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come help me make this letter better. Please!

(32 Posts)
anice Fri 23-Nov-12 10:57:00

I have posted before about my concerns regarding DS not being set challenging maths work at school. The teacher told me (very nicely) to my face that she didn't have the time to teach him the next level, even though he is very ready for it. She said her focus had to be on bringing on the least able.

So I asked to see the HT, who finally saw me after three requests for an appointment. The HT was very nice about it and made lots of promises about how she would go into the class and observe a maths lesson to see for herself what is going on. Also she was going to give me copies of some workbooks that I could do with DS at home. However, she hasn't (despite a reminder).

Meantime although DS still likes maths, and even though he got star of the day for maths last week, he's losing hope that the work he gets will ever stop being so easy that he can do it in a minute or two without having to think at all. I'm not exaggerating... one day last week he had time to read a whole novel during the maths lesson.

So i was wondering if the school would allow DS to do an online maths program once he's finished whatever the teacher has given him.

I've drafted the letter below but I really want the school to sit up and take notice. No more empty promises or failure to respond until I've reminded and reminded.

If you have any time, would you please tell me what to do with the draft to make it a good letter???

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 10:58:22

Dear Mrs (teacher) and Mrs (Head)

Mathematics for DS2

Further to my meetings individually with each of you, I am writing to you both about my continuing concerns regarding DS2’s maths. I do understand and empathise with the difficulties faced in providing appropriately differentiated work if, as appears to be the case with the current year 4 class, there are a wide range of abilities and attainment.

However, the result is that DS is not progressing in maths at all; he’s enthusiasm for learning is diminishing badly, his pride in doing a good job is much reduced and he seems to have completely lost any expectation that he will be given challenging work to do. DS tells me that when he has finished whatever work is set for him in class, he reads a book for the rest of the lesson. It does seem to me that this is a waste of his talent and whatever is left of his enthusiasm for the subject.

As far as I know, he is currently assessed as a 3A. However this week I did the 2012 KS2 L3-5 SATS test with him, applying all test conditions and using the official marking scheme and he scored 75% which puts him on the border between a 4A and a 5C. In many of the questions, he correctly worked the answers out using common sense combined with the arithmetic he has been taught because he hasn’t been shown the more sophisticated techniques.
Although DS has been in year 4 for only two months, this story started two years ago when his year 2 teacher decided that he’d have to spend the year revising things he had already mastered and tutoring the other children because giving him year 3 work was out of the question. Mrs (year 3 teacher) will hopefully be able to corroborate my claim that I repeatedly asked for more challenging work for DS for the last two terms of year 3.

I don’t understand why DS cannot be taught maths with some year 5 children if he is beyond the level of the year 4s, but I trust that the school has a good reason for this. However, I’d like to propose a new solution to this problem: I have had a subscription to an online maths program which I think is good, even though I have made little use of it for the last year or so. (I was afraid of the consequences of moving DS even further ahead of his peer group.). Would you be willing to allow DS to log on to this program when he has finished whatever maths is set for him in the class? I will set the work for DS myself and prepare him at home, so that he should not have to ask for help from the school. Of course, I’d be happy to give the log in details to the school so that you can look at what he is doing, whenever you wish. Similarly, I’d be happy to have the school direct Ds to some other exercises on the program as and when you wanted to.

My only aim in proposing this is to solve what I see as a very big problem coming onto the horizon if something isn’t done to change how DS is responding to not being challenged.

Please consider this proposal…blah blah

learnandsay Fri 23-Nov-12 11:03:21

Personally I don't believe in banging my head against a brick wall. If the school doesn't want to teach your child properly you can't force it to do so, no matter how many letters you write. I'd be investing my time in finding suitable resources for my child and I'd leave the school alone. (I'm not a teacher by the way.)

Funnily enough I was on TES reading a thread about teaching the most able children in maths and here's what it said:

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 11:06:59

Thanks learnandsay. The problem is that DS has to go to school from 8:45am - 3:15pm irrespective of whether he does anything between those hours or not. (And in the other subjects he does do something). It means that he has four hours or so a week of mind numbing boredom and now he's reached a point where he doesn't want to do anything more at home....

redskyatnight Fri 23-Nov-12 11:08:04

I think it's a good letter. Of course they might not agree, but at least you have tried.

Incidentally, what reason have they given for being unable to stretch DS? Is this a particularly low achieving school? At DS's (really very average) school about a quarter of the year were assessed at 3B or above at the start of the year 4 (I know this because I read the teacher's sheet upside down at parents' evening blush ). At his assessed level of 3A (I know you think he's actually working at a higher level) is he really the only child that could access higher level maths? Also, at DS's school, they run extra sessions for gifted and/or talented children where they get to look at things like logic problems, maths puzzles etc. I wonder if pushing for the school to run something like that might be more useful (give DS something to look forward to?)

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 11:15:18

The teacher said she could differentiate the work, but not enough to give DS challenging work. Then she said her focus had to be on getting all the children to at least a 3B by the end of the year.

Its not a low-achieving school at all: It is in the top 10% of primary schools in the area according to the league tables... but then the league tables are ranked on how many children get a level 4b by the end of year 6. So you can see how the school achieves this by targeting the least able and getting them up to the minimum standard.

G&T for maths starts in year 5 at this school but I think DS will have completely lost all interest long before then because its fading so fast at the moment.

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 11:17:04

I think I am looking for a way to encourage the school to help. I doubt that either the head nor the teacher would want to think that they are actually doing DS harm rather than just keeping him on hold.

givemeaclue Fri 23-Nov-12 11:33:11

It's a good letter with a lot of constructive suggestions. Hope they respond positively.

diddlediddledumpling Fri 23-Nov-12 11:39:28

Hmm. I'm not sure about your letter, I think it's much too long for a start. I would leave out things like 'school must have a good reason for not teaching ds with p5', since that would involve an overhaul of the timetable for the two year groups: p5 and p4 would always have to do maths at the same time, and if they allow this for one child they'll have to allow it for every child for every subject. Unless I'm wrong and they already do this for other pupils.
In your suggested solution, i also get the impression that you'd like the teacher to use this software too, looking at it to direct your ds on suitable exercises. I really think that's a non-starter.

In ds1's class, each child has a 'busy book' that they use when they've finished their work. I love looking at what ds has done in it, because it allows him to use his imagination. If you don't like that idea, could you provide some kind of workbook or puzzle book that would challenge him and really get his brain working? Working on his own initiative is a good thing for him to learn too, particularly if he's losing his enthusiasm. And I don't think it would be out of the question for the teacher to have a look at what he's doing occasionally and big him up for his talent (although obviously you can't ask her to big him up!) I just think, as learnandsay said, the teacher is just not willing or able to teach your ds more advanced maths.
I hope I'm not being harsh.

cumbrialass Fri 23-Nov-12 11:44:19

Sorry, but it's shameful that a teacher should say they are unable to provide work at an appropriate level, and I say that as a teacher with a class who range in maths from level 2c to 6b. My higher ability children either work on extensions of the work the rest of the class have been doing-so this week they have been multiplying and dividing fractions whilst many are finding equivalent fractions and some are drawing pizzas!- or on topics that are not explicitly covered at a lower level but lead on from one -so they were working on algebra whilst the less able children were working on missing number sentences. The teacher should be ashamed of herself!
( By the way, your letter is excellent and if this is the best solution you can get, good for you)

Floralnomad Fri 23-Nov-12 11:45:12

Could you not send in some maths work books for him to do in the lessons when he's finished the set work? If I remember rightly you have already changed schools but TBH do you to think it may be worth looking again ?

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 11:46:47

The teacher bigs him up from time to time. He gets any number of awards etc. The problem is that they used to really mean something to DS, but now they don't. In his words "I used to feel proud and want to show off when I'd done well in maths, but now I don't. Its easy for me like someone saying well done for getting 1+1 right". He's eight and that exactly what he said.

I do feel that i am banging my head against a brick wall, but I feel that I am letting DS if I do nothing. Plus I am storing up a big problem for both of us when he finally gets to the stage that he can't work things out by intuition alone because he'll have got completely lazy by then (its already starting).

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 11:52:34

I really don't think we can change schools again. It was a nightmare getting into this school so I know what its like out there and I strongly doubt that I'd be able to get Ds into a better school unless we went private, which we can't afford.

i did think about hiring a tutor though although they all seem to advertise themselves for entrance exams or catching up, neither of which apply to here.

I have tried to start teaching DS at home but I've only managed it a few times because he is so resistant to it and therefore not in the right frame of mind to learn. I need the schools authority, like when he has homework.

Maybe the answer is just try harder at home??

diddlediddledumpling Fri 23-Nov-12 11:53:43

Well this looks like a different problem. Do you think your ds liked doing well in maths because of the attention it got him, not because doing well is good in and of itself?
Look up performance goals vs mastery goals. If pupils hold mastery goals, they're more likely to stick at something when it gets hard. If they hold performance goals, doing well in comparison to others is what matters most to them, and their sense of self is tied up with this.

diddlediddledumpling Fri 23-Nov-12 11:57:49

I've read what he said again and maybe I'm jumping to conclusions. Will have a think.

plainjayne123 Fri 23-Nov-12 12:15:23

speak to the governors, chair of governors, teacher should be challenging all children

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 12:16:00

He definitely used to enjoy maths for its own sake. I didn't hot house him at all. When his year 1 teacher told me he was good at it, it was news to me. Since then, I've shown him things intermittently but he has constantly surprised me with things he has worked out by himself, definitely not things he saw at school.

There is some competitiveness with his older brother though. He keeps grabbing Ds1's maths homework to test himself and hopefully prove that he can do something that DS1 may get stuck on. It infuriates DS1 (who is in G&T for maths himself).

lakeofshiningwaters Fri 23-Nov-12 12:18:40

There are some good ideas for tweaking the letter above, but I would like to suggest copying it to the Chair of Governors as well. If you don't get a good response, send again copying it to OFSTED and the Local Authority.

As other teacher's have said, it is ridiculous for the teacher to say she can't stretch your ds - that's her job! Every teacher has a wide range of abilities in their class and should be able to differentiate for every child's needs. Of course, not every day will be perfect but if the head & OFSTED would take a dim view of a child not being challenged.

Let us know if you get a response.

sparkle12mar08 Fri 23-Nov-12 13:23:33

Any mileage in getting a tutor and taking him out for the maths lessons? Talk to a number of tutors, explain your specific circumstances and ask whether they can provide what he needs. You won't know unless you ask.

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 14:40:46

sparkle12mar08 - do you mean find a tutor to go into the school to teach DS?

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Fri 23-Nov-12 16:11:16

Slightly off track, bu there is a boy in my DS's school who has always been great at maths and since Y2 he has had his maths lessons with the year above. Obviously this would only work if the whole school did maths at the same time (after morning break at my DS's school) and I do wonder what on earth he'll do in Y6, but it's a possibility...

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 16:44:43

EllenJane.. unfortunately, that was the first thing I suggested and it was turned down flat. Although I wasn't given a reason, I got the impression that it was unfair to pass the Y4 teacher's work on to the Y5 teacher. I could well be wrong in that, it was just what i remember thinking would be the reason when the HT said no before she'd had a chance to even vaguely consider it.

sparkle12mar08 Fri 23-Nov-12 16:47:52

Not to go into school no, but wondering if it's feasible for you to pick ds up from school at the time of his normal maths lesson and then get the tutor to do work with him during that time either at your house or theirs, or perhaps a local library or something. I'm trying to think of ways to keep it during the school day so it doesn't impinge too much on family time, butalso means that ds doesn't have to sit through stagnant maths stuff in school and still gets stretched.

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 17:03:40

When we met, the HT said she'd go into the class to observe a maths lesson. That happened yesterday, Ds has just told me. (Except the teacher wasn't there and the head actually gave the lesson...??). Anyway, the HT did go and look at what DS was doing and asked him how easy it was. Then she offered DS something more challenging to do, which kept him happy for a few minutes until he worked out how to do that type of problem and wanted another challenge.

Actually I can see the teacher's problem: It would be hard to keep DS supplied with work.

Maybe this means that the HT is actually going to try to do something for DS, after all?

Quip Fri 23-Nov-12 17:24:16

I sympathize with your situation, op, but from the point of view of developing your son's mathematical skills, I recommend sending him in with a folder containing work for him, broadening his maths education rather than simply letting him step through the nc a bit faster. There is some really excellent material on the nrich website, and plenty of textbooks available for stretching g and t kids. The school may not be able to come up with excuses to stop you doing this, whereas it may have legitimate objections to paying for expensive software.

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