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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 1:52 pm 
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So here in push-pull-manor we've come to terms with the fact that DD will be off to our local (o.k. but none too brilliant) Comprehensive in September. X.O.H. and myself both went to highly selective, single sex grammar schools and we always assumed that the DCren would do likewise but 1st March told us otherwise and now we have to get ourselves ready for supporting DD through the next 5 years.

It's so much easier helping children through primary school - parents are kept up to date with homework expectations, general progress, emotional well being and if anything's really wrong there are teachers and headteachers there to be accosted on the school playground. DD will, of course, be ferrying herself to and from secondary school and the school is very keen on the children being self sufficient and self motivated - they don't even call homework 'homework' - it's 'passport to independence'!

What do you guys think are the most important things a parent can do to help ensure that a child does well even in a large school where only 53 percent of the kids get 5 or more GCSEs?

Well - other than move house or win the lottery ... :)


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:19 pm 
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Not very helpful, probably, but just do the same as you would if she had got into the grammar school! Remain interested and involved, keep an eye on friendships and homework, but then, just let her get on with it!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:27 pm 
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push-pull-mum wrote:
What do you guys think are the most important things a parent can do to help ensure that a child does well even in a large school where only 53 percent of the kids get 5 or more GCSEs?



Most schools have some kind of home/school planner that the parents are supposed to look at (and possibly sign) so this should help you to see what your daughter is supposed to be doing in terms of homework (sorry - passport to independence - :D ) and so on, together with any credits or otherwise! You would be expected to check this regularly. Some schools also have online facilities for keeping in touch with what their children are doing at school - attendance, marks, etc. I would suggest you use anything like this that is available and make sure that your daughter takes advantage of any extension facilities on offer in the form of clubs, school trips, etc. You could consider joining the PTA of the school or even becoming a parent governor as a means of becoming involved and helping to shape the ethos of the school. Just a few ideas.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:04 pm 
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Make sure children are in top sets for everything right the way through, and if they're not, get a tutor straight away!!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 10:14 pm 
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Have to agree with Mystery! In the comp my eldest went to (moved here when he was 15 and had no choice!) if you were in the higher set, you got to sit the higher papers - which meant you could get top marks. If you were in the lower sets (was only one 'top set' class in each subject that was streamed this way) students were only taught enough of the curriculum to enable them to get a C, as they also only wrote the lower papers, and the top mark you could get was a C on those. So do make sure that she remains in the top sets - as even though they can be moved down a set, or up a set, if they go from lower to higher - they've already missed alot of the work needed to attain the higher grades.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:26 pm 
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Location: Berkshire
Aaaargh...push-pull-mum....this is the great wonder. My youngest is our comp attender, the others having got into GS. He is our smartest child, so no idea what happened on the day of the test, but it wasn't to be. We have done everything we can to try to make it work, and so far (he's Y8) it seems to be going ok. He is in top sets for everything that's streamed....maths,science and German, although we did have a wobble a few weeks ago about science, resolved a little by parents' evening. I think you have to be switched on to what's going on...as far as my others were concerned I wasn't too worried in y8, assuming everything would be sorted out by the school. With him, I am constantly checking that he's on top of everything, and isn't being swamped. My older ones were at a GS with 700 pupils, he is at a school with 1400. Its not a bad school, by any means, and the teaching staff on the whole seem very committed, so I'm happy, but rarely close my eyes :)


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:43 am 
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Location: Warwickshire
I agree with the "top set" advice. Although the difference in work covered is a concern ( and higher or lower level exam papers) - my major concern would be around the learning environment in the different sets. Sadly I think as you go further down the sets the disruptive behaviour increases massively and this has a big impact on learning, teaching, enthusiasm etc. Don't know if you have seen any of Jamie Oliver's new programme "Dream School" - you just need a few of those students in your class to really disrupt it for everyone else. These students do tend to be in the bottom set .


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 10:47 am 
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Yes, or clever lazy children in the middle sets who can have a good chat most of the lesson, turn out some work when fast when required, and stay in the middle with almost zero effort.

So, the big question is this, do you need to do something now to make sure that children start out in the top sets (if there are any) in year 7?

If it were me, and I had the cash to spare, and I wasn't sure about the primary school my children were attending, and I didn't think I could do it at home, I'd get English and Maths tuition for the remainder of this year to make sure that children are good level 5s in the SATS (even if they don't get 5s in the SATS themselves the child will be ahead on entry to the comp so if the school uses SAT results and then adjusts according to their own knowledge of the child they should go in at the top).

I don't know if the comp your children are going to have told you much about how and when the children are setted, and what info they use, but I think that if you look at the stats nationally you will see that your child is unlikely to go into a top set unless they are level 5 material. Level 5s are not gold dust the way some primaries like to make out.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 10:55 am 
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Forgot to say, but while your child is at the school, find out what children have to do to stay in the set that they are in ......... I think different schools do it differently. Let's say it does it on the cumulative results of regular end of unit tests, then your child needs to know that these are the things that count, what day they are, and to prepare for them.

Other prep you could do now - get your child to watch the bottom sets on the programme that others have referred to above (unless of course you think your child would find that kind of thing a good laugh to be part of!!)


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:37 am 
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I think that the general tenor of this advice is correct though the details vary from school to school. My daughter is in a theoretically comprehensive school (actually very high performing and partially selective intake) and I agree that setting does matter. In my experience top set is not necessarily critical - for instance in her school top 2 of 5 sets do single sciences. Top two or three language sets have significantly greater opportunities.

Coasting in middle sets is serious. Staff may not recognise that your child is in the wrong set and not worry because (at least in my daughters school) middle of middle sets are expected (easily?) to get equivalent of English Bacc but probably not the A/ A*s of the top two sets.

Also not easy to get staff to acknowledge that child is in the wrong set once placed there - even if it was because they were ill on the day of the relevant test. My personal experience is that although children all did CATS on arrival this information was not necessarily used for setting purposes, even where examination of this information might indicate that child is very definitely in the wrong set. Beware of anyone trying to tell you that there are several parallel sets. This may not be true and may stem from a reluctance to admit that the sets are operating at different levels.

Keep an eagle eye on setting/exam results and be prepared to sit over the child (at least in early years) to work like mad on revision/ remedial work if you suspect that setting issues may occur. Ultimately though motivation will have to come from the child as parents our influence diminishes over time.

I have to say that from my experience behaviour (even in top performing schools) can be an issue and not necessarily only in bottom sets (may not even be in her school where the bottom sets are much smaller classes). This seems to occur for all sorts of reasons, shockingly even 'nice' kids will take advantage of a teacher facing personal difficulties e.g. recent bereavement. Also difficulties occur just as much where some children are bored i.e. the clever ones may be the trouble makers just as much as the less bright.

To be honest all this advice probably applies just as much to a grammar school. Perfectly possible to go to a comp and get an excellent education.

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