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Yr 8 son seems to be failing at school, where to start and what to do?

(11 Posts)
Kentishnomad Sun 20-Nov-16 17:09:12

DS, age 13 in Yr 8 at a mixed comp; he's never liked school particularly but did OK at primary, partly because the teachers pushed him to achieve and he left with good levels of achievement. We are in a grammar area and he narrowly failed the 11+ (though would prob not have gone as I thought it was the wrong system for him, but he wanted to take it). He went to the school of his choice, which we were happy with and which has a v good reputation locally. Yr 7 went OK - not great, but OK, but now he's been in trouble for plenty of low-level misdemeanors, behaviour, lack of homework etc. His written work in his books seems very poor, he insists that writing for example 3 sentences for homework is sufficient, he has moved down in Maths sets, and he seems to be with a set of mates who don't see the point of school and don't bother to put in much effort either. All the emails I send to the school about things like quality of work etc come back asking me to encourage him to work hard and to concentrate and to behave. Nobody at school seems to have addressed the issue of the poor homework - half the time it gets ticked even though the teacher is telling me that what he's submitted isn't good enough. We totally encourage etc at home but I am wondering how the school is doing this too. I am hoping to meet with his head of year or whoever is responsible for the academic side of things. At home everything school-related is met with rolling eyes and a lot of defensiveness. The school he's at does filter the top kids off (based on CAT tests) into a type of grammar stream, so the multi-ability classes have already had the top achievers removed (and they all seem to be doing fine). I'm wondering whether to look at moving him to a different school - I suspect he would hate this as it would mean leaving his friends - he is v happy with them, and his attitude is that one school is as bad as the next. So in addition to wondering quite how to tackle all of this with his school, I do wonder whether any other state school would really be any different/better? It seems to me he's falling into the mindset that if you don't try, you can't fail, so this is the safest and easiest path to take. Any help or advice or experience would be gratefully received! Thanks in advance.

Howdoyousortoutboys Sun 20-Nov-16 22:12:33

I think bad influence from friends might be the problem here. Any possibility to move him to a private school? A good one of course, and by that I don't necessary mean top academic good one, but one with good pastoral care that also encourage and valorise good work ethic and would take your concerns seriously. That sounds radical and possibly controversial but I would be worried if I were you. I have just posted a thread about boys and their lack of interest in academic things.

Redsrule Sun 20-Nov-16 22:58:43

I think it sounds as if failing to get into grammar school really knocked his self esteem and he is not ready to 'try and fail'. I would imagine the school are trying to focus on his attitude/behaviour in school at the moment.

Is there a subject he does succeed in? Or a hobby he excels at? Moving school will only work with his co-operation. It does sound that he needs to feel the positive feelings that come with working hard and achieving as a result.

It is a very good idea to speak face to face at school but remember it is early enough for things to change and for your DS to be very successful.

CurlyhairedAssassin Sun 20-Nov-16 23:07:09

". We totally encourage etc at home but I am wondering how the school is doing this too. I am hoping to meet with his head of year or whoever is responsible for the academic side of things."

What do you expect the school to do when it's his lack of effort that is the issue? I can totally understand your frustration at him but don't aim your anger at the school. If he thinks 3 sentences is enough then he clearly just can't be bothered to put enough work in.

Boys can go off the rails a bit at that age if they get in with other kids who don't like school and don't see the point of work. They find it hard to equate working hard on year 7 and 8 with success at GCSE. Some pick themselves up in time and do really well by the time year 11 comes around. Some leave it too late and then are full of regrets.

He needs a good mentor. Is there anyone in the family who is a little bit older who is maybe at uni and can have a chat with him?

Traalaa Mon 21-Nov-16 09:17:59

I don't think you should move him as he'll hate you for it and probably rebel wherever you move him to.

Could you book an appointment with the year head and ask them for advice? You could mention the friendship issues and see if they agree.

Curly's onto something too on the idea of an adult mentor - i.e. not you. That's not easy unless you already know someone though.

nocampinghere Mon 21-Nov-16 09:28:07

can you try and give him something to strive for?
show him some careers he may be interested in? give him a reason to do some work at least in a few subjects...

Kentishnomad Wed 23-Nov-16 18:50:41

Thanks, lots of useful comments here, I think an adult mentor is a good idea, there is somebody i have in mind, who he respects, maybe not on a frequent basis but perhaps for a chat now and again.

I am hoping to chat to head of year; meanwhile the teacher for whom he only does 3 lines of homework called me, he said DS daydreams and is distracted, doesn't seem to be disruptive but doesn't do what the teacher asks. I asked what he could do to help move this situation on & get DS to do the work he is being asked to do, and he asked me what I suggested, then asked me if he should discipline DS - not so sure this is the right way, I had been hoping for more creative ideas about engaging boys rather than just doling out punishment.. hey ho...

And you are right Curly - about me being angry at the school - I know it's a two-sided thing, but I guess I had this crazy expectation that teacher would tell a pupil that the they must re-submit the homework etc rather than just letting it go - showing my age from Victorian schooldays?? wink

Off to look at your thread on boys now Howdoyou.

bojorojo Wed 23-Nov-16 20:47:19

I would not agree that not getting the 11 plus is the reason this has happened. Neither do I think moving schools is likely to be the solution. It is more to do with what he can get away with and what he feels is worthwhile bothering to achieve. If he was ambivalent about primary education, then secondary education will not be much fun because there is a lot more work and obviously more homework is required. The grammar school would have been unforgiving and relentless.

I think the school will get onto him when they see his progress dip. They don't want this so he will get chased up. Whether this will make him enjoy school more is doubtful. I can't see how he would enjoy an independent school either. They may well expect more. Therefore the idea of a mentor may work but so many boys seem to drift along like this. Hope your research gives more guidance.

knittingwithnettles Thu 24-Nov-16 13:17:59

Ds1 had all this and he turned out to be dyspraxic. hmmsad Only diagnosed at my instigation (at school they just thought he was badly behaved/lazy) at age of 13 by NHS.

It is a combination of slow processing/auditory processing/sensory stuff that makes them tune out in class and appear distracted. Ds1 had a very explicit approach to homework, unless teacher broke down the steps of what they wanted into small chunks (ie bullet points to be answered) he thought he had answered the question in three sentences.

School day is very exhausting for them, they use up all their energy getting through it and trying to organise themselves (which they appear to do in satisfactory manner, no major outbursts or upheavals) and then when they come home they really collapse appear absolutely lazy unmotivated.

Ds1 was very motivated in subjects which he had attention in small groups, ie choir music lessons. He became a wonderful singer and has grade 5 in violin and singing, despite doing very little practice of his violin (although he practises his singing all the time)

Your ds might need help with study skills rather than just telling him to work harder, he also might need an area in which to excel.

Ds was surprisingly badly behaved in subjects he did not understand. For example in art he was always in trouble for disruptive behaviour because essentially he did not know what they were asking him to do or how to do it (very poor spatial skills and motor planning)

Ds is of normal intelligence, gained average GSCES below what he was predicted and is now doing A levels. He is still very much of the dyspraxic profile. He loves Drama although he is shy and diffident. We are still dealing with the difficulties dyspraxia causes him but I think KNOWING he has it, makes us much aware how much he achieves holding it together staying calm and we try to keep the pressure off. Saying that, the art of pushing him that little bit out of his comfort zone (ie we take his phone away at bedtime rather than expecting him to self regulate) we make him join clubs and classes he is at first reluctant to join (only a few mind you) we found him a tutor for A levels, again something he refused at first. We also try to keep calm if he screams and shouts and is overloaded, he apologises immediately because he knows we are on his side. Essentially we give him a bit of leeway. Everyone who meets him comments on how polite he is. His self esteem is extremely important to us, more important than how well he does in exams, but doing well in school is a very big part of their self esteem so you have to work hard to balance the two aspects.

In short, contact the SEN department and discuss your worries with them, and do not assume it is just laziness. Could be undiagnosed dyslexia for example, which is not about just reading, whatever people tell you.

knittingwithnettles Thu 24-Nov-16 13:23:43

I don't think resubmitting homework is the answer at all btw. It probably was enough effort the first time, however it appears to you.

Ds1 was once asked to copy out a piece of work because it was badly presented. How do they know how long the first piece took angry or what mood he was in when he did it? Sure fire way to make someone incredibly angry and resentful. Better to start again on a new footing with next piece of work with more explicit instructions on HOW to make it a better piece of work, ie how long, what format, what needed to be included, example of work given.

But teachers are dealing with 30 pupils, they do not have time to fine tune your child's work, redraft it, unless they are given some guidance from the SEN department as to what your child's particular difficulties are.

knittingwithnettles Thu 24-Nov-16 13:30:02

The other thing (I'm getting carried away here): we make assumptions about children understanding just what the point of homework is..sometimes children have no clue why they are being set a particular bit of homework or why it would benefit them to do it. Is it for teacher or themselves. It might help to discuss some of the homework with him and why he thinks teacher has asked him to do it.

Other possible solution is to reduce the homework and see if he does better in core subjects if some of the other subjects are temporarily suspended. This was suggested by the SEN department in my second son's school after he had a difficult first year at secondary (he had ASD). Why they hadn't put this in from the start I do not know. A lot of homework is tick boxing. It achieves nothing. Dyspraxic son had years of geography homework and he still only received a D in his GSCE - what point was there in making him do all that work - it didn't inspire or stretch him or more to the point learn any salient facts.hmm

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