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Old 21.05.2012, 15:39
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Contesting school placement for 6th grader

OK, this is pretty much what we'd been expecting, but still it's disappointing. My daughter is just finishing her second year in public school in Vaud. She's in 6th grade. Before we arrived, she didn't speak French. And when we began her schooling here, she didn't receive grades for most of her subjects, because she wasn't able to follow her studies in history, geography, and science, for example.

She's been incredible. She began this year knowing that she had to finish with over a 5 average if she was going to be placed in VSB - the school leading to university studies.

The teachers haven't made it easy. Last semester when she received her grades, she was bringing her grades steadily up from 4s to 5s, but they told her that she was probably going to go to VSG, and that VSG is just fine. They did not encourage her to work harder, at least this is what she tells me.

My daughter decided that she was just going to work harder. This semester her grades keep steadily climbing. She pulled her science average from a 4.8 to a 6 average, math from 4.5 to 5.25, history from a 2 to a 5 average! Everything has improved and yet it isn't enough to be placed in VSB.

I have to send back my position on the school's placement recommendation and I will write that I am not in agreement, which means that we will have a meeting with the school to express our reasons why she should be ultimately placed in VSB. Yes, her average for the entire year is not quite high enough, but her average for the second half of the year in itself is. It seems to me that my daughter is catching up with the language, and as she does she is showing that she is capable of succeeding at an advanced level.

Finally, we somewhat went through this with my older boy. Last year when we arrived the school system placed him in VSG, which was fine for a newcomer and less stressful than VSB might have been. Then the school agreed to place him in VSB this year, based largely on his math abilities.

This series of events was all fine in many respects, but it is also another transition. When you move your children across the ocean and they meet all new friends in a year and learn another language, then the following year they have to change schools and start over socially and figure out yet another school, this is pretty tough no matter how adaptable a child may be. My daughter could handle it, but she could better handle placement in the more challenging school environment, where she could be with her some of closest friends and begin a concentration in math and physics, which she is eager to pursue. The teachers are already telling her that she would probably be changed to VSB after her first year in VSG, like her big brother.

So I am asking anyone out there that has experience with this school system if they have any advice regarding how to approach this meeting. The teachers are telling the children that no child has been changed from G to B once the recommendation has been made, no matter what takes place in the parents' meeting with the school. I'm not feeling hopeful but I'm going to contest this thing!
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Old 21.05.2012, 15:51
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

Not sure what to contribute, but a friend went through somewhat of the same with her oldest boy, he was french speaking from an early age, with english as well, but it was not really an integration or language issue. He was placed in VSG apparently due to low grades in German, parents had meeting, protested, nothing happend, VSG it was.(seemed once the teachers made up their mind, that was that). They were a bit more than peeved, and although the school said he could possible move up later and repeat, they did not want him to graduate at age 20 or so. In the end they took him out of the public school and he went on to Oxford and didn't look back.
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Old 21.05.2012, 16:01
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

You didn't give her French scores; I'm not sure how it is in Vaud, but in Fribourg, French and Maths are the most important marks, followed by German and Science.
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Old 21.05.2012, 16:08
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

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Not sure what to contribute, but a friend went through somewhat of the same with her oldest boy, he was french speaking from an early age, with english as well, but it was not really an integration or language issue. He was placed in VSG apparently due to low grades in German, parents had meeting, protested, nothing happend, VSG it was.(seemed once the teachers made up their mind, that was that). They were a bit more than peeved, and although the school said he could possible move up later and repeat, they did not want him to graduate at age 20 or so. In the end they took him out of the public school and he went on to Oxford and didn't look back.
Thanks, runningdeer, for making me laugh. I know, seriously, it feels like the teachers decided at the beginning of the school year where they wanted to place the children, and nothing is going to stand in their way. Rumor has it that it's all about money. Our town has no VSB school so perhaps they have to pay for the children who go to VSB in Pully, I don't know.

Trouble is, unlike many of my neigbors, I can't afford private school here. So I've got to figure out how to work with the public system. Even if I am ultimately going to lose the battle, I want to stand up for my girl.
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Old 21.05.2012, 16:11
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

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You didn't give her French scores; I'm not sure how it is in Vaud, but in Fribourg, French and Maths are the most important marks, followed by German and Science.
Hi PaddyG. They didn't place her in the regular French class. The school said that they would after January. However, they told my daughter that she should stay in intensive French because otherwise the new girl from South America would have to be alone in the class.

Her grades in intensive French don't get recorded.
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Old 21.05.2012, 16:19
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

I'm just wondering if they think her French may be a concern for the time being. I think the most telling fact is that they say she'll probably get moved up, like your son. Sometimes it's not so easy to argue with the teacher's decisions, but if she is as determined as you say she is, then that will show in her results. They may even move her before the end of the year; I'm not sure how the system works in Vaud, but I know families where this has happened here in Fribourg.
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Old 21.05.2012, 16:41
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

Personally, I would prefer her to repeat the year- and put every effort into bringing her French up so scratch by any means possible (and her German). In the long term it would really make things so much easier, so she can sail through to Maturité and Uni. A year at this stage is not that important- if it then opens the doors through to the academic streams. You could of course ask that she is set some extra work in maths and sciences. It is a very tough stage to move in Switzerland. In the UK, kids are selected at a certain level subject by subject - but here in CH as a whole class. Which means that a brilliant child with excellent results in maths and sciences cannot be in a high group if they have inadequate command of the local language, in all 4 skills including writing. If you can explain this to your daughter- and make her see as a positive and the door to the future - and keep her progressing by 'stretching' her in other ways- than it could be the best solution to ensure she then goes forth without a hitch.

It may seem tough and a very high price to pay at the moment- but could make all the difference in the long term. Bonne chance.

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Old 21.05.2012, 17:09
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

In some cantons, if the parents are not native local-language speakers, then in the first few years it is MANDATORY on the administration to ignore local language grades. Thereafter, it is at the discretion of the teachers. Therefore, I'd advise you to get hold of a copy of the rules for Vaud and check what they say before you have your meeting.

My son was pretty much in your daughter's situation when we came here, and despite resistance from a few of his teachers (not his German teacher), who kept insisting that his German wasn't good enough, remained in the top stream and is now at university. So from half way into year 5, with NO German, into pro-gym - mainly due to his incredible mathematical ability. So, Odile, your statement "Which means that a brilliant child with excellent results in maths and sciences cannot be in a high group if they have inadequate command of the local language, in all 4 skills including writing" is not necessarily absolute! I suppose the definition of "inadequate" is subject to debate!

My youngest daughter went from primary into the lowest of the three streams. Within a few months moves were made to get her moved up, because they primary teacher had clearly and obviously totally got it wrong - like we told him. She went into the middle stream before the end of the first semester - which, if you believe teachers and parents, "never happens". She's now on-track for gym and university.

The thing is, often teachers and administrators are not aware of (or pretend to be not aware of ) changes to the rules, and so may not be aware of the current legal situation or policy. Further, as in my daughter's case, it is often easier for a teacher/the administration to correct someone else's error, than for a teacher to correct their own.
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Old 21.05.2012, 18:53
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

*Disclaimer - this assumes nothing's changed since we left Switzerland last year...*

Vaud places based almost exclusively on marks in French, German and Maths. They will vaguely consider other fluffiness, like marks in history and science, and the child's overall working personality, but by and large those three subjects are king. There is also no official cut-off mark for a VSB place; ie, it's not the case that 5/5/5 in those subjects will guarantee a place.

I read a lot of local educational forums last year where the Swiss mums were chattering about this, and it seemed common knowledge that some schools were placing kids in VSB with an overall mark of 14.5 in those subjects, whereas others (including mine at the time, Preverenges) seemed to need at least a 15.5 to get into VSB.

My take on this (and my son's form teacher didn't confirm, but didn't disagree...) is that in a class of, say, 18 6th grade kids, they have VSB places for perhaps 6 of them. If you happen to be a moderately bright kid but in a demographically clever year, or live in a nice, middle-class neighbourhood where lots of kids are 'clever' (ie, parents who are supportive and enforce homework, as clever in 5th and 6th mostly means 'good at memorising stuff'), then you might get 5s in all your subjects but still not get a VSB place.

I found this deeply annoying - I like absolutes! - especially as there are clear guidelines for getting bumped up a stream later down the line. If a 7th grader gets an average of 15 or more across French, Maths and 'a foreign language' (I was liking the English option there :-), and the parents request it, then s/he can move up a level, usually by repeating 7th grade at the level above.

But for the first cut, there's no magic 15 that buys a VSB place. And good marks in history and science are almost irrelevant (much to the irritation of my son's form tutor, who taught science and maths).

I know in Vaud they can't 'officially' consider marks in French for the first 2 years, but as your child is right at the end of the 2 years rather than just 6 months in, then they'll certainly be doing so unofficially. In fact, by now they should have started grading her in French, even though the marks don't count for anything but tracking and interest; this is what they did with my son as he came to the end of the first two years. And they won't make any allowance at all for German.

So she's got a 5.25 in Maths - what has she got in German? And does she get any marks at all in French, even unofficial ones? Can the school show you examples of her work in French alongside examples of what other VSB-headed kids are producing, so you can clearly see if she's level pegging?

Ask the school to explain and justify their decision - is it a clear cut 'every other child going to VSB has got an average of 16, with at least 5.5 in French and German, but your daughter has not, and we have to draw the line somewhere', or does it come down to a vague 'we normally do it this way for foreign children, even bright ones'.

Ultimately, though, it may come down to the simple fact that they are only 'allowed' to have X amount of VSB children per year, and that based solely on current knowledge rather than future estimation, other kids in the class are more entitled to those places.

It's very tough. It sounds like your daughter has done brilliantly and worked very hard to be doing so well after just two years following a move at this age - I hope that regardless of the outcome, she remains proud of her efforts and doesn't get despondent. In fact, it might be easier if it did to turn out to be a money/places based decision and you can get the school to admit that. It's probably better for kids to think that there were only 6 slots and because X/Y/Z in her class are all very bright, she didn't get in due to only having been here 2 years, rather than thinking that they can let in as many as they choose but have decided that she just isn't good enough to deserve a place.
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Old 21.05.2012, 19:00
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

As always with schools: ask the teacher to explain to you how they do things. Usually, that settles many things and if it doesn't, the parents know exactly on what ground to speak. In insist strongly on the troika: French - Maths - German (Ticino will forgive me for this time).
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Old 21.05.2012, 22:15
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

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Personally, I would prefer her to repeat the year- and put every effort into bringing her French up so scratch by any means possible (and her German). In the long term it would really make things so much easier, so she can sail through to Maturité and Uni. A year at this stage is not that important- if it then opens the doors through to the academic streams. You could of course ask that she is set some extra work in maths and sciences. It is a very tough stage to move in Switzerland. In the UK, kids are selected at a certain level subject by subject - but here in CH as a whole class. Which means that a brilliant child with excellent results in maths and sciences cannot be in a high group if they have inadequate command of the local language, in all 4 skills including writing. If you can explain this to your daughter- and make her see as a positive and the door to the future - and keep her progressing by 'stretching' her in other ways- than it could be the best solution to ensure she then goes forth without a hitch.

It may seem tough and a very high price to pay at the moment- but could make all the difference in the long term. Bonne chance.
Thanks Odile. I had a similar line of reasoning when deciding that my older boy going to VSG wasn't such a bad idea for the time. It allowed him to be in a more relaxed work environment and focus on his French.

I think that proved true in some respects. However, the change to VSB was more intense than I thought it would be, and it has been difficult to watch him struggle to adjust to yet another new school. I also think he would have progressed at least as fast in French if he had started in VSB the first year, even though it would likely have meant he would have had to repeat the grade there. Changing schools is a big deal, even within the same 5 kilometers.

Perhaps if my daughter has to go to VSG I will take your advice though and find some special activities for her to move ahead in math and science. She really enjoys math and would probably be proud to do some more advanced work.
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Old 21.05.2012, 22:23
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

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In some cantons, if the parents are not native local-language speakers, then in the first few years it is MANDATORY on the administration to ignore local language grades. Thereafter, it is at the discretion of the teachers. Therefore, I'd advise you to get hold of a copy of the rules for Vaud and check what they say before you have your meeting.

Good advice. Thank you, I'll see where I can get a copy.

My son was pretty much in your daughter's situation when we came here, and despite resistance from a few of his teachers (not his German teacher), who kept insisting that his German wasn't good enough, remained in the top stream and is now at university. So from half way into year 5, with NO German, into pro-gym - mainly due to his incredible mathematical ability. So, Odile, your statement "Which means that a brilliant child with excellent results in maths and sciences cannot be in a high group if they have inadequate command of the local language, in all 4 skills including writing" is not necessarily absolute! I suppose the definition of "inadequate" is subject to debate!

Yes, they treated my older boy similarly. His German still needed work but they ultimately moved him to VSB based on not so much his grades, but his teacher's perception of his math abilities.

My youngest daughter went from primary into the lowest of the three streams. Within a few months moves were made to get her moved up, because they primary teacher had clearly and obviously totally got it wrong - like we told him. She went into the middle stream before the end of the first semester - which, if you believe teachers and parents, "never happens". She's now on-track for gym and university.

The thing is, often teachers and administrators are not aware of (or pretend to be not aware of ) changes to the rules, and so may not be aware of the current legal situation or policy. Further, as in my daughter's case, it is often easier for a teacher/the administration to correct someone else's error, than for a teacher to correct their own.
Where would I go about finding these legal/policy documents? I hate to ask the school itself because that will just give them some idea what I may be up to!
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Old 21.05.2012, 22:40
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

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Where would I go about finding these legal/policy documents? I hate to ask the school itself because that will just give them some idea what I may be up to!
http://www.vd.ch/themes/formation/sc...commandations/

There you go - you can even read it in English if that's easier for you! It specifically says: 'Above all, the placement of children of foreign language background in special classes or the repeti- tion of a school year only on the basis of a lack of mastery of the language of instruction is to be avoided'.

This is very interesting for you given the comments they're making about 'do a yr in VSG, then you'll move up' - that sounds a LOT like they're admitting she's of VSB calibre and that it's only her French holding her back. Is this the case? What's her German mark at the moment?

If you can get the school to say they recommend VSG based on giving her French an extra yr to mature, then you can point them at this.

Alternatively, do consider that they may be right, and that it might actually be best in the long run for her to take that extra year. When we were there, my kids were fluent and passing, but still performing below their potential as they simply didn't have the same vocabulary and relaxed mastery with the language as the others. It all depends on where you see her long term educational future, I suppose.
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Old 21.05.2012, 22:50
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

My suggestion was not to go into VSG, but to repeat a year to acquire the necessary language skills - then to move on to VSB.

I can understand this may seem drastic and a 'backward' step - but imho it may be the best solution to ensure a solid and confident entrance into the VSB programme.
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Old 22.05.2012, 00:02
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

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My suggestion was not to go into VSG, but to repeat a year to acquire the necessary language skills - then to move on to VSB.

I can understand this may seem drastic and a 'backward' step - but imho it may be the best solution to ensure a solid and confident entrance into the VSB programme.
I see the advantage that it'd avoid a double school change (assuming the VSB and VSG are on different sites), but it's very, very unlikely to be allowed. Redoubling of 5th and 6th only seems to be permitted under very strict, unusual circumstances, such as missing great chunks of the school year due to medical issues. Otherwise lots of parents would want their kids to redouble 6th, to try for a better placement next time round. Simply being a non-native speaker won't cut it as a reason.

It would also be pre-judging the outcome - 'we are allowing X to repeat so she can go into VSB next year' - which they wouldn't want to guarantee, partly to keep their options open for placement then, and partly because that'd fly in the face of the document I linked to above, which clearly states that non-French ability should not be used as a major criterion for placement decisions.

There's a clear process for doing a year in VSG, then redoubling in VSB, and this is MUCH more likely what the school will want to do. Anything else is individual and thinking outside of the box and setting a dangerous precedent, and therefore really not going to happen...
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Old 22.05.2012, 00:15
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

Thanks for those comments Kokodan and I see exactly what you mean. (Although Swiss, I actually did my teacher training and teaching in the UK- and things have changed a lot since I was a kid in CH).

When I was a kid here, we were selected at 14 and only did 2 years of secondary school then Gymnase 3 years. Did my Bac in 69, so a bit out of date, lol. I did a teaching Degree in UK as mature student and taught in Comprehensive schools in UK until we moved back 3 years ago. So I can tell you a lot about the UK system (I taught in a 11-16 school, a 11-18, a 10-14, and finally a 11-18 as 6th Form specialist).

Vaud btw has always had the reputation of being more difficult in to get to academic streams than either Fribourg or Neuch.

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Old 22.05.2012, 00:26
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

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Thanks for those comments Kokodan and I see exactly what you mean. (Although Swiss, I actually did my teacher training and teaching in the UK- and things have changed a lot since I was a kid in CH).
No problem - as you know, we've moved on now but my son would otherwise have been facing the same end of 6th grade situation right now, and my gut feeling is that he too would have been gently but firmly steered towards the same 'VSG for a year, then we'll see about VSB' decision because of his less-than-perfect French. I did a looooot of research around this 12-18 months ago, so it's nice to find a use for that knowledge by adding it here!
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Old 22.05.2012, 10:54
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

Just to show how different cantons assess 6th year kids. In canton Fribourg, they have to sit the PPO exam in April (Préparation pour orientation, I think), similar to the old 11+ in the UK. This is a series of 4 papers in French, Maths, German, and Environment (covering science, geography, history etc) over 2 days. The results of this exam is combined and compared to their continuous assessment of the preceding 2 years and determines their placement in CO (Cycle d'Orientation i.e. years 7-9). CO is divided into 3 categories; Pre-gymnasium (PG), Général (G), and Exigence de Base (EdB). In order to get to PG, they should achieve a 5.5 in French and Maths and get at least 5s in the remaining subjects. However, if they fall short on the exam, the assessment will also take into account the previous 2 years' results. This is so not to disadvantage good students who simply had a nightmare PPO (as happened to one of my younger daughter's best friends this year, she still got to PG).
The 3rd area of assessment is their overall behaviour and attitude to work in class in general; therefore kids who are on the border between PG/G/EdB, but have shown to work diligently and behave well will go to the upper grade.
Having said all that, our eldest only achieved a 5 in French PPO (always her poorest subject, even though she was born and grew up here), but had excellent results in the other subjects, so her teachers had no hesitation in putting her into PG.
Another factor is how the child works for the rest of the year; in some cases, results until the end of year 6 may pull the child up a category (or drag them down ).
Overall, Fribourg seems far less rigid than other cantons in this respect and this was a concious decision made 2 -3 years ago. however, our own experience is based entirely on a single primary school and 2 sets of teachers. I have heard of another school where the year 5/6 pupils went through 5 or 6 teachers over the course of the 2 years and all consequently had lower than average results. This was taken into consideration for CO and most pupils ended up where they rightfully should.
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Old 22.05.2012, 13:07
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

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...I read a lot of local educational forums last year where the Swiss mums were chattering about this, and it seemed common knowledge that some schools were placing kids in VSB with an overall mark of 14.5 in those subjects, whereas others (including mine at the time, Preverenges) seemed to need at least a 15.5 to get into VSB..
At Muttenz Gymnasium (BL), BL kids needed a higher average than those from AG. Seemed crazy to me, but I bet it's down to money.

If your daughter doesn't make it to the higher level, it's certainly not the end of the world. My younger daughter is in the middle level, but still on track for Gym - she just has to have a higher average than kids in the higher level.

Even then, my daughter is at middle level (FMS), and is having a great time, has good prospects and doesn't have the enormous pressure and workload of gym.
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Old 22.05.2012, 13:15
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Re: Contesting school placement for 6th grader

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Just to show how different cantons assess 6th year kids. In canton Fribourg, they have to sit the PPO exam in April (Préparation pour orientation, I think), similar to the old 11+ in the UK. This is a series of 4 papers in French, Maths, German, and Environment (covering science, geography, history etc) over 2 days. The results of this exam is combined and compared to their continuous assessment of the preceding 2 years and determines their placement in CO (Cycle d'Orientation i.e. years 7-9). CO is divided into 3 categories; Pre-gymnasium (PG), Général (G), and Exigence de Base (EdB). In order to get to PG, they should achieve a 5.5 in French and Maths and get at least 5s in the remaining subjects. However, if they fall short on the exam, the assessment will also take into account the previous 2 years' results. This is so not to disadvantage good students who simply had a nightmare PPO (as happened to one of my younger daughter's best friends this year, she still got to PG).
The 3rd area of assessment is their overall behaviour and attitude to work in class in general; therefore kids who are on the border between PG/G/EdB, but have shown to work diligently and behave well will go to the upper grade.
Having said all that, our eldest only achieved a 5 in French PPO (always her poorest subject, even though she was born and grew up here), but had excellent results in the other subjects, so her teachers had no hesitation in putting her into PG.
Another factor is how the child works for the rest of the year; in some cases, results until the end of year 6 may pull the child up a category (or drag them down ).
Overall, Fribourg seems far less rigid than other cantons in this respect and this was a concious decision made 2 -3 years ago. however, our own experience is based entirely on a single primary school and 2 sets of teachers. I have heard of another school where the year 5/6 pupils went through 5 or 6 teachers over the course of the 2 years and all consequently had lower than average results. This was taken into consideration for CO and most pupils ended up where they rightfully should.

similar to glarus, you have 2 days of exams (maths and german) and you have to do a project which you also get tested on, that is added to your school averages and if you get the pass mark you're in. if not enough children get the pass mark then tough, the class is just smaller that year.
My son just passed
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