Almost daily diary!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Single mothers

A few weeks ago Small Sprog brought home his school report. Contained within were his 'levels'. The government is obsessed with 'levels', all the children at school know what level they are on (even the youngest) and what their target is for the year. All well and good if you are a bright and confident, not so great if you are comparing yourself to those who are very successful.

Anyway, I digress. I was happy with Small Sprogs progress and told him so. However I couldn't help comparing his report with Tall Girls one at the same age, at the same school.

Now I know she's a girl and perhaps this accounts for some of the discrepancy but although his levels were similar to hers at the same age, his predicted grades were much lower. Tall Girl has exceeded some of her targets this year and some are going to be roughly what was expected. But do you know how they are worked out? It's not just about her, 'they' take into account family circumstances and whether she's on free school meals etc.

When Tall Girl was in year 7 she lived in a nuclear family. Small Sprog at that same age does not. Small Sprog is registered for free school meals because of my low pay, even though I make him sandwiches every day. (The school benefits from extra cash if you register your children even if the children don't have the dinners.)

It seems that Small Sprog is not expected to do so well at school because he lives with his single mother. His scrounging single mother who apparently lowers his life chances. Is this fair? Is it fair that he shouldn't be expected to do as well because he comes from a 'broken home'? Is it fair that women who live alone are portrayed as non working scroungers with little or no education themselves, who have, in turn, no interest in their offspring's education or future? It makes me mad that his levels are expected to be lower now that he lives outside of the accepted required norm.

Recently I have neglected him I must admit, but only because I have spent every night for the last weeks -though it seems like months- helping Tall Girl revise for her GCSE's. And all that effort will be his in a few years - is his now when he brings home work from school.

I am determined that they will get the same results as they would have if we were still living in a family unit. In fact, I think I am better placed now to give them more help than when I was in an unhappy place.

Tall Girl completed her Science GCSE today, she has worked incredibly hard -though physics baffles us both! So fingers crossed. I hope, desperately hope, that I can continue to support them in their education until they no longer need me to. The only thing that might interfere with that is if I have to work 24/7 to support them financially and then there will be little time for our family life, but perhaps that's what the government would prefer?


Maggie May said...

This really is very bad and I wasn't aware of the lowered expectations of children from broken homes.
As for letting each child know exactly where they are in the class..... I know from my own experience that it has a damaging effect. (In our school days we had to come out to the front of the class weekly and sit in our ranks from a test we did each week.) We seem to be regressing back to those days.
Everybody seems to be going through a rough time, thanks to the Government cut backs and changing policies all the time.
You might be a single mother but you seem to be mighty dedicated to your children. I'm sure they will do fine, both of them.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Suburbia said...

Thank you Maggie

Scargosun said...

Sigh. See I always knew SS was a bright child. He learns from the world around him and unfortunately 'they' don't take it into account. SS is going places where 'expected grades' will mean about the same as 'permanent record'. :)

Rob said...

I m just appalled at the assumptions that "they" (the government people) are making. There are lots of singled moms, widowed or otherwise, who have university or equivalent educations, know how impotent an education is, and work darned hard with their children. The stigma of school lunch notwithstanding.

That is the kind of silliness which I fear our government will be trying.

In the meantime, it is an affront to Sprog, who is certainly his own person, but probably is almost as bring as his sister. Good luck to TG on her GCSE stuff. (I'm glad I don't have to go through that again!)

Steve said...

Targets should be taken with a pinch of salt - they change every year as the criteria changes and don't reflect anything real about life or the pupils.

Suburbia said...

Steve, I realise that but my point is that the expectation for him to do well is absent because of how his family life is perceived. It makes me want to rant..

nick said...

It's absurd to assume children with a single mother won't do so well at school. That's precisely the sort of sweeping assumption that artificially reduces people's aspirations and achievements. Some single mothers may be useless but others like yourself are conscientious and capable. I've known loads of single mums with high-achieving kids who weren't disadvantaged in any way.

Suburbia said...

Thanks nick, that's made me feel much better :-)

Dicky Carter said...

I'm sure they will both do fine with a caring mum like you - don't worry so much :)

Expat mum said...

They make that assumption based on previous statistics, and fail to take into account the individual situation. Statistically children from "broken homes" (how I hate that term) don't "do as well" at school. Everyone's just a number.
I'm more concerned about the low expectation that is being communicated. Do the kids know about them? If so, it's dreadful and completely ignores what's called the "Expectation Theory which says that we all live up (or down) to what others expect of us.
Perhaps you could balance their stupidity out by maintaining high expectations for him.

liisamarja said...

kids in finland are all expected to do well, those that struggle get help along the way. a child's family situation is not an issue (mom&dad, just mom, just dad, 2 moms, 2 dads, or whatever combination) and plays no role in how an individual child is perceived. a "regular nuclear" family doesn't guarantee anything, a happy home most certainly will. just my opionion.

Working Mum said...

Those adjusted targets are based on data from thousands of other families, not yours. They look at what was achieved by similar pupils in the past and assume that most pupils will do the same. (In my school targets are automatically inflated because generally children in private schools achieve more highly than those in state schools). Trends do appear, but more informative than target grades are chance graphs. You can then see the chances of a child achieving a variety of levels, so maybe the most common level achieved is one thing, but there could be a 20% chance they could achieve two levels higher. Does that make sense?

As a teacher I use chance graphs to ensure that pupils don't underachieve and that they are aiming for the highest grades whatever the likelihood of achieving it appears based on statisticians' data.

Suburbia said...

Obviously I know it's not based on our family- its the assuming that annoys me

Rose said...

I'm not that familiar with the educational system in the UK, but it seems awful that they would consider "family circumstances" in predicting a child's grades. Of course, the U.S. has its own obsession with statistics and assessments. One of the concerns here is always grouping by race; minority children often score lower on tests. But I've seen children from minority groups or lower income families do very well in school and those from the groups expected to be high achievers not do so well. I think it has so much to do with parent involvement. There are children from two-parent households who get very little attention, too.

You are providing just the kind of support and nurturing environment your children need--forget those $#&! stereotypes and labels!

Carol said...

Sub I was brought up by my Mum...I had a great childhood full of love and laughter. I did really well at school and now have a Masters degree (with distinction). The people who are claiming that being in a single parent family means that you won't achieve as much don't know their arse from their elbow! A child brought up in a loving stable environment with a parent who nurtures and supports them will do well...whether they have one or two parents at home has no's about time spent and support offered.

Best of luck to Tall Girl with her exams

C x

NitWit1 said...

I/ve never heard of such. But I did not raise children. But making assumptions, and that is all it is, to suggest expectation levels, is ridiculous. I have seen children to adults in at all educational levels who and homes, some homeless insofar as family relations, who do exceedingly well, and beat the best of any thing I did, and I was from a traditional environment.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

I had no idea that this system existed in the UK. It's horrible :( What do 'predicted levels' imply? Do they have resource implications? I wonder what the Irish system is predicting for my 'from-a-broken-home' son?

Liz said...

That is shocking, that such a judgement is based on stereotypes and generalities.

I hope SS exceeds his targets and shows them up; he is such a bright child. He is going to go far.