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Why don't some teachers like to tell parents how their Dc is doing compared to classmates?

(141 Posts)
forgottenpassword Sun 10-Feb-13 08:29:31

Just wondered really. Is there a difference between practices in private and state on this? Ps not asking from position where answer is likely to be "top of the class".

TheFallenMadonna Tue 12-Feb-13 17:11:04

There is every incentive to push a child to exceed their Target, especially if their target is low, and especially in Core subjects. Essentially, we are judged on % reaching certain levels (not just national expected average by the way), and on levels of progress for individual pupils. If any teacher is teaching to the middle in the days of the transition matrix, then they're going to be in bother come their performance management review.

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 14:27:37

How would knowing class position make a difference to that?

NorhamGardens Tue 12-Feb-13 14:11:18

Sorry I mean push a low early attainer to the top of the class above.

NorhamGardens Tue 12-Feb-13 14:09:45

Dromedary I agree. Those amazing readers in early years classes - well if you've read Outliers it gives you some idea - more often than not they're the ones who have had the most exposure to books, to reading and yes even to basic phonics before Reception in some cases.

Thing is Seeker who is to say your average or low achiever in Y2 can do way more than what would be considered expected progress? There's no real incentive to push a early attainer on to the top of the class - generally the child won't be thought to have the requisite ability, they are low ability in NC terms. As long as the expected progress box has been ticked it's job done.

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 13:56:09

If you find a teacher happy to let a child coast for a year, I will show you a teacher who will fail her OFStED assessment. They are judged on the progress their pupils make.

Dromedary Tue 12-Feb-13 13:51:41

Norhamgardens. I agree, I would not trust a teacher's expectations of a child's progress to be gospel as to what they should be achieving. Expectations may very well be too low. Maybe they are occasionally too high for the child. And they won't take into account extra help that you might like to give the child. Some teachers are happy for the children to coast along for a year. When my DC1 started school my idea was that she was going to a highly rated school and I would just let them get on with it. I very soon learned that if I took that approach she would sink - I was told by the totally newly qualified teacher that I shouldn't expect my DC to learn the 100 basic words or whatever that they're expected to learn in R (because she was too Thick, though the T word was unspoken). My daugter, within about a term, was coming home with the idea in her head that she was stupid. She is not Thick, and with some help from me plus a decent Y1 teacher shot up to the top of the class in Y1. I now try to keep a close eye on how my DCs are doing, and to encourage them to stretch themselves, though sometimes it is frankly too much for me, especially as the oldest one is now doing stuff I don't understand (in science, not my best subject).
Research shows, as has been well publicised, that at primary level a child's progress is mainly related to how much parental support they get. So give parents more respect and let us have all the relevant information about our child.

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 13:31:55

Not getting into a private good/state bad argument - but I can't see why you thinking private schools are at a higher level than state ones is relevant to the discussion!

Anyway, I'll say again- I'm not talking about teachers who say "oh, he's doing very well" of "in line with national average" or something wafflly like that. I'm talking about the scenario where you know what level they were at 6 months ago, you know what level they are at now and you know what level they are expected to be in 6 months time. If you're happy with the rate of progress, then fine. If not, talk to the school.

NorhamGardens Tue 12-Feb-13 13:30:56

Oh yes, tip of the iceberg stuff and everyone wades in to praise...I'm just jealous really smile That's before they start on all their other accomplishments.
If I am really honest I am not sure they mean to boast, many are super proud of their DCs and want to share. I just can't help but compare sometimes and as someone put it so well on MN 'comparison is the thief of joy'.

campergirls Tue 12-Feb-13 13:25:44

Do you really know people who put comments like that on Fb NorhamGardens? shock I've never heard anyone be so boastful in rl (or on Gb for that matter)

NorhamGardens Tue 12-Feb-13 13:09:07

Replying to a PP re: private schools having a reason to give form position/class average etc where they don't work to NC levels etc...Well the elephant in the room, IME, is that they generally have higher academic expectations.

Those private schools I know aim to get the majority way beyond the equivalent NC expected level and consider this to be an unambitious target for anyone with average intellect and beyond (with similarly high ambitions for those with below average intellect). Small class sizes etc mean they generally deliver on this promise - if they didn't parents would generally vote with their feet (although I know parental choice isn't just about having high academic expectations).

I get so cross when I hear one of mine is 'doing fine, doing great and on track to achieve the expected level'. Especially true when a lower KS1 level has them pegged as a low or middle ability child. If they go on to do as expected I am supposed to be over the moon - what if I think or even worse know for sure that expectations should be higher as they can do more?

Sorry anecdotal I know but I get fed up with reading these sort of comments on FB: '95% in Maths and 78% in English and they want more! Expectations are off the scale at our school! They're on John's case and have recognised his potential!". And then I come down to our school and get at our school 'don't worry he's doing great - bang on target for national expectations'.

Dromedary Tue 12-Feb-13 12:58:59

I've always been told that a child will do better if they are with similar or slightly higher level peers.

Apparently research shows that mixed ability groups are better for lower ability children (who learn from the high ability ones) and worse for high ability children.

If a teacher is poor, and many children in the class are doing badly, it is very unlikely that if you discuss your child's poor level with said teacher they will tell you not to worry about your child's ability to learn, as in fact they are doing ok in relation to the class, and the problem is to do with the teacher's bad teaching. You will be fobbed off, but you won't know it, because you won't know that many other children are also doing badly.

It's really about transparency. And I don't really believe that telling parents say once or twice a year where their child is in the class (or say which quartile they are in) will result in loads of boasting between parents at the school gate. It's not about one upmanship, it's about knowing how your child is doing and whether you need to be doing more to support them.

pickledsiblings Tue 12-Feb-13 12:47:52

Possible scenario to go with my previous 2 posts: We have a teacher that is excellent at teaching to the middle, soon your high achieving child will be in the middle just like the rest of them and because of the extra resources we've deployed, Mrsx, your low achieving DC will be around about the middle too.

pickledsiblings Tue 12-Feb-13 12:37:07

'Your DC is doing very well and making steady progress' = high achieving DC
'Your DC is struggling but making steady progress' = low achieving child

pickledsiblings Tue 12-Feb-13 12:32:46

Seeker, it's got to be both to be truly meaningful. Your DS could be top of the class but making slower progress than the rest of the class. Compare that with a DC who is bottom of the class and making slower progress than the rest of the class. Both students are the same in relative terms, their needs are the same (ie they both need to make more progress) but the school's resources may be deployed differently in each case. I think parents should be aware of this.

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 12:30:43

Well, if a child is doing badly- ie not making progress based on NC levels- then you would go into school, talk to the teacher, ask what they were going to do about it, and act accordingly. If you weren't happy with the response, then you might move schools, get a tutor, whatever. Ditto if a child is doing well- making lots of progress. Although, I'm not sure why you would move a child that's doing well and is happy. My point is that it's what happening to your child that's important.

Dromedary Tue 12-Feb-13 12:24:18

Seeker - why don't you address the points I've made a couple of times then?
1) where your child is doing badly (based on NC level). The parent is told they are doing badly on that basis, but not that half the children in the class are doing similarly badly. If the parent were told that, they might realise that there was a problem with the teaching of that individual teacher, rather than that their child is struggling due to innate lack of ability for instance. They could make use of that information, for instance by changing schools or hiring a tutor for the year.
2) where you are told that your child is doing well (based on NC level). But you are not told that they are in fact miles ahead of the rest of the class. If you were given that information, you might decide to move them to a school where they would be able to work with children at a similar ability level, which would probably be better for them both academically and socially.

What is your answer?

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 12:17:23

I think in private schools which don't use NC levels, you may have a point- there's no benchmark to work from. And the robustness of being told you're bottom of the class is what some people pay for!(joke)

But in a state school where there are benchmarks then I genuinely can't see why it would help you to know class positions.

brandis Tue 12-Feb-13 12:07:10

This is all still so confusing - targets, national average.

I did not go to school in the UK and in my native country children are given grades for every single piece of work they produce, starting from Year 2 (aged 8 - we start school at 7). Children can't know each others' marks for written work - because the their work books are handed out individually - but teachers sometimes say the grades aloud when distributing them. And if a pupil is called to talk on a topic in history, etc. then the whole class will obviously hear and see how s/he performed and what grade he got.

Nobody made a great deal of that and generally we knew who is a strong student, who is in the middle and who is among the weaker ones.

I don't ever remember it being an issue in terms of affecting self-esteem - if anything, it would make bright kids proud and weaker ones - strive to do better.

5 was the top mark, 2 was basically 'fail', each subject was graded separately on a daily basis. So it was pefectly clear for everyone - parents, children, teachers - how well the child is doing. Is s/he is getting 5s - well done, if 3s - here are the areas that need work.

State school, one teacher (no TAs as a rule), 25-30 kids.

wordfactory Tue 12-Feb-13 11:58:50

Flogging - that's why you need both year and set average. My DD for example finds maths her hardest subject. Telling me she got x percent is hopeless. Telling me how she did in comparision to her set average is much more instructive and allows me (well DD herself now she's older) to moniter her progress.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 12-Feb-13 11:10:00

Firstly, I would say that I think the move away from a specific section of a school report which says 'position in class' is quite logical and a good thing. Average mark of class though might be useful.

But the thing is it really doesn't matter what schools do - I bet we all recognize the 'I got 53 in Physics, but it was a really hard one and nobody got higher than 55' or 'I got full marks in German but so did loads of other people'? It's going to happen anyway!

and I'm going to carry on reading upside down at parents' evening

Floggingmolly Tue 12-Feb-13 10:59:30

Isn't that assuming that all the children are on a level playing field, wordfactory? All children have different levels of ability, so doing better than Johnny but less well than Billy has to be put in some sort of context.
Some kids don't have the innate ability to be top of any class no matter how much effort they make, while some clever children may well pass out their peers but could probably do even better if encouraged, bearing in mind their peers may be considerably less bright. One size definitely does not fit all.

wordfactory Tue 12-Feb-13 10:48:27

Seeker- if you know how your child is doing in context, you're able to judge if they're working hard enough, if they need help etc you can also tell if they're in the right sets. Being told year and set averages also helps contextualise achievemenyt. 70 percent in a test means bugger all if you don't know how everyone else did.

seeker Tue 12-Feb-13 10:47:52

But surely my example with the XYand Z levels would tell you more than where the child is in the class? A child destined for grammar school, or the top sets of a comprehensive would need to be aiming at solid level 5s or even possibly 6 in year 6. And if that is the target set, and progress is being properly monitored, the. It doesn't matter what anyone else is achieving.

vess Tue 12-Feb-13 10:40:59

I don't necessarily want to know. It's the fact that the teacher may refuse to tell me that I object to. It should not be up to them to deside what information about my child's learning is useful to me. I should be given all the information I want, and without going out of my way to ask for it. Keeping secrets alienates parents and creates an unhealthy atmosphere.

Dromedary Tue 12-Feb-13 10:35:28

It's not all about just knowing whether your child is working hard, and meeting the expectations (for that child) of their teacher.
Knowing what they are achieving in comparison with others, and what the school or teacher is achieving in comparison with others, is very useful information.
If the child is 1) not working hard, 2) nonetheless top half of the class, that tells me that they have untapped potential and if they are pushed to work harder, could eg get into grammar school.
If the child is 1) working hard, 2) middle of the class, that tells me that they will probably be going to the local comp.
I've given reasons above for why it is useful to have comparisons with the class rather than just national achievement levels. Eg if your child is well ahead of the class, you may wish to move them to a school where there will be a similar level peer group for them to work with. If your child is doing badly nationally but is doing well in their class, there may be a problem with the teaching in that class.

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