will sit higher papers except a very few) and parents may want to question that which they should be able to do. It is too late when they're about to take exams and find out that they are limited on what they can do.

Even where the sets have no implications on exams though, I don't like school attitudes that parents are too ill informed to be trusted with information and are deliberately kept in the dark. Our old school used to do it about SATS levels (the children had to sit optional SATS but the school would refuse to divulge the results unless you wrote a letter to the Head officially requesting them then had a meeting to be talked out of it then insisted on having them then got them but with bad grace...... SATS levels are a tiny snapshot and arguably no big deal in Year 4 but it is just bloody annoying when schools 'won't tell' on principle).

titchy Thu 29-Nov-12 09:28:01

We get a letter at half term with the new timetable enclosed - although the letter didn't explicitly state the sets (every subject is set) the timetable did say 7x1 or 7x2 - the final number being the set. Odd that other schools don't given they're supposed to communicate with parents!

senua Thu 29-Nov-12 09:43:10

School communication is always dire.

Like why do children drop NC level when they go from primary to secondary? Why isn't there continuity.
Like why are NC levels in MFL in KS3 so out of kilter with everything else (I don't get the "they've only just started studying this" arguement)
Like the confusion over grading at KS4: does a B grade mean "if you carry on like this, you will get a B at the end of the GCSE" or does it mean "if you took the exam tomorrow, you would get a B". What on earth is the point of the latter - DC is not taking the exam tomorrow so the concept is just plain weird.
Like having four levels of grading for effort. This means that there is no middle grade: everyone is either 'above average' or 'below average'. It's a total nonsense.

<and breathe ...>

TalkinPeace2 Thu 29-Nov-12 13:41:57

we are not told

and frankly its the school's business, not the parents'
as only the school has the data on the whole cohort so knows WHY different pupils have been put in different sets

in a school with 300 per year, no parent knows where their child is relative to others at least until the middle of year 8

DeWe Thu 29-Nov-12 13:55:36

I suspect it's to stop parents going in and complaining. We weren't told at either junior or secondary, but the kids work it out fairly quickly.

Only thing is you get things like dd's friend, who told dd that said friend was top set when she wasn't, and I had a sort of embarrassing conversation with friend's mum who was commiserating that my dd wasn't in the top set with friend. Unfortunately for her it was dd who was in the top set not hers. Not sure at what point she found out.

senua Dc's junior school gives marks for effort

Um.. do you not think they could at least put "D-unsatisfactory" even if they have no intention of using it? In this case everyone has to be above average.

tiggytape Thu 29-Nov-12 13:58:41

We are told the information about our child only.
We aren't told 'your child is in the bottom of set 1 but, if he doesn't buck his ideas up, Fred in set 2 will get his place because they're pretty much the same level'

We get told the sets - that's it.
We aren't invited to offer our opinion or allowed to nominate which group we think our child should be in.
Of course you get some parents go in and try to argue for the sets to be changed. By all accounts they don't get very far since most sane parents understand that only the school can and should know how all the other children perform in relation to our own child.

I think that is why the school explain that well over 50% start on level 5's to reassure parents that the set is all relative to a fairly bright cohort. I am not saying schools should enter into negotiations about setting but they should be honest about it just as they should tell parents anything they want to know about their own child that does not breach the confidentiality of other children.

titchy Thu 29-Nov-12 14:13:34

Tiggytape - actually I think it IS the parent's business. Schools and parents should be a partnership, in support of the child. It's much easier to work as a partnership when both parties are in full possession of the facts. Obviously I don't need to know little Billy in class 1's levels, but I would quite like to know where my child is in relation to the rest of his cohort, and I'd like some broad brush context to that - as in 50% of the year got Level 5s.

(I am embarassed to add that yes I am that parent who complained about their child's set for one subject - but in our case it was justified and clear that a mistake had been made - for which the HoY apologised) blush

Nope. Never told. Kids know of course and might talk about it but it was seen as the children's business and the school's business. We get plenty of information about their progress - especially in yrs 10 and 11 when GCSEs are approaching - but sets aren't really relevant IMO. It's very different from primary

bruffin Thu 29-Nov-12 14:29:04

Dcs school explained all about the bands at the introduction evening. There are 3 bands and a crossover band. Then on timetable they are further split into 3 sets per band. It is quite easy to work out where they are.

tiggytape Thu 29-Nov-12 14:45:00

I agree with you titchy. It was another poster who said parents should be kept in the dark and it was none of their business.

I think parents should be told everything they wish to know about a child's time at school as long as it does not breach anyone else's confidentiality.
I am sure the motivation for a lot of schools keeping things quiet is that they suspect parents are clueless about levels and will only complain if they tell them about sets. It is kept quiet to avoid conflict and complaints but of course parents should know.

tiggytape Thu 29-Nov-12 14:54:06

....and although I haven't questioned sets - I have absolutely insisted (in writing - because a verbal request was refused) on having access to my child's school file. The primary school had a policy of doing optional SATS but not divulging the results. I wanted to know the results – as is my right as a parent. I don’t particularly think optional SATS have --any—much value but it was the principle of making children sit the bloody things and then treating parents like idiots by telling us we had no need to know the outcome since it wouldn’t mean anything to us anyway.

Again I didn't want anyone else's results, I fully understood the levelling system and its limitations, I wasn’t looking to take anyone to task over whatever the results may have shown – I just wanted to be told this information about my child. The school had a policy of not telling because parents get so uptight about the results and they assume all parents are either clueless or so obsessed that they’ll storm in to argue that a 3a should be bumped up to a 4c!

If our school had sets and we weren't told which set children were in, I would insist on being given this information about my child - not to argue over or obsess about - but because it is my child, education is a partnership and parents should not be kept in the dark.

Iamnotminterested Thu 29-Nov-12 17:36:22

Tiggytape - I completely agree with you. I also see my childs' education as a partnership between school and home - as stipulated in their organisers, for God's sake! - and I don't give a monkeys about Hannah down the road or Ben whose come from the private school, I would just like a leeeetle info about my child.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 29-Nov-12 18:33:03

but how would know what set they were in affect that?
surely more important is that whatever set they are in, the classes are at the appropriate level for your DC

the kids always know, even if they choose not to tell you
and its usually written on the front of their exercise books

JuliaScurr Thu 29-Nov-12 18:44:58

it can have consequences - my friend was told her daughter should be moved up a set, it didn't happen; friend didn't want to be interfering pushy parent. result - daughter couldn't get higher than C but needed B for college, so had to PAY to redo it at evening class. pita

Niceweather Thu 29-Nov-12 18:58:45

Yes, JuliaScurr, our local school with the top half and bottom half has the same issue. I know that if you are in the bottom half, the highest you can go for in maths is a Grade C - they won't be taught any higher - written off in Yr9 which is when they start their GCSEs. On a positive note, my friend's son at another school was in Set 2 for maths all the way through and achieved an A* which many in top Set didn't achieve.

tiggytape Thu 29-Nov-12 18:58:54

TalkinPeace2 - schools may well think it is no benefit in parents knowing which set their child is in (or what mark they got on a maths paper in Year 4 or whatever else they decide not to disclose) but that's not the point.

If there is no confidentiality issue, and if a parent wants to know, they should be told (and indeed the school must comply if the parent insists)

It isn't about the school deciding what it is useful or not useful for a parent to to be told. It is about a parent's right to have that information and to be included as a part of the picture in their child's life and education.

As it happens, my DS's school has told us his sets. If they hadn't I would have insisted that they did.
They seem quite keen on sharing and do treat parents as sensible people who know what that information represents and how much importance to attach to it.
We have also been told us his current NC levels and predicted sub levels all the way up to Year 9. This is after half a term in year 7 so of course I don't take this information as gospel or a cast iron guarantee of where he'll be each year. I know it is computer generated guess work but I still want to know it anyway just because I am his mum.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 29-Nov-12 19:39:53

I understand your interest. My kids are in years 8 and 10. I also understand how utterly hacked off schools get with parents who are not qualified teachers second guessing them the whole time. State and Private.

IDK Thu 29-Nov-12 20:13:16

I also understand how utterly hacked off schools get with parents who are not qualified teachers second guessing them the whole time.

I told the school that I thought that DS had a problem. The school disagreed and wouldn't investigate further. Guess who was proved right by an independent diagnostic assessment?

Teachers need second-guessing sometimes. All they could do was bleat "but how did you know confused ...?". Beats me how I knew better than the teachers, seeing as I'm not qualified.hmm

TheFallenMadonna Thu 29-Nov-12 20:26:52

I don't keep it a secret, but we don't routinely inform parents of setting. I have had parents phone me to insist I change their set, and then when I don't, try to go over my head. Fortunately my line manager trusts my judgement. I am always happy to discuss setting and exam entry with parents. I have changed tier of entry for a couple of students based on discussion with their parents. I'm not always willing to change my mind though.

BeatTheClock Thu 29-Nov-12 20:33:24

We are not properly told although by now dd seems to know where she sits regarding sets.

Never had a clue all during primary school though and if you asked, then the teachers wouldn't give a straight answer anyway and would waffle on vaguely about colour or animal groups which were meaningless to me. I can't see why we can't just be toldhmm

Roseformeplease Thu 29-Nov-12 20:40:18

Controversially, we not only set in my school and my subject but we DISCUSS our plans with parents before finalising details. Thus a parent can make the decision to put a child in the top set where they might struggle and have to work very hard to keep up or in the lower set where they will get more support and find the pace, and standard of books, less challenging. But we are a small secondary school and have the space in classes to do this. Most parents are happy to take advice. Also, those in the bottom set have a very much better staff / pupil ratio (1 teacher : 6-8 pupils rather than 1 teacher: 14-20 pupils) so this is seen as a positive. NB We are a non-selective rural comp.

tiggytape Thu 29-Nov-12 22:11:41

You don't need to be a qualified teacher to be kept in the loop which is all most parents ask. This isn't about being told things so you can challenge them all. It is about being told things because it is your child and you have a right to know and should know about that aspect of their lives.

Being informed isn't the same as being consulted although it is nice to hear some schools do this where resources permit.

phlebas Thu 29-Nov-12 22:56:34

we are told at my dd's school & the children have their sets & working levels written large on the front of their exercise books (!).

Though in year 7 they only set for maths (top set, two middle sets & one progress group) & semi set for English, there is a progress group for those that struggle but the rest are mixed ability. Effort/attitude/organisation grades are 0-4 (improvement essential - inadequate/inconsistent - adequate - strong - very strong). Seems to be mostly based on SATs results, dd hadn't done SATs so they put her in the middle but moved her up after a couple of weeks.

wonderstuff Thu 29-Nov-12 23:03:45

They drop a level from KS2 to KS3 because the primaries a judged on KS2 sats so understandably hot house them for SAT exams, then do little core subject teaching after the exams, then the children have 6 weeks off school. Of course they go backwards.

Mathsdidi Thu 29-Nov-12 23:13:38

We don't routinely inform parents of the sets their dcs are in, but we do make sure that the pupils know which set they are in and that they could move up if they work hard and improve a lot (or move down if they mess about and aren't keeping up). I went into great detail with my year 7s about the numbering system of the sets as we have 2 top sets, 2 set 2s, 2 set 3s, etc but the sets are just given numbers. So one of our set 2s is labelled group 8 and I made sure every pupil knew that they were not really in set 8, they were in set 2 of the second half of the yeargroup. The message doesn't always make it home to parents, but I am perfectly happy to clarify which set a child is in if a parent phones or emails to ask.

Dd1 has been setted in most subjects now and I have yet to recieve any official communication about which sets she's in. She knows which sets she's in though and is quite happy to tell me all about it (and how much she hates the subjects they aren't in sets for)

RaspberryLemonPavlova Fri 30-Nov-12 00:44:57

I agree completely tiggytape. I too had the same conversation with the school over the optional Sats result, although I wasn't made to have a meeting with the headteacher. And a friend, who is a teacher, told me I was wrong to ask and her school doesn't hand them out as 'parents don't understand them'.

Dcs secondary school sends letters about sets, both during the year and at the end of the year ready for September. We aren't routinely given long-term assessments,jeust end of year ones, but I am expecting DS1s report, which should arrive in the next week, to have his GCSE targets on.. He has been told them verbally already.

sashh Fri 30-Nov-12 08:48:39

I think they don't tell because they are meaningless. A child can be in the top set one year and in another year, a child who is equally capable is in set 3 because there are some particularly talented students that year.

It's even worse when people compare accross schools. I went to a comp that was 11 - 16 with no grammer option.

My cousin went to a comp that was 11 - 16, but the top 20% (so the top 2 sets) went off to the local grammer which was 14-18.

Said cousin ended up i top, set for everything, as she didn't get to the grammer.

Lots of comments in the family about how bright she was.

I'm not bitter, honestly, it was annoying at the time but on results day I had twice as many O Levels as her (yes we are booth that old).

doggydaze Fri 30-Nov-12 11:14:45

Our (outstanding state) school doesn't inform parents regarding sets. I have no wish to know what set my DC's are in, imho that means nothing. I DO wish to know that they are happy, their needs are being met, that they are being sufficiently challenged and supported and making good progress for their individual ability.

Communication between the school and parents allow me to be confident that this is happening, and, on the (very) rare occasion that I need to contact the individual teacher, I have, without fail, had a reply on the day I raise the query, which is thoughtful and detailed and addresses the points that I raise.

I guess I have confidence that they know the pupils well enough to place them where they deem appropriate, whilst it is a partnership, they are the experts.

In reality, the kids do know how it works so I have a good idea where they are, set-wise, but it's not the information I look for initially.

BackforGood Fri 30-Nov-12 16:40:07

We've never been told by either of my dcs' schools, but of course the children know.
That said,I don't see why you would need to know. As long as the work they are getting is at the right level for them - not too easy or too difficult - then does it matter if there are children in the school who can do more advanced work or who need more support or who don't achieve so much ?
It will often come out in conversation at Parents Evenings or review days, but I can't see what would be gained by schools sending out letters everytime there's a set change.

inkyfingers Fri 30-Nov-12 21:34:53

Not to tell parents basically means they don't trust them with the information. At my DS comp the sets spell out the name of the school and parents know this, unless the don't read it printed in the pupil's journal or can't spell. So it's kind of clear, but they have never told me as such. When he moved sets (up natch) I had general letter saying he'd moved but no details as to why. Hedging their bets? Why not just ask face to face at parents evening. It would be outrageous if a pupil moved down each term with no info to parent.

TheFallenMadonna Fri 30-Nov-12 21:38:32

Ours are numbered, so it's hardly cryptic. It's not like tables named after Olympic sports or whatever as in primary. But we don't send letters home about it.

doobeedee Tue 04-Dec-12 20:11:05

Senua what exactly is it that you don't get about MFL levels?

armedtotheteeth Tue 04-Dec-12 20:23:17

When i was at school, we were put in sets for some subjects from age 9. I clearly remember telling my mum which set i was in for maths, and they were numbered from 1 (top) to 5 (bottom) so all pretty transparent. Are sets labelled more cryptically these days, or could you just ask your children?

armedtotheteeth Tue 04-Dec-12 20:25:01

Ah, I've just seen fallenmadonna has exactly the same system now. No need for letters imo.

crazymum53 Thu 06-Dec-12 09:23:22

dd is in Y8 and I do know which sets she is in for English, Maths, Science, MFL and History/Geography (other subjects are not set). However the set number does need to be taken in context of the particular school, ability range of the cohort and NC levels etc. As well the set number we are given the NC levels for each subject at the end of each term and also information about the range of levels across the year group.
So I am happy that we are given sufficient information.
At the start of year 7, it could be possible for a child at school A to be in set 1 with a level of 5a whereas at school B the same child would be in set 2 as there are many children on level 6/7. Therefore the set number on it's own must be kept in context.

seeker Sat 08-Dec-12 18:07:46

Why not ask your child?

Iamnotminterested Thu 13-Dec-12 19:05:23

crazymum53 - "Many children on level 6/7 at the start of year 7" ?? Really?? My DD must be a complete thicko in comparison with her 5's then.

VivaLeBeaver Thu 13-Dec-12 19:18:40

We've never been told but the kids seem to know.

DD says she's in the top sets for everything apart from Maths - she says she's in the bottom set for Maths. Yesterday she was moaning that maths is too easy and the other kids in her lesson were "thick". I told her she'd have to work harder at maths if she wanted to move up as she's obviously been put there for a reason.

She was still moaning this morning so I told her if she's that put out by it to talk to her personal tutor about it which she has done! grin

I'm not getting involved, I'm thinking the teachers know better than me.

However if she's right it would be nice to know so I would know that maybe she needs more help/support in maths. Parents evening not till Easter but I would hope to get some info then????

prettybird Fri 14-Dec-12 16:24:02

We've not been told formally. Ds is in S1 (Y7) and was set after about 4 weeks for Maths and a couple of months for English. We've just had the first parents' evening and I suppose if you hadn't been told by your child which set (s)he was in, you could have asked then.

The school welcomes any questions though and the Depute head responsible for S1s always gets back to me within a day. (I had a couple of queries re after school sports insurance and then about homework as ds was getting his homework 3 days late as he has to do something else when she is issuing the homework and it was only giving him one night to do it in.)

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