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Y11 higher group consolidating for L6/7 will not be taught entire curriculum. H'm?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by o8, Oct 18, 2017.

  1. o8

    o8 New commenter

    I'd like advice on possible best course of action and information on how prevalent this practice is.

    The background and context. I've been working as a private tutor for nearly 8 years ( teaching maths/adv.maths/stats/chemistry/physics to A-level) - I previously worked as a full-time maths teacher at a secondary.

    I have a student "D" who I have been working with for a year. D attends a larger than average sized, high performing, selective entry school. D's parents wanted tuition to help raise attainment following a "disappointing" (parents words), "working at" assessment of L5. D has made quite rapid progress initially and has been making a steady improvement in the regular assessments (every 2-4 weeks) - now regularly scoring 19/20 or 80-90% on longer 1 hr assessments on work just studied. In view of this D's parents inquired in April/June about the possibility of D moving up from one of the set 3 classes and from what I recollect, the discussions seemed encouraging - but the school wanted to see D continue to produce consistently good results; this does seem to be the case.

    Yesterday one of D's parents said that a conversation with the school that day they had been told that D would not be moving up as the other classes had covered a lot more material than D and that, in any event, D would not be taught all of the content for the higher paper he would be sitting as the target for the class was L6 although a few might achieve a L7. In view of what the parents, D and myself have been doing over the last 12 months this is very disconcerting. I am not initiating this discussion, the parents and the student are.

    I will try hard not inadvertently to say the wrong thing here; - the parents are dismayed and have come to me to ask whether there is a way to help get the school to commit to help D attain a higher level than 6 or 7. In the 8 years that I have been tutoring I have not had cause to ask for advice on a similar matter - I am very respectful of the pressures and constraints class teachers work under and the practical and organisational problems schools have to deal and I always seek to reflect this in my dealings with the students and parents that I see; my position is very different but I hope we have the same aims for our students. In my tuition work I aim to not only resolve some of the very basic problems and misunderstanding I see in most students when they first come but also to introduce some of the harder parts of the curriculum and full exam questions earlier than the school is able to (there are other aspects to the way I work but these are the aspect relevant to the issue under discussion).

    D's parents have been told that the class will continue to consolidate the work that will see all students attain L6 with a few expected to attain L7 and that they will not be taught a number of "difficult" topics. They have asked for a list of the topics that D will not be taught. The school did supply D's parents with their SoW which I also refer to and we have already covered many of what I consider to be the more difficult topics - quadratic inequalities, fg(x) f'(x), sine/cosine rules, completing the square, equations of circles, etc - we have work left to do, e.g. on algebraic proofs, exponential functions, nth term quadratics but we have many months left and I am of the opinion that D can attain a higher level and this is what D and D's parents have been aiming for. D is somewhat disenchanted with the level of the work - he never asks to revisit any work he does in class - I check his books and see that he not struggling and working at a level below where we are working.

    How common is it for schools for adopt this approach? In my school certain classes would target either foundation or higher level but the entire curriculum would be taught in both cases. In view of the statements made by all schools about setting "Aspirational targets which challenge all pupils to reach their potential" it seems that the school have already made decisions and set an upper limit on what certain students can achieve. The school is was rated "Outanding" in 2014 and the opinion I have gained in my work with 2 students is that they teach very well. Is there a a way forward or do the parents and D have no option but to accept the situation? What might be reasonable to expect the school to do to try and meet the expectations of D (and D's parents) who have all committed time, effort and money over the last year? It seems unreasonable to expect D to do all of the extra work on their own (or with my support and guidance for 1 hour a week) when D is in class with a full timetable and no free periods.

    thank you for reading.
  2. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    Did the parents talk about the fact that D is having tuition? And did they get the chance to explain that you are not just helping him to attain the results in the unit tests, but have also covered some of the higher level material?

    I guess it's possible that the next set up is chock-a-block full, and so they can only move him up by moving someone else down. Unfortunately, the school's results are likely to suffer less by leaving it to you to help D - if there's nobody obvious to move down then they'd end up moving down the lazy pupil who will sink to the bottom of any set they're in.

    The other worry about moving someone up at this stage is "bits that get missed", but if you have a list of what has been covered by the two groups, you can presumably focus on those bits.

    Perhaps the parents need to ask whether there are circumstances in which the school would move D. For instance, if he were to achieve 7 when they do a mock exam, surely they would have to move him into a set targetting grades above 7? Or can they supply a list of topics he would need to have covered to bridge the gap into the upper set? And/or allow him to take the upper set's tests?
  3. o8

    o8 New commenter

    The school is aware as I asked parents to get the SoW which they were good enough to supply - I just hadn't foreseen that they did not intend to complete it. Although I have explained to the parents that I try to avoid introducing or covering the more challenging work late on I don't think they really grasp what I have said enough to have mentioned it specifically - I will mail the parents and summarise the position as I see it - I had thought I would be working hand-in-hand with the school on what they have on their SoW but it looks like it will be largely down to D and myself if D is to attain a level 8 or above. (I like them to seethe more challenging topics as early possible as they will have plenty of time to go over it multiple times - I figure it's easier to leave the easier work until the end when time is short - introducing hard topics close to the the end of the course can discourage some students - that's my view FWIW). I'm sure it's a problem for the school to consider moving him but IMHO they should, ideally, have his interests at heart and be trying to help D achieve the best level possible - I'm further concerned that by not covering some topics it will disadvantage him when D starts the A-level - they are very hard on selecting students for their 6th form - I'm not even sure that they will allow D to continue to A-level with only a L7. None of this (only aiming to consolidate for a L6/7) was discussed or explained to the parent at any point - this is what they are upset about - the whole point of the tuition was to gain a higher level. I'm going to ask what they think D has not covered compared to the next set - D has already asked for their homework sheets and their revision booklets. As it stands I don't believe there was ever any intention to move D. It just seems like an opportunity is being missed - D has many weeks and months of teaching ahead where D will not be challenged as hard much as I think and know is possible - it seems that the only people taking any risk is D and myself. Maybe it will possible for D to do some of the assessments the other set will have. The situation just seems so unethical to me. Parents are wanting to complain to the school but I'm not sure anything will be gained - I think it would be a really unhelpful distraction - better to try and see what, if anything, the school might try to put in place to help; I'm not optimistic TBH. I had been thinking D would attain L8 (minimum) on the assumption that I was working in parallel with the school - I now have to reassess my position and whether I can make enough difference - if I can not, it may be right that I withdraw - I have already mentioned this to the parents.
  4. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    Haven't read all of your posts so apologies if this has been said. It isn't unusual not to teach the whole of Higher. For a student who, for example, still struggles factorising quadratics, and who really had to work really hard but can just about cope with simultaneous linear equations, what's the point of tormenting them with non-linear simultaneous equations? That would only serve to dent their hard won confidence. Lesson time is better spent reinforcing the basics rather than skimming through the harder stuff they're unlikely to understand.

    It strikes me that your job here is to fill in the gaps if you think the student truly will cope.
    Maths_Shed and strawbs like this.
  5. davidmu

    davidmu Occasional commenter

    I think you should concentrate on the perceived harder topics during the next six months. This way the school can hardly exclude the student from going on to attempt A level if an 8 or higher is obtained. See what has happened at St. Olave's grammar school, it will make many HTs think again. A competent student should have no difficulty with L6 or L7 at this stage if A level is envisaged.
  6. strawbs

    strawbs Established commenter

    In my experience it is very common not to teach the full spec to the "weaker" higher groups, and likewise the "bottom" foundation sets.

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