Ds expected to “help” another pupil with work in class

(737 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

LostFrog Wed 15-Sep-21 12:36:48

Ds is 9 years old, just started Year 5, first year of new school (middle school system here).

He tells me that when he has finished his own work in class, he is required to help a boy who sits next to him. This happens every single lesson, and he says that the boy is reluctant to work, won’t write anything, gives up quickly and mutters all the time that he doesn’t get it, etc. From asking around, this seems to be the standard on every table in the class - there is one or two pupils who are “learning mentors” who have to teach the less able ones.

Is this a) normal, and b) reasonable? It’s not like ds volunteered for this role. If he has finished, Shouldn’t he be offered an extension task whilst the teacher or TA (there is one, I checked) help the ones who are struggling? I have emailed the teacher to ask them to clarify what’s expected, but has anyone else come across this?

OP’s posts: |
Wishihadanalgorithm Wed 15-Sep-21 12:40:49

Nope. Not going to happen. Email the school and say your DS needs extension work to be set if he finishes early. His job is not be be an unpaid TA.

Smartiepants79 Wed 15-Sep-21 12:42:44

Having to teach something to another person can actually be very helpful in improving your own understanding and clarifying your thought processes. Having to explain your thinking is a learning tool used in lots of areas.
The only reason I’d have a serious problem with this is if it’s preventing my child from completing his own work or the other child is being horrible.

Tiredforfive45 Wed 15-Sep-21 12:43:07

Helping others can be an extension task. It requires skills in showing and expressing your understanding and communicating that understanding to others.

Having said that, it should be one of a range of extension tasks and not happening every lesson.

notanothertakeaway Wed 15-Sep-21 12:43:59

I believe this is quite common

It's a common misunderstanding that the child who finishes first is expected to "teach" the slower child

In fact, the children are getting something quite different from this arrangement. The slower child gets a bit of help and encouragement. The faster child benefits from leadership, social skills, learning to be helpful

Stompythedinosaur Wed 15-Sep-21 12:44:07

Is it bothering your ds? I think it is OK to help others sometimes but every lesson seems a bit much.

GertrudePerkinsPaperyThing Wed 15-Sep-21 12:45:52

I would definitely want to have a discussion with the school. I can see what the second poster is saying, but with such a reluctant pupil I don’t think it will help your ds at all.

I’d go in and make it clear he needs to be set extension work and not be teaching another child.


GertrudePerkinsPaperyThing Wed 15-Sep-21 12:46:22

Occasionally would be fine but not all the time.

TheWoleb Wed 15-Sep-21 12:47:26


Having to teach something to another person can actually be very helpful in improving your own understanding and clarifying your thought processes. Having to explain your thinking is a learning tool used in lots of areas.
The only reason I’d have a serious problem with this is if it’s preventing my child from completing his own work or the other child is being horrible.

Well, yes but not like this.
Schools already have set times and activities designed like that. They have the kids do group work and get them to explain their thought process to the rest of the group, they do whole class work with kids explaining things etc. It is part of the work.

But this is not that. This is making a bright pupil, who should be pushed with extension work, do the pointless and thankless task of trying to get a disinterested peer to do their work. That is frustrating for both of them and unfair on OP's son because he will feel like he is failing since the chold ignores him or refuses to write etc. That isnt learning by teaching. That's using good kids to keep the disinterested kids busy, do their work for them and waste their own time.

ShanghaiDiva Wed 15-Sep-21 12:48:17

I think this is fine occasionally as it does help to consolidate own knowledge/understanding, but not every lesson.

Flitter123 Wed 15-Sep-21 12:48:24

I have to say I think this ‘teaching another person how to do something improves your own skill’ thing is vastly overrated. I know my two x table and teaching someone else isn’t going to improve my maths skills. It might improve my explaining skills but not my maths skills. It annoys me when teachers give this as an extension task instead of harder work.

Iczelte Wed 15-Sep-21 12:51:39

What would happen if the child who had to help said " No teacher, I'm not helping" ? Would they get into trouble ?

Liverbird77 Wed 15-Sep-21 12:54:49

Once in a while as a planned activity I would be ok with this. In general, absolutely not. He should be given extension work. Other people's issues with the work are not his problem.

AryaStarkWolf Wed 15-Sep-21 12:57:00

As long as it isn't impacting your son's own work or learning I think it's a good thing

LostFrog Wed 15-Sep-21 12:57:11

Thanks. It is bothering him to be honest, because he thinks he will get into trouble if this other kid doesn’t do their work and he doesn’t understand why this kid won’t at least try. Apparently he throws his pencil down straightaway and says he needs help. I agree that having to verbalise his own thought process could benefit him, but i am pretty sure that the policy, if it is a policy, is being done with that in mind. I have asked for clarity and his teacher is going to call me back after school. I don’t want to make a fuss so early on whilst they are settling in but I also don’t want my son feeling negative about a new school.

OP’s posts: |
Antinerak Wed 15-Sep-21 12:57:48

It is very common for brighter pupils to help those who struggle, but it should be encouraged not forced. Your son should be given extension work or another task to do if he doesn't want to help the boy. Helping him could improve his own understanding of the work but shouldn't be necessary

LostFrog Wed 15-Sep-21 12:58:15

*isn’t being done with that in mind

OP’s posts: |
NotAnotherPushyMum Wed 15-Sep-21 13:00:45

Happens to my dd all the time and I really don’t like it. I’d prefer she had work which was at least a little bit challenging so that it takes her more than ten minutes of the lesson to complete it.

HeronLanyon Wed 15-Sep-21 13:02:40

As an occasional it’s an excellent learning aid to teach someone else. It often makes you think about the ‘right answer’ which you may already have arrived at in a different and mind stretching way.
So if it’s occasional I’d positively welcome it.
If it’s constant then I would question it.

Lweji Wed 15-Sep-21 13:04:23

It might improve my explaining skills but not my maths skills.

Well... there you go.

School should be for more than learning maths, or subjects.
Your son is also learning how to deal with frustration, and difficult people. These can be valuable skills.

But, I'd make sure that he isn't made responsible for whatever the other child does, and that he doesn't feel that he will suffer any consequences for whatever the other child does, or doesn't.

lazylinguist Wed 15-Sep-21 13:05:08

(I'm a teacher). This is not on. Well, not as a regular thing anyway. If your ds is finishing his work early, he should be given an extension task to further his own learning, not be used as an unpaid child TA! It's fine to ask a child to help another with their work occasionally, but not the same children every time. And especially not if the helper child is being expected to navigate attitude or behaviour issues from the other child in order to be able to help.

HollowTalk Wed 15-Sep-21 13:07:14

It sounds as though the other child would be happy to let your child do his work for him - that's what often happens. Yes it's great for people to show someone else how to do something - it really helps drum it into their own mind, but this other pupil doesn't want to learn. That's a completely different scenario.

I agree your son should be given extension work.

AGreenerShadeofKale Wed 15-Sep-21 13:09:59

Should he be encouraged to complain and improve his assertiveness skills Lweji?😉

ZenNudist Wed 15-Sep-21 13:12:24

I've just given a promotion to one of my team this morning and I highlighted their being a people person who explained things well to others. It could be doing your son more good than you know. Being able to communicate so others can understand, showing leadership etc

AGreenerShadeofKale Wed 15-Sep-21 13:13:36

Does such learning happen in these enforced interactions? I learned that stuff playing out tbh.

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