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DS bottom for everything and making no progress - what do we do?

(27 Posts)
PeterParkerSays Fri 30-Jan-15 09:26:19

If you search for previous threads I've started, there are any number of them about DS (5) who is behind with reading - he's August born which may be relevant, but has never shown any interest in reading.

On Wednesday DS mentioned he'd left PE to do reading with Mrs X (a support worker for children who need extra support) and then on Thursday DH was with him in the queue waiting to go into school when Mrs X came over and took DS out of the queue to go off and work with her. After school DH asked DS how many children are spending time with Mrs X. The answer - two. DS and the child whose first language isn't English and who uses a non-European alphabet at home. sad

At parents' evening last term, DS's teacher said that he was on a table with a teaching assistant for the 4 children, but that he was the most able in that group. He's also recently done a piece of writing that was so good the teacher took him out of class to find the headmaster to tell him how impressed she was by it. But his homework over the weekend was nearly illegible, and parents at drop-off this morning were handed a performance report for their children: DS is the bottom at everything and failing to make any progress - reading, writing, speech and listening, everything. At home, he is a happy, chatty boy with a good vocabulary but the teacher has said that she never sees that side of him at school, he just seems to sit back from proceedings so he doesn't actively engage with the other children although there are children who want to play with him.

We have 3 schools in driving range, but we'd only have pre-school childcare for this school (another mum drops him off for me a couple of days a week) and I work FT so we can't look at HE and can't afford somewhere like Montessori where they don't focus on reading / writing below are 6.

The school seems fine, it's just that it's not working for DS. What the hell do we do? We've been reading to since he was a tiny baby, we make sure we do different activities with him at weekends, go to the canal, museums etc. he's not always in front of the TV, and he seems no different from the other children, but he's just not getting this.

nonicknameseemsavailable Fri 30-Jan-15 09:50:51

I think you need to look at what the actual problem is.

So at home he is confident and verbally quite bright if I am understanding right.

at school he doesn't want to do the work?

The school sound like they are trying to help but I am wondering if they have actually identified a problem or are just trying various things to see if they help. I suppose I mean if a child is struggling because they are showing dyslexia signs then the intervention might be very different to if they have a different problem. Without some idea of what is causing the problem it is hard to solve it.

where you go from here I don't know. Do you think there is a difference between his 'verbal intellect' and his sort of 'demonstrated intellect'? If so then to me that would indicate some sort of problem such as dyslexia and he is frustrated/confused/embarrassed of this so then doesn't engage because to him there is probably no point.

Is he sociable outside of school? could it be that he is ashamed of not being as good as the others so is distancing himself? or if he is always in the tiny bottom group perhaps he just isn't having as much bonding time with the other children who are sat together in class as well.

I think I would ask for a meeting with the teacher and the SENCO and find out exactly what his plan is, what they are doing to help and how they hope this will help (why these methods are thought to be the right ones for him) and what you can do to help support it.

but most of all I think you need to try and protect his confidence because I expect he is brighter than he is able to demonstrate for whatever reason and is probably a confused and frustrated little boy x

(speaking as a parent with a daughter who is extremely bright but has some issues which make life frustrating for her at school)

GratefulHead Fri 30-Jan-15 09:56:45

I agree, you need a meeting with the class teacher and the SENCO. Is he in Y1?

Personally I'd be interested in what a speech and language therapist might make if him. My DS is autistic (not suggesting for one moment that your DS is), my son has an amazing vocabulary...above and beyond his age range but his receptive language skills....his level of understanding situations and tasks is barely normal. He also has dyspraxia and his hand writing even at age 12 is illegible.

NaiveMaverick Fri 30-Jan-15 10:01:55

If he's going out regularly with Mrs X it doesn't particularly sound like school is the problem. Ie moving schools would not be my thought (from what you've said) at this stage.

Learning difficulties (ie SpLD) present like what you've said.

School are doing everything they know how to. Which almost certainly is not enough. And quite possibly not even the right things.

Blueundies Fri 30-Jan-15 10:04:13

Defo refer to senco. There is more to it I am sure. What do you mean when you say he is bottom? Bottom of what?

PastSellByDate Fri 30-Jan-15 10:26:34


I think to be fair to the school they are trying 'interventions'/ additional support first before seeking to label your child. They probably are more than aware he's one of the younger children in the class as well - so may feel this is as much a developmental stage issue (as there is a big difference between early age 5 and late age 5) and possibly a confidence thing.

However, having been there are done that with DD1 my advice for you at home is this:

1) make sure you are reading with your DC nightly 10 - 15 minutes is all it takes. I never insisted DD1 did all the reading - nor did I insist we only read the books sent home from school - but we would read all sorts. (Maybe a mix of 3 nights school book - if DD was reading well from that we'd do other things - maybe 2 nights her favourite book and 1-2 nights DH or I reading to her. We worked on making reading fun and enjoyable as much as technical 'reading out loud'/ 'decoding' skills.

2) jolly phonics workbooks (or the equivalent for whatever phonics system your school is using) can really make a difference. I missed these for DD1, but DD2 used these (there are 7 in the jolly phonics series) - they are a lot like colouring books - but include letter formation (3 lines with middle line hatched to gauge letter heights) and practice making words with whatever letter sound/ combination of letter sounds.

3) DD1 joined an on-line maths tutorial in late Y2 (at that point seriously struggling - unable to take 1 from 10) but DD2 got so jealous that by mid Y1 I allowed her to join. Now we used Mathsfactor - but there are tons of other on-line tutorials out there that Mumsnet posters have also praised: Komodo Maths/ Maths Whizz/ Mathletics/ Khan Academy, etc....

there are also some fantastic free websites that offer maths practice:

BBC Bitesize KS1 (can set levels as medium/ hard/ really hard):

Woodlands Junior School Maths Zone: - lots of resources/ games links under various subject heading sin maths - I would recommend starting with hundred square/ place value/ addition & subtraction.

Maths champs: Games arranged by age groups 5-7/ 7 - 9/ 9 - 11:


I have to start by saying the DD1 was seriously struggling but I was very confident there was no issue (physical or SEN). In general I thought the issue was that she just didn't quite understand what to do - I don't think this was just poor teaching. I know the class was boisterous and I also know that DD1 would frequently complain that she had asked for help by teacher was too busy.

My experience has been that by doing a bit more at home in small installments - 15 to 20 minutes here and there - in and around family life and trying to build in that routine so that week after week your child is accumulating experience, skill and confidence - will make a huge difference.

Working full time, especially with commuting, can make this quite a juggle - but try and divide and conquer. Whilst you are giving your younger child a bath, could your partner be reading with your eldest? or could you set up your son to play a maths computer game whilst you bathe your youngest?

Reading can just become part of that bedtime routine. I also have friends who go in for a big read on a Sunday morning. Maybe having both their children read to them all together and then one of the 'grown ups' reading something for everybody.

CDs of books are really brilliant - don't underestimate the importance of listening to well written & read English.

I found that by identifying little bits of time - computer time whilst I was tidying up/ reading with one DD whilst DH helped bathe the other/ reading to me whilst I cook/ computer time in dead time before leaving for club, lesson, etc.../ reading a book or doing jolly phonics colouring book whilst waiting for sibling to finish lesson or a friend to arrive - we could get a lot of work done.

I wouldn't say the improvement was obvious at first - but within a month or two things suddenly started improving. Feedback from teachers was very positive and DD1 (who lurked on bottom table for pretty well everything) started her progress upwards through the ranks.


DazzleU Fri 30-Jan-15 10:35:12

Get his hearing checked -it could be the noisy school environment means that while he can cope at home at school with background noise he struggles - at least rule it out.

Talk to his teacher- are they worried?

I'm not sure what to make of the so he doesn't actively engage with the other children although there are children who want to play with him.

Is he an introvert - happy in his own company - does he play easily with others outside school ? Is he playing by himself at break/lunch time or it in class activities he not engaging with other DC - and if so what are they doing to help him - are there reasons for it are they other DC boisterous/bossy - my yr 1 5 year old avoids a DC who wants to play with her - other DC is very loud and in your face and while mine interacts with her you can see her backing away. Do the school have serious concerns - have they suggested the SENCO take a look?

Incidentally my yr1 handwriting is fairly illegible despite me doing handwriting stuff over summer with her - her teachers aren't worried. Though here has some nice exercise rightfrom the start the Teodorescu perceptuo-motor program - there are many activities that can help develop the fine motor control handwriting needs like threading beads, cutting out things that kind of thing .

Are letters being formed correctly - I spent some time with my 5 year over summer making sure she could form the letters correctly few weeks into term and she wasn't again - Right Start: Letter Formation Workbook 1: Handwriting Made Easy something like that could help there.

If he actually has problems with reading other than being in the bottom set
do Bear Necessities A1 ten minutes a day - come with cards with the phonic sound on which you go through and lots of practise blending or Book A is another one you could start with.

My early summer DS had an awful reception year - in bottom sets for everything. He really struggled - even with that book it was hard - but end of year 1 he could read - yr 3 now top sets. Or if phonics is secure - just pick up some phonics based reading books to do at home like song birds or use reading chest

I'm not sure considering how hard DS was struggled with blending that it would have just clicked - though other DC apparently do. He was also switch off with school and reading and maths - and not trying.

Maths - lots of free sites with games that can help them at this age ict games is a good free one and there are many more out there. If you think more is needed mine have done mathsfactor from this age. Again there are other maths sites that may suit better.

I wouldn't panic - just because now he's in bottom sets that he always will be - my early summer DS has moved up over the years - that wasn't my aim or intent I just wanted him to stop struggling and be confident in the basics.

If you know there are problems in an particular area I'd suggest finding a bit of time - at this age mornings may be better - and do a bit of extra see if that helps and keep an eye how things develop and keep talking to his teacher about your concerns.

PeterParkerSays Fri 30-Jan-15 10:56:30

Wow, so many really useful replies. I'll try to answer what I can. I don't think DS has autism - I work in HE and meet some students on the autistic spectrum and DS seems to "get" conversations in a way that they don't, so it's not that. Same with dyspraxia - its' not that he doesn't get situations or social interaction.

DH phoned me at work so I was pre-warned about the progress report before I got home. It seems to be a graph with subjects on the bottom and progress up the side. DS's is a flat line at the bottom. sad My impression from the Parents' evening was that his teacher thought DS was just an indulged only child who couldn't be bothered to put any effort in.

Last night I was reading at bedtime and asked DS if he'd like to read a few of the sentences because they were within his range, "Mary had a big bike" etc, and he read a few but then shouted "no more reading". He can do it, and can do the sounding out and blending, but he just finds it such hard work and has no interest in doing it. Other children in his class seem to want to try out their reading skills and point out things that they can read. He doesn't.

He hates big social groups though - if I take him to a party he will sit on my knee for 2 hours and then go home - won't get involved in party games at all. There was a build a bear party where the children all got together for a photo at the end with their bears, and DS is moving out of the left hand side of the photo because he didn't want to be with the group. He had stood with me and refused to do any of the party games. I have wondered if he's just sat at school being miserable because there are this big group of children, but his teacher says he seems content, just not engaged.

DazzleU Fri 30-Jan-15 11:00:04

If you read through this a couple of others with August DC do say the social side came later for their DC.

My DC school does run groups to help with social skills side of things - worth asking if your school does?

PeterParkerSays Fri 30-Jan-15 11:01:00

He plays well with children on a 1:1 basis, or 1:2, and seems to have children to play with at lunchtime but not a best friend.

His letter formation isn't there yet - a lot of letters are back to front.

I'll have to get DH to do more reading with him after school - we have to be out to work at 7.30 so there isn't time in a morning and I don't get in until 6.15 at night by which point he's fit for nothing and getting ready for bed at 6.45.

GoldfishSpy Fri 30-Jan-15 11:05:08

Does he like games on the computer? Mine both learned to read pretty much by themselves using the reading eggs programme when they were 4.

I read with them too, obviously, but they loved their own computer game to play.

haggisaggis Fri 30-Jan-15 11:13:13

I wouldn't do more reading after school - he will be tired and if he finds it difficult anyway it won't help. Do games instead - writing letters and sounds with water in a squeezy bottle, jumping to sounds you have written on big bits of paper on the floor, tracing them in shaving foam (dd loved this!) these will all help. Same with numbers - play a lot of games. Good idea to get a meeting with the Senco & class teacher.

DazzleU Fri 30-Jan-15 11:14:27

Last night I was reading at bedtime and asked DS if he'd like to read a few of the sentences because they were within his range, "Mary had a big bike" etc, and he read a few but then shouted "no more reading". He can do it, and can do the sounding out and blending, but he just finds it such hard work and has no interest in doing it.

X -posts.

Either find something that he does enjoy reading - with DS it was DH old comic books - later in yr 2 asterix - many left over form my childhood - or currently marvel and this star wars. That or go for bribary - stuff like you can have TV/game ( educational unless minecraft) on once you've read this - though keep the reading bit fun.

My five year old last night didn't want to read her school book - I try and get reading done as early as possible a the later I the day it is harder for her to concentrate - but I had to end up pretending it was very important to me that I knew how to look after a pet - before she'd relent and read so I'd know.

My eldest was very reluctant to read - at this age and beyond - one of many signs that she was struggling - it's very possible DD1 is dyslexia - she got very tired very quickly - made many mistakes during reading and was never very keen to show off her reading skills - in marked contrast to younger DC. Obviously I'm not saying that's the case here - just to keep an eye on it.

MyFabulousBoys Fri 30-Jan-15 11:16:39

Have you had his sight checked? Hearing ok?

chillybits Fri 30-Jan-15 11:18:40

I don't want to encourage you to ignore things but does your DS go to a very academic-orientated school? I know that sounds odd as its a school but it is a fact that academically children develop very differently.

My DS and nephew were born 2 days apart and are very similar development-wise but go to different schools and the approaches are so different. MyDS school is very pastorally orientated. I have never been encouraged to worry about him, was just told the had the capability but hadn't switched onto learning yet and was being given extra support. This was totally true and now at 6 and 2months he's fine and working his way up the class. My nephew is very similar but my DSis has been worried sick by the teachers telling her he was so behind etc. He's also making the same progress as my DS now but she's had a very stressful year.

Your last post isn't that far off what I would write about my son tbh. His letter formation is odd and he doesn't have best friends but not particularly lonely.

Not saying the school is wrong, its great to get the extra support so early but being an August born baby in Yr 1 can be tough. Such a difference.

DazzleU Fri 30-Jan-15 11:22:15

Maybe just keep reading till weekend - ten minutes morning and again before tea - that 4 lots of extra reading when your DS isn't exhausted from school.

My eldest was very clingy in groups -partly shyness and partly very sensitive hearing - something picked up in school as well - she copes better now she is older in fact now large groups don't really bother her.

MisForMumNotMaid Fri 30-Jan-15 11:32:30

I'm absolutely no expert, just a mum of three but my first instinct would be chat to the school.

Progress graphs showing whole class are no doubt a useful tool but someone is going to be top and someone else bottom. He could be in a really bright group of children, or maybe more of them went to a nursery that covered some of the work they've been doing so this is repetition. Its not unusual for an August born 5 year old to have writing thats hard to read or to be getting letters back to front. He's really little, plenty of time to monitor things and allow him to catch up. Maybe you could ask to see examples of other work so you can see a top/ middle/ bottom of group child.

I think the school sound pretty engaged with him if he's getting lots of support and unless there are other issues with the school moving could set him back further if he becomes unsettled by it and you say he's otherwise happy.

My instinct would be don't push the we're going to read thing too much. If he's doing lots of extra stuff at school he may really be building a mental block. Do always read to/ with him though - books were he can follow the odd word. Even younger books like lift the flap or press a noise at a certain word, so he can engage with the reading and you can have little activities like he gets to shout out a certain word. This can build into reading together as it becomes established routine. Reading is all around us. Games like eye spy when you're in the car are great for thinking about letters and words. Or guess the logo where you try to look at the lorry side/ back and work out the shop. I feel that academic achievement is important but if children feel overwhelmed by it they can actually be set back from learning and the gap grows.

My mum was a primary teacher, i have a very bright elder sister, i'm a summer baby and I wasn't interested in reading. I was always being told how i wasn't as good as everyone else and i'd be behind. The thing is I did learn to read and write, once the pressure was off (my mum went back to work) I enjoyed it. Once the bug bit I read a lot.

Loads of games in play at home can incorporate reading and writing. Mine love playing cafes (big age range of 11 - 4). They chalk up a board with whats for sale. It usually also involves lots of stickers (post it notes) with prices on so maths gets in there too.

I know theres lots of good technical advice here from others but he is still little. The difference between winter and summer babies at this age is massive.

Blueundies Fri 30-Jan-15 12:26:41

Who looks after him before and afterschool - can they help? I would definitely get ears and eyes checked. He may be exhausted too as sounds like he has very long days? Is it a private school - the report document sounds odd. I have only ever known assessment v early years framework

FriendlyLadybird Fri 30-Jan-15 13:06:14

So he CAN read and write but doesn't want to? He's bright and chatty at home but doesn't exhibit those characteristics at school? It sounds to me as if he's got the message that reading and writing are 'work' and he is therefore resistant to it.
Is the school quite pressured? We never got 'performance reports' of the type you mention for either of our two at that age. I don't like the idea of a 5-year-old being 'bottom' of anything.
Speak to the school, but also have a look at alternatives. Don't rule anything out at the moment, because you WILL be able to find a solution for drop-offs if you find the school that's going to be right for him.

hiccupgirl Fri 30-Jan-15 13:20:34

I would echo everyone here who has said to ask to meet with the Senco and class teacher to talk through what's going on and what they are putting in place to tackle this at school. This should give you ideas of what to also do at home.

On the reading at home whilst you don't want to put him off or make it a chore, I would insist that he tries to read 2-3 sentences that you know he can do - with lots of bribes or rewards and help as needed. My DS is 5 and in Reception and will quite happily not read a thing because it's hard work and he'd much rather listen to me reading to him but we tackle books with me reading the whole thing first then he tries the bits he thinks he can do. If he says he can do none of then it's not a choice anymore and he has to try - but clearly this is when I know he can do it.

I would also see about sight and hearing tests especially as you say he doesn't like noisy or big groups of children. It could be something going on there or it could just be he finds the classroom difficult to focus in. If the school are already trying to support him, I wouldn't move him yet.

PeterParkerSays Fri 30-Jan-15 13:26:30

Before school DS is either with DH or with a neighbour, but she has two kids of her own so couldn't read with him. DH or I do the pick-ups after school (I do one a week).

We've tested his eyes recently, which are fine. He hasn't had a hearing test but there's nothing wrong with it - he can hear a jaffa cake box open in the next room with no problems. grin

It's a state school but they do seem to be pushing the children a lot in and going on about how big the jump is from Reception (where DS also didn't progress) to Yr 1, I think because of the new national curriculum, but other people's kids seem to be coping better with the demands than DS.

I think that FriendlyLadybird may be right - he thinks of reading and writing as work, not as something to enjoy. As all state schools are going to be the same in terms of getting them to learn to read and write at age 4/5/6, there's nothing we can do about that though.

nonicknameseemsavailable Fri 30-Jan-15 13:57:01

I know the graphs - we get those too. I think they are probably great if your child makes 'standard' progress but, and this is particularly relevant at the beginning of school' they have to actually REACH a certain level for their line to go up. So if he hasn't quite reached a level then it will just be flat whereas if you could hand draw on where he is he could well be just slightly below the first level if that makes sense. You don't seem to be able to get fractions of levels so there may be progress but it isn't visible.

I agree about getting eyes checked, I would advise finding a behavioural optometrist rather than just a regular optician. It could be he has something like Irlen Syndrome where reading actually causes discomfort but officially vision is ok. My eldest wears coloured lenses to help with this. She could always read well but it made her eyes really sore, made them water, can make people feel sick and it was exceptionally hard work for her so she COULD do it but would avoid it. Obviously it affects writing too because it affects how they see the page. Worth looking into.

Adarajames Fri 30-Jan-15 14:01:20

He may hear the jaffacakes opening at home, but it's very different to hearinv don't efficient sounds in a noisy background! I can hear a mouses footsteps somewhere quiet, but struggle to hear a loudish conversation in a busy noisy classroom; so still worth getting a hearing test to rule out the possibility if this beg an issue

Adarajames Fri 30-Jan-15 14:02:22

Dunno what words my phone made up there, but hopefully you get the gist of it?!hmm

dandycandyjellybean Fri 30-Jan-15 14:18:08

I home edded our ds until yr 3. He showed absolutely no interest in reading or writing despite my very best (and often expensive efforts) with jolly phonics books and making character cards to play word games and all sorts of things. I had the odd panic, as his school taught peers were making progress and talking about sound blends and things we'd never heard of.

However, I echo what someone said about comics, he loves superheros so would happily browse a comic. My greatest fear was putting him off reading for life by forcing his interest.

He was very observant, loved pointing out road signs, etc, but any formal reading, he was just 'meh'.

Then, aged 7, he was in bed and I was pottering around tidying his room and I threw him a Dr Zeus book. He parroted a bit of that, so just out of interest, whilst feigning complete boredom, I gave him a Horrid Henry. Not a starter book, but one with entire pages of smallish writing. He read a paragraph without hesitation, using intonation and pausing and most of the punctuation, etc. He'd been able to read for some time, just as a process of osmosis, but basically didn't want to.

Last weekend, at the age of 9, he narrated a 40 minute play (the other narrator was 15) and did a grand job.

Not trying to big up my boy, but just to say I think that sometimes our children can be labelled unnecessarily, because they don't fit into the boxes and charts that school require. It's very early days; try not to get disheartened by the lines on the chart, if he is happy, but just not engaged, I honestly think that he is just not ready for a lot of the activities that school thrusts upon them. Ds wasn't brilliant with big parties, etc, hated loud noises, too. And when he started school in yr 3 some of his letters and numbers were still a bit mixed up and back to front, but they've sorted themselves out now. And he does all the other joining in things that he didn't used to. Try not to panic, and for your sake and his, focus on the things he is good at/enjoys etc, and give as much head space to that as possible; the rest will come, I'm sure.

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