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Daughter in bottom set in maths

(29 Posts)
Aviator2008 Tue 10-Sep-19 20:12:34

Hello everyone, my daughter came home today - she is in Y6 - advising that they have been arranged in sets in maths and English. She is to set for English but surprise, she is bottom set for maths. She is terribly upset. She's always been a middle set in maths and was very shocked she has been put into a bottom set. And while I am probably her harshest critic, I am surprised too. Her Y5 feedback has been consistent with top of middle set. Her report from Y5 states the same. Her maths teacher last year advised the reason she is not in top set is because of her confidence. Not the one to compare her with anyone other than her own potential, I could not help however to ask who else is in the same set and I am disappointed that she is in with children who are known to need support. I want to approach the teacher about it but have no idea how to start without this being a very emotionally charged conversation. My main concern is that she won't be stretched. And we are at an independent school. Any advice anyone can offer on how to tackle this with the school would be so appreciated. Thank you

JustRichmal Tue 10-Sep-19 22:45:06

I would check to see if there has not been some mistake and to find out how they were assessed for each set.

It sounds as though she could be borderline between the two, so you could do some maths with her for a few minutes each evening. Keep it light and stop when she wants to. Look at Letts or CGP books for doing a page or two to build up her maths skills. Like most skills, maths improves with practice. Though it must be upsetting, but realising there is something they can do is a great lesson to learn.

rededucator Tue 10-Sep-19 23:22:31

Tackle it with the school by working at home with your daughter at hone and then asking if they have noticed any improvement at her next assessment and if this would warrant a move. Do not go to the school asking if she can be moved despite her test results placing her in the support set, it will do her no favours.

BubblesBuddy Wed 11-Sep-19 00:03:08

There are some reasons why you might reflect on this. I assume in y6 she is already getting maths prep. So how well does she manage that? Or do you step in and help? Does this mean she has not understood the concepts when it comes to tests at school?

I would ask what methods they are using to assess progress and attainment other than tests. What work is she doing in class and how well is she answering questions in class teaching? Confidence might stop her using her knowledge but when you see the treacherous, you need a good indication of what knowledge she has.

Lastly, my DD was in middle then bottom set at prep for maths and then bottom set for GCSE. Down from middle. I thought about complaining but decided not to. She got the best teachers. She got a B for maths and that was great. She gained in confidence from being the best in the lower set. She didn’t compare herself to the better DC. She gained in self esteem and belief she could do it. I don’t think you have too much to lose if she gets a great teacher.

Nestinghedgehog Wed 11-Sep-19 00:11:05

Is it a high achieving school. At my dd's academically selective school it was a fine line between the sets - even most of the girls in the bottom set got A if not A*. It could just be a very small difference and she could still be being stretched.

If it's a confidence issue she might be happier in the set that she been put in.

That said if you are unhappy I would definitely go to the school and ask (nicely) how come she is in this set as her reports suggest something different. This is a failing in the school's part as well as they should keep parents in the loop and if she was being moved down a set you should have known about it before it happened.

Good luck to your daughter

clary Wed 11-Sep-19 00:47:55

yes, like bubblesbuddy says, best in a lower set can be a big confidence boost. Also lower set often = smaller class, LSA support and slower pace to help. It can be a really good thing - for many, top of a weaker set is a lot better than struggling in a higher set with a fast pace and no extra help.

BubblesBuddy Wed 11-Sep-19 02:56:25

I would guess in a prep where DC need extra help, they are possibly not all A and A* DC. Or 8-9 grade DC. The point is, they do as well as they possibly can. They are still taught the curriculum in lower sets, just not so quickly and possibly with less extension work. At a school where I was a governor, Maths Work was termed: hard, harder, hardest and Herculean! It was the same curriculum but everyone was taught the curriculum. Some didn’t do Herculean questions! So you could say they were not stretched but they consolidated learning to gain confidence. Few preps have all grade 9 type DC.

YobaOljazUwaque Wed 11-Sep-19 05:22:24

Honestly I think its your attitude and your daughter's that us the problem here and I don't know if it is too late to fix it as you have probably already done the damage.

Being put in a bottom set is not a value judgement on your DD. She is not being told she is bad at maths. It is not a criticism. Being moved up to the middle set would not benefit her at this stage.

Being in the bottom set means that she needs, and will get, additional support to reach her potential. She is lucky that the school have identified that she needs this extra support rather than letting her struggle to keep up in a higher set. If she buckles down and works hard, and asks for extra practice at the things she finds tricky to help her conquer them, then she can use this as a springboard to greater things.

Its only a state of mind that make this seem like a bad thing. But treating it like a disaster could have done untold damage to her confidence and self esteem.

CupoTeap Wed 11-Sep-19 05:27:05

Why does the set mean anything? Surely it what support is she going to get that matters? My daughter was low middle for maths and was pulled for extra support in year 6. She made real improvements in that year because of the extra support.

Defender90 Wed 11-Sep-19 05:40:31

I was top set maths, got a 4 (D) and went on to run the finance department of a multinational retailer (now doing same in logistics) I wouldn't get too caught up in it.

My parents never made a big deal of grades.

Also, never used Pythagoras since school.

missclimpson Wed 11-Sep-19 05:48:41

I think it is entirely reasonable to ask for a meeting with the school. Don't go in defensively, just say you were a bit surprised by the decision, ask them to explain why they think this is the best strategy to help her progress and explore how you can help at home.

yikesanotherbooboo Wed 11-Sep-19 08:13:26

Is there any negative to being in the bottom set? I have always been a fan of the idea that being top of the bottom set is better than being bottom of the DC were at a moderately academic prep with some vg mathematicians and others being coached within an inch of their lives for entrance exams. The top sets tended to get larger as parents liked the kudos but in fact the lower set gave more personal attention and the DC thrived and got excellent marks at 11+/ common entrance with their confidence intact.

LIZS Wed 11-Sep-19 08:22:07

Ds was in bottom set for maths at his prep. He got a scholarship to secondary and A in gcse. There was fluidity between sets at secondary and frankly it did not matter what set he was in year 6! If anything losing the weight of expectation and competitiveness helped.

daisypond Wed 11-Sep-19 08:27:57

One of mine was in bottom set maths throughout secondary school. Was a middle set child at primary. Still got a B at GCSE.

DarlingOscar Wed 11-Sep-19 09:36:59

think you've had some harsh replies here? kids are very aware of the ranking of the different sets so to a child who has perceived herself as above average, being suddenly in the bottom set will be a shock.

As a parent you have to minimise this shock - by all means talk to the school to understand the decision, but personally I'm a believer in going with whatever the school decide? You've said that confidence has been an issue previously -I wonder if this is the key and a year in a smaller group will help boost her confidence ahead of secondary school? I know a lot of the kids in the lower set at my kids school went on to do just fine at 11+ and at GCSE.

Passthecherrycoke Wed 11-Sep-19 09:42:17

I agree with above that there are some surprisingly harsh replies here. I would absolutely email to ask the teacher what the assessment criteria was and explain that you are surprised based on last years feedback. Obviously it needs to be posed as you are trying to understand do you can help your daughter progress, not that you’re complaining to get her moved.

LolaSmiles Wed 11-Sep-19 09:42:27

I always say to students it doesn't matter what set you're in as long as you're getting the right support for you and you're getting better.

If it helps to encourage her, I had a middle to low set and students got 7s+ They got that because we had a smaller class, I could go at their pace, slow things down a bit, give them a bit more attention. I know for a fact my class got higher GCSE grades than some of the higher classes.

Something to consider could be if her confidence is knocking her work in class. Eg a faster pace might knock her further / if she can be slow to start due to worrying about what she's doing or getting it wrong then a bigger class will mean the teacher can't get to her as quickly or as often

It's worth having a chat with the school to find out what's going on, but please please reassure your child that bottom set doesn't mean stupid.

Aviator2008 Wed 11-Sep-19 12:22:26

Thank you and to everyone who has replied. Yes, a few harsh replies but I can take it on the chin. I am not suggesting I go in emotionally charged and demand she is moved to the middle set. I am just surprised because I honestly don't understand the decision as it is so different to what we were lead to believe up until now. To be cornered with this message in the school playground yesterday at pick up - it was a surprise! I am proud of how I handled it considering it was communicated in the most rushed of ways without any privacy or time to have a proper discussion. I was calm and polite. I told my daughter that we are not about comparing her to others, we are about her potential and all we need to do is work diligently so that she is leaving Y6 with complete confidence that she knows how to tackle the curriculum. I dug out her end of Y5 report last night and she scored above average on the test. I am however, going to follow up with the school (calmly and politely) and hopefully in a more private setting, to understand how this came about and what does it all mean. She has been doing extra work all of Y4 and Y5, because I felt that she can handle it, and she will continue to do so. She is in a relatively high performing school, but more so, she is in a school that is full of children who massively compare each other. I really appreciate everyone's replies and advice, yes, even the harsh ones!

Longtalljosie Wed 11-Sep-19 12:31:34

I think some of the replies on here are bonkers. If the school implied the top set was within her reach, and her marks were good, you’re completely within your rights to ask for feedback. And the idea that you’re the problem by wondering what’s happened? Ridiculous. You will be teaching your DD that it’s fine to ask for feedback, it’s fine to ask how you might improve, and (if a mistake has been made) that authority is not infallible...

RedskyLastNight Wed 11-Sep-19 12:36:22

If your main concern is that she won't be stretched, why not go in and say that? Or maybe give it a week or two to see if it's actually an issue before you do?

However, can I also suggest you work on your daughter's resilience? If she's at a high achieving school she won't always be in the top group and it will not help her long term if she is "terribly upset" every time that happens.

HugoSpritz Wed 11-Sep-19 12:50:36

I would approach school and say we are not questionning the setting but could they let you know the reasoning behind the set and what scope is there for moving up if it is considered she has been placed too low etc.

Different scenario as DS is at a selective but he was.put in a lower set than his end of year exams would have suggested dor science. Their reasoning was he didn't speak up in class of he didn't understand. They felt in the lower set if he didn't understand something there would definitely be others who also didn't and would ask and they would go over things again. The strategy worked as he got all A*s for the 3 sciences. I know it was later in his school life but there may be similar reasoning behind the decision. Just ask, but be prepared to accept what they are saying. Always start on the basis you are not criticising but looking to understand. School is generally far more helpful then.

Aviator2008 Wed 11-Sep-19 12:56:36

Thank you for your sympathetic message! I feel the same way about asking for feedback, as long as it is done rationally then it is the right thing to do. It will clarify things and give us a better understanding. She has been doing extension homework all year last year, within her middle set. But, I am not involved in education sector, she is also my eldest so I am learning along with her. She actually received a learning habits award last year, one of 12 awards given across the entire year in total. She tries to apply herself in everything, and I think for her yesterday it was a shock which rippled down to my own shock although I hope I concealed it from her. I am not saying this is right, but in her mind that's what's going on. So, I need to make sure she doesn't see this as a negative and gives up before she even gets going this year.

BogglesGoggles Wed 11-Sep-19 12:57:23

Have you done anything either over the holidays? It’s quite likely that other children have shot ahead/she has forgotten and fallen behind. It’s best that she is where she will get support to improve rather bringleft to flounder (I know they won’t completely ignore her in the middle set but they won’t take the same time to explain as thoroughly as they would in lower set). I know you are concerned about her not being pushed enough but it is much more important that she gets a good grasp of the basics (which are getting more complicated at this point) so that it doesn’t cause issues at a later stage. I was always best in the class for maths at primary but didn’t really understand fractions (no one seemed to pick up on it because I was still much better than most of the others, just not as good as I usually was). This then turned into a massive problem as I got older and the fractions started turning up everywhere.

Aviator2008 Wed 11-Sep-19 13:01:26

You are right, thank you. A lot of things come easily, she's in top set for English, A squads for all sports etc. This sounds very much like boasting, and first-world problem here. I am sorry. She does need to learn resilience and also perhaps a dose of reality that one can't be good at everything, but that is not the end of the world. And thank you @HugoSpritz too for your advice on how to go about this with the school, that is really helpful.

Aviator2008 Wed 11-Sep-19 13:05:21

We have done work over the summer yes, we've done 11+ work books. But you may have a point. Others may have done more as it is coming up for 11+ exams, so they may have been tutored intensively, whereas we are not going down 11+ route and were using the books to have some homework over the summer. Although saying that, most of the children in our school are not going down 11+ route so not got any evidence of my assumption. I think, a calm discussion is in order and then we have an action plan so that my daughter feels she is working at her best level and she is also retaining the knowledge.

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