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To think that sometimes, children are labelled by school as low ability as young as 6....

(51 Posts)
lottieandmia Fri 15-Mar-13 14:31:37

I am not saying in every school and of course I am not saying every teacher. But I do think it's wrong for teachers to make a mental note that a child is low ability at such a young age. I have seen it happen in a school I worked in when I was helping children with their reading. A teacher whispered to me 'oh dear, you've got the thick table'. I think it is awful that children are written off so young and also that they are given the message that your self worth boils down entirely to how academically bright you are.

I can understand that in schools where there are classes of 30 the teacher may need to stream them to remind them of where the children are at but this tends to lead to a fixed idea imo. My friend has been told her dd is low ability and she's only in year 2. The reason was that she is on a lower ORT level than the other kids, apparently.

My dd, when in reception could not read ORT and was the last in her class to learn to read but she was not labelled in such a way and now in year 4 is working at NC level 4 so she's doing fine now.

Labelling negatively is surely a self-fulfilling prophecy isn't it?

x2boys Sun 17-Mar-13 15:08:19

I was labelled as one of the thick ones ok i did nt do brilliantly academically but i manged to pass all my nursing exams and qualify as a mental health nurse have beeen qualified 17 yrs this yr my six yr old i have also been told whilst he works very hard at his own level this is below average with the rest of his class i worry not he will be fine a friend of mine could nt read till she was 8 left school with no gcse passes at grade c or aove [although she was in the first academic year ever to take gcse,s] she qualified as a nurse with me and is a ward manager .

Fairenuff Sun 17-Mar-13 15:07:33

Yellow is this your personal experience from working in several different settings? Or is it something you have observed happening in one class.

I agree that not all teachers assess and move children around into different groups, but the vast majority do. There is no other way to really meet their individual needs.

In my current class of 6/7 year olds there is one child still working at pre-curriculum levels and another working at a 3c in literacy and 3a in numeracy. The difference in age is just a few months but in emotional and intellectual maturity, it's more like 2 years.

Teachers have to cater for all ranges of ability and, of course, these vary enormously from child to child, subject to subject. Fluidity in the classroom is the only way to cope, imo.

jamdonut Sun 17-Mar-13 14:50:51

zwischenzug. It is anybody's guess who will do those things first. Children develop at different rates. It is not impossible for the 31st Aug child to reach milestones before the 1st September child.

Looking at my own children, (20,16,13), DS1 (28 Aug) DD (2 Jan) both walked and talked at 10m,but missed certain milestones (eg commando crawl)
DS2 (22 June) did every milestone absolutely text book, talked about 12m but didn't walk till 14 months old.He was also very slow to be dry all day.I thought he would start Foundation still in nappies.
He is far and away the cleverest of my three. (The other 2 are both high achieving too.)

I just don't see how there can be any other way of teaching a class. Someone will always be more advanced than someone else. And children do know and recognise this. The trick is to keep them motivated.

As a parent, try not to show your anxiety or keep comparing them to others.

YellowandGreenandRedandBlue Sun 17-Mar-13 14:39:56

Fairenuff - not all schools assess constantly, consistently or well.

Not all schools do move kids around a lot.

Too often kids do get bunged on a table and stay there the whole year.

jamdonut Sun 17-Mar-13 14:31:37

Fairenuff put that so much better than I did.

Fairenuff Sat 16-Mar-13 11:42:12

I don't understand how any child can remain 'stuck' in the group that they're in. They are assessed constantly. A 6 year old might be in the 'top' group for numeracy one day, but work with a lower ability group the next, depending on what they were learning. Partitioning numbers is very different to telling time, for example.

In our school, the children move groups all the time, depending on their level of understanding. It's not a judgement on their ability it's about pitching the work at the right level so that they learn. It's all for the benefit of the child. Any child who finds the work too easy or too difficult will switch off.

As long as the child makes progress, however small, they are learning. Some children with SEN need extra support but none of them can be rushed. They learn at their own rate which means that children can start off on a low average level and end up achieving high average results at the end of their 11 - 13 years in education.

Likewise, children can start school with the advantage of being a year older but over the years, the age gap will not have as much significance and any child can achieve well with the right support from home and school.

FirstVix Sat 16-Mar-13 11:22:32

Actually Freya, your school is talking nonsense! You are not allowed to downgrade target levels, but can (and should!!) upgrade where appropriate - we often do at our secondary school. Similarly, having no movement for an entire year based on one set of results is poor - especially in lessons like maths and science. Students should be continuously monitored to make sure they're being appropriately challenged. You can appropriately differentiate in mixed classes but it's less likely to happen in a setted scenario.

OP, I agree, children are judged far too young and I constantly fight students' low self-belief. They're scared to try for fear of failure, lack of trying leads to failure reinforcing their sense of inability etc. It's a hard, long battle at times. It's not just the judging though - teachers need to know what to teach students and how - it's the children constantly having comparisons with more-able others too, from all the testing and publicising of these results.

CorrieDale Sat 16-Mar-13 07:57:36

Yep. I'm with the OP on this. I can see DD (who is inclined to be lazy and afraid of failure) losing ground before my eyes. She's July born and in y1 with a teacher who has one measure of achievement - handwriting. Dd is on the middle table and coasting. We had the same with ds who was on the bottom table despite being (as other teachers comment) a brain box. We write off year 1 because the other teachers are great but there's no denying that a year of low expectations damages their self-esteem and takes a lot of work to mend.

zirca Sat 16-Mar-13 07:28:53

Schools do what is 'accepted practice', and a lot of that comes from what Ofsted demands. Ofsted demands evidence of differentiation by task - so you get ability groups, where the lower ability groups are given an easier task, and the higher ability groups a harder one. In theory, that means that everyone is challenged at their current level of achievement, so everyone makes progress. In a good school though, ability groups are very fluid, especially in the younger years. Children move between them regularly, depending on their current ability in that subject, and everyone feels they are achieving and doing well.

lottieandmia Fri 15-Mar-13 23:32:57

Part of the problem is that 4 is too young to begin school imo. Our children cope with it because they have to but I don't believe it is the best thing for them.

FreyaSnow Fri 15-Mar-13 20:45:22

That is not my experience and I have children who have between them been at five different schools. DS is in an outstanding school. He has low GCSE target grades for English on every monitoring report, because he got a level 3 at the end of KS2. He has A* on all his controlled assessments, but the school cannot change the target grades because they have to use the KS2 data. My DD is in a different secondary school and they have to do the same. There are many children who are told they are doing well because they achieve their target grades when the target grades are a nonsense based on something they happened to do at 11. There are children pushed to achieve GCSE levels they are not capable of based on having happened to do well at 11.

The government judges schools on how much progress pupils make based on their key stage levels. That is not an opinion. It is in Ofsted reports. As such, they have to push certain children harder than others.

The levels are just a nonsense. DD finished primary school with a 4B in Science. As soon as she started secondary she was given another KS2 test. She got a 5A. We did no Science over the holidays. A couple of months later she has a 6B average in her KS3 tests. Yet she is in set 3 for the whole of year seven based on her KS2 level from primary school. Her primary school teacher considered her low ability, so low her targets will remain for the next five years.

zwischenzug Fri 15-Mar-13 20:44:56

I'm sorry,but I don't actually agree that they are at a disadvantage.

So for example take two children, one born September 1st, and one born August 31st the following year. 364 days apart, but they will be in the same school year.

Which do you think will walk first?
Which do you think will say its first word first?
Which will develop it's motor functions better first?

Are you really trying to suggest there is some magical cut off age where all a childs development suddenly conforms to the same as all the other children in the same school year? What age is it where 364 days makes no discernable difference to a childs development and ability to learn and understand?

So how do you explain,then, that there are children born before Summer who struggle?

Because clearly those children are significantly below average for their age. But the same below average child will have a much harder time at school if they are 364 days less developed than the oldest in their school year, than if they were 364 days more developed than the youngest in their year.

thegreylady Fri 15-Mar-13 20:39:37

I was told I was a 'prodigy' when I was 5 because I made up long stories and read fluently when I started school.I once drew a diagram of the human digestive system on the blackboard with misspelt labels-my favourite activity then was to sit in my gran's spare room copying the pics from The Universal Home Doctor!
I was never higher than the top quarter of my year and not that high at grammar school.
I got decent O Levels ,rotten A levels and a Teaching Certificate followed by a degree which I did part time.Nothing prodigious there!

Badvoc Fri 15-Mar-13 20:34:28

My sons year 3 teacher (NQT) told me that i needed to accept the lowest sets "were where my son belonged"
He was 7 and severly dyslexic.
He is now 9 and in year 5.
He is now level 3/4 across the board and doing very well.
Sometimes the teachers themselves are just so crap, it's easier to blame the kids.

jamdonut Fri 15-Mar-13 20:32:30

Freya,....expectations are not allowed to be low!!! Ofsted sees to that! Otherwise you end up in Special Measures, as I know all too well.

Satine... I totally agree that in the UK we put too much pressure on to young children. Why that is I really don't know, but some parents fret if their child is not reading Harry Potter or Tolkien by the age of 5.hmm

FreyaSnow Fri 15-Mar-13 20:29:52

You don't have to draw any kind of line. There are numerous other ways of changing the situation. Age standardized testing for example.

Satine5 Fri 15-Mar-13 20:26:51

I think uk educational system is highly flawed. Kids are sent to school far too young for too many hours, tested at a young age too! I started school when I was 7, my heart breakes when I think I will have to put dd in school at 5!

jamdonut Fri 15-Mar-13 20:26:51

And, to be fair, where do you draw the line? Even if the school admissions year was changed, there will always be someone who is youngest and oldest in the year. Say it was changed to January 1st...what happens to the child born on 1st December? They'll be "Winter -born" then. So presumably the statistics will change for that.

FreyaSnow Fri 15-Mar-13 20:25:32

Target setting is definitely a major part of the problem. Children move between key stages and are expected to reach targets based on how they did in the stage before. The schools are monitored to make sure children are reaching the targets. You get a low level early on and expectations of you will then be low. The children with high levels earlier on will be pushed because schools have to make sure that those children carry on reaching high targets.

The whole system is unethical.

jamdonut Fri 15-Mar-13 20:20:44

And yes I know the statistics say that, but y'know...statistics can be made to say anything...

jamdonut Fri 15-Mar-13 20:19:40

I'm sorry,but I don't actually agree that they are at a disadvantage. You just said yourself that there are differences in terms of their development. It can just as easily be a September born child that is struggling and less able. Too many people say, "Ah well, they're a summer child" as if that explains it all!! So how do you explain,then, that there are children born before Summer who struggle?

That's why children have targets to achieve. We work hard (at our school anyway) to make sure that children ARE moving. Some children take a lot longer to do that.Some zip along and get it straight away,others need several re-visits. I don't see how it is possible for children not to realise for themselves that they are working at different rates,because they need to do work that is suitable to the level they are working at. It is not possible to do that ,unless you have a class of Low ability children, a Middle Ability class and High Ability class, so that everyone does the same work in those classes? But even then, you would get sub-sets in those classes, because any ability has different levels !

zwischenzug Fri 15-Mar-13 20:10:47

I was summer born and although I was always predicted to get top grades, I really didn't do as well as I should. I often felt like I understood stuff a lot better a year after doing it in school - so being in the year below would have made a lot of difference.

Of course some summer kids do better than some autumn kids, but on average summer kids do worse. One anecdote doesn't disprove the statistics.

lottieandmia Fri 15-Mar-13 19:59:36

jamdonut - the point is that August born children will be at a disadvantage in reception, being just 4 when some are nearly 5 and will probably later catch up, but the teachers are busy putting them on the bottom table early on in their school career, when they would probably do fine later. But the damage is done early and they see themselves as less able. Not in every case, but in some.

As I said, in the early years 10-12 months makes a massive difference to a child in terms of their development. A 4 and a 5 year old may be quite different in a way you wouldn't see between a 14 and a 15 year old.

ReallyTired Fri 15-Mar-13 19:58:46

jamdonut What you are saying is just an antedote. Stastically August borns do worse across the country. Age has more of an effect in infant school than futher up the school.

SunflowersSmile Fri 15-Mar-13 19:57:50

A teacher called me a plodder at school while commenting to another child you could be a high flier but a plodder like Sunflowers will do better than you and she shouldn't.
Talk about damned with faint praise!

Back to the subject- I'm a late summer born and spent my first years at school in a dream. I caught up in most things but my confidence was low for many years and I was an anxious child at school. I needed and did not get support. I hoped these days children did.

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