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depressed about son's primary school

(31 Posts)
spidermum Wed 12-Feb-03 11:22:35

I am feeling really depressed about my son's primary school. He started in reception in September. The school is popular, has good results and the other parents seem happy enough with it. However I think his teacher is lazy, ineffective and unengaging. They have had one session of PE this year, there was always one excuse or another, they don't seem to have a formal music session and occasionally do singing. We pay £10 per term for art and cooking materials(that's a whopping £900 per year) and yet were asked to supply vegetables when the class made soup last term. They rarely seem to do anything creative as a class and the classroom itself is chaotic. Displays are poorly displayed and uninteresting. One 'display' table is always covered in junk and yesterday I asked the teaching assistant what it all was and she laughingly replied that it was all stuff waiting to be sorted out. It is smack bang in the middle of the classroom! The funny thing is the other parents I've spoken to have said 'don't worry it doesn't reflect the rest of the school' but I don't think it's good enough. I've also been told 'I don't think music and PE are their strong points' - but they are part of the national curriculum after all and should be attempted at least shouldn't they?! My little chap was so looking forward to going to 'big' school and now he doesn't really want to go and thinks school is 'rubbish'. I'm inclined to agree with him. I am so loathed to appear like the complaining parent and I'm sure the teacher is a nice woman just ill-suited or worn-down by her job. I just feel my son and his classmates are being shortchanged and I am not sure what to do. The other thing is apparently the teacher and the head are good mates - great! Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I feel a bit better for getting it off my chest....

spidermum Wed 12-Feb-03 11:23:58

That £900 is obviously a total amount from all the parents for the year!

ghengis Wed 12-Feb-03 11:27:40

Hi Spidermum. Has the school had a recent OFSTED inspection? If so, you can obtain a copy from the office and it will tell you if these 'weaknesses' have been identified and what the school is dooing about them. I think it would be worth having a chat with the Head or Class Teacher and letting them know how you feel. If no-one tells them the truth they may just stumble on in blissful ignorance. To do nothing would,imo, be unfair to your son.

Podmog Wed 12-Feb-03 12:05:56

Message withdrawn

tigermoth Wed 12-Feb-03 13:44:51

Just another thing to add to all these useful suggestions. I am stuck by the fact that you think that the other parents are happy enough with the school. Some of these parents may have known the school for longer than you if they have children in other years as well as the reception year. You might be able to glean much information if you can talk to them - for instance the school is good but this particular teacher has problems. So. why not try and organise a meal out for the parents in your son's class? This is a not uncommon happening with reception class parents. Hopefully you can get to know the parents better, find out what the newies really think and what the oldies already know.

bayleaf Wed 12-Feb-03 16:55:35

Tigermoth - off topic ( sorry!) but how is ds getting on with his teacher/his reading/his groups these days?

spidermum Wed 12-Feb-03 18:40:40

Thanks for your replies. I am going to ask for an ofsted report. Hopefully that will give me an idea about the music/pe issue. No pe again today tho' - someone else was using the hall...
I have spoken to parents with more experience of the school and they just seem to accept that Mrs X is a lazy old so and so and that's that. I just feel its a year of my son's schooling and such a shame. DS has made some nice friends, the children in the school as a whole seem very nice and kind to eachother which is great. I'm just not sure how to voice my concerns without the teacher hearing about my complaints and then I'll have to see her everyday! DH wants to ring the school and make an appointment with the head. I think that's the only way forward. Also apparently none of the parents of the kids in nursery wanted this teacher but again everyone seems to tread carefully around her as if she's some old school tradition that has to be endured. I try and get an idea of what ds does at school and I've asked to see planning. The terms plans were supposed to be going up between the two reception classes and I've asked about it but still nothing. thanks again. He does bring books home and has a reading diary. The teacher did write some comments when I'd written in the book that I would appreciate some feedback from her. I just hope he gets a nice teacher next year and that she doesn't move up with them!

allatsea Wed 12-Feb-03 18:55:19

if you have no joy getting an Ofsted report from the school, they are available on line at www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports

zebra Wed 12-Feb-03 19:35:17

I'd be curious to hear from parents of pupils at "good" schools; are you happy with the school? I've heard some horrid stories about two of the "best" schools in town (with regard to league tables). The parents tell me that all these schools care about is test results, and that the schools are rotten for their kids who aren't academically bright; they feel that they should have sent their kids to schools that are lower down the League Tables, but therefore are more oriented to making the most of a child's inherent abilities, whatever they may be.

Has anybody else had this experience? It's definitely put me off ever sending my child to any "top" school. Or do you really like your local top-league-table school?

Batters Wed 12-Feb-03 19:41:22

spidermum, what a stressful situation for you. Personally I would not ask the school for the Ofsted report, I would look it up and download it off line. If you ask for it, the school has a right to charge you, and it may also put you in akward situation if they ask you why you want it. Every parent also has the right to see the school's response to the Ofsted report - this is only available through the school.

I agree with Tigermoth's comments. If the parents who have experience of the school are happy with the situation, then it may well be just a hiccup in an otherwise excellent school.

Re the PE - this does vary widely from school to school in Reception. In my dd's first school, she had PE 3 times a week. In her second school (still in Reception) it is once a week. My friend's dd has no PE to talk of - the lessons are spent learning how to remove and put clothes back on. I am not trying to undermine your concerns at all, but just trying to point out that this situation is probably extremely common in a Reception class.

I can see why you think a meeting with the Head Teacher is unavoidable. Good luck if you decide to do it, and let us know what happens.

KMG Wed 12-Feb-03 20:37:42

Spidermum - I think some of your concerns need to be addressed by the school. I'm sure PE is a part of the national curriculum, even for reception. If you complain, you will certainly get a reputation for being stroppy, but maybe that is necessary.

I think teaching is a very challenging job, and have the greatest of respect for good teachers, and I'm not surprised that sometimes they get de-motivated and exhausted. If she knows that someone does care about these things, then maybe that will encourage her to pull her socks up.

The Ofsted report won't comment on a particular class or teacher, but may give helpful info about the school's attitudes to music. Many schools only have interesting displays up for the Ofsted inspectors ...

KMG Wed 12-Feb-03 20:44:04

Zebra - we are absolutely thrilled with the school ds1 and ds2 go to - is it a "good" school? It has a reputation as a 'good' school - SATs are good but not stunning, there are higher ones in the town. It did have an outstanding Ofsted report 5 yrs ago. We visited the school (and others) and were completely bowled over by it. Since the boys started there (in September) our impression has just gone sky high. I really struggle to find anything even vaguely negative to say about any aspect of the school or its teachers.

Mak Wed 12-Feb-03 20:46:36

The government has recently brought in new guidelines for Early Years settings. reception classes are now part of the Foundation Stage and not the National Curriculum, the Foundation Stage is now recognised as a key stage in it's own right. That means that from 3/3.5 to the time they start year 1 children are classed as Foundation Stage children. This has implications in the way the classrooms are organised. i.e. PE comes under physical development and might be accessed through outdoor play opportunities.
You say that there are 2 rec. classes. It might be worth finding out more about the other class as they should be doing exactly the same lessons.
The Foundation Stage has created many uncertainties with practitioners and parents as interprettations are different from school to school. If you are really concerned I would speak to the Headteacher or ask her to explain how the reception class is organised in detail.
Also contributions are voluntary.

Batters Wed 12-Feb-03 22:17:11

zebra, I think in order to get a reasonably accuaate idea of a school you have to visit, see the children in the school environment and talk to the staff. Of course you should bear in mind what other people say about the school, but I think you should also think about where these opinions come from. Are the parents who tell you things about the schools talking from personal experience, or are they relating someone else's experience?


We recently moved dd from a "struggling" school to a "good" school in terms of league tables etc. We didn't do this because of the results, but because the differences when you visit both schools speak for themselves. And, in fact, the head teacher of the school we have moved dd to spoke of children having fun whilst learning, which they obviously do.

So in answer to your question, yes, I am happy (and more importantly my dd is happy) with the "good" school she goes to. Like KMG, I would struggle to find a bad thing to say about it.

zebra Wed 12-Feb-03 22:32:51

I'm hearing bad things about these top-of-league-table schools from the mothers of boys who attend the schools, and who very much aren't enjoying it. The mothers tell me it would be too awkward to change, and they feel very stuck with their bad choices. The mothers feel that all the schools care about is their test results, and they certainly don't nurture non-academic achievement. These mums made a point of sending their younger children to different schools, with lower league-table ratings.

The weird thing is I spoke to someone in California who moved house to get her boy into a top-rated State school. And she says she's not very happy with the school either; she realises in retrospect that the school's high test results are more to do with the neighbourhood, and the higher income families who send their kids there, than anything to do with superior teaching. Again, it's made me think that test results really aren't a good criterium to select a school by.

Batters Thu 13-Feb-03 09:22:04

zebra, I agree. I would never chose a school simply because it has good results. They are a useful tool that help parents form an overall picture of the school when used in conjunction with other things - an Ofsted report, a visit etc. One of the things I like about the school dd is at is that the kids are rewarded for all sorts of things, not just academic achievement. Good behaviour, effort and attendance for instance all seem to be recognised.

tigermoth Thu 13-Feb-03 12:39:30

bayleaf, thanks for asking. I will know more about my son's academic progress after this evenings parent/teacher meeting. My son assures me it will be a good one

His reading is good if limited in content - he has read all the Harry Potters four times now despite efforts to lure him onto other Harry Potter-esque works. His teacher doesn't seem to mind this as long as he is happy reading. He is easily coping with spellings in the higher group and seems to have gone up a group in maths. He assures me he is finishing most of his work, too. Hope my little bubble of optimism is not burst in a few hours time.

The behaviour book is still going strong. There seem to be more 'OK' days and less 'awful' days, but still not huge amounts of 'really good' days. There are still days when he has to sit alone to work, because he disrupts his group, but at other times he will work with them calmly. I feel there is progress all round and I am really hoping his teacher is encouraging. I will feel so disappointed if I am told the problems are no better.

Batters Thu 13-Feb-03 12:50:57

Tigermoth, good luck!

tigermoth Thu 13-Feb-03 13:15:59

zebra, in answer to your question, I feel happy on the whole that my son is at a 'good' state school. I would hardly call it an academic hot house, but yes, the teachers have high expectations of behaviour and performance.

However, I do think boys can be at a disadvantage at this school. There is little tolerance of boisterousness, and this is the first school my son has attended that doesn't have a special reward for 'kindness', while having special rewards for results. Though to be fair, there is a bonus point system and the children get points for good behaviour as well as good results.

In my son's class girls heavily dominate the top groups in every subject. I am not of the opinion that boys are more stupid than girls, so to me, this means the school is not recognising (or possibly even nurturing) boys abilities as much. But even at the worse performing primary school my son previously attended, boys were less in evidence in the top groups, so this imbalance might be a fault of the state education system and not just the school.

My son is really happy to have moved schools. Despite the hard time his teachers have given him sometimes and despite being B******** by the head, he has said repeatedly that this is the best school he has ever been to. However he never has had problems keeping up with the work - when he joined he was put in the middle sets and has now moved up a bit. If he had had both academic and behaviour issues then I might have felt hostile towards the school. I do believe his less than perfect behaviour held him down regarding the sets he was put in, even though he could cope with slightly more challenging work.

I would have no hesitation in letting my youngest son go to this school next year. I'll be jumping for joy if he is offered a place.

The friends you mention who will choose another, less academic school for their youngest children must feel very strongly about their oldest sons school. Was the school part of the state system and following the national curriculum?

tigermoth Thu 13-Feb-03 13:17:04

thanks batters!

tigermoth Fri 14-Feb-03 14:49:40

the boy done good!

His report was far better than the last one. He's begining to fire on most cylinders when he focusses, though he still has the potential to improve both academically and behaviour-wise. English is his best subject and apparently he's got 'a lovely little singing voice' - tell me about it!

The behaviour book has been a good idea and the teacher eagerly endorsed my recent bribery tactic - a mighty £5.00 for three good days - as effective. Wish someone would give me £5.00 for three days of goodness.

Marina Fri 14-Feb-03 14:51:20

I'm sure we can have a whip-round, Tigermoth
That is GREAT news about ds1. Well done him!

Batters Fri 14-Feb-03 15:01:56

Fantastic news, Tigermoth ! Say well done to him from your "virtual" friends!

Twink Fri 14-Feb-03 18:08:33

That's great news Tigermoth, you must be really chuffed !

WideWebWitch Fri 14-Feb-03 18:11:33

pleased to hear it tigermoth. Sounds expensive but worth it!

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