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Grade skipping

(26 Posts)
iggly2 Wed 05-Nov-14 14:53:37

Why does this have a bad reputation?

LIZS Wed 05-Nov-14 14:59:38

It isn't widely done in UK, especially in the state sector, and can sometimes create issues at primary to secondary transfer age and with children who are emotionally and physically less mature than others.

iggly2 Wed 05-Nov-14 15:06:31

I was also thinking of grade skipping in terms of individual subject lessons.

AMumInScotland Wed 05-Nov-14 15:25:59

I'm not sure what you're suggesting here. Are we talking about primary school? Secondary school? Music grades?

iggly2 Wed 05-Nov-14 15:28:25

I was interested in Primary/secondary school subject lesson skipping and whole year skipping. Its seems odd that music grade skipping etc appears more acceptable.

AMumInScotland Wed 05-Nov-14 17:25:33

Well, whole year skipping is a bad idea socially - a child may have the academic skills to do it, but they will be at a different stage in their life from their classmates, and there are times when that's going to be problematic. My sister did it, long ago, and it really wasn't the best thing for her when they hit their teens.

Subjects - from the school's point of view, it would be very hard to timetable. And most subjects can be taught in a way that lets everyone get something out of the lesson even if they are at different achievement levels anyway. So what's the benefit? If you see the point of education as passing an exam, what's the benefit in having it a year or two earlier? And if you take a more holistic view of what education is about, have even the brightest children really got everything they could out of the topics covered?

To me, maths is really the only subject where some people can really pick it up much quicker than others - but most secondary schools set for maths from quite early on, so there would only be a handful of students who could be considered to 'need' to skip ahead.

Music grades are very different - my son only did a few of the exams, but covered the essentials of the 'in-between' ones even though he wasn't going to do the exam for them. And he had individual lessons, so he and the teacher could set whatever pace worked for them. When you teach children within a class environment, there are benefits from hearing other students comments and questions which are about more breadth than simply covering the curriculum.

So, that's my tuppenceworth on why it isn't usually considered that great an idea!

iggly2 Wed 05-Nov-14 17:39:59

Ds is 1 year entire grade skipped with some lessons spent with pupils many years older. I get the impression it is frowned on in this forum and I just wanted to find out why. Interestingly music exams never seem to be viewed negatively. He is an exceptionally happy little boy (frequently commented on).

LIZS Wed 05-Nov-14 18:28:00

are you in UK? If so , teachers are expected to differentiate learning levels within a classroom rather than have children "pass" or "fail" the year and maybe repeat as systems in some other countries do.

iggly2 Wed 05-Nov-14 18:35:26

I am in the UK. There has been no type of "he must pass this to get to the next year". He just goes to other classes for certain lessons, and spends the rest of the time with children nearer his own age. I just wondered if there was any research anyone knew of that would shed light on examples of pros and cons with this set up.

iggly2 Wed 05-Nov-14 21:57:26


uilen Thu 06-Nov-14 09:58:33

Your original question was why it is disfavoured, but this has already been answered: many children do not benefit from being placed with children who are older than them. Even when this initially seemed to be a good option, problems with immaturity can show up later (secondary/university).

It's not just on this forum that grade skipping is seen negatively - ime most academics have seen problems with grade skipped students who are emotionally and socially immature.

Grade skipping also does very little to help with academic issues for highly gifted children: moving up by one or two years doesn't particularly change the level or pace of academic work being offered.

Subject acceleration brings with it other issues. In some subjects subject acceleration is rare because of the maturity required e.g. English. Children are quite frequently accelerated in maths as it is often perceived that maturity is not an issue for maths. Yet higher level maths does require intellectual maturity; a lot of students who've been accelerated in maths crash at university when they are asked to address open-ended problems or look for multiple ways to solve a problem. Moreover subject acceleration can mean that the inter-connections between different subjects are obscured. Suppose a student is doing A level maths but KS3 physics - a big chunk of A level maths is basically physics (applied maths) but the student may not have the required understanding of physics if they are only working at KS3 level.

atticusclaw Thu 06-Nov-14 10:12:33

What's he going to do when the others catch up?

So if he is two year above for science for example, what does he do when he is in the fourth year and his science group have moved on? Does he then just stop sooner than the rest of his year group or does he move on to A levels in some subjects or does he go back to learning with his year group and covering stuff he's already done?

I personally wouldn't do it. DS1 is very intelligent and his vocabulary is impressive which makes him sound very mature. He is at an academically selective school which helps since his peers are also strong academically but he is still "ahead" in many areas. He completes the set tasks very quickly and with ease but then just moves on to extension work.

I would far rather him be doing this than moving up a year for a number of reasons.

Firstly he is with his age group which means far fewer issues in terms of emotional development and social issues. I have no desire at all for him to grow up before his time.

Secondly it does wonders for a child's confidence being at the top of a class. I was always top at everything at school and I am very confident. I believe much of this comes from always having done "well". This has benefitted me enormously throughout life. DH was always middle-good and just doesn't have that innate confidence. I would far rather DS1 stay where he is and be top than move on and be middle.

Each child is different though of course and so you have to make the decision that works best for you.

tenderbuttons Thu 06-Nov-14 11:51:19

I'll come back to this when I've got time to find the details, but in short it is much more common in the US, and so most of the research comes from there. The main fact I can remember, is that the single biggest factor in determining whether a grade skip will work or not is the commitment of the school to the move. Which is quite possibly why it's not often successful over here. But they also use a thing called the Iowa Acceleration Scale which uses a whole range of factors, including maturity, to see if a child is suitable for acceleration. It's worth bearing in mind that a very gifted/bright child may not have that much in common with his own age peers either.

And there are side effects from not accelerating as well; a good percentage of very gifted children are home educated, because there is no way that they can be taught at the right pace or level within their own year group.
In this context, I think AMumInScotland's comment about music groups is quite telling; there are plenty of subjects, not just music, where children would benefit from being able to work at their own pace.

But it's not necessarily the best outcome. As other people have said, a really gifted child will soon outgrow the skip as they are learning faster. The best set up for gifted children is when they are taught with a similar cohort. Or, in other words, a grammar school.

And the reason I've looked at this is that DD is one year grade skipped in primary, and she, the school and the ed psych are all agreed that it is the right thing. And that's not just academically but social. I was so pleased last half term. For the first time in her life, she played a shared imaginative game with her friends, based around a book they'd all read. That just didn't happen before.

iggly2 Thu 06-Nov-14 13:08:19

I would never send DS to go to further education early-he is socially mature for his age, tall, sporty and October born so he does not even look year skipped.

How about doing a few college courses/modules just at the very end of secondary school? Is there any harm in that? Could this keep them busy and not harm them socially prior to potentially going to Uni?

AMumInScotland Thu 06-Nov-14 13:20:57

I think it depends how much you think the education system ought to adjust to deal with unusual individual cases, and how much the individuals should have to accept the way things are and adjust to working within a system which works for the majority.

There is always an option of home education if you want him to have something tailored to him as an individual.

But schools can't always change their way of working just to cater to the few individuals for whom differentiating within their age-appropriate class is not enough, without disrupting everyone else's education to make it possible.

If you want him to be able to take a college module at that stage, then talk to the school about it and see if anything can be done in the timetable - if they can't arrange it for you, they might still allow him to be educated 'off site' for certain periods.

My DSs school had the timetable arranged in a way that let pupils do one from a range of courses at the local FE college as one of their subjects, by having that timetable 'column' take up two full afternoons. The courses were vocational rather than academic, but they were open to discussion and let DS come home and work towards a music qualification at those times.

It does always depend on the attitude of the head teacher though, and whether you can argue for what you want in a way which doesn't set any precedents that would be problematic if everybody started asking for the same.

uilen Thu 06-Nov-14 13:26:01

A grammar school does not provide a similar cohort for a very highly gifted child - lots of high achievers, top 10% or top 20%, does not imply provision or peers for a child in the top 1% or 0.1%.

The UK education system is not set up for people to finish A levels early in some subjects and then do university modules alongside other A levels. It would be a nightmare to organise this, given timetabling constraints. Moreover, suppose a student finishes maths and physics A levels early - these being their strongest subjects - and then wants to do a mixture of other A levels with university modules in maths/physics. This wouldn't work because most university modules are not self-contained - they are interconnected - and what is the student then meant to do if they start a university degree in their accelerated subjects? They would have done part of the first year but not all of it, so still have to do it anyhow.

Ime many very high achievers take a wide range of A levels (5+) - e.g. they do double maths in a few lessons per week, leaving plenty of time to take several other subjects spread over sciences, humanities and languages.

tenderbuttons Thu 06-Nov-14 14:16:46

Yes I agree, but the top set of a grammar school (or a highly selective school of another kind) is one of the best options out there, at least in this country. In the US, they have gifted classes in some areas, which children test into.

I've now got the paper I was looking for, which is a synthesis of research into gifted education. It's written by an Australian, but international.

At the elementary level, representative studies reporting the academic effects of early entrance to kindergarten or first grade show a consistent picture of high achievement, good social adjustment, and stability of self-esteem measures.

Despite the many myths rampant about forms of grade-based acceleration, the evidence suggests that the social impacts are very positive for options such as grade skipping and slightly positive for the other forms of acceleration. Emotional impacts are small and positive throughout.

I think it depends how much you think the education system ought to adjust to deal with unusual individual cases, and how much the individuals should have to accept the way things are and adjust to working within a system which works for the majority.

it's an interesting moral question, isn't it. But were the child at the other end of the ability range, they would have special schools to go to, and the council may even pay for private provision.

iggly2 Thu 06-Nov-14 14:59:23

The courses may not even be in the subject the child may wish to study at further education.

uilen Thu 06-Nov-14 15:25:31

I agree that the student might not wish to study later the subject they are studying at higher level (although this is unusual) but logistical problems remain. MOOCs are an easier option, but they vary immensely and can be unsatisfying for a student who really wants a deeper, more comprehensive course rather than a taster.

I don't think the emotional impact of grade skipping is always small and positive; grade skipping has to be assessed on a case by case basis, preferably with a back-up plan in mind if it stops working.

LIZS Thu 06-Nov-14 16:16:44

Most "college" courses (by which I assume you mean NVQs and similar at 6th form/FE) are not likely to be particularly academically challenging in the first instance or relevant to a, say, 14 year old. The UK system differs from US in that few modular units exist at a higher level which can be taken in isolation - OU is one of the few examples. Also a college environment is not particular suitable for most younger teens (even those 14-16s already taking classes there) and there are issues over safeguarding for example.

atticusclaw Thu 06-Nov-14 18:04:11

Are you writing an article or something? Your questions are phrased very strangely and I would have thought you'd have views of your own given that your DS is already placed so far ahead of his year group.

iggly2 Fri 07-Nov-14 07:49:31

I can assure you there is no article and no agender other than to try and find out the potential set backs for my DS.

My parents were told I could have faced major subject acceleration and opted against it for me (teachers were likewise straight foward with me- telling me I could do exams etc many years early and not to revise). If you see another thread you will see I have a lot of confidence issues. I am thinking that I may steer another path with ds and wanted to find out the opinion of others in a similar position.

tenderbuttons Fri 07-Nov-14 08:45:23

And it is an interesting question - funnily enough I had been thinking about asking something similar in education. Because British schools are as a general rule dead set against moving children, either up or down, and given that DD is grade skipped and it is working, I'm intrigued as to why this has become absolute dogma when the research, such as it is, seems to suggest that it is a successful strategy.

And I think that because the prevailing orthodoxy is so intense, that makes it a very difficult decision to make for your own child, however much it seems to be the right thing. We agonised over it for ages with DD, and I still worry about it every time there is a friendship issue.

Mistigri Fri 07-Nov-14 16:21:15

Mine are both accelerated one year in the French system.

As far as I can tell, a single acceleration makes very little difference for most children. It certainly doesn't resolve the underlying issue of some children understanding and retaining new material more quickly than others. On the other hand, socially and emotionally it has made zero difference to my children (in fact my 13 year old daughter, in a Y10-equivalent class of 14-15 year olds, frequently complains about the lack of maturity of some students...).

There are practical disadvantages though, mainly relating to what you do when you take your baccalaureat at 16, as will be the case for my daughter. The French system is somewhat more set up to deal with this issue, as skipping concerns a small but significant proportion of the school population (1-2%) and there are non-university post-baccalaureat options. DD is considering Uk universities though so will need to lose a year somewhere.

MillionToOneChances Mon 10-Nov-14 09:39:52

With regard to maths, the UK Maths Trust, Mathematical Association and NRich all counsel against accelerated learning. It seems quite easy to get a very able child through maths A-level early, but they would miss out on some of the depth and breadth of learning - the applied maths, making connections - that a very able child needs to enable them to do the kind of innovative thinking needed in a mathematical career beyond an undergraduate degree.

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