I really don't like my son's school... WWYD?

(28 Posts)
Snowrose1311 Fri 31-Jan-14 15:01:57

Situation: I am a lone parent with 2 DS, a neuro-typical 10 yr old and an 8 yr old with High Functioning Autism. We moved to the UK 3 years ago when I split with hubby and I have no family support / network of friends to help me.

DS1 has been a bit unlucky with his schooling, he's only 10 but has attended 4 different schools already: a pre-school, then a primary, then we moved to UK so another primary, then onto his present prep school.

He had a tough time settling in his prep school, it took him a whole academic year to settle and now he's in his 5th term there. In the first term he was bullied, I complained but the school swept it under the carpet, fortunately the bullying did stop, however I was left feeling pretty offended by the school's way of dealing with the situation. In the 2nd term there was an incident where some older boys accessed hardcore porn in the school in front of DS1, then aged 9, who is a sheltered kid & had never even known that kind of stuff existed, he was horrified. I complained again, and again the school responded poorly, they absolutely would not apologize, initially refused to let me speak to the Head about it, tried to deny it etc. The result being that they did sort their filter out, it hasn't happened again but I was left feeling unhappy.

Since then things have kind of settled down, but I have found it very hard to get past my first bad impressions. I have also become aware that the school doesn't suit our family, the 'culture' of the school isn't a great fit at all. For example, this term there are some compulsory events on Saturdays and Sundays which DS1 must attend, but the school is far away and this will mean me and DS2 will lose our weekends as well. I am paying (what I consider to be) a lot of money for DS1 to attend this school and I don't feel happy with it.

DS1 started complaining quite a bit about the school again this term, esp with the compulsory weekend activities, so I arranged for him to visit another school, it's a nice one & a good alternative. But now my son is saying that although the place we viewed today is fine, he doesn't want to move again... sigh... He doesn't like his present school but doesn't feel as strongly as I do, and for him it's not worth the emotional upheaval of changing schools yet again.

Sorry this is so long but ... WWYD? Should I let DS1 decide? He is a bright 10 yr old after all. Or is he too young to take an important decision like this? Is it fair to DS2 (and me) to have to keep going to DS1's compulsory events in the evenings / on the weekends for the next 8 years?

I'd really appreciate some views, many thanks x

HamletsSister Fri 31-Jan-14 15:07:30

I think, if this is his "forever" school then you might be wise to change. Schools expect a lot of pupils if they have matches / teams etc and you don't seem to want that level of commitment. However, you will have less and less choice as he grows and might be glad of structured weekend activities rather than him just "hanging around" with his friends.

Personally, I would make an appointment with the HT and explain your thoughts. Accessing porn, bullying and a culture of secrecy and of unwillingness to change do not suggest a very good ethos.

What are the activities? How far away is the school? What does the alternative look like?

Too many imponderables.

LEMmingaround Fri 31-Jan-14 15:15:36

Does he go to private school because of his autism? what school does his older brother go to? Are there any other schools that might be more suitable? Would you consider a state school that was better set up to deal with his autism? Are private schools, unless specialist, geared up to help with this sort of thing? I went for an interview in a very posh private school a few years back. It was dire - really really dire, their science department was antiquated - and they were quite happy to boast about their shooting range, but when i asked about academic performance and where their students went on to, the head of science said to me "we are not a very academic school here" hmm When i suggested new ideas for experiments etc at interview the science teacher looked at me like i was mad and the tech told me that they have had the same book of experiments that they have used for years and they never deviated. I wasn't offered the job, but if i had been i would have turned it down. Your DS's school sounds similar - like they are stuck in a rut and need a bullet up their backsides. I guess thats the thing with private schools though isn't it - they are self regulating so can get away wth coasting along.

I think if my child had specific needs i would be looking at a school that can cater for that, first and foremost.

HavantGuard Fri 31-Jan-14 15:18:41

He's at a prep school? So when would he leave there if you didn't move him now? 11 or 13? If it's 11 I think that it would be better to leave him where he is.

HamletsSister Fri 31-Jan-14 15:33:36

It looks from the OP like this is the older NT child she is asking for and also that the school goes right through to 18.

WhiskyTangoFoxtrot Fri 31-Jan-14 15:44:02

I didn't spot whether the prep is attached to a school that goes through to 18. Or if the alternative prep does.

I can see that DS1 has had enough of moving. If it was one more move to a school to 18, then you may as well do it now as in one or 3 years time. But if there will have to be another move at 11+ or 13+, then yes I can see that would be daunting for him and would probably incline to putting up with this school and seeki an 11+ secondary (especially if he has friends who might make the same moe at that point).

Snowrose1311 Fri 31-Jan-14 15:49:33

Hi, yes, DS1 has no disability, DS2 has autism and is happy & well catered for in a different school. DS1 is attending the preparatory section of a through-train independent school, if he stays he'll be there for A levels, so that's another 8 years.

I tried talking to the HT (about the bullying / porn) in the first year, but he was more interested in downplaying the issues & I am v allergic to BS. Lots of other parents have complained about the compulsory extra events this term, but they are still going ahead and no pupil has been excused.

This was meant to be DS1's forever school, but HamletsSister is right, I really don't want this level of commitment, we have a strong family life, I do a lot of outings & stuff with my 2 DCs, activities in our village etc and I don't like being 'organised' by DS1's school. The alternative school is a small, state Ofsted Outstanding secondary, I think DS1 would prob be just as happy there as is he is at his present prep (and as for the saving on school fees, all that money could go in his savings account!). The issue is that he is unwilling to change and I don't know whether I should insist, if that would be the right thing to do?

pandora987 Fri 31-Jan-14 16:09:06

I don't think 10 year old can make a long term decision, that is for parents. A bit of upheaval now is better than years of the wrong school. If your alternative is outstanding ofsted state I'd do it! I would explain that although change is difficult, it will be worth it, especially if he's unhappy where he is and its having a detrimental impact on him and family life.
Good luck whatever you decide.

HavantGuard Fri 31-Jan-14 16:21:06

When would he start the secondary (is he in yr5 now?) Do they have good pastoral care?

Hassled Fri 31-Jan-14 16:24:09

Yes, I think you should insist. I know it seems really harsh but a) 10 is too young to make such a significant decision and b) the current school sounds truly awful. Reassure him that you'll make sure he still sees his current-school friends etc - and do a good PR campaign for the new school. He'll come round.

curlew Fri 31-Jan-14 16:26:48

Where would he go after the primary school?

Snowrose1311 Fri 31-Jan-14 16:28:17

Hi HavantGuard, he would start the secondary this September, he is in Year 6 atm. People say they have good pastoral care, the Ofsted rating for pastoral care is 1 (excellent) but I think we wouldn't really know what it's like until we join. Unfortunately we don't know any kids who go to that school and I don't know any mums with DCs there.

Timetoask Fri 31-Jan-14 16:37:17

So he is currently in year 5?
What would I do? Keep him where he is until year 6, then move him for secondary. Lots of children will be starting fresh in a new establishment alongside him, so the transition will be easier.
I wouldn't keep him in his current school until 18 with the negative history you already have.

HavantGuard Fri 31-Jan-14 16:37:59

That's so difficult. I can see that it's better for him to do the move now but it's a huge change when he's struggled a lot to settle in before.

Is there any way you could arrange for him to do some activities over the summer in the area near his new school? Football/Drama/youth club things that might give him the chance to meet some DC that will be going to that school? Do you have any friends with older DC at the new school that he could meet?

It would make sense to move him but I feel for him wanting to stay. All you can do is try to make it a smooth transition.

HavantGuard Fri 31-Jan-14 16:38:49

Ignore me on the second part blush. You said you don't know any.

curlew Fri 31-Jan-14 18:46:57

I would move him- his current school sounds awful.
Are you sure of a place at the school you're
Thinking about?

AChickenCalledKorma Fri 31-Jan-14 19:21:31

I would make sure you apply for a place at the state secondary and start preparing him for a move at the end of year 6. I'm sure he won't be the only one moving at that point.

If things improve, you can always decide to stay put.

If things don't improve, you have an exit strategy.

And yes I do think you have reason to overrule his views, if you are convinced that it's not the right environment for him. The culture doesn't sound very healthy and I would feel the same as you about the weekend stuff - particularly as he is not the only sibling.

pandora987 Sat 01-Feb-14 18:23:06

Just about to move DD year 6 to new secondary in September and as we're moving out of area she wont know anyone. School have 2 transition days for all year 7, and 3 extra ones for "vulnerable transition children" i.e. kids who are anxious, have particular needs or are moving from a primary school where no others are going to that secondary school. Has your school got any days like that, or can they arrange visits for you? Some schools do things in summer holidays to introduce year 7's to each other. Tell DS all the kids will be new in setember that might help.
My DD is really anti moving to a new area, but at the end of the day she's 10 and I'm the adult. Just got to make it as easy as possible for them.

Littlefish Sat 01-Feb-14 18:27:32

If he is due to start secondary school in September then you need to speak to the local authority admissions department as soon as possible as I strongly suspect you have missed the application deadline. There may not be spaces at the secondary of your choice as your application would be treated as a late application.

Snowrose1311 Sun 02-Feb-14 11:07:12

Hi, thanks, yes it will be a late application and although we cannot be sure of a place, I think DS will get in & my main concern is just whether to make the decision to move him when he seems to be against it and has moved so many times before. I also feel guilty because I know I am unhappier with the present school than he is.

Littlefish Sun 02-Feb-14 11:30:35

If you are really unhappy with the school, then now is the time to move him. Although he is old enough to have an opinion, you are his parent and at this stage, the choices around his education should be made by you. His decision making processes will be based on very different criteria from yours.

The secondary school will be skilled in helping new students to settle and it is a natural time for most children to move schools.

If you leave it another year, and are still very unhappy, then chances are you will not get a place at your preferred school, and he will have to move to a school where friendship groups are settled.

Picturesinthefirelight Sun 02-Feb-14 11:36:14

I too would move him at the end of year 6. Plus infirm the school that he has other commitments at weekends so will not be taking part in any weekend activities.

Fallenangle Sun 02-Feb-14 11:48:09

Have you actually checked on place availability at the state secondary? An Ofsted Outstanding school that is undersubscribed Ofsted school is a rare thing.

zipzap Sun 02-Feb-14 12:13:24

I don't think that actually he has attended that many schools - most kids would have attended 3 by his age - pre school, infant school and junior school. And a fair few will have attended at least one or two more because they moved or didn't like the school or finally managed to get a place at their first choice school and so on.

So changing to go to secondary school isn't that big of a deal - it probably just seems like it to him if he is in school with lots of people who are planning to spend their entire schooling in one place. Whereas if you look at most kids - they are the exception. And most kids manage the transition to secondary school just fine, not least because they have people starting from several different places so want to make get to mix in and know each other ASAP.

It definitely sounds like it is worth putting in for a place at the local secondary school. Starting in september would be absolutely the right time to go. Have you been to visit?

Just out of interest, what would happen if you said sorry, already got plans and didn't go to school for the weekend things? If you're planning on leaving then I'd definitely be telling them that you're not going. Or if they would do something to penalise your ds then I'd just say that ds2 wasn't up to he travelling so tough. And that if they want to penalise you / your ds for it then you wonder what ofsted would have to say about their dreadful attitude towards families that have an autistic child, not to mention their appalling support for children being bullied, not to mention filters not being set up so that kids could access hard core porn and all the other issues you have with them...

At worst would you be able to home educate him (or get him into a local junior feeder school for the secondary you like) if they kicked him out for the rest of the academic year?

Snowrose1311 Sun 02-Feb-14 13:39:07

I feel that the school DS1 is currently attending would not understand if I tried to explain my circumstances / DS2's autism. They seem to be in their own little bubble and out of touch with the whole concept of life beyond what goes on in the school (the academics, the clubs, the events etc). I know of no other lone parents, very few families/staff with a disabled family member, and - this is probably unfair of me? but - I feel they all have relatively easy lives and little comprehension of how tough it can be for those of us who don't fit the mold.

In the past when I have tried to explain to some people that I can't do sth because I'm a lone parent AND have no family support AND have an autistic child, they look at me like like I'm speaking Swahili! I sense from them actual disbelief - 'surely no-one can have all 3 of those problems at the same time? Surely this woman is exaggerating or mistaken or just stupid / incompetent and she can do whatever it is really?' I know they don't mean it, they simply don't understand, but it's hard to deal with sometimes.

So with regard to the school, I can't actually blame them for not cutting us some slack on account of DS2s autism because I've never told them about it. After the bullying / porn and just picking up the general vibes, I've never felt able to and DS1 has expressed the same.

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