Confused re class setting(23 Posts)
I'm not sure if this Talk section gets a lot of footfall, but hopefully someone will drop by!
We recently had our daughter assessed by an ed Psychologist, as from an early age, she had shown signs of being very bright, although due to a genetic illness, did not speak till very late, has ongoing hearing issues and has missed a lot of school throughout. Because of this, she has always been slotted into mid tables/sets...so she can just catch up. This has always bothered me. So the ed report, showed that there was no evidence of SpLd, although it did highlight visual processing issues which we have taken further, and has since been shown that she has some neurodevelopmental issues, possibly relating to severe infections she has had. It also showed that her Maths IQ was 145 and her Verbal IQ was 137. Her reasoning scores were extremely high, and these IQ scores were actually brought down by her visual processing issues. The Ed P was keen to stress this.
Since this report, I've had to battle with the school to get her ability acknowledged. At her end of year 3, they did standardised GL assessments, and she scored average 130 across Maths, English & Science. But because of her absences etc, still insisted she should be put in lower sets! Having assessed again this term, they eventually acknowledged that she needed to be moved for Maths, and she is finally showing some interest again, having been bored senseless for all of year 3. But for English, she is still very much bored and disinterested, and there is no mention of moving her, even though the average score in her set group, is 102. She is 8 and 4 months and her reading comprehension age has been 11.5+ since year 3, even though she herself, finds reading a physical strain, and avoids it like the plague. So no Dickens or Chaucer by the bedside! And her spelling is similar. Her English SAS score was 127 while her friend who was automatically put into the top set, is almost a year older, has a reading age of 9.5, SAS score of 105 and has no issues, health or otherwise. Rather bizarrely, she has also been having tutoring since the summer (11plus county)..I know this because I know the child's mum, and we've discussed this openly. I just don't understand how teachers decide these things? Is it a confidence issue? Or is it that they simply don't understand these reports & test results etc.! Does anyone else have this issue and short of home schooling, which I have seriously been contemplating, is there something fundamental I am missing in terms of understanding this arrangement? I don't do any homework or extras with her, (unlike many I know) as by the time she has done her daily Chest physio, vision physio and a random bit of piano..she is exhausted!
Any thoughts would be most welcome..Thank you!
Sets are generally generated from class performance. We don't set in my school, or even have ability groups in most classes, however there are two exceptions to this - Y2 and Y5 maths. We are currently considering who goes into which set in Y2. The only thing we consider is who needs a smaller group to reach age related expectations by the end of the year. I'm sure the 10 children we have selected for the smaller (lower) set have a variety of strengths and IQs. I'm sure that some difficulties they have stem from dyslexia type traits but our only focus is how can we help them get to where they need to be. I'm sure the same holds true for your daughter - her IQ is not the important thing in deciding her set, it's her performance in class which is crucial.
Also visual processing difficulties in my experience can have a profound influence on a child's academic performance. Perhaps the school genuinely feel that she is best served in a middle set where the pace of learning is slightly slower. Opportunities for higher order thinking should be happening in all sets.
Thank you so much for your comments supergran. I understand her class performance is crucial, and as you rightly mention, her visual processing issues have indeed had a huge impact on her general approach and enthusiasm towards learning. However, given that she also scored relatively well in her end of year attainment tests, and her class grades were all upper As, would this not also be taken on board? It is not as though she was failing to meet their expectations, that is what I don't understand. She spent the entire first half term in a maths set that was teaching topics she had already mastered, and now that she is in the upper set, is much happier. She was simply bored and losing interest, so it is good to see the change this has had. However on the English side, we have recently discovered she has been hiding/avoiding her weekly homework since year 4 began. She has been sitting her weekly spelling/grammar tests, and getting high scores, but was not learning them or writing them into her book. It has only come to light now, as this week had particularly difficult questions, and she 'only' scored 20 out of 24. Aside from being surprised this hasn't been picked up by her teachers before now, this seems to suggest that she is simply coasting. If it is boring, she loses interest, and I imagine it is easy to blend in with the crowd in that scenario. I guess class performance can be affected by many different factors, so I do appreciate it's not an easy decision to make! Thank you
Does your daughter score equal/higher marks on her school English tests than the children in the top set? If not, perhaps your daughter is in the correct set after all. If she is among the highest scorers but has gaps in her knowledge owing to her absences, or does not try hard in class, maybe she is in the correct set.
Also, I don’t think you can lay blame for her attitude/behaviour on the fact that she finds the work easy. Of course the teacher should be trying to get the best out of the pupils, but they do have to help themselves. I would be furious with my daughter if she had been hiding/avoiding homework!
Unless there is a very genuine reason for this behaviour (such as tiredness/physical difficulties stemming from her health issues) I would be issuing punishment at home, consulting with the teacher, getting her carefully watched and making sure she knows that she must try hard in lessons and with her homework. If I were the teacher I wouldn’t consider moving her up a group until she improves her attitude.
I couldn't agree more Ginmummy, but physical/health constraints aside, this change in attitude is very recent, and we have just discovered the issue with her homework. They are supposed to be doing all their homework at prep, (Independant school) so we had no idea what was going on. When I found the crumpled up sheets in the bottom of her bag, it all came out, and it seems having not been challenged, while continuing to get reasonably good marks, she simply figured it was ok, not to do her homework! There were many tears upon having this discussion, and I'm in no doubt she won't let it happen again, but at 8 years old, I do find it surprising that this wasn't picked up or discussed with her parents?? It's as if she found herself a cosy niche and was allowed to coast along. It's her least favourite subject, so in that sense no surprise.
We have always been reassured that she has an excellent attitude in class, so this seems really out of character. Her standardised scores for English, were a bit higher than the set average and much higher than two of the kids we know in that set, so I definitely don't think her scores are an issue. Incidentally, when she joined the school, she had the highest scores on entrance for both Maths & English, (no idea what they were though) so if something is falling, I'd have hoped they were at least keeping track.
Hopefully we will get to the bottom of it soon. Thanks so much for commenting
If she's at an independent school and the homework was supposed to be done at prep, I agree with you that the school ought to have brought this to your attention. What is the school's excuse?
Is it a selective school? Is it quite 'pushy' academically? I have no first-hand experience of independent schools but the impression I get is that results are generally considered quite important! It seems odd that, with (presumably) fewer children in the class than in the state sector, the teacher hasn't been more demanding of your daughter, given her known ability.
You've said she avoids reading like the plague, albeit partly owing to some health factors, and that English is her least favourite subject. I wonder how much one should push a child in a subject that doesn't interest them, beyond what is 'necessary'? (I don't know the answer!)
Sorry - I'm waffling - hopefully you'll get some better advice soon. I can understand how frustrating it must be that she appears not to be achieving her potential. At least she has you on her side. Best of luck!
IQ tests in such young children are not always reliable. They may be a marker, but I wouldn't take them too seriously.
Most children will be able to perform some tasks/homework at home within a calm, quiet setting, with only adults around. Performing to the same level in school is a different story, with lots of other children around and noises, distractions, and the attention of one adults for 15 to 30 children.
@schoolquery1 your dd is clearly very able but has health issues which affect her performance.
The CAT testing certainly does not always predict performance - I've had it the other way round - performance way above CAT score and bored child as set by CAT!
Maturity also affects performance.
Your dd clearly has a lot on her plate with physio etc. You also seem very stressed about various scores and results.
Why not just relax for a while and don't worry about dd score/set compared to others and just let things happen - school have moved her up for Maths so they do respond to performance.
Thank you, that is good advice! I have actually been quite relaxed about her being in this set, and we have always taken a relaxed approach at home, she is very happy at her school and that has been the most important factor for us. It is this new apathy/avoidance on the subject that concerns us, not which set she is in. As you all rightly point out, (from more knowledgable points of view than mine!) there are many factors taken into account when placing pupils, but when something doesn't seem right, of course it does make you wonder what is going on, hence the reference to her scores etc. She has not had CAT testing yet, she has had an Education Psychology assessment, which we have been led to believe are reasonably reflective, within relevant bands of confidence of course.
I do agree maturity must also be a significant factor. Also with reference to standardised scores, a child who has just turned 8, can presumably score much higher than a child about to turn 9, although differences in maturity and attitudes at that age, can be vast.
Thank you for all your comments!
You say literacy is her least favorite. My ds is the same.
In yr3/4, he was kept in second set for writing. Teacher explained that although his ability is higher than some other children, the top set needs working mostly independently, while lower sets were monitored more closely by teacher or ta.
My ds was very reluctant writer, so if he was left on his own to work, he would produce 3 sentences instead of one full page, etc.
He stayed on second sets for whole time, but still teacher gave him GDS for end of year assessment.
OP, I would be very careful about some of the "advice" from earlier posters . It is contraindicated by research and expert opinion, including that issued by the Department for Education, details of which I will provide links to below. If a doctor told you that your child's blood test results were extremely unusual and she needed a different diet to accomodate her physical needs, you would presumably do what they said. If a friend then advised you to ignore the doctor and the test results because they weren't important/reliable, not to change her diet, and concentrate on her social development, you'd probably think (rightly) they were spouting dangerous nonsense. So why is it that when a psychologist tells you a child's cognitive test results are extremely unusual and they need a different educational diet to meet their mental needs, then it's just fine for unqualified amateurs to tell you to disregard it? On that note:
1) The standardized scores the ed psych reported will have been calculated from tables which have separate sections for each few months age range. A child recently turned 8 will be compared with tables valid for the age range 8 yrs 0 months to 8 yrs 3 months, not with all 8 year olds.
2) The poster who said 8 is too early for IQ testing could not be more wrong. 8 is close to the optimal time to test since it is old enough (>=5) to give stable scores, and also young enough to avoid ceiling effects (<=9).
3) The test scores you have provided indicate that your child is functioning well within the top 1% in both literacy and numeracy (137 = 99.3 percentile, 145 = 99.9 percentile). Your child is exceptionally able, as defined by the DfE (top 2% nationally). See the DfE strategy doc here: EA.
4) your child would also be considered to have dual and multiple exceptionality (DME) as it is defined by DfE due to the coexistence of health, hearing and vision issues with high ability. I note the ed psych says they do not have a SpLD but the definition used for DME is not limited to SpLD and encompasses any physical, cognitive or sensory issue that impedes learning. See the DfE strategy doc here : DME
5) Your child should not be anywhere except the top set, and should be given individual personalized work to extend significantly beyond this. What is the school doing in terms of pull-out programs / acceleration / enrichment? What has the ed psych recommended? Can you arrange for them to meet the school?
6) There should be an IEP in place to cover both extension and support, and the school's additional needs staff (SEN/G&T) should be meeting with you to discuss progress at least termly. If she tested as the highest in year on entry, and her health issues were to some extent known, they should have been all over this from day 1. If they're not doing this, then what are you paying for?
7) The evidence (e.g. a review of research commissioned by Ofsted and the meta-analytic studies reviewed in Hattie's book) show that homework has little impact at primary level. If your child is tired out by the physio, you might want to negotiate a period of no homework with the school, possibly with support of paediatrician. Getting a bit of fresh air / reading for pleasure is likely to be far more beneficial anyway. What is important is that her time in class is usefully spent engaged in appropriately challenging work.
8) As for one earlier poster's idea of "issuing punishment" for the child, frankly I think this is disgusting. The failings are the school's, in setting inappropriate work, placing her in the wrong sets and in failing to monitor. The child has responded as any child would, according to how they have been (dis-)incentivised.
9) You may find an OT can make useful recommendations regarding support and accomodation for the auditory/visual issues. Some OT's have further training in sensory integration and I would be inclined to look for one of these, both for a 1:1 sensory assessment, and for a classroom observation to see what accomodations would be beneficial.
10) classroom performance/behaviour is a notoriously poor guide to the real ability and needs of both DME and EA students, particularly when underachievement has been "baked in" by a long period of understimulation. The earlier poster's statement that the school have setted based on classroom performance/behaviour may well be correct, but while this may explain how they have setted, it does not excuse it. It is indefensible.
A few direct quotes from the DfE national strategies
a) on the exceptionally able :
"exceptionally able learners should experience learning which is tailored to their particular needs ... Within the gifted and talented group there may be only one exceptionally able pupil in a subject or talent area, so personalising learning needs to be at an individual level. An individual learning plan, drawn up and reviewed jointly by pupils, their parents and teachers, can be used to give a clear direction and structure to the provision for each exceptionally able pupil ... exceptional ability will be demonstrated only when pupils have a range of opportunities to do so in a rich, challenging and supportive school environment. Without this it is likely that the abilities of exceptionally able pupils may be masked."
and on DME:
"Catering for the individual by personalising learning is the key, and good practice in the classroom should include matching tasks to abilities and interests ... It is not possible to meet all the needs of pupils with DME without addressing their academic strengths and creating opportunities for them to express their abilities."
Corresponding guidance from PEGY notes:
" It is absolutely essential that the child receives adequate challenge whilst help is given for their difficulty.
Unfortunately it is not unusual [that] the child’s giftedness is neglected, a disastrous policy for many twice exceptional children who become depressed and disaffected.
The ideal placement for a twice exceptional child is almost always that which is appropriate for their intellectual level, with accommodations made to support their learning, while steps are taken to remediate their difficulty,"
You may find this paper by Silverman on masking and compensation useful.
There is also a book by Rowe and Pace which is relevant and very good.
Wow thank you gfrnn. That is such an informative post, and certainly much to digest! I do agree the Ed P did say testing at her age was perfectly within their realms of norm, as we did query that to begin with. She also mirrored a lot of what you have said here, and was most surprised when she heard she was not in the upper sets. She recommended careful g&t extension programmes, and was keen to stress that her visual processing issues be addressed appropriately.
She also has issues with hand writing, strange grip, hand hurts when writing, and struggles to convey her thoughts into words sometimes. (dysgraphia?) She has a high spelling ability, yet when she writes, it all comes out wrong?! And often has trouble with spacing, capitals, punctuation..all the things she knows full well, but can't seem to remember when she writes. Even she herself, finds this frustrating. The school have just said she will hopefully grow out of it. But something definitely does not seem right. I am sure this all contributes to holding her back, and I don't think they are fully equipped to deal with all her nuances. The Ed P recommended she had help with her writing difficulties, but short of the SEN lady dropping off a few pen grips, she's been left to her own devices.
As for extension, I was told this is integrated into every class, it's a group focus rather than that of an individual. And as for competitions, she is painfully shy, while a lot of her maths class are eager extroverts, brimming with confidence, and I have seen how she hides herself in the corner..and rarely speaks out. So there is no way she would put herself forward for anything like that.
Another interesting point the Ed P commented on, and perhaps you are familiar, was that in the Attention Concentration Index working memory tests, she scored exceptionally high (top .1%) for the digits backwards tasks, but low in the digits forward. She said this was highly unusual in a child that age, and it was usually the other way around. It was evident to her in that task, and with others, that her focus was really brought to bear, on the challenging tasks. For instance on the maths attainment tests, she made silly mistakes with the easy questions, and ran out of time before she could finish, (processing issues) yet got all the really hard questions spot on. The Ed P said her scores would have been even higher if it were not for this.
So this is why I am questioning her behaviour in English, something just feels wrong. The set she is in really is irrelevant to us, as long as we see her motivated and engaged in some way, which at the moment, is sadly not the case. Thank you for once again
I would strongly suggest going into school and having a joint meeting with the SENCO and head of year as a bare minimum. At one meeting I had SENCO, head of whole school, head of juniors and class tutor.
My DD is similar CATs in excess of 130 ( expecting NVR), visual processing disorder and just to add something to mix ( these are schools works) exceptional gift in singing and drama. DD's visual processing has badly affected her spelling.
The reason I suggest sitting down with the school is to know where your DD fits in their cohort. DD's year group is rather unusual and there are around 20 girls with really high CAT scores.
After spending years 5,6,7 and 8 in set 1 for everything doing really well in the majority of the exams ( exception comprehension due to processing speed), but loads of tears about how she was slower than everyone else and they make fun of her. Year 9 in combination with the SENCO she is top set science, set 2 Maths, English and Humanities and top set Music, Drama and Dance. I have a much happier child who is doing even better than she was in top sets.
It does need a thorough discussion with the school as to where the individual child fits in the cohort and this is one of the things that should be available to you at an independent school.
Re: extension "As for extension, I was told this is integrated into every class, it's a group focus rather than that of an individual." They would say this, wouldn't they, but where is the evidence? If they're not providing challenge at the level identified by the ed psych, then the'yre not extending her. The DfE guidance is very clear that because exceptionally able students are capable of working at a much higher level than the group, individual personalized learning should occur. If they're not facilitating this, they're being lazy.
Re: handwriting, the issues you mention are all suggestive of dysgraphia. Her visual processing issues may be contributing. Have you had her checked for hypermobility/hypotonia? (the relevant medical speciality is paediatric rheumatology). Dysgraphia is also referred to as disorder of written expression - its a problem not just with the mechanics of handwriting but also with the organisation of what to be written - it correlates with executive function difficulties. The specialist we dealt with told us that if the spellings, rules of punctuation etc. were known but fall apart when writing at length, this indicates that 100% of the child's concentration bandwidth is going on forming the letters, controlling the pen, and there's none left for the rest. She recommended a two-pass approach - first get it down (in pencil) then go back over it to fix the punctuation and spelling. She also recommended (and we've had good results with) touch-typing. Some further info here and here
Re: learning style "her focus was really brought to bear, on the challenging tasks. For instance on the maths attainment tests, she made silly mistakes with the easy questions, and ran out of time before she could finish, (processing issues) yet got all the really hard questions spot on". Getting the easy ones wrong and the hard ones right is referred to as being a "paradoxical learner". It is very characteristic of twice-exceptional / DME learners. It is discussed in this paper . It indicates that they need a minimum level of stimulus/complexity to engage with the task. The PEGY website also discusses a similar phenomenon in slightly different terms:
"Identification is made more contentious because adults often believe the exceptionally or profoundly gifted child should be able to ‘prove’ how able they are by always getting 100% on school tasks which are well within their capabilities. However, they may not achieve to this standard. This may be explained by [...] inability to control his attention sufficiently to complete tasks he finds simple and repetitive. This phenomenon has been studied in adults where it also occurs, and the Yerkes-Dodson model explains that errors and omissions are made when the task is too simple and the mind is insufficiently stimulated to perform well. Thus it may be impossible for an exceptionally gifted child to achieve full marks on tests of material which is too simple for them."
The danger is that if the school do not increase the level of challenge to a level the child can engage with, then the child become trapped in a catch-22. They can't demontrate their ability because the work is too simple to allow them to perform at their real ability.
She also has issues with hand writing, strange grip, hand hurts when writing, and struggles to convey her thoughts into words sometimes. (dysgraphia?) She has a high spelling ability, yet when she writes, it all comes out wrong?! And often has trouble with spacing, capitals, punctuation
Have a read of my last mail, OP - your dd has met her twin! Spellings, punctuation, exhausted when reading large tracts of text.. She could cover all this up as she's very bright but the music stopped in year 5 because of the jump up in volume of reading/writing.
Our school is the opposite - they think she's a genius who is lazy when she gets these things wrong. It's not a super high ability class and some kids have proper LD so I guess they were not looking for problems with my DD.
As.my DD can read ANY sentence on its own - just not set in text - we were recommended by MNetters to see a behavioural optometrist. He think she has a mild binocular issue in focusing and now we are doing therapy. I also had focusing issues at one point so I think we are getting close now.
Good luck with it all. Even since we told.DD that we are getting help with her eyes, she is more willing to try because she doesn't have to hide or cover up her issues.
One amendment - my DD could write a simple word incorrectly (e.g. fayling for failing) ten times in a passage, yet ask her to spell it separately, she can.. The theory is now that she can't focus well enough on the page to see her mistakes.
Also worth looking into Irlen glasses, for those who benefit it can be transforming.
Not sure if this is private or state school, but the state school NC contains a lot of grammar so could it be that she is in the middle set because she is lacking this subject knowledge due to absence? They might cover this again in the middle set but not the top set? Writing is judged by a lot more than just natural ability and there is currently a strong focus on spelling and handwriting which you have said she doesn't do well, so this could also be a contributory factor to where they have placed her. If she is naturally bright she is bound to catch up quickly.
Thank you for all this info, it is really so helpful. And thank you gfrnn for such great links, you really are quite well read on all this!
The EP did mention the paradoxical reference, and looking at the paper you have linked, it is interesting how reflective this is with some of our daughter's report discrepancies.
I will definitely be following up on the dysgraphia possibility, and interestingly, her visual therapist has already suggested she be referred for OT, and has mentioned hypermobilty also. Her joints are hyper extendable, so this may help explain some of her hand writing issues. She has been noted to have retained peripheral reflexes, and thinks we should raise with her paeds. So a myriad of issues to explore.
Out of interest, and given reference to various CAT scores here, I don't think they are done until next year in our daughter's school. Given they are ability indicators, how well do they usually correlate with ability profiles indicated by EP testing?
I know many factors can affect any school based test, but it would be interesting to compare.
The SAS scores I have mentioned in relation to the school end of year tests, are curriculum based attainment tests, so are presumably intended to reflect what has been learned, as opposed to what they are capable of learning.
As for her English set, from everything I have seen & heard upto now, it would seem that reasoning ability has not been correlated with set placement at all. It seems that maturity (pretty much dominated by winter borns) articulation, both verbal & written, and ability to write at length...are the main determinants. Which means those children with higher reasoning abilities, disparate with their ability to convey that in some way, are not catered for. The lower set text books for termly comprehension work, seem to be pitched at a lower level all round. As for her grasp of grammar, she definitely understands quite advanced aspects of grammar very well, and this was mentioned as such in her last teacher feedback mtg.
Re having a SENCO mtg, we have already met with Senco & head of middle school back in September, and while they seemed responsive at the time, I honestly don't think they have grasped any of this at all, and we haven't heard a peek from them since since
Sorry for the long post, but thank you so so much for all your comments. They are all hugely appreciated!
Just thought I'd follow up on my original thread, in light of CAT tests that had since been done by the school, and the many comments I had seen mentioning they usually fall lower than those shown by ED P.
DD hasn't had very good health since, and has been in and out of hospital a few times, and had to sit the tests on her first day back, which we hadn't been expecting!
We knew something had changed, as suddenly there seemed to be a keen interest in her English setting, and we've been told she had the highest scores in her year. She scored 141 in NVR and Spatial. High 130s in Quantitative & VR, so very much in line with her Ed P report.
Incidentally, having moved into her maths set a few weeks ago, and in spite of the ill health she has had, and the concerns they had with regards to her 'keeping up', we were told she was working well at the top of the set. In addition to this, they sat mid year progress exams in all subjects, and she scored 95% plus across the board, with perfect scores in science, maths & geograpy and history. The teachers all seemed surprised by this, as she is so quiet in class, seems to lack confidence, never puts her hand up, and is often not there! At least they are starting to see a different picture, and it's a huge relief to know that our instincts were not completely misplaced.
It can be so easy for the reticent, quiet kids to fall under the radar, and I don't think it matters what school they are in, finding them a spot light is not always easy.
That's very impressive that your daughter has scored so highly despite recent hospital attendance - and pleasing that the school have taken notice at last! (I'm GinMum who responded previously - with a name change)
Thanks Ginmum. I think they were starting to see things for themselves, and the CAT scores just reinforced it in a way. They didn't seem too interested in the Ed P report we had given them, and actually derided it a little, by highlighting the fact that it was a one to one assessment, group assessments usually much lower etc. Which was frustrating of course, as Ed P assessments are (usually) performed by professionals who are highly specialised!
So for anyone wondering how they might compare, while the Ed P assessment is of course much more detailed, and can highlight specific issues which may or may not affect overall ability & attainment levels, in terms of the ability profile, in our case they were pretty much spot on.
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