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I have no control over what's happening at school and it bothers me

(25 Posts)
PrettyBelle Tue 18-Oct-11 10:41:29

MY DS is in Year 4 at a school which prides itself for being innovative and child-centered. It has consistently great KS2 results - over 90% in level 4, between 50-60% in level 5 and outstanding OFSTED. My child is very happy there.

Now I have been reading this forum and I discover that in terms of studies he is not doing a lot from what children in other schools are doing at school or after school in his year group. He doesn't have a school diary, doesn't get any homework (the school provides some links to math resources but it is not compulsory), isn't given a book that he has to read daily. I tried giving him a comprehension exercise and he has no idea what it is.

I don't know what's going on. Is there any teaching there at all? I feel like I have either to cover the whole curriculum at home with him or hire tutors for all school subjects for him just for the sake of knowing how well my son is doing. Is it a good enough reason to move him to a different school?

Any thoughts?

Iamnotminterested Tue 18-Oct-11 10:55:47

confused There clearly is teaching or the school would not be getting such good SAT's results.

Your post contradicts itself; do you mean that you do provide a tutor for him or think you would have to to know what is covered in the National Curriculum?

PrettyBelle Tue 18-Oct-11 11:03:20

I am not providing a tutor for him as yet but I am feeling helpless.

The good results may be down to tutors which parents have to hire once they discover that their children are behind. Some students go on to private schools afterwards and maybe the extra preparation they do affects the results overall.

Or maybe some kids get more attention than others. I have no idea what's going on, that's the problem. What I know is that my son's level has slipped down a lot since he was in Year 2 (it was a different school) but the school doesn't seem to be bothered.

I would be able to help him by doing homework with him but I don't even know what they are studying all day. At P&T meetings last year I asked for homework for him for those reasons and was refused (it is not the school policy).

AMumInScotland Tue 18-Oct-11 11:05:16

If they get good results, then presumably whatever they are doing is working. Homework is often pointless and only given out because parents think it ought to be, rather than to any particular benefit.

Why not go in and talk to the teacher? Hopefully she will be able to explain what they are currently doing, how his achievement levels match up to expectations etc.

Kewcumber Tue 18-Oct-11 11:10:23

why not talk to some of the other paretns - find out if they are all hiring tutors (seems unlikely to me) if not then good SATs are due to good teaching and you can relax again.

A few pupils being tutored is not responsible for 90% being at level 4.

And isn't this what parent eveings are for - to find out what/how they are doing confused

You sound a little... umm.... over anxious talking about moving schools based on what you've read on MN!

redskyatnight Tue 18-Oct-11 11:10:51

Homework is a PITA, so I would regard none as a plus point grin . Plus DS hates homework so much that he produces any old thing just to get it done, so I dont' think it is any reflection of what he is capable of (in fact I know it's not because e.g. the writing he produces at home is a lot worse than what he does at school).

The SATS results are excellent which suggests good teaching, however are you worried that they are achieved by parents hiring private tutors?

I'd ask at parents' evening to see how he is doing and how this compares to national expectations.

PrettyBelle Tue 18-Oct-11 11:13:18

I will ask that, thank you. But I didn't find the meetings last year too helpful. His teacher would always say that he was a very lovely boy and a pleasure to teach. But then the end of year report highlighted quite a few areas of weakness to which I was not prepared.

As I said, maybe the school is fine for other children for whatever reason but I see that mine has not progressed. He was alsways in top set in Maths, now he is in the middle one. I am not sure about English.

My question is how can I make it work for my child? Move him to another school? I tried compating the activities week-to-week with another local school and that other one seems to be doing some specific curriculum things, actually teaching the stuff he is expected to know. His current school seems to be all about having fun according to communication is sends to parents. It puzzles me how they achieve good results - I know my son isn't achieving them.

Kewcumber Tue 18-Oct-11 11:14:41

I didn't get homework at primary school and went to a school that got 50% of pupils into grammar school [old gimmer emoticon]

Ghoulwithadragontattoo Tue 18-Oct-11 11:20:03

Personally I think homework at primary school age is a waste of time (except for reading together in the evening but that doesn't have to be a school book). I never had any homework until I was at least year 5 and I still did v well at school. Discuss the fact that your son's level has dropped with the teacher by all means but it sounds like a good school that's doing well for the children.

PrettyBelle Tue 18-Oct-11 11:24:12

Kewcumber, you were obviously bright enough to be at a high level without any homework. For me, not having homework at 9 years old is strange and I see that for my son this approach is not working.

They let the kids choose their own reading books and he always picks one topic which means that he has no idea of literature or children's authors. He is struggling with the first book of comprehension tasks for KS2 which I bought at WHSmith (the level he should have been doing in Year 3, not Year 4). He has fallen behind in Maths.

I am sure he will not get into a grammar school is he carries on like that. Hence my question - what can I do?

stealthsquiggle Tue 18-Oct-11 11:27:13

"It puzzles me how they achieve good results - I know my son isn't achieving them"

Do you? Really? Your OP says you don't know how he is doing confused

I really wouldn't judge too much based on what people on MN say their DC are doing. My DS is a year ahead of his chronological year group, at an independent school which seems to consistently get DC into academically demanding schools (so I assume is not miles off the mark) and yet he is not doing half of what some MNers say their DC are doing at the same age hmm. If your DS is learning without seeing it as hard slog, and learning because it is fun to do so, then that is fabulous - don't leap in just because he isn't doing the formal exercises in the same format as other schools.

Not entirely random example - when my DS sat an entrance exam for another school, his lovely teacher warned me that he would not recognise a verbal reasoning test if it jumped up and bit him, because they don't do them - I got him a book, spend a couple of hours practising, and he sailed through.

PrettyBelle Tue 18-Oct-11 11:27:59

My fear is that he has somehow set a level for himself at school as an average boy. I am sure he will do level 4 at SATS and maybe that's all they expect from him so don't see any problem? We are not an English family, I might add. If anything, sure that should mean more work him, not less, including more effort from the teacher?

PrettyBelle Tue 18-Oct-11 11:32:50

"Do you? Really? Your OP says you don't know how he is doing"

My OP said that I feel like I have either to cover the whole curriculum at home with him or hire tutors for all school subjects for him just for the sake of knowing how well my son is doing.

I know how many points he will get if I get him to do a page in Mental Maths at home, which I will have chosen for him randomly. But I will have chosen that page absolutely at random because I don't know what areas they are currently covering at school and how well he is doing on them (which would enable me to help him if he needs help).

Notquitegrownup Tue 18-Oct-11 11:33:38

My ds1 is a high achiever and his primary school sounds like your ds's. He had very little homework and very little home preparation for SATs - it was all done in class. He underachieved in some areas of his work - it was a lot more sloppy than it needed to be - and we were concerned that his work went down in standard particularly during Y6, when he really didn't get on with the teacher. However, he enjoyed a good range of activities both in school and in extra curricular terms, did well in his SATs and is excelling at secondary school - a comprehensive with a good reputation. He has good memories of primary school and a fairly positive attitude towards learning, which he still enjoys.

Some of his friends went to a local primary which gave a lot of homework, did all of the things you are asking about, and their children are on the whole doing no better at secondary. DS is surprised, in fact, at how many of them have very sad memories of junior school, and of being crammed for exams, and how this has rather skewed their view of education.

A child centred school may well be one which boosts confidence, and enables children to be happy, not be one which over emphasises exam practice. Having said that, ds is considering applying for a scholarship at a local private school next year, as he would undoubtedly enjoy being in an environment which challenged him in different ways. We would look for tutoring to prepare him for the entrance exams, as they require specific skills, rather than general aptitude, but it would only be short term preparation.

(Re reading - his Y6 teacher insisted on the students reading for 45 minutes a night, and set them quite challenging texts. DS loves reading and has always read for 20 minutes or so at bedtime. However, having to do it for her became quite demotivating - much better IMO to curl up with a good book because you enjoy reading, than having to sit down and do it every night because you have been told to/have to write a report on it.)

stealthsquiggle Tue 18-Oct-11 11:40:59

"He has good memories of primary school and a fairly positive attitude towards learning, which he still enjoys." - yes, notquitegrownup - that's it.

That's what primary school is all about. OP, if your DS's primary school is giving him that then I would choose it over any homework-and-comprehension-test centred school any day.

Kewcumber Tue 18-Oct-11 11:43:58

no-one in my school had homework - it wasn;t because I was overly bright (this was in the very olden days when grammar schools were very common in Wales).

Children choose their own reading books at DS's school, isn't that the norm? The point with reading books is to encourage them to read, anything.

I have no idea how DS is doing until it comes to paretns evening but assumed that too was the norm. If you have concerns surely the first point is to arragne a meeting with the teacher and tell her what you've said here - tlak of emplying tutors and moving schools (when it appears he has already moved once) seems a bit dramatic and premature.

I don;t entirely understand why you haven;t arranged to see the teacher - they will have more time to talk when its not a paretns evening.

Bramshott Tue 18-Oct-11 11:45:44

If you want to understand more about what he's covering in school, and the methods being used by his teachers, why don't you make an appointment with his teacher and ask exactly that?

rabbitstew Tue 18-Oct-11 11:58:29

I agree with the others that whether or not your child gets homework is not the real issue and that your trying to test your ds's knowledge from a blind starting point by getting him to do random bought papers from Smiths is not going to tell you anything useful. HOWEVER, I sympathise with you that if you are surprised by the contents of his end of year report each year, then they are clearly not giving you proper feedback and ought to try harder to work in proper partnership with you. At the end of the day, you are entitled not to give a t*ss about the school's overall results, if the individual progress of your own child is not outstanding - and it is progress that is important, not final results. An outstanding school ought to be able to demonstrate to you that your child's progress is, at the very least, very good, and not hide behind other children's statistics.

I would ask to speak to his class teacher and explain that you feel left totally in the dark about your child's progress and what he is doing each day at school and that you would like to feel more involved in his education, rather than confused and at a loss to understand how and what he is being taught. I don't think it at all unreasonable to expect a bit more transparency from the school. A truly outstanding school should have the parents on board and supportive of its aims and ethos and clearly it hasn't done that for you, so could do better.

PrettyBelle Tue 18-Oct-11 12:50:31

Thank you very much for everyone's responses. rabbitstew, after your post I am feeling more confident that it is not much to ask to be aware of the child's progress.

On a slightly separate issue. My son's end of year report, in the English section, mentioned something "considering his language level". When asked, the teacher said that because he is bilingual he obviously has language issues.

However, DS was on an IEP for that reason in infant years and I was told by the end of Year 1 that he had caught up completely with the level of his native-speaker class mates. I was confident that I didn't need to worry any more. He was 6 then, now is 9 - and apparently now (or still?) he has language issues which hinder his progress.

Is it a valid ground to try and obtain some SEN support at his school (which is supposed to very good with SEN kids)?

rabbitstew Tue 18-Oct-11 13:43:53

I find the language issue somewhat odd. Being bilingual does not mean you should automatically have a lower language level than your peers. I have had friends who moved to the country when they were 9, not speaking the language, but who passed their 11 plus a year or two later....

You certainly type as though your own level of English is pretty good and you clearly have a desire to support your ds, so there are two reasons why his English shouldn't be holding him back... Do you only speak in your native tongue at home, only read him books in your native language, and take him back to your country of birth every holiday where he only speaks in your native tongue for weeks on end? If not, then the school really ought to have higher expectations and if yes, then they definitely ought to be providing more support for both him and you!!!

Is your ds in a very middle class school with a tiny minority of children who have English as another language? It certainly sounds as though his teacher last year didn't have much of a clue. At the least, they ought to be more open to providing you with information on how to support your child at home if they perceive there to be a language barrier (not to mention putting more effort into it at school). It's not good enough to refer to his "language level" as an excuse for having low expectations of him.

PrettyBelle Tue 18-Oct-11 14:08:14

Thanks for your post, rabbitstew.

We only speak our native language at home and we go on holidays to see grandparents once a year. Apart from that, DS leads a life of a normal English boy: he likes to read and prefers reading in English, he has English friends, plays for a local football club, etc. I know for a fact that he speaks without an accent because he was assessed for his language development by a speech therapist. His reading age is also above his physical age (according to last year's teacher assessment).

I wouldn't know if that's enough for his English to be as good as native (he was born here, FWIW). I guess not speaking English at home is likely to make it harder to him to expand his vocabulary. When he reads books he sometimes finds words that he doesn't recognise (and he consults his Oxford Primary School Dictionary in that case or asks me).

His school is quite middle-class and most children are indeed local.

Thank you very much for being so encouraging.

KTk9 Tue 18-Oct-11 14:14:28

I think you have to go with your 'gut instinct', you obviously feel that something isn't quite right. Your son was achieving well and now seems to have slowed down - which is obviously not as a result of you not giving support and working with him at home. I wish I had gone with my gut instinct a year ago and taken some action then, rather than wait and waste a whole year!

The fact the school does well in Sats. has to be a positive, not all those 90% will have tutors. Having said that I do feel from my experience, that it is easy for schools to let those kids that just meet their targets and poddle along 'averagely' to continue to do so, when in fact with a little more input and support - whether that be by way of some work at home or in class, they would do considerably better.

Make your appointment with the teacher - don't rely on the 10 minute slot you have at parents evening, which is not an easy envionment anyway to talk about your child (usually in a hall with tables adjacent with other teachers), but ask for half an hour when you can go into the class, look at his books, talk to the teacher (make some notes beforehand) and hopefully put your mind at rest. No school can refuse you to meet the teacher at a different time and a lot of parents will do this at some point in their child's schooling.

At least you can then make an 'informed' decision on whether to go for extra help/move your child/keep him where he is and work with the teacher on specific areas.

I love it that my dd gets homework now, it gives structure to the work that I can do with her at home, rather than guess what maths/english/handwriting books to purchase and I feel more in touch with what is going on in her world at school. I also think it is a good disapline to sit and concentrate for 20 minutes or so at home - prepares them so well for Secondary and the homework they will get there, she doesn't object, it is just part of what happens in our normal routine.


stealthsquiggle Tue 18-Oct-11 14:22:43

OP - I wouldn't worry about the school per se - but your later posts would cause me to worry about their expectations of your DS - in general, but in particular as regards language - being bilingual should not lower their expectations of him one iota. Certainly worth asking for a meeting - get a better feel for this year's teacher and their expectations of your DS, and you will have a better basis for making any decisions.

rabbitstew Tue 18-Oct-11 14:27:08

PrettyBelle, the school is really missing a trick not being more helpful to you. You are obviously a committed parent with a child who has the drive and interest to look words up in a dictionary when he is uncertain of them. It really wouldn't take much effort on their part to help you support him in ways that native speakers take for granted, thereby bumping up their impressive statistics still further.

ps I used to love story tapes when I was younger. I was wondering whether getting some story CDs for your ds to listen to, of classic children's stories, expressively and entertainingly read by fantastic story tellers, would help with the home reading, range of literature he is experiencing and vocab????

PrettyBelle Tue 18-Oct-11 15:03:59

Thanks a lot for your ideas and suggestions everyone, you've been very helpful!

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