What are my rights to withold school fees?...

(261 Posts)
mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 15:25:43

Hi everyone,

I'll try and keep to the point with this very stressful and upsetting matter.

My son started at an independent school just after Easter. At this point he was 4. He turned 5 at the end of June.
We were due to move house (a move of just over 20 miles) so I decided on a school close to where we were going to and have now moved to. This was to try and ease any upheaval... as at least I hoped he'd remain at the same school despite moving house.

Upon enrollment the Headmistress advised that as the Easter term was short, and my son was a summer born boy, his progress would be monitored. She said that should he need a little more time to settle in he would continue after the summer hols in Reception and join year one after the October half term.

He settled in well. On the whole he's a very well behaved child and if anything he adapted well with the transition from nursery (free-play environment) to the more structured classroom environment.

At first things seemed fine, I found there to be small problems... little things... for example, letters home about uniform and important dates would name my son incorrectly... and I too would be addressed in-correctly (wrong surname and title). I dismissed these as felt they were minor.

As the summer hols approached I wasn't contacted as discussed by the head or my son's class teacher regarding his progress.
The head does have a reputation as quite formidable. Most parents find her very intimidating.
Instead of being contacted personally as I'd believed I would, I received a sheet of paper on the last day of term with a tick in the box telling me my son's progress was 'satisfactory'. This was not expanded upon.
I asked another parent with children in the same class... and apparently if you 'hadn't heard' it meant your child was going to start in year 1 after the holidays. I was pleased, as I felt my son must have met the required standard... in such a short term... and importantly it meant he could remain with his class mates.

After the (8 week) Summer holiday my son returned to school. After 3 days in, I found a compliment slip in his bag asking me to go into school as 'his behavior was causing reason for concern'. I was very shocked and worried... and wondered what on earth could he have done?

I arranged to see the headmistress the next morning. At the meeting (which the headmistress kept me waiting 20 minutes for) I was told my son had been sat 'twitching' at his table and 'fidgeting' with the contents of his pencil case.
I explained that this was very out of character... (usually if asked to stop, would) and perhaps as the holidays had been very long (as long as the Spring term) to maybe give him a few more days to settle in.
I was then completely shocked when the headmistress turned to me and said... 'Surely you know you have a naughty boy?' to which I replied dumbstruck ... 'Well, actually, he's relatively good at home... and has his moments... like most children' to which I got 'Oh, so he's an Angel at home and a terror here'... well his attitude has to change or you're wasting your money'!!! I did my best to remain composed and then re-iterated we were also moving house (upheaval, leaving his friends made since birth etc) and to bare this in mind and offer him additional support.

I am a lone parent and cannot say how much this shocked and hurt me to hear. Once I'd left the meeting, I went out to my car and sat and cried. Despite this, I felt I had to give the teacher and headmistress the benefit of the doubt, present a united front and had a chat with my son after school... explaining the importance of listening and learning at school.

From here, things went from bad to worse...
My son had started school being able to hold a pencil correctly but somehow now could barely do this? He was struggling to keep up too. As a result he was kept in a break times and part of the lunch hour and set extra work to do at home which I gladly did with him.

I received another note: Saying Griff's homework hadn't been done... but it had as I'd done it with him. I explained I knew it had definitely been completed as we'd had to use a blue pencil crayon (not ideal) and then the teacher sent a note saying 'It's turned up, 'my son' had hidden it at the bottom of the marking pile'. This is not something he would do... I seriously mean that... if anything he'd have to be told where to put the homework.

Then, about a week later, one morning whilst he was getting himself dressed for school he burst into tears... saying ' Please tell Mrs * (the head) I can dress myself Mummy!'. I couldn't believe how upset he was... and asked whatever had happened. He said he'd been dressing after P.E. the day before and the head had asked him if he dressed himself at home... on saying yes, she had replied with 'I don't believe you'. I can imagine he was probably dressing a little slowly... but he is only 5! I was not happy about him being demeaned.

By now I felt extremely unhappy and guilty in sending my son to school as he was clearly very unhappy... especially as the school seemed in no way to take any of the facts about our house move into consideration.

The final straw was my son being refused to go to the toilet after raising his hand and asking. As a result he wet himself in class and had to change into his P.E. shorts. I was humiliated and embarrassed and I out raged.

By this point we had reached October half term and I had to come to a decision... the last thing I wanted to do was create more upheaval. We had only been in our new home just over a week.
I felt I had no choice but to withdraw him from the school with immediate effect on the grounds that I felt he wasn't being treated or cared for properly.

I wrote to the headmistress explaining my reasons... to which she didn't acknowledge my letter but left a very rude answerphone message. I again wrote to her (going into more detail) to which again she replied very rudely, insulting me, saying I was rude and that I was being unfair to my son in removing him from the school and that he should have completed the term. She also said she felt I had written my letter of complaint to simply 'get out of paying the fees' and that she believes I cannot afford the fees'.
With regard to my son staying on, I was afraid of how he would be treated if he stayed, as they didn't seem to care about him before I'd raised my concerns.
With regard to affording the fees, the headmistress is not aware my son is now blissfully happy at another Independent fee paying school.

So, going back to my point about payment... I had been paying the school fees by direct debit each month... until September, where because I wasn't happy I put a stop on the DD. I withdrew my son at Oct half term... and was prepared to pay for Sept and Oct.

I am trying to look at this matter in a 'matter of fact' way which is:
'If you are unhappy with a service, do you pay for it?'
As I am extremely upset at the way my child has been treated and am unhappy with the standard of the education too, I am close to complaining to the ISC and Ofsted.

As a result of withholding payment, the headmistress has already
consulted a debt collection agency who are not only asking for the fees up to the end of term for which my son was withdrawn half-way (winter term) but she has also invoiced me for the Spring term of next year too.

I feel the school has failed my son and we have both been treated in a despicable manner. I would be very grateful for any advice and support.

Thank you in advance.

Wigeon Tue 27-Dec-11 15:34:30

I would think that somewhere in the paperwork that the school has given you there are some terms and conditions saying what the notice period is should you wish to withdraw your child from the school - eg 1 term's notice or 2 terms' notice, and that by sending your child to the school you are agreeing to these conditions. Have you complied with whatever notice period is required? If not, then I would think the school was within its rights to insist on you paying the fees you owe for the period you should have given notice for.

The way in which you feel the school has failed your son is probably completely irrelevant.

Citizen's Advice Bureau would probably be very helpful for specific advice about your rights.

<disclaimer - am not a lawyer!>

Fairytightsonmychristmastree Tue 27-Dec-11 15:45:11

Most independent schools have it written into their contract would have signed upon acceptance of an offered place (and probably when you paid your deposit not the registration fee), that you HAVE to give a full terms notice to withdraw your child. This would mean you would be liable for the autumn and spring term fees, unfortunately.

The fact you withdrew your son at around half term is irrelevant sadly. They have you over a barrel with this if you signed the paperwork, regardless of how they treated your son.

You need to refer to your original paperworkfor when you signed your son up at the school.

catsareevil Tue 27-Dec-11 15:45:36

You seem to have given your DS name in the OP - did you mean to?

What was the wording of the contract you signed? Could you argue that they breached their side of it?

baubleybobbityhat Tue 27-Dec-11 15:48:13

Too long for me, sorry.

duchesse Tue 27-Dec-11 15:48:55

Head sounds like a sociopath tbh and you and your little boy are well out of there. It may even be worth the term's fees. It sounds though as though this Head is a complete bully- bullies more often than not back down when confronted. Document everything (with dates if you can remember them, any paperwork etc), including meetings and off-the cuff remarks.

Write a withdrawal letter, date it October 15th or whatever, and send it to her with a covering note saying "Since it appears you did not receive my first withdrawal letter, I am sending a copy." You almost certainly are contractually held to paying the term's fees but any idiot would realise that once a child has been withdrawn mid-term they are unlikely to be back. That said, this woman sounds like a bully who will try anything. I would not pay and sit back and wait- I would imagine the school will go down the pan quite soon (desperation in her words as you report them) taking your debt with it. Hold on to all the documentation nonetheless. You may need it.

If the school has a governing body, you could seek advice from them, or from any organisation they belong to (are they ofsteded or do they get inspections from ISIS?)

exexpat Tue 27-Dec-11 15:53:13

Unfortunately most schools do have a clause in their contract which obliges you to give a full term's notice before withdrawing a child, or pay the fees in lieu of notice. And in your case, since you withdrew him half-way through the autumn term, that would mean paying up until Easter next year.

Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, schools and parents can come to an agreement about a shorter notice period, but it doesn't sound like you have the kind of relationship with the head which would make it easy to come to a mutually agreed compromise - but possibly worth offering to pay for November/December as well?

Otherwise they will probably take you to court, and on the basis of the contract, would probably win. That might give you an opportunity to voice your reasons for not paying, and the school might not want any adverse publicity - but you may not want to risk a county court judgement against you either (not good for your credit record).

SouthGoingZax Tue 27-Dec-11 15:54:28

You should pay for the time he was at the school.
I think you should fight to not have to pay any 'not enough notice for taking him out of school' on the basis of your serious concerns about their lack of professionalism and his welfare.'

Contact the head of the governing body - by letter and be very clear about what exactly your concerns are.

What a fucking bitch and what a crap school. I have a nearly 5yo and can relate to a lot of what you say. He is being a child, not naughty. My DS's school deals with it just fine. Hopefully the new one you have sent your DS to will do. the wetting himself & the homework thing make me want to slap her. Oh and I'd defintely mention to her that your DS is now at another fee-paying school where the staff is more adept at dealing with young children and the pastoral care and communication is more effective (which I hope is the case)

MrsCampbellBlack Tue 27-Dec-11 15:58:40

This sounds most odd.

You could try contacting ISI or write a letter to the Governors.

ReduceRecycleRegift Tue 27-Dec-11 16:07:52

what a terrible school

however I suspect its like most contracts (tennancies etc) where if the other side are not meeting their obligations it doesn't exempt you from your side. Like if a land lord is not meeting his/her side of the lease, the tennant has the right to enforce the contract on them but does not have the right to withhold rent, if they withold rent the landlord can still use the contract in respect of that, their own lack of compliance is a separate issue IYKWIM

I would have given notice, taken my child out immediately, written off the notice period fees, and taken my complaints further

bamboostalks Tue 27-Dec-11 16:15:38

What is the name of the school?

FlyingStart Tue 27-Dec-11 16:16:50

Pay the autumn 2011 fees in full and inform the school that you refuse to pay the Spring term fees as your child is no longer at the school as you effectively gave 2 months notice when you withdrew your child from the school back in October 2011. It is fairly obvious that you had no intention of returning to the school again and it's not your fault if the school lost your letter of withdrawal.

If you pay the autumn term 2011 fees in full and forfeit your deposit (to cover Spring term 2012) it is unlikely the school will chase you to the courts.

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 16:18:54

Did she actually put in writing the bit about thinking you can't afford the school fees??

If so then perhaps you have a card which you can use against her for her unprofessional conduct which will give you leverage to make the school waive the fees that you would have been expected to pay because of the contract. My dd goes to a school where you have to give a term's notice to withdraw the child.

Just a thought.........the school needs complaining about in any event. Just because it's a private school does not mean that they can do as they like unchecked - this sounds horrific!

MrsCampbellBlack Tue 27-Dec-11 16:27:44

Oh and you really shouldn't have cancelled paying in sept/oct - to be honest if I was the head that would have made me a little suspicious of your intentions.

EdithWeston Tue 27-Dec-11 16:31:42

Will you be able to show that you used the school's grievance procedure for each and every one of the complaints you have?

If not, and the first time you made a formal complaint was whilst you were attempting to decline paying for the contractual notice period, then you are almost certainly going to lose in court. Schools do litigate over this, and they do win.

Only start this fight if you can afford the consequences of losing.

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 16:46:21

What I would do is to pay the Autumn 2011 fees in full and write a letter to the school outlining all the greivances you have and also refer to the unprofessional behaviour of the head. You could say that your son was under psychological duress and that you had not anticipated this would happen but in the event you had no choice but to withdraw him without the notice period.

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Tue 27-Dec-11 16:46:59

Sounds very tricky. The schools have an agreement with each other that a child can not start if their parents owe fees to the last school so you do need to be very careful. The usual notice period is a full term, which is a problem if you give notice a few weeks into the term as it will mean that you have to pay for the rest of one term, and then another. You could try finding a contract lawyer and seeking their advice. I'm sure other parents have tried to use below standard care of their child as a reason to withold the fees. It is dodgy ground though. I'd make some arrangement to pay in all honesty, at least until you can get some legal advice.

I did this with a GDST school, I got taken to court and although the judge sympathised with me , I did have to pay a terms fees. I didn't have to pay any costs or interest though and he called the headmistress arrogant. This gave me a tiny bit of satisfaction.

teddyandsheep Tue 27-Dec-11 17:05:45

Please name the school.... Sounds awful. Write to the Chair of the Board of Governers. don't get emotional in your letter, but be clear about how disappointed you are.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 17:08:16

Hi Thanks for taking the time to leave me a message.
Yes, she did put in writing...
Her words towards the end of her letter being:
''Finally, I feel the reason for your removal of (Ref to DS) is financial. You owe (school name) a large sum of money''.
She then goes on to say:
''When you moved you would have a large choice of schools which are obviously non fee paying schools' and mentions the Nursery Vouchers (which were deducted off the first terms fees as my DS was only 4).
Her letter continues:
''When 'DS' was in Reception he received Nursery Vouchers. You were only paying £*. This went up to £* in September. You obviously could not afford this''.

I would also contact schools inspectorate and social services if you feel that the concerns are very serious. It will take a while to sort this out and it took two years for my dd's old school to take me to court. I moved her in the meantime and there was no problem with new school knowing about the fees situation.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 17:09:55

Sorry, I'm new to this!
The above message was aimed at ''perceptionreality''

That letter is outrageously unprofessional from the headteacher.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 17:12:38

@ Toughasoldboots... Thanks yes, the new school have been fine about the situation with the fees too. I'm just happy that my son now loves school.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 17:14:47

@ toughasoldboots... Isn't it.
I couldn't believe it when I read it. Very personal and based on many unfounded assumptions in my view.

Catslikehats Tue 27-Dec-11 17:16:53

Have you posted about this before? Not that it matters but someone posted recently with an almost identical issue and was told pretty unanimously (IIRC) that they would have to pay the fees for both terms.

The issue is that an alleged breach on their side, even if proven, is unlikely to negate your side of the contract. Therefore regardless of the "service" you need to pay.

Further most independent schools have a clause which requires "one full terms notice". Your full terms notice would commence at the begining of the winter term, making you liable until the end of the winter term.

Frankly you are fortunate that your DS is as young as he is, which is presumably teh only reason that the new school has not sought a reference from the old school. It is virtually impossible to move from one independent school to another where there are fees outstanding.

It could well work in your favour in the end though- you are well out of it.

unreasonablemuch Tue 27-Dec-11 17:18:18

I was in a similar situation where I gave notice in February, I was made to pay until october despite school failing my dd educationally and me actually home educating for six weeks mid term because things were so bad, I have to pay but I am paying at a lesser amount.

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 17:18:27

It's outrageous indeed that she would put something like that in writing.

What I do know is that most professionals will try to avoid their reputation being brought into disrepute and that on that basis - consider who you could complain to about her and think about how you could potentially use this incident as a way to avoid paying the Spring 2012 fees. I am not sure if it's possible but is something to consider. She sounds beyond arrogant!

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 17:19:06

In any case why is she writing to you about fees? That's usually the job of the bursar........

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 17:21:01

Does the school have governors or trustees that you could complain to?

MrsCampbellBlack Tue 27-Dec-11 17:25:38

I really think you've shot yourself in the foot so to speak though by not paying the direct debits for sept/oct before you removed your child.

Thats why the head is going to be questioning if you could afford the fees.

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 17:30:30

Whether the fees were paid or not it is completely inappropriate for the head to speculate in a letter about the OP's circumstances or make personal comments.

Catslikehats Tue 27-Dec-11 17:33:48

Of course it is inappropriate to speculate as to her circumstances.

It is also inappropriate to try to avoid a contractual obligation.

MrsCampbellBlack Tue 27-Dec-11 17:34:39

To be honest I find this all very odd - I just can't imagine a head doing this.

But I do think the OP will end up having to pay the fees and she was wrong to stop the DD.

But again in private schools I know were you can do DD's - its for the next term so as to avoid parents doing this - fees are normally payable in advance aren't they?

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 17:37:52

Yes but the head is the one with a reputation to protect - the op has had an emotional reponse to what she sees as awful treatment of her son from an establishment that she paid to school and take care of him. The two things are not the same at all. A head should never appear to behave disrespectfully whatever has gone on. It's not really surprising that the OP feels agrieved enough not to want to pay the fees even though she might have to because of the contract.

EdithWeston Tue 27-Dec-11 17:38:21

It ay indeed be inappropriate, but it won't be enough to overturn the need for OP to pay the fees in line with the contract.

She stopped paying in September and took her DC out without notice in October. There were no problems with the school before this term. And no sign that OP used the grievance procedure. The school is already talking in terms of enforcement action, so a negotiated compromise seems unlikely.

OP will need to pay up, to the end of the contractual period (end Easter term) or take her chances in court. I have to say that her case does not look strong.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 17:39:13

@Toughasoldboots... I am pleased to hear the Judge made the decision he did in your case. This head is arrogant and full of her own self importance.
This Head is a real bully and if nothing else, I really feel like it's time someone stood up to her.

exoticfruits Tue 27-Dec-11 17:40:29

It seems just as well that he is out of there but sadly I think that you have very little chance and may as well save a lot of grief by paying up-I think they will win in the end.

underbeneathsiesthemistletoe Tue 27-Dec-11 17:40:45

Good grief. That head wants her head examined.
She does sound like the head of my Dd's private school though - not too unusual I'm afraid to have someone like her at the top of the greasy pole.

Contact a solicitor and show her the letter and replay the messages to her.
I think you've been hounded because you are a lone parent. And the lack of feedback from the teacher and the repeated humiliation of your DS is not on. I'm sure that's against regs private school or not. You might have a case against the school. I'd let my solr deal with the board and avoid all contact with the head.

You're well out of it!

exoticfruits Tue 27-Dec-11 17:40:59

Only stand up if you are strong enough.

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 17:43:40

I think the bottom line is, you need a lawyer who will tell you what options you might have. Keep as much evidence as you can.

MrsCampbellBlack Tue 27-Dec-11 17:45:31

Also double-check you got all the EYFS you were entitled too and how much refundable deposit you paid.

May well be that you don't owe too much really.

MollieO Tue 27-Dec-11 17:46:32

It seems odd to me that your meeting was with the head and not with the class teacher. I would have expected a meeting first with the class teacher and if things weren't resolved then to have a meeting with the head and class teacher together. I would have expected a note of that meeting and an action plan put in place to assist your ds.

My ds started reception at pre-prep being able to read. He was set reading homework every day but at a level that was way below his ability (books with no words). This went on a number of weeks at which point I spoke to his teacher. Ds was pretending he didn't know his alphabet and couldn't read. There were other issues too so I had a meeting with the head, the class teacher and the TA to work out what we all needed to be doing.

With 15 children in the class I expected a close level of attention (a friend going through similar issues at our local state school with a class of 32 had a very different experience). Things improved.

Being at private school doesn't automatically mean the head or the teachers are better. Some can be absolutely shocking, which sounds to be the case with the head.

I'm a single parent and the head has never ever discussed whether I can pay fees or not. I was made redundant earlier in the year and the school bent over backwards to accommodate me and ensure that ds could stay at the school. I think that is pretty normal in this economic climate. Schools don't want falling rolls.

If the head has either left messages defaming you or put it in writing then I would stand my ground. I would also report the head to whichever professional body the school is a member of. Shame it didn't happen in Reception as then you could have contacted Ofsted.

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 17:50:08

Well, yes - I was thinking that if the OP was able to threaten to sue for defamation, maybe the school would drop the threat to chase her for Spring term fees?

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 17:51:10

@Underbeneathsiesthemistletoe... Thank you...

I will be contacting a solicitor as I've already explained the circumstances to the debt collection agency who tried to negotiate with the head.
Unsurprisingly she would not budge and wants two term's money.
She thinks it's financial... which I admit because I cancelled the DD is what it looks like... but it isn't.
I simply haven't paid because of the ill treatment of my DS.

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Tue 27-Dec-11 17:55:26

Don't speak to the collection agency until you've sought legal advice.

perceptionreality Tue 27-Dec-11 17:56:53

Thing is that even if it was financial, a decent head who thought this might be the case would have wanted to discuss with you whether you could apply for a bursary. I agree with MollieO that for most private schools in today's climate this actually benefits them as much as it does the parent.

Instead this bitch of a head (sorry but she does sound awful) wants to make life as difficult as possible for you. That is very disturbing. If you really were having problems with money I would expect most schools to have a sympathetic response as far as possible and not to begin hunting you down harpie style!

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 18:01:49

@ MollieO...
I'm sorry to hear you experienced similar.
It's funny that you ask... why was the meeting with the head?...
On the day I arrived for the meeting... I expected to speak with my DS's
class teacher. Upon arriving at the school I went to her classroom to speak to her and she informed me there and then that the head was to be present.
She then went to the staff room and announced my arrival, to which the head looked through the door and acknowledged me by raising her hand and nodding.
I then expected her to come out of the staffroom into the classroom where the teacher had returned... but no.
Instead I was left waiting 20 mins... during which time I saw the head walking around in the playground!!!
I immediately knocked on the classroom door (as I was left waiting in the cloakroom) to ask how long the head might be... and tried to talk to the class teacher about the matter... but she made it clear the head had to be present. All this did was make me worry more... as all I could think was that it must be extremely serious. Then when she eventually came in she didn't even apologise. I've never been treated so rudely in all my life.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 18:14:02

Thank you for helping me to feel positive about such a dire situation.
All I wanted was what I thought was the best for my DS and have ended up being what feels like 'singled-out' as a consequence.
She even wrote (because of the house move?)
''I feel we are getting the blame for(ref to DS) not wanting to come to school but often when children don't want to come to school it is due to problems at home. I feel this is the case with Griff''.

Catslikehats Tue 27-Dec-11 18:14:44

OP you are mad to pursue this.

You are reacting emotionally: you are offended by your perceived ill treatment and letting your heart rule your head. In short you are an unscrupulous lawyers dream client (and I am not lawyer bashing I'm one myself).

Take a step back and a deep breath and consider whether you really want to throw good money after bad. You could double your debt to the school in no time, and for what? Because you are upset that the head was a bitch.

It just makes no sense.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 18:20:44

@Queenofdenial... Thanks for you post...
I appreciate your comments and would be lying if I said I wasn't affected emotionally. I have already taken a deep breath and that's why I'm asking for other people's input.
I realise I am going to have to pay some money... but should a headmistress, a person supposedly in such a high position be allowed to treat a child and parent in such a way?

Catslikehats Tue 27-Dec-11 18:33:38

You need to separate your feelings regarding the head mistress ill treatment/rudeness of your DS/you and the payment of school fees. I am afraid the two issues are mutually exclusive.

Consider it this way: Your interpretation of the heads treatment seems to be that she believes you are "beneath her": she thinks you can't afford the school and she has no problem in being both dismissive and condescending towards you so don't give her the satisfaction of proving her assumptions about you correct.

Send her a cheque for the full amount and forget about the matter.

Or engage in a legal battle and end up paying her; the debt collectors and a solicitor and to add insult to injury watch her satisfaction grow as she realise she was "right" about you all along.

MollieO Tue 27-Dec-11 18:35:45

I would have expected the head to apologise for keeping you waiting but I assume she was on playground duty and had forgotten when she arranged the meeting with you.

I didn't realise the class teacher was there too. What did she say?

I agree that you have to keep emotions out of this. I would also counsel against instructing a solicitor. I'd only do this if the school commences proceeedings against you and even then I'd think twice. If the school pursue you for fees it will be a small claims court action. They tend to be sympathetic of litigants in person.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 18:43:09

I can see where you are coming from...
and as you pointed out, you are indeed a Lawyer.
I actually pity the head and really don't care what she thinks about me.
I certainly do not want to give her any satisfaction... but surely even after removing emotion, the facts are there that the school has failed my son on both on an education and caring level.
I simply want a just result and it it seems that her conduct has been unprofessional and the school far from meeting my expectations.
I will certainly be informing all the relevant educational bodies.
I would hate this to happen to another child.

teddyandsheep Tue 27-Dec-11 18:50:11

I agree with Queen. However, I would in your situation be writing to the Chair of the Board of Governers, in a very professional, non emotional way concerning the running of the school.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 18:51:47


There are playground monitors... the heads job is to blow the whistle at 9.10am for the start of the school day... I guess she felt she needed to go down there at 8.45am?

Thank you for your advice regarding a solicitor... It's more a case of what has been allowed to happen to my son and the sheer unjustness of it all.

Everything has been documented.
I'm strongly considering sending a cheque only covering the time my son was there (Sept & Oct) and wording the letter along the lines... on clearance of this cheque you accept this as full and final settlement...?

Catslikehats Tue 27-Dec-11 18:56:38

Just to add, whilst I am a lawyer I know absolutely nothing about education law and have only a passing acquaintance with contracts so my advice is from a practical rather than professional standpoint.

There will of course be numerous lawyers who can give you proper professional advice. Factor in spending £400 per hour + vat. An therein lies your problem.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 18:57:46

@teddyandsheep... thank you...

I really don't want to throw good money after bad and agree... that a solicitor could see such a case as a blank cheque.
I'm hoping MollieO is right in that should it go to the small claims court this case would be looked at sympathetically.
I strongly agree that the governors need to know how the school is being run... and will also be writing to the IS and Ofsted.

serin Tue 27-Dec-11 19:00:09

I don't understand, if you agreed to pay for something and signed a contract then surely that is legally binding?

You should listen to the advice of the lawyer above and fulfill your side of the contract for your own sake (otherwise you are going to end uppaying a hell of a lot more to her).

The head sounds a nightmare and I would also complain about her to their regulatory authority.

MollieO Tue 27-Dec-11 19:01:33

Unless he is in Reception or there were issues in Reception then Ofsted will not be interested. They are not responsible for regulating private schools but are for Early Years - so govern nursery and reception of private schools.

serin Tue 27-Dec-11 19:01:59

x post there oops!

EdithWeston Tue 27-Dec-11 19:02:10

Mummytippy: what does the school's grievance policy say? Have you followed it? Because without that, a counter action is unlikely to succeed.

And I am worried that you will find yourself in a tricky (and expensive) position if you cannot demonstrate you have sought remedy within the grievance procedure for any perceived educational or pastoral failings.

As grievance procedures for independent schools typically escalate through layers of school management and governors, then go to relevant inspecting body.

If you are only now thinking of informing inspectors, this strongly suggests you did not exhaust all other avenues of redress before ceasing to pay.

Some of OP is describing the unsupported word of your DC: what will matter to the courts is how the school handled the complaint and why in the space of a mere half-term (and without, apparently, exhausting the grievance procedure) the situation became in your view irremediable.

I really do not think you stand much chance of winning a counter suit. Especially given the timing when you ceased paying (without explanation?). The Head's lack of interpersonal skills won't to be relevant.

Did the contract with the school specify a full term's notice? If so, you are liable for fees until the end of the spring term. The speed at which the school has moved to enforcement shows they mean business.

Are you really sure you want to get into this? It'll be about procedure and contract, not anyone's emotion, demeanour or manners.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 19:02:40


Sorry you asked me what the class teacher said in the meeting...
Well, not too much...
the headmistress did most of the talking... even adding that at story time (held in the hall after school at 'pick-up' time) she had deducted merit points from him for fidgeting. This had nothing to do with his class behavior.

teddyandsheep Tue 27-Dec-11 19:04:19

Please have a look at the contract you signed when you agreed for your dc to attend the school. It is important that you understand what the contractural rights are of the school are and if there are any circumstances where a months notice is not necessary

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Tue 27-Dec-11 19:05:19

You could plead poverty and ask if they have managed to fill your child's space.

I would pay though, then report them to Ofsted/ISI. There are some really dire private schools out there.

EdithWeston Tue 27-Dec-11 19:06:21

MollieO: some independent schools opt to be inspected by OFSTED at all stages. So it might be an appropriate organisation to approach. But this would already have been done if the standards grievance procedures had been followed through all stages. If the grievance has been upheld, then no need to com pain again. If rejected, a second go won't make much difference. And if OP is trying to make a case without having gone through the full grievance procedure, then she is on thin ice.

pickledsiblings Tue 27-Dec-11 19:11:58

I agree with Queen that you should pay up to be beyond reproach and then by all means kick up a stink in the nicest possible way...you could start by naming and shaming. You are right though about paying for poor service, galling, isn't it. So sorry that you are going through this.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 19:21:55

Sorry, I lost my internet connection...
Believe it or not, I don't have a copy of the school's grievance policy...

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 19:22:42

Is it too late for me to take that route... once I find out how to go about it?
Many Thanks.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 19:26:08

I agree with paying for a service you've signed up to too... as long as they keep their side of the bargain, which in this case the school has fallen very short.

pickledsiblings Tue 27-Dec-11 19:26:20

mummytippy, policy documents are often available on school websites.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 19:31:00

@pickledsiblings... Thank you for taking the time to respond...
Paying up to the point my son left is what I think I'm prepared to do...
I try to look at things from both sides... but sometimes the outside view is what is required... as you become blinded by everything...
If I was the headmistress... I would know how I'd treated the child and the parent and would be happy to get paid for the time the child was present at the school.

ReduceRecycleRegift Tue 27-Dec-11 19:35:59

at this point it depends on whether you want this to go down in the books as being about you not paying, or about the school's horrible treatment of your child and possibly others. If you are unwilling or unable to let the money go it'll never go down as the child who had to leave because of bad treatment.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 19:55:11

@reducerecycleregift... Thank you...
Interesting comment there and I agree to a point with what you are saying... but...

It's my principles which have prevented me paying so far, nothing else.
I don't care what's being said in the staff room or what other parents may be saying... for me it's simply why pay when my child has been so poorly treated.
The school my son attends now is fee paying and also know about the reason I removed him and the outstanding fees too.
I suppose if I pay for the time my son attended and make it clear that in view of the circumstances that it must be accepted as full and final settlement both then I'm beyond reproach and hopefully the head will leave me alone.
One can dream.

pickledsiblings Tue 27-Dec-11 20:01:32

The point is mummytippy that the school may have already declined an application of a fee paying place to someone else and it is that money and the possible yearly fees thereafter that the school will be trying to go someway towards covering. By paying a terms fees in notice, the school has a whole term to try to recruit another student.

Dozer Tue 27-Dec-11 20:02:05

Think you're in denial about the legal situation, and need to pay up, you have a contractual obligation and no-one on here thinks you'd win in court. The court / credit a gencies won't care abuot your principles.

Might it affect your credit record?

The complaint can still be followed up.

EdithWeston Tue 27-Dec-11 20:02:07

You are not beyond reproach if you have not fulfilled your obligations to pay until the end of the valid notice period, as specified in the legally binding contract you entered into with the school.

If the notice period s the usual clear term, then you we fees up to the end of March 2012.

If you did not follow the grievance procedure (which it seems you did not, as you don't know what it contains), I can see no way in which you will be able to bring a successful counter action on your allegations of educational and pastoral shortcomings. You are in a very weak position because you chose the break the contract, rather than adhere to the remedy procedures within it.

ReduceRecycleRegift Tue 27-Dec-11 20:02:17

I wasn't thinking about staff room chit chat, I was thinking about it in terms of getting it properly investigated so that other children don't have to suffer the same way...

Wigeon Tue 27-Dec-11 20:06:38

Afraid your principles, and the moral high ground, will count for nothing if you have signed up to the school's rules requiring you to give at least a term's notice (if that's what the rules are), and you haven't.

As others have said, if you have a grievance against the school, then you need to follow the grievance procedure. As it is, you are essentially making up your own grievance procedure which says "if any parent isn't happy with something about the school, they can just waiver any of the rules, including the rules about giving notice before removing their child, and choose to withhold fees".

I'm not unsympathetic about the way you and your DS appear to have been treated, but - making the assumption that you haven't complied with the rules about notice-giving and paying fees in lieu of notice, and that's why they are pursuing you for unpaid fees - then I would have thought the school is highly unlikely to drop it. Bear in mind they almost certainly will have been down this path before with other parents, and they almost certainly will know where they stand legally.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 20:12:00

Thank you, I understand this but the Headmistress told me in her answerphone message after I'd written to give notice that there's a waiting list for the school and she had a child waiting...

rainbowinthesky Tue 27-Dec-11 20:14:04

It sounds an awful school but I see no grounds at all for you not being liable for the fees right up to the Spring Term. THink you have to suck it up and pay.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 20:20:12

Thanks for your post.
I'm not in denial about the legalities... I simply posted on here to get lots of peoples views on the situation.
I understand I'm on thin ice if I was thinking of suing the school but the facts remain my child was not treated properly.
I'm not talking about trying to take the school to court... I'm trying to see what everyone as a whole feels would be fair for both sides.
Would you pay for a service you weren't happy with... one which damaged your child?

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 20:23:25

My sentiments exactly about other children not having to go through this...

ReduceRecycleRegift Tue 27-Dec-11 20:44:41

"Would you pay for a service you weren't happy with... one which damaged your child"

in this case yes, because I'ld want the focus to be on the poor treatment.

ReduceRecycleRegift Tue 27-Dec-11 20:45:02

and because legally I should.

mummytippy Tue 27-Dec-11 21:34:11


Something tells me if you were in my shoes... you would maybe just ask for a bit of support from an on-line forum... to see what others think.
At no point have I said I'm not going to pay...
I've just with held payment.
My main priority has been settling my son into a new home and new school.
Thanks for your opinion and your time.

acebaby Tue 27-Dec-11 23:05:42

There are two issues here - first whether or not to pay the first term's fees and second whether or not to pay the additional notice period. You are on quite shaky ground for not paying the fees for the term you were actually there because there will likely be clauses in the contract that are designed to preclude you using a grievance against the school to avoid paying the fees.

The notice term is quite different. Schools and nurseries are on dodgy ground legally trying to enforce this because in most cases the notice clause is a "penalty clause" in which the school is trying to recover a greater amount of money from you than they have lost. To enforce the notice period in court the school would have to prove that they have actually lost the equivalent of a terms fees as a direct result of your breach of contract. This is very difficult for them to do and for this reason, (since the most recent contracts acts came into force) schools rarely go to law over notice periods. This will not stop them getting in debt collectors and trying to do everything short of court to get you to pay.

Good luck OP with whatever you decide. I'm glad your DS is doing so much better in his new school!

Choclatespread Tue 27-Dec-11 23:13:20

After reading all OP, and I'm not experienced in private schools, but would suggest you either write or speak to the arrogant HT, addressing all your concerns, what you wasn't happy about, also a way to resolve the matter.
The arrogant HT is saying you need to pay, obviously you feel you shouldn't pay for the term he is not there. It would possibly be difficult for you to be paying two school fees for two terms.
Or you can take the other route, give the school a bad name, and fight the fact your DS was treated unfair etc, however you may still have to pay the fees.
Once you have a response from the arrogant HT, you can decide what to do.
Who knows she may waive the fees, out of goodwill.
Your DS obviously wasn't well treated.
Like others have said, they are two different issues.
It all depends on what you want from all this?

Colleger Tue 27-Dec-11 23:25:07

It's time to send official complaints to everyone. She has mistreated your son and insulted you greatly. A voodoo doll may also help with your stress levels!

DameHannah Wed 28-Dec-11 01:37:18

First point a debt collection agency can only ask for the money they cannot send in the bailiffs only the courts can do this after ruling against you (if you already know this I'm sorry but many people don't know this and see the letters from a debt collection agency especially the bit about sending in the bailiffs and panic). Most debt collection agencies don't want to take you to court because its boring costly and time consuming and debt collection agencies don't want any of this they want quick fixes, also as a single mum (unless you are very wealthy) even if the court rules that you have to pay they are likely will set it at such low limit that the debt collection agency will not get a big enough commission from it. Go to the CAB for advise with this. You can also stop them hassling you (if they are) by email/phone by writing and stating that you only wish to communicate by letter and will complain through your solicitor if they don't follow out you wishes there is an organisation you complain through I cant remember what it is called. Keep copies of everything you do. If they don't have your email /phone number only write.
Next question do you have the money for term your son was there? If you do I would write to the debt collection agency offering to pay that much within 7 working days of receiving the letter and clearly stating it will be a full and final settlement send this letter registered/recorded post (the one that has to be signed for all the way) and if you don't hear after the 7 working days send the cheque stating in the letter again that its the full and final payment and I understand that if they bank it thats the end of the matter. They may write back accepting the amount before the seven days. If they ask for more repeat your offer enclose your cheque for the term and tell them to take you to court for the rest but also state that you are a single mum, if your on benefit even better that really makes debt collection agencies reluctant to pursue you. If you really don't have the money I suggest you have two choices offer to pay for the term in manageable monthly payments or write to them stating you don't have the money your a single mum etc and tell them to take you to court for it. As a general principle most lawyers will tell you that you cant get money where money doesn't exist! Debt collection agencies also know this.
You may all be interested to know a friend of mine ( a lawyer at a big city law firm) removed her son suddenly from a well know independent school and did not pay the the next terms fees (£10 000). Her argument was breach of contract in failing to provide an acceptable standard of care. They never pursued her for the money. I believe she has done a similar thing in the past.
It all depends how much money and time and effort you want to spend on these type of problems. My friend's speciality is contract law so it was easy for her and it is doable in certain cases; a letter was sent carefully detailing why she was removing her DC on the company headed paper. A contract has to be fair and reasonable and you are agreeing to pay the fees/give a terms notice etc. but the school in return is agreeing to provide certain things. Sadly I suspect in this case it is a grey area. You have written in great length what went wrong and I think everyone would agree its sounds awful but I am unsure as to whether this actually be breach of contract because I suspect the school would justify its behaviour.
If you want revenge naming and shaming is a good way forward. Stand in the playgrounds nearest to the school and talk to other parents tell them about your dreadful experience the mothers grapevine will spread it round in no time at all. Ok you may only out a few off but you'll feel better for it!

Fairytightsonmychristmastree Wed 28-Dec-11 02:46:13

Another thing to consider is whether your debt to the school (debt is how the school view it) is increasing due to late payment fees/interest.

I know my DDs school charge a small percentage, something like 3% for late payment of fees. In our schools case this is any fees not paid on or before the first day of term.

You could phone the school and ask for photocopies of all your signed contracts etc if you dont have your own copies.

Alternatively apply for a prospectus and ask for all the school policies using a false name and a friends/relatives address. This way you will get to see the paperwork even if its not the one you signed upto. Sometimes the policies are on the school websites.

I agree with you in principle on this but private schools tend to have you over a barrell with this rule they about a terms notice.

Its easy in hindsight, now your son is happily settled elsewhere to say you should have complained about the head before now, but sadly as you did not, I cannot see a way out of this. Even if you had officially complained, you would still be on dodgy ground to not pay up because of the contracts you most probably signed when your son joined the school.

I think I would be inclined to pay up but also log complaints about this head to everyone possible.

amerryscot Wed 28-Dec-11 08:42:29

The T&Cs of the school will be to give a full-term's notice, which would basically take you up to Easter.

amerryscot Wed 28-Dec-11 09:22:54

Phew, I have just got to the end of this thread.

if this is a true story , the OP has done just about everything wrong and has had very unusual experiences.

I don't understand the part about being a summer birthday and waiting to see if he should be held back after the summer. I have never been in an independent school where parents/carers do not get to see the class teacher at pick-up time each day. This is the time to check on settling in.

From the OP, it looks like there are issues about getting dressed, fidgeting, and doing homework. Surely it is right for the school to address these issues. If a child is slow to get dressed, then it is fair enough to ask if he dresses himself at home in order to chivvy him along. Part of being at school is to learn to sit still and not fidget and to general learn to behave in a socially acceptable way. That is one of the reasons for going private at a young age.

It seems like the OP has taken on concerns the school had about her son to be direct attacks on her parenting. I suspect there is a mismatch between what the school said and what she heard.

I do not understand why the OP did not pay her fees while continuing to send her son there. I am surprised a new school took on the OP's DS when she was in debt to another school.

I doubt that the head is such a creature if the school has a waiting list, tbh.

I m flabbergasted that the school has already handed over the matter to a collection agency, especially with no contact from the bursar's office.

onaplanetwiththexmasfairies Wed 28-Dec-11 10:10:47

You were already two months in arrears with the school fees when you pulled your son out, had you honestly had no bill reminders during this time, I would have thought this would have been sounding alarm bills with the bursar who I am sure has seen the complaints suddenly appear when a child is removed before in an attempt to avoid paying fees. As someone who worked in independent schools for many years it's pretty much par for the course these days.
Did you take your child to and from school each day and not once speak to his teacher? from your posts apart from the one time you were asked in you do not seem to have communicated your concerns at any time and much of your evidence appears to come from an only just five year old. Have you spoken to other parents about your concerns? You say others find her intimidatinng yet they all still chose the school for their children and you also say there is a waiting list.
I agree with the poster above that you have taken any comments as a personal attack on you and feel the school would be right to assume tha you cannot afford the fees as you hadn't been paying them at all this term.

QTPie Wed 28-Dec-11 10:15:30


What were your intentions (what were you hoping to achieve?) by with-holding fees before you withdrew DS from the school (ie you didn't pay then, but he still attended in September and some of October)?

What do you hope to achieve by continuing to with-hold them now?

(honest questions - don't have time to reply properly until nap time...).

QTPie Wed 28-Dec-11 10:29:19

(my post above is because the OP has said that at no time did they intend not to pay the fees, just to "with hold them"..,. If you are with holding them, then what are you hoping to achieve - since there must be a purpose for with holding).

Happygardening Wed 28-Dec-11 11:03:27

As this has know gone to a debt collection agency the school cannot increase the amount only the debt collection agency can do this their charges. I also think that the school will not want to discuss it any further so the OP needs to negotiate with company that is now chasing the debt. They don't give a F**k about the ins and out of how the debt arose they just want money.
I think the advise above is fairly sound cut your losses and make them an offer and move on.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 13:10:18

Thank you everyone for taking the time to give your views on this matter...

I have to say after sleeping on it (and not too well) I'm almost certain I'm going to go down the route of paying for the time my son was at the school.

I feel that this is fair due to the lack of care given to my son.

@amerryscot... Sadly yes, this is a true story.
At no point have I taken any of what the head has said to me personally with regard to my parenting skills. I presented a united front with the teachers and was very upset with my son initially and had a serious chat with him about trying his best and being good at school.

@... oneaplanetwiththexmasfairies...It was difficult to arrange to meet the teachers as there was a strict rule that children had to be dropped off in the morning and must go straight outside to the playground until the whistle is blown. At home time you had to wait on the pavement and wait whilst your child was dismissed. This was because the school is housed in a Victorian house on a residential avenue. I f anything I tried to catch my son's teacher in the morning once he was out in the playground, but I have to say that this was not encouraged. It is a school where the parents know very little about what goes on which eventually after speaking to other parents unsettled me.

My grievance with the school is that they have failed to communicate with me properly and their actions towards my son were always negative and at a time where he needed additional support. Their level of care towards him was appalling. You may think I'm biased... but my son is pretty well behaved compared to a lot of children.
At the start of the Sept term we were in the middle of a house move
(a tedious and stressful chain). I went into school to communicate this (the head already knew as this was why I'd placed him here) and the upheaval which may be caused to all involved. They did nothing to make my son feel secure. My son had two days off school. The day we moved house (so we could say goodbye to our house and neighbours) and the day our pet cat died about a week later (whilst in a cattery due to the move). The head went out of her way to criticise me, telling me over the telephone when I rang to explained he wouldn't be in school that I was wrong to keep him off and that I was not helping him. A friend pointed out that the only thing 'constant' for my son at this point was me and she was right. Why could the school not see or understand this.

I have already written to the head who has replied and as someone here said she has justified every single point I've raised as a reason and concern.
Sadly all the head is interested in is her money.

So many other things happened... one incident was the summer fair, where I'd volunteered to help out. I'd entered the school and spoken to the head asking where I needed to be. It was my first school event. She told me and I got on with my duties. Later, most of the children came outside into the playground to visit the stalls etc (I was manning the coconut shie which was very popular and I was actually run ragged picking up and collecting all the balls constantly). After about about 20 minutes or so I hadn't seen my son. I asked one of his school friends if he'd seen him. The next thing I knew was a very apologetic teacher came out with my son explaining that as they didn't know I was there he'd been kept in a classroom with other children supervised by the headmistress!!! I was dumbstruck as I'd introduced myself to her!!!
When I addressed this in my letter the headmistress said
''All the other parents came to collect their children. I could not let (ref to DS) go outside alone (playground) and staff were busy supervising the children who were waiting for parents to arrive. It was unfortunate that you didn't think to come and collect Griff the same as everyone else''.
This outraged me. I was volunteering outside and didn't know the procedure. Why couldn't she have simply told me 'the drill' when I arrived? My poor son had missed half of the summer fair as a result.

I'm pretty exhausted by it all and ultimately want to feel like justice has ben done... Just too many nasty horrible inexcusable things happened.

I think I need to at least write again (everything is documented) and express that I still feel my son was so badly treated that the school was in breach of contract.

MigratingCoconutsInTheNewYear Wed 28-Dec-11 13:24:19

Are you the only parent who has had these experiences?

I have absolutely no experience of Private education but I do find myself wondering what the headteacher's account of these events would be. hmm

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 13:35:24

On speaking to other parents at the school... many have had issues and have been in and spoken to the headmistress and things have improved.
I found when I did, things got worse and if anything my son seemed to be singled out.
Before sending my son to this school I visited the independent secondary to which this is one of two prep schools.
I asked the head which out of the two schools he would pick... obviously he couldn't say but did say that the head of the school I was considering
''had her own way of doing things'... with hindsight... I now know what he meant... and importantly my son is now happy and thriving at the other school.

amerryscot Wed 28-Dec-11 13:48:16

I don't think anything this school does could be right for you, OP.

If your child is being supervised by school staff during the fete, they cannot just let him go off on his own. They expect an adult to handover responsibility to, even if it's a free-for-all after that. Imagine if the last people to be responsible for his care were the school, and he wandered off-site? If you are tied-up with a stall, then you get another mum to fetch your child. Everyone knows that.

I imagine that you could have closed down your stall for a few minutes in order to check on your son.

I am a fairly lax parent, and even I would want to know where my 4 or 5 year old was at any one time. By the time they get to 7 or 8, I am more trusting when they are in a safe area.

It's a lot to take on a stall single-handedly when you are not familiar with the systems. It is better to let a year pass before you do this, and just enjoy yourself or be an assistant.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 14:07:58

I'm sorry but I think you missed the point?
Other parents who were running stalls went to collect their children...
I was told on asking another parent whilst I managed the stall that the children came out into the playground at a certain time unless their parents had work commitments and couldn't come at all.
It was when I noticed the other parents children that I asked where my son was.

EdithWeston Wed 28-Dec-11 14:11:15

From the timings you gave, the headmistress's attitude changed when you stopped paying.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 14:11:57

btw... I'm a single parent.. so managing the stall alone was not a problem.
I wanted to be true part of the school by volunteering... managing the stall was fun, it's just a shame it had to come at the price of my son missing out.
In any case, if the school weren't at fault at keeping my son inside, I wonder why they apologised.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 14:12:42

@EdithWeston... Please can you expand on this?

amerryscot Wed 28-Dec-11 14:14:16

I imagine that they apologised in the same way that you apologise for being late when you are stuck in traffic. You are not to blame, but you are remorseful of the situation.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 14:22:15

Well, if that's how you interpret an apology...
I take an apology to mean someone is truly sorry not remorseful.
The school didn't apologise about refusing to let my DS to go to the toilet after raising his hand and asking during class and as a result he had to sit and wet his pants in the classroom. Out of curiousity what's your opinion on that?

amerryscot Wed 28-Dec-11 14:24:46

What is their toilet policy?

QTPie Wed 28-Dec-11 14:25:06

What a mess...

To me it sounds like an awful lot of mis-understanding - on more than one side...

Really this should have been sorted out at the time and stopping paying the fees before withdrawing your DS from the school seemed incredibly unwise. Dealing directly with the head of governors and "negotiating" settling at paying for the end of the Autumn/Winter term (ie until Christmas) would have been the most likely positive outcome.

As asked before, why did you with-hold fees at the beginning of the Autumn term? How serious were your concerns? Did you raise them before with-holding fees? That sounds really odd to me. If your concerns are about someone specific (like the headmistress), then you should always raise them with the person above them in the food chain.

May I suggest that you stop communicating with the headmistress - the person with whom you seem to be having a lot of personal conflict - and start communicating with the head of governors for the school? Continuing to communicate with the headmistress will only add fuel to the fire and is incredibly unlikely to ressolve things.

I strongly suggest that you go to the CAB (as a starting point - rather than pouring money into a solicitor's purse) and find out where you stand legally: what, if any, action can be taken against you.

If legal action is likely to be taken against you, then I would suggest that you settle now: regardless of the rather charmless, not particularly helpful headmistress.... your story (told from your side) sounds like a "nasty personality clash between you and the head, you decide to remove your son from the school, but want to avoid paying the penalty in the contract that you signed". I would strongly expect a court to find in favour of the school.

I also wonder if you can be added to any credit blacklists (with/without legal action against you): in which case that could cause you problems in future too.

The most important thing is that your DS is now at a school that both he and you are happy with - which is great. However, you do need to untangle yourself from any legal/financial fall-out from this.

Good luck

amerryscot Wed 28-Dec-11 14:27:50


I think your name can only be added to a credit blacklist if you actually have a CCJ against you.

QTPie Wed 28-Dec-11 14:32:59

amerryscot, thanks - so if legal judgement was taken against the OP, but above "small claims court" level (has to be county court)?

How about her credit rating? Other debts can affect that, can't they? (having forgotten to make a few credit card payments in the past myself.... sad ).

There may be more local (especially educational) based fall-out though - depending on which Prep/Senior schools are applied for....

ReduceRecycleRegift Wed 28-Dec-11 14:33:34

It only cost them about £20 to do a CCJ - very easy to do, then its on your name for years.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 14:33:45

Going back to the point on this matter.

I am sorry that I sent my son to this school in the first place and that he had such a damaging experience.
At the same time I appreciate that I have not paid the fees yet for the final two months he was there.
I want to formerly complain about the school because of the way my son was treated. It was evident he was afraid to go to school... not simply that he didn't want to go. No child should experience this... especially as 5 year old and it being his first experience of school.
I intend writing to the chair of the school governors, The IS, The ISC, Ofsted, but feel my non payment of fees (which was initially an oversight) will go against me. I intended paying. It was only after the headmistress was so rude to me on an answerphone message she left me and in writing that I feel the school does not deserve to be paid yet.

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Wed 28-Dec-11 14:39:38

You have to pay them. Pay them first, then complain as it will look as though you're using any excuse that you can think of to get out of paying the fees. Parents do this. They will owe the school money, their child is then removed from the school, the parents will then say that their child was not cared for or the education was substandard. It rarely works.

For what it's worth, if you wish to go down the legal route then you will be asked if you followed the schools complaints procedure and they will look at the dates in which you complained. If you did not complain until after you removed your child then this is going to cause huge issues as, again, it looks as though you're nit picking in order to get out of paying the fees that you owe.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 14:43:28

Thank you QTPie...
With hindsight I should have acted at the time... but I was merely trying to give my son more time to settle in as his 'behaviour problem' was concentration. I felt awkward and as I could sense the headmistress didn't particularly like my son for whatever reason (via another parent I heard she apparently doesn't like boys) I didn't want to create any conflict and make things possibly worse for him. I know now I should have said something.

I will as I've just said in my last post contact the chair of governors to try and sort this matter out.

QTPie Wed 28-Dec-11 14:44:00

The school fayre thing honestly sounds like a misunderstanding - the headmistress had a lot on her mind and just didn't add "two and two": blooming annoying for the OP and her child, but these things happen. In an ideal world they don't, but this is far from an ideal world.

The same with being late for the meeting. I think that the headmistress probably does more in the playground than just "blowing a whistle" - I sure hope that she does. She is supervising her staff, seeing what the kids are up to, keeping an eye out for strangers etc: generally looking at the bigger picture of how the school is working. May look like she is skiving off and "just making you wait on purpose", but I doubt it... People are late for meetings, it happens (my private ObGyn was late for many of my meetings with her... fortunately she turned up for the birth ;) )

Also, the OP's son wetting himself, there may well have been a very good reason why the teacher couldn't let him go or he may have just asked too late and had an accident (did the teacher admit to not letting him go? If she didn't let him go, why didn't she?). Accidents do happen and sometimes kids are just too embarrassed to admit it...

Misunderstandings happen, accidents happen. A big part of life... We are all little people in a very complex pattern of life: sometimes lots of incidents happen to us (or don't - we get overlooked) and it feels as though it is on purpose when it really isn't... sad

QTPie Wed 28-Dec-11 14:49:28

OP, Good luck getting this ressolved (with the Board of Governors - definitely a step in the right direction...).

Let us know how you get on.


LondonMumsie Wed 28-Dec-11 14:51:26

You have every right to be upset.

You have no right to skip payment.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 14:53:30

Thanks, I agree and it seems fair to pay up to the point I removed my son.
As I've already said... it was initially an oversight with the D.Debit but then the more incidents that happened the less inclined I've felt.
I did complain to my DS's class teacher about him being referred to as a ''naughty boy'' during the meeting with her and the head, and about her calling him ''lazy'' during a lesson where he'd asked how to do something. After this her attitude seemed to improve towards my son. This meeting was a month before I removed him. I simply asked again if they could cut him some slack as we were about to move house.

DoesntChristmasDragOn Wed 28-Dec-11 14:57:11

How is deliberately putting a stop on your DD for the fees "an oversight"?!

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:01:30

@QTPie... Thank you I will let you know how I get on and yes it does sometimes feel like a lots happens in a short space of time.

@amerryscot... The toilet procedure at the school is that in Reception raise your hand. ask and you can go.
My son was two weeks into Year 1 and wasn't aware this had changed.

It is such a mess... I would rather my son have been treated property... I would have paid... and he'd have still been there. The last thing I wanted was the upheaval... but that beat being scared of going to school.

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Wed 28-Dec-11 15:03:02

It's standard practice in pretty much every private school that a full terms notice must be given or a terms fees are payable. You can't just pay up to the point where you removed your son, you didn't follow the procedure. If you're not able to pay all that you owe then you really do need to come to an arrangement with the school. You think of their behaviour towards your son as a seperate issue. He's happy now, that's what's important.

The head who took over ds's prep had real issues against parents whom he thought were 'undesirable,' (single mothers, those scraping by to afford the fees, parents who didn't wish to follow his religious teachings). I'm a single mother, I struggled with the fees as I was told by the previous head that a bursary would be availiable for ds. My son was treated very badly by him and I know how upsetting it is. Don't let it cloud your judgement though.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:05:07

Not sure you've read the whole thread but I stopped the DD because they requested the lower amount (with nursery voucher deducted) and I planned to set it up with them again for the new higher amount... then the house move distracted me.

QTPie Wed 28-Dec-11 15:07:20

OP, go back to your original post - fifth paragraph from the bottom:
"So, going back to my point about payment... I had been paying the school fees by direct debit each month... until September, where because I wasn't happy I put a stop on the DD"

(that original statement may have been a mistake by you)

Catslikehats Wed 28-Dec-11 15:11:49

I have to say OP if you are this obstinate and unreasonable in the face of very sensible advice I am starting to understand why the Head might have had ishoos with you

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:12:23

That's terrible, you poor DS, and as you say the important thing is that to be happy at school.
The head of your DS school sounds like he's in a similar mind set... as one of the posters pointed out... we do not live in a perfect world... what is it with some people.
I'm still friends with a couple of the mums at the school, one of them has recently divorced. When she went in to speak to the headmistress with regard to her son being upset she said the first thing she was asked was can you still pay the fees and then the second thing she was asked was had she met someone younger! How rude.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:14:52

I was summarising what I've just said to you in the previously reply to you...
it was a very long initial thread as you can see!

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Wed 28-Dec-11 15:15:38

I was advised to place him in a boarding school with a 'strong male housemaster' as ds's life was lacking a male rolemodel hmm. I didn't.

Seriously though, pay what you owe and move on. Your son's happy now, that's what matters.

rainbowinthesky Wed 28-Dec-11 15:16:47

Mummytippy - I was sympathetic towards you at the start of this thread but it does sound like you were never going to be happy with the school and either you're stretching the truth or you and lots of other parents seem to have accepted a fairly strange set up at this school. I can see why the head assumes you can't afford to pay and are using these issues as an excuse.

DoesntChristmasDragOn Wed 28-Dec-11 15:17:56

"I had been paying the school fees by direct debit each month... until September, where because I wasn't happy I put a stop on the DD"

" stopped the DD because they requested the lower amount (with nursery voucher deducted) and I planned to set it up with them again for the new higher amount... then the house move distracted me."

How, exactly, are theses two statements the same?

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:18:27

I am not obstinate and am well aware the head has issues with me!

QTPie Wed 28-Dec-11 15:21:35

I think that this is why getting a VERY strong feeling for the ethos of a school is important before sending a child there: if there is anything "unusual", then the reputation will get around...

Some schools/heads do have funny notions and - unless either your views align or you are VERY VERY thick skinned - they are best avoided...

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:23:03

That's truly terrible... it sounds like something you'd expect to hear during Queen Victoria's reign...
You are right, I just need to move on...
I hope you DC is happy now and thriving at school?

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Wed 28-Dec-11 15:25:46

He's doing very well, turns out his problems are caused by being dyspraxic and not as a result of coming from a single parent home. hmm I was very angry at first, I'm pleased we left because the head's a nob who doesn't deserve any more of my time. wink

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:28:06

I can see too why the headmistress thinks I cannot afford the fees...
which frankly now with hindsight I wish had been paid when they were due.
I can see too that it looks like I'm looking for an excuse not to pay... but I am not. My son was mistreated at this school.

rainbowinthesky Wed 28-Dec-11 15:30:10

You say he was mistreated but you kept him there for half a term. Surely if things were this bad you'd have stopped him going and gone through the correct channels to complain at the time rather than now they want you to pay up.

amerryscot Wed 28-Dec-11 15:30:41

How on earth was he mistreated? Were all the other boys mistreated too?

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:38:08

I'm so lad to hear your DS is doing so well...
and suffering from dyspraxia I hope he gets the support and devotion at
his new school.
There are too many parents at the school were my son went who seem happy to go along with the head's attitude... despite them knowing there are issues. They seem happy to do this because it affiliated to the independent secondary... meaning an entrance exam doesn't have to sat.
The way I see it it is, the head of a school is meant to be a professional person in a position of trust and care. They are role models.
As you say - best out of there and to have no time for such people.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:43:02

I allowed my son to stay until half term as the issues the head had were only raised in the first week of Sept after the summer holiday.
I present a united front, and gave them the benefit of the doubt... explaining to my son he mustn't fidget in class.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:45:18

I think you and I have different opinions when it comes to how a five year old should be treated at school and there are many things I haven't put down in the thread.

mummytippy Wed 28-Dec-11 15:47:41

Thanks to everyone who's commented on my post...
It's time for me to reflect on all the advice and deal with the matter.
I'll keep everyone informed. Thanks again.

BoffinMum Wed 28-Dec-11 15:56:07

When you sign up for an independent school an element of risk comes with it that you will be unhappy with what they are offering. You can't just withold the fees because of this. You could only really withold the fees if the school did not open to provide your children with an education, or there were no teachers, or something like that. In other words, very extreme situations. But not otherwise.

I think what you have got here is a difficult headmistress who wants shot of you, because she had taken a dislike to you and your child. It also means this is probably the wrong school for him as they seem to have very different expectations of young children to yours (I won't comment what I think about these expectations, but suffice it to say I don't think from what I have read here that your son is the main problem wink).

I think you should meet your financial liabilities here as soon as possible, but make a formal complaint to the Board of Governors regarding her attitude towards you and your son, and her poor communication. They might, just might, refund some of the money, given that you have pulled him out of the school. If not, just move on and put it down to experience.

exoticfruits Wed 28-Dec-11 16:08:43

I don't think that the rights and the wrongs really matter, I bet the school are covered in the small print and the best you can do is follow the advice of BoffinMum.

BoffinMum Wed 28-Dec-11 16:16:31

In defence of independent schools, many of them run on a shoestring despite appearances, and many parents completely try it on with fees. So they have to draw a line somewhere otherwise they'd collapse financially. It's not the same type of business model as Marks and Spencer or whatever, rightly so.

Happygardening Wed 28-Dec-11 16:29:08

Many small prep schools don't have a board of governors or inspected by that joke organisation the ISI.

MigratingCoconutsInTheNewYear Wed 28-Dec-11 16:42:51

Yes boffinmum, I have no experience of private schools but I can see that a certain amount of financial stability is essential in running a school. Therefore putting in payment clauses would be really important. That has to be part of the deal you accept when signing up to private education.

Op simply must pay. End of. Like i said in an earlier post, I'd love to hear the Head's version of events!

Kensingtonia Wed 28-Dec-11 16:44:53

Just a comment. I withdrew both my children from an independent primary after an argument. I refused to pay for the notice period as the school had made it virtually impossible for them to continue there. The school did involve an extremely nasty debt collection agency who harassed me for several months but I stood my ground and said I was happy to go to court and for the whole story to come out. They gave up in the end.

BoffinMum Wed 28-Dec-11 23:03:29

You have different kinds of independent school. Some are proprietor-owned, run at a profit, bought and sold, and highly risky to get involved with. Some are charities and have boards of governors. Some are still run as businesses but have councils or similar bodies overseeing what the school does. It is always worth checking out accountability issues before signing on the dotted line.

ISI are not always hopeless but perhaps a bit toothless sometimes.

BoffinMum Wed 28-Dec-11 23:04:14

BTW in a school budget well over 90% of turnover goes on paying staff costs.

everlong Thu 29-Dec-11 10:24:47

Sounds very stressful for you and your ds.

Name the school. The head sounds very unprofessional.

onceinawhile Thu 29-Dec-11 17:45:13

I don't have any legal advice but wanted to offer my support in what I find a shocking set of circumstances. The things you allege the head to have said are outrageous, and could never be justified in any way. I think you ought to consider naming the school or at least telling people in which area it is so that for people in that area they can really dig deep before going for a certain school. Nobody should go through that in any school. Disgusting behaviour.

SophieJo Thu 29-Dec-11 18:05:52

I would not name the school or the area if I were you.

rainbowinthesky Thu 29-Dec-11 18:08:23

You would be stupid if you name the school.

everlong Thu 29-Dec-11 21:05:24

If me and my ds had been treated like the op says she has I wouldn't hesitate to name the school. I would want other parents to know about what had happened.

Millicano Thu 29-Dec-11 22:42:40

OP - sorry that you have had such a shte experience with this school.

In your shoes, I would do the following.
Write to the governors, detailing the timeline of inicidents, including the good points and the bad points. Dont slag the school off to the governors but make sure you get your points across.

secondly, in that letter, iw ould enclose q cheque for the remainder of the terms fees. i.e to december, i know this is not what you wanted and can understand that it will irk you no end to have to do this.

I would finish by saying that this, you feel is a fair offer, and make sure you state that you had many snide comments regatding not being able to afford fees blah blah and that the head acted in a most unprofessional and inapporpriate manner by trying to avoid the real reasons for you removing your son mid term.

I would hope that if you give the evidence of the heads behaviour - copies of correspondence etc it will embarass the school into accepting your offer.

sorry if this post is all mis spelt, i am on a laptop in bed, lying down haha!

BoffinMum Thu 29-Dec-11 22:49:02

I would avoid naming the school on here tbh. Runs the risk of compounding your problems.

pickledsiblings Fri 30-Dec-11 01:07:47

Millicano, I think your idea is a good one and that the OP should seriously consider it.

With regard to naming the school, it is best that the OP does that within her local community as those are the people that it will affect. Do bear in mind OP that there are still people for whom even a school as awful as this one sounds will be the right fit for one reason or another. Be careful not to alienate anyone as the children who are still at the school will be your DS's classmates again a little further down the line.

DameHannah Fri 30-Dec-11 08:44:08

As a general principle once a debt has been given to a debt collection agency the people/organisation who you originally owe the money to will not negotiate any further. But this is not a bad thing debt collections agencies are realists and ultimately have no particular feelings for the debtor and as I've already stated are looking for a quick fix. It is highly likely that they will accept one terms fees and also highly unlikely take her to court for the rest.
Also I have found that the governors (if they exist which I suspect they don't in this case) will side with the head unless of course they want him/her to go but if and its a big if the school is successful and over subscribed they are almost certainly going to stand by the head.

onaplanetwiththexmasfairies Fri 30-Dec-11 10:32:54

Many smaller independent schools use school fee specialist companies to ensure all unpaid fees are collected .They will have made sure contracts are watertight and will continue to fight for unpaid fees.
You say you cancelled the direct debit as it neded changing to a different amount but 'forgot' seems strange you didn't do the two things at the same time.
As for naming and shaming the school there are two sides to every story and I am sure you would be up in arms if the school decided to name and shame non payers on their website.

amerryscot Fri 30-Dec-11 12:04:35

The direct debits for school fees are flexible. They are not standing orders that are a fixed amount each month. They are flexible because of disbursements each term.

There is no need to cancel the direct debit because of a different level of school fees.

DoesntChristmasDragOn Fri 30-Dec-11 13:04:07

"There is no need to cancel the direct debit because of a different level of school fees."

And I don't believe that is what the OP did anyway. I think, as she said in the first post, she cancelled the DD because she "wasn't happy".

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Fri 30-Dec-11 13:16:03

I was about to say that, amerryscot.

In fact ALL direct debits are flexible and need no action from the payer for changes in the amounts paid. The payee can change the amount requested from the payer's bank at any time as long as they give the payer 14 days (I think) notice in writing of the change.

It is possible that the OP is using the wrong term and in fact was paying by standing order. This is most likely if she was paying directly to the school and not through a school fees finance provider. Most small schools would not be big enough to be a direct debit originator anyway.

Anyway, OP, I have to say that I agree with others that you signed a contract and it is unlikely you will be able to get out of paying the full fees for the notice period. The events that led to you takingyour DC out early really have no bearing on this contract. They are separate issues which should have been dealt with through the school's official grievance procedure. They have absolutely nothing to do with the financial contract you entered into.

If you insist on refusing to pay on this basis you will ne taken to court for recovery and you will lose. With all the extra costs that entails.

Sorry, I do sympathise with you over the way your DC was treated but you really must face the financial reality or you will find yourself seriously out of pocket. Never, ever go on an expensive legal crusade over an issue like this.

By all means make complaints to anyone you can and tell everyone you know about your experience, but you will never get anywhere if you try to link in the payment of fees to those issues.

Happygardening Fri 30-Dec-11 16:03:22

I think it is highly unlikely that the OP will be taken to court debt collecting agencies do not want that kind of agro. They also know that it is also highly likely that a court in in any pre court abitration hearing will take the view that as the OP has already made a reasonable offer and infact paid a sizable contribution (1 terms fees) towards the outstanding balance then there is no case to answer. Single mums especially if they are on any kind of benefit/tax credit etc are also viewed by the court as "vulnerable" and courts do not like organisations taking advantage of the vulnerable.

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Fri 30-Dec-11 16:14:50

That's incorrect information Happy. I know of one parent who was taken to court by the school for non payment of fees and was issued with a CCJ as a result. She was also a single parent. If it's the small claims court then there is no pre court arbitration hearing, the OP will be sent a form to fill in and she will not need to attend the court unless she contests.

DoesntChristmasDragOn Fri 30-Dec-11 16:31:24

What peaceofcake said. I also know a similar case.

Happygardening Fri 30-Dec-11 17:03:08

Before posting my comment I spoke to a friend who is a debt counsellor for the CAB I am unfamiliar with the small claims court and hence used the wrong terminology: on filling in the form pre hearing you are able to justify your actions and detail what you have done and this will be taken into consideration. Also as has already been stated by someone else every solicitor/debt collector will tell you you cant get money where it doesn't exist.
I know of at least four people who haven't been pursued through the court in very similar situations and one who has but that person was paying the fees through one of those organisations which collect them on behalf of the school from all parents paying by direct debit/standing order. These are different people to straight forward debt collectors.

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Fri 30-Dec-11 17:20:12

It's down to the decisions of the court who will look at the merits of each case. It's a gamble which doesn't always pay off Happy, the OP risks the court ruling against her which will increase the cost of the outstanding balance quite considerably and leave her with a CCJ on top. Just because you know people who have not been pursued it doesn't mean that the OP won't be. The people you know would have used a term time collections company, the company pay the school fees at the start of the term for that term and the parents pay the company per month with a small fee on top. I have knowledge of these set ups and they will instruct solicitors, go to the small claims court and instruct bailiffs. I used to work in law and have a LLB.

catsareevil Fri 30-Dec-11 17:51:42

The arguement of having no money to pay the debt is probably not going to be effective here, as the OP clearly has enough money to pay for her child to be attending an independent school at present.

amerryscot Fri 30-Dec-11 18:18:58

Independent schools have no qualms about taking debtors to court. They will not be fazed by this at all.

Happygardening Fri 30-Dec-11 18:23:18

I of course bow to those with superior knowledge ut the OP states that the debt has been given to a debt collection agency and my friend states that they are well known for 1. their reluctance to take people to court and 2. always open to a negotiation of the amount owned particularly if promt payment is offered.

PeaceofCakeAndGoodWineToAllMN Fri 30-Dec-11 18:26:13

The OP doesn't state which one though Happy. If she doesn't pay the full up then they will send the debt back to the school, the school can then issue a summonds. It's not a great idea to offer advice on the basis that you've known a few people who have escaped paying fees when, in reality, a lot more have not.

Happygardening Fri 30-Dec-11 18:50:07

Again I bow to your superior knowledge.

SophieJo Sat 31-Dec-11 15:31:54

The outcome is inevitable.

Rocky12 Tue 03-Jan-12 18:44:55

Having had years of paying private school fees I find the whole story most strange. If the school was run like a dicatorship why on earth does it have a waiting list. Think the OP should pay what they owe and move on - think she is trying to make a point - I didnt like the school so I refuse to pay up. HM is the b**ch from hell so lets make it all about her. If the OP had some problems the school policy documents are clear. I am told every term what I need to do if I have an issue, class teacher, head of year and then Head. The OP seems to have got this chip on her shoulder about the HM having it 'in for her' and is now planning to write to all and sundry. Why didnt they take it one step at a time when the issues started to arise.

And I really dont think as one poster suggested that it is because she is a single parent. Its because she stopped paying the school fees...

Pay up according to what you signed up to and then move on. If your son is now happy in his school just let it be.

sunnydelight Wed 04-Jan-12 11:34:41

You need to pay according to your contractual obligations otherwise the school has every legal right to seek to recover what they are owed - your dissatisfaction with the school has nothing to do with it I'm afraid, though it does seem a rather odd place!

BoffinMum Thu 05-Jan-12 07:27:14

Rocky, that's not always true, I am afraid. Some independent schools are indeed run like silly little fiefdoms with toothless governors failing to control heads properly. And some independent schools play a game of marketing smoke and mirrors to disguise their adverse selection policies and lack of ability to offer differentiated education or culturally inclusive education. Single parents are indeed sometimes actively discriminated against, more so if they are first time users of independent education, are from a minority ethnic group, have a regional accent, have a non-professional job or just don't 'fit' with the main parent body. It is shocking what goes on in some independent schools behind closed doors, and I can well believe that she has experienced problems beyond her control. However it is important that she coughs up as otherwise she'll have bailiffs on her doorstep.

grafit Thu 05-Jan-12 09:20:04

pay the fees, move on and chalk it up. You sound well out of it.

redridingwolf Thu 05-Jan-12 09:32:57

What a horrible woman the headmistress is. Absolutely horrible behaviour.

A term's notice standard unfortunately. My aunt and uncle removed their child from a school due to problems with the head and did manage to get out of the notice requirement although I'm not sure how.

DeWe Thu 05-Jan-12 09:59:39

This is one of the OPs where the story may be completely true, or the head is completely in the clear or (most likely) the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

If you potentially look at it from the other side you have a parent who apparently is fine at the school until they express concern about the behaviour. She gets defensive, as a lot of parents do when behaviour is criticized, and promptly withdraws school fees, as far as I can tell from the OP without giving any reason. After half a term she realised she's going to be asked to pay so pulls the child out without saying anything.

Surely school fees are due before the start of term? I've never come across a school that doesn't require them up front. In which case the direct debit for September was cancelled before all this came up anyway?

The not able to get dressed thing I can also see as done in an entirely non malicious way as I've used it myself. I had 4 5yo (friends of dd1) to change hurriedly after school for another activity once. After 5 minutes when they hadn't made any progress I expressed doubt they could dress themselves at all. They told me they could, I told them I didn't believe them and left. 5 minutes later they were all changed, very pleased with themselves saying "told you so"!

As I said the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. But complaining to Ofsted or Governors will get nowhere unless there are other similar complaints or some factual evidence, which as far as I can see the only evidence will be the withdrawing of the money which is on the Head's side. Ofsted and govenors will put it down to an awkward parent trying to get out of paying, and rightly so. Because otherwise a head could find themselves in problems from one unhapy parent making up vicious lies. (not saying that is in this case but talking generally)

BoffinMum Thu 05-Jan-12 10:12:40

I think that's very wise ... ultimately the school and parent do not fit at all, for whatever reason, and it's important to move on like we are all saying.

TwoPinkShoes Thu 05-Jan-12 16:54:05

No right at all to withhold school fees.

You are under obligation to pay for last term and this term - although if you are reasonable in your approach, you may be able to negotiate a little of it.

But you ought to understand you are jeopardising your current school relationship. If you look through whatever paperwork you signed when you joined this new school, you will most likely find a clause stating that you have no outstanding debts at another school. All it takes if for one of the heads to find out and they'll be on the phone to each other.... That does happen!!

Op, from the info given, you need to pay up and move on.

We were unhappy with dd's previous school and gave late notice. We were able to get away with only half the next term's fees after letters from school's lawyers were met with tough negotiations.

The school was able to offer the compromise because we had documented discussions about our concerns, letters etc. And were able to show clearly that despite following proper procedure, issues weren't addressed.

Pay up. Move on.

dramafluff Wed 11-Jan-12 16:52:43

Hi all. I found the op and huge number of comments a little difficult to wade through so apologies if I have not got this quite right.

My understanding of the situation is as follows (I am not trying to be antagonistic, but clinical - so please bear with me if it seems like I have brushed ops concerns or the type of contact under the carpet - I have put bracketed parts in to try and get points across).

1. Child enters school late in Spring term.
2. Because of age, child is to be monitored during summer term and then parent will be informed of progress.
3. School contacts parent with a 'satisfactory' report. (this may not have been in the format you would have liked, but it sounds as if this is standard and yo uhave certainly not been treated to anyone else).
4. Child starts new class with a new set of children.
5. School alerts parent of behavioural concerns via a note and asks for a meeting. This is attended by Headmistress and Class teacher (this is perfectly normal - 'he said/she said' has become the norm and in order to prevent any conflict of understanding what was said in a meeting it is common place to have another member of staff. If the school chooses that to be the head, so be it. A Head often cannot predict exactly when they will be free as things come up and the fact she was 20 minutes late is irritating, but irrelevant). The head informs the parent forcefully that the child is disruptive and that his behaviour/attitude needs to change or the parent will be wasting her money. (This may be unpalatable, but she was trying to be blunt in telling you that he was not getting anything out of class. Also as you were not in the classroom you really have no idea just how bad behaviour was. Nobody wants to think our child is being a horror, but it might have been true. As you say - needs longer to settle in could have been the reason, new children in the class, not being able to cope as well as you thought with Yr 1 as opposed to Reception, he was upset by your moving....the list goes on. The school were actually very proactive in contacting you so soon).
6. No fees are paid for September and October as Direct Debit is withheld - in effect, the fees for the term are outstanding and late in accordance with the school contract.
7. A note is sent home about homework which had not been done. Parent disputes this and the homework 'turns up'. (You were upset by this but you did not make a complaint or raise it as a concern)
8. Son comes home upset because he has not been allowed to dress himself. (If there is a class of kids getting changed it does need to be done quickly and it could well be the children were being chivvied along. As you say, he is only 5 and you have only his word that he was called a liar - that is in effect what you are saying - and no witnesses. You do not make a complaint about this, or contact the school raising it as a concern).
9. Son wets himself as he was not allowed to go to the toilet (this is entirely possible - BUT - you do not know whether he had recently been allowed to go, or the circumstances. Again, you did not raise this as a complaint or an area of concern with the school).
10. 2 letter are written tot he school by the parent giving reasons for withdrawing the child from school. The first is acknowledged by a phone call (whether you agree with it or not, she did respond by ringing you. Did you ring back following her message? Did you keep the rude message so that you can transcript it and use it as a complaint? Was your second letter responded to? You say she responded rudely but I am unclear as to whether it was another phone call or a letter. The fact is you had made no complaints up to this stage whatsoever to the school and had withdrawn your son without paying any fees. The head may well have been outrageous in accusing you of simply not wanting or being unable to pay, but the simple fact is this is a number one get out of paying tactic and it is only natural she assumed this to be the case. I am afraid she has a point about moving him mid-term when you have only just moved house and school - no school would have thought nay different. However you say he is happy now so that is excellent news).

Now we get down to the crux of this op - which is, I believe, can I get out of paying fees/how much should I pay. As I say - I am trying to be cold and clinical here.

Honestly, you don't have a leg to stand on. At no point (from what I can make out) have you raised a formal written complaint about any of the things vexing/worrying you in relation to contact from the school/treatment of your child until you wrote a letter after withdrawal. You are not satisfied with the school's response to your withdrawal letter but have not done anything about this. You have not followed what will be a written down formal complaints procedure. You have left it a further 2 months before thinking about it.

As things stand you can expect to receive a final invoice which will show a brought forward balance for the whole of last term's fees, fees in lieu of notice (as per the contract you will have signed) for next term and a refund against these charges of any deposit paid (usually). And you will have to pay it.

The only way you can try and limit financial damage here is to retrace your steos and do things properly. Construct some sort of diary of events. This should be unemotional, detatched and factual (as previous posters have said).

Contact the school, in writing, requesting a copy of the school's formal complaints procedure as well as any relevant policies concerning child care for pre-reception, reception and year 1 and the contact details for the chairman of governors. Politely request that this is received with 10 days.

When you have this, study the policies and see if there are any breaches you can identify and then write a letter enclosing your 'evidence' (diary) listing, in detail, your precise grievances. Some of the things you have raised, while an unprofessional way to deal with someone in my view, are simply not a valid reason for witholding fees.

You will likely be asked to attend a hearing which will usually contain a panel of 3 people - the head, chairman of governors and an independent person. You will likely be invited to take someone with you if you so wish. Your complaints will be heard. The chairman of the meeting will then consider things and write to you with their verdict.

From what you have told us, that is likely to be that they do not find any fault on the school's part from your complaints. You can write back disputing the findings and offer, as a gesture of goodwill and without prejudice, to pay the fees for the Autumn term, but to have that reduced by any deposit paid and to have the fees in lieu of notice waived. They are not obliged to agree, but you can ask.

I am so glad that your son is happy in his new school and I hope the staff there have better manners than the one you have left!

dramafluff Wed 11-Jan-12 16:56:18

My god - I typed that too quickly - littered with typos and spellos - apologies all!

TwoPinkShoes Wed 11-Jan-12 23:26:06

I'm not sure you've added anything, Dramafluff? As you'd know it you'd read any replies. All those policies will be ones the OP has already seen (as she's signed them) or can download them in an instant from the school's website. She ought not be be demanding them now, unless she wants to appear a if she can't read or understand what she's signed.... They'll also be mightily similar to what she's now signed on her new school and I invite her again to check the small print as there will be a clause about outstanding debts and she is therefore jeopardising her child's education.

EdithWeston Thu 12-Jan-12 07:09:47

I think dramafluff has done a good job in exposing how weak OP's case is. OP admitted higher up the thread that she could not locate and had not used the school's grievance procedure.

Unlike TheGrimSweeper, she does not appear to have the evidence needed.

dramafluff Thu 12-Jan-12 15:45:22

Hi TwoPinkShoes

I disagree. If the op is genuinely going to try and get some financial limitation on what she will inevitably have to pay (and in my opinion it is not worth it, but that is not my decision, that is the question she asked), she will have to ask - she is not demanding and it does not have to be in an aggressive way - for the school's complaints procedure and follow it. Anyone who attempts to dispute school fees who has not done this will be laughed out of court and any attempt at a partial admission or a complete defence on a court claim will be dismissed with judgement being made. It will also be worth the op studying her terms and ocnditions with the school again. A number of schools have not updated their terms and conditions in some years and older contracts which do not actually state that they reserve the right to pass on information concerning any outstanding debt to other schools will actually find themselves in a pretty sticky situation if they do. There is no question that quiet telephone calls between heads and bursars, rather than an official contact, might be made in any case of course. Has to be worth checking. I would also say that if there are no fees outstanding to the current school, they are unlikely to be all that bothered about what has happened elsewhere in a 'previous life'. They would not have grounds to do anything at all in terms of suspending the child, only (if they would and I don't think it would happen) to perhaps let the op know that they are aware. The op should expect absolutely no slack whatsoever in the area of late payment of fees to the current school if they are aware that there is an existing debt elsewhere. They may however be wary about the ops approach to any small areas of disagreement or dispute and there is, certainly, a risk of being seen as a trouble maker in terms of school disputes.

mummytippy Mon 16-Jan-12 15:08:59

Well thank you everyone for your comments.

I would like to point out that all the problems I experienced with the school are genuine and at no point did I not intend paying for the time my child attended the school. I only wish is that none of the incidents had happened, and my son would still be there. The last thing I wanted to do after a house move was unsettle him again.
I'd like to assure everyone I certainly did not take the 'behaviour' comments from the head 'personally', I was genuinely shocked and initially presented a united front where now with hindsight I should have given notice. I did feel the 'twitching' was not a behaviour concern but a concentration issue.
I was making monthly payments by Standing Order and not by Direct Debit (sorry my I made a mistake here) and when the amount increased I needed to change the payment but as I wasn't entirely happy and was preoccupied with a house move, I'll be honest it wasn't my first priority.

Since my last posting on here, I sent a cheque to cover the period up to which i withdrew my son (Sept and Oct £ 784.72 on the 19th December) and asked in view of the circumstances, the head to please accept it. I've been monitoring my bank account and keeping a eye on my post for some form of communication from the school.

Today I received a County Court Summons (dated 11th January 2012) for more than the original amount which was being requested... and still have not had any correspondence from the Head.

Despite not complaining in the correct way (as Dramafluff and others pointed out) at no point have I meant to be un-reasonable.
I removed my child as he was seriously unhappy and I felt that the school failed him both through lack of care and the standard of the education.

I feel that the head is being completely unreasonable here (in not communicating with me and simply having a court summons issued despite me forwarding payment).

In my opinion the school seriously failed my son... and as the head told me in her very rude answer phone message, she had a child for my son's place... the school will not suffer financially.

I am going to visit the local citizen's advice bureau tomorrow as the head appears to be acting as though I haven't even sent my payment.

The letter and cheque were went by Recorded Delivery.

Any thoughts or advice now would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance.

larrygrylls Mon 16-Jan-12 15:41:35


I suspect it is going to be a difficult one for you to win. And, to do so, I think that you need to be a LOT more proactive about it.

This is a civil case in contract law. They are claiming that under the terms of the contract, you owe X sum of money. You are claiming that the school failed to fulfil their obligations under the contract. Firstly, I would withhold fees not only for the period your son missed (unless they have cashed them already) on the basis that, during this period, the school failed to provide an adequate education to your son under ITS contractual obligations. That will at least leave you room to negotiate without paying all the fees and leaves room for you to find an honourable solution as a compromise, that being your original proposition of paying the fees to the date that your son left.

If I were you I would contact a solicitor and get him/her to craft a good letter stating exactly how you feel that the school failed to meet its obligations under the contract and what you expect in return. This should be as factual and evidenced as possible. You would also want to try to marry it up to the official complaints procedure. I.E If you demanded a meeting even informally, you could say that it was clearly a complaint under section whatever of the contract. They would of course say it wasn't. But, law is never that black and white and a clever lawyer will create shades of grey for you. What you are after is a situation where the school is more fearful, for its reputation among other things, of you than you are of it. At this point you can offer an ex gratia settlement of fees to the date he left and they will (hopefully) bite your hand off.

I am not a lawyer so the above is just my opinion. What I am sure of is that the CAB will be of little use and that, if you do nothing, you will end up being made to pay in court. You either do battle or decide discretion is the better part of valour and pay up.

mummytippy Mon 16-Jan-12 17:29:00

Thank you Larrygrylls,

I understand that the CAB can sometimes be a waste of time in that they don't specialise so I will contact a solicitor and see if they can send a letter as you suggest.
I do not actually have a copy of a contract from the school... and the only reference to the school's grievance procedure is in a newsletter where it simply states 'there were no complaints this term'... (term prior to my son joining the school).
I did have another meeting with my son's class teacher a few weeks later where I made it clear I wasn't happy about my son being labelled 'naughty'.
I genuinely believe that the Head singled both myself and my son out and made things so bad so that I would withdraw him.
Also when my son joined his new school they carried out a couple of basic assessments and said they were shocked to see he couldn't even hold his pencil correctly and that there were high frequency words they believed he should know and didn't... Evidence which backs up my decision to move him.

I am appalled and think it's really unprofessional that the head hasn't even had the decency to acknowledge receipt of my payment and has simply had a CCS issued against me. It makes me feel that it was only ever the money she was interested in?

The head is known for being difficult... and I've genuinely struggled to communicate with her on the occasions I tried to speak to her. When I expressed my concerns at the early meeting she simply talked over the top of me when all I was trying to do was discuss the best way forward.

Anyway, thank you again for your time. I will see if I can find a solicitor and keep you informed.

Heswall Mon 16-Jan-12 17:40:55

I can tell you about a friend of mines experience with a prep school. She had her daughter in the nursery which feeds into the prep school and when she removed the child and sent her to the state school in reception she recieved a bill she wasn't expecting.
The head suggested that my friend should have given a terms notice of her intention to leave. My friend said that the terms applied to the school not the nursery and since she hadn't started for the main school no notice was required.
Anyway a solicitor took on my friends case, cost her £250 - the school wanted £2300, his advice was that most parents would buckle under the threat of legal action and just pay up, private school parents tend to do as they are told apparently when faced with solicitors letters.
Your school OP will be hoping they intimidate you into paying up, it's up to you if you think it's work incurring the court costs, but don't assuming you will loose, my friend didn't. The judge ruled unfair contract terms and threw the case out.

mummytippy Mon 16-Jan-12 18:30:00

Thank you Heswall,

I'm sorry to hear about your friend and it would seem they were billed on 'assumption' which is most definitely wrong.
I think you are right that the school's simply think they can threaten and intimidate parents and scare them into paying up.
In my case, with the fact I have now sent payment for the time my son was there, I am simply contesting the notice period.
The fact is, my son would still be at the school had they treated him properly!!!
In addition to everything I actually feel the Head I'm dealing with told me she has a child to fill my son's place just to aggravate the situation further.

Thank you for your advice, I will contact a solicitor as I feel this could quite easily happen to someone else.

Heswall Mon 16-Jan-12 18:38:34

If they have filled the place then they have suffered no loss, worth mentioning to the solicitor too. Heck it might not work and if it doesn't offer to pay them in full at a pound per week.

LadySybilDeChocolate Mon 16-Jan-12 18:39:50

It's good that she's filled your child's place, it shows that she has not suffered an economic loss. This goes in your favour.

mummytippy Mon 16-Jan-12 20:27:29

Thanks Heswall and LadySDC,

I hope it does help and truly that things go in my favour. I have the voice recording of the head saying as much. The whole thing has been a nightmare... now I just need to find a good solicitor who will simply write me a good letter... and hopefully justice will be done.

Thanks again.

dramafluff Tue 17-Jan-12 08:51:31

Hi again - can I ask if the school cashed your cheque? If they did, then rightly or wrongly in some cases that can be used in legal action as showing that they accepted that as settlement. Did you send a covering letter with that cheque? Sorry to keep banging on about it, but you must get hold of a copy of the terms and conditions etc by requesting it in writing. Any solicitor you go to will need to see it in any case.

Glad to hear he is doing so much better, but whatever the new school says to you, it is unlikely they will want to write any kind of supporting statement for your case - they might of course, you can only ask....

Regardless of what a crap head this previous school seems to have, my experience in this area tells me your case is not great, but not hopeless. Heswall's comment is interesting that school's buckle if they get a solicitor's letter - they don't. Most are covered under recovery schemes and it will all be dealt with for them. HOWEVER - not always the case, particularly in a small school. Did you get a statutory notice of 14 days and 7 days warning you of court action? If not, you should put in a defence (take legal advice if you wish) stating that no notice was given of their intention to sue and that you are disputing the amount due because..... it is VERY important that you respond in a timely way to the court papers - if you do not, judgement will automatically be made against you and then it is a real mess to sort out afterwards. The amount being more than the original fees is standard. A County Court Summons will always include the statutory filing costs and statutory interest.

Reading your last post again I believe they have NOT cashed your cheque, but have not written to you either to explain why. Well worth putting that on the claim form as well if that is the case saying that you have offered payment for the period of attendance.

The result with a solicitor involved on the parental side is often that middle ground will be agreed on and you will still end up paying something. I still do not think (but good luck!) that you will get out of paying any more than you have offered and think you will have to pay. In this case it appears the Head is certainly taking things personally and will see taking it through to the bitter end as a personal vendetta.

When responding to the CCS try not to write an essay - bulleted points that are clear and concise are usually much better.

Keep us posted.

dramafluff Tue 17-Jan-12 08:54:24

Heswall - apologies - I misread your post - PARENTS buckling under pressure - very true because 9 times out of 10 the school fee recovery scheme offers them infinite advice and legal assistance that parents cannot afford.

LadySybilDeChocolate Tue 17-Jan-12 11:34:56

Sorry drama but under contract law the part payment of a debt doesn't mean that they have accepted a settlement. They can still sue for the rest. This is different if the part payment has been paid by a third party though.

dramafluff Tue 17-Jan-12 13:40:48

That is absolutely true LadySybil (GREAT name btw!!!) - but we have always been advised by our lawyers NOT to bank a part payment cheque as this can damage our case if we then carry on. Just quoting from my experience was all. It certainly doesn't mean they HAVE accepted settlement, but it can make their case slightly more difficult and elongate things.

dramafluff Tue 17-Jan-12 13:44:06

I should have been more specific however - I asked mummy if she had sent in a covering letter explaining what the payment was for. If she had done so (i.e. here's a cheque but it is only for the time my child was at school) it can be taken as having been offered in full and final settlement. In banking the cheque, courts have concluded in the past that the contract between the parties i.e. by making the offer in the letter (which was accepted by banking the cheque), the parties had settled the debt that was owing at the lower amount tendered. Pushing it granted, but it may be an option IF mummy wrote enclosing the cheque.

conorsrockers Tue 17-Jan-12 15:25:57

That is outrageous. Apart from anything else no teacher at my DC's prep would ever call a child naughty.
Basic psychology.
This woman needs to be highlighted. I would go through their complaint procedures, governors etc... and seek the advice of a lawyer - I am sure there is something that can be brought against the school in countersuit. If the governors think it is going to cost money and potentially bring bad publicity they could settle for the rest of the terms fees. Are you friendly with any parents from the school? What do they think of it, and the head? I am guessing you don't want to name the school!
The fact that your son is now happy and doing well is great. It just goes to prove that just because you are paying - doesn't make it a good school.

dramafluff Tue 17-Jan-12 16:14:37

How true conorsrockers paying does not make a good school. The school makes a good school and the way it treats its parents and pupils is definitely a part of it.

mummytippy Wed 18-Jan-12 12:48:18

Thank you again for taking your time to reply.

Firstly, yes when I sent the letter to the school with my cheque, I enclosed a letter outlining what the payment was made up of and asked politely that it be accepted as full and final settlement in view of the circumstances.
The cheque has not been cashed.

I have received nothing from the school by way of acknowledgement of this letter, contact or letter... and then received a court summons. I did send the letter and cheque by recorded delivery and the signature provided by Royal Mail is (C Court) which correct me if I'm wrong could mean County Court?!

I have had a brief discussion with a solicitor over the telephone and have an appointment to see him tomorrow morning.
I am to obviously take everything I possess in relation to paperwork and diary of events plus the voice message recording left by the head the on my mobile phone.

I stressed to him that I feel think I'm being bullied and that the head has certainly not responded to me in a professional way and therefore I've not been allowed to resolve the important issue of how my son was treated through the school's lack of care. I explained that my feeling is the Head seems purely fixed on getting money and is ignoring my complaints full-stop.
I also gave him the name of the school... as I told him I don't possess a copy of a contract or details of how to complain/grievance procedure.

To clarify, my cheque covered the period to which I removed my son... so the difference is the notice period... although this amount has now increased and there is no detail as to what the difference is made up of as it's simply detailed on the summons.

I am hoping that he can put the facts together and also convey my feelings to the judge in the way that emphasises how badly the head has handled things.

Again I reiterate that had none of the poor treatment happened my son would still be at the school.

dramafluff Thu 19-Jan-12 12:43:54

Just wanted to get an understanding is all. If they have not banked the cheque then they have not accepted the settlement. So that's clear now.

I think you should mention that you did not get any warning of legal action.

If the solicitor is going to act for you then perhaps you can ask HIM to request a copy of the contract and grievance procedures as you have felt too 'harassed' or some other useful word to request these yourself given the lack of communication and rudeness of any you have received since removing your son.

The increase in cost will be the final invoice plus statutory costs and interest I imagine.

How did your meeting go?

mummytippy Fri 20-Jan-12 14:07:32

Thank you Dramafluff,

The meeting went well with the solicitor thank you and as you've pointed out he is going to ask for a copy of the contract and complaints procedure on my behalf for the very reasons you've stated. The relationship had broken down too much for me ask for these items myself.

He said it's pretty clear that you should give a term's notice but there's been no evidence to back how the head is able to pursue me for a term and a half (son withdrawn at Oct half-term).

He also said it was a very poor show that there had been no acknowledgement of my cheque sent on the 19th Dec, or correspondence to inform me it wasn't acceptable and therefore legal proceedings were now underway.

He said the whole matter has been dealt with in a very under hand manner, that my complaints have been brushed aside in pursuit of the head's intention to get paid regardless.

He said I have an arguable case as the voice message left by the head says she has a child for my son's place, which mitigates her financial losses.
He also said at the most the notice period should run to next half-term and not the end of the next term.

He also said that there is no way of knowing what the amount on the summons is made up of (increased figure) and on working it out at the rate of standard interest being added to the original amount, it is incorrect.

He is going to try to negotiate with the solicitors acting for the school/head... stressing they be reasonable in view of the circumstances and the fact is neither side wants costs spiraling out of control as they cannot be claimed back from the other party.

The school my son attends now is going to prepare a letter confirming my financial stance with them and importantly they are also going to have my son's class teacher supply a report on the findings of her basic educational assessment of my son when he joined the school (without prejudice).

The solicitor cannot give me any guarantee... and I stressed I don't have money to throw at this but I have to pursue this matter to a certain point
and make a stand as it would be terrible for anyone else's child to go through any of this.

I have my fingers crossed, Thanks again.

mummytippy Fri 20-Jan-12 14:09:32

Point to mention... When the solicitor said it's pretty clear you should give a term's notice... he said that as that's the general rule for most independent schools... not because I have anything in hand.

Xenia Fri 20-Jan-12 14:37:16

What an awful way to treat you boy (and not typical of most schools). It might worry the school if your solicitor mentions that you will obviously be fully reporting the facts in public unless they write off the debt and that you fully reserve your rights on behalf of your son to sue the head for psychological damage to the boy if they persist with the claim and that that claim will be well in excess of what they have sued you for. Also they should not have sued without a final warning.

EdithWeston Fri 20-Jan-12 16:45:58

If you follow Xenia's advice, them you will be laying yourself open to blackmail charges. I think that would be unwise, your case is weak already (as you made no attempt to follow the grievance procedure - see TheGrimSweeper's post of 5 Jan, she won only because she had and could demonstrate that).

I am also a bit concerned about you choice of solicitor. He is giving you advice including a non-standard interpretation of a full term when he hasn't even seen the contract. Has he actually handled a case like this before?

Xenia Fri 20-Jan-12 17:50:58

In every dispute in the land you apply lateral thinking and commercial issues, not just legal ones. YOu don't have to say I go to the press unless you back down but you can certainly imply it. I was just suggesting thinking about those other issues.Many many disputes are settled even if one person is not in the right.

mummytippy Sat 21-Jan-12 13:13:22

@Edithweston, The solicitor has dealt and won cases which have been similar but related to care homes... lack of care/breach of contract.
He has said my case is not dissimilar, but as you say (and he's aware) needs to see a copy of the contract. He actually suspects there isn't one and that the two sentences on the admission form I completed after my son had started at the school are probably it.
The main point he's going to raise is that not only was I not given a detailed contract but I also wasn't given details of the school's complaint/grievance procedure, so how could I follow it. Also, when I initially wrote to the Head she didn't give me alternative guidelines on this so I could only presume I'd done the correct thing.
He feels the school may well be in breach of contract through the way they have behaved towards my son whilst in their lack of care so it really is a two-way matter.

@Xenia, The solicitor says the psychological treatment of my son does come into it from the point of view that this is the main reason I withdrew my son from the school in the first place in addition to the poor education he received.

He's in agreement that the Head should have at least tried to resolve my complaints instead of ''ignoring'' them in saying that they are accusations to simply not have to pay.

All I can do is hope that some justice comes from all of this as this Head must learn that she cannot treat children or their parents this way. It is simply wrong.

Thanks for your time.

Xenia Sat 21-Jan-12 14:29:44

If you just argue these points even if you wouldn't win them in court they may back down. The school may be in breach of contract because of what they did to the boy and if they fear you have a counterclaim which is bigger than their claim (and that is not blackmail - it is normal practice and lawful to bring a counterclaim when one exists) they may well back down.

Presumably the sum in dispute is under £5k and is a "small claim" which means if it went to court neither side could claim costs against the other in most cases so really realyl silly anyone is having to spend a penny on lawyers' fees in these kind of tiny cases. (Tiny in terms of compared to bigger cases, not tiny if you're having to pay it).

dramafluff Mon 23-Jan-12 16:01:08

Thanks for the update mummy - I look forward to hearing how things progress.

dramafluff Thu 02-Feb-12 14:19:12

I just wondered if you had heard anything from the solicitor or the school.

QTPie Fri 03-Feb-12 04:57:37

Mummytippy, did you not sign a contract before your DS joined the school? If you didn't, then you won't be liable for the notice period. If the school can produce a signed copy of the contract....

(when we signed DS's contract it included the notice period and an outline of the complaints/grievance procedure.... But maybe our school is more organised).

I would expect the school to have a solicitor working for gratis (they normally have their ways...): so pursuing in the SCC won't cost them anything.

mummytippy Sun 12-Feb-12 22:10:43

@ Dramafluff,
Thank you for asking how things are going...
I found out that the school took twins (boy and girl) and a girl into the class my son was in. I forwarded this info to my solicitor a couple of weeks ago and am hoping to hear from him very soon. According to him the school has more than mitigated its loss (in taking three children on roll) so hopefully this will help my case... fingers crossed. Once I know more I will post an update. Thank you.
@ Qtpie, I signed an admissions/contact form a week after my son had started at the school which basically had (in very small writing) 'Terms notice required or fees in lieu of notice'.
My arguement is that I couldn't give notice because my son was receiving such poor treatment I had to remove him with immediate effect. I would rather him have been treated properly and still be at the school. I hope this clarifies. Thank you.

EdithWeston Sun 12-Feb-12 22:18:58

The stumbling block in the case remains that you cannot demonstrate that you sought redress (eg by pursuing all normal channels). Has your solicitor been able to advise you on that weakness in your position now that you will have been able to furnish him with the contract and any other relevant documents?

mummytippy Sun 12-Feb-12 23:52:40

@ Edith Weston, The complaints procedure of the school is to write to the head which I did, but my concerns were not addressed. Instead I have simply been persued for money. The solicitor has been checking on the contract side of things... but so far he believes the contact/admission form is the only thing close to one. Many Thanks.

EdithWeston Mon 13-Feb-12 10:03:10

I thought from the above that you wrote after you had stopped paying, and that is what I see as the weakness in your case.

mummytippy Mon 13-Feb-12 11:54:41

@EdithWeston, I complained in the letter I sent during October half term (28/10/2011). Here I also gave notice with immediate effect. At this point fees for Sept and October were outstanding. I sent a cheque to cover these fees in December but my cheque wasn't banked or acknowledged. Two weeks later I received a court summons.

EdithWeston Mon 13-Feb-12 12:00:21

Giving notice in October, as the notice period is a full term (not two halves), means you owe up to Easter 2012.

As you do not appear to have written to the school, as per grievance procedure, you have a weakness in your case as you cannot show you exhausted all avenues for redress within the contract before breaking it.

mummytippy Mon 13-Feb-12 17:16:59

@EdithWeston, Thank you for your reply.
The letter I received from the debt collection agency amounted to fees up to Easter as you've said.
I checked via Ofsted's website on the grievance procedure on the school and it is to put complaints in writing to the head. Prior to my son leaving, I did complain to my son's class teacher verbally too which has been documented by my solititor. I understand what you are saying, but sadly as my relationship had deteriorated so much with the head in her manner towards me...and so many terrible things happened to my son over such a short space of time I had no option but to make the complaint formal at the point of withdrawing him. I wasted time giving the staff the benefit of my doubt and presenting a united front. As the head's response was concentrated on her assumption I couldn't afford the school fees and that she believes this was my 'real' reason for removing my son (and the complaints are an excuse to get out of paying!) the fact my son now attends another fee paying school should go in my favour. Also, I'm sure you've read the previous posts... but the fact 3 more children have started at the school since my son left means she has more than mitigated her loss which has also been documented by my solicitor. Thanks again.

mummytippy Mon 13-Feb-12 17:19:13

Also... In terms of breaking my agreement the solicitor is certain the school has broken theirs towards my son in the way in which he was treated.

MollieO Mon 13-Feb-12 19:02:25

It would help your case re mitigation of loss if you can show that one of the new dcs took your ds's place. The fact that three new pupils have started is meaningless if the school had space on the roll. Eg if the school roll max is 200 and there were 197 on the roll including your ds then adding three more doesn't help you. If there were 198 then adding three does help you as they couldn't have taken one of the new pupils if your ds hadn't left.

What steps is your solicitor planning to take next?

mummytippy Mon 13-Feb-12 19:48:37

@MollieO, Thanks for your message. I should be speaking to my solicitor tomorrow.
As far as places go at the school I'm not sure of the total number of children allowed on the roll in total. All I know is there's a waiting list.
My son was allowed to enrol as a child which was in his class had had a serious accident and couldn't return to school as a result.
I have a voice message from the head telling me that ''she has a child to fill my ds's place...'' which I've given to my solicitor. I've also learned the class size is now 25, which some of the parents are unhappy about. Seems large for an independant school... and in contrast the class size where my ds is now is 12 including him.

MollieO Mon 13-Feb-12 20:01:56

They should have a maximum number in the class they are happy with. 25 seems high for pre-prep. In pre-prep ds's class varied between 13 and 16. There is a stipulated maximum of 20 but the school was under-subscribed in his year. A school I visited last week had 20 in a class and that was the maximum they take.

LaughingGas Mon 13-Feb-12 20:27:27

25 in a`pre prep!


in the indie schools my dc have attended class sizes have never exceeded 16 right through the years

mummytippy Mon 13-Feb-12 21:01:15

My son is still in contact with some friends he made at the school... and myself their mums, and they're very annoyed with this. The fact the classes are large is another indicator that I feel the head is ''in it'' more for the money more than anything else.
Incidentally, since my son started at his new school he's been taking occasional extra lessons (instead of assembly) with the school's Senco. This has made me so cross in that my son's needs were definitely not meet at the other school. Makes me think ''quantity not quality'' from an enrolement point of view.

LaughingGas Mon 13-Feb-12 21:13:51

you deffo did the right thing in moving your son.

Fingers crossed for the solicitor stuff too

mummytippy Mon 13-Feb-12 21:42:52

Thanks LaughingGas, I'll keep you posted x.

mumat39 Tue 14-Feb-12 22:47:21

Hello Mummytippy

I read through the whole of this thread over the last couple of days and just wanted to wish you lots of luck and I really hope the outcome goes your way.

I am so so horrified at the treatment that your little boy received whilst at that school. I'm still in shock that a 5 year old would have been penalised for fidgeting. Surely there is a kinder way to encourage children to do what they're told. If that school thinks that the best way to teach children is to bully them into submission, then you really are well out of it.

Also, the way that the dragon treated you!!! The class teacher doesn't sound any better. I'm all for discipline and believe that kids need rules and actually benefit from structure. But to deny a young child the opportunity to go to the toilet is just out of order. I was so angry at the way he was treated.

Surely if a child needs some extra help, bullying them and making them feel small isn't going to help them.

Just out of interest, I'm really really surprised that as the contract goes both ways, i.e. between you and the school, that the fact that the school did not properly care for your ds surely means that they somehow defaulted on their side of the agreement. Maybe you shouldn't have withheld the payment, but I am surprised that private schools are well within their rights to expect payment even if they haven't provided the level of care that you'd expect from a private school. We're considering an independent school for our DD and I haven't even considered that they might not look after her in a caring and kind way. I really hope that the school that you were unfortunate to experience is not the norm when it comes to independent schools.

I really do wish you well and am so so happy to hear that your DS is doing well and being given the right level of support and care that he needs and deserves. I also really hope that you do manage to report the monster of a head and the school to the relevant authorities. I'd hate to think that she is getting away with this kind of mental abuse of other children. People like her shouldn't be allowed to work with children!

Good Luck and apologies for my rant and any typos or silly errors.

dramafluff Wed 15-Feb-12 11:37:15

How did your meeting go yesterday mummy?

dramafluff Mon 27-Feb-12 10:29:01

Just wondered whether you have had any progress yet or responses to your solicitor?

mummytippy Tue 28-Feb-12 21:22:41

Hello... Just a quick update and thank you mumat39 for your patience in reading the entire thread! I've not had anything ''concrete'' back from my solicitor as yet... hoping to in the next few days as I e-mailed him again today.

Thank you for your support... as soon as I have any news I shall let you know. Thank you x

mummytippy Fri 09-Mar-12 12:36:41

Hi there,

Sorry... I've had so much on I feel I've neglected the post.

My solicitor initially asked the school's solicitor to forward a copy of the contract which the school haven't yet done (It would seem the two lines quoted on the invoice stand for a contract).

He also asked them to bank my cheque... which they confirmed they wouldn't do as they were not accepting this amount was all that's due from me. Further to this, my solicitor advised me to ask them to again bank the cheque on the grounds that I was in agreement that I owed at least that part... (cheque covered the time my ds attended the school which would 'remove' the full and final settlement clause.

I've spoken to my solicitor again today and 'reading between the lines' he says the school's solicitor is in agreement with him and feels exasperated that they have not negotiated and accepted my cheque as full and final settlement.
The school has now in fact ignored his advice.
His update from the school was that they are happy to bank the cheque and accept £100 per month installments to clear the balance!!!

He feels they are simply not listening to him, despite him emphasising there's nothing to gain... by the time the school's incurred the court costs (if it goes to trial) which will be around £1500.00 to 2000.00 it's getting close to what they're demanding from me (£2600.00).

My solicitor (without needing to) has asked the school's solicitor to go back to them and again tell them to bank the cheque. I've asked him to stress the importance that I am strongly contesting the notice period and believe therefore there is not a 'balance'
(in view of the circumstances, treatment of ds).

My solicitor feels that the head is still trying to bully me into submission and he is therefore advising me to continue as I have nothing to lose.
The facts of the matter on the head/school's side is they have taken three more children into my ds old class... so she has more than mitigated her loss.

My solicitor has an acquisition questionnaire which he'll be completing next week and he's going to push for mediation to see if we can come to an agreement.

After that... depending on the outcome... I may well have to represent myself in court.

I think it's maybe time (and my solicitor said I'm okay) to write to Ofsted, and the Independent schools council.

I feel sick to the pit of my stomach and can't say how much I want this sorry chapter behind me. I simply cannot believe that anyone can deny their appalling treatment of a child to the point where they even continue to threaten legal action.

Any further advice would be very much appreciated. Thank you in advance.

dramafluff Fri 09-Mar-12 15:35:12

I don't think there is anything else you can do at this stage until you have a categoric rejection of your terms. Bear in mind if it goes to court and you lose, the school will not necessarily have incurred any legal costs - they will be passed on to you plus statutory interest to judgement date.

dramafluff - I didn't think that that the school could pass on their costs if they one because this case will be on the small claims track (under £5000) and you are only allowed to claim very limted costs.

mummytippy Fri 09-Mar-12 21:33:34

Thanks for your massages.
My solicitor said that as it's a case which would be dealt with by the
small claims court I won't incur any more costs.
As it is, my solicitor very kindly offered me a 'capped fee' up to a certain point and in view of this has advised me that if it should come to it, I'm capable of representing myself in court.

arggh won not one

messalina Fri 09-Mar-12 22:55:56

You could report the school to ISI or as it's about the EYFS years to Ofsted too. Utterly unacceptable.

mummytippy Sat 10-Mar-12 11:34:47

@ Chaz... Do you mean I've a slim chance?
@Messalina... I think I've waited long enough without contacting any of the educational bodies... thanks for pointing out it's the Early Years Foundation Stage which is relevant.
Thank you

Mummytippy no I was just addressing the costs issue as I didn't think costs were something you had to worry about if you were on the small claims track.

mummytippy Mon 12-Mar-12 11:53:29

@Chaz... I see, thank you.
Just replying to my solicitor (spoke to him on the phone too this morn) and am going to ask him to reply to the schools solicitor asking the school to respond properly to my grievances instead of simply pursuing me for money!

Incidently, I saw a parent of a child yesterday (play date for her son and mine) who's child is in my ds's old class and she that her son has been having a problem with another child bullying him. It's been going on for about 2 months. She had been in for a meeting with the head and as a result the bully had merit points deducted from him and was told to stay away from her son.
The bullying has continued, and whilst she was in school the other day she asked to speak to the head again about the matter as little had improved.
After a few moments of talking with my friend, the head, called for the child in question (the bully) and asked my friend to talk to him and express her feelings. My friend said she felt very awkward and was given little choice. The boy got upset and and cried and she ended up feeling bad. Her words to me were that had it been the other way around, and had the boys (bullys) mother been asked to speak to her son, she would have been angry. She feels it was not her place to 'speak' to the boy but didn't say how she felt to the head. The head simply said afterwards that she will now be inviting the boy's (bully) parents in to talk about things... Any views on this?

dramafluff Tue 13-Mar-12 15:21:19

Not really - completely separate issue - except to say I would have expected them to contact the other child's parents first to agree it. Might be worth starting a new thread under bullying on that one.

On the costs front - yes, up to judgement it is indeed a fixed fee which will get added and statutory interest. If things go on from there (but that would be after they managed - if they managed - to get judgement and were planning to enforce) then there would be possible on costs. (Thinking stat. costs, not solicitors' costs).

From the school's point of view, even if they are in a scheme for fee recovery once it gets to the stage of a defended action this may well be considered off scheme and so will indeed be costing them money. They may be willing to spend up to what you owe then in order to 'make a point' (I am not saying that is right, just that this happens).

You may find that this will get to court (they do not sound like the sort to back down) and that a settlement will be attempted between you just before the actual hearing. What you choose to do there you would do well to take advice from your solicitor before the agreed fee is used up. Who knows what might happen if you and they end up in front of the judge who will look dispassionately at the legal aspects only.

Keep us posted!

mumat39 Mon 19-Mar-12 00:12:54

Hello Mummytippy

I'm really surprised that the school asked the parents of the bullied child to speak to the bully. I would have thought schools would deal with both sets of parents separately as it's their job to manage this situation and to reassure the parents of the bullied child and to work with the parents of the bully to try and resolve why their child is like this.

Seems most odd and I'm pleased for you and your DS that he is no longer under the care of the dragon lady. Good Luck (again) I'm still keeping everything crossed that you win this case. I also hope that your DS is continuing to enjoy life at his new school.

Take care

marcopront Mon 19-Mar-12 16:11:07

When did you send the cheque?

You started this thread on the 28th December and posted until the 29th December. On the 16th January you "stated since I last posted, I have sent a cheque" but on the 20th January you refer to sending the cheque on the 19th December.

Also if they had a waiting list, why did three children start after your one son left? If they increased the class size to 25, unless it was from 23 with your son, then they still have lost out.

EdithWeston Tue 17-Apr-12 17:10:47

I was wondering if there was an update?

mumat39 Tue 17-Apr-12 22:10:43

So was I.

Mummytippy, hope all's ok with you.

EdithWeston Sat 05-May-12 19:53:41

OP: how is it going?

dramafluff Tue 29-May-12 16:53:59

just giving this a bump

EdithWeston Tue 26-Jun-12 22:10:00

It's been a while.

How are you getting on?

Brillo2003 Tue 03-Jul-12 22:35:38


I've just posted a similar issue,what was the outcome of this? Did you have to pay fees in lieu of notice?

EdithWeston Sun 26-Aug-12 06:05:44

It's nearly new school year.

I was wondering if there was an update.

dramafluff Fri 31-Aug-12 08:49:53

Messaged the OP a wee while ago but no reply....

mummytippy Mon 01-Oct-12 21:31:52

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for the delay in coming back on here...
Thank you for asking and for your concern. It's all been very much appreciated.

The top and bottom of the situation is that the matter went ot court on the 13th August 2012 after being put back from the beginning of July.

Basically I submitted evidence to the judge by way of:
The rude voicemail (which the head left) on a disk, a character reference (for me and my son), all correspondence between me and the Head and copies of the assesments my son completed upon joining his new school. Which gave evidence of his handwriting and that on speaking to the ISC and ISI they'd said there were reasons for concern.

The admissions form I had signed (believing it to be purely an admissions form) was deemed by the judge to be a contract.

As I think you were all aware, I had sent a cheque to cover the time my son was at the school (Sept -Oct half-term). I had been invoiced for the Autumn term, the Spring term and fees in lieu of notice... a total of £2600 + and the Head had added her court costs and interest, so the total was roughly £3400.00.

The Judge was very concerned that the complaints procedure had to be requested and was not automatically issued to parents. The Head explained that her reason for this was because of the sheer number of policies... but the Judge retorted that this must change as it's far too important a document and felt that as I was not clear on how to complain this had not helped my DS's situation.

The Judge asked me why I hadn't formally complained before withdrawing my DS and I explained that it was because I felt she had already made up her mind about my DS and that I had spoken directly to his class teacher and asked her to inform the head of my feelings.

The Head still maintained that she felt my DS 'could' be naughty and that it was not a label but a statement. She then said the following:

'There are some children that make her extremely cross and I will usually say, I don't like you today... but I will care about you forever'. To which I explained my son was too young to understand such a statement at that he'd have stopped listening after 'I don't like you today'.

Anyway, The judge ordered that I pay to the end of the term of which I removed my son... so I paid a cheque directly to the school 10 days later for
approx £ 1400.00.

As the Head had said during her voice message that 'There was a waiting list, and she could quite easily fill the place'. The Judge felt that the school had mitigated its loss at least from the the start of the new term.

I would have obviously have been happier if the school had simply banked the cheque I'd orginally sent (787.00) but it was discovered just days before the matter went to court that this cheque had apparently gone missing after the Head had forwarded it to a debt collection agency. So all the time I thought the Head was simply sitting on the cheque - it had gone missing. This was relayed to my solicitor but they hadn't told me!!!

I'm looking at the outcome as a victory and am just relieved to have the matter behind me. It had dragged on for almost a year.

I obviously have the solicitors to pay... although they did say the admissions form was definitely not a contract, they lost the disk with the voice recording on ( I luckily had a spare copy) and then as said didn't tell me that my cheque had apparently gone missing and that I'd been asked to issue a new cheque.

All comments on the final outcome will be very much welcomed and appreciated.

Just for added frustration... the 'missing' cheque arrived back in the post about a week after the court hearing... which I found a bit strange considering it was posted last December...

Just need to consider still taking the matter further to the ISI and ISC.

Once again, thanks to you all for your comments and support.

Knowsabitabouteducation Mon 01-Oct-12 21:40:49

Don't they have the complaints procedure and all other policies on their website? I thought this was an ISI requirement recommendation. It is not reasonable to issue parents with a full set of policies. The most up to date versions should be on the website and available in school.

The head should not have intimated that it was easy to fill a place. Those are the tactics of parents who are forever threatening to remove their children <yawn>.

Mutteroo Wed 03-Oct-12 12:27:21

Thank goodness the matter is now at an end!

Wishing your son much happiness at his new (or not so new now) school & you no more stress with snotty Headmistresses. smile

dramafluff Tue 09-Oct-12 09:35:12

You were extremely lucky in some senses not to have to pay fees in lieu for the following term - so for you, that is certainly a result.

In terms of the school this will have given the head a wake up call and will hopefully lead to the school tightening up its procedures in terms of making things available to parents quickly and politely when requested - so another result.

In terms of complaining to ISI/ISC - to go back to the original point - you still have not made a formal complaint using the complaints procedure etc from what I can make out so they do not really have anything to look into. Perhaps a final mop up letter to the chairman of governors expressing your grave concerns about attitudes and so on copied to ISC/ISI might be the way to go if you want to go down that route. Now you have been to court there is little point complaining again!

Pastmum Sun 21-Oct-12 15:29:52

By now you may have discovered that parents and children at private schools have no consumer rights at private schools. They can do anything they like and you still have to pay fees in lieu of notice which can mount to thousands of pounds. In 1972 two boys accused their headmaster of sexually molesting them. The police did not prosecute because of lack of evidence. The boys were at the private school under they government assist scheme and the school proceeded to sue the local council for fees in lieu of notice. The case went all the way to the Court of Appeal as lower courts gave the losing side on each judgement right to appeal. The famous Lord Denning in his judgement found for the school and in his summing up said it was alright for pupils to be made unhappy by staff or other children or for levels of education to go down. Since then no one has dared risk a few thousand pounds against hundreds of thousand of pounds on getting this judgement changed, you have to go all the way to the Court of Appeal to get it overruled. We were sued 16 years ago and although I was Chair of the PTA at the School, a governor at another private school, I did not know what
little rights parents/children had, neither did our solicitor until too late. We had a good case but could not afford the risk of fighting the case so settled out of court. Considering the case in 1972 was based on two boys allegely being sexually molested the result was amazing but in view of the Jim Saville allegations may be it is not. People did not always believe children at the time and I hate to say it was to some degree accepted. Look at all the recent cases at catholic schools against teaches and also various vicars, etc.
At the time I did a certain amount of research and came across a European Law that did not help us but was interesting in that you can not have a contract with has a financial clause/penalty which is only binding on one side, so could a parent sue a school if they child was expelled was fees in lieu of notice? Interesting idea.
Good luck. Finding the right school for your child is not easy but one thing I learnt is that unhappy children do not thrive in the wrong school, they need to be reasonably happy to work hard.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now