Settling in at academic London day school

(37 Posts)
albertschoice Thu 15-Sep-16 23:27:04

Help! Looking for some input from those who have gone before. We comfortably got into girls academic London Day ( by that I mean we had offers from the main academic schools so didn't get in by skin of teeth) but now finding it hard to get through the homework and so already it's school, then homework, then bed. They set 3-4 pieces a night with some unrealistic time estimates (eg it might be 25 mins, 30, 10, 15) and we are finding it's taking vast majority of evening). She enjoys an instrument and sport and I want her to be able to keep enjoying these. We are not in terribly happy space right now and after all the effort of 11+ this is not what I imagined.
Historically not good at managing time, prone to perfecting things so there are areas of improvement required. Did you find it settled down and your DD self learned or should I be seeking help sooner rather than later.

GiddyGiddyGoat Thu 15-Sep-16 23:30:33

Is it NLCS? The pressure and amount of work given is ridiculously over the top... and only gets worse, so good luck! otherwise, hope she finds her feet and finds ways of managing it all. it's early days.

albertschoice Fri 16-Sep-16 00:01:18

No it's not - one of the others - although we do have a friend at NLCS and after half day induction it was straight into assessments!!!
It all seems too much too early when there is a huge adjustment going on for them leaving primary. I am very much hoping it's an early bumpy ride. Those embarking on 11+ - be careful what you wish for smile.
Any other stories / experience gratefully received.

Needmoresleep Fri 16-Sep-16 09:54:08

alberts, I feel for you. We have just got to the end of the school years, and the relief is huge. DC did fine, and in general loved growing up in London and loved the first class educations available to them. However there was something about the relentless competitiveness and the focus on grades that was always difficult, and which I wanted DC shielded from. Now looking at their peers, some are on a really glittering trajectory, others including my DC will be fine but not necessarily better than had they gone to any good school, and some are in trouble.

A few random observations:

1. It is about outcomes not outputs. The outcome you want is a well-adjusted young adult with the capacity to lead a constructive life and be happy. A Cambridge first is not an outcome!

2. To a large extent, good enough is good enough. There will be some kids who are off the scale clever. There will also be some kids who are under considerable pressure at home, often supported by tutoring or by their DM sitting over them and supervising. Given this, sitting in the middle of the year group is fine. Worth noting that "class placement" seems to be a big thing in some countries including the US, Russia and China, and some otherwise well-meaning parents will not understand the British approach.

3. Ignore the kids who ask what mark you got in a test. This was a real problem for DD who is bright but dyslexic and often under performed in tests. It took her till about 15 to work out that some of this was due to insecurity, and indeed some kids were required by their parents to find out how well they did relative to others. (I once got shouted at by a mother who asked me about my daughter's mark in a key test at a parents event. Apparently I was a negligent parent because I did not even know my daughter had taken the test. Pity really as DD had got a far better mark!) By sixth form this behaviour is considered sad.

4. It all changes. 11+ is based on skills kids have in place at 10. A lot can be rehearsed. We noticed a big change at 15 when maths and science concepts became more complex, and DD came into her own. DS, who was at a very academic school, is blossoming at University, having always been very middle of the year group at school.

5. It is a long haul. The diligent and bright girl who works hard at school, at Oxbridge and then through the initial years at JP Morgan or Goldman , may well wake up in her late 20s and say "is this it?". I know a several women my age who went through SPGS and few are particularly sucessful, either professionally or personally. (And indeed the ones who are, seem to have chosen nearby but slightly less pressured schools for their very able DDs.) The really tricky thing for an engaged parent is when and how to allow a child to take over control of their destiny, and discover their own motivation. Some will work hard because they want to work hard and love the challenging environment of a very selective school. Others need to learn how to enjoy education, and find their own motivation and then they are fine. The saddest are those DC whose parents go as far as to decide what subject they will study and where. Some are simply not as able as their parents want them to be, others struggle to find the motivation to study a subject they don't want to do. Or go into full scale rebellion against parental pressure.

6. The first few weeks are difficult. There will probably be a small group of very confident girls, who perhaps have been to the same preps who will stand out, in the same way that their parents seem to stand out at parents events. It can take quieter girls a while, often till the start of the second term, to find each other and to form supportive groups. Theuy will also come from different educaitonal backgrounds and those from Preps who pride themselves on stellar "destination schools" may already be used to working very hard.

7. I am not convinced that "bright kids do well anywhere" but am pretty sure that bright kids will do well at a wide selection of good London schools. DD was at what might be considered a second tier West London school, but through extra-curricular regularly met girls from other schools. Her school was reguarly ranked in the top 50 in the country, and so the day to day snobbishness about it from both children and parents made no sense. She went onto Westminster for sixth form, where kids came from all over (Portland Place, Queensgate, Sutton High, Nonsuch etc) and honestly there were no obvious differences, except perhaps in some odd competitive behaviours, willingness to engae in wider school life (which grade-consious girls tended not to be), or confidence.

8. The really important thing is that a child enjoys their education and by extention their teenage years. DS never noticed the competition. He enjoyed having clever friends and interesting teachers, and was content to do enough work to stay out of trouble. DD lacked confidence and found competition difficult and would not have enjoyed 11-16 in a very academic school. It suited her to be in top sets. Over the years we have known several kids who have switched, particularly around the West London schools. Registrars know that not every school suits every child, and from observation some moves have worked incredibly well. If it still isn't working after a term or so, consider cutting your loses. It is not failure, though other parents/DC may act as if it is, and from what I have seen it probably won't have any impact on tertiary destinations. One parent talked about her son coming home after his first week saying he liked his new school as everyone was nice to each other. This had absolutely not been the case at his very competitive and well-known prep.

9. Last work from DS, when he was 13 and suggesting he had found the secret of doing well: "listen in class". True though. Really focussing in class and taking as much in as possible, means that homework can be done quickly. DD did a lot of EC so learned quickly to do homework on the move. Vocab learning on the tube, essays at lunchtime or straight after school in the library, maths in boring lessons. Again good enough is good enough.

So glad it is all over!

404NotFound Fri 16-Sep-16 10:43:41

Tbh Needmoresleep's post spells out exactly why we didn't go the 11+ private school or North London state selective route, and why I'm pleased we didn't.

Wtih hindsight (two of my four are now at uni, one at sixth form and only one still in secondary), I can report all our dc's peers from primary school got exactly the GCSE grades you would have predicted for them at the age of 9 or 10, based on their ability, personality and attitude, completely regardless of the type of secondary school they went to. We know dc who went to tough comps who got the 11 A* and Oxbridge outcome, and conversely dc whose parents bankrupted themselves for high-achieving private, or tutored for state selective who got very mediocre outcomes and ended up having to retake.

We deliberately didn't go the selective route because I didn't want that kind of pressured lifestyle for the children, and haven't regretted it.

I realise this is kind of an unhelpful, after-the-event kind of post, but I guess my message would be, a) take those signs of stress seriously, earlier rather than later, and b) there's no need to assume your child will come out with a lesser outcome if you move them to a lower-pressure environment. In fact, I would argue the reverse - if they're in an environment that supports them to be happy and coping, they're more likely to do well than if they are constantly under pressure and feelign on the back foot.

mathsmum314 Fri 16-Sep-16 11:42:46

A case of pushing you child into an academic school they are not suited to, taking up a space that could have been taken by an actual academic child who would have really benefited from all that homework.

It stories like this that give academically selective schools a bad name.

Bobochic Fri 16-Sep-16 11:57:48

Individual DC's homework stamina varies wildly and is definitely something to be taken into account when choosing (or choosing to remain at) a particular school. We have always endeavoured to live as close as possible to our DC's school(s) as possible in order to reduce tiring and time-consuming commuting. Now we only have DD (11) at home we have moved (and moved her) so that we are less than five minutes' walk from home to school. Make that 5' walk from her bed to her classroom wink. She has quite a lot of homework and we knew this would be the case (both her brothers went to the same school) but by living really close (and she comes home for lunch for an hour and a half every day) there is a lot less stress.

citykat Fri 16-Sep-16 12:06:26

I think it does take a while to work out what is needed re HW. DS did sometimes take ages doing stuff to begin with but spends much less time now. Sometimes does bits at lunchtime too. Reassess after half term. I think a lot of children have a 2/3 week in slump once the excitement of new school wears off.

Needmoresleep Fri 16-Sep-16 12:11:17

Mathsmum - how do you know this is true of OP's child?

"A case of pushing you child into an academic school"

Our experience was pretty much the opposite. DC did fine in their schools without any pushing but were never near the top of the class. Partly because there were some very bright kids around, but also because there were some very heavily pushed kids. It can be unnerving for a child to put a lot of effort into a piece of homework to find that others got better marks because they had a mother or tutor to help them.

This becomes less important in the later years when kids pick their subjects and natural ability matters more. However one downside of London's amazing diversity is that DC and parents will come across a range of apirations, expectations and approaches, and inevitably more so in the most selective schools. So the message is to take a step back, be confident in your parenting approach, and accept that some of the DCs peers will emply a different approach.

Our big surprise is how much further DS is up the year group on a very selective university course than he ever was at school. In retrospect he thinks he was probably more able than he realised simply because others were doing so well, and that some of his peers were working very very hard at school. So again the message is that at long as you are not bumping along the botttom or unhappy and stressed, good enough is probably good enough. Yr 7 is only the start. There is a decade or more of education to go.

albertschoice Fri 16-Sep-16 12:12:03

Needmoreslerp / 404 thank you so much for taking the time for such detailed thoughtful posts. I really appreciate it and gives very good perspective. When you start a new environment, and especially where it so much more removed than a primary, it's difficult to gauge the landscape and what would be considered to be the norm especially in the beginning.
Mathsmun - really unhelp and snipey. Nobody is giving the schools a bad name, nobody was pushed into it and a place wasn't taken under any false pretences. She was actually top of her year. I was asking what we should expect in the beginning to help norm what she is experiencing and different children cope / get used to it in different ways.

ClaireBlunderwood Fri 16-Sep-16 12:22:50

DS is at a pretty selective London day school (not Westminster/St Paul's, the rank immediately 'below'). They had a very sensible official policy of no homework for the first two weeks for y7s and then even after that it was very gentle up until half term. To be honest, he still doesn't get huge amounts. Half an hour or so a night.

I think all schools in all sectors should give no homework for the first fortnight. The poor children's heads are exploding with all that they're having to take in. Unfortunately many parents equate a good school with a tonne of homework. If you disagree, make your views known to the school. DS still gets less homework than all his friends in state/private/grammar but says he feels that he's worked very hard in the lessons themselves.

LongestSummer Fri 16-Sep-16 12:50:41

OP, I am glad that you have some positive responses on here, and well done on your robust responses to others. To answer your question in the 2nd paragraph of your original post: yes, it settled down, and resoundingly so, but it takes time. I would say our DC who struggled most at first has the happiest memories of school years (and your situation sounds similar). I have no regrets. You have time enough ahead to decide what's right in the long term. For now:

You mention 'primary'. A lot of the girls will have come from prep schools so be used to managing 'proper' homework (and others will be used to workload from masses of coaching for 11+!), probably this is new to your DD. You identify the key issues: time management, maybe set a timeframe for homework each day according to what is proposed by the teacher. Perfection: insist she / encourage her to stop when the time is up - there is likely a space in the homework diary for recording comments. With this framework, she can feel more in control and things may shake down quite quickly. And the homework load may lighten - some schools like to throw them in the deep end. When is the first parents' evening? I suspect she is not alone in struggling and you may find discussions then helpful and possibly surprising! Oh, and yes, yes to music and sport. A decent teacher or coach will know that practice/application is going to drop for a little while, and will probably be quite a good prop - they'll have seen it before. DC mentioned above coped with academics and extra curriculars exceptionally well in later years. Still a bit of a perfectionist, but awfully good at fitting far too much into each 24 hours

mathsmum314 Fri 16-Sep-16 12:51:34

Needmoresleep, well from the op their DC is, finding it hard to get through the homework and finish it within time, not in a happy place, found the 11+ an effort, wants to do music and sport rather than just academic subjects, not good at self learning. All that indicates DC is not an academically gifted child that is genuinely well suited to an academically selective school.

albertschoice, You can say my post wasn't helpful but maybe you do need to consider that your DC would be better suited in a comprehensive school that allows more time for instruments and sporting activities and has less focus on academic subjects and homework.

If you read dozens of other threads about academic selection you will find thousands of posts complaining of parents using their wealthy middle class privilege to get their DC to get into selective school they really are not suited to and stopping the social mobility of working class children who actually are academically gifted but don't have the opportunities to sit an 11+ test. And thus give a bad name to new academically selective schools.

AnyTheWiser Fri 16-Sep-16 13:01:00

I think longestsummer has nailed it- the children from preps will be so used to moving around subject to subject, and homework in multiple subjects each night. They won't be phased by the change of schools, so have more energy to tackle everything.
Children from my children's school regularly report that Y7 is completely coasting for them, and they're bored, even at the most highly selective schools.

Needmoresleep Fri 16-Sep-16 13:06:20

mathsmum, two weeks in is far to early to decide a DC is not coping. OPs child passed the exams, so should be good enough. Yes we did know kids who struggled at very selective schools, but such problems showed up at a later stage, as they were quite often very prepared for a high initial workload.

When DD started secondary I remember one SPGS dad complaining about the fact his DD was given four homeworks on her first night. His view, and I think it is correct, is that he wanted her to have the chance to do more with her teenage years than simply do homework. The girl was able and did manage to keep a range of interests going and I understand SPGS have since reviewed their approach, but it took some adjustment and I don't think the parents were ever all out fans of the school's approach. Like Claire's DS, DD was at a "homework-lite" school and I don't think she suffered in any way from this, in fact the contrary. DD was also at a huge advantage in Yr 7 because she had been to a mixed prep which was more focussed on 13+. She came across very little in Yr 7 that she had not done before. But was impressed at her ex-primary peers who managed to keep up with quite a pace in French and Latin.

In short, I don't think a fair response to a reasonable question, is to blame the child.

Noofly Fri 16-Sep-16 13:17:47

God almighty, some big assumptions made by mathsmum.

OP, we're up in Scotland so I know nothing about London schools, but your daughter sounds very similar to DS when we switched him to an Edinburgh day school in P7. He went from a very laid back, no pressure tiny primary school to full on nightly homework from day one. He was also a competitive swimmer and sang in two of the school's choirs so he was a very busy child. He's naturally very bright but at the time was academically unmotivated and trying to get him to do his homework properly was like pulling teeth! He'd be fitting it in on the school bus and before swimming practice etc.

It took him until the end of P7 to get himself motivated and organised, but he has done it and now manages to balance everything, though he has moved away from competitive swimming and just does club swimming and coaching now. He's right on top of his academics and won one of the academic prizes last year.

It's a big big change and I would give it a bit more time.

Backingvocals Fri 16-Sep-16 13:18:37

Sorry to hear this OP. And I think you should disregard certain posters on here who seem to be fitting your post round their own agenda.

It sounds as though helping DD manage her perf ctionism would help. DD is in a very academic state primary in London and gets hours of homework so she's used to it but even so every new year is a new challenge in terms of new types/amounts of homework and the first term is a struggle while she steps up and then she adjusts and it's fine.

Also just to give the other side of this, friend's dc has just started in a non selective secondary and after all the build up and excitement at going to secondary, they've spent these first two weeks designing and colouring in posters about their expectations. Coming from a high performing primary it's been a disappointment in the other direction.

I suppose the message for both is it's a marathon not a sprint and Dd shouldn't feel Downhearted if it's not what you imagined at first. Agree that keeping up her other interests is really important. It's ludicrous to suggest that having these other interests and talents means she's not suited to an academic school.

Give it time and help her not to get lost in the desire to achieve. They are only 11 after all smile

AveEldon Fri 16-Sep-16 14:12:53

Do all 3-4 pieces need to be handed in the following day?
I would suggest setting a time limit & once the time is up the work goes away
Does she have an extended lunch break?
My Y7 has time to complete one piece of homework in the library at lunchtime

ealingwestmum Fri 16-Sep-16 14:23:16

and after all the effort of 11 OP's words...
+found the 11+ an effort mathsmums words!

OP, some great advice on here from others though. And your DD can't be more than 2/3 weeks into the new school term.

Absolutely agree on the focus on prioritising the effort, getting the job done to a good level and helping her with her perfectionist traits.

And as for sports/music not being good for academics and therefore bad match of school...absolute tosh.

Yes, do keep an eye on her, talk to her tutor if needed etc, but this will not be a surprise to them as the change of routine from junior for some is massive, and support on the multi tasking is what she needs right now until the pressure of change eases off. Circa 14 subjects, different subject tutors, geography, time keeping, commuting, making music lessons mid lesson (if yours does this) etc, is all hard at first.

Good'll hopefully be a calmer by Christmas. Y8 here...I feel your pain from last year!

Madcats Fri 16-Sep-16 15:19:20

We're not in London, but are in a selective feeder. Other parents (and yr10 children) have said that yr7 is tough. It is bound to be hard if you haven't been prepped to have a variety of teachers in a variety of locations that aren't necessarily the same as your classmates (assuming you even know everybody). And don't get me started on all the associated books and kit...

It is worth giving her tutor a call/email and check how long homework is supposed to take. Our school doesn't want to know that you can produce a perfect piece of work in 2 hours (maybe with the help of parents and tutors) that they set to take 20 minutes. Did you get any clues from open days or curriculum evenings? You probably have a pastoral parents evening scheduled shortly, anyway, so you could bring it up then.

Re the extra-curricular stuff, something might have to give at some point, but the clever kids in our school tend to be the busier ones too!

Good luck!

albertschoice Fri 16-Sep-16 15:59:59

Mathsmum - you've take the worst out my post and dived in on those. I whizzed out the post at 11.30 last night and tried to give a general feeling (after not yet 2 full wks!) to get general feedback on the beginnings of a very new environment. By "effort of 11+" I meant no more than going through the process line very one else (I wasn't running a sweat shop) and of the large no of offers she received had we made the right choice. So pleased be reassured that I didn't take a place we shouldn't have (hope you were successful too)^^
To everyone else I again offer my huge thanks. A lot of really helpful, practical points and long term views to think about and most importantly to chat through with my DD.

albertschoice Fri 16-Sep-16 16:02:02

Mathsmum - you've take the worst out my post and dived in on those. I whizzed out the post at 11.30 last night and tried to give a general feeling (after not yet 2 full wks!) to get general feedback on the beginnings of a very new environment. By "effort of 11+" I meant no more than going through the process line very one else (I wasn't running a sweat shop) and of the large no of offers she received had we made the right choice. So pleased be reassured that I didn't take a place we shouldn't have (hope you were successful too)^^
To everyone else I again offer my huge thanks. A lot of really helpful, practical points and long term views to think about and most importantly to chat through with my DD.

mumonahottinroof Sun 18-Sep-16 19:13:38

OP, I've a y7 dd in such a school and she's coping OK but she is a bit nonplussed by all the apparently brilliant, multi-instrument-playing, county hockey playing (or whatever) peers she seems to have.

London is a competitive and pushy place. I think the marathon not a sprint approach is vital and most of the above advice, disregarding one seriously weird agenda, is extremely helpful. Wish you and your dd luck

notagiraffe Sun 18-Sep-16 19:37:11

Op I've not RTFT and have boys at an academic day school. Yr 7 was just as you describe. Really tough - felt like they did nothing but slog away and sleep. It seemed joyless. And they were way too tired for after school clubs. I seriously wondered if we'd made a mistake.

I'm not sure what changed, but something did. It got easier term by term. Now they love it. They are so happy and settled. They work hard and play hard. They know they have to get their work done but they also enjoy after school sports and music and do a fair amount of socialising - meeting up with school friends to go bowling or to the cinema. They have naturally high aspirations now as everyone around them has, but not at the expense of a life.

FanDabbyFloozy Sun 18-Sep-16 21:33:47

Which of the selective London day schools do not give hrs of homework in y7? My DD is not very motivated by lots of homework and tends to prefer smaller chunks. I wonder if there is a school that fits that criteria in the early years at senior school.

mathsmum314 your posts are astonishing. To say that the OP's dd is not academic if she wants to do music and sport suggests a narrow minded view of education. Even top selective independents want children with wider interests. Is your dd at HBS, by chance?

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