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DD in bottoms sets and her self esteem is sliding down

(42 Posts)
PollyPutTheKettle Sun 09-Feb-14 21:44:11

That's it really. DD aged 8 and in year 3 has gone from the top sets in year one to the bottom set for Maths and second to bottom set for Literacy now. I have never focussed on sets and instead told her to just concentrate on what she is doing etc. However, she is very aware of these sets and has tonight said she is no good at literacy and maths as she is in the bottom sets. It's now becoming a self perpetuating prophecy.

I have had a look at this terms curriculum and made a plan of work to do at home to support her and spoken to her about how being in the top set is not the be all and end all, it can change, and pointed out things she is good at (gymnastics)).

Is there anything else I can do?

JiltedJohnsJulie Sun 09-Feb-14 21:54:38

Could your peak to the teacher without her knowing? I think asking why she has gone from the top set to the bottom and asking for advice is reasonable smile

PollyPutTheKettle Sun 09-Feb-14 22:09:06

Thank you. smile I had thought about speaking to her teacher (we have had brief talks about her maths) but haven't specifically asked about sets. Partly as I don't have that much interest in sets but also I fear coming across in the wrong way. As in going in complaining DD is no longer in the top set. Having spent 2 hours helping (doing) her homework today I can see the issues; if it's not easy she stops trying and won't listen hmm. I have tried going back to simpler stuff and building up but I am no teacher and it's frustrating.

JiltedJohnsJulie Sun 09-Feb-14 22:14:51

Know exactly what you mean. Our DS was in the top set for literacy and went down 2 sets in 6 months. It was a tough conversation but we made it clear that we weren't bothered that he wasn't in the top set anymore, we simply wanted to get to the bottom of why he had suddenly slipped down.

joosiewoosie Sun 09-Feb-14 22:19:10

Have you thought about getting a tutor temporarily to boost confidence? Get the right one and the confidence shift can happen really quickly and then knock in in other areas too.

tribpot Sun 09-Feb-14 22:25:35

I think you've got to have the conversation, and make clear it's not because you're being an insanely pushy Tiger Mum, but because it's affecting her confidence and thus will have a knock-on effect to her attainment.

My ds has been in a remedial class for spelling (or poss writing, I'm not quite sure) but it's been treated as something special and like a little club, so I don't think any of them have realised what it is. He's also 8 and is very easily discouraged, just says "I'll never learn this" if he can't get it straight away. I point out that there are things he's learnt in the last year (swimming, for example) that he said he would never be able to learn, and with a bit of practice he is doing really well. Sometimes this works and other times not.

He is actually doing extra tutoring outside school, solely because he asked to go to it. He really seems to enjoy this and find it challenging without being discouraging - partly because the computer programmes are calibrated to challenge them at the right pace for them - and there are lots of fun rewards as well, so it seems more like play time. I'm very pleased with the progress he's made, although I would never have put an 8 year old in tutoring through my own choice. It's not cheap, though! (I also wouldn't have started him in it at a time when I am unemployed but again, he asked and I didn't want to say no).

I always stress to him that the only grades I care about on his report are those about effort. You can only try your hardest. But I would be concerned as well if I felt he was aware of being in the bottom set (which I think he is for some things).

I think the point to make to the teacher is that if he/she feels the bottom set is the right one for your dd right now, how can you and the school help your dd in feeling more positive about this. But PS you're also concerned that she's gone so quickly from top to bottom and could there be an underlying reason for this.

PollyPutTheKettle Sun 09-Feb-14 22:29:06

That's an interesting idea. Thank you. I have thought about it as she won't listen to me but just not got round to it. I was hoping I could manage it myself as I think we would struggle to pay for it TBH. I want her to be confident of her abilities and to believe in herself. Such a shame they write themselves off at such a young age sad

columngollum Sun 09-Feb-14 22:29:09

Get a tutor?

PollyPutTheKettle Sun 09-Feb-14 22:34:54

Cross posts. My post was directed at 'Joosiewoosie*.

Thank you tribpot. I will look into tutoring after this term. That gives me 8 weeks or thereabouts to see if my home help plan works. I will also speak to the teacher who is absolutely lovely but very busy. I need to pitch it in the right way which I think will be possible with this teacher.

DD is very sensitive about everything and is also having friendship issues. All this is not helped by the fact her immediate friends are all above her in the sets.

PollyPutTheKettle Sun 09-Feb-14 22:37:56

I showed her the SATs results for year 2 today. I had not shown them to her before as I was trying to play them down but they were good so I wanted to boost her confidence. She got 2A in reading, 2B in writing and maths and 3 for everything else (science, speaking and listening). I talked her though them and said how good they were and she got a pen and crossed through them and said they must have made a mistake as she is rubbish hmm. She is prone to dramatics though.

columngollum Sun 09-Feb-14 22:46:14

Kick up the bum?

Ferguson Sun 09-Feb-14 22:46:58

Try and find out if she has specific difficulties in literacy or numeracy, and then we might be able to advise more. Were you not aware of this happening over a period of time? And could there be issues at home that are unsettling her, and diverting her away from her work and learning?

These sort of things are often not entirely school-related, but a child doesn't have the experience or confidence to deal with the real root of a problem.

I'll try and find my Numeracy info, and come back with that, for starters.

PollyPutTheKettle Sun 09-Feb-14 22:54:32

grin columngollum

Ferguson There's no issues at home. She has been dropping down in sets from year 2 to now but it's only recently she has spoken about it and referred to it by saying she is rubbish at maths and literacy as she is in the bottom sets. I don't mind about her being in the bottom set but I do mind the association she has made with it.

Ferguson Sun 09-Feb-14 23:00:04

This is what I use to help with numeracy concepts, but it may not all be relevant in your case. Take what you can from it, and ignore stuff you don't need:


Practical things are best for grasping number concepts - bricks, Lego, beads, counters, money, shapes, weights, measuring, cooking.

Do adding, taking away, multiplication (repeated addition), division (sharing), using REAL OBJECTS as just 'numbers' can be too abstract for some children.

Number Bonds of Ten forms the basis of much maths work, so try to learn them. Using Lego or something similar, use a LOT of bricks (of just TWO colours, if you have enough) lay them out so the pattern can be seen of one colour INCREASING while the other colour DECREASES. Lay them down, or build up like steps.


ten of one colour none of other
nine of one colour one of other
eight of one colour two of other
seven of one colour three of other

etc, etc

then of course, the sides are equal at 5 and 5; after which the colours 'swap over' as to increasing/decreasing.

To learn TABLES, do them in groups that have a relationship, thus:

x2, x4, x8

x3, x6, x12

5 and 10 are easy

7 and 9 are rather harder.

Starting with TWO times TABLE, I always say: "Imagine the class is lining up in pairs; each child will have a partner, if there is an EVEN number in the class. If one child is left without a partner, then the number is ODD, because an odd one is left out."

Use Lego bricks again, lay them out in a column of 2 wide to learn 2x table. Go half way down the column, and move half the bricks up, so that now the column is 4 bricks wide. That gives the start of 4x table.

Then do similar things with 3x and 6x.

With 5x, try and count in 'fives', and notice the relationship with 'ten' - they will alternate, ending in 5 then 10.

It is important to try and UNDERSTAND the relationships between numbers, and not just learn them 'by rote'.

I am sorry it seems complicated trying to explain these concepts, but using Lego or counters should make understanding easier.

An inexpensive solar powered calculator (no battery to run out!) can help learn tables by 'repeated addition'. So: enter 2+2 and press = to give 4. KEEP PRESSING = and it should add on 2 each time, giving 2 times table.

There are good web sites, which can be fun to use :


If DD has specific areas of confusion or doubt, let me know and I'll try and help more.

I was a TA in primary for twenty years, and children don't usually go backwards unless there is a serious cause.

PollyPutTheKettle Sun 09-Feb-14 23:17:26

Thank you so much Ferguson. I have copied your post to my desktop and will have go at some of your ideas. It's things like your suggestions of grouping times tables that don't occur to me. thanks

EugenesAxe Mon 10-Feb-14 03:39:59

I'm worried this will happen to my DS - if he doesn't get something instantly it's all 'but I can't do it' or 'but it's too hard'. He's only just 4 but you can see it as a trait already!

I don't know; perhaps say that school know everyone has the ability to leave with the same skills, just different people need to learn in different ways. I would probably say the sets are for different styles of learning rather than about splitting up people that are 'good' or 'bad'. I haven't tried it though... I think your focus on effort is good. Give her some examples of things that you've had to work hard at to now do very well, that she also knows how good you are at?

MandMand Mon 10-Feb-14 08:52:00

The "Teenagers" section of this board is full of threads about children who were in the top sets for everything all the way through primary school, leaving with a clutch if level 5s and 6s, and have coasted through the first few years if secondary only to come unstuck when they actually had to start putting some real graft in for GCSEs.

I think it may be good in the long run to learn struggle a bit in primary, and learn that you have to try hard to learn new things, rather than it coming too easily.

My son is in year 3 and has always been in the bottom group, or the next one from bottom. He has to work hard to keep up, and gets a real boost to his confidence when he manages to get 10/10 on his spellings, or a house point for some written work, because it doesn't happen every week as a matter of course.

ExcuseTypos Mon 10-Feb-14 09:08:19

I really do think you should speak to the teacher, tell her everything you've said here- that you know she doesn't always concentrate but you're very worried about her self esteem. Ask her how you can both help with these issues.

Also, as an aside I was listening to Desert Island Disks yesterday. The lady on it was Dame Elish Angiolini, former Lord Advocate of Scotland. She spoke about the fact she did terribly for a few years in primary school.
She hated school and was always in the bottom sets. She thought she was rubbish at everything. A teacher told her mum that she had to find something she was good at, she loved dancing so her mum paid for lessons. She was good at it and enjoyed them and she said it made her realise that she could be good at something. It really boosted her self esteem and this eventually filtered into her school work.
Sorry for the long story but I just wanted to illustrate that this doesn't mean you're always be like this. Is there something that she loves doing, that you can focus on?

ExcuseTypos Mon 10-Feb-14 09:10:38

Sorry "doesn't mean you're DD will always be like this"

PollyPutTheKettle Mon 10-Feb-14 10:21:39

Thanks all.

EugeneAxe - That's a great idea about the sets. I will say exactly that. It is unfortunate that she picks up on every thing and overheard the teacher commenting to another child in the class that she should be able to do something in maths as she is in the top set. This then confirmed what DD had thought about her position in the class as the other child was not on her table. I think saying the sets are about different learning methods would be a good start.

MandMand - That's interesting. I have feared DD will always be this way. Ultimately I want her to leave school with a clutch of good GCSEs so she has options. I have had one particularly smug mother inform me the SATs results at KS1 are a strong indicator of how well the child will do at GCSEs. Needless to see her child is one of the many geniuses here in SW London wink. Its comforting to see performance in primary is not necessarily continued in secondary. By that I mean there is a chance DD will improve rather than being comforted by children who did well in primary not doing so well in secondary.

ExcuseTypos - She has a hobby she loves but the general giving up attitude persists there as well. hmm. I do think it's partly a trait she has. However, it is easier for her to progress in her hobby so I shall spend some time with her trying to get her to improve.

PollyPutTheKettle Mon 10-Feb-14 10:25:49

I have just made an appointment to see her teacher.

DeWe Mon 10-Feb-14 10:56:59

Is she definitely in the bottom groups though?

I have a friend who went in to speak to the teacher after her dd had told her she was the worst at reading in the class and was somewhat nonplussed to find she was in the second group-and doing very well there.

I don't think the teacher will feel you pushy if you go in and say that she is losing confidence and you are concerned about her dropping from the top to the bottom. If you rushed in and complained that she should be in the top when she'd dropped one group, that's pushy. Saying you're concerned about her progress because she had been in the top, and now she's in the bottom, how can you help her learning, is concerned imo.

It may be that they feel she's better at the top of the bottom than the bottom of the top, particularly if she lacks confidence.

But also it does depend on the class as to where she stands in it. In my form at primary, there was no one who had below average IQ. This meant one of the parents was really concerned to hear their dc was in the "remedial" group. Teacher said that they wouldn't have been in that group in any other class they taught, but because our form was generally good, it meant that they were in the bottom group for us. If they'd been in the form above they'd have been 3rd (out of 6) and no chance of extra help.

Notcontent Mon 10-Feb-14 18:49:39

I know this is not very helpful, but I really hate the use of sets. Despite what many people think that's not the only way to teach a class of children and there are lots of places where sets are not used.

joosiewoosie Thu 27-Feb-14 09:34:25

How's it going now?

I read the thread again, and it occurs to me a little resilience needs to be learned. I think that's the root here. Perfectionist tendencies abound meaning that this is more about attitude towards challenges than ability in itself.

Is there anything small that you could 'fail' at, to model a bit of resilience to your little person? Could you make up a tale about your past, some difficulties, how you felt like giving up, the path of trying and seeing mistakes as positive steps to improvement, yada, yada?

Anything small that little person could practise being resilient over?

I tell my tutees that I will be disappointed if they don't make any mistakes, because it means they are not being challenged enough and therefore not learning. When they don't 'get' something, I say 'great - here's a learning chance! Let's go!'

Just a change in how learning is thought and talked about makes such a huge difference in so many cases!

Hope these ideas help x

fluffycarpets Thu 27-Feb-14 10:38:02

I agree about speaking with the teacher and approaching this in terms of 1) concern about your daughter's confidence levels and 2) to find out why she's moved down and if there is anything you can do at home to support her.

Sorry your daughter feels sad! That's really upsetting for you (and her, obviously).

Re: teaching resiliance/perseverance. One of the reasons my kids learn instruments is because I wanted to teach them that skills need to be learned, bit by bit and over long lengths of time, and that effort needs to be expended to get results. It took me far, far too long to learn this myself. It helps that the music teachers reinforce this as they do not grade overtly, do not compare, and they praise effort over achievement (i.e. there are no sets...).

Also: I've told my kids millions of stories of how I missed out at things as a child because I was too scared of failing. And how I gave up acting at 14, even though it was one of my favourite subjects, because I ONE TIME didn't get chosen for the school play! And how silly that is, and how silly I was, because the only way to learn anything is to try it, and fail, and then try again. I guess that's one of the damaging things about IQ tests: they are sometimes presented as some kind of absolute value of intelligence, but they are actually pretty meaningless unless taken as a signal of potential, to which effort and perseverance need to be added. I speak here from my own experience.

Also (sorry if going on in very boring way): in the rare event when one child tells me she is better at something than someone else, I ALWAYS point out that that's because people have different strengths and weaknesses... that doing something first doesn't mean they are necessarily better (the better athlete in our family was the later to crawl and walk)... and often make them think about why the starting point may be uneven (e.g. that the children struggling with writingdon't speak English at home and are, in the main, the very youngest children in the class).

It's my mantra: praise effort over results.

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