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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:09 pm 
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Warning this is quite a long post!

I have a twelve year old daughter who is in Year 7 at the local comp. She is enjoying it far more than I anticipated considering nobody from her primary went there. She is happy and she seems to have settled in just fine. I recently went to the school for an open afternoon for all the new parents and I was very disappointed at what I saw.

Although the school is very nice (it opened two years ago, very modern and only currently has years 7,8 and 9) the curriculum is quite concerning. As it is a specialist technology school, they focus on subjects like DT, Food Tech, IT and Art. My DD's timetable is saturated with those subjects. She only does maths once a week, science once a week and barely does English. The school works on a rotating system whereby one week they'll do English, the next Geography and the next History...Humanities, they call it.

Here's the thing, my DD did not get into any of the selective schools we applied for last year and we had to take this school as a last resort.We didn't really have a choice in the matter. Now that she is there I am really not happy with the standard of work that she is getting. She herself claims that the work is too easy. I also had a meeting with her form tutor last week who said that a number of parents have voiced similar concerns. She hinted that she doubts that anything will happen because it is, after all, a technology school.

All DD ever seems to do in terms of homework is drawing, colouring in, cooking or sewing. She has not had a single piece of written work and the maths that she has been given is addition and subtraction. Last week they moved onto simple multiplication...

I'm trying to decide what to do. On the one hand, she's happy and settled and the school is so near,we can see it from our house. On the other hand, I want her to focus on the core subjects and don't want her to become bored. I want her to be academically well rounded.

Should I bother putting her name down to do a few 12+ exams? Her father doesn't think we should bother as logically, if she couldn't do the 11+, why would she be able to do the 12+. I, on the other hand know that she has potential and from experience think that it's always possible. My eldest daughter passed the 12+ for an indie but failed the 11+...Perhaps history can repeat itself?

Another thing is, though my daughter is clever, she is awfully lazy. Her current priorities are her phone, x box and friends. Books are to my daughter as kryptonite is to Superman. Though she says the work is easy, she doesn't seem too bothered about it... I fear that if I move her, she'll not fit in in such a competitive environment and will sink because she isn't reallly too bothered and not motivated unless it concerns the priorities listed above.

Any advice would be much appreciated!Apologies again for the long post.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:20 pm 
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Joined: Thu Aug 19, 2010 12:57 pm
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I am really shocked by this. Is it legal to have such little time allocated to maths and English? I can't really advise but I would be looking elsewhere.

Good luck.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:27 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:04 pm
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I'll try and write a detailed reply tomorrow but for now:
1. Is your older DC at and Indy and is that not an option?
2. I'm afraid without any core subjects under her belt her options at unis will be limited if she decides to go to uni.
3. You may have to show some tough love and limit phone, x box etc. even if you leave her here, the work will grow in volume and come GCSE time, she will have to put in the hours.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:44 pm 
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bromley mum wrote:
1. Is your older DC at and Indy and is that not an option?
.


Not anymore, she's already at uni which means no sibling priority :(


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:59 pm 
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Would DD be more receptive to your older one? Sometimes, helps if its not mum saying all that needs to be said.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 11:41 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:12 am
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Location: Berkshire
I have never heard of a state school giving such low priority to core subjects. Can you give us more information ?
My son is at a comprehensive - it is also a technology ( and music) college, and although they love DT they do Maths, English and Science at least 3 times per week all the way through to year 11.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 12:49 am 
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I was just as surprised.
Just to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with, this is what the opening paragraph of the curriculum policy on their website says:

'The school provides an excellent curriculum for students aged 11-16. The curriculum is all the planned activities that we organise in order to promote learning, personal growth and development. Our curriculum is developed to meet the requirements of current national guidelines and our Specialist School status, within the framework of the personalised learning agenda. We were awarded Technology and Arts status in 2010 when we opened the school. This means that we spend more time focusing on our creative skills such as Visual, Media and Performing Arts. Our teaching labs encourage our students to learn using the technology and equipment that they will find in the real world. Our curriculum aims to meet the needs of all students, supporting them in Numeracy, Literacy and Science alongside the arts and encourages achievement across all subject areas.'


I feel as though this means that they love arts and do the bare minimum required by the government in terms of core subjects to prevent themselves from getting into trouble. Sigh.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 2:19 am 
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I too am shocked at the lack of English and maths being taught. How could they lead up to gaining a GCSE (or equivalent), which are necessary and vital for a CV?


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 3:41 am 
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Although it's cold comfort if this was for whatever reason your only option, the problem is that the government's monitoring of schools boils down to "within reason, we don't care so long as your GCSE results are OK". So your daughter's school has another two or three years before it has GCSE results below the floor standard and gets whacked straight into either notice to improve or special measures. Unfortunately, it's unlikely to happen immediately the current year 9s fall below the floor in just under three years' time (which if your description of the curriculum is accurate is almost certain) so your daughter may find herself starting year 11 in a school just entering special measures. It's why sending your child to a new school is always risky: with no KS3 SATs any more, the school gets a five year honeymoon period when bad (even if well-intentioned) practice can flourish.

As to what you do, I don't know. But "get out" does seem one option. Realistically, someone who didn't pass whatever your local 11+ is and then has had a year like this is unlikely to pass a (probably far more competitive) 12+. What are your other options? Have you spoken, formally (ie, booked appointment, written summary to follow up) to the head? What is the governance like? "Specialist" schools exist today in name only, so it seems a little odd that an LEA or even academy school would pursue a "specialism" so single-mindedly.

Rolling humanities into one subject has benefits, and is being pursued by some nakedly academic schools. It's not of itself a bad thing. But this does sound like it's not that the humanities are being combined (ie, add together the timetable slots and then team-teach an integrated curriculum, which can work very well) but are being marginalised, and the low standard of maths is a real warning sign. It sounds like you recognise the problem, and we can all make sympathetic postings, but quite what you do about it I don't know. Do you know any Y9 parents?


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 9:43 am 
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I know of a school in our area that also combines 'Humanities' in the lower years and as Daveg says, this in itself is not necessarily a problem at this stage. I would be concerned about the amount of teaching of core subjects. What sort of teaching hours must all the English, Maths and Science teachers have? Do English teachers take a humanities class where maybe the focus is actually on English? Does a maths teacher take (some of) a tech class (where maths skills are needed)?

Lots of schools in year 7 spend some weeks going through topics covered in primary school and maybe things will pick up after half term?

Before jumping from the frying pan into the fire I think you need to speak to management at the school and clarify exactly what their thinking is. It may be that things change in year 8?

If it were me, I wouldn't be so concerned about the combined humanities. This could work okay (until options time), however, you do need to get to the bottom of the amount of teaching hours in the core subjects. Find out what their intentions are for the rest of the year, and later. Ask them some direct questions and expect direct answers.

Do not allow the management to fob you off. Get the answers to your concerns! You have a right to ask anything you like concerning your child's education and raise your concerns. You may not like the answers you are given and cannot force change, however, you will be in a better position to make an informed decision about what to do next.

I don't think you have a true (enough) picture yet of what, why, when and how from the school. So, my advice is a meeting with the headteacher or senior management with direct questions. Take a pad with all your questions and write their answers down there and then. As the meeting progresses, ask yourself... Have they answered that question sufficiently before moving on to your next question? Do not be pushed for time.

As I say, you may not like the answers given and cannot force change but you need to know.

From your post, you have justifiable concerns but nowhere near enough information to make a sensible and informed decision.

Best wishes.


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