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Ability groups in Y1

(27 Posts)
Maxiebaby Fri 23-Oct-09 12:10:41

Can anyone tell me if ability groups at this tender age are based on ability (ie how bright a child is) or actual attainment. Also, at an age when a year makes a huge amount of difference to their development, to what extent do the groupings tend to reflect birth dates?

DD just had lovely, positive feedback from first Y1 parents' evening. The teacher says she is doing very well academically (April birthday, reading ORT stage 6 with ease for eg), so I was a bit surprised when she told us DD is somewhere in the middle in terms of ability groups. We understand this is because she has a tendancy to rush her work and doesnt therefore do as well as she is able. In which case, are we right in saying that 'ability' groups reflect what a child does rather that what they are actually capable of (which would not, until now at least, have been my definition of ability)?

Can any experienced mumsnetters tell me if the ability groups at this age are a true refelction of ability (in terms of potential) or to some extent of the childrens' relative stages of development and age? If the latter, I guess the groups must be pretty fluid and things will even out??

blametheparents Fri 23-Oct-09 12:36:26

IME the groups have been based on attainment.
And yes, the groups have been pretty fluid.

DailyMailNameChanger Fri 23-Oct-09 12:42:13

They are where they are now and how much they can del with being stretched IME. Dd is 5 with a June birthday so only started school in the January. She is top of the top ability set, simply because she has fantastic application skills, she is brilliant at sitting, listening and applying. Other children who could manage far more than her are lower simply becasue they are not ready to be pushed so far yet. I suspect that, by the end of the year oterh children will have matured in their application skills and will be catching her up and possibly even pulling away.

The groups are very fluid and tend not to be identfied as aility, usually it is colour or something like that.

emsandjammy Fri 23-Oct-09 12:47:00

IME (also have a DD in yr 1) they start off as being based on the reception teacher's assessment of them which i think should more or less correlate with their Early Years profile score they got at end of reception. Which in a sense should measure their actual attainment rather than potential. This will vary massively at this tender age.
My DD did very well in reception and is in the top group (brags smile). I have a friend whose daughter is also pretty bright but not as interested in learning yet and so this hasn't translated into achievements in the same way and hence she is in the middle group. She was, however, told at parents' evening that she was working much better and may well be moved up by Christmas - so yes they seem to be fluid as they change so much at this age. In our class the groups certainly don't seem to link to age though.

Hope this helps

Miggsie Fri 23-Oct-09 12:48:17

The groups at DD's school are based on demonstration of applied learning and also behaviour.

One boy has been moved off the top group as he would keep talking and being silly, and wouldn't do the work even though he was capable.

The teacher also told me that children that show real interest and inquisitiveness are taken out once a week to do a subject more in depth. This is solely based on interest in learning and discursive abilities and not intelligence.

cat64 Fri 23-Oct-09 13:03:17

Message withdrawn

ellokitty Fri 23-Oct-09 15:09:37

My DD was reading ORT level 5 before she started reception. Her friend could not read at all. My DD developed a love of reading from the age of 3... and took her time slowly to learn to read. Her friend did not read at all, but then flew once she got to school.

Now, (Year 1) they are both in the same group, and the friend has got further through the reading scheme than my DD (they tackle books in progression). In fairness, my DD does find the school books boring, and so she tends to read lots of other books at home instead - flower fairies, Enid Blyton that sort of thing, whereas I think the other girl changes her reading book every day (we do it once a week!)

But the point being, there is no hard and fast rule as to where they end up. Whilst Its not true that they all even out in the end - its also not true that those that are deemed 'brighter' will necessarily be 'brighter' at the end, although I believe research indicates that those behind at 5/6, tend to remain further behind. There are so many different factors going on - personalities, love of reading/learning, home environment, enjoyment of school, ease of learning and so on... that it really is impossible to say. Some children peak earlier, others blossom later!

whereareyou Fri 23-Oct-09 22:38:26

IMO definately attainment.

DD (June born) progressed from lower middle Year 1 to top table by Year 3.

In Year 1 I was told she was doing well but like you a bit hmm that this translated into the work she was doing which was certainly behind alot of others in her class at this stage.

She got all 3s in her SATs in year 2 and has continued to gain in attainment.

Some children just need a little longer to mature and I do believe this applies to some spring/summer children.The 'bright' children in reception/year 1 are split now with other children easily passing them in attainment.

If you want to encourage your dd I would ask the teacher for ideas of fun things you can do based around the Year 1 curriculum and praise learning and reading.Good sites to look at for help are primary resources, maths zone and Woodlands Junior.Whilst I'm sure she is doing fine a bit of parental support can help if she isn't achieving what you think she should be capable of.But then I'm a bit of an interfering mum!

heavealot Fri 23-Oct-09 22:46:20

I'm surprised that reading ORT stage 6, that she is in the middle of the class. That would be top group in my ds' yr 1 class (in a school which gets top notch sats results).

So I would be a bit concerned as surely if she can read at that level, she should be doing literacy work which uses that level of ability?

jomummy2 Sat 24-Oct-09 08:37:10

I wouldn't be too concerned about the abilty groups just yet...

They are ability set - even at reception for ease planning, guided reading, matching activities to abilty etc but at this young age they are not the groups that will remain through their schooling. July/Aug birthdays are very young on entering school and are often slow learners to start with but by the time they are 7 have caught be in maturity and academically. Some children will remain in the top group throughout their schooling whilst others move in and out.

It merely depends on their application, work they are able to produce and their ability. I have taught an extremely bright child in Year 1 who doesn't produce the work to match is abilty but shows his abilty through carpet time and questioning. He just doesn't like putting pen to paper but he is still in my 'top' group because i would be failing him by putting him down a group that didn't match his ability iykwim.

Like another netter has said - you have been told your child is doing well so enjoy the moment grin

piscesmoon Sat 24-Oct-09 08:51:22

I would enjoy the fact that she is doing well at the moment. The ability grouping is for convenience. The work is differentiated and so she will be in the group where she is most comfortable. She sounds average which is fine most children are average. It isn't a race-she is very young and she will change a lot as she gets older-she has 12 yrs to be in and out of various groupings. Don't make her feel that she is failing unless she is in the highest ability group.

MrsJoslyn Sat 24-Oct-09 08:59:17

Message withdrawn

LilyBolero Sat 24-Oct-09 09:14:11

People often go a lot on reading groups, but remember literacy groups also include writing. Ds1 was in the 2nd literacy group from YR-Y2, in Y3 moved up into the top group. This was largely because his writing improved, as his reading was always excellent. Dd on the other hand has been maybe slightly ahead in reading, but light years ahead in writing, and has been in the top group from the word go.

piscesmoon Sat 24-Oct-09 09:53:50

The top group may well be beyond the reading scheme altogether.It is never a good idea to compare.

MrsJoslyn Sun 25-Oct-09 07:39:56

As a primary school teacher (and mum) I can confirm that when children are grouped it is purely ability based. If a child is not attaining for various reasons but has shown their true potential they should be placed into the higher group and targeted to make sure they are reaching their potential. Otherwise if they are placed in the lower group they may become bored, unengaged which will hinder development.

However it is important that your child consistently shows this potential otherwise the higher group may be a step too far.

What is most important as this stage as the children are so young is that they are happy and settled at school.

Birthdays are largely irrelevant but the children should be consistently assessed so can change from one ability group to another based on attainment.

Hope this helps,


Cortina Sun 25-Oct-09 11:54:21

DC is in the bottom ability group- year one- as missed some of the reception year. I go in to help and I have to say it broke my heart to see how far she was ahead of the others, she and another girl. They were very articulate and could offer solutions to problems etc. I am concerned that DC could be held back. I am assured the ability groups are very fluid but some of the Mums tell me due to the teacher having little time this isn't the case in reality.

I will keep an eye on it but I am concerned that children can get 'labelled' and labels can stay with children through their school career if we don't keep an eye on it.

PollyParanoia Sun 25-Oct-09 21:14:00

Er, has no one said, they're five ffs. It's not sorting them out into tables marked Oxbridge, Russell Group, ex Poly and no GSCEs. Though can you imagine if there was a school that called their ability groups that...

Cortina Mon 26-Oct-09 08:29:39

It would make for an interesting school Polly .

If you went back in time to my primary school you would see academic attainment going forward very much in line with the ability groupings in year one. Nothing changed much. The top tables went on to the 'best' universities the low tables didn't get to university and the middle tables ended up in the middle range universities.

I can speak with confidence as I came from a small village and know the academic and career histories (to a degree) of all those in my class. Fine if potential was fulfilled but a few have ended up with very fixed mindsets about their potential and ability which came about at a very early year. Those that went on to do well sometimes still doubt themselves because of early experiences.

The same thing happened generally with my sister's children who are now 16-18 and the children within her circle of friends and so on. I know I am generalising a bit

What's really great is to read primarymum's response to this. It's very positive and makes me very hopeful for the future. In my heart I still think that early labelling happens and can be very damaging. The good thing is parents seem to keep a close eye on this sort of thing and will appropriately challenge anything that concerns them.

PollyParanoia Mon 26-Oct-09 10:15:01

I honestly have no idea whether where I was in relation to others in primary school, and I'm sure my parents don't either. I got a first from Oxford, so ultimately I was very academic, but I really don't think there were any signs of it until I was in secondary (and even then, not particularly). I'm amazed that you see such a correlation Cortina, and can even remember or knew who was where in the class.
I hate the idea of labelling children "bright" at such a young age because of all the factors mentioned here. My ds in y1 knows exactly where he is on his reading levels because there's a chart hanging up in the classroom. I find this really disconcerting.

southernbelle77 Mon 26-Oct-09 16:33:39

I'm interested to see, at dd's parents evening, how she is doing. I know she is in the middle group for pretty much everything. This doesn't suprise me at all as although she is quite competent, she also has a tendency not to concentrate and daydream quite a lot. The one group that does 'concern' (nto sure concern is what I mean really) me is her reading group. She is reading level 6 ORT and can be really quite fluent with them, but in her reading group I know there are other children who are at least 3 levels below her and I can't see how they can be reading books that suit all of them, itms.
DD's best friends mum is a year 1 teacher in another school (dd is in yr 1 btw) and has said that at this age everything can change quite often and the groups should be fluent and that by the time the children get to year 4 a lot has changed anyway.

LilyBolero Mon 26-Oct-09 17:08:20

the reading groups don't always read the same books - in my kids' school they would have their own independent reading book, and a joint guided reading book, but the guided reading book would tend to be used to look at specific things like speech marks, or descriptive words or something like that.

In dd's class last year, ORT 6 would have been about the 2nd or 3rd (out of 5) groups at this stage if that's any help. The lowest group were still learning reception key words, and were about ORT 2 or 3, and the highest group varied - but were moving towards free reading.

southernbelle77 Mon 26-Oct-09 18:33:55

Thats interesting about the reading groups Lily, thanks.

I'm really not fussed about what reading group she is in (or any other group for that matter) as long as she is stimulated and enjoying it. However, there are children in the top reading group also reading the same books as dd which is why I was shocked she was in a group with others reading quite a lot lower. I did think however that it could be that she doesn't concentrate on it so much at school. However, she reads her level books 1:1 with the teacher so she must know that dd can do it, itms!

Anyway, parents evening will probably help clarify it!

StinkbotsMum Mon 26-Oct-09 19:08:55

I have no idea which reading groups/ORT Level DS2 is in (Yr1).
But the first words out of his teacher's mouth last week, at parents evening, were "It's a joy having him in my class". And she went onto elaborate for several minutes.

I can't really ask for better, can I? Whatever his ORT Level.

fwiw: DS1 always seemed quite average, I'm sure he wasn't in top ability groups... until suddenly in Yr3. Why don't parents believe in the concept of 'Late Bloomers' any more??

The only label that I think tends to stick is 'Naughty': and even that only sticks within the same year; Come September, new teacher, new start. I know as an occasional parent helper that the most rewarding children to work with are not actually the brightest, but rather the least able. Because you can make the most difference with the least able children. When they have a big improvement, that's more satisfying then seeing any other ability-child improve. I bet lots of teachers feel the same as me.

MumNWLondon Wed 28-Oct-09 23:14:21

Sorry to hijack thread but have question on this theme... DD (just turned 6) in year 1. Last year she was given the Ginn reading scheme and they only changed the books twice a week - very slow frustrating progress and DD completely bored by it. When I asked the teacher was told her reading was one of the best in the class.

Now in year 1 they have moved the whole class to ORT. I have now found out that many of the kids were started last year on ORT, and many pushy parents asked for 2 books at a time, and so are much further ahead.

Meanwhile over the summer DD and I did a lot of reading, and she read to me every night - she is now reading the ladybird Read It Yourself level 4 (maybe around 40-50 words on a page) - we do 6 pages a night, and she finds the M&S early readers easy (can read whole book in a night).

They have put her on ORT level 3 - and although she maybe doesn't know immediately around 1 word per book, she can read them very quickly - I suggested they are not the right level for her - and was told they work through all the books in order. Have got them to agree to 2 books at a time, so thats 6 books a week.

Not really sure what to do now? Have picked up in a bookshop ORT level 4 and 5 "read at home" - although didn't buy them and I know she could easily read at this level. Feel frustrated as she is not being challenged by the school reading, and its the reading we are doing thats challenging her, which surely isn't the way its supposed to be?

MrsGently Wed 28-Oct-09 23:41:55

MNWL - does your dd enjoy reading the books she gets from school? If so let her learn to read them with expression, pay attention to punctuation and talk about the story. Does she want to be challenged or is she happy to read what she is given?

Supplementing school books with home/library books is always a good idea - but imo learning to read is not just about being challenged, it's about enjoying the process. I know too many kids who learned to read early and under pressure to be challenged they some how lost the joy of reading along the way. These kids were streets ahead of my dc in Year 1 but my dc, with her joy of reading soon bypassed them.

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