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English progress

(21 Posts)
Johnthedog Sun 01-Jun-14 02:41:46

Dd got 6a for her first English homework in Year 7 and they gave her that grade for her first report. She is now in the last term of year 8 and we have just had the fifth report, yet again stating she is still 6a. They don't set in English. I don't want to be a pushy parent but I am annoyed it seems she is not progressing. She is a bright, hard worker but she says she is not being taught on how to progress onto the next level as the majority in her class are level 4/5. I don't want to make enemies of the English Department so how do I approach this with the school?

dalziel1 Sun 01-Jun-14 06:54:39

what level did she get at the end of year 6? Presumably a 6??

I thought that secondary school was supposed to get 2 NC levels of progress through KS3?

I understand your pushy parent fears, but think of it more as being your child's advocate.

I'd start by emailing the teacher, detailing your concerns and asking for a meeting. In your place, at first, my tone would be of a concerned parent and requiring understanding at the lack of progress. But in subsequent communications, I'd be demanding change.

The email would have three purposes/ benefits:

1. You can say what you want, how you want to say it. Giving as much detail in evidence as you choose. I'd also write about the effect that the no progress has had on your daughter's response to a subject that she is clearly talented in (assuming that she has lost some enthusiasm or belief in her ability).

2. The teacher will have time to prepare answers, maybe even decide to do something about improving the situation (which is what you want), prior to your meeting.

3. There is a written record, which will be useful when you escalate your complaint.

Personally, i don't think its a good idea to go in with all guns blazing from the start. But, that doesn't mean you can't become more forceful and insistent, if your first email and meeting do not do the trick.

dalziel1 Sun 01-Jun-14 07:04:59

FWIW, I had a conversation with DS1 over dinner last night. He is year 7 and although he is not talented at English, he quite good at it, along with most other subjects.

I was asking him how things were going with English now, since my email conversation with his teacher in February. At that time, DS felt unchallenged in English, because its a mixed ability class and he just felt that the progress was slow and it was boring him.

Last night, DS said that since the teacher sat him down and explained how DS should try to challenge himself by focusing on writing more concisely, he now feels challenged and his work has improved. (previously DS was giving written answers that may have been within the normal range of the class but they weren't showing what DS knew nor challenging DS at all).

Johnthedog Sun 01-Jun-14 11:18:19

Thanks for your advice. Unfortunately dd was ill at Level 6 SATS so only got a 6 in the writing part. My dd sounds like your son! Hopefully the teacher can have a word with her and show her specifically how to improve. I wish that could happen without me having to get involved though.

GoblinLittleOwl Sun 01-Jun-14 11:36:26

Is there space for comments on her report? Just say that you are not clear about the levels in KS3 and you would like to have a brief meeting to discuss the fact that she does not appear to have made measurable progress in the past two years; what can she do to improve.

runningoutofnamechanges Mon 02-Jun-14 11:39:01

I can see why you are concerned! It must be very frustrating for you and I remember answering on your previous thread, although probably under a different name!

Writing is such a subjective area that it is sometimes difficult to get consistent levelling. Is the reading moving forwards or are you just getting one overall level for literacy?

Could you approach the school and just say that, bearing in mind that your dds progress has levelled off (presumably she must have been making at least 2 sublevels progress and clearly sometimes 3 or more at primary) you would like to support her at home. Then ask them for the levelling grid. It should show what critieria your dd needs to meet in order to reach the next level. Then you could ask what sort of activities would support this. What comments do you make at parents evenings?

Has she had targets to meet? At secondary in particular, your dd should be familiar with targets and Ofsted like to test this with children. At many secondary schools they sit CAT exams or similar upon entering and this gives targets for achievement at GCSE. With a L6 at primary she should be on target for A*. Her progress or (lack of it) just be tracked so that the school/Ofsted/Governors can check how they are adding value.

What I cannot understand (in your case) is why the school are not concerned. They track progress with nice pretty graphs and your dds case will not look good. It would be a 'red flag' for Ofsted for how bright children progress. They have either amended her starting level on their system, but not, clearly, on the reports or they are an incredibly 'laid back' school and are explaining it in some other way.

I would ask the school to show you their progress tracking system for your DD and ask for a copy.

Are there any other schools in the area that stream that might be more appropriate for DD? Although many schools say it is easy to differentiate for ability in literacy, I am personally not convinced. We have had similar concerns, in the past, regarding DS who hit a high level 6 in yr 4 for reading, although the writing lags a little. What we found is that the reading storms ahead, whether 'taught' or not, but that some aspects of writing do need to be taught.

Johnthedog Mon 02-Jun-14 14:30:25

Thank you goblin and running for your replies. The school is 'outstanding' so I doubt the school will be worried about ofsted. Interesting about progress charts though. I have a feeling if she were a 4b when she started, she would have made a lot more progress. I am annoyed this year seems to have been wasted. She hardly gets any homework so she reads a lot (usually a book a week) and although I add classics to her kindle she reads what she enjoys (the Shattered trilogy, the Fault In Our Stars) last month. I gave up English at 16 and never did Shakesphere at school (!) so am not well versed in what I should be doing!

Her overall CAT score was 131 in Year 7 so not genius level but still high enough to be looking at A grades - or 8s/9s when she does GCSE don't you think?

I think they have only just picked up she is not making any progress as (finally) it says 'requires improvement' on progress, whereas the last 4 reports progress states either 'good' or 'excellent' even though they are all 6a. My daughter is very aware she is a 6a and is rapidly losing enthusiasm after 2 years of ever getting a Level 7 in English. She is a Level 7 in 5 other subjects now that were originally 5 so English does look out of place.
I will make some comments on her report slip and may use some of the phrases here. Thanks again.

I have now got to get my head around what to say - a balancing act of not trying to annoy the teachers by being pushy but getting my point across that we are frustrated.

runningoutofnamechanges Mon 02-Jun-14 15:21:30

An overall CAT score of 131, is very high; she will be in the top 2 to 3 percent of high achievers. They will not remain outstanding for long unless all children make the right level of progress. In these circumstances I cannot imagine the dept seeing you as 'pushy'. I know at our current school, in these circumstances, they would be as concerned as us. Our school make a point of asking us if we are happy with DS's progress!

Is it the writing, reading or both that have stalled?

Johnthedog Mon 02-Jun-14 16:14:37

We just get one level for English on the report. I have requested a phone call/ meeting with her English teachers on the report slip re progress. The school does indeed have a reputation locally for being laid back and benefits from being in a good catchment area. However my daughter is very intense so a more laid back school suited her. Not so sure about this though!

swarskicat Fri 06-Jun-14 11:55:39

What is the CAT score? I have not heard this term before.

I have similar concerns about levels progress. My DD is in yr 7 and has been a 6a since starting and is still a 6a at the end of term. Likewise for maths and has been told that they don't start the level 7 work until year 8.

Johnthedog Fri 06-Jun-14 12:39:08

CAT tests are done by many schools in Year 7. They are supposed to be tests you can't teach for, so you get an idea of the pupil strengths. GL assessment website will tell you more and give a few examples. We are lucky are school gives the results out. You could ask for your child's scores, they shouldn't be kept secret from you if they did the test.

merlehaggard Tue 01-Jul-14 18:35:30

I wouldn't be happy with this either. My daughter is nearing the end of year 7. Went in on a scraped level 6 reading and her year 7 english teacher said, at the last teachers evening, that her predicted level for end of year 7 is 6a - she said that her CAT test indicated this and that her CAT test was v high. She mad a point of saying that year 6 SATs are a bit rehearsed and CATS are a truer reflection of their ability. I have no idea what her CAT mark was though. Her end of year target has now been changed to 7b/a, due to recent test results. No one has ever said she is gifted and talented but the teacher does make quite a fuss of her results. On this basis, since my child is at a slightly above average comp, I would def expect more from a child who went in on potentially a level 6.

merlehaggard Tue 01-Jul-14 18:39:32

On the other hand, my daughters teachers were saying how v good getting a level 6a was at the end of year 7 and that it is quite a different thing to get one in primary as opposed to year 7. It could also be that they are getting a little over zealous with the marking of level 7. After all, it doesn't really seem to be am exact science.

MaryBennett Tue 01-Jul-14 18:42:54

I wouldn't be happy with no progress in two years! More to the point how does your dd feel?

I think a polite email expressing concern would be appropriate. But stay calm: the only grades that matter are awarded in public exams so not worth losing your rag over.

Johnthedog Wed 02-Jul-14 11:56:28

With the risk of 'outing' myself - at least to those close to me - I thought I would update those who have kindly replied.
I wrote that I wanted a chat about English progress on the report reply slip and one of her teachers phoned me up. We had a good, long chat. She said dd is a very creative writer but they based her grade on a piece of work where she had to use ppe (point, example and explanation) for 2 poems. The teacher said dd came up with some ideas no one else had thought about but her work was not structured this way (my interpretation = rambled on with some good perceptive points thrown in). When I discussed this later with dd she said she was at her music lesson, missing the English lesson before, and had no idea about ppe, she just responded to the title. Of course, she told the teacher who then realised! So good lesson for all. Dd has to learn, however boring it is, that she has to follow structure and rules and find out whats she's missed!
The teacher also said to me that they have setted for the first time higher in the school for English but the top set lost a 'bit of banter'(my words) that you need in discussions. She said they will be regrouping but not setting for Year 9. However my dd says they have been told that they are being setted and both English teachers were in the room when they told them they were being assessed for which group they go into? I think they are trying to get a balance of pupils in each group. Dd does make lots of contributions so it will be interesting who she is with next year!
So, overall I think I am happier with the situation. My big fear was that they were letting dd slip through the net but they are aware of the situation now and do seem to recognise she has some talent.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 02-Jul-14 11:59:54

PPE seems to be the peg everything hangs on in secondary English, and for most children it's not an intuitive way to approach the text, and neither do they enjoy doing it - I can totally see how these results would be the result of that.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 02-Jul-14 12:00:22

(PEE, I mean, not PPE!)

Johnthedog Wed 02-Jul-14 14:07:40

theoriginal I pped not peed too! I never pee'd at English (!) so never knew about it until the phonecall. Dd said she read an example essay that went ' my point is....' 'my example is...''my explanation is....' Then another 10 paragraphs in with the same phrases (obv different points etc) in repetition. She was disheartened. Welcome to the world of jumping through the right hoops!

lljkk Wed 02-Jul-14 14:25:11

I asked for DD's CAT scores and the only reply I got back (via DH answering the phone call, he takes no interest) was "she did very well".

Argh. <<Stamping feet peeved smiley>>

How weird that English isn't set at OP's school; is it quite small school? Is she down as underachieving for her English targets? DD has just started y8 timetable and most of her subjects, even PE, are set. I think the levels and such are very prescriptive, though in terms of what they are looking for. Does she still enjoy English, at least?

Johnthedog Wed 02-Jul-14 14:39:53

No it's a large 'outstanding' comp in a good area. Languages and maths are set from year 8. I think whether she enjoys any subject is down to the teacher tbh. Give her an enthusiastic teacher and she flys in anything....(very jealous).

jeandawson Wed 02-Jul-14 21:12:55

OP I can understand why she felt peeved that she'd missed the objective set by the teacher. Might be worth checking with her though what goes on in other subjects, as what I've learnt about secondary is that writing skills are no longer limited to English lessons, but much wider spread across the board. At DS school they have done a lot of work throughout year 7 using PEE structure for example in history and geography writing too, so it's pretty well embedded as the way to approach any writing and has been a good structure to build on from primary. For DS its given him a broader range of writing opportunities which has great for him.

I think it's quite common not setting. Our school is the same type of comp, set for maths year 7, science year 8 and English not til year 9. Feedback and results suggest it works just fine!

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