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Teachers? - Return to School After Long Illness/Absence, Should I Query Set Placement ??

(13 Posts)
RockinHippy Sat 03-Sep-16 01:30:57

DD joins year 9 soon, she has missed a substantial amount of school due to severe ill health. She had EOTAS tutors in core subjects & despite a pretty crappy situation she has thrown herself into the work & more than managed to keep up.

She has received of what classes/sets she will be in after a friend gave her the heads up that they are both in the same top set class for science, which she is thrilled about as it means she will be able to choose a triple science GCSE

Basically no issues with the 2 subjects taught by the same teacher. Maths however we are concerned about. It has always been a real strength of DDs, but problems with teaching in year 6 knocked her confidence in the subject big time, almost to the point of a break down as she is such a perfectionist & she never really recovered & too easily accepts that she just isn't good enough. She also suffers with sensory issues that can make a noisy class overwhelming, plus other problems that she has refused to speak up & ask for help about.

First year of High School she was put up a set to group B, but moved down again. DD was upset about this as she was on a noisy group table & was really struggling with concentrating because of the destractions. She insists she could always get the correct answers though, but the teacher was annoyed with her for not doing workings out. She was then moved back down a set, which she was upset about as she felt it really unfair as she was struggling in the B class, but not with the actual work per se, but she wouldn't speak up, just insisted that the teacher must know best & she just wasn't good enough at Maths & didn't deserve to be in the higher group. She also owned up to feeling belittled by others in her maths group, so she didn't feel confident speaking up to the teacher if questions were asked etc.

We had intended to chat to teacher at parents evening ahead of her being moved down a set, but things went pear shaped & DD took very ill/had an injury that meant she couldn't return to school until now.

Her EOTAS Maths teacher has done absolute wonders for her confidence, working at her real level & owning up part way through that he had initially messed up & had mistakenly thought she was older, so they had been sailing through year 9 & even year 10 work with ease, back tracking to make sure he had covered all year 8 stuff & ending up as a confidence boosting exercise having her take mock GCSEs - which she passed easily with high grades.

During his earlier lessons, DD was assessed by the EOTAS co-ordinator, who confided in me when leaving that he was very impressed by DDs "incredible rare maths skills" & he felt that she had gone under the school radar for her obvious gift & they needed to make sure she was correctly placed when returning to school.

DD was very disappointed to find out she will be back in group C, a group she found it even more noisy & difficult to concentrate in. I am also disappointed as it seems to go against what the EOTAS coordinator felt was right for her, but DDs confidence is already wavering as she now thinks she is only really good at maths if she is taught 1-1 & that she cannot expect to do that well in a school setting as teachers just don't have the time to help her even if she does speak up & ask, so she thinks there is no point in my querying this as she obviously isn't really that good, compared to the rest of the school

Return to school is going to be hard in her, but we have had a breakthrough with her health problems that will mean that she is much more able to work consistently at the level we know she is really capable of & we are hopeful that SPD will be less of an issue too. He cleverness has been acknowledged in the other subjects, but just not the subject I was told she deserved to be moved up in.

Hope that lot makes senseblush

I don't really know what to do for the best ??

Cary2012 Sat 03-Sep-16 08:47:59

I can only try and help based on what we would do in the High School I teach in.

If your DD, in Maths, shows up by the first tracking point, which for us is half term, to be working at a higher level than the rest of the class, she would be moved up a set. This is when we reset across the school.

The problem I think, is that she may not be stretched enough in her set to show this, if you see what I mean. This is why I can't really help because I don't know if her teacher 'teaches to the top' i.e. stretches the class (ideal) or teaches to the expected grades for the ability.

I hope this is making sense.

A good class will have extension tasks, regardless of setting, to push, stretch and identify the higher ability student. You should find out whether this is the case. If so, she should fly ahead, and move up a set quickly.

As she's returning to school after a long absence, I think she will benefit confidence wise, by being top of a mid set, than possibly struggle in a top set, whilst she finds her feet. I would find out about how they stretch the higher ability students, check to see she is coping, then, if she's doing well, talk to school asking for a set change at end of Autumn term.

I would also contact SENCO regarding the sensory issues. They should have a discreet word with teachers, and this concern can be addressed with seating plans.

RockinHippy Sat 03-Sep-16 09:38:06

Thank you Cary that does make perfect sense & is a really big help

Would I be right in thinking it would be the actual teacher who sets how they work/whether they are stretched enough ?? Or would it be a school ethos thing ? From year 7, it seemed that her set C teacher did teach to stretch her, but the set B teacher didn't. Though as thats so close to top set in a very large school, that could make some sense. We do have a meeting next week with the head of year, so I'm trying to work out if its worth asking them or not?

I do think you are right that if she suddenly found herself in set A, she would panic as she has a bad habit of comparing herself unfavourably to other kids, but we just don't want her ability to go under the radar again as she will just disappear into the crowd & not help herself IYSWIM.

Can I also please ask, at high school/ yr9 level, how much store is put on showing workings out??

This has been a problem for DD in the past as she very quickly works out in her head & then has to go backwards if she is then made to show her workings out, she was even accused of cheating/coping in year 6 because she knew the answers so easily, this upset her, made her panic & then mess up the workings out. She also said she felt frustrated having to waste time proving that she understood how a problem worked, when she clearly did as she could get the correct answer so easily & this made her feel disbelieved (anxiety issues)

We did understand & encouraged DD to understand that this was just because of how SATs papers would work, so she needed to get into the habit of doing things this way if she wanted good marks - but would this stand at this age/GCSE level ( its a very long time since I took them)

Thank you

RockinHippy Sat 03-Sep-16 09:40:05

Oh & thank you re SENCO, she should still be under the SENCOs radar, as she was before, though we were just sorting things out as far as how best to help her in school/class when she took so ill

noblegiraffe Sat 03-Sep-16 09:56:25

She has probably been put in group C because that's where the space was held open for her while she was away. The higher sets will be full and the teachers will be reluctant to move a student down to make way for a student who has been absent for a long time and therefore they think has missed a lot of work, and who previously was working at group C level. From experience, we also sometimes get students whose parents say 'their tutor says they are level X and should move up' yet their exam performance at school doesn't bear this out (I suspect some parents get what they pay for), so we can be quite wary of this.

It does need to be flagged up with the school, and especially the class teacher, but best would not be in a 'my DD needs to move up a set right now' but 'DD has seemed to have made huge improvements in maths with her tutor and would like to move up sets as soon as possible, please can the teacher keep an eye on her and if assessments bear this out, can she move up?'

TheFallenMadonna Sat 03-Sep-16 10:03:53

The school should have coordinated with the tutor while she was absent and be getting their feedback. I would get in touch with the person responsible for EOTAS and ask whether that has happened.

Cary2012 Sat 03-Sep-16 11:56:33


At our school we have five Maths sets, two classes each set (Huge school!).

They are all taught the same syllabus, with teachers differentiating according to their set. Obviously the higher sets go further into the skills.

Our year nines are consolidating everything in KS3 before entering KS4 in year 10, when the gcse exam criteria is the focus.

I teach English and don't know about showing understanding method of working out in Maths, but I know my three kids would be marked down if they didn't do this.

Tell HOY that you think she might cruise in a middle set, and not be stretched, but you are happy to review after a term. Ask whether the ability between set two and three is wide, and if the Maths faculty are teaching the same skills, but at a different pace. Ask for her Maths teacher to stretch her (more challenging homework?) and say you would like another review meeting end of term

If HOY can't assure you, ask for a phone call from Head of Faculty, and discuss with them. Head of Maths would definitely know about showing workings out etc.

The danger is that she will get stuck in a middle set, move up to KS4 in a middle set and be taught to a predicted exam grade (the now defunct C grade) when she is capable of higher. So you are doing the right thing and you have all of year nine to sort this.

I'd let her find her feet, keep tabs on it, review after a term, take it from there.

Good luck

RockinHippy Tue 06-Sep-16 11:54:34

Thank you all for the advice & comments. Very helful

I will mention it to HOY a a pre return to school meeting, DD is going to tell me off, but there does seem to be an issue with comments passed on with the EOTAS tutor. He was a great teacher, but he didn't turn up to any of the school meeting & the comments he left by email for the last meeting were very vague & a bit too ambiguous, so I suspect you are right, thats where the problem lies,so I will contact the EOTAS co-ordinator too, as he was the one who was so impressed with DDs skills.

She wasn't actually in group C, but group B, with talk of moving her down, which we were going to discuss at parents eve as we knew DD was struggling with noise in glass & she felt very uncomfortable in the group of kids she was placed in as she felt they didn't like her & liked to belittle anything she said, which made her very nervous & made concentration & speaking up even harder for her, plus they were noisy. Shes been moved up a group to top set in both English & Science thanks to the other EOTAS tutor always coming to meetings & being very complimentary about her abilities, thats even though a computer problem meant she lost all of the course work for science. So C set for maths just doesn't make any sense when tutor & coordinator both expressed how amazing they thought she was in the subject & had clearly been missed in the crowd so to speak

Thanks again x

t4nut Tue 06-Sep-16 12:25:09

I would advise making this all very clear with the school as soon as possible, and ask for a 're-integration' plan that addresses her specific needs, anxieties and concerns with set review points and opportunities to check how she's feeling/getting on.

insan1tyscartching Wed 07-Sep-16 18:50:47

Dd year 9 is in top set maths and she hates it. It is a large class of predominantly very over confident boys and then 3 girls. Dd has sensory issues like your dd and it does impact heavily on her ability to concentrate. Thankfully because of her having TA support she is able to leave the class and work in the social area with a TA when necessary. This year though the teacher who did the start of year eight has returned from maternity leave so we are hopeful that she will again rule the class with an iron rod as she did in year eight which cut down the noise and dd's difficulties considerably. I don't think enough consideration is given to sensory issues in school tbh.
As for showing workings she will lose marks if she doesn't,dd writes the answer and then goes back to show the workings too grin she jokes that she trusts her brain more than a calculator so often works things out in her head first even on calculator papers. At AS level ds got 25% on a chemistry test despite getting every answer correct because he could do chemical formulae in his head.His teacher thought he'd cheated until ds challenged him to put a question on the board and he talked through what he was doing in his head.

RockinHippy Thu 08-Sep-16 12:18:02

Thanks for tge further comments

insan your DCS sound so like her smile - after talking to her about this last night, I think at the moment after being so ill & still recoverying, she isn't trusting herself not to do the workings out on paper, so hopefully this is a good habit that she will stay with. Turns out she WAS in top set previously & described it in a similar way, though she had problems with a couple of the girls in the group who liked to undermine her all the time, one even going as far as telling her that she was too pretty to be good at maths, so they were just making sure she knew that she wasn't good at it at all, so much for the sisterhoodhmm

Turns out that DD had misunderstood the set names - the one ending in C, isn't actually C level at all, but B & having now spoken to the school & EOTAS, the teacher is a particularly nurturing one who will look out for DD until she properly finds her feet again & will make sure she goes up again when ready. Got to agree after last time, I don't think she wouldn't cope well with the dynamics of the higher set yet as shes very anxious about going back to school anyway & is prone to undervaluing herself in maths above all other subjects, so this sounds perfect for her smile

insan1tyscartching Thu 08-Sep-16 12:31:06

I think dd would be happier in set two too tbh. I know in Primary she spent a while in the lower set and her confidence came on leaps and bounds. We have spoken about it in school but apparently because she is in the top half rather than the bottom half of her set (this is a child who is so under confident she thinks she can't do maths) set two wouldn't be challenging enough or fast paced so we make do with her leaving when needed.

RockinHippy Thu 08-Sep-16 13:07:45

this is a child who is so under confident she thinks she can't do maths

That is SO familiar, mine is exactly the same, such a shame as the put themselves under so much extra stress as a result - though I was reassured by her HOY that this is a very common scenario with DCs who are talented in maths

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