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How do geeks fit in mixed ability classes?

(53 Posts)
MaddestMother Wed 12-Sep-12 13:42:26

Hi All,
After much deliberation and stress on my part as to where to send DD to secondary school, last week she started at our local comp. The school has had improving grades over the last few years and has great facilities but I have always had nagging doubts about how she would fit in at secondary. She's the most lovely person I know, kind and thoughtful, great sense of humour and has always worked really hard at school. She is quite geeky and always speaks properly, maybe comes across as a little posh but not in a snobbish way.

She went to a small village primary where she had a good set of likeminded friends and absolutely loved it, however, at the end of year 6 they split up and her good friends have gone to 3 different schools. DD does have children she knows at the comp but they aren't her great friends.

So, first day at big school she went off full of enthusiasm but came home very sullen and after a little probing burst into tears. She has nobody she knows in any of her classes and apparently some of the other children in her classes were talking and messing about which she found distracting, she also said that a couple of the children can't read. She has the same group (mixed up from different tutor groups) in every class, so I assume they are all mixed ability. I asked my friend's daughter (yr 11) who said that she had heard a rumour that the new yr7s were going to be taught in mixed ability rather than putting them in sets.

DD came home yesterday saying a couple of boys in her class are teasing her for answering questions in class (repeating what she says in a mocking voice) and most of the girls won't talk to her as they're all trying to be cool and impress the boys! DD isn't really into boys/makeup/carrying a silly handbag that you cant fit your lunch in. She just wants to be herself and be liked for who she is!!
There is a parents evening tomorrow, I don't want to go in and rant but I can feel it brewing!! Their website says they will be set from year 7 in maths, english & science but this clearly hasn't happened hmm I just don't know how she's going to cope in the longterm if this is how it has to be...
Sorry it's a bit long smile

noblegiraffe Wed 12-Sep-12 14:14:28

My school doesn't set in maths till half term so that we've got a chance to assess the kids ourselves (we don't trust SATs results).
So perhaps they will be set, just not quite yet. It would be worth asking when and how they'll be set at the parents' evening. Some parents do choose schools based on setting procedures so if it does turn out to be a change to what was advertised, you would be quite right to complain.

If the teasing continues, she should report it to a teacher who would hopefully clamp down on this quite sternly. Hopefully she'll find some girls to fit in with given a bit of time, otherwise perhaps requesting a change of learning group might help.

BreakfastCricket Wed 12-Sep-12 14:19:18

What a good school to have a parents' evening so soon. I'd be encouraged by that.

See how today goes. Attend the parents' evening with your child but don't beome part of the 'floor' discussion. Sit on your hands, even if you are itching to join in. There will be time set aside for parents to come up and speak individually at the end. Let others push in front and then let them leave before you do. Hang back and be among the last to come forward so that you are speaking in relative privacy.

If possible let your child tell her story herself with you as her supporter. You might find they are leaving the 'setting' for the first few weeks. If not enough time to get through your list, ask for an appointment.

Give the school the benefit of the doubt and keep positive for your child. I'm sure it will just take a little time to settle down and your lovely child will find her feet and rightful place.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 12-Sep-12 16:23:22

Comps ceased having faith in the differentiation of KS2 SATs results a while back so they will be doing their own assessments during the first term.

Do not worry about mixed ability for now
DO WORRY about being picked on for getting things right - speak to her pastoral tutor RIGHT AWAY

SecretSquirrels Wed 12-Sep-12 16:31:59

It's unusual to have completely mixed ability classes, usually there is at least banding and setting for English, Maths and science.
I have a DS like your DD. Very bright and geeky and went to a tiny village primary.
He did find it hard at times. I remember him coming home in tears because he had come top in Maths and been teased sad. Eventually though, he gelled with a lovely group of girls and boys who were all equally motivated.He ended up loving the school.

He's just started 6th form and while I'm sure he will be fine and find some geeky friends he is a little nervous of some of the "cool" kids with swagger and attitude.

I agree with others that this needs nipping in the bud. Often there are buddy or mentors Year 11 who can be assigned to new year 7s

MaddestMother Wed 12-Sep-12 18:05:04

Thanks for the advice, I'll try not to make a show of myself tomorrow grin
DD came home a bit more positive today, her music teacher told her she absolutely must audition for the girls choir and one of the boys was answering lots of questions in maths so he got a ribbing instead of her today!
I'm thinking more girls like DD would be attracted to the choir so she might find some friends that way!

It's interesting you should say about yr11 mentors Squirrels, that's another thing they mention on the website but hasn't happened... I can feel a list coming on wink

GetDownNesbitt Wed 12-Sep-12 21:46:10

We teach everything in mixed ability groups in Y7, and only Maths is set in Y8 and Y9. At GCSE, option groups are often mixed ability, especially in smaller schools - for example, there is only one GCSE History class in my school.

So, it can happen.

bruffin Thu 13-Sep-12 00:22:37

Dcs school set from day one, based on cats and SATs. There is no excuse to wait at all.
They set in maths, English, sciences and humanities.

SkippyYourFriendEverTrue Thu 13-Sep-12 03:37:57

When I was at school they set after Y7, so Y8.

I did tend to answer the teachers questions blush but it wasn't an issue at my Comp, which was quite a posh one admittedly. Seems a pity to have that really.

BrianButterfield Thu 13-Sep-12 06:54:27

My comprehensive never sets for English - we teach mixed ability all through the school but I never have a problem with kids answering questions! It's not uncool to answer at all; in fact I often don't have time to take all the answers. Is the teasing in lessons or out of them? Teachers really shouldn't let it happen in the classroom. I am very firm on comments or even sneaky looks when I see them - not OK in my room.

Lisaletta Thu 13-Sep-12 06:57:23

A lot of comps don't set until after year 7. Some schools only set in maths in yr 8 and the rest mixed. A good teacher should be able to differentiate between abilities in the same class but it makes in harder. I think you should ask about the school's policy so you understand what is going on but not something to get hung up on. The main thing is that all the kids are pushed to achieve their academic potential whatever that is. As others said, the main thing to ask about is why other pupils are being allowed to make sarky comments to your daughter in class about asking Qs. so something to talk to the form teacher about. It takes a while to settle down in year 7 especially for the more shy/geeky types so try not to panic too much, it will sort itself out in a term or so.

MaddestMother Thu 13-Sep-12 15:17:19

I was talking to a friend at work this morning who has DC at the school, she said last year her DD (then yr7) was in sets for maths & english from the start based on SATs results and they did a bit of moving about after Xmas when they were put into sets for science & MFL as well. That was what I was expecting to happen this year. hmm

I have printed off the web page saying about their setting policy so I will take it tonight as evidence. DD originally wanted to go to the school her best friend is going to but I ruled it out as they only set in maths & I knew DD wouldn't cope with disruptive behaviour in class so I persuaded her that this school would be the better option. I guess I feel like I've let her down...

BreakfastCricket Thu 13-Sep-12 15:40:51

Having a parents' evening so soon into the new term means that they are definitely communicating with parents which I think is a good sign.

However let's hope tonight has not been arranged to discuss a change of policy. I would be furious if that happened at our school. Good to have the 'current' setting policy to hand.

Fingers crossed it's an evening welcoming the parents to the school and delivering news of other initiatives.

JustGettingByMum Thu 13-Sep-12 18:28:48

The school which Dd attends only sets in maths in Y7. I dislike this assumption that if children are set it will get your child away from the low level disruption, but what about the hard working child who doesn't make the top sets, why should they be put with the disrupters?
At least a group of bright children in each class, teamed with the hard working, but more average ability children should give enough critical mass for good learning to flourish. If it doesn't, then the teacher needs to asked what is happening. sad

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 13-Sep-12 18:34:12

Dd1 has been set for most things throughout, and is now in year 11. Her french group however is not set and there are some toe rags there, to be fair. She finds them annoying but I I think you have to develop some strength of character and a thick skin.

Also they are set in science and the nastiest worst behaved boy in her year who has been a pain since year 7 is in the top set, and threw paper at her all through last physics lesson. Setting doesn't always equal good behaviour, unfortunately!

circular Thu 13-Sep-12 19:33:26

DDI (now yr11) was set for Maths & English during the first term in yr7 , an Scuence from yr8.

Plenty of disruptive behaviour and messing around in top sets as they tend to have the largest numbers. Especially from the brighter boys getting bored in maths lessons in yr8 & 9.

She is also more geeky than girly, but they eventually find a similar frendship group. It took her till mid-way through yr8 to make good friends that have stuck together throughout. All outside of her form, and also all in choir. Friendly enough with many girls in her form and tutor groups too as far as calling each other about homework etc goes, but not to socialise with.

wordfactory Thu 13-Sep-12 19:36:42

Mixed abilty classe are the work of the devil IMVHO.
The most able have nothing to challenge them and the least able are made to feel hopeless.

Trying to be all things to all men is a recipe for disaster.

crazygracieuk Thu 13-Sep-12 21:09:49

My y7 son did CATs today and will get those results next week and split into groups based on those results as SATs are apparently very unreliable,

bruffin Thu 13-Sep-12 21:18:10

Dcs school do their cats as part of induction in the July before they start. They use those as well as cats results for setting. As I said above there is no excuse to leave setting until after they start.

GetDownNesbitt Thu 13-Sep-12 21:46:32

Why is setting seen as so important? Seriously, it causes more issues than it solves in my experience.

mummytime Thu 13-Sep-12 22:03:01

I would be asking what they are going to do to stamp out intimidation of students answering in class and other bullying behaviour. Mixed ability can work very well, but this kind of behaviour is not on.

noblegiraffe Thu 13-Sep-12 22:04:51

I'm a maths teacher and am counting the days until half term when Y7s are setted. I know I'm not doing the best I can by either the weakest (level N) or the most able (level 6) in my class.

GetDownNesbitt Thu 13-Sep-12 22:09:13

See, even in a setted class there is a wide range of abilities. I have a GCSE top set which covers A* - C/D borderline - that is effectively mixed ability!

MaddestMother Thu 13-Sep-12 22:19:38

I don't see why proper setting should cause issues, perhaps it would for admin but surely for the pupils, being able to work in groups with others of similar ability and being able to work at an appropriate level would be more beneficial that being in a class where the teacher is constantly trying to differentiate the work for all abilities?

This evening wasn't quite what I expected, it was information giving. Filling in forms which I'm quite sure I did in July and being told all about procedures in the school. There will be another meeting in a few weeks to meet the form tutor, then another next month to hear all about the new ways they will be teaching the maths & english curriculum (no other details given...).

At the end I managed to catch the head of english (who did seem really lovely) and asked her what was happening with setting. They won't be put into sets until year 9 and then it will only be seperating out the really high achievers and the really low achievers so the majority will stay in mixed classes.

She seemed so nice I didn't have the heart to get my printout out and have a go at her so I just left it at that for now. I suppose waiting until the curriculum meeting will give more time to see how DD settles and if there is any improvement in the way DD is treated by her peers. In the mean time, I'm going to ring her tutor to raise my concerns.

noblegiraffe Thu 13-Sep-12 22:22:51

Depends on the school and subject, getdown, our GCSE top set is A* to A!

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