Q. Why is my 12-year-old maths whizz suddenly bottom of the class? Henry, West London
There are several reasons why a child who was previously top of the class might fall behind, and parents have every right to be concerned.
Alex Dyer, of the private tutoring college Tutor House in London, asks: ‘Have you seen any changes in their behaviour recently? Have they changed friendship groups? Are there issues outside of the classroom that could be distracting them from their schoolwork?
‘It may be that their confidence has dropped. Perhaps they struggled with a topic and now feel less sure of themselves, or less interested in the subject.
‘Children of this age are constantly learning and developing. The issue could simply be that while they previously did comparatively well, other children have now caught up. This often happens if they have just moved from primary to secondary school.’
He advises parents to talk to their teacher first: ‘Are they getting distracted in class?
Do they know of any incident at school that might have caused them to pay less attention to their studies? Is it just maths that is the problem or are all their subjects suffering?’
Do communicate with your child too. Try talking when you’re in the car or out for a walk. That way they don’t have to look at you or feel put on the spot.
Behavioural problems may need support from their teacher – maybe something as simple as asking them to move away from their friends during lesson time might help. Pay more attention to their homework, make sure they are doing it properly. Encourage them and offer to help if they are struggling.
In large classes, it is difficult for teachers to give pupils consistent 1:1 attention, particularly if they are falling behind. Having sessions with a private tutor may help get to the root of the problem and tackle it head on.