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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???

onesandwichshort Mon 26-Nov-12 13:48:13

Show it to the school. Definitely. Although what you could also ask in your letter is for the school to assess his mathematical level themselves, as they can't argue with that.

We have a similar problem with English, so I feel your pain, although in our case the school promises loads then fails to deliver.

Firstly, definitely send the letter. Our school suddenly got a rocket up the arse when we put something in writing. I imagine this is down to Fear of OFSTED, but it did work.

I wouldn't copy it to the Governors yet, but keep that option for when you get a weasel letter from the Head. And when you do, find out who the Curriculum governor is, and make sure it goes to them.

What's also worth doing is finding out who your County-wide head of G&T is, and contacting them to see what they would recommend under the circumstances. This may or may not work, but is worth a go. There should also be county-wide maths enrichment courses which the school could put him forward for - wouldn't solve the classroom problem, but could help him to enjoy maths again.

Also contact the NAGC (now called something like Potential Plus). They have advisors who will do a phone consultation, which I think might be useful for you as you keep coming up against the same problem, which suggests that he is very able indeed. This might help you to find other suggestions - some schools in these circumstances would approach the secondary school to help with appropriate work.

Final suggestion - do something entirely other than maths in the time. Can the school manage that? DD is getting 3 x ICT lessons instead of some of the literacy sessions. If he is speeding ahead at that level, perhaps a wholly different challenge is the answer Robotics? project work? We saw one school when we were choosing, who said that they'd had a very able mathematician (working at year 7 level in year 4) so they set her topic related work - e.g. researching the number systems of the Egyptians when they did Egypt.

anice Mon 26-Nov-12 12:07:24

and what do I do with that SATS test I did on DS? Bin it or show it to the school??

anice Mon 26-Nov-12 12:05:48

Its the 2nd time in 4 years that this has happened to DS. We changed school as a result the first time, so its two different schools where it has happened to him.

I have two friends who are teachers and they both say it wouldn't happen in their classroom. The teachers on this thread say they wouldn't do it and other parents on this thread say it doesn't happen to their children. But it has happened 2 out of 4 times to DS. So, has he just been unlucky, or is it really a widespread problem??

cmjeffers Sun 25-Nov-12 18:25:05

As a teacher I find it baffling that that was her response. Our job is to make sure all children make progress and are challenged and quite franky there is always a step up, our most able year 6 were tackling GCSE trigonometry last year because it isn't about 'where they should be', or 'not eating into next year's work too much. It's this bizarre notion that you should only get children to the expected level then not worry. Push them as far as you can. It's my constant fear that I'm letting down my most able by not extending their learning which is why I am currently finding line graphs for them to interpret tomorrow whilst the majority are using bar charts. Sorry I know this isn't that helpful in actually resolving your problem I'm just stunned that a teacher would have such a terrible attitude!

juniper904 Fri 23-Nov-12 19:02:36

I think it's appalling that the teacher has said she won't stretch him. Would she say she's giving up on the lower ability children too, because they're unlikely to get a 4b by the end of year 6? I doubt it.

I'm not sure about the computer suggestion- it could be very difficult in a classroom setting. 1) other children would complain 2) other children would become distracted 3) your DS would become the odd one out 4) your DS might start messing around and going on other things, and then the teacher would have to monitor.

I think I'd insist on him being taught, by a qualified teacher, at the level he is. What is the school's assessment system? Do they do end of year QCA tests or APP? How have they come to the conclusion he is a 3a?

I would recommend finding out their assessment method, then downloading your own version of it. APP is very easy to find online. Here for example.

I'm not usually one to say push things with schools, but I certainly would. The school is failing your son and their attitude is shocking.

albachiara Fri 23-Nov-12 18:56:28

I agree with Quip.

If you don't mind and you have the time (and the teacher agrees), you could find resources/activities for your son to do while at school. The Nrich website is great, have a look at some resources here (, for ex. the "Challenge Your Pupils" book).

I had a similar problem with my daughter, in a smaller scale. The teacher suggested doing more Maths at home. However, after 6 hours in school, homework, practising her musical instrument, she didn't want to do more Maths with her mum. So I kind of gave up, didn't raise this with the teacher anymore, but every now and then we do a few little bits at home (and DD likes to "show off" this new bits of knowledge/Maths tricks in class - in a nice/modest way).

Another option would be, as you said, to find a tutor. I know a Sixth-form college teacher who "tutored" a 7 year old who would have been able to sit GCSE Maths, but his parents decided to hire a tutor to do fun/interesting Maths things with him instead, so they did stuff like "what is the probably that we share the same birthday" kind of thing. This teacher is fantastic, and loves Maths, so if you could find somebody like that it would be great (maybe you could ask your local college/secondary school?).

Also, don't assume that the teacher/HT in your DS's primary school would actually be able to challenge him in Maths - how much Maths do they know (and I am not talking about long division, but about interesting Maths!). Oh, I also remembered, look up "Marcus du Sautoy" 's books (if your DS is a good reader) and videos/DVDs. That is interesting Maths!

Good luck!

anice Fri 23-Nov-12 18:02:28

I looked at nrich today and it does seem good. I agree about not needing to race from NC levels. For me, maths is more about learning techniques for solving problems. (A bit like doing suduko or crosswords for fun).

I have already paid for the program though so it wouldn't cost the school anything, unless it pays per MB for broadband access.

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.

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?

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 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.

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 14:40:46

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

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.

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.

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).

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

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

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.

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.

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??

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).

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 ?

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)

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.

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

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

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