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stopped believing in decent state schools

(205 Posts)
innercity Mon 20-Jan-14 21:16:42

I guess I need reassurance that in some parts of the country, in some areas, there are good state schools? That actually teach numeracy and literacy?! I don't believe this anymore...

DS is in Y4 in primary, which is a very desirable local south London comprehensive. Their class was consistently failed by a succession of NQT (3 in a row) and supply in between. This year they finally got the most experienced teacher in school.

But what do I see? They have not been taught formal division or multiplication (this is top table, supposedly working at 4c/4b); they do not do basic maths practice almost at all (15*3 or 128-45); maths provision is so scarce, it is safer to assume they are not taught anything.
How can differentiation work if the class hasn't been introduced to decimals, but you (individual pupil) can take decimal addition (choose that sheet) if everyone's doing addition?
OK, I explained to my son about decimals, but what kind of differentiation is that, this is just jumping without any plan?

They write 1 story in two weeks. I have taught DS spelling and he is now the best speller in class (english is his second language) - way ahead of others. How ridiculous is that?

I've checked maths and english papers for 10+ fro some independent schools and unless I work with him really seriously there is no way on Earth he can pass this in a year, not only because the topics asked there are not taught but also topics leading to topics there had not been taught or practised enough.

I am really wondering whether there is a huge cover up and dishonesty and English understatement and double-layered meaning when ppl (here on mumsnet) talk about "not tutoring," and how wonderful their child's school is??
DS school appears so creative, with workshops and art, bla bla, it's just that it doesn't do what the schools are for...

TalkinPeace Mon 20-Jan-14 21:27:36

They have not been taught formal division or multiplication
no, well they won't be as the methods we used are no longer in use
They write 1 story in two weeks
surely it depends on the topic they are doing whether story writing is relevant
I've checked maths and english papers for 10+ fro some independent schools
what have entry exams for private schools got to do with what a state school is doing
it's just that it doesn't do what the schools are for...
I guess that depends what you think school is actually FOR

Children spend 1/6 of their waking hours in school and 5/6 not in school.
Parents have a very great impact
rote learning does not teach the analytical and soft skills that will be needed in the next 20 years

straggle Mon 20-Jan-14 21:35:11

No dishonesty or understatement when I say I have never tutored and I think my DCs' school is really good - NQTs and experienced teachers alike.

pointythings Mon 20-Jan-14 21:40:13

I remember when DD2 wrote one story in 2 weeks.

It was 8 A4 pages long. And amazing.

Maths teaching methods have changed - they are now about understanding what you are doing instead of just going through the motions. You'll be pleased to hear Michael Gove wants to reverse this trend.

If you want your DS to get into a selective private school then yes, there will be things the current school doesn't cover. That does not mean this is automatically bad.

There's no cover-up, but you do seem to lack understanding of the National Curriculum and current teaching methods. FWIW both my children are doing stuff in maths and in writing that I did not touch on until much older - and that was in the 'good old days' before everything was so 'dumbed down'.

maillotjaune Mon 20-Jan-14 22:03:32

Our school is fantastic, and some of the NQTs (the older 2 have had teachers ranging from brand new to nearing retirement) have been among the best. They learn lots of what I would call formal maths and English, albeit in a very different way to school in the 1970s.

It isn't a myth.

NigellasDealer Mon 20-Jan-14 22:08:27

I have taught DS spelling and he is now the best speller in class (english is his second language) - way ahead of others
how do you know that exactly? please do explain.
also if you come from where i think you might come from, no offence but education/learning is not really quantifiable in that way (eg "little Timmy is the fourth best english speaker in the country of his age group!!")

noblegiraffe Mon 20-Jan-14 22:11:29

If they aren't taught anything in maths, how come they are at level 4 in Y4? (which is the expected level for Y6).

lupo Mon 20-Jan-14 22:13:42

Op, a glimpse from the other side. Ds is nine and year 4 at prep school He has been taught formal add, subtract, long multiplication and division and is now learning about fractions and decimals. He writes every day at school and covers non verbal and verbal reasoning as well as good sport, languages, music and plenty of playtime though school day is longer. I feel
He is being well prepped for independent secondary exams. When I read posts like yours, I feel glad that we have found the school we did. It is unfair for children from some state schools to be competing for private school or grammar exams when they have not had the same level of support as they get in private. Op, if I see in your situation, I would tutor at home and look for a good tutor nearer the exams to prep your child in terms of exam format etc.

Pooka Mon 20-Jan-14 22:20:57

Dd in year 6 can divide large numbers and multiply using a variety of methods. She's learning algebra and geometry at a much younger age than I was - in my day algebra and more complex geometry was for secondary school.

Bog standard requires improvement state school. She also passed selective test for grammar (in neighbouring area) but will be going to the excellent state comprehensive instead because it is better than the nearest grammar school.

maillotjaune Mon 20-Jan-14 22:21:55

Well lupo DS2 is in Y4 and does that minus the music (he has chosen not to take the music opportunities). We are in London but near to a grammar county and a number of children pass 11+ each year, some tutored some not. More choose to stick with the excellent comp down the road even if they might have passed 11+.

Pooka Mon 20-Jan-14 22:23:33

Incidentally, ds1 has an NQT this year. She's AWESOME! Enthusiastic, inventive and energetic.

innercity Mon 20-Jan-14 22:26:21

Interesting answers. I assume my tone of voice was quite negative and aggressive, hence the defensive reactions.

I am a socialist and foreign, so don't suspect me in sympathy to the current version of the tories; I just think that this country never acquired a proper decent primary school education system.

It's all about "understanding rather than rote-learning," but then you have 25% of 16 male yo functionally illiterate; and you have learning centres and kumon centres on every second street (and apparently more tutors than theere are teachers?). This is not just paranoia, it is a reflection of some reality. My son's school is sending home ads for a learning centre!

I am an academic and I work in a top 8 uni; most students are either foreign or come from private schools. And I worked in one of the worst unis before, and my students, who had ambition and went to university, often could not write a complete sentence, didn't use full stops, and were unable to read for obtaining information from the text (these are not the students with learning difficulites). I've seen this at the other end of the chain - with 18yo, and now on the basis of how DS is taught I see how this is produced (because when I just moved and was teaching there, I was bewildered).

There are these workbooks - Sims and Schoefield; the school doesn't offer any practise in any comparative format. DS does this at home; nothing similar is offered at school. When I look at those exercises, I think that is what the school needs to teach, whatever methods.

Pooka Mon 20-Jan-14 22:29:57

DS1 is learning the trumpet at school this year. Part of a scheme where children learn instrument for free for a term with a view to maybe carrying on lessons if they want.

Dd has piano lessons at school (though we pay).

Both have French lessons (as do all local schools as far as I am aware).

Things they don't seem to do in comparison with the local independent schools we looked at:

- weekly writing assessments.
- non verbal and verbal assessments.

They don't do these because in general the need to hone writing skills in order to pass a test doesn't really apply in state schools (rightly so). As a consequence, dd and ds1 haven't been given the toolkit for writing assessments which seemed, on looking at the work on display at the local independent, to consist of starting sentences with "nervously, I xxxx" or "excitedly I xxxx". Was very formulaic - prob entirely test-appropriate but not really an indication of creativity in writing.

NigellasDealer Mon 20-Jan-14 22:29:58

so how do you know that your son is 'way ahead of others' ?

innercity Mon 20-Jan-14 22:31:32

lupo thanks for sharing. It took me five years to figure out that whatever happens or whatever their kids do, people will always say "but this is more inventive and creative now" and "but my state school does that." But the thing is I don't believe this anymore, - at least it can't be consistent? If the whole structure permits such a level of failure then something must be wrong with it?

innercity Mon 20-Jan-14 22:33:32

DS is "doing French" at school - this amounts to learning to say hello and count - in 3 years!
DS was offered music - 30 min in a group of 6! After the teacher didn't show up for 3 weeks, I decided it is worth doing it privately.
I repeat - this is a good school.

innercity Mon 20-Jan-14 22:34:51

Because teachers tell me obviously he is a high achiever. It is not at all obviously, in my view. It is just that I worked with him and taught him myself.

LadyGreenTea Mon 20-Jan-14 22:35:35

innercity i read your post and I can understand some of your anxiety - the inconsistency of having a lot of supply teachers can be very unsettling for children (and parents), NQTs may not be experinced but that doesn't mean they are necessarily bad teachers.

It depends on what you think School should and can do for your child. Yes, they spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week there, so they should be taught literacy and numeracy. But unfortunately, IMHO, we ask more than teachers can give our kids - there simply isn't time to teach to each child individually and I believe that if there is a shortfall, it is up to the parents to make up for it: to help their kids where they need it.

Schooling takes place in school, but education and learning happens at all times in all areas of life, including at home. So we have taken the time to encourage our kids to learn their times tables, encouraged them to become keen readers etc. Does that count as "tutoring"? I don't care.

Within walking distance to us, there is a grammar school and we have supported our kids' desire to apply to it by paying for a tutor for 6 months. The tutor helped with the kids with exam technique, but definitely extended their english skills and strengthened their maths skills. If you intend for your son to sit an entrance exam for private or grammar school, you will need to tutor (be it DIY or paid) to at least teach them exam technique - this is not anything I've heard a State primary will do as a matter of course.

I don't feel that we have done anything extraordinary in the way that we have raised and supported our kids to learn (but maybe I'll be flamed for giving my kids an "unfair" advantage hmm )

Ps my kids have enjoyed their State primary and it has been a good school in many many ways, I am not knocking our school at all.

Pps Our tutor gave us S&S english books and similar too smile

titchy Mon 20-Jan-14 22:37:05

What is your source for your claim that 25% of 16 year olds are functionally illiterate?

I don't believe that the majority of your university's home students are privately educated - even Oxbridge (just) manages to have a small majority of its intake state educated.

TalkinPeace Mon 20-Jan-14 22:37:42

I am an academic and I work in a top 8 uni; most students are either foreign or come from private schools

fascinating but irrelevant

as UCL is 41% overseas students : compared with 28% at Imperial and 19% at Durham - and Durham is 59% state school kids

if you want rote learning, go pay for it.

Pooka Mon 20-Jan-14 22:37:55

I know sims and schofield reading comprehension. Having looked at the reading comprehension past SATS papers they are pretty similar.

Dd's target for the next few weeks in reading is "explain how the author builds up suspense in a story". The last target involved something along the lines of "explain how the author uses inference in the text". She has similar targets for maths and writing. Ds1 is in year 3 and has a target for his reading "to comment on the features used by the writer e.g. The writer uses a lot of adjectives because..."

NigellasDealer Mon 20-Jan-14 22:39:00

"Because teachers tell me obviously he is a high achiever" sorry but i do not think that any teacher would tell you that he was 'way ahead of others'
also do you have a link to back up your claim about illiteracy?

LadyGreenTea Mon 20-Jan-14 22:40:04

French in primary schools... don't make me laugh!! Any ability in French that a child may have on leaving yr6 is entirely down to luck - if they've been taught by an able French-speaking teacher. In our Good school, in 7 years, I doubt my kids can count to 10 in French or even say "my name is..."

Language teaching is not consistent because we don't have that as a teaching requirement. I think it's a shame.

maillotjaune Mon 20-Jan-14 22:40:17

But OP when people say 'oh my state school does that' it might just be that their school does that. I am not suggesting that all schools do, but can give you anecdotal evidence that our does (and others will have the same experience) and I believe there is proper evidence to show how London schools have, in general, made big improvements.

I have taught graduates for professional exams for 18 years and have been disappointed with the writing skills ever since I started but I recognise that I am a pedant who notices every little spelling mistake!

TalkinPeace Mon 20-Jan-14 22:41:09


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