Wise MN adopters, please help me choose a school (really long sorry)

(27 Posts)
Bananaketchup Fri 07-Jun-13 21:17:01

I had some very helpful advice on my thread re approaching a school for what will hopefully be my DD grin. I've now done school visits and got down to a choice of two schools and am stuck. I so want to get this right! So if you can spare the time thoughts please on the below:

School 1 - I met the head, at lunchtime in the school. it is small, 180 children, and the reception class as of places taken up now will be 17 children, although their maximum is 30. Going round the school children talked to the head, met one little boy with his SALT talking to the school pets, another little boy came and hugged the head as we were going round. It felt friendly. School building was smallish and scruffy, but had a big outside area including a pool. It is 10 mins or so from home. There is a separate reception playground area, which is used for children who don't cope in the big playground at break and lunch. They have a number of children with additional needs and keep money back every year so they can put another TA into reception if needed once they see what needs they're dealing with there.The head seemed on the ball, when I asked her about areas of the curriculum which may pose a problem for LAC she immediately identified topics on family, mothers/fathers day. She seemed to understand the need for security re who is allowed to pick up DD from school, and balance between confidentiality and what staff need to know to support the child. She seemed interested in DDs SN - I said separation anxiety, food issues, she didn't seem fazed and talked about this a bit - and keen to have the child in the school. When I said SWs want DD to delay starting school til January she said no problem. Head is also the SENCO. There is a stable long serving teaching team, although the reception teacher is retiring so the reception teacher for DD is new and is a NQT. All female teachers and TAs - DD has a fear of adult males. I asked if they had experience of LAC, she said they'd had two sets of adopted siblings through the school, the youngest of these will leave this summer. They have also had children whose wider family members have been removed. She spoke a lot about finding every child's talents and not just looking for these in academics. She gave me all the new parent info and dates for parent meetings etc.When I left the meeting I was convinced another school would really have to be going some to compete with the impression I'd formed of the school and the head. Then I visited school 2!

School 2 - I was due to meet the head at 3pm in the school, but she'd been called away so I met the assistant head who is also the SENCO instead. This school is bigger, 260 children, she wasn't able to tell me the exact number who will be in reception next year but said it is 20something, their maximum is 40, and they will have one reception class and one mixed reception and year one. She said they split by age - DD is 5 in September but when I said she will be emotionally younger, SENCO straight away said it's probably be better to place her with the younger ones in the reception only class. She offered to show me round immediately so I could see the school with the children still in it, a few chatted to her as we went round but they were really getting ready to go home. The school building was only built 3 years ago and is lovely and well equipped, it has a bigger outside space than school 1 but more raw - just grass and playground. It is extremely close to home - you can see the school from my house. The SENCO seemed less knowledgeable than the head of school 1 re LAC SN - she couldn't think of particular problem areas of the curriculum and suggested PE, when I said DD may have a problem changing in front of others she likened this to children who start school not potty trained or having toileting issues. The school are hot on security and the building layout makes this easy, she spoke of having dealt with adults trying to pick up a child they are not allowed access to. When I spoke about possible food issues she suggested DD and I both attend for school lunch together to talk this through - a good idea but felt a bit like she thought that one visit would address the problem? When I said SWs want to delay starting school she asked quickly if the head knew this and when I said yes seemed to relax. There are 3 male teachers/TAs in the school, DD has a fear of adult males. When I asked if they had any LAC she said they'd had several children in FC at the school and also have a LAC starting in September although she didn't know if they were reception or older. She spoke of working closely with other agencies like ed psych, counselling, and being very keen on confidentiality and respecting the child's background and history. She gave me the new parent info and took my email to send parent meeting info etc, and encouraged me to call in again to meet the head.

So I am quite stuck. School 1 was small and the head seemed on the ball, but DD would have a NQT so that feels like a risk. School 2 has more children but a better building, and might be great for DDs separation anxiety if she knows we are literally across the street when she is at school. Both have had LAC there, SENCO at school 2 seemed less knowledgeable than at school 1 but then she hadn't been expecting to have the meeting with me whereas school 1 had so was more prepared. Plus adopted children's SNs is pretty niche so I can't expect schools to be that clued up. Both schools seemed like they'd want DD there, I thought saying she has additional needs would put them off but both seemed willing and positive. I so want to make the right decision - all comments welcome!

Devora Fri 07-Jun-13 21:47:36

Where are you in the adoption process? Have you been to matching panel? Have you met your future dd yet?

Might it be an idea to take your dd's social worker to visit the schools with you, or her foster carer, as people who know her best?

Bananaketchup Fri 07-Jun-13 22:19:15

Sorry, should have explained the situation better. We are linked, I have been told I am the match, but the placement order has not been granted yet due to not getting paperwork done in time to get full care order and placement order at same hearing. So the judge directed them to find a family (me!), but the placement order hearing isn't until next month. SWs have told me to find a school and get a place in case schools get filled up. So I haven't met DD yet, the info I have re her needs is from CPR, SW and FC. Her SW has only been her SW for a few weeks, so I dunno how well she would be able to help, but FC is an idea as she has been placed there a year. FC is an hour and a half away in a different county, do you know would they cough up for her time/travel?

Devora Fri 07-Jun-13 22:40:32

They might. Worth a try. It might make you more confident about your decision?

Moomoomie Sat 08-Jun-13 12:54:21

By reading the summaries of the two schools my first reaction was school one. No real reason for this, I have an adopted child in year one who has many SN.
The NQT especially in reception would not pose to much of a problem for me, she should be fresh and not too jaded by the system. Also, she should have had some training on attachment issues.
Does she really need to start school so soon?
Having her home with you for as long as possible to build a good attachment is very important.

Bananaketchup Sat 08-Jun-13 14:19:19

Hi Moomoomie school 1 felt good to me, the atmosphere and the head's attitude. I didn't realise teachers now have training on attachment, that is good and makes me worry less re the NQT. But then school 2 SENCO seemed lovely too, and I thought being so close to home is the major plus point there to help with separation anxiety. In school 1 having experience of SN is a plus but then as they have a higher than usual number of children with SN will DDs less obvious ones get overlooked? I'm sending myself round in circles - I'm essentially in a fortunate position of having found 2 schools which I think might be able to meet her needs and it'd be a lot easier if I'd found 1!

DD will turn 5 in September, as I hazily understand it she legally has to be in education from the term after, which is January. So keeping her off longer means home ed, and I think some anxiety re there being no school places left later in the year. They don't do staggered starting here, everyone starts reception in September and the LA will have to grant an exception for DD to wait until January. I'm not sure on all this though, school stuff is all new to me!

Lilka Sat 08-Jun-13 17:47:25

My reaction was school one, because the the head was more knowledgeable and was the senco. The nqt would not worry me because less experience does not mean she will be bad, and she will be well supported from the head, whose attitude will probably influence the teachers

Moomoomie Sat 08-Jun-13 18:30:24

Yes, legally school is the term after they turn five. But, your dd is not home yet, it is already June, even if she comes home next month that is not a long time to establish good attachments.
My youngest dd was 6 months when she came home and started school at 4 years 4 months old. In hindsight I wish I had deferred her starting. She is now coming to the end of year one and still finds school tough. Personally I think we send children to school far to young in this country.
I'm not sure if the SW have any clought in deferring school but I would certainly consider it.
Sorry to ramble on, but first and foremost is good attachment. Education comes later.

Bananaketchup Sat 08-Jun-13 18:57:30

Thanks for replies - I think school 1 is coming out on top especially if NQT is not the issue I thought it would be.

I agree attachment comes first - and if it's not there she probably won't cope at school anyway. School 1 head spoke of starting children part time and then reviewing - maybe she could do some part time school from January and still be legal?

It's hard to try to plan what's best for a child I don't know!

tethersend Sat 08-Jun-13 19:09:18

I would go back to SWs and explain that there is no need to apply for a school place now. Even if the schools fill all their places, they will still have to admit her when you apply. I would apply in the autumn term when you know a bit more about her; you will be able to choose which school suits her. It may even be appropriate to let her have some input into the decision.

You are in a fortunate position of having two good schools to choose from.

You won't be able to apply for a school place for her until the placement is definite anyway.

Good luck smile

Bananaketchup Sat 08-Jun-13 19:41:40

tethersend is that right - I thought if all the places were taken LAC just got first place on the waiting list, would she definitely get in? Although, since school 1 has 30 reception places and only 17 are filled and school 2 has 40 places and 20something are filled, I'm guessing we'll be fine as I'm assuming people in the usual run of things will have made their applications and accepted their places by now.

I'm just a bit panicky I suppose, cos I was told to find a place I trotted off and did that grin. And the adviser from the LA ed support for LAC advised me to apply as soon as the match is ratified. But there seem to be plenty of places in these 2 schools - I'm guessing cos they're not in a particularly naice area and have been Ofsteded as only 'satisfactory'. But I'm looking for something different than a lot of parents will be, so that works out well for me. Thanks for your help everyone.

tethersend Sat 08-Jun-13 20:40:45

It's an interesting one- see here, point 7. of the schedule on excepted children.

It all rests on the definition of 'a suitable education'- whilst technically the LA can choose which school to send an excepted child to, I believe they have to take account of parental preference and opinion on what constitutes a suitable education. It sounds as if there are likely to be places anyway but even if there aren't, the LA has the power to direct the schools to admit an excepted child. It's just a matter of demonstrating why that particular school is more suitable than any other school within a reasonable distance.

KristinaM Sun 09-Jun-13 15:04:45

If you HE your DD from January until the summer, would she be able to start reception in September or would she have to go into Year one? Because this would be much better for her , to have a year at home with you to build attachment and then start school being the oldest in her class.

We can do this fairly easily in Scotland but I'm not sure if its possible in England, as I know your system is very inflexible and you start school much younger

tethersend Sun 09-Jun-13 17:48:07

She would have to go straight into Y1 in those circumstances.

RikeBider Sun 09-Jun-13 17:51:30

I'm pretty sure you have a legal right to defer your place until compulsory school age (January) even if the LA doesn't like to do staggered entry.

KristinaM Sun 09-Jun-13 20:16:59

That's just stupid, tethers end,I don't understand why the system is so inflexible.this child needs a year at home to settle with a new family far more than she needs to start school .

In Scotland you can defer your child's entry AND have a legal right to an extra funded year in nursery if they are born 1jan -28 feb. if they are born between 1oct and 31 dec they don't have an automatic right to an extra year of funding in nursery but I've never heard of anyone being refused it.

It all cases the children start into reception .

They don't HAVE to start school until the term in which they turn 6. The youngest they can possibly start school is 4years 6 months ( I think You can apply for early entry but I've never heard of anyone who has done so)

It's very common to defer entry , in my children's school there are usually about 3 children in each class of 26 ish who have done so .

Bananaketchup Sun 09-Jun-13 21:14:47

Yes it'd be much better to have the year together and then start reception next September but I think it's impossible. I'm already worried that because she's a September birthday and big for her age, people will expect more than she can do as she is emotionally much younger than she is chronologically.

RikeBider Sun 09-Jun-13 21:16:55

I would find a place, accept it and then defer til January. At least that will give you a bit more time/space and she will still start Reception.

TeenAndTween Sun 09-Jun-13 21:27:14

Also, whenever you start, you may be able to
a) bring home at lunchtime
b) not do afternoons
any formal phonics / maths is likely to be done in the morning so if you miss pms you won't miss much. The afteroons are just a bit like nursery.

By january you are liekly to want the break and it may as well be school as nursery. Plus she will want friends.

Moomoomie Sun 09-Jun-13 22:02:09

The coming home at lunch time is a good idea.
Whenn dd3 started school it soon became obvious that she found lunch times the most difficult part of the day, so, after the first few days she started coming home for lunch, fortunately I am a SAHM and was able to do this.
She still really enjoys her home lunches two days a week and while she still wants to come home to touch base as it were, I am happy to collect her.
Originally school were dubious about her coming home, but I am so glad I didn't listen to them.

tethersend Sun 09-Jun-13 22:20:38

I agree, Kristina- the Scottish system sounds infinitely better.

Although there are rare cases whereby a LA allows a child to defer their place for a year, I would advise against this, as it can have repercussions when the child is older, being made to jump from Y5 to Y7 for example.

I agree that you should apply for the place and defer it to January, but I would still wait to apply until the child is placed with you. The deadline for reception admissions has already closed, so an application made now or in August/September will still be treated as an in-year application; you should still be guaranteed a place at your chosen school.

I would advise against half-days however; I think there is a danger in seeing the formal numeracy and literacy teaching as the 'important' part of the day, when in fact it is the free play and relationship building part of the school day which is essential for all children, but of particular importance for children with insecure attachment.

FamiliesShareGerms Mon 10-Jun-13 06:59:50

School one seems to have the edge from your description, though be careful about choosing schools on the basis of one or two individuals, as they can move on - the school needs to work more generally as well.

Bananaketchup Mon 10-Jun-13 07:32:14

Hmm well it doesn't seem as much of a rush as I'd thought so I think I will do as you suggest tethersend and wait until she's here to apply. I'm still going to go to the reception parents evenings and stuff though, nothing to lose and it might help to see more of how they work.

If whole days are a struggle maybe she could do some mornings and some afternoons to start - school 1 did say they offer this. I lean more and more to school 1 and MN seems to agree with me which is reassuring. As the only parent I feel very responsible for getting this right.

She's currently doing 5 mornings at preschool in FC so after a while she may as you say TeenAndTween miss friends - and I might need the break!

KristinaM Mon 10-Jun-13 21:30:36

I would caution against too much school too early. FCs are trying to keep the child settled and behaving well, they are not trying to form a life long attachment with a child..their priorities are different.

getlucky Mon 10-Jun-13 23:17:36

I would say it is a good idea for your dd to spend a few months at home with you. But she may well need school after that for social reasons. Anyway, you will know all this better when she is yours!

Re. the schools, I think choosing a school close to home is really important. I have almost daily calls from the school my dc go to. Also, many children with attachment disorders find transitions difficult so the easier/shorter the journey at each end of the day, the better. Just getting mine in to school and home again is no mean feat!

I think the NQT could be a major issue. He/she would have very little experience to draw upon. Of course, it depends on the quality of the NQT but many of them struggle in their first year with the demands of being a class teacher, especially with meeting the needs of individual children. They are just trying to plan, plan, plan!

The ethos of the school and the understanding of the head is important but day to day the class teacher makes the difference.

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