Dispair at School ...

(34 Posts)
HisButler Wed 13-Feb-13 19:51:06

So,
He's in Yr8.
We have already complained to the school at the almost non existent homework being set by them.
We have complained that we have no idea what he is learning in class, so we cannot support him at home properly. (They are not allowed to take class books home!)

Now before they are fixed, a 3rd strike ..
In the School Calendar, there are 3 weeks in February marked as 'Assessment Period Year 8'.
I was waiting for him to come home with revision homework, or at least a list of dates when tests would be, what subjects, or some information of any kind.

So we are now into the said 'assessment period', and with no information coming home.
A week into the 'assessment period' , I emailed the school at the weekend, asking what the situation was.
Today (Wednesday), he comes home and says that he's just had a maths test. He also found out that he is having a Science test tomorrow.

So no warning to the kids, no guide for the parents or kids as to which subject to revise ....

Is this normal ??
I really want to help him study and provide the best I can ... but I just feel that I'm completely shut out by the school.

If it is not normal ... then I will be onto my third complaint to the school in as many months. I'm starting to get paranoid - am i expecting too much ?

Many Thanks

cricketballs Wed 13-Feb-13 22:13:45

I will play devil's advocate.....

the assessment period could be a check on what they have learnt rather than what they can 'cram' the night before

sometimes homework is set for no other reason that to follow school policy and has no benefit to the learning in progress

the lack of books home could be due to the number of students who failed to bring their books into lessons and this is how the school is dealing with the issue

I understand your frustration at the lack of details from the school but in terms of helping your ds - have you asked him what he is currently studying and support him that way? What are the other complaints you have made to the school?

racingheart Wed 13-Feb-13 22:18:18

I don't think you are expecting too much, but there are things you can do, despite no communication from the school.

First - get your DS to tell you what he did in class that day, each day, when he comes home from school. He should know enough about what work he's doing to give you as much useful info as the school could. Then, if you get hold of KS3 revision books from Collins or Letts, you can go through the topics they've covered so far with him in the run up to the test period.

TBH, they may be expecting him to manage his own workload by now, and not encouraging parents to intervene (not saying that's right or wrong, just could be their policy.)

goinnowhere Wed 13-Feb-13 22:50:31

Not having books to bring home (textbooks) is quite normal. There are not enough of them.

Email asking for an outline of the topics covered in each subject if you are bothered. No need to complain, just ask Year Head to get it together. Or you could ask your son.

Assessment week may well be tasks to be done in class rather than "tests". Which the child does not prepare for. Again quite normal.

HisButler Wed 13-Feb-13 23:33:03

Thanks to all replies, and it has made me a little clamer.
Not that I agree with the assessment approach, but at least the situation is no too uncommon !

We have asked the School many times before about sending us info about what topics/levels are being studied ... little or incomplete response received.

Example : Tonight we went to the schol website and looked up revision aids for Science Yr8. Found that the subject he's being studying since Christmas is not even there !!

We have some Lonsdale books ... but again, I have no idea if he's being tested on what he's studied this year, this term, since the last assesment, or ....?

I appreciate cricketballs comment, yet ...
I guess I am just thinking of any exams in the future, GCSE's for example, who would NOT revise & prepare for them ? I don't understand why this is any different.

Last test his results shot up a grade because of decent revision .... this time we did not get the opportunity.

Manging his own work load !?
I wish !!

EvilTwins Wed 13-Feb-13 23:41:47

It's not practical to let parents know what topics students are doing. I teach every single year group. TBH, if a secondary age child can't manage to pass that information on him/herself, I'd be worried. As for assessment, I agree it's likely that this is not something the school feels it's necessary for students to cram for. Mid-year tests in Year 8 are hardly GCSEs, and it's likely that the results are simply to help inform the teachers' planning and give an idea about how students are getting on. At my school, we spread tests over the year so as to spread the marking load.

HelpOneAnother Wed 13-Feb-13 23:57:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

EvilTwins Thu 14-Feb-13 00:03:25

When you say book, do you mean his class book or a text book?

GrimmaTheNome Thu 14-Feb-13 00:07:20

He's yr8, not age 8.

I wouldn't expect to know anything about DDs assessments other than anything she might tell us. They usually get some warning of tests but not sure its always much.

They do bring books home - to do their own homework. She certainly does get homework set, though some of it gets done in school time. They have a homework diary which the parents are supposed to sign each week.

The more formal summer term exams are a somewhat different matter - she's yr 9 now, in yr 7 and 8 there was some revision guidance for those, they were definitely meant to revise properly for those. But not really much to do with us other than ensuring time and appropriate space to do it.

It sounds to me as though you're expecting too much involvement but OTOH the school isn't doing things quite optimally either.

HelpOneAnother Thu 14-Feb-13 00:09:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

EvilTwins Thu 14-Feb-13 00:12:27

I think you're worrying unnecessarily. If the tests were important (ie the counted for anything other than the school and the students knowing how things are going) then I'm quite sure that the school would have provided more formal guidelines.

As for the rest, I stand by my comment that it is impractical for teachers to let parents know individually what is being covered. Perhaps DS needs some help with organisation? Could you contact his form tutor and ask for this? He needs to be organising himself.

goinggetstough Thu 14-Feb-13 00:22:30

evil I agree that the results of these assessments are not going to be life changing. I too have a DS who certainly can't cram the night before and assessment like these would panic him and the resulting poor mark would stress him out. His school put on their intranet accessible to parents what would be assessed and therefore we don't have these problems currently. Surely this is not difficult for all schools to do. Thus the parents who want to know what their DCs are doing and want to help them can do so.

I also feel that these assessments are also important because DCs can learn how to revise eg arranging notes and methods for revision. In a few months there will be some posts from MNetters saying that their GCSE DCs are sitting in their rooms looking at their books hoping that something will go in! They will moan that their DCs haven't been shown how to revise? Surely these assessments could be used to help the learn these skills.

EvilTwins Thu 14-Feb-13 00:27:48

The OP did say that she knew about the assessments because they were on the school calendar. I'm guessing the kids knew about them too.

Revision skills are important, of course, but again I think it depends on the context of the tests. Mid-year tests in yr 8 are not likely to be formal, so it's possible that revision, in the sense that you mean, is not necessary.

HisButler Thu 14-Feb-13 13:16:16

Oh my ... !
Well first off, some comments that make me feel normal again; so I thank those with offspring less adapted to 'self managing', for sharing their experiences smile

On main topic ...
It seems a lot of the comments pivot their take, on what the tests are for .. and what the result of passing/failing are.

This I feel now, is the crux.

What we have been told at Parent's Evenings, is that pupils are assessed 3 times a year, and this influences which classes they are allocated to - Bottom, Middle & Top.

Hence if our boy does poorly in these tests, he could get put in the bottom class, which means studying topics maybe half a year or more behind the top class.
He will also be in classes with more disruptive students.

This DOES have an effect on his progress to GCSEs.

BalloonSlayer Thu 14-Feb-13 13:22:45

Yes but if no one is revising because no one is being told when the tests are then the setting will be a test of true ability.

I am sceptical however that your DS hasn't been told when his tests are. And also, why can't he tell you what topics they are studying?

Maryz Thu 14-Feb-13 13:25:25

I suspect (though of course I may be wrong) that even though the school haven't told you, the teachers have told your son what he is meant to be studying, what work he is meant to be doing and what topics are going to be tested.

I think a chat to your son, and if you get nowhere with that a chat with his form tutor and him, together, might enlighten you.

My son is an expert at "not knowing" what work he is meant to be doing.

About the sets - you have to accept that if your son is not doing the work he is set, studying for the tests he knows are coming etc, then maybe he deserves to be in the bottom sets or even might be one of the "disruptive students" hmm.

I find the book thing interesting. Here we have to buy books for our children - ds2's and dd's came to over $500 this year shock.

CointreauVersial Thu 14-Feb-13 13:36:40

OP, I am in exactly the same situation, with a Y8 boy who tells me very little. We have a parent's evening coming up, and I am going to raise this very matter with his tutor, just to understand a bit more.

I do think it's a good idea to step back a little when they are this age, so they can start to develop work skills for themselves. At primary (and to some extent in Y7) I looked after his homework planning, i.e. told him to do Maths now, Art tomorrow, but now I leave it to him to schedule his week and decide when he wants to do homework. Obviously I check from a distance, but if he fails to do it adequately then he has to take the consequences, which is going to teach him to be more self-sufficient. He knows full well that this control will be taken back if the school tells me he's failing to manage the tasks set.

I would however like to know if the school teaches them revision techniques, and if so, when. He has exams in May.

But I don't see the point in him cramming for regular tests/assessments where no-one else is, then becoming disillusioned and demotivated because he's in a stream that's too high for his true ability.

HisButler Thu 14-Feb-13 13:41:45

BaloonSlayer & Maryz,

I agree that it is valid to ask whether son has been told and forgot, or not.

However, I have historically had experiences of both parties telling 'off truths'.
Proven.

In this case, given that I have emailed the School asking about assessments, and they have failed to reply to me .... what conclusions can I draw ?
If they cannon answer a direct question about assessments when asked, how likely is it that they share information when not asked ?

BaloonSlayer, again, I agree in principle, that if no one is told about the tests then all is equal.
However, consider that there are 3 classes for each subject (top, middle, bottom) , what if one class is informed, and the other not ?
Quite often the top class has the best permanent teachers, the bottom class has stand-ins .. and communications go awry.

In addition, if no one is told, the the test become a exercise in one type of memory ability.
GCSEs are not a test of this type, and people who need to revise for longer periods in order to maintain information are given that opportunity.
Why should these test be different ?

titchy Thu 14-Feb-13 13:56:21

But you said the tests were on the school calendar - so you did know about them. confused And your son did too. You also know that there are tests each term.

I think you need to stop organising your ds and his school. At some point he will be out in the big wide world and will need to have developed the skill to know he has to do an essay/presentation/interview or whatever, and to plan his time accordingly.

And yes GCSEs are sadly a test of one sort of memory ability.

socharlottet Fri 15-Feb-13 21:50:18

Doesn't he haver a planner to write test dates in etc And surely you can tell from his exercise books wjhat topics he is studying confused

EvilTwins Fri 15-Feb-13 21:52:21

I am not convinced that the OP is interested in any opinion that disagrees with hers. hmm

Maryz Fri 15-Feb-13 22:09:10

You know, I massively sympathise with your frustration - I have a young teenager with ADHD who genuinely doesn't remember anything the teachers tell him. But (and this is important) when they are in secondary it has to be their responsibility to find out about tests and to study for them if necessary.

What age is Year 8? It's 13/14 is it? In two years' time he will be completely on his own doing GCSE's and he has to learn some time.

You can ask the school, and if you don't like their lack of information, then you can go further up the line (to the head and beyond) but ultimately it is up to your son, and that's where you need to start.

longingforsomesleep Fri 15-Feb-13 22:56:55

I also agree that by year 8 a child ought to be developing skills which enable them to manage and organise their own work. The more a parent tries to 'help' them with this, the less likely they are to become independent learners or be able to cope with the big wide world in just a few years time.

Hulababy Fri 15-Feb-13 23:08:50

When I taught secondary we sent sheets home which highlighted the key topics, with a few bullet points below each, taught in that subject that year.

I now work in primary and we do the same, but half termly, this also goes onto the school website. DD's primary does the same, as does the secondary she is going to move onto in the summer - the latter uses a student portal thing.

Similarly we always sent out exam timetables even for mid term assessments and pupils were told the key topics so that they could revise beforehand. Again - this happens at DD's primary and at the secondary she is moving on to.

I do think a secondary school pupil should be able to pass on this information themselves, without it coming direct to parents. But I do think that the information should be issues to pupils at least.

CointreauVersial Fri 15-Feb-13 23:19:35

Maryz - Y8 is 12/13.

Maryz Fri 15-Feb-13 23:30:05

Oh, right CV (where have you been?), I'm a year out.

I suppose maybe at 12 they need a bit more guidance than at 13/14 - but still eventually they have to do it themselves.

I think I was a bit miffed by the not wanting him to end up with the thickos and the kids with behavioural problems in the third stream bit hmm.

Maryz Fri 15-Feb-13 23:31:06

And I probably shouldn't have said that either, sorry.

I just sometimes get cross at parents who feel they can do their children's schoolwork for them. Particularly since I would love to do ds's for him, it would make life so much easier. In fact, if I could just sit his exams as well, maybe [hopeful]

CointreauVersial Fri 15-Feb-13 23:33:25

Hi Maryz, I've been here.....smile

Maryz Fri 15-Feb-13 23:37:41

Sorry, I must have missed you.

I have been off the booze since January 1st, and i normally notice your name and think "yum, alcohol" smile

Honestly? I think you're massively overreacting.

Homework - For every parent who complains about 'not enough homework', there will be another saying 'too much'. If you want him to do extra work at home there are plenty of websites etc where you can find some. Clearly his teachers don't think it is necessary at the moment. Alternativey, you could try something a bit more creative - writing competitions, etc.

Not knowing what he is working on - what do you expect the school to do? Contact you each time your DS starts a new topic in each subject? Really? How long do you think that would take? Who should be responsible for doing it? Surely you just say "so DS, what are you studying in history this half term?" and find out?

Assessment week - They did tell you (and, more importantly, DS) about the assessments. It was on the calendar. If staff felt that pupils need more preparation then they will have explained it in their lessons. A lot of my pupils did end of unit assessments last week. I discussed it with them; it wouldn't have crossed my mind to contact the parents of the 200+ pupils I teach to discuss it with them too.

I'm genuinely baffled as to why you've complained to the school about any of these. Is it the right school for you? Do you need to consider alternatives?

surreygoldfish Sat 16-Feb-13 08:19:34

HisB - I'm really surprised by the number of people that are saying back off and don't worry about it. IMO the combination of hardly any homework, lack of books, and seemingly lack of information about tests would leave me feeling that school is a it of a black hole. I'd be concerned in your shoes. I also agree some children need more practical support than others otherwise they perform below their potential. Ds year 7 now much more organised than at junior level but starts to slip when tired so we keep half an eye on what's going on but leave rest to him. It's a good habit to read through books before tests - it doesn't need to be cramming - it's about being more familiar with the material. Is he allowed to bring his exercise books home - is there anything in them?

Startail Sat 16-Feb-13 18:06:35

Pretty normal, not having really clear twice yearly test periods for setting that children are able to revise for pisses me off big time.

General lack of information is normal.

My DDs do bring books home, but I can't confess I look at them.

Yellowtip Sat 16-Feb-13 18:56:13

I honestly think three complaints on this count is three too many. I don't think parents need to know what exactly is being taught when for their child to do well. I never know when assessments are due. The DC sometimes tell me a result (I assume only if it's good smile). They really do need to become independent learners once in secondary so constantly looking over their shoulders can seriously hinder. I'd leave him to it, really I would.

DS1 is in Y8.

He has 'tracker tests' each half term, to assess progress and understanding of the topics covered that half term. Each half-term, he uses his own notes from lessons and the CGP revision guides to make short revision notes or a mind-map on the topic(s) he's just done, then tests himself using summary questions or revision questions. He saves the revision notes in a folder to use when revising the whole year's work for the summer exams, so he can remember what topics he did.

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