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School Not Academically Challenging

(25 Posts)
Itreallyistimetochangethings Wed 12-Feb-14 14:28:33

My Ds is in yr1 and the youngest in his class. He is high ability and this was mentioned to me in reception where he received an exceptional school report at the end of the year. He is very able and that is partly because I have worked with him at home reading, writing numbers etc, both formally and informally.

My gripe is that I do not feel that his school is challenging or stretching him. When I have mentioned this to the teacher in the past she says he doesn't respond in class as well as she would like. He does for maths because he loves maths, but for the other subjects he is not as engaged. She agrees that he knows what he has to do and does it with varying degrees of effort, but she would like to see him as energised as he is for the maths questions. She agrees that in test he gets full marks but some of her assessments are classwork. Ds was home sick for a good week so I asked for some work that he missed so we could cover it at home. She kindly agreed. When I saw what it was - my heart sank! It is work that he can do in 5 minutes and we have covered at home already, and to be honest most of the homework he brings home can be done in 5mins including spellings, which most of the time he already knows how to spell them. I feel that whenever I approach her she is very defensive. I would like Ds to be stretched with more challenging work, which will energise him. He is reading gold / stage 9 but doesn't find them very interesting. Luckily we have a very good children's library and a good collection at home so I'm not worried on that part.

I know that children achieve more at home because of 121 / less distractions, She says that at the moment he is working at a 2c maths 1a reading and literacy. We don't have much of a choice for schools as all the "better"state schools in our area are over subscribed. His reception teacher was great, she made him feel very confident with lots of praise, unfortunately his current teacher has a different style of teaching and he doesn't get the praise, even at times he has come home with stories about how the teacher chose him to put the tray of cakes in the oven for cooking - !!?? which wasn't true.

So.....should I be concerned that my child doesn't appear to be stretched academically at school, and how do I approach the school again to get them to help him. Or is this the same for many families and I just carry on working at home with him.

TalkinPeace Wed 12-Feb-14 14:56:42

Year 1 is about learning how to learn in a group, learning how to sit at tables, wait your turn, work with others, share and generally be able to cooperate.
If you want to stretch him sideways at home, go for it
but unless he learns to 'perform' for other adults without you around, school is going to be very frustrating for both of you.

Do you have other children that he has to share with at home?

Itreallyistimetochangethings Wed 12-Feb-14 15:03:21

TalkinPeace - No he is an only child... He does do extra curricular activities which so far isn't a problem. Any advice appreciated. Thanks

MerryMarigold Wed 12-Feb-14 15:07:06

I think it's unfair to expect the school to do what you're doing at home. What it sounds like is you're expecting 1:1 attention for him in terms of differentiated work etc. There should be a group of kids who are intelligent , though perhaps their parents are not coaching them as much so they are not so far ahead. My ds2 is very intelligent and is in a group with other kids like that. They are stretched as a group, but I don't do stuff with him at home (unless asked) as I don't want him to get bored in school and turned off school - or to be the 'smart Alec' (who likes one of them?).

You can always do something like joined up writing (find out what scheme they use later in school if they are not doing it in Y1) and just do stuff at home if he initiates it. I am not surprised the school are a bit defensive as they cannot possibly cater to his individual needs if they are that demanding.

Some teachers get on with some kids, and others don't. Some teachers are good and some are less so. You just need to live with it for a year. Unless it is a big and worthy battle, I wouldn't have it. And I don't consider this to be one. I would ask the teacher if there is anything you COULD do at home, but in the meantime just stimulate him with general knowledge/ archaeology/ geology/ geography/ architecture, rather than 'Y1 stuff' like adding/ dividing/ spelling and full stops if he is capable of these already.

Patchouli Wed 12-Feb-14 15:10:04

If you're working with him at home "both formally and informally", I think you're going to be disappointed in the academical challenge of any school.

Peanutsandwine Wed 12-Feb-14 15:11:24

Year 1 all you should be bothered about is whether or not he is getting up each morning and wanting to go to school! And that in school, and at home, he is thinking that education and learning is FUN and playful and exciting and interesting.

He is a little boy, not a pizza dough that needs to be "stretched". Really, stop pushing the formal academic stuff (and I hope he thinks the informal is just games!)

If he's one of the youngest, then he's 5, yes? At 5, many many countries haven't had their children even start school yet.

I say this with a child who is now much older and is academically gifted, but at 5 I cared about her making ( and keeping) friends, her manners, her physical strength and abilities, her sociability skills. I taught her how to play conkers, have a proper snowball fight, how to kick a football and how to do useful things like tie shoelaces. She did extracurricular activities like swimming and riding.

She walked an academic scholarship later on but I still care more about the fact she has good friends and an inquiring and curious mind.

(And there is a ton of great stuff about how kids should be bored occasionally!)

Acinonyx Wed 12-Feb-14 15:23:43

IMO, a very useful thing to teach him would be to engage and make an effort even when he is not too excited about the work. I also have a high ability child and this is something we are really struggling with. Everything you do in school (and most certainly later) cannot be to your taste and cater to your personal foibles. In discussion with dd's teacher, our goal is for her to do the work she is already being given to the best of her ability - which she often doesn't because she just can't be bothered. When she does this consistently - then it will be appropriate to make the work more challenging.

Children are always more engaged 121 - they have to learn to motivate themselves at some point. I didn't really get into this until KS2 though.

newbieman1978 Wed 12-Feb-14 15:35:35

Have you thought that actually you child might be quite difficult at school and doesn't show his ability fully. Working at home one to one if far easier than having to deal with a class of 25 or 30. You child may also find working one to one is easier as in class there are lots of distractions.

If you are not getting the answers "you" want from his teacher and genuinely think something needs to change then your only other course of action is to speak to the head teacher. This may or may not work and could possibly have a detrimental effect on your parent teacher relationship.

If you are very unhappy then vote with your feet and move though you may find the new school is no better.

ContinentalKat Wed 12-Feb-14 15:47:39

Of course school is going to be difficult for him if you already teach him everything at home!
Why would you do that anyway? He will be bored to tears, and the teacher can't meet his specific needs if they are so different from the rest of the class.

I see 2 ways to go here: homeschool or do stuff at home that isn't covered in school. Do in depth projects on things he is particularly interested in, but have a chat with the teacher beforehand and check that your work doesn't clash with school work.

redskyatnight Wed 12-Feb-14 15:48:24

I think if he's not showing what he can do at school (and as he does in maths it's not a shyness issue) then I'm not sure what you want the teacher to do. If he's ahead academically anyway, then it sounds like a a more important focus for him is learning how to speak up and engage in class - which it sounds like the teacher is working on.

I would expect Y1 homework to be completed in about 5 minutes, or it is too hard!

2c for maths and 1a for literacy is good - but hardly exceptional - there will likely be other children working at and beyond this level - what do their parents make of it - are they happy their children are being stretched?

DrankSangriaInThePark Wed 12-Feb-14 16:05:57

Does he like school?

Does he go willingly?

Does he tell you about the nice things he has done and the friends he has made?

If the answer is yes, then your work, and the teacher's, is done.

The Oxbridge entrance hothousing stuff can wait for a few years yet.

Can I ask a genuine question? Why do you do academic stuff with him at home? He isn't struggling with the work clearly, so you don't need to be doing it?

He does extra stuff with you, and he does extra-curricular activities. Does he play and watch telly as well?

simpson Wed 12-Feb-14 17:10:24

Tbh I only think it's an issue if your DS is unhappy with the level of work and tuning out. A teacher can only assess what she sees and needs evidence (ie work that he has done) to level him.

DD is in yr1 and is in a very high ability year group (think 2As and 3Cs around now) and she is definitely getting enough of the academic stuff as well as having fun. Her teacher has twigged that she (DD) starts messing around and misbehaving if work is too easy (this only happens if work is too easy for a long period ie a week, not the odd 30 min lesson).

Itreallyistimetochangethings Wed 12-Feb-14 17:28:28

DrankSangriaInThePark Can I ask a genuine question? Why do you do academic stuff with him at home? He isn't struggling with the work clearly, so you don't need to be doing it? He does extra stuff with you, and he does extra-curricular activities. Does he play and watch telly as well?

I do academic "stuff" at home as I think learning should be at home and at school. Yes he plays a lot and also watches TV. Maybe I made it sound as though he is sitting at a desk with a book and pen in the house - but this isn't the case he has a lot of play/ fun time - so that's not a concern. (Even now he is dancing / spinning across the floor as I write - with the TV on!) I think quite often working class parents like myself are made to feel that we don't support our kids enough academically. Would your response be different if he was receiving private tuition instead?

rollonthesummer Wed 12-Feb-14 17:35:17

2c for maths and 1a for literacy is good - but hardly exceptional - there will likely be other children working at and beyond this level

I agree. It sounds like he isn't doing the work given to a high standard. Maybe you need to encourage him to try harder at school?

lljkk Wed 12-Feb-14 18:22:31

I think you want to go private, OP.

DrankSangriaInThePark Wed 12-Feb-14 18:35:35


No, my answer wouldn't be different. I am a private tutor. smile

MerryMarigold Wed 12-Feb-14 18:36:20

I think if you can't afford private now, you need to find out when scholarships kick in and then aim for those. IF that is what you want. I do agree with the posters who are saying he needs to try hard in whatever he does, even if it's not his 'favourite'. My ds2 has a fantastic work ethic naturally, plus intelligence. Ds1 is has a good work ethic too, he has had to try hard all his young life just to be average, but I think this will stand him in good stead in his life. Dd, we are working on wink.

nonicknameseemsavailable Wed 12-Feb-14 19:19:16

if a Yr1 child was receiving private tuition I would feel sorry for them, if they are doing a lot of formal work at home I feel sorry for them. Family situation makes no difference.

DD1 is in Yr1 and very bright, she finds all the work at school easy but she apparently gets everything right, produces very good work and is very engaged in the classroom as well as helpful and so on. She spends her time out of school doing sports, drama, dancing, swimming and social activities and wants to start an instrument. I feel she isn't being stretched at school and it is a concern as she is plainly capable of much more than she is being given the opportunity to do.

however if she wasn't producing the work or getting it all right then I wouldn't feel I was in any position to complain to the school.

Itreallyistimetochangethings Wed 12-Feb-14 21:39:17

Thank you everyone for your comments.

TheGreatHunt Wed 12-Feb-14 21:45:28

Why not teach him life skilks and about the wider world and leave the academic stuff for school? I should say my ds laps up stuff I talk about but I steer away from stuff he will do at school and we talk about history, science etc etc. Those are the things where you can bring a richness.
Plus put him on the waiting list for a better school - you never know

richmal Wed 12-Feb-14 23:06:47

I cannot see why you should not teach your child if that is what you want to do. Children are able to learn things like maths a lot quicker than they are taught at school. I think educating a child makes a difference to their academic ability. People pay for private education for this very reason. Why should those from less affluent backgrounds miss out? Lots of children spend hours watching TV or playing computer games. I do not see the problem in spending some time teaching them. I often used to think, education is so important, why do others not want to teach their child. However, I would no more tell them how they should bring up their children than I would expect them to criticise how I choose to bring up mine.

The one thing I have discovered however is that primary schools do not differentiate for children who are far ahead of the rest. In year 4 it became apparent to dd that she was no longer learning anything at school. I am now home educating until secondary.

A scholarship is not something I have ever considered myself, but it may be the right option for your ds.

bebanjo Wed 12-Feb-14 23:16:13

Why not just pull him out and home ed?

pixiepotter Thu 13-Feb-14 09:02:46

Good teachers can and do differentiate work so that each child is working at an appropriate level

RainYourRottingMyDhaliaBulbs Thu 13-Feb-14 09:49:20

but in the meantime just stimulate him with general knowledge/ archaeology/ geology/ geography/ architecture, rather than 'Y1 stuff' like adding/ dividing/ spelling and full stops if he is capable of these already.

I agree nothing wrong with you going through stuff with your dc, but its where you want him to go. I have no faith in schools being able to provide for more advanced dc unless there is lots of them.

I imagine its as much of a pain for them as one who is far behind. because its extra different work to the majority and thats what primary is about - getting the majority up to scratch on the basics.

I would either relax, focus on other stuff ( just as key) and see what happens in year 2, and or/ plan a strategy to home school, scholarship and so on.

PastSellByDate Thu 13-Feb-14 10:24:22

Welcome to my world Itreallyistimetochangethings

My children aren't particularly gifted but I'm battling a school that sees the pinnacle of academic achievement as NC L4 end Y6 and spend more time on prayer/ religious themed assemblies/ church services (this is a CofE school) than they do on mathematics. A school that won't discuss dinosaurs. Won't discuss the solar system. Do not believe column methods of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division should be taught until Y7 (senior school). Refuse to teach division beyond inverse multiplication facts - so 36 divided by 9 = 4 but won't teach chunking (although now they have post OFSTED slamming them on mahts) and still refuse to teach 'bus stop' method.

Interestingly, the local senior school which was improving, just went into special measures - one of the main criticisms was that children in KS3 were working so far below expected level. I do have to wonder if there isn't a connection as the bulk of children at this senior school are delivered from our primary.

My advice is three fold:

If you and your child enjoy doing more at home - ignore the school - ignore everyone - and just keep plugging away. My DD2 adores worksheets. She would prefer doing word games/ math puzzles in a moshi monster magazine or a word search. She always comes home on a Friday eager to settle into her homework. She'd be happy to get more than one maths worksheet a week. She reads incessantly and has about 4 notebooks full of stories + a diary on the go at the moment. She does it because she enjoys it. Why shouldn't a parent support that enjoyment, in the same way they might support swimming or ballet?

Keep asking questions about how the school is differentiating his work. Find out if they have labelled him G&T. Our school is adept at claiming they have a G&T programme but I am only personally aware of one child who is G&T and basically the parent had to go to the LEA and threaten to withdraw her child if they didn't acknowledge G&T for sport (this girl is on a national junior squad for a sport - she's unbelievably good). If your child is G&T for maths, for example, they should be providing extension activities/ challenge on a regular basis.

I know a friend suggested at another school that her DD simply go to the higher year's math lessons. (This girl was lovely but was so bored in maths that she was acting up and distracting a lot of children - at first the school disciplined her but the mother demonstrated that the problem is she loves the subject but is bored rigid reviewing things she already knows).

If you really are in despair, you can look at moving in Y3 (if there are junior schools in your area that increase intake at that point). Or you could put your child on the wait list for a school which you feel is better able to support him (if you are in the catchment/ or if you could move). He may not move for a year or two, but at least you have some hope that the school day might be more stimulating one day.

My personal view is that primary is also about social skills and discovery. Making friends, learning your likes/ dislikes. So I don't see a huge pressing need to shift a child if otherwise they're happy. Do more at home (as I do with my DDs) but in a few years (as your DC is only Y1) start to research options for senior school: good comprehensives, grammar schools, independent schools (many have bursaries), etc....

Because it is really this second stage of education where there is everything to play for. Your job now though is to keep his interests up.


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