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Middle class access to grammars via tutorproof 11+ part 2

(1000 Posts)
boschy Thu 06-Dec-12 13:27:32

May I do this? only there were some contrasting views at the end of the last thread which I found interesting.

One was mine (sorry!): "I think fear actually drives a lot of those parents who are desperate to get their child into GS, so they can be 'protected' from these gangs of feral teenagers who apparently run rampage through every non-selective school in the country.

Because clearly if you are not 11+ material you are a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal who likes nothing better than beating up a geek before breakfast and then going to score behind the bike shed before chucking a chair at the maths teacher and making the lives of the nice but dim kids a misery."

And one was from gazzalw: "If you had the choice would you opt for a grammar school or a comprehensive that has gangs?"

Soooo, do people really think that all comprehensives have vicious gangs, and all GS children are angels? Or that only those of academic ability adequate enough to get them through the 11+ should not have to face behavioural disruption of any kind? If you are borderline, or struggling but still work hard, should you just have to put up with disruption because let's face it you're not academic?

PS, re the knuckle dragging Neanderthals I mention above, should have said - "and that's only the girls" grin

rabbitstew Mon 10-Dec-12 07:51:42

Or, "OFSTED" don't know what they are talking about"?...

Seems to me that the biggest problem state school teachers have, then, is that everyone and his dog wants to tell them how to do their job.

rabbitstew Mon 10-Dec-12 07:53:57

teacherwith2kids - do you think the colossal ability range in your classroom is a good thing, or do you sympathise with some parents thinking that only a minority of teachers could cope with that well enough that their child isn't negatively affected by it from an academic point of view?

rabbitstew Mon 10-Dec-12 08:01:10

I've noticed that at secondary level, most people agree that separate subject teaching by specialist teachers is necessary, and that children need to be set by ability with each set taught in completely different classrooms by a different teacher, rather than on a different table by the same teacher. So in state primary schools where this does not apply, is it not the case that the children will not be able to make us much pure academic progress as quickly? In other words, are they not learning different lessons in very different ways from many of their privately educated counterparts, and not all of them academic? And aren't they almost inevitably going to end up behind their privately educated peers at age 11, from an academic perspective?

Isn't the argument that, provided you have effectively taught the basics, the above doesn't matter, because you can catch up academically and have learnt quite a bit about mixing with and working with people of very mixed ability, but that if you haven't even learnt the "basics" then you'll never catch up?

Brycie Mon 10-Dec-12 08:11:22

Evil: I think you know why I'm not interested: it's childish to goad me or to try to.

Exotic - I haven't time this morning - I should have left the house fifteen minutes ago. I'll try to get on later.

exoticfruits Mon 10-Dec-12 09:14:20

I will look back later.

wordfactory Mon 10-Dec-12 09:41:58

rabbit yuou've touched on the one issue where I really prefer the prep system: earlier introduction of specialised teaching and proper setting.

I do think that by year 3/4 the DC are ready for this. The mixed ability setting with a generalist primary teacher goes on too long IMVHO.

Bonsoir Mon 10-Dec-12 09:47:37

Hmm. My DD's school, most unusually (it has a special dispensation) for a French school, does streaming from CP (Y2) - there are five parallel French classes (with different "profiles"), and six parallel English classes with (exceedingly) different levels. What happens IME is that the school has a really hard time keeping tabs on the children. They are little, and quite small things can cause variations in their attainment levels, and because they are not in whole class groups they all end up being taught different things. They end up with very heterogeneous experiences. I think that to stream/set effectively requires an awful lot of management resources that prep schools may have but - let's not dream - the public purse would find it hard to match.

Bonsoir Mon 10-Dec-12 09:50:46

On the other hand, specialist teachers are a very good idea and it is far from impossible to have specialist teachers at primary school. Maths, music, sport, art, computing, languages all are best taught by specialists, with class teachers focusing on literacy, humanities and science.

wordfactory Mon 10-Dec-12 09:51:03

bonsoir I think that's right.

It works in good preps because a. they tend to be larger than your average primary and b. have the abundant resources to manage setting properly.

wordfactory Mon 10-Dec-12 09:53:35

I think, if memory serves me, by year 3/4 my DC had specialist teaching in English, Maths, art, music, MFL, Latin, ICT, sports. By year 5/6 they had specialist teaching in every subject as one would at secondary.

gelo Mon 10-Dec-12 09:59:25

"wouldn't it be better if we just made everyone do what's now the IGCSE? Ready made exam, boards in place, level the playing field with independents and all that. What do you think?"

Trouble is iGCSE in many cases is just as easy if not easier than GCSE. Maybe some boards/subjects are tougher, but not all. iGCSE just has a slightly different style to GCSE (eg no controlled assessments) and some teachers think they don't stretch the more able students. Can't see that a wholesale switch over would achieve very much at all.

Bonsoir Mon 10-Dec-12 10:11:53

Some of the really good Paris schools get their pupils to do the CEFR language exams, which have the huge benefit of international transferability. I'm sure that's the way forward - some kind of agreed standard - for maths, too, though I don't know what body is going to put it in place.

Elibean Mon 10-Dec-12 12:01:56

I tend to agree about specialist teachers....dd1 is in Y4 (state) and is lucky enough to be in a set that gets weekly maths from a visiting, retired maths teacher on top of the class teacher's input. She loves it, and is really being stretched.

And oh if only we had a music teacher at her school! Working towards it.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Mon 10-Dec-12 12:08:30

Specialists coming in once a week I think can be really good, but I also think there's something to be said, at primary level, for one teacher who knows his/her class really well. But that might be because we went to the primary school's Christmas fair on Friday, and it was really lovely to see last year's leavers clustering around their old Year 6 teacher, and telling him their news and so on, so perhaps I'm being sentimental!

gelo Mon 10-Dec-12 12:28:56

You need specialist teachers for languages and music and I'd like to see specialist teachers for science and maths for years 5 and 6 ideally.

rabbitstew Mon 10-Dec-12 12:51:05

Tbh, I'd be a bit concerned about a primary school teacher's maths skills if they needed a specialist to help them. It's all very well getting a bit of extra advice from a secondary school teacher for the children working at level 6 or above, since they may not have much experience actively teaching at that level, but otherwise.... I would expect a primary school teacher to at least be effective at teaching maths and literacy and, if not, there's not much hope for our primary school children! I agree on music and languages (and P.E. - and science, come to that... hence so many parents choosing to pay for musical and sporting activities outside of school time if they can afford it... I'm just a bit horrified at the thought a primary school teacher would need help with maths, when surely the training of all primary school teachers should cover that as a matter of priority?!).

seeker Mon 10-Dec-12 12:51:33

I'm always in two minds about specialist teachers in Primary schools. On balance, I think I'd rather have a teacher who was a specialist in being a teacher, rather than a subject specialist, except for music and possibly sport. And possibly languages.

I think once you get to secondary age, if you have to choose between having a fantastic teacher and a less good teacher who knows their subject really welll, then I'd choose the latter. Better to have both, obviously! But in primary school, I think it's the other wqy round.

Interestingly, I once asked the head of year 7 at dd's school what the main difference between th state and private kids was, and she said that the private school children tended to know much more, but the state children were better and knowing how to find things out. Not sure what that proves, if anything!

rabbitstew Mon 10-Dec-12 12:58:30

I guess for very young children, the biggest advantage of having the one teacher is that this teacher then sees the children as whole people and should, hopefully, therefore, if doing their job properly, be better at making connections between things to understand why a child might be having difficulties and making a judgment as to how serious these issues are, or whether they are just related to immaturity (eg seeing they are not well co-ordinated in PE and are slow at getting changed, that they have difficulty understanding social cues, that they are easily distracted, etc). Too many teachers involved and you would need very good communication between them to put the bits together and not just have a child labelled as a lazy pita, because nobody has the full picture.

gelo Mon 10-Dec-12 13:04:56

" I would expect a primary school teacher to at least be effective at teaching maths and literacy"

It would be nice to think so, I agree, but I saw something on TV a while ago where primary teachers were given a basic maths test and the results were shocking - really dire. While GCSE grade C in maths is the entry requirement for primary teachng I think we are unwise to assume this.

As for science, the number of times my own children came home querying how a teacher had explained various topics in science (these were all good teachers in other respects) and they had been wrong made me think a lot of popular misconceptions probably arise from having non specialists teaching these subjects.

LettyAshton Mon 10-Dec-12 13:28:22

It is definitely too much to hope that there are all these specialists waiting to come in and offer their expertise at primary schools should finances permit.

Maybe in some areas there are suitable retired academics or musicians, but in most areas it is very, very difficult to find "useful" people. Dd's school has put out appeals for people who speak French and can teach music or even play the piano (not all at once!) and drawn a blank.

In "olden" days (er, that would be the 70s) all the teachers could thump away at a decrepit piano in the corner. Dd's school has a staff of about 15 permanent teachers and not one can play a musical instrument. Perhaps teacher training establishments should demand that applicants have some useful strings to their bow.

wordfactory Mon 10-Dec-12 13:55:20

I think its unrealistic to expect one person to be able to effectively teach everything from hockey to latin to drama to biology. I think many teachers can double up, though. But yes you do have to have good systems so that one person is the go to person for a child. Mine had a form master or mistress who had the over view. The numbers were small in each form so not to difficult to achieve.

Elibean Mon 10-Dec-12 14:15:08

One teacher having an overview is essential, agreed. Once a week extra maths teacher is a volunteer, in dd1's case, and being used to free up teacher to work with other maths sets that day - but I have to say, she's clearly more exciting/a better teacher where maths is concerned, in dd's opinion! OTOH the class teacher this year excels in other ways.

In my secondary school, a million years ago, we had a class teacher AND every class teacher was also a specialist teacher who taught one or two subjects across the school - the class teacher, in theory, knew us best as 'whole children'.

dd's primary has some similarities, as I'm sure many state primaries do: one of the class teachers is out of the classroom one day per week teaching PE to the entire school, for example. And groups of teachers, from across the school, are responsible for different curriculum areas - fairly innovative, I think, but working well. So in a sense, some specialism does occur within the traditional class-teacher system.

Brycie Mon 10-Dec-12 21:41:03

Hello exotic, I owe you a reply but I'm just worn out. I've explained my disappointments with the NC over various threads but I don't expect you to go look. Maybe I'll have energy tomorrow. It all centres around low expectation and over involvement of parents, too much fun at school, too much basic work devolved to parents, too slow progress, not enough reading, leaving behind children without middle clAjass helpy type parents, sorry not making much sense. I've got examples too. Can you hold onto your teeth until I've got the energy. Probably not but maybe sometime we'll have this convo. smile There is one thing, there's been some suggestion that it might not be the NC but bad teachers. But across so many schools and so many years it's a frighteneing thought that there are so many bad teafchers, it makes you think there's something wrong with the training. So I'm pretty sure it's more a case of teachers hidebound by the NC. They coudl be hidebound by their training but that woudl be exceptionakky depressing.

teacherwith2kids Mon 10-Dec-12 22:03:49


I don't think that anything that you describe can be ascribed solely to the National Curriculum - not the basic 'what you need to teach' document, anyway.

It is possible, in primary schools, that some of it might be linked to the 'spin off' QCA units for different subjects, which provided an 'off the shelf' way of covering the NC ... they were stultifyingly boring, somewhat limited in scope and ambition, and luckily are very rarely found in schools now.

Have a read of the NC (the basic document) - it definitely doesn't say 'have lots of fun, get all the parents to do the work'!

Having attended several primary schools as a child, I can tell you that in some ways the NC has ironed out some of the most egregious examples of varying expectations, of repeating the same topics again and again (I did the Romans 4 years on the trot), of not touching some subjects at all in primary (I had my first Science lesson in secondary school, for example, it was not taught - except for a little nature study - in any of the primaries I went to). Whether it is still ambitious enough in some subjects - ICT for example - is definitely debatable. Remember, though, that it defines a 'minimum entitlement' - it is in no way limiting.

rabbitstew Mon 10-Dec-12 22:07:24

I thought the government introduced the NC because it thought teachers weren't doing their jobs properly?! Why else interfere so heavily? When its interference didn't help in the way anticipated, it then interfered some more. And there appear to be an awful lot of people who think teacher training fails to cover everything it needs to - like how to teach children to read, for example. Or something like that... We've now got to the point that nobody really seems to have any clear idea what the point of school is, beyond times tables, reading and writing, of which schools apparently don't do enough!

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