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Help! Meeting with Head to discuss how school is failing Gifted 7 yr old. What to say?

(81 Posts)
DadAtLarge Fri 22-May-09 15:41:21

My child is six (and three quarters!) His teacher in reception recommended he be put on the G&T Register for Maths. It didn't happen. His teacher in Yr 1 requested he be put on. And again in Yr 2. It didn't happen. Or maybe they did but it doesn't seem to mean anything.

He just did the KS1 SATS in which he got Level 3As in everything. The external SATS coordinator told his teacher that he should be moved up to Level 4/5 work for Maths. We requested he be given the KS2 Maths SATS, the school administered it and he got a Level 5. I don't say this to boast but apart from his maths knowledge being on par with 11 yr olds he can do mental problems involving squaring or cubing double digits numbers or multiplying 3 digit numbers by other 3 digits numbers faster than any teacher in the school can do them on paper. He's a whiz with the Rubik's cube, Sudoku and stuff like that. He loves pondering conundrums involving infinity and playing around with irrational numbers like Pi.

And he is made to sit in with other Yr 2 kids laboriously adding 5 to itself again and again ...and other mind numbingly boring work. The teacher does try to give him "special" challenges but they are still far below what he can do. I don't believe the self-confessed Maths-phobic teacher is even up to the task (though she is lovely and does her best for him). He is BORED.

The school is an excellent state school with very high Ofsted results and SATS rankings but they are refusing to let him sit in with older kids in Yr 5 and Yr 6. They point blank refuse to accept that it's in his best interest to sit at least occasionally with any older children. Their policy on G&T doesn't give any guarantees - it's all about "we'll try" to match them by ability and "we'll endeavour" to challenge the more able and "it's our goal" to accelerate them through the curriculum.

I'm meeting with the Head. Any suggestion on what I can say or do to get them to provide for him in some way, shape or form that doesn't bore him to death and cause him to lose all interest or get disruptive?

I don't want him to become like those kids on TV taking their A levels at 8. He doesn't need recognition or tags or being made to feel special. But he's beginning to show signs - albeit very early ones - of being "superior", of can't-be-bothered, of rebelling against authority. Which is not him - he's always been a quiet, likeable chap and the teacher's pet in every year. I want to stop any downward behaviour spiral now. He does not complain much about doing lower level work in English but the 2+2 is making him very miserable.

Someone suggested elsewhere here that I can offer to be more closely involved in what work he is set in school. My wife and I don't want to appear pushy but we are more than happy to do this.

Any other suggestions on how I can get the school to DO something? Is he entitled to get teaching resources/work from secondary schools? Any ammunition you can give me for my meeting?

Sorry for such a long post.

webwiz Fri 22-May-09 19:34:27

Hi DadAtLarge children who are particularly good at maths seem to provide a particular challenge for schools for some reasonsmile. Taking the long view - your son will have to take his year 6 SATs with the rest of his class(assuming they haven't got rid of them by then) and so even if he sits with the older children now he will have to have a boring year(s) somewhere along the line when he has to repeat stuff (been there, done that!).

I think the best suggestion is some enrichment work, the best website is the nrich one: http://nrich.maths.org/public/ which has lots of maths problems and the solutions as well. My DS did four days of normal class maths and then on a friday (the day the teacher consolidated the weeks work) he was allowed to do something different, perhaps you could suggest something like this.

I think though the the fact that he is already a level 5 should persuade the school that he needs some extra provision or he is going to be very bored for the rest of primary school.

HumphreyCobbler Fri 22-May-09 19:39:42

If he was in one of my classes I would have devised a scheme of work especially for him. His ability sounds so advanced that I would have sought advice about how best to help him.

DadAtLarge Fri 22-May-09 22:09:49

webwiz, I'm sure you're right but it does sound strange. I would have expected maths to be the subject most easily catered for as there are so many puzzles, workbooks etc.

That nrich site is fantastic, thanks! I spent an hour on there and printed off lots of stuff. DS has grown out of skillswise but I've got bookmarked sites like this, this, some very interesting blogs like this and some youtube maths videos. I'd be happy to share my bookmarks and learn of any others.

webwiz, discussing what happens when he gets to yr4, 5 and 6 is going to be a big part of the meeting. Unless they have a credible plan we're going to have to pull him out or something and I don't want to do that as he's really come out of his shell, he's making friends and he's happy with everything else.

HumphreyCobbler, would there be any reason the school couldn't allow us, the parents, to draw up the scheme of work and provide all materials for both school based work and homework?

cornsilk Fri 22-May-09 22:15:19

You may want to let the school know that you are aware of the new ofsted framework (in the nicest possible way of course.)

'There will be increased focus on the progress made by different groups of children and young people which could include those most likely to underachieve, the most vulnerable and the most able. The well-being of learners, the quality of learning and the quality of teaching will feature strongly in the inspection.'

oopsagain Fri 22-May-09 22:22:42

I'm currently thinking about ds1 who is in yr1. he's 6 in august.

I'm not qutie sure what he can do in maths, bt he can divide and manage figures in hundreds adding and taking away.
He's reading chapter books, the big cat scheme topaz...

he seems happy enough but one of the TAs said yesterday that he is bored in class and that he behaves well but sends alot of time waiting around....

Teacher is lovely and says he's working at key stage 3b for maths and english- but i'm not sure what that is.

There is no Gifted and talented stream at school.
I don't want to be pushy (oMG, I don't wnat ot be pushy) but isn't g and t mandatory?

GivePeasAChance Fri 22-May-09 22:28:02

DS1 is G & T in Year 2 (he is nearly 7). He has been doing Level 5/6 maths all year. It has helped that there is another G & T'er of maths in the class - they go off together a couple of times a week (I think) and generally do a harder variation on the class work.

I am actually not entirely sure I agree with it.........but anyhow DS1 is happy enough.

I am wary about children being singled out - but because there are 2 (who happen to be good friends) it has been easy for DS1. That probably doesn't help.

Yurtgirl Fri 22-May-09 22:30:19

Dadatlarge - I have the same problem as you

My ds is also in yr2, we dont have SATs here but having looked at the levels for maths and science etc, I am fairly sure that my ds is working at 4/5 in both maths and science as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of most other stuff.

Like you I say this not to boast, I just want him to be happy and fulfilled at school.

His school insist that they differentiate work for him, yet he is bored senseless most of the time.

It drives both him and me crazy and tbh I dont know what is to be done about it.

DS has aspergers so it has been suggested to me that I make a parental request for a statement in the hope thet he would get an LSA for at least some of the time.

I cant really see how this would help my ds though - neither can he, he still says he would rather burn the school down

I dont know how to help but you are sadly not alone

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Fri 22-May-09 22:33:50

My ds has been coasting for the last few years. He's many years ahead and currently in year 5 but is only given year 6 work which he does with ease. It's so hard for a parent as you don't want to be pushy. Literacy and science is the same. I'm a MSc student and I had to take him in with me to a lecture last year as it was half term, he knew more/answered/asked more questions then the whole class. It's hard knowing what to do.

DadAtLarge Fri 22-May-09 22:34:06

cornsilk, would that apply here? As this is a primary, would the school not argue - if not this year then in a year or two - that they don't have any KS3 maths teachers so can't physically teach him?

suwoo Fri 22-May-09 22:34:55

I don't think there is a G&T register in my DD's school or she should be on it. She is no where near as advanced as the OP's DS, but is way ahead with her literacy type work than her peers. She has been a free reader since early in year 1. She just sat the level 3 SATS papers and was predicted 3A's, but we haven't had the results yet.

Her schools ofsted report mentioned that the school were failing the more 'able' children. sad

cornsilk Fri 22-May-09 22:35:42

Where are you Dadatlarge. The new ofsted framework is meant to start from Sept 2009 for primary and secondary.

PaulaYatesBiggestFan Fri 22-May-09 22:35:45

i would give up on school and do a bit at home

nvr is good

secondary school do maths challenges

its so easy to buy stuff for eager kids o do at home for primary level

cornsilk Fri 22-May-09 22:36:44

The school can't argue that they can't teach him - they have to find a way to meet his needs.

Yurtgirl Fri 22-May-09 22:41:33

That is true Cornsilk, what if the school think they are meeting the child's needs? What then?

Ds has 30 mins 1:1 each week - last week he did a worksheet on 3, 4 and 5 times table shock Such a pointless waste of time - even his class teacher gives him harder stuff than that...........

cornsilk Fri 22-May-09 22:42:27

They will have to prove it yurtgirl.

cornsilk Fri 22-May-09 22:43:53

Attainment is measurable - have you details of his attainment each year Dadatlarge? Make sure you keep a record and track his progress.

snorkle Fri 22-May-09 23:02:08

You might want to read this article by the mathematical association.

The issue with really mathematically able kids getting too far ahead is what can they do when they've finished the normal school maths curriculum (maths + f.maths A level) before they reach school leaving age? They can't really go off to university too young (well they could, but it might not work out too well, especially if they're not significantly ahead in their other subjects) and at present the system doesn't really cater for them. This is why schools are often reluctant to put children in an older year group for maths. Your ds is very advanced so acceleration might be appropriate, but be aware of the issues too.

Ds has always been a very able mathematician (not quite at the level of your son, but signifiantly ahead) and has often been bored in classes. Some teachers have been better than others at keeping his interest & where possible he's missed maths lessons for music etc. but we've had the doing nothing but sodokus for a term & suchlike as well and even with the better teachers it's always felt as though he can just do whatever is taught (mostly because he already knows it or else because he understands straight away). He's had nothing extra beyond normal top set maths (& maths was only set from year 5 onward) and I don't think it's done him any harm (though I certainly did angst about it from time to time). He's now in year 10 & is going to UKMT summer school in July which he's quite excited about - I imagine he'll meet up with some seriously good mathematicians there.

I always recommend the 'murderous maths' series of books to mathematically minded children. Ds taught himself all sorts of stuff from those & enjoyed them.

As to what you could ask the school to do, I recommend asking if he can do primary maths challenge each year (OK it's only once a year, but good to do some stretching stuff sometimes) and maybe the UKMT ones for senior school age children too. Ask if there are any other maths competitions the school might enter a team or individuals for. Is there anything offered by local secondary schools (there is in some ares)? Look out for maths lectures (millenium maths project do some). Anything really that will interest him & help him realise that maths isn't all boring, repetative easy sums (though to be sure there's an awful lot of them too).

Good luck & do let us know what the school offer and how it works out in both the short & long term. This subject gets raised on here fairly regularly (search the archives), but there's very little feedback from parents of older mathematical children saying 'our school did this & this & it worked well or it didn't work out because...'

DadAtLarge Fri 22-May-09 23:29:10

Yurtgirl, I feel for you. As parents I think we are too accepting of what's doled out. Being bored in school happens sometimes. That's life. If it happens to the point where it causing permanent damage then either the school or we need to do something about it. It's got to stop, full stop (sorry, NSPCC).

When I was 5 yr old I was, by all accounts, a lovely chap. The school moved me up two years but I was still bored. By 8 I had learnt to pick the lock on the school noticeboard to put up my own notices declaring impromptu holidays. By 10 I had rigged the school electrical system to blow a fuse and cause pandemonium whenever the mood grabbed me. By 11 I started smoking, by 12 I had my first joint. By 14, I'm ashamed to say, I stole my first motorcycle. I sorted myself out in time, but if Fate thinks it's payback time for the trouble I put my parents to... Fate's got another think coming.

There are some things in life you just have to fight for. Getting a gifted child the right attention is probably one of them. Home education, private school etc are all options, but first things first. The logical step one is to talk with the school, keep at it, monitor, contribute, push, cajole, get tough. Use Aspergers if it gives you any advantage.

It's a shame there isn't some lobbying body that can articulate our problems and get action.

oopsagain, I believe it is mandatory. Check with your LA, get a copy of their guidelines for schools and get the school to give you their written policy. That's the starting point, IMHO.

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Fri 22-May-09 23:37:42

I've tried private schools, there are many that make alot of promises to get you to hand over cash and send your child over but I've yet to find one that delivers on what ds needs. It's easy for them to allow him to coast and give him the odd sheet of stuff a little harder and leave it at that. Ds is at a local state school at the moment as it didn't make sense to pay for him to be bored and finish his work way before everyone else and spend the rest of the lesson drawing pictures hmm Private isn't always better.

Yurtgirl Fri 22-May-09 23:50:10

Dadatlarge - Your latest post has made my day! - reasons below

The thing with ds is he isnt sooper dooper intelligent (I realise this having watched the channel 4 genius programs) but he is way way above his classmates in most areas of curriculum (except PE and handwriting, eating with cutlery............. dont ask!)

To be really happy academically at school he would need to be moved up to maybe year 6?
Which is clearly madness - he is due to move to year 3 in september

The standard solution seems to be LSA, statement etc - but as far as he is concerned it would still be school........ with dinner ladies (who he wants to stab with knives......) and the headmistress (who he recently reffered to as evil..........)

Its so sad because my son is a kind loving thoughtful boy with a passion for learning and sharing what he knows - school seems to be turning him into an arsonist psychopath

Hence your post has cheered me enormously - It is his wish that we ditch the whole school fandango and Home Educate him........... by doing so I am certain that the destructive path he is pursing atm will stop pronto.

I feel genuinely sad for you though - Out of interest, what career have you pursued as an adult?

DadAtLarge Sat 23-May-09 00:04:03

Thanks for the tremendous responses, everyone. I'm sorry if I haven't replied individually but it's late and I'm tired.

snorkle, it looks like an interesting article. I'm keeping the page open to read tomorrow.

Maybe I exaggerated DS's abilities. His manipulation of larger numbers mentally does call on techniques and "tricks" he's picked up in the German Trachtenberg's system and the Indian Vedic Maths.

I introduced him to stuff like that, puzzles, basic programming etc to "distract" him from otherwise progessing too far up the curriculum as I recognise the dead-end problem (and I don't know that much of KS3 maths).

cornsilk, it's useful to know that they can't use that excuse, I'll bear it in mind at the meeting. I do have some records of his achievements but I need to do better on the paperwork/worksheets (and on dating them). I'm also going to ask the school for a copy of his education record - it seems that as parents we're entitled to a copy under the FOI Act. I'm learning as I go along but I'm picking up fast (ish) ;)

I got a little nugget from my son today: Apparently one of the things he likes about his class is that he gets to teach other kids in small groups! Maybe it's normal. Maybe I need to draw up an invoice . Must research this. But at least he's not bored when he's helping the others.

@Yurtgirl: I left school at 16 but eventually did an MBA (as a "returning" student), ran a few businesses, did a bit of consultancy and now advise and talk on the valuation of intangible assets like websites. Don't ask! But it pays well. If your DS wants a mentor on creative things to do with fire and forks - I've got expertise.

I'm off to bed now but any other tips for the meeting are most welcome.

DadAtLarge Sat 23-May-09 23:27:23

snorkle, thanks for your very useful post. That paper from the Mathematical Association was an interesting read. It gave me some ideas not least one about extending what they call "atomic problems" to "molecular ones". It's a shame their annual Primary Maths Challenge competition is only open to yr 5 and 6. No, they won't have him. And they're going to come up with a "Proposal" by Sept 2003?! They don't have their numbers wrong surely? What's really annoying is to see on what scale the establishment is screwing up.

I'll ask the school about competitions etc., but at this meeting I want to keep the focus on the classroom provision. DS is going to love the murderous maths books. I've ordered the set - they sound brilliant. We've already tried making Kjartan Poskitt's daft "triflexagon" and other stuff from his website - priceless! I'm encouraged that your DS didn't turn out to be an arch criminal as a result of being so bored in class

FluffyBunnyGoneBad, can't you ask for your DS to get KS3 work?

To answer cornsilk's question that I missed from earlier: we're near London.

suwoo, I believe every school has to have a G&T register.

I think that covers it. 'night everyone.

bronze Sun 24-May-09 23:38:13

I'm afraid I'm no use but wanted to say thanks as all the links have been useful to me.

Earlybird Mon 25-May-09 02:49:26

My personal experience is that schools actually do very little to help gifted children.

There are learning specialists on staff at dd's school, who in theory are there to supplement the classroom lessons by helping children who need 'more', but in reality they are exclusively focused on helping children with dyslexia, ADHD, ADD, etc. and do not address the needs of students who are gifted.

DD is not (and has not been) academically challenged in class. After unfruitful meetings with teachers, heads of school, etc, (where I could see eyes glazing over, lip service being paid, and even glimpsed how I could be perceived as a 'problem parent' if I persisted), I have reached the conclusion that it is up to me as her parent to address her individual needs.

I have come to think of it this way: a child with precocious talent in sport or music (or anything else) is not well served by the school music teacher or athletics coach, and we wouldn't demand that those teachers differentiate for a child with exceptional talent in those areas so their 'potential' is fulfilled. That child would, in all probability, receive additional lessons (arranged and paid for by the parents) outside the school to develop their skills beyond the scope of what school staff can provide. I now think that is probably what realistically needs to happen for the academic child who needs/wants more than the basics too.

In an ideal world it would be different, but obviously we aren't living in an ideal world. Let me know if you make any headway though, as perhaps I can learn from your experience (or from anyone else who has been successful in engineering a different outcome).

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