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How do I answer this inevitable question at parents evening?

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by Imtellingonyou, Jan 28, 2019.

  1. Imtellingonyou

    Imtellingonyou New commenter

    i have a Y8 boy in my set for English who should be in top set; he joined in October and we did not receive any historical data for him. He is incredibly able and should be in set 1 - he stands out in my class so much as there is no one near him in terms of ability and work rate. I try my best to stretch him - it’s a middle school I work in and I’m new to KS3- but I have a ceiling in how far I can take things as I’m finding my feet in KS3. The only reason he has not moved is due to the class size in set 1 being 34 and I have 29 in set 2. I understand why but I worry his parents will ask the question about his setting and I would like to give an honest, professional response. Any suggestions? I’ve already showed the head of English his book and he has been moderated as working at GDS in his analysis work.

  2. needabreak

    needabreak Star commenter

    Be honest like you've been here? I was told the very same thing at parents evening about one of the nabs, it can usually works out in time as they get reshuffled due to test results... As long as its not too late.
    bonxie likes this.
  3. Weald56

    Weald56 Established commenter

    You could arrange for the HoD to speak to them, or suggest they speak to the HoD.
  4. chatmaw

    chatmaw New commenter

    As above. Worth checking with head of department about what your party line is. There's always some movement along the way but don't promise anything. If it gets difficult refer them to your head of department: they should be having conversations about setting.

    Don't stress though. As long as you are up front parents generally understand. If they don't, refer it upwards.

    Good luck.
    JohnJCazorla and phlogiston like this.
  5. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    talk your normal talk about work, refer any questions about setting to HOD, that's why they get the big bucks ;)
  6. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    Depends on the parents. Big smile: "This is beyond my pay grade - please speak with Mrs Important Person, who is the Head of Department" will be perfect for many parents.
  7. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    It's difficult because you don't want to drop the school in "it". However, the management of the school have made a decision which is hard to defend - it's their job to do so.
    I would cover my backside by making sure that I have given plenty of extension exercises (and have evidence) so that you can show that the boy has not suffered appreciably by being in a lower set.
  8. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    A large majority of my responses to dilemmas lean towards management bashing. At least that is what a school manager would say! Teachers are so often lumped with stuff, and then blamed for shortfalls in the outcome. Targets, behaviour, poor rooming, lack of equipment, "lack" of progress.
    However, for you to say there is a ceiling in how far you can take things is indefensible. I am not an English teacher myself, but even in these Maths shoes, I'd be able to find something for this child to do to stretch him. Get copies of what top set are doing and give that to him. Get him some KS4 work. Give him something to do outside of the box. Give him a personal project. Enlist him with making his best pieces into display work. Have him create a book review for the library wall. Give him the exam spec to read. Give him GCSE past papers.
    I have no doubt he can be moved into top set, with the pertinant people making the right noises-it just depends how these strings are pulled in your school. But it might take time, and in that time, you are responsible for keeping him buoyant. Good fit with the group or not. He deserves it. He's a kid and he's bright.
    To say that you personally have a ceiling to how far you can take things for him is a shortcoming in your skills, for which you ought to go ask others. "What would you do with this child". There ought not to be a colleague of experience in your department who would suggest "well, given your newbiness there is little you can do".
    Sorry, harsh, but this is a scenario which you simply have to cater to. One kid in completely the wrong set. Give him stuff, and more stuff, give him autonomy, praise him highly on completion. It takes minutes, and it does not relate to being new or otherwise. It relates to fishing out something appropriate for him, and that is surely the number one skill you ought to possess for every child you work with.
    Sorry again, harsh much. But your self imposed "ceiling" gets me somehow, sorry.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2019
    JohnJCazorla, cathr and Stiltskin like this.
  9. Marshall

    Marshall Star commenter

    But I also agree with sbkrobson - find something to stretch and challenge him or he will/may switch off. Ask for help from the HoD if you need this.
  10. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    I would say the following
    1. When your son arrived we had no prior data on his ability in English
    2. Having completed a number of pieces of work it is clear that he is at "X" standard (not an English teacher so I am not sure what would be the best term to use)
    3. Normally a student producing work of this quality would be in the top set. Unfortunately this year the top set is already oversized so an immediate move is not possible (If your school does look at mid year reorganisations of the sets then you could indicate a timeframe for when it may be possible).
    4. I will be giving him the following work so he can be stretched and continue to develop his skills and make excellent progress
    cathr and needabreak like this.
  11. border_walker

    border_walker Lead commenter

    If I was the HoD and this issue came up, i would simply move the student who is bottom of set 1 down. This is not really an issue for a class teacher alone.
  12. Weald56

    Weald56 Established commenter

    If a school has setting (or banding, or streaming) then they have to have 'promotion' & 'relegation'. Not to have that is both unfair and discriminatory - for example in the situation described by the OP. In my experience giving the pupil extra work/different work can be actually damaging as it makes the (relatively new) pupil stand out from their peers, and they often resent the extra work as well! If I were their parent I'd see it as papering over the cracks as well.

    So get the HoD to do their job!
    border_walker likes this.
  13. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    Definitely an issue for the HoD. Talk to the HoD before the parents' evening; agree with them what you can say about if/when a move might be possible. ScienceGuy's advice on what you say is great, adjusting point 3 in the light of whatever comes out of your conversation with the HoD. If the parents are not happy, you suggest that they make an appointment with the HoD; you've done your bit.

    You may find they are understanding and grateful that you recognise his ability and are stretching him. I once had to ring parents who were querying why their daughter was not in the top set. She'd only got into the school on appeal because the year group was very full, she had come from the US and was only staying six months. I explained that she was ahead on some things and behind on others, because of the different curriculum, and that although on balance I would have put her in the top set, it already had 36 pupils in it, and I couldn't really justify moving someone down in the circumstances. They were very understanding. It did help that I knew about the appeal, because it meant I knew they'd been told we were technically full.

    One year, due to the relocation of a national logistics department, we had an influx of able children. In one year group we had so many that we had to move the bottom few children from each set down to the next in the second week of term. We constructed a very careful letter explaining the circumstances and that they hadn't got any worse at the subject, but I'm still amazed that we didn't get any complaints!
  14. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    I am a primary school teacher, not a secondary teacher, but the issue of moving students up or down is always a bit of a minefield. Yes, it is one for your HoD to sort out. You are not responsible for causing this problem, so you should not be the one who has to give the awkward answers to the parents.

    When I was teaching in China, a secondary English teacher told me me that her Year 10 English class could not remember the figures of speech. I suggested that she might like to come to the English class that I was going to have with my Year 5 class after break. I asked one or two of my more able students to identify the figures of speech, including some of the rarer and more unsual ones (litotes, oxymoron, synecdoche, hyperbole). They were able to do this without any hesitation, mistakes or prompting.

    I agree with sbkrobson that you have a duty to your talented student and so you should be setting him some more challenging work, whether or not this breaks through your "ceiling". It is also your responsibility to find one or two additional things to keep him on his toes. Lots of schools have something called the World Scholar's Cup. Perhaps he should try for a leading role in the school's next production. I remember that I pushed one of my more able students, young Master Weymouth, into the role of Mortimer in that old comedy classic, Arsenic and Old Lace. A few weeks ago, Adam wrote to me and told me that he had won The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.

    adam's book.JPG

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