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Secondary school does not stream children in Year 7

(46 Posts)
musicalfamily Wed 25-May-16 15:02:05

Hi there, I would really appreciate your opinion on this one...

we are torn between two school places, one at the local comprehensive and one at an independent (we have a place at both!). Both schools get great results, although the comprehensive not as high as the independent - but still sends the same number to Oxbridge and many more to Russell Group universities.

I know quite a few parents with children at both.

The local comprehensive streams in a number of subjects from October of year 7; in maths for example they have classes for L6+, L5-6, L5, L4-5 and so on. The independent school told me that they don't because "they don't need to, as all the children are very able".

I know this is definitely not true as it is only mildly academically selective, and I know close friends whose children scraped a L4 in maths and got in. So there will be at the very least children who are L4, L5 and L6 in maths for example.

I know a number of parents who thought their children were not being stretched and others who had to employ tutors. Should I gauge from this information that the great results are just parents forking out on tutors or am I rushing to conclusions here?

I am extremely worried about making the wrong choice. My DD1 is very able in maths (L6) and so I have concerns around what they would do with her. I asked whether they set and I didn't get a definite answer, nor did I get an answer when I asked if they sent differentiated homework. All I got was "in a class of 20 we would look to differentiate appropriately and set if necessary".....

What would you do?

redskytonight Wed 25-May-16 16:07:16

DS's comprehensive doesn't set at all. There results are remarkably similar to schools with similar intake who do set. I suspect I would rather a school with 20 in a class and good differentiation over a school with 30 (probably) in a class and sets. But neither would be any sort of deciding factor for me. You seem very focussed on school results whereas I would suggest thinking about which school would best suit your DD.

catslife Wed 25-May-16 16:13:32

Could it be that the reason that they don't have sets for Maths is that it saves the hassle of parents complaining that their child has been put in the wrong set. In my experience this is more likely to be the case in a fee paying school. Perhaps they do teach some pupils differently but they don't want to make it official iyswim.
Also the independent school may have a lot of children who have been educated in the independent sector before moving to secondary school. Private school pupils don't take Y6 SATs.
Regarding the tutoring, it really depends on why this is happening. Is this for pupils at the lower end of the ability range so they can keep up with the rest of the class or those with additional needs such as dyslexia or is it other (higher ability) pupils. If the reason doesn't apply for your child, I wouldn't be concerned.

catslife Wed 25-May-16 16:14:53

Need to add that (apart from Maths) dds school doesn't set for any subject in Y7.

AChickenCalledKorma Wed 25-May-16 16:17:10

Personally I would choose a comprehensive that has a clear strategy for differentiation and a track record of Oxbridge/Russell Group entry over an independent school that can't demonstrate to me that it will definitely cater for my able child. Unless there is a VERY good reason to think that you are getting something else that is really worthwhile for your £££s. Why spend that much money if you are finding it hard to choose between the two schools?

musicalfamily Wed 25-May-16 16:18:00

Hi, no I am not focussing on school results, if I was it would be a no brainer as the independent school wins on that front.

I am very keen DD1 is stretched academically and I have had feedback from a number of parents that their children were not. So I wondered whether the streaming was part of the problem.

I am pleased your school successfully manages to teach children in a non streamed environment, it sounds hopeful then. Maybe it boils down to the teaching. Not sure.

CodyKing Wed 25-May-16 16:19:01

My thought is - if they have a tutor they are trying to keep up - rather than being "behind"

So suggests the work is at a faster pace -

I'd go with what suits you best

ameliesfabulousdestiny1 Wed 25-May-16 16:20:04

How big is the independent school? They might not set if it's too small to get meaningful groups. They could still split them up into groups and have them work at different levels within a class, and/or give differentiated homework. Some small preps we looked around do that. I guess you need to consider whether you want your DD to be one of 3-4 children of similar ability in Maths, or 10-15+ (depending on how far above the mean she is and how big the sets are at the comp).

christmaswreaths Wed 25-May-16 16:21:55

Achickencalledkorma the big draw for me was the extracurricular and the fact the school has a reputation for being academic. However, I now have my doubts. We also didn't expect to get a place at the comprehensive school as we were in catchment but it is extremely oversubscribed. Most people I know haven't had places. So I have been agonising since the 1st of March over what to do!!!

DD1 like the shiny facilities of the independent but ultimately I think would be happy at both. She is a very easy going adaptable child, and in a way that makes it harder as the decision is entirely down to me.

But you are right.

ReallyTired Wed 25-May-16 16:25:34

Ds comprehensive didn't stream for the first half term. They think that SAT results tell very little about the ablity of a child as some children are very heavily hot housed. They prefer to have mixed ablity teaching for the first half term and the test them themselves. Some of so called level six children do not belong in the top set.

musicalfamily Wed 25-May-16 16:27:38

Hi all, the independent school is large, so no idea why they choose not to set. They say they see year 7 as a year to settle in. I just heard so many parents mention the "not being stretched" comment, and it is also on the ISI report...

I will have to go round both schools again and think it through. ...

musicalfamily Wed 25-May-16 16:28:41

I would have been happy with not being set for half a term, but a whole year is worrying me.

kesstrel Wed 25-May-16 16:32:21

Does the independent school not set at all, or only in Year 7?

musicalfamily Wed 25-May-16 16:39:05

Only in Year 7...I definitely know they set from Y9, hopefully they set in year 8 - now I am getting more doubts!!

deepdarkwood Wed 25-May-16 16:42:21

guceb your concerns, what's holding you back from the state school? sound alike there are a few reasons to avoid this specific private option...
Dd's school only sets for maths in y7, but I'd see maths as the one subject where sets are key...

AnguaResurgam Wed 25-May-16 16:45:15

You need to check there wasn't a basic miscommunication here.

Setting and streaming are not the same thing. It is quite possible that a school which does not stream will still set for certain subjects.

And not every school sets (let alone streams) straight away. Indeed, the greater the range of schools from which the new year 7s come, the more advisable it is to wait for a bit, so any effect (good of bad) that is more attributable to previous school (or, now I think about it, tutoring as well) can ebb at least a bit.

MummySparkle Wed 25-May-16 16:46:43

We didn't have sets for maths until Y10, didn't bother us. We were a grammar school though.

musicalfamily Wed 25-May-16 16:49:37

There is nothing negative about the state school apart from the larger class sizes, and the fact that they don't have as many extracurricular opportunities.

I was drawn to the independent school as it was billed as very academic and sold to us in this way before. Then when I started talking to parents I was worried about some of the spoonfeeding and lack of stretching. I heard for example that for GCSE they read a "summary" of Charles Dickens "Great Expectations" and do not expect to read the integral version. I read the integral version with DD1 already and frankly this is the sort of thing that makes me cringe and would not expect to pay for.

Obviously we can read books at home as well as do more at home overall, but it kind of defeats the whole point. If I am getting exactly the same then I might as well not pay. If that makes any sense at all.

ReallyTired Wed 25-May-16 17:45:33

Surely you can pay for lots of extra curricular opportunities with the money saved on fees.

Catmuffin Wed 25-May-16 17:50:14

I just heard so many parents mention the "not being stretched" comment, and it is also on the ISI report

I wouldn't opt for that one then.

freshprincess Wed 25-May-16 18:07:36

My experience of sets so far has Not been great. Ours set in every subject from year 7. The top set get extra after school homework clubs, enrichment days, study guides, more homework The bottom set don't. I've complained twice about this already!

im shock at not reading actually reading the book for GCSE. Mine have been studying a Shakespeare play this term, which I studied at A level. I can still remember so much of it, and could discuss quite a lot of the themes. If I'd just learnt how to answer GCSE questions I probably wouldn't know so much about it.

musicalfamily Wed 25-May-16 20:18:50

I just wanted to say I appreciated all the opinions.

I really loved the independent school when we went to see it (been a few times), the children seem very well behaved and there is an atmosphere of purpose, lots of activities and opportunities.

However when it comes to it, when I do a cost/benefit analysis, (as we have other children too), then the academics seem to be the thing that we value the most. We are an "international" family anyway, and as the title says, we are musical so the kids are doing instruments anyway.

The musical opportunities I saw were good but not fantastic, if you compare them with what is available outside school.

eyebrowse Wed 25-May-16 21:43:25

If your dd is good at maths she is probably more likely to have a peer group in her maths class at a sought after large comprehensive throughout. Some children at the our local private schools go because the smaller classes help with dyslexia/focus issues etc. At a comprehensive setting can mean children who want to learn can escape low level disruption which I believe is much more limited in private schools.

Teens spend so many hours at school and doing homework anyway I would not be wanting to then also have them spend more time with a tutor and you might want to think what the cost implications are for your family.

swingofthings Thu 26-May-16 05:52:13

My children's school don't stream in year 7 and even on a limited basis in Year 8. It did concern me as both DD and DS are very able and wonder how this would affect them.

I am glad to say that DD is in the midst of her GCSEs and expected most A*s and maybe a couple of As. She is taking 11 GCSEs (the only one at the school) and looking back, I wouldn't do anything different as she has mixed with a lot of different children, coming from different backgrounds, and I think she had a much fairer exposure to the real world, which I believe is as important education as being pushed to the maximum. She has set her mind to go to medical school and so far is on track to do so.

DS is in year 8 and I'm not worried. He said himself that it was nice to have two years of having it easy and understand that things are going to pick up from next year. He is still going up as expected in his levels (currenly 7B in English and 7A in Maths) which should also take him to mainly As (or whatever equivalent) at GCSE.

What I did find is that teachers were also supportive of very able children and both DD and DS (and a few others) are always given extra work and attention, usually when they finish work earlier than everyone else. DD has also been invited to attend extra lessons, and as part of the triple science curriculum is doing Further Maths (in preparation for A level Maths).

Both of them got Gold (DD)/Silver (DS) last year at the National Maths exam (whatever it is called) so somehow must have been challenged enough.

FishWithABicycle Thu 26-May-16 07:02:23

Three decades ago now, but my small-class-size independent school didn't set at all in y7 (well it was called the 1st Form at the time)

The intake was about 50% from private junior schools and 50% from state junior schools. If they had done setting for y7 then the top sets would be dominated by those who had received accelerated teaching in a private school in y1-6. When I started I was bad at maths, I would have been in the bottom set if there had been one. I found out years later that I had actually failed the maths paper in the entrance exams but I had got a ridiculously high score in the non-verbal reasoning paper so they decided to give me a chance. It turned out that I wasn't bad at maths, I had just been badly taught. I was (and still am) actually brilliant at maths but if I had been labelled as bottom-set at the age of 11 I might never have discovered this.

Obviously your own child isn't going to need a revelation like this but it will do her no harm to be taught in a mixed ability class for a year and this policy will be hugely beneficial to some

I wouldn't allow this issue to affect which school you choose.

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