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Please help me complain about ds's English classes (year 9)

(13 Posts)
gramercy Wed 19-Oct-11 13:08:26

I am very much a putting-up-with person, but I feel I now must take some action.

Ds is at a (good) comprehensive, but the English classes are not set for ability. Ds is coming home saying he's depressed by the English lessons which he feels are a complete waste of time.

The teacher (apparently) teaches to the lowest ability level, which according to ds is very low. They have spent nearly all of this half term making "persuasive posters" in groups, which has driven ds to despair.

I had a look on the school website and saw that the rest of this year covers such elevated topics as "designing a funfair ride" and "writing your own fairy tale". I did not spot any poetry, Shakespeare... or in fact the study of any novel.

Now, obviously I could do work with ds at home, but ds is rather resistant to this, and makes the point that since he has English lessons at school he feels it would be reasonable to learn there. He keeps citing Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society and says he wants to be taught English like that [Pigs Might Fly emoticon].

Anyway, is it worth my writing to the teacher or HoD? I just can't marshall my thoughts into what might be a reasonable and coherent argument whilst also sounding humble.

CustardCake Wed 19-Oct-11 16:03:14

I think you do have grounds to raise this issue. Teachers in mixed ability classes are supposed to 'differentiate' work. This means that, whilst the children are all studying broadly the same topic, there should be extension work for the higher ability children (and easier options for the lower ability children). It should not all be aimed at the lowest ability in the class.

Personally I think the gulf is often to huge to make mixed classes at this age work properly but if they insist on doing this then they do have an obligation to provide work at the correct level for all children and not just pitch it so low that everyone can do the same.

I think the reasonable argument would be to ask for differentiated work so that children capable of higher level work are not missing out and are not left bored by the pace of the lessons.

noblegiraffe Wed 19-Oct-11 16:28:07

Here is the national curriculum programme of study for KS3 English that your DS should be working to.

Under section 3.2 it gives a selection of authors that should be studied and it says at least one play by Shakespeare.

So if they are not covering that, you are well-armed to go in and ask why.

NatashaBee Wed 19-Oct-11 16:40:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

gramercy Wed 19-Oct-11 18:18:26

Thanks for your responses.

I think I will have to say something. To whom should I address my concerns? The Departmental Head? Although I wouldn't want to annoy ds's teacher by going over his head.

Looking at noblegiraffe's NT link - I do think the teacher is following this, but at the lowest possible level.

There is no setting for English at ds's school, even when they start GCSEs. Ds says this is a bit discriminatory, because maths, science and languages are set.

Silverstreet Wed 19-Oct-11 22:39:10

As he is year 9 can he raise this himself, rather than have mum do it? If he is not happy saying something in front of his friends then he should be able to email the teacher, and say he is finding the work too easy so please could he have some extension work. Or he could position it that he is getting level X now but wants to aim for level Y, so please could he have some harder work set in class and for homework. If he gets no action then I would then call the teacher and follow up with an email so you have a record.

wordfactory Thu 20-Oct-11 08:32:09

No setting is ridiculous.
By that age there will be some pupils fully able to engage with complex literature and should be doing so.

webwiz Thu 20-Oct-11 08:41:24

It isn't the setting that's the problem its the level of work being set. DS was in a mixed ability class for english in years 7-9 and is now in sets for GCSE work. He was never set something as terrible as half a term on posters. The GCSE curriculum for english language and literature covers a wide range of skills and this sort of work just won't leave anyone ready for the next stage.

seeker Thu 20-Oct-11 08:43:48

What's his target grade for GCSE?

gramercy Thu 20-Oct-11 09:12:12

No target for GCSE given as yet.

English has always been his strong suit (embarrassing boast here: the primary school head rang me and told me he got the highest English SATS mark in the county, if that has any significance) so it is a great shame that he is reduced to drawing posters in groups. Actually it's a shame for all of the pupils, no matter what their ability.

Tigerstripes Thu 20-Oct-11 16:48:29

What's his target for end of key stage 3? (end year 9). What is his current level?
We teach mixed ability and I teach to the top and differentiate for the bottom. No way should the teacher be teaching to the bottom.
Could you look at your ds's book to see what exactly has been covered? Although in our school the pieces of work that are formally levelled aren't done in books, so you might not get the full picture.

Ormirian Thu 20-Oct-11 16:50:31

Blimey! What set is he in? DS is only in set 2 but has been studying Shakespeare and varying poetry forms for the last 2 years.

Ormirian Thu 20-Oct-11 17:08:48

Oh I see there is no setting. That's quite unusual isn't it?

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