Does it all come good in the end?(27 Posts)
DS is in year 4. He's very good at maths but although his teachers have offered extension work each year, he hasn't actually been given a question to do that he hasn't been able to do easily in his head since year 1.
His year 4 teacher told me at the beginning of the school year that he was just too advanced for her class and she apologised because she wouldn't be able to give DS appropriate work.
I was disappointed but I felt that at least she was being honest.
Now I hear that DS will have a NQT next year, which will be his third since starting school. My experience is that NQTs are generally less able to differentiate work as they are still learning on the job and they have to plan every single lesson (rather than just improve last year's lesson plans).
Then I know year 6 is all about preparing for SATS with a heavy focus on converting children working at level 3 into a 4c.
So, I have more or less lost hope that DS will be challenged at primary school.
However, what about secondary school? Do G&T children fare better there, assuming that they don't give up themselves (which seems to be where DS is headed right now).
I wouldn't be happy with that. My DS is the same age (year 4) and has been working with year 6 all year. The work is differentiated for each child in his class, and he is with other children in his year group, but working at roughly level 5.
He has a NQT next year, but I am quite pleased with this, as I know which teacher mentors, and she will be keeping an eye.
I think this is an issue with your school specifically. Your child should be working at their own individual level IMO.
My advice would be change schools.
I am appalled at the schools attitude but sadly not that surprised.
Believe it or not, I did change schools. I thought I was upgrading (based on SATS results) but of course, I couldn't get the new HT to discuss exactly how she would help DS until she got to know him. However, she did say that "of course, we would differentiate blah, blah".
I went back to her last year (after the teacher said she wouldn't be differentiating for him) and the HT's solution was to suggest I do extension work with him at home.
I just asked DS if he ever gets anything marked wrong and he said yes.... once when he didn't read a question properly two years ago!
Anyway, its the fact that we've had the same thing from two different primaries that makes me despair of primary education and ask if a bright child will be given challenging work at secondary where there is a specialist maths dept, rather than a generalist primary teacher?
We resorted to getting a bursary for a really good prep school for ds1 and he is now thriving.
Your situation doesn't sound disimilar to ours though ds was always in trouble. Funnily now he's being pushed he rarely is and it's never spiteful, more calling out answers and the like.
He's year 5? now, aged 10 and getting absolutely brilliant results.
I wouldn't say private was always the answer but in these situations it seems that a small good school can be the making of a child.
DD2 had her best maths teaching at primary from an NQT because he was open to new approaches. The more established teachers were a bit about what to do with her.
I think looking back (DD2 is 20 now and part way through a maths degree) the best thing for her would have been to work on mathematical thinking and ideas that were just completely different to what she was doing in school. Years of getting everything right without trying meant that she found it difficult to think about maths in the more creative ways that are needed at the higher levels. I don't think it matters where that teaching comes either a supportive teacher or outside school but maths is so much more than what is covered in SATs/GCSEs/A levels that it seems a shame to be limited by them.
Hillian, I can't help with secondary now as dd is only just about to move up, although I am hoping that it will be very much better than primary where it feels though she really hasn't gained that much. Her situation is complicated by her specific difficulties with written work, though.
Admittedly going back a very long time (I was in primary in the 70s, and went to secondary in 1981) I was I suppose in a fairly similar position to your ds. Throughout primary it was just assumed that I would get 100% of everything right all the time.
Going into secondary that didn't change greatly (except that I was much more careful to always answer enough questions wrong on tests to come 2nd or 3rd ) but I would say it was much less boring just because of the new range of subjects.
From my own perspective, I'm not sure it is actually a problem if you can do all the work pretty easily - it just means you have more time and mental energy for extra-curricular stuff. Hopefully any good secondary will have plenty of clubs, both academic and non-academic. I also used to read a lot (fiction but also lots of non-fiction in subjects I was interested in). Does that make sense?
I have no idea. Lucky for us we don't have to worry about what he does at secondary as much yet as he will go up at 13 and it will then depend on the school.
What secondary that will be I have no idea and is worrying us more. Especially as I know firsthand what rubbish teaching and demotivating attitudes can do to ones prospects.
I wish we had grammars, it would make life a whole lot easier.
"what about secondary school? Do G&T children fare better there"
In my experience, problems at primary due to being ahead of peers / seen as a nerd just get (far) worse at (the wrong) secondary, because there has been more time for the ability and level of achievement of G&T kids to diverge from their chronological peers, and because feelings of being different arising from being G&T are exacerbated by being a moody teenager, which is difficult enough.
A G&T kid can often survive an inadequate primary relatively unscathed - there is still time at 11 to make up lost ground. But if they go to the wrong secondary with no adequate G&T provision and no cohort of peers with similar ability, then it will stifle their potential irreversibly.
You've heard that he has an NQT next year, and you reckon NQTs can't differentiate.. and you 'know' year 6 is all about converting level 3s to 4s.... forgive me, but that does all sound a bit speculative!
I am sure lots of people will be eager to peddle doom and gloom and tell you that this will only get worse at secondary etc etc though.
And yes, I have read that DS has had some NQTs you weren't impressed with - but I think the logical leap is wrong. Is it inherently a good thing for a teacher to trot out the same lesson plans year after year anyway? Couldn't you just as easily argue that such a teacher becomes blinkered and set in his/her ways and can't respond dynamically to the children he or she is teaching at the time?
OP, in your shoes I would speak to year 5 teacher quite early in the term - once things have settled into a rhythm a bit, but not too late - and express your concerns and what you'd like to see in place if possible.
But I would also say you should try to challenge yourself a bit to think more openly before you do so - the preconception that next year's guy won't be up to much, and that year 6 is a write-off, will not help you if they are readable in your countenance and demeanour!
IME (a) the teachers are working bloody hard at getting 4s into 5s and 5s into 6s
(b) secondary is when maths gets taught by proper maths teachers who are really rather keen on maths, what with being graduates in it and all, and teach the kids quite terrifically even in comps like wot DD1 goes to
(c) schools are rather keen on kids getting the best results they can, at primary and secondary.
ds2's 'thing' is maths - was getting 100% in Level 5 tests in Y 4, 5 and 6 - his Y6 teacher told me they couldn't assess him any higher and that it was all about consolidation in Y6 ...
fast forward a few weeks into Y7 (top stream of partially selective secondary) and he was working at 6a with a target of 7a by the end of year 7 and is now in the top maths set in the top stream and comfortably working at level 8 - all his set will take maths GCSE early
so ime it's much much better at secondary - especially if the sets have a narrow ability range
ds is so much happier at secondary than he was at primary
basildonbond - it all depends on the secondary. I'm glad you're DS is being facilitated at secondary, but here's the other side:
My 'thing' was maths but I was sent to a failing comprehensive with no G&T provision in an area where most of the bright kids were creamed off by nearby grammars. After 5 years at secondary never once being remotely challenged, I found A level maths very tough. I eventually obtained an A and later a first in maths at BSc but it was a struggle. The damage was done in the first 5 years of secondary where my proficiency stagnated in a complete vacuum of stimulation. I think I started my A level course at a level not much higher than when I left primary.
I think the difference between your DS's experience and mine highlights that secondary is typically the more crucial stage, i.e. that secondary can be either much better or worse than primary. As the range of abilities within a year group diverges increasingly with time, secondary is the more critical period.
I agree with you that appropriately differentiated work and narrow ability sets would probably be a big help, and it is great that your DS is getting what he needs.
@TheOriginalSteamingNit My experience is limited to just two schools.... however I am certain of my description of what will happen to DS in year 6 in his school because I have another child who is in year 6 at that school right now. The level 3 children have had a lot of resources poured into them - individual tuition, small work groups etc - because the school wants them to get level 4s if at all possible.
Its not that the teacher doesn't care about the children at other end of the spectrum, its just that league table aren't ranked on how many level 5 or 6s a school gets.
It is impossible to make predictions about what will happen at secondary, because secondaries are all different, teachers are all different, and ... even teenagers are all different.
Some teens aren't really moody at all, some G&T teens come into their own at secondary because they are less dependent on the teacher, some teachers care deeply about their specialist subject and are delighted at the chance to teach it at a higher level, some schools have outreach programmes that put pupils in touch with universities etc.
One thing is true of all secondaries though: as you move up through them, the responsibility for motivation and success comes to rest more and more on the pupil himself, and less and less on the teacher (yes, ds, you heard me!). That is part of growing up.
My ds is a lot younger but just wanted to add that this year his teacher was an NQT, and she was brilliant at differentiating. Ds is working 3 years ahead in maths and was appropriately challenged. I would wait and see re the teacher
I wouldn't worry so much about whether the teacher is an NQT - they will be mentored and helped to make sure they don't fail at things like differentiation. My concern would be more that you get somebody who has studied maths beyond GCSE. The way I see it, how can a teacher teach maths to KS3 level, which is effectively what they are asking them to do if a child capable of sitting Level 6 at KS2, if they have just a GCSE themselves.
I think your best bet is to see if your DS can be in the class of somebody who has done maths at a higher level than the minimum required for teacher training. My DS is in Yr 4 and is good at maths but he has been helped this year by being in the class of the maths coordinator for the school. She has been able to keep the higher level children interested in a way that perhaps a teacher hasn't studied so much maths isn't able to do. Next year, we shall have to wait and see what happens though!!
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