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Lowest ability groupings

(21 Posts)
Cortina Thu 15-Oct-09 10:54:26

As someone who sat at the 'slow table' for years at primary I will admit that I have a bit of a hang up about a DC being in the set/group/table that need more help. My self esteem was very badly damaged.

I went on to be successful and a boy who sat with me became super successful so it didn't blight us for life!
Those at that table, I am still friends with 2, all 'felt' it. The teachers resented us, there were some children who had some sort of undiagnosed learning disability, another who slept most of the time and a couple that were very disruptive. We were all lumped together because they didn't know what else to do with us.

In your experience if a DC improves and needs are better met at a different 'table' do they actually get to move there?Is there fluidity between sets etc? Is there ever any danger a child might be 'labelled' early on and that become a self fulfilling prophecy?

cory Thu 15-Oct-09 10:59:09

Yes, ime there is.

Ds has moved up from the bottom tables in the last couple of years. Dd has moved from the next to bottom right up to top set and a label as G&T.

Also, there is not the social stigma these days. I have never had the feeling that a teacher resents ds because he is less bright: they seem genuinely interested in getting the best out of him. Teachers are better trained these days.

Pyrocanthus Thu 15-Oct-09 11:06:53

Yes, our school is similar to Cory's: the groups are very fluid and the teachers are pretty well aware of the children's progress. And the setting is by subject, so a child who is strong at literacy but wobbly at numeracy would be on different tables for those subjects. No catch-all 'slow tables'.

Cortina Thu 15-Oct-09 12:28:22

That's great to hear, thanks. In the whole days the whole setting thing was deeply flawed so glad to hear things have improved. I can remember resenting the work of those at the 'top' tables and even trying to pass it off as my own so deeply did I feel the 'stigma'!

Cortina Sun 25-Oct-09 16:11:07

Just heard that due to time pressure at DC's school children are rarely moved from the ability groups decided at the start of the year. Hmm. Will have to keep an eye on things.

At parents evening we were told DC is towards the top end of the low ability group but teacher is keen to keep them there so that self esteem is boosted?

Seems from the other thread that others have similar concerns too. Thanks for replies.

LadyMuck Sun 25-Oct-09 16:20:19

Ds2 has been in 2 different schools (moved in Year 1). First school had same ability groupings for all subjects and ds2 was 3 out of 4. Second school has ability groups in each subject, so ds2 is in top group for numeracy, lowest group for writing, somewhere in the middle for reading. Makes a huge difference to him as he can see what he is good at and what he isn't as good at.

Cortina Sun 25-Oct-09 16:29:36

I can see that Lady Muck sounds like a good system.

There are 5 ability groupings in DC's class and they are in the lowest one. DC is beginning to realise and that's a concern. DC has also made huge progress recently and has been helping the other children out. Concerned not going to get stretched going forward.

Concerned that sometimes teachers are reluctant to reshuffle.

primarymum Sun 25-Oct-09 16:43:30

Not sure why teachers would be reluctant to reshuffle, I do so every half term. Of course some children do stay put but some move up and some ( albeit only a very few) move down. My aim is to get as many children as possible into the highest group!( Mind you as I'm constantly pushing this group too, that can sometimes be difficult!) Those in the lower groups get more support both in and out of the class. Some children work better at the top of a "lower" group and some work better at the bottom of a "higher" group, a good teacher will make that judgement. I have different groups for reading writing and maths, most children will have strengths or weaknesses in one or more subjects. My top and bottom group share a large table, the bottom group are becoming adept at "listening in" to the discussions the top group have and picking up ideas and methods, the top group also have to explain their reasoning to the lower ability children, which ensures the learning is really embedded!

Cortina Sun 25-Oct-09 16:51:59

primarymum you sound like you've got a great system! Lucky, lucky children in your class.

As we are new to the class and teacher I don't honestly know how often reshuffles happen etc.

The other parents have told me that our teacher is under huge time pressure, there is rarely a spare minute in the day. There is this same pressure in other year groups. This means that the ability groups are usually fairly static.

I've got no experience to know whether this is true or not.

Doesn't make much sense as I play it back.

If you have a weak teacher I guess this becomes more of a problem? A teacher who makes the wrong decisions or fails to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their pupils? How much damage could a poor teacher actually do in terms of mis-managing ability groupings?

mrz Sun 25-Oct-09 17:23:11

As a teacher I'm really against static grouping of children I feel it is much more effective to alternate your groups. some tasks by ability/task other times mixed ability and I find paired partnerships can work very well for some tasks. Often lower ability children can have very good ideas but struggle to record where a child with better writing/reading ability make lack the imagination.

primarymum Sun 25-Oct-09 17:32:54

Well, I would certainly agree that teachers are under a great deal of time pressure ( I have my planning files in front of me and allow myself 5 minutes on here for every lesson I plan) but I don't think that's an excuse not to assess children and re-form groups, a teacher should "know" whether a child finds the work set too easy or too hard and move them accordingly. I have 4 ability groups in my class and 1 girl I have works with set 2 for maths except for calculations which she struggles with so moves to set 3 for additional support, it's hardly difficult to organise! I don't think however that it would necessarily do damage,but it would stop children progressing as well as they should if the work is not set at the correct level, which is what would worry me if the groupings were not right. I would have a quiet word with the class teacher and ask her whether "if DC will be moving up groups if he continues to make good progress" This is probably a more diplomatic way of asking his teacher to look at groupings than outright-we teachers can be a touchy lotblush

eyetunes Sun 25-Oct-09 17:34:59

ds is on the bottom table and he hates it. He says he really wants to be on the top table with his friends but find the work too tricky. I feel for him, it becomes quite clear as they go through the primary school, what the slow table is all about.

primarymum Sun 25-Oct-09 17:35:04

Oh and I agree with mrz about fluidity between groups according to tasks, children shouldn't always be working within groups!

slowreadingprogress Sun 25-Oct-09 17:35:26

I think simply remember your child is not you. It's so easy to project our fears onto our children, I think we all do it - but as others have said, training on this issue for teachers is SO different now. I do agree that if a teacher simply doesn't identify a child's strengths and keeps groups static that would be a problem - but I think you'd need to talk direct to your child's teacher if you felt that was happening.

FWIW, my ds has SEN (dyslecix/dyspraxic difficulties and still a non reader at 7) and is on 'low' tables for everything but the other day I was talking to a classmate's mum (who wouldn't know ds abilities etc) and she said that her son always speaks of mine as the 'star pupil' of the class and hero worships him a bit! I think as long as your child feels they have some qualities that are appreciated, some things that they can 'do' even if it's in the playground or pe not in the class, then that's what is perceived by the other kids.

Also schools in general are much hotter on inclusion now - they have to be, with much more of it going on. When I visited Ds' school I was shown round by year 10 boys who showed me the SENCo's room and said "people come here for help in subjects where they're less confident"....I'm sure the playground can still be a bit less PC than that but if that's the general ethos it has to help. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the school can set the tone here and your child's experience does not have to be damaging, and if you feel it is - challenge!

vvvodka Sun 25-Oct-09 17:35:49

dc1 was lucky enought to be seen by senco, and progressed almost logarithmically.
dc2, who is worse academically, isnt seen by the senco, coz apparently he isnt 'bad enouhg' and is stuck there. he is top of the bottom set, (well, was, we've changed schools now) and there was no progression for him at all

StinkbotsMum Sun 25-Oct-09 19:42:29

I think this anecdote might be relevant:

DS is probably the brightest child in his class (mixed Yr4-5, so not that much an achievement smile ). Anyway, for science, he is on the same table as 2 kids with SN (they are rather lower than average academic ability, it was implied as the story was told to me the other night at parents' evening).

DS teacher went on to say how pleased she was with this mix, how DS was responding very well, showing exemplary patience with lower ability pupils (I didn't know he had it in him!! shock).

Anyway, I thought it was a good example of a teacher not pegging lower ability students into one always-lost-cause category.

CoonRapids Sun 25-Oct-09 22:11:14

Should remember that these groupings are not always about 'ability' or being 'bright' or 'not bright' per say. It might be more useful to think of them as relating to the the stage a child is at in their learning. I would think (particularly in the infants) that this depends alot on age and length of time in school as well as 'ability'.

I'm mum to a summer born boy who's now in year one after only one term in reception. I don't think the fact he is in 'lower' groups for reading etc. relates entirely to his 'ability' but more that he is young for the year group and has only just got used to the whole 'being at big school' experience...

Cortina Mon 26-Oct-09 08:19:03

To PP. I think that's a great way of looking at this. The stage a child is at in their learning. Agree as per your son and I have a very similar situation with one of mine.

My concern is that children can be 'labelled' and not achieve potential going forward because of this. I am reassured by the replies so far. If the teachers are like 'primary mum' generally then we have absolutely nothing to worry about. If you have a teacher who is inexperienced/whom you find difficult to trust their judgement then you need to follow the situation closely.

colditz Mon 26-Oct-09 08:22:47

Ds1 is grouped. His grouping is so fluid I dopn't know what group he is in from one day to the next - firstly it depends on his behavior, and how stressed he is that day. Secondly it depends on his concentration and need for supervision. Thirdly it depends on the task in hand.

For sheets of sums on a well behaved day, he is top grouped. For protracted writing on a 'difficult' day, he is bottom grouped.

I don't care. I trust his teacher to know what she is doing.,

crazycat34 Wed 28-Oct-09 14:58:29

I'm in Reception and grouping in my class is fluid in as much as I don't assume a lower attaining (not ability) child in September will still be so in July and so they all have the possiblity of moving 'up' and 'down' (for want of a better expression).

In many cases, it's maturity or confidence that gets in the way of them achieving and sometimes a little extra support, or the reassurance of having an adult working more closely alongside them, is enough to see results.

What I expect of the children varies from activity to activity, and day to day, etc. I can usually tell when they come in in the morning what sort of day they will have.

I don't place any limitations on what they can achieve.

GetOrfMoiLand Wed 28-Oct-09 15:21:26

I hate the grouping of children like this.

I think things have certainly moved on from the bad old days, however when dd was in year 4 (not so long ago, she is 13 now) there were 5 classes in her year group. 4 classes were of a 'normal' spread of ability, but they thought it would be appropriate to class all the SN/low ability/challenging children into one class and apportion 1 teacher and 2 TAs in the class. I thought that was an unforgiveable division and it really stigmatised the children imo. The children in the other 4 classes called it the 'special class with problems'. If I was the parent of a child in that class I would have been so upset.

Turned out to have been an experiment because in Year 5 the children in this class were divided up into the rest of the classes.

I was always very hmm about this whole concept.

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