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Needs more stretching at School - Advice Please

(68 Posts)
technodad Sun 03-Mar-13 21:42:58

Hi all.

My DS is 7, and whilst he is not necessarily gifted and talented, he is in the top couple of kids in his class for every subject (except sport...). He is certainly bright, and is reading books like The Hobbit, having finished the first couple of Harry Potters (the less scary ones).

At home we give him him some extra curricular education (museums, learning to write very simple computer programs, basic French, etc), but to be honest we don't do that much.

The problem is, he just doesn't get stretched at school at all. He comes home saying that he is bored, and that he never learns anything from his teachers. The next term's activities will only cover things he already knows.

I really worry that his experience at school will teach him that school is easy, and that he can get by in life just coasting (which will massively damage his potential in life). We have mentioned his bordom to the school at every parents' evening and we are always told that he will be stretched next year….but next year never comes.

Is there anything we can do to get the school to stretch him further?

Would there be any assessment that we could get done on DS which might help highlight his boredom to the school?

How feasible might it be to get a bursary for DS to attend a local private school?


zumo Mon 04-Mar-13 08:12:59

Itn my experiance this is common, the schools just cant cope with all the different abilities in class, I feel you will be much better off ( but not finantially) if you find a good local private school and have a chat with them
Bursarys are few and far between, many private schools will reduce the bill by about £1500 once you show them your finances, you could remortgage assuming you have some profit in the house.
You can get on to the school but often it just wont work, have you asked the teachers if they can help?

LIZS Mon 04-Mar-13 08:18:05

Don't assume a private school will necessarily stretch him though. Speak to the Bursar about likelihood and availability of bursaries but agree in practice they are few and far between as the fund is finite and reserved for those on low incomes with few assets. Even then you may only qualify for a token amount which won't cover uniform and extras.

newpup Mon 04-Mar-13 09:21:29

We had the same problem with DD2. She is very bright and whilst she was happy in her class, lovely friends nice teacher she was bored. They never challenged her, lots of promises made but they never materialised. So we moved her to private. She is now thriving and an academic selective school. We are happy, she is happy and challenged. Best thing we could have done and I am very grateful we were able to do it.

BizzyLizzy70 Mon 04-Mar-13 10:41:46

I have bad experience of sending my child to private sector. Now in state sector and much happier. I also know a teacher in the private sector who says the local state primary is the one she will send her child to as it is better all round. Remember teachers in the state sector need to be qualified teachers (not sure about academies) but private do not. I think the standard of teaching can have the potential to be much more varied and there is less accountability. My Year 7 child now on level 7 and they are differentiating lessons for them in the state school. The problem you seem to have is with that school not the whole state sector. Why don't you ask to volunteer to read/go on a trip so you can find out what is really happening in the class.

technodad Mon 04-Mar-13 13:06:04

Thanks for the comments. It sounds like the general view so far is:

1) there is little I will be able to to to get the school to act.

2) private school is an option worth investigating

3) private school has its own issues. The grass is not always greener.

I wonder if anyone has any feel for what sort of income or assets (or lack there-of) might warrant a school granting a bursary. Clearly it will vary depending upon the school, but any guide would be useful.

Thanks again.

newpup Mon 04-Mar-13 14:20:19

In light of Bizzylizzy's comments, I would add that private school in itself is not neccessarily the answer, more the right private school. I do believe that bright children are being let down in the state sector and the private sector as a rule is better at providing for them BUT not every private school is good. Look around and find the one best suited to your DC.

With regard to busaries, I have no direct experience of them but I do know that they are not that easy to come by and you have to be fairly poorly off with a very gifted DC to qualify.

LIZS Mon 04-Mar-13 15:25:46

I think until secondary level when the schools vary far more (have heard of soem for those below 55/60k) you probably need a max income of 30-40k with very few assets to qualify for anything, below 20k and you may get much more. But each school will vary in its criteria and how much funding is available. Also ds would probably need to have demonstrable aptitude which school could benefit from and he could develop there (ie academic, sport, music ,art).

FriendlyLadybird Mon 04-Mar-13 16:29:49

Probably an unpopular view here but ... what's with all this expecting the school to 'stretch' children? Why don't some children want to stretch themselves? I don't recall ever being bored in primary school, and neither of my DCs have ever been bored. Primary school is so flexible, and there are so many available resources that it's pretty difficult not to find something of interest to do. I didn't and don't expect children to learn exclusively from the teachers. They're there to enable learning, not to do it for people.
He can't possibly know everything at the tender age of seven, so why doesn't he use the activities at school to gain a more in-depth understanding of the stuff he thinks he 'already knows'?

ipadquietly Mon 04-Mar-13 19:51:10

I agree, friendly. I don't really get the 'stretching' at 7. There are so many fun things going on in primary schools, that I really don't see how a child gets bored!
Could someone explain what 'stretching' means please - what proof do you have that your ds isn't stretched, or even needs to be?

Shakey1500 Mon 04-Mar-13 21:05:47

But similarly there's nothing wrong either in wanting the school to stretch a seemingly bright child. Why not? I think it is absolutely possible for a child to be bored in school if not being given work that interests them. Often classes are very structured and they have to do the same as the rest of the class, and if it's something they can already do easily then boredom will set in. Sadly it appears schools do not have the resources to differentiate between work and obviously they have a curriculum to follow.

I would describe "stretching" as giving work that follows their level and above. Proof is easy to find via the homework level being brought home, seeing their schoolwork on parents evening, being given reading books that are below their capabilities (assuming comprehension) etc.

I would class someone that needs to be stretched as one who is easily achieving high scores alongside verbalising their boredom. Of course, extra "work" can be given at home but it's not unreasonable to ask that the school, where they spend a lot of time as well as being the professionals, contributes heavily as well.

ipadquietly Mon 04-Mar-13 22:28:01

In which subjects do children need 'stretching'?
I think it's very unlikely, given the current Ofsted framework and teachers' standards, that all children in the class will be doing the same thing:

54.When evaluating the quality of teaching in the school, inspectors will consider the extent to which:
the teaching in all key stages and subjects promotes pupils’ learning and progress across the curriculum
teachers have consistently high expectations of pupils
teachers improve the quality of learning by systematically and effectively checking pupils’ understanding in lessons, and making appropriate interventions
reading, writing, communication and mathematics are well taught
teachers and other adults create a positive climate for learning in which pupils are interested and engaged
marking and constructive feedback from teachers contributes to pupils’ learning
teaching strategies, including setting appropriate homework, together with support and intervention, match individual needs.

And...... from the teachers' standards, which teachers have to meet for performance management requirements:

Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils
• know when and how to differentiate appropriately, using approaches which enable pupils to be taught effectively
• have a secure understanding of how a range of factors can inhibit pupils’ ability to learn, and how best to overcome these
• demonstrate an awareness of the physical, social and intellectual development of children, and know how to adapt teaching to support pupils’ education at different stages of development
• have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with special educational needs; those of high ability; those with English as an additional language; those with disabilities; and be able to use and evaluate distinctive teaching approaches to engage and support them.

FriendlyLadybird Tue 05-Mar-13 10:02:00

Furthermore (in agreement with ipad) even when pupils ostensibly have to do "the same as the rest of the class", most tasks are designed so that they can be done at different levels. No writing task, for example, can possibly be boring. Some pupils may be fully engaged in writing the title in a straight line, but those who find writing "easy" could be using new words and experimenting with punctuation and form. If an able child only manages to write two lines on the Fire of London, say, then a teacher should and will demand more of them. But if they have only written two lines, then that isn't because the teacher hasn't stretched them or set them "challenging" enough work -- it's because they're not working themselves hard enough. And laziness is a different problem entirely.

MyCatsRule Tue 05-Mar-13 11:14:12

My DS (also 'gifted') started to complain school was boring at around the same age. Turns out he was actually starting to find things a bit more of a challenge. Apparently not uncommon to describe something as boring instead of hard. Just a thought....

cory Tue 05-Mar-13 16:52:18

I would be wondering about a child who claimed not to be learning anything at this age.

Does he understand that learning comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes and that he may well be learning all day without realising? (I have come across children who thought only worksheets were "real" learning and that art projects on e.g. a historical topic were for "the thick ones").

Does he understand that it is up to him how much he chooses to write and how far to research a topic?

Or could it be that he actually finds things more difficult than anticipated? Dd was an admittedly gifted child, but when I heard her use the expression boring it was invariably code for something else. Sometimes it can be hard for very bright children to admit that they don't understand what is expected of them.

kslatts Tue 05-Mar-13 17:17:10

I agree that boring could actually mean finding it hard. My dd is in year 6 and at parents evening her teacher told us that as she is in the top set she will be taking the level 5 and 6 SATs papers. Because of this she has been having extra maths and english sessions to concentrate on the level 6 work that is not usually covered in year 6.

When I ask her how it's going she often describes the extra sessions as boring, but I believe she is just finding them harder than her normal lessons.

AChickenCalledKorma Tue 05-Mar-13 22:29:31

How do you know what the next term's activities are, and how do you know that he already knows it all? Have you seen his books and is it apparent to you that he really is doing everything easily? What level is his homework - is it challenging? If you have enough evidence (based on these sorts of questions) to conclude that the work he is being offered really is too easy, then can you arrange a meeting with his teacher to ask some specific, detailed questions about how they differentiate the work? Not just "my son is bored, what are you going to do about it".

If you really aren't getting satisfactory answers (and I agree that "next year will be better" isn't a satisfactory answer) then by all means start looking at other schools. But don't rule out other state schools, if you have any alternatives nearby. There are state schools which are capable of differentiating and keeping very able children engaged alongside the rest of the class. It's not exclusive to private schools.

ipadquietly Wed 06-Mar-13 18:38:35

Ofsted and the DFE require state schools and state school teachers to differentiate (see my post above).

I'm sorry, I can't imagine how a 7 year old can 'learn nothing from his teachers'. I would love clarification about this from the OP.

inthesark Wed 06-Mar-13 18:46:05

From bitter experience, I can tell you that OFSTED and the DFE can require schools to produce appropriate differentiation, but that doesn't mean it happens.

And that children can't always choose to write more if they are told - all of them - to write one sentence. Which means that you can end up with a writing task that is indeed boring.

zumo Thu 07-Mar-13 06:47:03

To clear up a point we looked at three local private schools, ones cheaper, but many tearchers have poor or no qualifications. It turns out far better results than the local comp so I wont knock it, but the range of subjects and facilities is limited.
The one we went with is excellent, loads going on in and out of school, be honest and up front from the beginning and tell them your expectations after all you are paying. Be up front about finances and they will give you some indication, budget for uniform and trips etc
It might be worth telling us your location as some one may have had a similar issue locally and can explain how they resolved it.
Some people will call you a snob but its not true its about gettin g the best for your kids and giving them a good start, unfortunatly most people just cant afford this so are stuck with the state schools, some are good some are bad and whilst many are trying to improve it will take a long time and many kids will be missed over the years who could have done better

seeker Thu 07-Mar-13 07:00:00

OP- what NC levels is your ds working at?

lljkk Fri 08-Mar-13 07:22:12

All children find school boring some of the time (tis life).
Most children spend most of their time at school waiting & socialising.
Agree best to look at his work books & decide for yourself if the tasks are too simple.

poachedeggs Fri 08-Mar-13 07:38:10

I'd like to add my experience of school. It was great in that I went to a small rural primary and the classes were composite, so lots of opportunities to differentiate.
Having said that, school was easy easy easy until I was 16/17, partly because I was never really pushed (I was given a level of work I could still do easily) and because I was supported very closely. I have never found self- directed learning easy, crammed for lots of exams, and found university extremely difficult because I simply didn't know how to apply myself because I'd never had to.

So it's not just about getting the next level up but about learning to learn. It might be that he's bored because he's being expected to do more with less support, which means he's having to work harder for results but he'll be in a much better position if he develops these skills now.

technodad Fri 08-Mar-13 07:58:20

Hi all.

I have been without Internet for the last week, so sorry for the lack of replies. I will have a good read tonight and respond to some of the questions.


technodad Fri 08-Mar-13 20:17:36

Sorry for the delay. To answer some questions:

"How do you know what the next term's activities are, and how do you know that he already knows it all? Have you seen his books and is it apparent to you that he really is doing everything easily? What level is his homework - is it challenging? If you have enough evidence (based on these sorts of questions) to conclude that the work he is being offered really is too easy"

Well, the school tells us their teaching aims and topics for the next term and he knows them all already because we asked him and he answered correctly.

He tells us that the work is too easy. They give them a printed sheet with one line on it and ask them to write a sentence about it. I ask him why he doesn't write more and he says "because we are only allowed one sheet and it only has one line on it".

They don't get (and never have had) any homework, so I can't assess it. He sets his own homework - with our help (like writing books, comics and poems, or learning his times tables)

"I'm sorry, I can't imagine how a 7 year old can 'learn nothing from his teachers'. I would love clarification about this from the OP."

There are some classes that he finds particularly boring, such as one class on Tuesday morning where they do cutting out and playdough. Sometimes they do handwriting skills, but he is not allowed to do joined up hand writing, even though his hand writing is better than mine!

I am sure he learns stuff from them, but my point is, they are not stretching and differentiating sufficiently.

"I agree, friendly. I don't really get the 'stretching' at 7. There are so many fun things going on in primary schools, that I really don't see how a child gets bored!"

Why don't you get stretching at 7? I define "stretching" as part of "good teaching". Know the abilities of your students and give them work to excite them about learning. This is the same for a 7 year old as it is for a 15 year old. Surely exciting kids about learning is the primary aim for a teacher in primary school.

Fundamentally, my opinion is clouded by my own personal experiance. When I was at primary school, I was 2 years ahead in maths and science and was taught things like trigonometry when I was in year 5 and 6. Then when I went to secondary school I didn't learn anything new in maths until I reached O Levels. By this time I had dis-engaged and forgotten how to self learn. This meant that my O Level grades were quite poor, and this read accross to my A Level and degree achievements. A lack of stretching at school stopped me from achieving my full potential, and I don't want this to happen to my DCs!

I don't believe this is unreasonable, since we all pay quite a lot of tax!

P.S. This is not an attach on teachers, 'cos I think much of the problem is the bullshit OFSTED tickbox teaching that they are forced to undertake.

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