02/06/2009 10:27 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ask Joanne: My Child's Upset About Not Being In The Top Set At School

Our life coach Joanne Mallon answers your questions here.
If you have a question you'd like Joanne's help with, send it in to this address.

Carol writes:

My daughter was in the top level of her class in Reception and Year One.

I was informed in Janaury that she would be taking level 2 in her
sats. However. she was in the top table for all learning. I did not mention this to her.

On the first day of the sats she came home upset crying that she was the only child from her group of 10 who did not do level 3. I tried to console her and explain that she was probably not quite ready for that level, however the tears continued throughout the week.

Back to school as normal on Monday and my daughter was again in the top table and came home with the same homework as all the kids who did level 3. Yesterday she informed me she now wants to move to a lower table as "why should she have to do the harder work but was not allowed to do the harder test". How should I respond to this other than being blunt and informing her she was just not good enough?

Dear Carol

It breaks your heart, doesn't it, to see your child upset about something? Particularly something which is out of your control.

Although schools aim to be fair, sometimes their actions don't always follow through. This looks like a clear case for having a quiet word with her teacher, or writing a letter asking for some more explanation. On the one hand, you are being shown evidence that your daughter is at a certain level, yet on the other hand it would appear not so. So do contact the teacher to find out a bit more about what's going on. Perhaps the teacher plans to move your daughter up in the near future.

Most schools do give children separate work depending on their abilities, and rightly so. They need to stretch the more able without alienating those who are struggling. It's to your daughter's credit that she wants to be able to do the harder test, she's clearly a grafter, not a coaster. This kind of conscientious attitude will serve her well in later life.

Do as much as you can to support your daughter's self esteem. What does she enjoy doing outside of school? What are her friendships like at school? Often the thing that matters most to children is being in a group with their mates. Could you help her build more friendships within her current group?

Be aware of the language you use around her -- this situation was never a case of being "just not good enough", but more about academic abilities at that time. Reassure her that she's always good enough, regardless of what table the teacher puts her on.

Hope this helps, good luck


Send your question in to Joanne at this address. Names can be changed on request.