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Should I just be grateful?

(19 Posts)
anice Tue 23-Oct-12 10:26:05

DS is in year 4. He's very good at maths and weak at English. I've spoken to the teacher and she's making plans to help him catch up with his writing, for which I am very grateful. However, she's not really planning to move him on in maths at all this year because she's focusing on getting every child up to a certain threshold that DS has already passed. (DS is very able when it comes to maths and he picks things up faster than the others.)

The thing is the same thing happened to him in second year and he spent the second half of last year basically treading water whilst waiting. So between the start of year 1 and the end of year 4, he will have spent 1 1/2 years learning and 2 1/2 years revising what he has already mastered.

The teacher accepts that its not good but she won't agree with me that he's going to be bored. She says she will give him challenging work within his current sublevel (and then she went on to name things that aren't new and he can already do). She says she does differentiate the work but she can't differentiate it enough to teach DS what he is ready to learn next.

I asked about G&T but the school doesn't make a G&T provision for maths until year 5.

WWYD? Just be grateful that the weakness in writing is going to be addressed? I know its not good, but is it actually bad?

anice Tue 23-Oct-12 10:29:56

(Actually she said the next thing would be to teach him things like converting fractions into decimals. So I casually asked DS this morning if he knew anything about this already. He immediately started saying things like 1/3rd = 0.3333 = 33.33333%). I am not sure where he got this from... maybe he saw his older brother do it or something.
The point I am trying to make though is that she wouldn't really have to teach this to him, just give him examples and let him practice it.

kw13 Tue 23-Oct-12 13:38:01

I think that I agree with you - it isn't great. In fact, it's a bit poor. I suppose there is some argument that you could pick up some of this with him (assuming that you had the skills/knowledge/inclination), but I do think that the school should be doing more. It's good that the school are keen to improve his weaker areas, but just as important are to stretch the areas where he is clearly exceeding expectations. There is room for discussion around whether or not he really could manage higher levels or whether harder sub-level work would be enough (as it's sometimes difficult to work out yourself where your child is against others). There should be some sort of strategy from the school to help with this - hard to believe that he is the only one (if they don't do G&T provision until Year 5). Sad to see that G&T provision isn't provided until year 5 - is that standard? I suppose I would go back to the teacher and maybe ask to speak to the head of year/Key stage as well, and maybe even the head. Good luck with whatever happens - and congratulations to your DS!

anice Tue 23-Oct-12 14:45:37

thanks kw13.

I have a degree in maths so I could do it at home with him although he is loathe to do more than just his homework because he has worked out that extra stuff eats into the time he has for fun stuff etc. he used to think of maths as fun, but he has lost that over the last couple of years unfortunately. Now it has the status of "if I have to do work, then I'd rather it was maths!".

I know he is way ahead of his class because he tells me, the other children tell me, the headteachers awards tell me and the teacher has also said it explicitly.

It is strange that there is no G&T provision before year 5, isn't it? I've only the teacher's word for that but I have no reason to suppose she isn't telling the truth.

I have a really good relationship with this teacher at the moment. its open and constructive and I don't want to undermine her. But I think I am at the end of the road with her about this because we have spoken twice and she is standing firm.
I could speak to the head, but I'll only do it if I thought it would make a difference. Otherwise it will do more harm than good because right now the teacher is on side.

Don't suppose you have a crystal ball?

Wellthen Tue 23-Oct-12 14:46:37

She is doing herself and the school no favours. I'm not sure what threshold she is talking about but ofsted expect progress every year. They will not say 'that child is a L4 so he's fine' they will ask why he has been this level for the last 2 years and not moved on.

We're currently aiming at 2 sublevels a year as this would be above average progress which is what ofsted want. (I think, mrz usually corrects me on these things!)

I only hope for the teacher's sake that you have misunderstood her. If not I would go back and say 'I want to know how you are ensuring my son's progression and 'he's fine' is not an answer'

anice Tue 23-Oct-12 15:05:50

We are talking moving off 3A and onto 4C.

Her exact words were "There is a lot of teaching to move him up to the next level. I'd have to teach him about decimals and fractions and how the two relate to each other, for example. I know he has been a level 3A since the Spring term but I must focus on the children who need to reach level 3B by next Summer."

Then I said that I appreciated that she has a lot of other children to consider and that the teaching can't be all about him, but thinking about DS for a minute, its not good for him to be revising work that he has already done, inclding all the extension work associated with level 3A."

Then the teacher replied "It won't be like that. I will give him word problems so that he will have to work out whether to use +, -, * or /." At that I gave up because we both know he has done masses of this stuff and it doesn't challenge him at all.

midseasonsale Tue 23-Oct-12 18:32:27

that's unacceptable, insist they differentiate and set appropriate work. A bright genius boy at our school did all his above level stuff on the computer on some special programme.

Wellthen Tue 23-Oct-12 18:59:25

I'm shocked she said this to you, thats terribly unproffesional. Yes we teachers may feel the need prioritise but not to the point we would actually make it explicit! To say that they are more important because of targets is really not on. The progress of all children is important. He teacher or TA time should be split across the class, thats basic good practice.

I would speak to the head. Not necessarily to complain but basically say that because the teacher is under pressure to get her 3Bs she is not focusing on all the children.

anice Tue 23-Oct-12 21:27:31

To be honest, I am glad that she said it, if its what she privately meant. Its easier to know where you stand.

I am seriously considering booking a meeting with the head though to see if there is a solution. Maybe DS could sit in the year 5 classroom for maths (assuming they do maths at the same time)?

Ughfootballseason Tue 23-Oct-12 21:46:33

3a is well within the normal range for a y4 child. (Slightly) Above average, yes, but definitely not genuinely G&T.

If the teacher is not differentiating enough to get to 4C level work, she is being outrageously lazy. It's really not that hard! I differentiate work for my more able group starting at 4c.

Btw are you sure he's only a 3a? If the school are being a bit lazy about it, they might have assessed him at the maximum of their target for him, if that makes sense?

SE13Mummy Tue 23-Oct-12 23:07:01

The G&T comment is strange, not least because it doesn't need to be a G&T issue - your DS, and others in the class who are already performing above the end of year expectation need to be properly planned for via differentiation. Word problems are great and can be a useful way of getting children to think about the operations they need to use but they aren't everything. There's no way a child should be left to fester for a year or two!

FWIW, I've had children in my own Y4 classes in the past who've been 4a level mathematicians at the start of the year. They've not been left to twiddle their thumbs for the year - they've had differentiated work, lots of exploration tasks, some of them longer-term, been given higher level work that relates to the learning that others in class are doing e.g. whilst most of the class are trying to accurately draw reflected shapes they might rotate through an awkward number of degrees and reflect simultaneously. Or perhaps have a go at drawing reflected 3D shapes. There's lots of investigating to do with 'rules' and conventions, solving logic problems, algebra etc. etc. that can put the Y4 maths concepts to good use but stretch children to think about why, what if... etc. etc.

As you've already spoken to the teacher I'd definitely contact the Head or the maths co-ordinator to ask for some reassurance re: your son's progress. If nothing else, perhaps one of them will be able to point his teacher in the direction of some resources that will do some of the differentiation for her! Alternatively, speak to the SENCo to find out if there is any concern about our DS's Literacy skills holding back his maths - is it just a writing issue or are there concerns about his comprehension of things?

Pourquoimoi Tue 23-Oct-12 23:20:28

I'd agree, it is a good level but not outstanding and also that he should be pushed further. DS2 is in yr4 and in the top group that is working at 4b level. We find that some work is repeated as he essentially did y4 maths last year (in a yr3/yr4 class but only 3 x yr3s in it for maths.)

Each child should have individual targets though and the average would be 1.5 sub levels a year in KS2, often schools set the targets at two sub levels to make them challenging.

If after speaking to the teacher you are really not convinced, I'd talk to the head and confirm what his target is for the end of yr4 and how the teacher is going to achieve it.

anice Wed 24-Oct-12 09:32:51

It is a good (Ofsted) school....!

3a isn't high compared with what the brightest children will be achieving across the rest of the country, but its the highest level work their Y3 teacher would set. She was a NQT, so I think its understandable that she couldn't move on to teacher level 4. So, DS was getting maths work to do, answering everything 100% correctly in super-fast time but she wouldn't/ couldn't teach him the next level stuff. He can't show competency in level 4 work until the school sets him some L4 work, and they haven't (and don't intend to, it seems).

It started to get frustrating around Easter because by then DS had been going back over old ground for about a term, but with only weeks left to end of the year and knowing the teacher's level of experience I left it at a few notes in the homework book asking for more demanding work for DS.

I thought it would be ok when we got to Y4 as the teacher is more experienced. The parents all say to each other "she will knock them into shape". However, I am now realising that what they mean is she will work on the children's weak subjects.

I wouldn't know how to assess DS against the NC levels, but maybe someone could tell me from this example? :-
Last year, the whole class had to do times tables. DS already knew his but he had to demonstrate it one table at a time, week by week. He got full marks each week. Finally, when he finished and the teacher had a record to show that he genuinely knew them, she gave him 13x, then 14x and so on. DS memorised the 13x, but when he got to the 14x, he got bored. So, instead he just partitioned the problem into 4x + 10x. Then he repeated this process until he got to the week with 16x and he realised that the easiest method was was double 8x. No one told him this, he just worked it out by himself. God knows when the school will get around to teaching it.

BTW the target for this year is for the class (including DS) to know their times tables.

lljkk Wed 24-Oct-12 11:08:49

Success at maths will encourage him to have more confidence in tackling his weak subject (English). She's going about it wrong way.

No idea what you do, I think I'd be tempted to become hopping mad about it.

throckenholt Wed 24-Oct-12 12:41:22

If he is not good with English then giving him word problems is not going to help him in maths - it will frustrate him no end. Maybe you could help working with word problems at home - that might stimulate him in maths and also help his English.

It sounds like he is in danger of having the love of learning knocked out of him.

It is wrong that she is saying she won't push him because he is already ahead and she needs to get the others up to standard. There is an obligation to teach them all at their level. That is what differentiation is all about.

If she can't do that, then I think your next step must be to talk to the head, and express concern that the teacher does not appear to have the resources to differentiate appropriately.

educatingarti Wed 24-Oct-12 13:29:47

If you wanted to find out exactly where he was level-wise you could try him on the year 4 optional SATs tests which are www.st-josephs-pickering.n-yorks.sch.uk/optional_sats_past_papers.htm
You'd need him to do Paper B (higher level paper that goes up to 4a) plus the mental maths, then you could work it out from the level threshold tables. This might give you a reputation for being a pushy mum if you let the school know you've done it ( you don't have to!) but it would give you an idea of how far above 4c he is and so how hard to push things with the HT

anice Wed 24-Oct-12 14:44:31

thanks everyone for his advice. It sounds like I really do need to go speak with the head. I owe it to DS.

@throckenholt "It sounds like he is in danger of having the love of learning knocked out of him." Exactly!

Ughfootballseason Wed 24-Oct-12 14:44:58

Also google app grids which give you more of a 'working' assessment, although beware that children have to hit each 'target' more than once and in different scenarios to be considered at that level. For example, just because a child can use coordinates staright after a lesson on them, does not mean he is competent at them.

I would be kicking up a huge fuss if this were my child btw.

Ughfootballseason Wed 24-Oct-12 14:47:18

*be aware!

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