Dyslexic DD, year 3, here are our school options. WWYD?

(25 Posts)
elltee Wed 27-Aug-14 12:42:52

DD is in a large (600+) London state primary, achieving average NC levels ok but at the end of KS1 was in the 3rd quartile of the year group. I've been concerned that she's dyslexic since reception and some way from achieving her potential and thought about moving her to one of the local selective private schools for year 4 onwards.

Neither will take her. One asked us to get a private dyslexia assessment done and then turned us down, the other told us we were deluded parents of a stupid child suggested 'she would do better in a school with a greater mix of abilities'. There are other local-ish private schools that are less selective but tbh I doubt very much that they have any real SEN provision.

DD is happy at school with a nice friendship group and so we are ok with leaving her where she is and getting her additional specialist support in and out of school. (To clarify, her dyslexia assessments recommended 2 x individual literacy sessions per week, so we are not talking about a child who can't cope with mainstream school)

So what next, as really we need to start thinking about secondary choices?

Here they are:
- Local comprehensive, much improved over last 4 years, 85% A-C passes this year after rule changes, 95% last year, good Ofsted
- Catholic convent (state), for 'committed Catholic families' - DD is baptised, I had the works (communion, confession, confirmation) but am neither a believer or a churchgoer
- 11-plus in next borough for selective but not super selective schools, opt-in system
- The same 2 private schools that turned us down plus one more we didn't apply to. They are all decent schools but not especially well known.

I've left out the 2 prestigious day schools - we effectively opted out of those by not sending her to a prep school, and doubt they'd suit her anyway, and the 2 outstanding state schools, which although they are less than 3 miles away we haven't a prayer of getting into as they are in the next borough and heavily oversubscribed.

I feel as if our main options are either to tutor either for 11-plus or private (and I suspect she is likely to need exam access arrangements so feel the odds are stacked against her) or place our faith in the the academically unspectacular local schools we can get into.

WWYD

merlottime Wed 27-Aug-14 12:58:49

Are you in Croydon by any chance? We faced the same dilemma a few years ago but my DC was severely dyslexic - in the end we sent him down the specialist route. Our concern was that he would not get sufficient support in the mainstream state schools, and be in the bottom sets with kids who had behavioural difficulties/didn't want to learn. If you are in Croydon, then I only know of 2 indies that may be worth a shot. Competition for the grammars in Bromley is still fierce (but doesn't seem to be as desperate as for the Sutton grammars based on playground talk) and I am not sure what allowances they would make eg extra time, as the whole regime eat GCSE level has toughened up significantly (ie she may need to be more badly affected to get any extra time). I believe the convent school will need evidence that your DC is a practicing Catholic, but not sure as this was not an issue for us. In your situation I would visit all of the state schools and speak to the SENCos - you may find one with the right set up for your DD. Good luck.

elltee Wed 27-Aug-14 14:04:35

Not Croydon , Merlot, but not a million miles away. Does your DS board or were you able to find a school close enough to where you live?

merlottime Wed 27-Aug-14 14:25:51

We are relatively lucky that there is a specialist indie school c10 miles away - with a school minibus that comes fairly close to us- no boarding available. Happy to share details if this could be an option (they cover primary ages as well as up to gCSEs. They only have kids with dyslexia (12 in my DS's year) - so it is a very different school experience, and may not be academic enough for your DD. That said, lots of kids go for a couple of years, to help give them skills to help them go back into mainstream. They are very approachable if you want to go and look round.

camptownraces Wed 27-Aug-14 17:07:59

Really, you must concentrate on what happens this year, rather than what could happen in 3 or 4 years time.

What specific areas did the private assessment identify as concerns, and what recommendations were made for dealing with them?

Just to say "2 lessons a week outside school" is too vague. You need to know what areas have to be tackled, and find a specialist teacher qualified to deal with those areas. What is the main area of difficulty? 11+ tutoring will not deal with a specific learning difficulty.

If you can get into London, the Bloomfield Centre near Guys Hospital would be a good place to start.

BoneyBackJefferson Wed 27-Aug-14 19:15:14

In your opening post you don't really mention pastoral support (you only mention SEND provision in two school that may not have any), you need to look at this area more.

elltee Wed 27-Aug-14 21:30:28

Thanks camptown, it was the Bloomfield Learning Centre that did the assessment. The extra sessions recommended were for literacy support - spelling is the most obvious issue, visual stress a probable factor (coloured overlays help). She will have external 1-2-1 teaching with a former Bloomfield teacher, 2x sessions in school with a specialist teaching assistant. School has asked us to share her external learning plan so that what she does in school is consistent.

Strengths - artistic, creative writing, making things. Reading speed ok, but rarely spontaneously reads anything by herself. Handwriting clear, maths concepts good.

Spelling - bonkers, limited working memory, difficulties with sequencing - so telling the time, listing months of the year, learning times tables and number bonds are difficult.

I do agree the next year is most important - to clarify, I'm thinking that in a years time is when we consider whether it's wise to go down any route that involves testing at age 11. I know I can't and shouldn't try and map everything to the nth degree - but am surrounded by a lot of obsessive yakking about educational choices other parents discussing this sort of thing and am trying to keep my head straight.

elltee Wed 27-Aug-14 22:09:01

Thanks for your post, Boney , but I'm a bit confused - while pastoral support is an important part of what a school offers, how does that address the fact that a child with specific learning difficulties deserves skilled support with them?

cansu Wed 27-Aug-14 22:18:25

I think you should focus on helping her as much as possible with the difficulties that have been identified and getting her some extra help with a :1 tutor would be very good. If the two independents effectively rejected her then this doesn't bode well for their attitude to helping children with any special need so it is probably just as well that you found this out now. I think it is pretty unlikely that she will get in on 11 plus if she is struggling now as many parents actively tutor their kids for this. I would focus on the here and now and then choose a school that best fits her talents.

BoneyBackJefferson Wed 27-Aug-14 22:29:20

IME, a school that focuses entirely on results will not always give full support to those that need it.

Although schools recognise SLDs they don't always have the staff to put the necessary steps in to place.

When looking at schools many parents will look at the overall results but not which pupils get them, it could well be that the school that achieved 85% A* - C has 15% of pupils with SLDs and does very little with them and they get left behind, So IMO it is as important to look at how a school will support and provide the help that your DD needs through out all of her schooling not just the final years.

(By pastoral I mean all support staff and areas, SENCO, inclusion/pupil support, TAs etc.)

elltee Wed 27-Aug-14 22:47:54

Boney, thanks for this - yes this is what I had in mind, perhaps I didn't spell it out as I went a school with pretty poor pastoral care and good academic results and so I do want to look past that.

Thanks cansu, this is what I tell myself. I just start to lose faith in my own judgement given some of the reactions I've had from people - one being that given that we are well able to pay for private schools, that they seem to assume that by staying in the state sector we have effectively written her off.

Unsurprisingly, those who have experienced dyslexia take a different view and that's keeping me sane just now.

TheLeftovermonster Thu 28-Aug-14 10:22:54

You could try finding a specialist tutor to help her at home maybe?
I have a dyslexic DS in secondary and a dyslexic DD1 who will start Y5, and it is hard - you never know what to do and what is the right approach, you just throw stuff at them and hope for the best! Progress is slow and cumulative and there are no quick solutions, but they do improve as they grow older because the brain adapts. Even with support, they just have to work harder to achieve targets and there's no getting away from that!

I'd leave her where she is for now and research secondary options in more detail. The results of your nearest secondary seem fine to me, btw.

elltee Fri 29-Aug-14 10:33:50

Thanks lLeftover, that's really helpful. We start with a specialist tutor in 2 weeks time so am looking forward to that. In the meantime have spent the summer break working through times tables 4,6,7 and reading as much as I can about suitable approaches to try. Little by little.........

What's wrong with the local school? You describe it as "unspectacular" but just on what you've put there it looks fine to me.

Have you been?

Shootingatpigeons Fri 29-Aug-14 12:48:25

My moderately dyslexic and dyspraxic DD has gone to two very selective secondaries, at 11, and 16, in SW London. She had extra time in entrance exams and they had a very positive attitude to applicants with SpLDs, recognising that with appropriate support and extra time they have the potential to do well. All the selective secondaries, including all the ones best known for being very academic, the Westminsters, Latymer's, LEHs etc in this part of London share that attitude with one exception, Ibstock. I wouldn't say support is best practise everywhere but it can be eg Latymer, Hampton. I am very surprised to hear you getting a negative response from selective Preps serving selective secondaries unless the part of the assessment that measures ability and therefore potential was what gave them concern. I have always thought the Ed Psych report was an advantage to my DDs application because along with her issues it has the measures of her verbal reasoning (98th percentile) that show she is bright. It also gave me the confidence that she should be applying to such selective schools if that was what she wanted. I do know that on tests of VR the most selective schools that include them in their entrance exams like to see a score above the 95th percentile though obviously they consider that evidence with all the rest they gain from tests / interviews etc.

As others have said the key thing is intervention now, my daughter went through an intensive programme under the supervision of the SEN teacher which brought her reading spelling and writing up to average levels and gave her the tools and coping strategies she still uses, but it wasn't easy, I worked with her for many hours over many weeks practising letter formation, learning phonics etc etc etc I believe the Dyslexia charities can provide you with details of similar programmes.

teacherwith2kids Fri 29-Aug-14 14:04:52

What is the A* to C WITH ENGLISH AND MATHS percentage for the comprehensive?

Also, look on

www.education.gov.uk/schools/performance/ to compare results specirfically for different groups of pupils. KS4 Exam results is an interesting one to look at - conside the 5 A* to C results for low, middle and high attainers. I've just compared 2 schools i know reasonably well. One is very highly regarded, one less so. In both schools, 98% of high ability pupils get 5 A* to C GCEs including English and Maths. The real difference between them is in the performance of the middle and lower attainers - but the performance of the 2 schools is reversed for these 2 groups: the one where middle attainers perform well, the lower attainers perform appallingly; whereas in the one where the middle ability group pulls the figures down, the ower ability children on entry do really, really well. It can tell you a lot about where schools really put their effort.

elltee Fri 29-Aug-14 22:24:36

Pottering, I wasn't educated in the UK and although I've lived here for 25 years and attended uni here I still feel a foreigner when it comes to school choices. I know shamefully little about what these statistics mean , and really appreciate the feedback and views others have provided.

elltee Fri 29-Aug-14 22:51:24

Thanks shooting - while this may be the case (and is good to hear) for the schools you mention (well done to your dd), I've described our experience above.

One school didn't even want to see the dyslexia assessment. It was a straight no.

The other school (a GDST school) did, but claimed they hadn't the resources to support her - and it's interesting that you mention overall ability, because the assessor told us that it wasn't possible to draw a sensible conclusion, because there were such dramatic peaks and troughs in the skills assessed.

No VR tests - as far as I could understand from what DD told me, it was mostly spelling (where she would have about a 50% error rate), arithmetic (where she did ok), and word problems (which she struggled with). She gets stressed easily and when confused will make wild guesses just to get the whole thing over with.

Teacher - the A-C percentage with English and Maths is 62%. Thanks for your guidance on statistics, I will spend some time getting my head round that. The link looks really helpful. I have visited our nearest school and was impressed by the head and the students who spoke about the changes over the last few years. Facilities are harder to judge as they have been in the throes of a big rebuilding programme and so in temporary accommodation, but will be in their new building soon. A number of people I know have DCs there and their feedback is generally positive.

Thanks again .

Shootingatpigeons Sat 30-Aug-14 00:32:17

Do you not have a report that sets out the results of tests of ability (Verbal and non verbal reasoning), attainment (Spelling, reading, writing speed) and Working Memory (visual and aural) and Processing. That is the norm, and my DD has had three, in Year 5 (intervention was before she was old enough for a diagnosis) and the standard tests required for special access arrangements for exams and uni applications. They give you a very thorough picture of your child's strengths and weaknesses - ability, versus attainment and issues and should list ways in which you, your child and the school can address them. Peaks and troughs are absolutely normal for a child with SpLDs, certain aspects of their neurological function are not consistent with or what you would predict given others, hence they face a disability. It is the spikiness that is the issue.

I am very surprised at a GDST school displaying such a negative attitude, the ones at this end of London make a strong marketing point of their support for girls with SpLDs, and are often a refuge for parents who feel their DDs need a more supportive nurturing environment than more academic schools may provide.

elltee Sat 30-Aug-14 07:33:04

Shooting, yes I do have a very detailed assessment report which covers all the areas you've mentioned - the tests I was talking about in my post above were the admission tests the schools did with her. Sorry if this was not clear. The detailed assessment report does give percentiles for individual areas but most of it is expressed as eg 'in the average range'. The assessor opted not to give composite scores in several categories given the spikes in profile - so I'd agree that it's quite hard to make a judgement of ability based on that.

The GDST school head's first email to me set out the reasons why DD wouldn't cope well with entry to year 5 - we were in fact applying for entry to year 4 confused biscuit

Here's her second response - the only thing I've edited is DD's name:

Apologies, yes of course it is Year 4 but I do still have major reservations about the level of support that you would quite legitimately want and that which we could provide. As a school we feel it is only right to take girls in at Year 4, 5 or 6, if we feel they would be able to proceed to Seniors. This gives the parents the security of knowing that secondary transfer is a known quantity. I am not sure that [your DD] would be a natural candidate for Seniors, or indeed that you would necessarily want the sort of education we offer for her at that point. Again, I am worried that she would find the curriculum more threatening than challenging.
If you want to discuss this further, I am happy to talk on the phone.

At that point I'd had enough, especially as DD's current state primary school were already engaging with increasing her support in school. Thanks for your feedback though about your experience - and yes, we are focused on making sure she gets appropriate support for as long as she needs it.

lljkk Sat 30-Aug-14 09:34:46

Local comprehensive (a school with those headline GCSE rates would be top of our county and heavily over-subscribed) and self-funded dyslexia sessions out of school if I didn't think the school's own SN unit was up to the job.

I don't know why you're considering all the other options.

Davros Sat 30-Aug-14 10:04:36

I know a good 1:1 dyslexia tutor in Kingston. She tutored my neice who is severely dyslexic, went to state girls school (Coombe) and has just got good results with enough points for uni. Mind you, she has concentrated on sports related subjects, had extra time, a reader and a scribe. Unfortunately this tutor is not near enough for us to send our DD to her who, I hesitate to say is "mildly" dyslexic, but she is certainly much less affected than her cousin. Our DD got extra support in her independent school AND went to Dyslexia Action on Saturdays. This has worked quite well for her but she is going on to mixed ability senior section of her independent school which also means she didn't need to pass any tests (11+) to get a place. Luckily it is the school we would have chosen for her anyway. Let me know if a tutor in Kingston is of any interest

Shootingatpigeons Sat 30-Aug-14 13:24:34

eltee that does sound a reasonable response since you were applying for Year 4. They can take children at different attainment levels (but who have the ability to potentially do well) at the normal entry points on the basis they start at a point they can all cope with, and consolidate. Whereas after a year they may well feel that the extent to which your DD would need help to catch up, as well as SEN support would sap her self esteem. One of my priorities with my DDs was that whilst they should be challenged intellectually it should never be at the expense of confidence. Being Dyslexic is a neurological condition, it never goes away, you have to work herder and find coping strategies that help you in certain areas all your life, you need confidence above all. I would also agree as others have said the knowledge of SpLDs amongst the teaching profession is very patchy, I have encountered plenty of ignorance as have friends with children in state schools. Sometimes it all comes together and you get great support but mostly you have to support your child yourself, or with external support (I never did this but I am dyslexic myself so had some insight into my DDs' needs) be it eg with literacy at the start or essay writing later on.

The ranges are done on a standard deviation. The average range therefore accounts for a wide range of abilities. Certainly on working memory and processing you have to score below the 14th percentile to fall in the below average range, even scoring at higher percentile would be a very significant level of disability for someone whose ability was in the top percentiles.

elltee Mon 01-Sep-14 12:53:11

Thanks Shooting, all this is really appreciated - she's my eldest child and so insights from parents who are further down the track are really helpful. I am not dyslexic, neither is DH, and so neither of us knows how it feels for DD. I recognise that we will need to be proactive in getting her the right support so all this is a help going into a new school year.

elltee Mon 01-Sep-14 17:05:40

Thanks Shooting , that's a helpful perspective. DD is my eldest and I am not dyslexic myself, and feel I'm on a really steep learning curve.

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