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too early to push it?

(42 Posts)
Ladyday Sat 28-Sep-13 22:50:41

Hi, apologies if I'm repeating the substance of earlier posts - just would appreciate some advice. My five-year-old has just started Year 1; she didn't start properly reading (sounding out words) until the start of Reception so was not particularly an early reader though she has always been v articulate. During Reception she made quick progress and ended the school year reading Year 2 level books (PM Nelson series). Before the summer holidays, I was told by her (Reception) teacher that she was one of two in the year who are far ahead of the rest, though she is still not especially keen on reading. We read a lot at home (eg bedtime) but I don't ever make her read and she prefers artwork and running around, which is fine. Her school doesn't give any homework but I do the Bond books (age 5-6) and tests with her instead.

My concern is that she is under-stretched at school and I am not sure how much to intervene at this stage; I feel it might be too early. Her teacher seems very laid back. She said they'd be getting reading books two weeks into term, but we've only got a book this last week. The book she got was a very simple non-fiction book she wasn't interested in. This new (Year 1) teacher didn't know what had happened to last year's reading diaries (a record which I used to track progress and write down vocab). I emailed her, asking for levelled books, and my DD did bring one home this weekend, which was great. However, DD is still very resistant to going into school and one of the things she says is that 'the activities are short and I get bored'. I was told last year she was also very ahead in maths.

It seems from other posts that some schools have such a thing as a G&T coordinator. Do all schools have these, and do primary schools generally have a written policy on G&T (and can it be accessed easily)? How do children get put on a G&T register? I am concerned about the laid-back approach, combined with very poor communication from the school (there is virtually no opportunity to talk to the teacher except for a five-minute chat once a term). I am also wondering whether to look at switching her at 7 to an independent school, but am aware that some schools set exams at this stage, and don't want her to get behind for such tests.

Thanks for reading and for any thoughts you may have.

Pistillate Mon 07-Oct-13 21:23:28

Yeah, maybe I ranted on a bit.

I do feel very strongly that mixed ability teaching can be very successful,in an environment where invididual learning needs are assessed and addressed. That's not what you are describing with a week of Fibonacci, I think.

It is possibly something not seen much in mainstream uk children's education.... With so much focus on level attainment, and top table ssecond table etc heading towards streaming in secondary.

PiqueABoo Sun 06-Oct-13 23:54:26

@Pistillate I think you're demanding a little too much from the music grades analogy. I understand your point, but I could just as easily say grades don't teach you improvisation or composition. Those 'traditional' grades are what they are and don't purport to make someone entirely fit for every possible path they might take as a musician.

You've clearly got some issue with children being constrained by the NC and think they should be able to go off-piste. The difficulty I have with that for primary age is that they'll spend a week of "additional maths" lessons doing that, working out the first 50 items of the Fibonacci sequence or something similar scraped from the web, which seems absurd when they could be learning say algebra. The upstream curriculum contains the core maths concepts and skills so it's sensible to want to go there next...

richmal Sun 06-Oct-13 21:41:52

But in a class of 30 children how is a teacher to know what an individual child's learning needs are if there is a ceiling on what a child may be assessed at?

Pistillate Sun 06-Oct-13 20:46:19

I don't understand why the focus on the qualification? A levels are a useful qualification if you want to go to university, or do an advanced apprenticeship etc. they are a ticket to the next stage. Which is probably not appropriate for an 11 year old.

Sure, once a child's learning needs move on, the teacher needs to provide relevant work.

Like I just said, teaching to the test leaves gaps, and the obsession with sticking to the curriculum meaning teachers cannot always respond to children's learning needs.

The answer is more responsiveness to individual learning needs, not allowing 11 year olds to sit A levels.

richmal Sun 06-Oct-13 19:01:32

Surely any child who has reached GCSE maths or grade 8 music could have gaps in their ability, be they 10 or 16. Equally there will be some at either of these ages who will be ready to progress to the next stage. Why should one person be ready to study A level because they are 17 and another not because they are 11 if both have attained a good grade at GCSE?

Pistillate Sun 06-Oct-13 16:36:26

While I see the point about the frustration for a bright child of. 2 years of consolidation during transition, I think richmal's comparison with the music exams is flawed.

Our local regional orchestra invites people to join their youth orchestra with a grade exam requirement. However, they found that they had many applicants who met the necessary grade requirement for entry, but were unable to keep up with the standard required because of a lack of training in Rhythmn.

. After trying to get these young people to go back and learn some basic stuff that had been missed in their previous teaching,they created a programme of training for children age 4 plus in order to provide opportunities for local children to learn everything they need to play in a professional orchestra.

Grade 8 is a great achievement, however, in music and other areas of learning, when there is widespread teaching to the test, many aspects of skill are left behind because the tests are not assessing those areas.

Currently, good teachers will be picking up on what bits and pieces kids have missed out on, and enriching their lessons by assessing individual learning needs and addressing them. However, this kind of teaching is not, I believe, valued by the powers that be who would like to see the national curriculum, which never fails, adhered to at all times.

PiqueABoo Sun 06-Oct-13 16:16:27

"children are not limited by age in taking music exams."
There is a bunch of headteachers, the Headteacher's Roundtable, who are attempting to claw some initiative back from the inept dogmatic politicians and they have proposed a system loosely based on piano grades. The catch-phrase for this is "stage not age" and they're serious i.e. genuinely think our mass education system could accommodate that approach.

keepsmiling12345 Sun 06-Oct-13 15:27:24

Excellent post lljkk. I fully agree that it is essential to understand the different approach. I believe my DD's true " gift" which, if I can support and encourage her not to lose is that she is in the "terribly clever and self-motivated, and will find own opportunities" camp and her school is really excellent at providing her extension work...which is seldom "harder questions" but more often going into the topic or task in more depth or more breadth.

richmal Sun 06-Oct-13 08:14:17

The reason I want dd to do GCSE is because I do not want dd to spend 4 years of revision in maths. Taking this exam is the only way I can think of to prove she is at this level. It seems bizaar that children are not limited by age in taking music exams. If a child were to have passed grade 7 at 10 another teacher would not say "We'd better go back to grade 5". Yet our education system does not seem to accept children could be a vastly different levels in maths.

PiqueABoo Sat 05-Oct-13 12:39:18

My DD is currently in currently in the primary Y6 consolidation year that precedes the secondary Y7 consolidation year. For maths she routinely, cheerfully tells me that something was both 'pipsqueak' and 'fun' i.e. she finds an way to make the most of easy work and that's typically by racing.

I'm not sure how long her childish enthusiasm for new experiences will last so I see the education system doing so much 'housekeeping' across two year as significant wasted opportunity. Yes I accept that much of secondary is largely new, but you can track primary numeracy and literacy straight into to secondary maths and English and unless you're very lucky with schools on both sides of transition, despair at the fundamental inefficiency.

Note it was @richmal talking about accelerating to a GCSE for their reasons. I just want my DD's time at school to be time reasonably well spent and that could be on 1001 things, including aspects of social development. She has acquired lots of interests, is typically very good at anything she sets her mind to, but there is never enough time so poor use of that at school is frustrating and I can go ballistic over school demanding large amounts of home-time with crocky, box-ticking homework.

Have you read the Ofsted 'most able' report? It's a bit mangled but is quite damning on the efficiency and continuity around primary-secondary transition. It's also worth noting that like the DfE the Ofsted definition of 'most able' is apparently anyone who gets an L5, roughly the top third of the ability range. That range will include whatever 'gifted' means, but given the normal distribution the majority of their 'most able' won't be too far away from the mean, 'average'.

lljkk Sat 05-Oct-13 09:18:34

We are looking at same picture but seeing different things. DD could have thought "Oh this is stupid I already know how to do sums." But instead she engages & makes the most of it.

I guess there are at least 2 types of gifted people. "Terribly clever but needs a boot up the bottom to achieve anything" vs. "Terribly clever & self motivated, will find own opportunities."

Some people think its school's job to plant that boot. Some people see strong self-motivation as intrinsic part of the Giftedness. DS1 is probably as clever as DD innately, but lacks self-motivation; I see lack of self-motivation as his problem not the school's. I see DD's terrific self-motivation as her true Gift, not so much her brains.

yr7 is so overwhelming in so many ways, I'm glad to hear lots of it is consolidation.

PiqueABoo Sat 05-Oct-13 00:37:22


::sigh:: I thought programmers were supposed to be analytical. Do you genuinely think it's reasonable to extrapolate your DD's experience to the entire education system and every child therein? Did you read any of that report I linked? Notice the view that Y7 is a "consolidation year" etc?

lljkk Fri 04-Oct-13 20:03:55 favourite primary teacher remarked: "I'm reluctant to teach it [L6] because they'll get very bored later when secondary will make them do it all over again".


"I've learnt loads of new ways to work out sums!" DD, y7, just exclaimed. For y6 she got L6 in almost everything, especially math. On the back of 6 weeks specific preparation (or less).

the only thing she's struggling in is IT (ironic since her parents are programmers). Says teacher is terrible. Loves every other moment at school. Not least the explosive social life.

And what IS the point of accelerating them above L6, anyway? I don't want DD completing GCSEs in yr8.

iseenodust Fri 04-Oct-13 14:36:36

Schools do spot them in KS1 but in ours they didn't label them. So were told DS was 'very bright', working well in advance of expectations etc. We didn't really cotton on to what this meant at that stage especially as he's a late Aug birthday and we sent him to school not able to read. G&T as a phrase/register came after yr2 SATs.

Bumpstarter Fri 04-Oct-13 13:25:36

So is there an age at which schools start identifying t&g?

I can see that ks1 is too soon.... So many early developers just end up caught up with after a few years.

keepsmiling12345 Fri 04-Oct-13 13:12:31

My point was that all state schools are different and all private schools are different. I am fortunate in that my DD's state school does differentiate for able pupils as well as for less-able. it seems to be abe to strecth the very cpapable and still support those striving to get to level 4. I find it really annoying when people dismiss all state schools on the basis of their single experience. It would be just as wrong for me to dismiss private schools on the basis on my single experience of attending one.

Mandy21 Fri 04-Oct-13 12:40:01

Sorry meant its in a selective school area!

Mandy21 Fri 04-Oct-13 12:38:46

Going back to the OP, I think you need to speak to the teacher, question the books she is given and what is available if she finishes more quickly than her classmates. Having said that, I agree with everyone else that there is lots that you can do at home with other books and the important things I take from your post is that she needs to develop a love of reading and a love of school - just my view of 2 things that encourage achievement. If those things aren't there yet, I'd spend my time encouraging that. Just as an aside, I think the reading levels which school expect are quite low - my DD at the start of Year 2 was off the scale (I think the scale goes up to age 11) but then the vast majority of her (female) classmates (state primary) were there or thereabouts too.

On the more general question of quality of teaching and whether there is an emphasis on the lower performing children in state school - this isn't true of all schools and you have to look at individual schools. Some schools (like my DCs school) is in a selective grammar school, so there is definitely an incentive to support more able pupils in order to get them through the examinations. But the support is there for the children at the other end of the scale - I think the quality of teaching is fab, and I doubt it would be any better in a private school. I think you need to look into the schools you're considering specifically - private doesn't always equal better in my view.

Good luck!

PiqueABoo Fri 04-Oct-13 12:23:56

@richmal, "Where does that leave the child who is above this level?"

Out on a limb.

My DD is a 10yo, which means Y6 and secondary admissions. Having lightly quizzed a few secondary maths teachers they do seem fond of having them start at the beginning of the KS3 curriculum in Y7 regardless of primary levels. One of the comments I like on this from one of the more prominent educational bloggers re. the Ofsted 'most able' report:

"I’d suggest that OfSTED is correct in highlighting KS2-KS3 transition which is hardly a national success story; I hear this all the time. I’ve called it the Berlin Wall of our system and far too often, Y7s are babied and patronised instead of allowed to fly from the position they reached in Year 6. From Day One, some children are systematically under-challenged; they are not expected to work as hard as they could and their sights are set lower than they could be… in some schools. Maybe not yours"

richmal Wed 02-Oct-13 23:05:16

@PiqueABoo. I had a quick look through. I had not realised level 6 was considered so rare, especially in maths. Where does that leave the child who is above this level? One of the reasons I now home educate is dd got tired of repeating maths. I'm hoping that if dd does GCSE before secondary it will not be open to questioning in the same way as a level. I can see the argument that reading does need a maturity of understanding, but not so maths.

Thanks for the link.

PiqueABoo Wed 02-Oct-13 21:46:12

@richmal: "There is no incentive for schools to teach above this [L6]"

Given that two years ago there was no incentive to teach above L5 I wouldn't complain too much. Meanwhile I think there's a disincentive: Read all about it here (a report for Dfe on 2012 L6 tests):

If you're in a hurry, just read the Findings, section 5 on page 16 and the skip to Secondary views on page 86. It's depressing and as my favourite primary teacher remarked: "I'm reluctant to teach it [L6] because they'll get very bored later when secondary will make them do it all over again".

Ladyday Wed 02-Oct-13 14:29:35

herdream1 thanks for your comments about your experiences. My DD's reception teacher could not have been clearer (at a one-to-one parent/teacher conference) in saying that the resource in the classroom was directed to those who might not meet the targets; hence there was no support (eg one-to-one time) for those who were ahead.

TantrumsAndBalloons You're right; the gifted and talented thing is not helpful. Bright is a less divisive word to use. I was assessed as G&T very early on in primary school, a long long time ago, and the definition shaped my perception of myself (and subsequent feelings that I hadn't lived up to the label).

Achievement wasn't my point; only that if the school (seemingly quite openly) does not make it a priority to stimulate those who can do the 'easier' stuff, what action should and can a parent take (without being labelled pushy)? I want my DD to have a good school experience, as I'm sure most people do.

richmal Wed 02-Oct-13 13:06:11

State schools do have a ceiling of level 6 being the highest level a child can reach at the end of KS2. There is no incentive for schools to teach above this as they are considered to have achieved the required two levels of progress, no matter what their starting level.

mistlethrush Wed 02-Oct-13 13:03:19

My DS was saying he was 'bored' and that there wasn't anything else to do... It turns out he was thinking 'this is easy and there's nothing else to do afterwards' so daydreaming, not getting down to it and not finishing accurately so wasn't getting given the 'extra thing' that was available had he actually knuckled down... He seems to have got the message now (two years on).

PiqueABoo Wed 02-Oct-13 12:52:02

Individual school are different, but at a national level, the floor thresholds used to judge schools clearly do affect the teaching. A while ago I knocked up a graph of KS2 results and it's essentially a normal distribution, a 'bell curve', but it's significantly distorted around level 4c i.e. suggests children drilled/boosted/dragged-screaming from level 3 to an 'average' SATs score.

Haven't tried it with recent data including L6 (which is slighty different given that it's pass/fail where pass is interpreted as a 6b), but with a maximum of 5a the graph is clipped at the top i.e. suggests that quite a few children could have done L6 work.

@TantrumsAndBalloons: "I would think it would be incredibly difficult to assess a 5 year old as gifted and talented"

I agree. Entertainingly DD's school sent a letter home in Y3 asking parents to say if they thought DC was gifted and/or talented in something. I'd have loved to have seen the responses ;) We passed on that but by-and-by school put her on for piano (courtesy of her peripatetic in-school piano teacher). I agree with the vanilla dictionary definition re. her having a some significant natural ability, a definite knack, but meh..

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