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 Post subject: Familiarisation sessions
PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 2:07 pm 
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Location: Buckinghamshire
DS2's school has begun familiarisation this week. The children are shown the types as a class, there is some discussion on how to tackle the questions and then the children do a few sample questions a type at a time - I think this is standard procedure.

However, one morning this week a few children were withdrawn from class and taken to do their familiarisation together. They were lead by a TA rather than the class teacher who showed them the question types and asked if they knew how to do them - they all said yes, there was no discussion or suggestions of how to tackle the questions before they were told to do all the sample questions in one go rather than a type at a time as the class teacher does it. They did not go over their answers and DS still doesn't know if he got them right or wrong. The rest of the class had the normal familiarisation session with the teacher in the afternoon when the children from the morning had a legitimate absence.

My concerns are - a TA took the session not the teacher, if you ask a 10 year old if they understand then they are not going to admit ignorance in front of their peers, there was no instruction given - just a case of get on with it. There was no marking of answers so the children could check their understanding. This could put DS2 in a disadvantageous position in relation to the rest of the class when it comes to the real tests.

The teacher knew in advance that the children would be absent and so the familiarisation session could have been done at a time when everyone was there. Is it appropriate to ask for a note to be put in DS's file that the familiarisation session on that day was "non-standard" or has the school fulfilled its obligation by providing a familiarisation session in some form? My gut instinct is that it may be better to raise the concern now rather than try and persuade an appeals panel that the familiarisation process was flawed without any supporting evidence.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:46 pm 
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https://schoolsweb.buckscc.gov.uk/schoo ... anuals.asp

I would check in the HT manual


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 6:03 pm 
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The key words in the HT manual are 'If marked'.

Some primary schools do not mark the familiarisation packs, and they are under no obligation to do so.

What you consider to be 'non standard' for your school may be standard practice in another. As long as the child completes the pack, under suitable conditions, then the school has discharged it's obligations in respect to this part of the testing procedure.

As the 11+ is not part of the NC, why shouldn't a TA supervise the process?


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 6:11 pm 
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ian35mm may well be right.

There's not entirely a level playing field because OoC parents are usually left to do the administering themselves. And it's quite correct that some Bucks primaries mark whereas others don't.

The headteacher manual says
Quote:
Strict adherence to the instructions issued by the LA in connection with testing is of utmost importance if the fairness of the allocation procedure is to be maintained.
- but it's not entirely clear to me what the instructions are with regard to administering familiarisation. The manual mentions another document -
Quote:
Please refer to page 11 of the Administration & Marking Manual in the Familiarisation and Practice pack
- Not sure I've ever seen this. I wonder if OoC parents get to see it?

Let's wait and see if anyone can shed any further light. If not, then I think you have every right to ask the school what exactly the instructions are, andyb, and to seek reassurance that your son has not been disadvantaged in any way.

It's much better, as you suggest, to get to the bottom of this now, rather than wait for a possible appeal.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 6:26 pm 
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My copy of this is a few years old, but it says schools can answer question on the conduct of the test, but not on the content, at the time of the sessions. Schools may be given help afterwards if they clearly misunderstand what is required.

It's not required that the tests are marked, just checked that the pupils are filling the boxes properly.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 6:42 pm 
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At DS's school the familiarization was done in July. These weren't marked. The practice tests are to be done in the next couple of weeks are these what you are talking about? The children used to swap papers and mark the practice test until a couple of years ago but stopped it due to so many complaints about incorrect marking/adding up! :lol: I think the teachers now mark them.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:02 pm 
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Location: Buckinghamshire
Thank you all for the replies.

scary mum - it is the familiarisation, the practice tests are being done over the next couple of weeks (getting perilously close to the deadline, but that's another worry altogether :wink: )

ian35mm - if it was just a case of supervising the children then I would be happy for the session to be taken by a TA but as I understand it from DS, all the other sessions have involved some form of teaching and discussion of ways to tackle the questions and this was not done in the TA lead session. If we were given the familiarisation pack as an OoC candidate then I would be going over the methods with him and ensuring he understood before starting the sample questions.

I have read the headteachers manual cover to cover and while there are procedures in place for the actual tests, the information regarding familiarisation is a bit woolly. I have a feeling that it is a tick box exercise "child A attended familiarisation session". The school appears fairly anti-grammar so I imagine they are doing the bare minimum without actually breaching the guidelines.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:14 pm 
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I still don't think you have an arguement unless the school didn't administer the tests.

Individual schools/teachers may choose to put more input into the process, but it is not a requirement. In fact, schools/teachers are specifically not allowed to 'teach to the test'.

If you think that the other children were taught how to do the test, then the fault lies there, not that you child was not.

If you were to go to an appeals panel and you argued that your child had not had the unfair advantage that others in his school had had, it wouldn't be the best arguement in the world.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:14 pm 
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Assuming there's no hard evidence beforehand that the school has broken any rules, the best way to approach this at an appeal is not to take any particular position, but simply to probe a bit and to ask questions of the LA rep. 'for clarification'.

The LA rep. will present the authority's case. This will include a reference to familiarisation etc.

Questions will then be invited.

You can ask "Could you please explain what exactly the rules are for administering the familiarisation?"
"Is there meant to be a level playing field?"
- then go on to enquire whether your son might have been disadvantaged.

However, most selection appeals are won or lost on the academic evidence.

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