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Secondary school with no setting and almost no homework

(69 Posts)
thedogatemyzebra Fri 28-Oct-16 10:08:20

We had to move house over the summer holidays. So DD, who is academic and was meant to start secondary at a great grammar school, is now at the local comprehensive that we knew very little about before she started there. I was feeling ok about this, as it seems to have a good reputation, but have now found out that they don't set for anything (even maths) at any stage. DD was bored and frustrated at primary school, where they didn't have ability groups and she found it very slow going, particularly maths, and seemed to spend a fair amount of her time helping the other children. I'm now worried that this will happen again, and that she will be stuck very slowly going through the exam curriculum for 5 years. They also give almost no homework - she apparently does her maths homework while walking the short distance between school and home.
There are no other realistic schooling options where we are. Have others been in this situation? How did you support your DC?

PonderingProsecco Fri 28-Oct-16 10:26:49

Have a chat to her tutor or email.
Some schools don't stream straight away in year 7 and if they do may just do core subjects at first.
Ask what school policy is. If mixed ability, ask how they differentiate in lessons.

thedogatemyzebra Fri 28-Oct-16 11:37:54

I've talked to the maths teacher, and she was quite clear that the school doesn't stream or set at all, at any age and for any subject. And everyone learns the same things.
Have other people come across this?

blimppy Fri 28-Oct-16 11:51:14

Sounds completely bizarre, and I'm surprised OFSTED aren't all over them! I would think that there must surely be some differentiation in the work given, even if there is no formal setting or streaming? What are the school's results like?

thedogatemyzebra Fri 28-Oct-16 12:04:19

They do well in the league tables. My concern is that they probably focus on getting people through the exams, and are not concerned with going beyond the exams or getting higher grades for the brighter children.

kesstrel Fri 28-Oct-16 12:14:40

Zebra Our local secondary is like this, except that they do set for maths. They have a 'good' reputation too, but they also have a culture of massive cheating on GCSE so-called "controlled" assessments. It will be interesting to see what happens to their results once the first cohort of GCSE students with no coursework/controlled assessments comes through.

How bad it is will partly depend on the intake of pupils. Ours is the only secondary in a market town, so is very mixed ability-wise. Science-oriented children seem to have a better time of it, because of the maths setting and because triple and double science means science to some degree sets itself. Also, it's easier in science subjects to work from GCSE revision guides. However, my daughter is keen on humanities, and was badly let down; the kind of higher-level discussion and writing pratice needed for humanities was seriously lacking.

You can get tutors, of course, but my DD would come home from school exhausted from the boredom and the social demands of constantly "working in groups" with lower ability and uninterested children. I would advise talking seriously to your DD about the need to work outside of school, and to have regular set periods where she does independent reading or revision.

I find it incredibly irritating that so many people will tell you (for instance when talking about grammar schools) that "all comprehensives set". They bloody well don't.

JoJoSM2 Fri 28-Oct-16 12:28:04

Whether they set or not, it is down to your daughter teachers to meet her needs - i.e. stretch her. If you can't get anywhere talking to the school, I'd give her lots of extra work at home. Also, is there definitely no school that she could commute to? She might prefer to spend 30min on a train but be surrounded by like mided children + more challenge in the classroom.

noblegiraffe Fri 28-Oct-16 16:02:34

If you are concerned that they don't get higher grades for brighter children, what is their progress 8 score like?

holme4andy Fri 28-Oct-16 16:05:11

One word 'Bog Standard' Comprehensive !

I am sorry you DD was not able to benefit from the grammar school education that she warranted !

PonderingProsecco Fri 28-Oct-16 16:22:00

How do you know Bog standard?!
Such a rude term by the way....

Imsickofnamechanging Fri 28-Oct-16 16:29:32

One word 'Bog Standard' Comprehensive ! and.....? confused
Most bog standard comprehensives set/stream and give homework, what's your point?

fourcorneredcircle Fri 28-Oct-16 16:44:09

bog standard comprehensive

That's three words. Clearly grammar standards are that high.

golfbuggy Fri 28-Oct-16 18:09:28

DS's school is the same. Their results are virtually identical to the nearby school (with broadly similar intake) that sets in every subject from day 1.

You don't mention that there is actually a problem with the school - just that you are worried they might be. A school that does well in league tables (unless you just mean the number that Grade C or above ...?) is unlikely not to stretch its most able students. What does the Ofsted report say (again, they will look for progress of most able students)?

holme4andy Fri 28-Oct-16 18:43:34

O.K . The best Comprehensive schools set and try to ape Grammar Schools, hence why the best ones use artificial methods to select their pupils.

Four. It's not about my standard of punctuation , grammar or numeracy but about how we can improve on the shambolic education that was typical thirty years ago .

Under a hardly changed original name i advocated for grammar schools to be available to access in all areas.

I have stated a preference for a 40% grammar system, so any school that does not separate the strongest students from the weakest will be scorned by me.

kesstrel Fri 28-Oct-16 20:02:06

A school that does well in league tables (unless you just mean the number that Grade C or above ...?) is unlikely not to stretch its most able students.

As I wrote above, some schools have been cheating heavily on their GCSE controlled assessments, and bumping up their position on the league tables that way.

Also, even an honestly earned A* in some GCSEs is by no means "stretching" for the most able pupils. Modern languages is perhaps the best example of this.

noblegiraffe Fri 28-Oct-16 20:15:14

You can't bump your position up on the league tables by cheating on controlled assessments, because the headline measure is both Maths and English. Maths is exam-only, so even if they cheat and get everyone to pass English, their % will be determined by how many they get through maths, and it's first entry only counts so they can't even go the old route of entering kids every session from Y9.

nocampinghere Fri 28-Oct-16 20:20:45

it's early days, it might get better. astonishing they don't set for maths though that is very unusual even in schools which are anti-streaming they usually do set for maths from year 9 if not before.

How many GCSE A or A* grades do they get each year?

if it is low i would be moving her regardless of commute.

fourcorneredcircle Fri 28-Oct-16 20:47:55

The "shambolic" education of 30 years ago has already been improved upon.

And not by ensuring that 60% of children aren't clever enough.

LadyLapsang Fri 28-Oct-16 20:52:09

Look at the results (not just progress and attainment 8, but EBACC, A Levels and HE destinations) and the latest Ofsted report. Given that she has passed the entrance exam for grammar, ask what the offer is for pupils identified as gifted and talented.

kesstrel Fri 28-Oct-16 22:47:38

Noble - I take your point with regard to the completely non-setting school the OP is talking about, but I was thinking of our school, which does set for maths, but for nothing else.

thedogatemyzebra Sat 29-Oct-16 09:56:55

The school is in Scotland, and the system is totally unfamiliar to me. Maybe not setting is more common in Scotland? I've asked to meet with someone to discuss the not setting. Apparently they used to divide the children into 2 sets only for maths, but decided to drop that and not set at all. I got the impression it was because of not wanting children to feel bad that they weren't in set 1 rather than set 2.
I've already decided that I'll have to do some home education of DD. I can do stretching in English, history and languages with her. But I don't honestly think that I can stretch her in maths or science, which were my weak subjects at school. And I'm not a teacher, at the end of the day. It's mainly the maths that I'm worried about. Can't really afford tutoring.

Thirtyrock39 Sat 29-Oct-16 10:01:47

All teachers should differentiate regardless of setting or streaming - challenge high ability pupils extra support to low ability etc. Just because not setting doesn't mean they're not doing this ??? Even when setting and streaming there's stronger and weaker abilities within classes. Setting and streaming isn't always great as it creates 'sink groups' where low ability kids get stuck with disruptive kids - not great and kids are massively aware of where they are 'ranked'.

PancakesAndMapleSyrup Sat 29-Oct-16 10:17:03

Op on the other side are there any good independents nearby that you could have a look at? If there are and you/dd like them would it be possible to apply for a bursary? Some do do up to 100%, however I obviously dont know your family financial income.

thedogatemyzebra Sat 29-Oct-16 10:51:35

I've checked the local private school (a long trek away) - they are adamant that they offer no bursaries unless you apply at exactly the right time, which DD has missed.
DD's school has a better local reputation than the one other which is commutable, plus it means a lot to her to be near to schoolfriends.
I think we will have to suck it up.
I'd really like to talk to parents of children higher up the school, but not sure how to meet them.

Ta1kinpeece Sun 30-Oct-16 19:53:15

Different schools do different things
look at their actual results
how well do they do with their high achievers
if they do well then they - as the trained teachers - are clearly onto something
if they do not, then ask questions

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