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Y10 report- have you had to do The Talk?

(44 Posts)
Erebus Thu 13-Mar-14 21:03:41

We did tonight. DS1's (14 1/2) report is 'disappointing', 8 subjects remarked upon- 4 have a '1' (top) for effort, 4 have a '2' (doesn't always focus). 6 out of the 8 comments speak of 'lack of focus', 'falling back', 'distraction'... And there are 4 'C's and 4 'B's.

DS1 is, I genuinely believe and his past performance has indicated capable of 4 or 5 'A's, the rest 'B's. He has only ever got one or two '2's for effort to date, and he's in the second of 10 maths groups, for instance, in the academically top performing comp in the county. He's doing triple science (fast track), maths, Spanish, 2 x English, geog and a couple of techs. The Plan was a good 6th form college followed by a reasonable uni to do maybe Engineering (he's on board for this!).

So tonight we've had the 'Your future in your hands' talk.

I was calm, I was reasoned. But I am deeply worried! I need for DS to recognise how much rests on these GCSEs. His 'future' shouldn't hinge on them, but actually, in the mainstream (as is DS)- it does.

Anyone else had to do it?? Is it usual for a hormone-riddled 14 year old to waver like this? What did you say? How did you follow up? Measure progress? Generally approach it?

Advice needed! TIA.

NearTheWindymill Thu 13-Mar-14 22:10:27

I think I'd be trying to find out why he's stopped focussing rather than emphasising that he hasn't done well enough.

It's very tough - mine are 19 and nearly 16. Ultimately, you have to let them grow up and make their own decisions. It's about his plan and what he needs.

All you can do really is to feed them, keep them safe, provide boundaries and love, support and encouragement. The rest is up to them.

Erebus Thu 13-Mar-14 22:49:10

I believe that the focus has wavered because he's failing to grasp how much is at stake here.

His last (Nov) parents eve involved a bit of 'OK, you need to consolidate your knowledge, really focus now, ask if you aren't sure and do your homework to a higher standard^". I genuinely thought that message had got through. He ^appears to do his homework, tells me he's 'doing fine', tells me how he did in tests against other DC in the class (usually above average)- then this! I get home at 5.45pm 3 evenings a week so can't be there to oversee the homework (and rather assumed I didn't have to at 14!).

So we are going to see his form tutor shortly to talk about it. We are going to reef in the slack we have cut him, not that I think it was extreme- allowing him at 10pm, his bedtime, to decide to eat a tub of yoghurt then pack his school bag, allowing him to do his homework in the back sitting room with his laptop on his knee, not checking every little bit is done when he says it has been, trusting that when he says he's revised for what transpired to be actual GCSE controlled assessments- he has.

Right now my focus is entirely that he hasn't done well enough, because he hasn't! He needs to know that the decisions he's made, to slack off, are paying negative dividends. And the answer to why tends to be a shrug and 'because I'm not clever enough.... to which I point out that every grade up until Y10 has pointed at a really quite able DS. And that if you have 2 DC in front of you and one says 'I is stupid and I don't know nuffink' and the other says 'I believe you are making a fundamental error in assuming a degree of intellect which I don't possess'- I know which one I'd believe!

He knows he's goofing up and I hope has had a bit of a shock tonight.

I know I bloody well have!

NearTheWindymill Thu 13-Mar-14 22:58:32

Erebus I don't want to be rude and you are obviously angry but your language in relation to your son is so negative. "disappointing" "failing" "allowing" to have a yoghurt, work in the back sitting room, "goofing up". He is feeling not clever enough - how does that approach support his self esteem? When did 4 Cs and 4 Bs become a failure? From what I can see he is still getting 1s and 2s for effort - that is more important than the grades.

Year 10 is a turning point for many children; when the work cranks up and not all DC crank up at the same time or might have already been working at full tilt and achieving as much as they could before expectations crank up.

Nocomet Thu 13-Mar-14 23:30:58

I think Near may be right, I think some DCs, boys especially, see the mountain ahead and they back off, afraid that even if they do work hard they will still fail. If you add to that pressure it may not help.

DD2(Y8) is a bit like that, clever, but a bit lacking in confidence and likely to get nervous if you expect As all the time.

DD1(Y11) is dyslexic, she's used to having to put in a bit of effirt and seeing it being rewarded (most of the time), she's not predicted As exceot for science (which she'll get), maths that is in possible if sbe has the time to revise and art which she'll have earned.

She'd love a B in English and that may have to come at the cost of a A at maths or a B in drama or music.

Art will get it's time and more, it keeps her sane.

And that OP is really my advice, however important GCSEs are, don't take away what makes your DS life fun. DD1 sings and puts more time into art than sometimes she should, DD2 does gymnastics.

Next june doesnt seem far away to you, but it does to your DS, if he thinks there is going to be no fun and 18 months of DM nagging, he will not react the way you want.

BackforGood Fri 14-Mar-14 00:26:19

I think a teenage boy who actually thinks about relating the amount of/quality of homework he is doing in Yr10, to any future earnings or job satisfaction, or even choice of college, would be an unusual, or even I'd go so far as to say exceptional one.
They are just not wired that way. Yes, they can regurgitate all that has been said to them, but in that spit second between deciding to answer that text / flick onto Facebook or put an extra 20mins into studying French verbs, it just doesn't come into the equation.
As a generalisation, I don't think - for many boys in particular - it does kick in until they are older than the age they take GCSEs.

longingforsomesleep Fri 14-Mar-14 01:56:12

I also think Near is spot on. And quite frankly I don't think there is anything you can do - you can lead a horse to water etc.

I have a 19 year old who switched off from school in year 10/11 and in no way lived up to his potential. I spent so much time and energy trying to get him back on track but to no avail. With hindsight, nothing I said or did made a blind bit of difference in terms of encouraging him to apply himself to work, but my constant nagging may well have dented his self-confidence.

The motivation has to come from them - you can't give it to them or do it for them. All you can do is make sure he eats and sleeps well, does his homework and after that, just back off.

adoptmama Fri 14-Mar-14 04:59:04

'He isn't clever enough' comment suggests a boy who is struggling with the move from KS3 to 4. Many clever children get good grades in KS3 without a lot of effort and find that they are not really sure how to work well and efficiently with the more demanding work of GCSE. Homework at 10pm is not a good idea for anyone. Nothing wrong with doing his work in another room but I would only have him with his laptop if he needs it for the homework so he isn't eroding his time and focus by surfing. Does he have a homework diary from school - if so make sure he is using it and ask to see it so you can see what he is doing. Not all boys of 14 are emotionally mature enough to make good decisions, but support is better than negativity.

He will not ruin his future if he gets Bs and Cs. Science and Maths are important but only in that most unis want a pass at grade C. Only some Russell Group unis want more than this at GCSE Maths. He sounds like a lot of pressure is being put on him. Maybe he is no longer so 'on board' with engineering - try to not let him feel at 14 that he has made all his decisions about his future and is now stuck with them. And remember they are his decisions, not yours! He'll be starting to get lots of new ideas/subjects which may well broaden his views on what he wants to do in life. There is no need for a 'plan' at this stage of where he is going to be in 4 and 7 years time. Why not let him spend some time on the UCAS site researching courses and unis. A few visits to unis to find out about courses HE has chosen might well give him the motivation he needs.

I think you need to relax a little and support him. Make sure that his life is not being dominated by your expectations of what he has to achieve in school.

ThreeBeeOneGee Fri 14-Mar-14 07:23:29

We had to have the serious talk after the mid-year report in Y9. Does that mean DS1 is advanced? grin It has sort of worked in that he has pulled his socks up in certain subjects (the ones where he has just started his GCSE courses). In the other subjects, the inconsistency of effort is shocking.

NigellasDealer Fri 14-Mar-14 07:28:10

i cannot get that worked up over it really, it is his choice at the end of the day isn't it?
what you going to do, push and push and then micromanage his degree for him? then what when he is not up to adult life?

CalamitouslyWrong Fri 14-Mar-14 07:41:25

It seems strange to say the your DS is 'on board' with what are obviously your plans for his future. Perhaps he feels a bit stifled and is pulling back accordingly/exercising the only choice that really seems available to him (not putting in the effort).

Step back and let him make his own choices.

Also, the stakes are only as high as you are making them. The educational pressure put on teenagers these days is not healthy. Higher education will always be a possibility in the future if and when your DS wants it. There are lots of different routes in and undergrads do much better when they actually want it rather than just going because it's the done thing.

Take the pressure off and he might do better than you think. He'll almost certainly be happier whatever his grades.

cory Fri 14-Mar-14 09:06:43

Slightly confused by the wording of your OP: "The Plan was"..."he is on board"

Does that mean he has told you that his dream is to go to university to study engineering and you are supporting him- or does it mean that you have told him this is what he ought to be doing and he has agreed because he can't think of an alternative?

There is a big difference. The truth is that though you may be able to nag him through GCSE's and possibly even A-levels, the whole plan depends on him being driven enough to push himself alone for three years of university.

I see so many students who arrive at university pushed by the impetus of their parents but have no internal motivation. It doesn't work.

Another slight hitch is that he may check up college requirements and find that your predictions about what it takes to get in are not necessarily accurate. Round here, even the best and most academic 6 form colleges only require 5 A-Cs, including English and maths and sometimes a good grade in the subject in question. This is easily verifiable by checking their online prospectus.

Of course this doesn't mean it is a good idea to aim for the minimum: it's a rotten idea. The more you have learnt, the easier it will be to learn more. But don't make any pronouncements about future education that he can easily call you on; it won't strengthen your authority.

Again, plenty of good universities will take students with less than a full hand of A's. A friend's ds did moderately well in GCSE's and is predicted less than A's in his A-levels. While this did mean he's had to give up his plans of medical school, he has still had offers from 5 RG universities to study microbiology. So I'd hardly say his future is over.

Erebus Fri 14-Mar-14 09:11:48

I think he was rather shocked at the actual paper evidence of his slackening off, tbh. I think he has a sense of chickens coming home to roost. He is quite disappointed in himself, I believe. I certainly didn't use the words 'disappointed' or 'failing' to him!

As for push, push, push, and 'cannot get that worked up over it'- I envy you your calm and Whatevs attitude to your DC's education, I really do. However, I've seen the effect of continually applied expectation and yes, some constant, low level pressure on quite average DC at a private school that saw those DSs doing really well, and I know these DSs so be no cleverer than my DS- it's just that they have been lucky enough to have had their progress forensically examined, their homework always set and marked, expected to explain why it hasn't been done or has been done badly since they were 8, all managed by the teachers, not their parents who considered that they were paying someone else to deal with it all! As a result they know exactly what the 'glittering prize' of doing well at school is: choice for their futures; and my DS is surrounded by the DC of successful and motivated parents who are also 'on message' about the need to do as well as possible at school. I actually believe having high expectations of your DC is a good thing and certainly a trait you'll encounter in the vast majority of private schools across the land!

One of the teacher remarks hit the nail on the head, really- 'don't go undoing all the hard work and progress you've made'.

For DS a big issue is the fact he's not really good or deeply driven at anything in particular. By that I mean that Maths A level, or Physics isn't a 'dead cert', but English and Geography definitely aren't but the 6th form won't let him study an A level unless he has a B in it at GCSE. I should add that he has had to do triple science at a fast pace (2 lesson time slots for 3 subjects) as his school doesn't offer triple science in 3 lesson spots which would suit him better. He wanted to do triple because, at a pragmatic level, his biology would let him down in double and he knows the leap from double to A level is quite large.

He has stated that he definitely wants to go to 6th form college (bear in mind his application has to be in in 8 months time!) and he has stated that he thinks he wants to do 'something sciency or maths-y at uni'- it's certainly not my idea, it's his 'plan'. Come what may, he has to study something between 16-18 as there aren't any jobs to be had out there for this age group! I'm not 'making the stakes' here!

I would agree that being 14, in a boy, is actually what 'the problem' is, but unfortunately, he's stuck with this system. He has already started GCSEs (CAs in English and Spanish).

For the record, he does his homework at 4pm, not 10pm. 10pm is bedtime, which is about the time I've allowed him recently to suddenly decide he wants to eat a pot of yogurt (he's not big for his age) and starts packing his bag despite having been told to do it, post-homework. Every evening. It was part of an idea that 'he's growing up and is making his own decisions, he's managing school OK, managing his homework, I have to cut him some slack to be a bit more autonomous'. Except it transpires he's not managing school very well!

Anyway, before school this morning, I told DS1 that we'd draw a line under the report, though I will be speaking to his form tutor to a) see what she thinks b) demonstrate to the school that we are concerned parents and c) help DS recognise how seriously we're taking his slacking off.

I am interested to see 3B1G's post that her pep-talk does seem to have effected some improvement! A work mate did this for her DS, but the difference was that, towards the end of Y9, with him slacking off, she told him that unless his grades improved, she was pulling him out of his private school and sending him to a comp as she wasn't going to work her arse off to see him fail. He got that message PDQ!

OneMoreMum Fri 14-Mar-14 09:14:21

So nice to see a bit of rather un-Mumsnetty advice for once, ie that without a string of A*s your child is not necessarily destined to be a bin man!

My son is also in yr 10, bright but rather more relaxed than I'd prefer. He got an A* in an English controlled assessment yesterday, first one ever and is so pleased I'm desperately hoping it will spur him on to greater efforts but am determined not to drive him too hard, it has to be his decision to work.

I think a parent needs to provide the environment (space to study, timely reminders, information about college / uni requirements, extra help if needed etc), but at this age only the child can decide to commit or not. One thing that seems to help a bit is making sure he knew the school 6th form entry requirements so he has a baseline to aim for.

I do find it hard when I have family members who drive their kids with a rod of iron, they get the results but are incapable of making a decision for themselves and that's not what I want for my kids. A place at Oxbridge is not the be all and end all of life.

Erebus Fri 14-Mar-14 09:24:27

Cross post, cory thanks for the input - yes, he wants to 'do engineering' at uni. Southampton, in fact! This is the 6th form's entry requirements:

6th form requirements:
Awarding Body:OCRCourse Duration:1/2 Years
There are 3 different maths courses available: Mathematics, Further Mathematics & Use of Mathematics

Minimum Entry Requirements
5 GCSE’s at Grades A*- C including English and Maths plus,

AS Use of Maths: you will be required to have achieved a grade B or higher in Maths GCSE.
AS Maths: You will be required to have achieved an A or A* in Maths GCSE.
AS Further Maths: you will be required to have achieved a grade A or A* in Maths GCSE.


Awarding Body:OCRCourse Duration:1/2 Years

Minimum Entry Requirements
To study this subject, students must achieve the following GCSE grades:
5 A* - C grade GCSEs, including English plus at least an A and a B in

Additional Science GCSE and Maths GCSE or
Biology or Chemistry or Physics GCSE and Maths GCSE or
Additional Science (Applied) GCSE and Maths GCSE or
Applied Science GCSE (Double Award) and Maths GCSE Bs and Cs won't cut it. So doing 'moderately well' in his GCSEs might not even get him on the A level course, let alone into a RG uni!

I would be feeling different if I didn't really think DS was capable of uni or was really vocationally leaning (I don't think DS2 is uni material, for instance), and whilst I recognise you don't necessarily have to be academic yourself to recognise academia in others, DH and I have both got degrees (DH has 3!) though mine is in a Health Science. Like I said before, with my 'I'm fick and don't know nuffink' versus 'I can articulate to a high level my complete lack of intellect and academic ability' i.e. I'm lying!

Erebus Fri 14-Mar-14 09:32:32

Onemore again, cross posted with me! Must type quicker.

I actually think my lack of 'rod of iron' is partly the problem! I believed him when I asked how various tests, assessments and homeworks had gone 'Oh, pretty good'; how much homework he had and had done (and I do check stuff from time to time), he has a quite place to study and a routine to do his homework but I have been a believer in it being his education and his future; but I emphasise that educational success is what'll buy him choice in his future. However, it transpires that my giving him autonomy in learning hasn't been a success. For fear of drip feeding, last night when I said 'Dad and I are actually going to have to look at every bit of homework you do, won't we?' he said 'I want you to!'. His demeanour last night wasn't of lip-curled, surly defiance, it was one of disappointment in himself and yes, some fear, if I'm honest, about the ticking clock of GCSEs (The HoY's mail-out reminded them that there are 40 teaching weeks til their exams!).

I'm not as unrealistic to believe that he'd make Oxbridge, or even a RG uni, but at the rate he's going right now, he won't make 6th form college!

OneMoreMum Fri 14-Mar-14 09:45:08

I know what you mean but now that he wants you to help that's a huge step forward in him accepting responsibility for his own actions.
Hopefully it's early enough that not too much harm has been done and the lesson learned (ie you have to work at things to do well) wil be worth it!
40 weeks to the exams - god help us! We have our parents evening in a few weeks, watch this space I'll be here panicking...

wordfactory Fri 14-Mar-14 10:15:40

OP, I understand your chagrin. Underachievement is something I cannot abide.

Yes, of course boys of that age (I own one too) find it very difficult to make the connection between what happens today and longer term consequences. Their brains are missing that vital piece of equipment. Brain scans of boys around this age actually show physical changes, with some areas missing and others increasing.

Ultimately, this is why I feel, it's far too early for parents to back off and leave it up to them. We don't let 14 year olds hold drivers licences for precisely this reason. We know that could easily drive, but they don't have the maturity to keep themselves alive.

So how to save them from themselves? That's the question. Of course you don't want to turn your home into a battle ground and you don't want to ruin your relationship with your DS.

A middle way has to be found.

I'm no expert but all I can tell you is what I have done/do.

I make it plain that I do not expect my DC to follow an academic route if they don't want to! However, they need another plan. They need a desire to find a trade or something else. And they need to put that plan in place.

Naturally, they don't have any such desire and/or plan.

So that leaves an academic route about whuch I talk and talk and talk. In this way it's real. I show them web sites for university. I take them to the unis where I work. I talk and talk and talk.

Then I make it plain what will have to happen to achieve it. No fudge. And together we come up with a day to day plan of how to make this work.

Sometimes DS moans and sometimes he tells me I live only to make his life hard wink...but mostly he tells me he's glad that I stand between him and the abys grin...

summerends Fri 14-Mar-14 10:18:19

If he is asking for help then he will get there. Sounds from his effort grades as though he is putting in a consistent amount of effort in but does not know how to get to the next level in his answers. His teachers may not have had the time to explain to him what is needed and he may not have been brave enough or bothered enough to ask. Teenage boys also go through lots of low energy phases which does n't help.

Erebus Fri 14-Mar-14 10:37:07

word - good advice, thanks very much. I know I sound like a swivel-eyed loon to the 'Chill! Let them find their own way, it's their life, you have no influence' brigade- but I too see the abyss.

My DB, now 52, thus coming like me from a different place and time failed his 11+ so went to a dire SM. Mum and dad were given the option on whether to send him to GS or not (remember we're talking GS of 1972 here, not the super-selective hot houses many are today) but, like most parents of that age, left education entirely up to the schools. He got 2 low grade CSEs but was still able to get into tech to do Patisserie catering, a job that how now all but disappeared except at the very high end. He now drives a delivery van- he's 'happy enough' but rents, has no family, can barely make ends meet, never goes on holiday, has no pension thus will have to work til he drops, and has put women off with his lack of any of the spoils middle age should be able to deliver.

That tech would now be out of reach to him. And the thing is, DS has no talent or real interest in manual or vocational things (unlike his DB, DS2 who at almost 13 builds Lego for England and loves tech at school- but is also getting straight '1's for effort in everything....). His skills, such as they are, lie in maths and science. He's in class 2 out of 10 at a comp where class 1 is full of DCs who, at Y10 have already passed Maths GCSE, Statistics GCSE and a couple even have their maths A level. So not too shoddy.

I do recognise his brain is in the Magimix stage (we actually call it that like when he's just behaved inexplicably irrationally!)- I recall Robert Winstone I think discussing it on a TV programme on the Human Body about 15 years ago, how synapses break and reform; however, every other boy in Y10 is going through more or less the same stuff so it's not a reason to say 'Oh well, what can you expect?' The GCSEs will be taken by the same boys on the same hormonal playing field as DS.

Erebus Fri 14-Mar-14 15:17:53

Just had a useful email exchange with his tutor.

The school are taking our concerns seriously and she's going to talk to the HoY and to DS early next week. She 'assures' me his report was by no means the worst she's read (this is a comp!) but recognises that DS really can and should be doing better.

NigellasDealer Fri 14-Mar-14 15:21:35

yes but erebus my 52 year old brother went to not a great school, got 2 low grade CSEs and is a millionaire.

noddyholder Fri 14-Mar-14 15:29:02

My ds was like this and I let him find his way and he made it to university because he wanted to Step back be supportive but ultimately its up to him

wordfactory Fri 14-Mar-14 16:16:25

erebus I know that whenever I discuss ways forward about anything with my DC, they always make much more draconian suggestions than I would have made.

So when I ask what punishment they think would be fitting, it's always worse than I would have imposed grin.

Thus whenever I sit my DC down and ask how they're gonna tackle revision or whatever and what input they want from me, it's always more ambitious that I myself would have recommended.

Thing is, because it comes from them, they do tend to stick to it, and moan a hell of a lot less!

Erebus Fri 14-Mar-14 16:17:18

But nigellas - bet your DB isn't quiet, unassuming, with not amazingly high self-esteem.

Of course not everyone needs great academic qualifications to make a stack of money or to feel in other ways fulfilled and successful. But the fact remains that the vast majority of 'ordinary' folk, such as my DB and my DS are far more likely to tread life's well trampled furrow. To neglect his struggles now on the basis 'It's OK, he might turn into a millionaire' would hardly be wise counsel, would it?

I am with wordfactory on this one. I believe it would be neglectful of me to 'do nothing' when I have the evidence laid out before me that DS needs some help given that all he can bring to the table is 14 years of experience!

I am mindful of the sheer number of MNetters who, when responding to that classic "What would you tell your 15 year old self?" respond with - 'to do better at school/to use the opportunities that were available as studying now is far harder and more expensive than it was then'. Of course, no one knows which DC would have responded well to having someone else grab the tiller (like a concerned parent) and which would have been determined to compromise their life chances, but to 'do nothing' is, at its most extreme like saying 'let's not give any cancer sufferers chemotherapy as some will die anyway'.

I would rather know, whatever the outcome, that I stepped in as I saw fit when I witnessed a DC of mine making poor choices, for whatever reason.

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