Do 'average' kids who work well get overlooked? Teachers perspective welcome.

(95 Posts)
YukonHo Wed 06-Nov-13 18:28:28

Dd is a hard worker, she tries her best, is good in class. Her teachers words not mine. She is in a class that spreads across 2 years. Her class has four 'sets' lets call them a,b,c,d, a being top etc. she is in B set. Most of her year are in a.

DH and I are both fairly academic, both with degrees, DH has two. We have always been interested involved parents where work is concerned. I help out at the school several times a month and so know the other kids, and to me there is no clear reason why she is in the lower of the two sets for that year. I am worried it is because she IS such an easy kid to teach that she gets missed in favour of the strugglers and g&t kids in her class.

Fwiw, she is doing well on levels, she's just started y4 and is on 3b for maths and 3a for English. BUT this is a below average achievement for her year, and I think she is capable of being at least as good as the others in her class. I'm not expecting miracles, nor I believe she is a 'genius' but after parents evening tonight I'm left with the impression that because she's doing OK they are not trying to spur her on further...unlike the very clever kids in her class. (Her head actually said 'well she's on 3b and that's where she should be at the end of the year.' This is all very well but you don't stop stretching a child just because they have hit the average right??)

So, am I being a pushy parent or should I have cause for concern that they are not pushing her?

YukonHo Wed 06-Nov-13 18:31:19

When I say below average for achievement in her year I mean in her class, not nationally. There are several kids in the 4c/4b and even 4a bracket in her year.

RosemaryandThyme Wed 06-Nov-13 18:46:26

She wont be being overlooked, but she might simply not be as bright as you think she should be.
If she is level 3 and a group are level 4 then even if she was pushed like billyo and was a level 4 by christmas, the children in a group would be pushed and thus reach level 5.

YukonHo Wed 06-Nov-13 19:03:37

I could accept that rosemary, if I wasn't myself teaching the kids for some time every week and seeing no real difference between her and others in reading and maths. Obviously we all like to think our kids are capable, but I see evidence that she is. And that's what frustrates me...

I thought hard before posting as I realise I might come across as being pushy and thinking my child is brighter than she is, but if anything I'm the opposite, it's just really been marked to me this time that the comments were 'she's doing just fine, lets leave her as she is' whereas I know other parents are told, 'she's g&t, lets see how high she can go.' I guess I just feel its unfair that the clever kids are pushed and the middle of the road left to coast.

Whereisegg Wed 06-Nov-13 19:17:08

Could it be as simple as her being a bit nervous about reading to/working in front of the teacher, and so not doing 'as well' at school as she is at home where she is relaxed and comfortable?

Iamnotminterested Wed 06-Nov-13 20:02:43

How do you know what level brackets as you say the other children are hitting? If talking to other parents then fine but hoping that her teacher hasn't disclosed such info.

Also are you a parent helper? You say you are teaching the children. Bit confused.

Periwinkle007 Wed 06-Nov-13 21:08:26

I wonder if has been suggested it is confidence related. It is often much better IMO for a less confident child to be top of a second group than bottom of a top group.

YukonHo Wed 06-Nov-13 21:33:49

Hmmm, it could be confidence levels actually. Her teacher did once mention that she just needed to believe she could do things and we have done a lot of work on that.

Sorry not to be clear iamnot. Am a parent helper. Know the other levels through discussions with other parents and the kids all talk about their levels to one another.

Teaching no, but I do listen to them reading, guided reading, mark spellings etc... I also hold a maths club after school.

YukonHo Wed 06-Nov-13 21:36:00

Peri, you have a good point about being high up in a lower group...she IS in a very strong year academically and I can see that would work. I wonder if we should get her some light tutoring (if she wants to) to help with her confidence in maths....

Periwinkle007 Wed 06-Nov-13 21:38:23

I would think then that rather than the teachers saying 'oh she is fine we won't push her' they are thinking 'she is fine, she can build her confidence a bit if we don't push her too much just yet, lets see how she settles down and go from there'.

In the long run, later in life, confidence in your own ability will get you a lot further than being top in anything if that makes sense.

YukonHo Wed 06-Nov-13 21:40:44

Makes total sense peri and to be honest thus far that's what we have been focusing on. She is noticing the gap between her and others now, she's mentioned it lately and maybe that has knocked her confidence a little. Her favourite friend is younger than her but up amongst the high fliers. We have explained that everyone is different but perhaps we need to reinforce that. Some food for thought, thanks.

Periwinkle007 Wed 06-Nov-13 21:49:27

does she do any hobbies/sports/music that she is very good at? She may not be the best in the class at some of the 'key' subjects but there will be subjects she won't have had a chance to try yet and which might be her specialist area.
my daughter is the oldest and therefore thinks she ought to be top at everything, very hard to explain to her that that isn't the case. when she was in reception she was way beyond the others when they started and we sort of said to her that it was partly because she was older than them (some of the kids said it to her too - and still do so their parents must have told them the same) but now of course it is balancing out but she still thinks she ought to be top and gets very stressed about it. It is very hard. for so long they are told that the older ones are able to do more, it is logical progression to know that the class above can do more etc but then suddenly they discover that that isn't always the case.

BoundandRebound Wed 06-Nov-13 21:51:06

IME well behaved, quieter kids who do fine in all subjects do get overlooked

Periwinkle007 Wed 06-Nov-13 22:00:34

I think in general quiet, well behaved, harmless children can be overlooked whatever level they are achieving at.

YukonHo Wed 06-Nov-13 22:02:51

Yes peri, she has two regular hobbies and a class and one of the hobbies she does very well at. We have used that to illuminate the importance of practice and its benefits for her and she does get it, but she understands about natural talent too.

Bound. Are you a teacher/TA? Or is this something y have noticed for yourself thorough your own kids. I believe it does happen, I just fervently hope it's not what's happening here, because we do love the school and so does dd....

Periwinkle007 Wed 06-Nov-13 22:09:29

good - that will help build her confidence too.

simpson Wed 06-Nov-13 22:40:45

Gosh, DS is in yr4 and there are no kids in his class who are above a 4C (don't know about the other class).

I know this because the teacher tells the kids their levels (whole other debate).

DS also can lack confidence and last year (in yr3) spent some time in the second group for certain tasks to help his confidence more than anything else.

DS is very quiet/shy but also very hardworking and he is not overlooked (but was when he was younger) so I think it can be an issue with some kids.

I think the main thing is whether your child is happy and whether there is a huge gap between the stuff she does at home compared to school.

YukonHo Wed 06-Nov-13 23:59:40

I know Simpson, one of the girls in her year is doing work aimed at the first year at secondary...she's incredibly bright. One of the boys is at a similar level, and I know of at least three others who are also doing very well, though not as high as those two. Poor dd, if she were in a more typical year she might actually be one of the front runners, perhaps this is part of the issue. I do feel though that for her confidence we need to help her make up some of that gap. Though this goes against the grain of what I have always believed...for me her happiness is paramount and I know this gap in achievement is an issue for her. It doesn't help that the teachers let the kids know what their levels are...so of course they compare with one another....

Bloody levels....I think they are abolishing them soon, lets hope they have the sense to come up with something less divisive. (No hope there!!)

tiggytape Thu 07-Nov-13 09:24:13

It sounds like an unusually bright class!
Are you sure therefore that sets a and b aren't just convenient ways to separate a large number of bright children into manageable sized groups rather than being a definite top group and middle group?
You say your DD is as bright as the children in group 'a' but is this also the case for most of the other group 'b' children too? Is possible they are running 2 top groups and there is a large amount of overlap between the two?

Your DD is doing very well and I don't think it sounds like they are saying they don't expect her to progress - just that there's no need for you to worry because she is already a year ahead of herself and is obviously getting on well.
It is very unusual to have children who, at the start of Year 4, are at level 6 already so it might be that the exceptionally high levels of some in the class are skewing your view of your daughter’s ability and how brilliantly she is doing. Your DD would be top of the top group at many other schools but, since some in this class are so advanced for whatever reason, she will naturally be lower down in comparison to them. That doesn't detract from how well she is doing and how well she will progress though.

ReallyTired Thu 07-Nov-13 09:41:04

I think that quiet well behaved kids get overlooked across the land. My four year old never ever gets stickers, she never has her name on the star even though she definately works hard.

Invariably there is an overlap between the top group and the middle group in a class. Some children thrive better being top of the middle group where as other children become lazy. Ds was at the bottom of the top group at primary and now in is near the top of group 2 (out of 8 groups) for maths at secondary.

Rather than worrying about which group your daughter is in surely its better to discuss her targets with the teacher. The main thing is that your daughter is getting work that matches her ablity. If there are not enough seats on the top table then she can still be given top table work.

PastSellByDate Thu 07-Nov-13 10:20:36

Hi YukonHo

Very interesting post & discussions.

I agree that quiet, well-behaved children can be overlooked. But I think that's human. Problem children (through whatever difficulty - SEN, behavioral issues, struggling students, etc....) will always take more time for teachers/ TAs. Well behaved children can be set a task and left to it. I also think that structurally (although this is changing) the emphasis was on getting everyone above NC Level 4 - and there was no actual reward for a school getting them beyond Level 4. I guess OFSTED is now tracking progression across low/ middle/ high attainers now - so hopefully there will be more thought in progressing all children and not so much emphasis on low attainers (although I don't begrudge them a minute's time - often they really can do with the extra help/ support).

If math is the issue - and apologies as I am going on about this again - but there are all sorts of fantastic free resources:

Woodlands Junior School Maths Zone: resources.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/maths/ - just select the area you feel your DD needs more help in and then search through the games they have selected. It takes a bit of advanced work on your part to ensure games aren't too hard - but there's a lot of good practice there.

Maths Champs: www.mathschamps.co.uk/#home - don't let the age categories put you off (because times tables are spread across all three) - but lots of good practice & difficulty gradually increases as you play.

free worksheets (with answers) at math drills: www.math-drills.com/ - just chose area and explore worksheets.

Often quick retention of multiplication/ inverse multiplication facts can be a real hurdle. If your DD needs practice then try:

multiplication dot com: www.multiplication.com/games/all-games

also consider downloading Timez Attack (there is both a multiplication and inverse multiplication [called division] version). The idea is that you are a little ogre working your way through a dungeon or castle (in the free version) and gradually solving multiplication problems (which are also shown as multiple additions). Every now and then you are quizzed by a large ogre and after a while a giant ogre gives you a big quizz. Your child will be tested and the game starts at where they are at and builds up from there. If they are struggling with certain times tables, they just are repeated until they are mastered. It's great practice - but can be a bit stressful. Link here: www.bigbrainz.com/ - you can pay for more platforms but we found the free version was fine.

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on-line tutorials (subscription) - many have posted (myself included) about having success with various on-line tutorials:

komodo maths: komodomath.com/
maths whizz: www.whizz.com/
mathletics: www.mathletics.co.uk/
mathsfactor: www.themathsfactor.com/

these can work out cheaper than a tutor and give you the flexibility of having regular practice as and when convenient. (i.e. not an issue if there's a special event, your child is ill or it's a nice day - you can just do it at a later time).

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I know it can be upsetting as a parent to see other children apparently doing much better, racing ahead, doing obviously more challenging work - but the reality is you cannot control how the teacher will organise his/ her class. And the issue really isn't what level your child is at or what group they are in - but whether they are mastering the skills they need to at the right time.

I've found it much more useful to be aware of what should be taught when (and to have the view that this also implies what should be mastered by your child by end of that year).

Two good resources are:

Campaign for Real Education curriculum documents: www.cre.org.uk/primary_contents.html - just select by subject

and

draft documents for proposed new national curriculum:
www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/a00210036/sosletter - just select by subject area in blue box at right.

In either case a list of what should be covered (and in theory mastered) by year is provided and with that you have a better idea of where your child should be.

I've personally found knowing what should be covered very helpful in gauging whether my DDs are doing o.k.

best of luck & HTH

YukonHo Thu 07-Nov-13 10:36:48

Wow past, that's an exceptionally helpful post thank you so much, will check out all of those sites! We use squeebles for dd's tables and she loves that so the ogre game will certainly appeal!

Just wanted to make clear that I am very proud of dd and how hard she works, and I would certainly never ever begrudge those struggling extra time. My main concern is that it's actually the naturally gifted kids getting more extra time meaning they fly whist the others drift a bit. It just rankles on my sense of fairness, but I should be grown up enough to realise that's just the way life is I guess.

Dd IS very happy, loves school, is popular (a big thumbs up from me as I was bullied and unpopular and I so hoped it would be different for her and it seems to be!) she just feels 'not as clever' as her classmates. Its that lack of self confidence i want to squash before it becomes ingrained.

I think (quite unbiasedly of course) ;) she's a brilliant balance of brains and personality and as I said we're really proud of her. I'll do some extras with her and just keep an eye on her self esteem. Thanks for all the comments, they have helped a lot.

YukonHo Thu 07-Nov-13 10:39:40

And it IS a freakishly well achieving class, I want to know what these mothers were doing to build inch brain boxes!! smile

PastSellByDate Thu 07-Nov-13 13:23:43

Hi YukonHo

Glad to be of help.

One thing I will say (as it is all coming out now DD1 is in Y6) is that there is a strong likelihood that those pupils who are doing well are in fact doing well because of the help/ support/ extra work they get at home.

In our area Chinese, Korean and Indian pupils all get extra English/ Maths work through their weekend language schools - because as communities they feel that schools aren't doing enough here. Many parents also pay for tutors in the run-up to the 11+ (grammar schools are free in this area, but you have to score well on a very competitive exam for a place there).

If you're DD is just doing what work school assigns and not reinforcing it at home vs. kids who are doing a lot more at home - this truly can account for the difference in performance.

Obviously reading at home is really important - and really reading anything and everything - trying to avoid just endlessly reading books by the same author. Guardian/ Observer recommendations ages 8 - 10 here: www.theguardian.com/books/2011/oct/23/recommended-reads-children-8-10.

but I think doing more in math really helps - as often that extra practice makes concepts secure or improves speed/ facility of calculation.

HTH

ShoeWhore Thu 07-Nov-13 16:03:47

Dh and I are both very academic and have degrees from a very very well respected university. Our 3 primary age dcs include 1 who is top set for everything, 1 who is just a bit above average (maybe the same as your dd for reading but prob a bit behind her for writing and maths) and 1 who is bottom set for everything. I must admit it took me by surprise a bit (I naively expected them all to be more like dc2!) but they are who they are!

There is a bit of a mismatch here between the fact that this "top set" have achieved Level 4s and your dd Level 3s; and your own assessment that they are equally capable. Do you think your dd is showing her teacher all she is capable of? Because if the teacher assessment is correct then I think it's not unreasonable that they are in different sets, as they will be working at different levels in class.

It is common to adjust which set a child is in to help with confidence - this is the case with my youngest at the moment. Schools are increasingly having to focus on progress across all ability groups (I speak as a governor who has spent all afternoon staring at progress data!)

I wonder if you would feel as worried if you didn't know what was happening with these other children? I think as a parent it's important to try not to compare (tempting though it is!) and look at your own child, where they are and what they need. Your dd sounds like she is doing really well!

Oh and I always remember what my Dad (retired HT) says about children's progress - it's like a Donkey Derby.

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