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 Post subject: A little bit concerned
PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:23 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:12 am
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Location: Berkshire
Many of you may know my story -youngest did not pass 11+, and is now at a comprehensive. We have just had sight of his E&A grades for the start of this term (y8), and he is performing extrememly well in all subjects...apart from Science. eg Maths 7A,everything else high level 6.....and Science 5B. He's in the top group for both Maths and Science (nothing else is streamed), and is now worried that he will be moved down in Science. We have the parents' evening coming up and wonder how to approach this. I don't know whether we should let him move down a set and try to put some work in at home, or whether to insist he stays where he is for fear of him losing the will in a lower set. He doesn't really understand himself what's going wrong, he doesn't particularly like the teacher, and sits at the back of the class. She doesn't really ask him anything, and he doesn't really feel as if he is getting anywhere. He's quite a conscientious little fellow, and I feel he is being overlooked by the teacher. The homework he's been set is atrocious, very difficult to understand and to help him with.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

LFH


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:29 am 
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Hi LFH

One of the problems I have always found with these E&A grades (well the A that is ) is that you have little to compare it with ... you don't have the whole class range and although they are meant to NC grades I'm never sure that they are comparable across the scale.. eg DS got a 4 in german (can't remember what year - 8 probably) considered to be fab and also got an 8 in art and apparently missed the target??????

All shook down in the end!!

I would go to parents evening assuming that he will stay where he is and if anything is mentioned then discuss it further. TBH parents evening are not the best place for such discussions and if they try to do this better to arrange a chat with the teacher at a later date.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:51 am 
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Mmmmmmmm ....... very unsure about this one. Discussions with teachers and schools about setting can be very difficult. It can also be very difficult to find out what the difference is between the work being carried out in the different sets i.e. is your child missing out on stuff that is creating gaps for later on, or is each child given the opportunity to cover everything needed to ultimately be able to achieve high grades at GCSE.

And some further thoughts, purely my own opinion. There is nothing particularly tricky in any of the three science syllabuses right up to GCSE. Taught well and clearly, I can't see that anyone with a modicum of intelligence shouldn't be able to get some reasonably high grades in these subjects.

Certainly the work covered in Year 7, if clearly taught, does not cover a huge breadth or depth, and is not intellectually challenging. So, I would say, it's the teacher that is not pushing the right buttons with your son.

I would say, start by getting a KS3 science guide from somewhere or other, and have as good a look as you can at your son's classwork and homework (is this permitted ?) to see where he is going wrong. You might be able to see from this whether it is his explanations, his memory, his pace of work, or his understanding that is letting him down ......... or you might just find that it's a lot of confusing random stuff bunged on a file that no-one in their right minds could make head or tail of.

Moving sets might be a blessing if it happens - it might be a better teacher! Even though the set is lower, they could potentially be taught better.

It is also possible that he was taught science badly in primary school (my child is doing forces at the age of 6 ......... as a physicist I would ban this subject from ever being covered at primary school) and is now having to have all his badly taught misconceptions re-taught. Until you see his work and what you might expect to be covered in Year 7 science it will be very difficult for you to have a grasp of whether there really is a problem or not.

I would say that in Year 7 children are terribly influenced by whether they like a particular teacher or not; they cannot separate out dislike of the subject from dislike of the teacher. If it all looks a bit of a hopeless case for the remainder of the year at school you have three choices - do nothing and hope it improves in Year 8, get a tutor who your son likes and who makes science fun and interesting (which really for all children of this age it should be - there's no excuse for it not to be), or, once you have seen what the Year 7 syllabus should be, do some stuff at home to enliven it which play to your son's interests - if he likes reading non-fiction, some whacky science books that make it fun, or experiments to do in the kitchen ....... whatever.

I recently observed a vertical tutor group in a secondary school in West Kent ..... a girl from year 10 asked the tutor if she could move up English sets as she was good at English and there was no meaningful discussion in the set she was in as it was too low a set for her ability. The tutor told her (and it was out of her control too so I'm sure it was the correct answer for the school as a whole if you see what I mean, not a wrong answer from the tutor) that the other sets were full, and that she would have to be better at maths to move up an English set as the way the timetable worked the English setting was in some way connected with the maths setting!!

Aaaagh sets, groups, assessments, poorly differentiated work .................. I'm still having a problem with it in Year 2 .......... these issues start early these days.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:54 am 
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Oh and another thought - do his 11+ scores, CATs tests etc etc point towards a likely aptitude in the sciences or not .......... not that I particularly would say that you can get a meaningful answer like this from such tests.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:59 am 
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Just looked at those other assessments - with the strong grasp of maths and english that they seem to show, it seems unlikely that he would be poor at Year 7 science. But don't jump to conclusions - you might find that the NC level he is on for science is actually very respectable, crazy as it seems this is possible as it is, in reality, a "new" subject when done properly at senior school (sorry primary school teachers, I don't think the majority of primary school teachers have the background to teach this subject well at primary level, and children's level of development isn't far enough advanced for it to be worth thinking about many of the concepts that KS2 science touches on - just a personal view).


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 11:47 am 
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Hi LFH, you may remember I had a similar story to yours a couple of years ago? Well, same again :D DD spent Y7 in the top science set but was moved down to set 2 at the start of Y8 – we queried this with the school and didn’t really receive a satisfactory answer as to why, but she’s getting 6Bs and seems quite happy, so we’ve let the matter drop. Our only concern was whether she would be allowed to take triple science if she wasn’t in the top set, and she can – might be worth checking this if it’s an issue for you.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t panic too much and it sounds like your DS might benefit from having a different teacher, as mystery suggests to reignite his enthusiasm for the subject.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 12:11 pm 
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Some teachers mark lower than others. If the 5B is up from previous reports then this might be the reason and nothing to worry about esp if you can find out from your DS if lots of others got around this level too. If it is lower than on previous report then you might be right to check it out. I used to worry because a friend with DCs at a different school (not a GS) was talking level 7s on their work in year 7 and my DD is getting those in Y9 and she is fairly bright and certainly getting similar to classmates. She is only just hitting the level 8s now. I'm not sure how these NC levels can vary so much but in my experience this is the case. Has the effort grade slipped from previous reports or is it significantly different from other subjects? if so see if you can speak to the teacher either in person or a quick email can clear things up.

Sometimes you just have to wait for them to change teachers to a better one...annoying but that is how it goes unless there really is evidence of extremely poor teaching. Try helping your DS go the extra mile with a couple of science homework pieces or revising for an end of topic test - (we use the KS3 cgp book to help with science homework if they get stuck) This can help get them back on track or in "the good books" of the teacher.
Also don't worry - (not easy for us poor parents I know) these things tend to shake down in the end.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:42 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:12 am
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Location: Berkshire
Thanks everyone for the advice.....I am just surprised at the lowness of the level compared to others. His CAT scores have him G&T for maths and while science was one of his least favourite subjects, his science teacher at the end of y7 said he was really switched on and doing very well. Unfortunately the shambles that is the LFH household is such that I can't quite place his lasts year's grades, and the autumn term ones only had the E part not the A, so I can't remember his last A grade. I am pretty sure there wasn't such a spread between them, although maths was always out in front by a long chalk. I think we will go with the cgp books for now, see what the teacher says at parents' evening, and not try to second guess the teacher's position. My worry is like yours, Rob....having seen at first hand how little science is required for the double award at GCSE, I really want him to do the 3 sciences at GCSE, so he has a full grasp of the subjects if in particular physics is a strength, which I had thought it might be, given his strength in maths. I do think he is not engaged in the class, probably mostly his fault, although that is quite unlike him, a sponge for facts he is, and I don't want him turned off so early in secondary school. Although to be fair, I don't want him to feel under too much pressure to perform at this stage, and am imagining a better teacher perhaps in the second set, which might not be a bad thing, although he is annoyed about it all. Maybe that will make him work harder, hopefully. Effort grades this year have been 2 for science, same as last year. Most of his other subjects are 1. Sorry for the rambling, I had a really horrendous day at work, and was unable to check back in here after posting, and now have to go back out again :evil:

Thanks again


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 6:21 pm 
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I would use the fact that you have mislaid last years grades an excuse to contact the school.

You can get in touch with his year head or tutor and ask for last years grades so that you can compare. That will then be an opening for you to discuss any worries.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:06 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:12 am
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Location: Berkshire
Well I'm right to be cross....just discovered last year's end of year grades, 6C for science. Hmmm either we have some work to do or the school has some explaining. This can't be right, I will have to talk to them. It's not as if there's any lack of progress in other subjects. He asked today for an appointment for parents' evening.....everyone else the teacher said their name, when he came along, she said....'who are you ?' :lol:
I know they can't know everyone, but surely there must be some flagging in a system somewhere if a child drops two sub levels in a term. :shock:


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