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ability groups in reception

(57 Posts)
monairethu Fri 17-May-13 10:01:58

i've just had a little off the cuff chat with my ds this morning and have realised that he is in the lower group in reception. i'm no tiger mom but i am not impressed by this - either the streaming in itself or the fact that he is in the lower set (contradictory i know!). i had the impression he was bumping along at an average level which we were absolutely fine with. anyway i need to speak to the teacher about it to get to the bottom of their criteria for splitting them up because it's puzzling - for instance his bf is in the 'top' group but is at the same reading level as my child? so that doesn't make sense if they are attainment groups - or ability groups really! mind boggling!

anyway if anyone has experience of this i'd like to hear please! i hate the idea of my child being pigeonholed at such a young age.

givemeaclue Fri 17-May-13 10:07:03

Your child is not pigeonholed. He is doing some activities for some parts of the day with other children who are a similar ability. He may be a better reader than someone else but for all you know the groups could be for maths not reading. Your ds is five, get the facts from the teachers not your child. Don't be defensive just cos your child isn't in the top group, if he was would you be reacting this way? Calm down!

MrsMelons Fri 17-May-13 10:09:18

How do you know he is in the lower set?

If they are in ability groups surely it is for their own benefit so they can be taught the skills they are missing etc. Being on the same reading level does not necessarily mean they are the same level as there is a lot more to it than just reading the words.

If you are that worried then speak to the teacher but I am not sure why it matters which set he is in?

I have been at both ends of the scale with my DCs, DS1 is and has always been top set for everything, DS2 was bottom set for the first 2 terms at school, he was doing well with phonics etc but lacked confidence so by him being in the lower set it meant he could still learn what he needed to but also gave him confidence to try to read without worrying about getting it wrong etc.

He has now moved up to the top set this term. They knew he was able to do it but identified that if he had been pushed too much it would have had a negative effect on him.

MadamNoo Fri 17-May-13 10:11:39

How can you be so certain how the groups are ranked? IME they go to great lengths to disguise the fact that they are streaming - they certainly won't be called 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C group. Usually they'll have one 'table' to do maths with and another 'table' for literacy, etc. - not the same in each case. Talk to the teacher if you're worried.

monairethu Fri 17-May-13 10:13:16

thanks give - yeah i know not to go in all guns blazing on this one. and quite honestly if he was in the top set i would also feel uncomfortable with the streaming element of it - although i appreciate the logic behind it. he's doing well at maths too so i don't think it's that.

DeWe Fri 17-May-13 10:18:24

For a start off he may be average but still in the bottom group. Some forms are better than others. For example when I went to seondary school, the top maths set was made up of over half my form, wheras another form (four randomly distributed forms) had only four in the top maths set. Our form had none in the bottom set either.

Secondly, they may be in various groups for different things. Mine always had their group for maths, group for reading, group for writing, group for phonics, group for other things.
They were all loosely ability, except the group for other things which was aimed to be a group of children they wouldn't otherwise work with. They were called by different names (Like super squares) so they weren't obviously ability.

And if you have your facts from your ds they're not necessarily correct. I was spoken to by a friend who told me her dd was very upset about reading in year 1. She was the worst in the whole class and so embarrassed about how badly she read... Rather strangely I helped with that class with reading. I read with the second group, of which that child was in, and comfortably at the top end of the group.

Lastly: They will be very fluid if they are ability groups, my dc's always had some movement halftermly, and more frequently if a child changed noticably. Never a big thing about it, and the children always accepted it. And the next year's teacher will make her own mind up. Over the summer holidays, particularly in reading, some children change dramatically.

monairethu Fri 17-May-13 10:18:39

they groups are not called a,b,c or 1,2,3 but i know the children in the class and i know the smart ones are all in the same group. my dc is in a group with children who are much younger and who are achieving things my child reached around christmas. one of my issues with the whole thing is that my child is quiet (as are many of the others in his group) and i don't like the (possible) conclusion that quiet personality:lower ability.

ShatnersBassoon Fri 17-May-13 10:23:15

You can't know what the other children are achieving unless you spend a fair amount of time in the class with them. You obviously don't, or you'd have known about the sets.

The teacher would have no reason to put your child in an inappropriate group.

givemeaclue Fri 17-May-13 10:23:17

Well in a class of 30 Kids where the teachers are required to differentiate work for differing ability levels the teachers are most likely to group them by ability for some activities. If you are against this in principle you will find your child's school journey hard. Were you not expecting this would happen when they started school?

If your worry is about your child not being"top set" then ask teachers for a fivenminutes catch up on your son progress. I have two children in reception, one is top at everything, one isn't. Doesn't bother me at all. They aren't both happy and making lots of progress at school. That is my concern couldn't give a hoot what group they are in and I trust the teachers to do their jobs

givemeaclue Fri 17-May-13 10:27:37

I think teachers know that quiet does not equal less able. There are many noisy boisterous kids in reception, I don't think the teachers think this makes them top ofuthe class! Not sure how loud a child is makes a difference. The top child in my dds class is very meek and quiet.

You have drawn all sorts of conclusions here, why not just ask the teachers?

givemeaclue Fri 17-May-13 10:28:13

Sorry, they are both happy not aren't!

monairethu Fri 17-May-13 10:30:21

i help out in the class every now and then which is why i have an idea of the children's ability. the groups are a recent development i think. i know that him being happy is the main point of reception - and he is extremely happy which is great. i also realised that streaming is a part of school (i did go to school myself after all). what i didn't expect was that streaming would happen in reception. i do also need to make it clear that i am not worried about him not being in the 'top' set - i would consider he was broadly average. what does concern me is that he is in a set with children much younger who are getting prizes for stuff he did ages ago.

claraschu Fri 17-May-13 10:32:25

Children always know what ability group they have been placed in, even when they are called "badgers, stoats, and muskrats". I have seen serious damage done by these classifications, which can become self fulfilling prophecies. In my daughter's class, one girl was separated from her 4 friends, who were all together at the "top" table, while she was put at a table with 3 fairly difficult boys.

There has to be a better way. This particular girl was really seriously hurt by the situation.

givemeaclue Fri 17-May-13 10:36:05

What is the better way though?

monairethu Fri 17-May-13 10:38:34

clara - that's a scary story and i agree that there must be a better way. for what it's worth i don't think my ds is aware of which ability group he is in but the labelling does bother me. i

caffeinated Fri 17-May-13 10:44:51

At our school in reception children are only grouped for guided reading by ability. They are grouped for all other activities but not based on ability. More to share out and separate naughty children.

caffeinated Fri 17-May-13 10:47:51

I don't think children do always know which group they are in. My ds in year 2 who his currently 3a for numeracy was telling me the other day how the grasshoppers are much better at numbers than his group. It's highly unlikely there are a whole table working at a higher level at him as his teacher told me he has differentiated work from his group because he is working beyond them.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Fri 17-May-13 10:49:37

You are being oversensitive OP. My DD who is very bright and articulate is in a focus group for her phonics....I am glad about this as she is receiving more attention. It's sensible. My older DD had the same thing and she is now in the top ten percent of her year 4 class. It is not an indication of his ability long term.

rrbrigi Fri 17-May-13 10:50:10

I did not know there are ability groups in Reception. The teacher never told me, that my son is in which ability group. Do you think is it unpolite to ask the teacher to tell me in which ability group is in my son?

monairethu Fri 17-May-13 10:53:47

no i don't think it's impolite rrb - he's your son after all! i'm going to ask later about my ds

claraschu Fri 17-May-13 11:02:57

I think there are lots of alternatives, but they don't fit with mainstream British state education at the moment.

PeterParkerSays Fri 17-May-13 11:04:12

Sorry but how are these ability groups? By your own admission, he's in a group with much younger children, surely this is about developmental stage, in Reception, rather than ability?

sorry, I was trying not to post of this as I have an August-born DS starting reception in September, and I'd be bloody fuming if someone moaned that their child had been put in some remedial class with DS just because he's had 4, or 6, months less time alive to develop a pencil grip or practise numbers than his classmates.

Really, I think you do need to get a better perspective on this from the school.

caffeinated Fri 17-May-13 11:04:54

I can see why you would want to know which ability group your child is in but what does it really show? The cohort your child is in could be exceptionally bright or exceptionally not so knowing which ability group they are in isn't telling you anything about your child really because you don't know the overall standard of the class. I'd ask to see scores in the foundation stage profile which will show you how they are achieving against learning goals rather than other children.

titchy Fri 17-May-13 11:05:51

Thing is, knowing what ability table they're sat at tells you nothing about their ability! Only about their (current - IMO table positions are very fluid, especially in KS1), ranking in THAT class.

caffeinated Fri 17-May-13 11:06:41

Peterparker I have a late August child starting in September too and I totally agree with you.

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