Do I need to consider private schooling or keep hassling the school?

(185 Posts)
finefatmama Sun 10-Jun-12 14:58:38

This is a rather lengthy one so please bear with me.

DS2 5yrs attends reception in an oversubscribed catholic school (DH's preference not mine) but I don't think the school is working well for him.

Since starting reception, his teacher has complaining about his refusal to spend 80% of his time playing. He sneaks back indoors to turn on the interactive whiteboard or computer thus refusing to follow instructions. He's a september baby and bigger than most of the kids so he plays roughly with them (he also does martial arts) etc. He eventually got the class reward cuddly toy because he didn't have to be told off over the course of the day.

He now thinks of himself as a naughty kid but claims he can't help it (I don't believe that). During parents evenings, she usually has odd feedback ('he can read the whole word but can't sound out the individual parts when I ask him to break it down', 'you haven't taught him x' - often said smugly, 'when I left the class to go for my lunch he scattered the contents of my filing cabinet which I forgot to lock', 'he can count to hundred but most kids learn this by rote at home and don't know what these numbers mean so that doesn't mean he's brilliant', 'no he can't be extended because I have 30 kids to deal with and some don't even know the alphabet which is a priority', 'I know he's bored but I can't give him more work as it HAS to be 80% play for all our children', 'He has poor social skills which is why he won't go out and play' - very smug look). He once had a supply teacher who allowed him to work on the whiteboard and rewarded him for doing a correct sum which resulted in a negative number but according to him, his regular teacher would have told him off.

We have been working with him at home and he has just started year 3 maths and is currently reading Through the Looking Glass and Horrid Henry. We were ok with doing the extra work at home and trying to convince him that the teacher probably didn't mean that he's no good.

Most of the supervision is done by dad who works 9.30am -2.30pm about a mile from home. Fortunately and unfortunately following events at work, he's been promoted to a full time role in London and his current role is no more. We are now very concerned about leaving him to the mercy of the school. They have't been v helpful and have hinted that they are oversubscribed anyway and will have some kids waiting to take his place. our local authority has a shortage of primary school places already so a transfer is unlikely. If we keep fighting the school, we may end up making enemies instead of gaining allies.

We are now wondering if we should tighten our belts and pay for a good independent school where he would be taught at the right level, have access to sports activities, music lessons (dad currently takes him to flute lessons as the school dont allow for under 8s to learn instruments) etc. Or am I just romanticinsing the private school idea?
What other course of actions can anyone advise that we take to ensure a good education? We moved here to get DS1 into a very good special school and I'm not sure if we can keep the special school place if we move to a nearby LEA.

ZZZenAgain Sun 10-Jun-12 15:01:15

can't you do both? Keep "hassling the school", as you put it, keep working on that situation, while at the same time looking into other schools to see if there is one which would suit your ds better?

mrz Sun 10-Jun-12 15:07:18

Why is he expected to spend 80% of his time playing?

LIZS Sun 10-Jun-12 15:13:54

I think you need ot examine why he doesn't respect the rules - going into a filing cabinet and removing the contents is not usual from a child of his age. Does he understand numbers beyond rote learning , I'm a bit sceptical that you think he is on Year3 Maths although that is possible if he knows his number bonds, basic tables etc. Things will change in Year 1, with far less emphasis on play, so perhaps ask them to work with you for the remainder of this term on his social skills and cooperation. I don't think at present an independent school would actually benefit him and they may well be less tolerant of his behaviour.

finefatmama Sun 10-Jun-12 15:13:57

We found the top two in the LEA with good G&T policies but both have got two year waiting lists. We may get a place in the junior school if we're lucky

DH goes full time next month and there's the danger that the school will write us off as pushy parents while the kid's confidence suffers. That will be harder to rectify imo.

mrz, class teacher says it's the national curriculum requirement for his age and it's compulsory.

mrz Sun 10-Jun-12 15:21:24

Then with respect she doesn't know what she's talking about but I agree with LIZa you need to find out why he behaves the way he does.

MrsMcEnroe Sun 10-Jun-12 15:24:42

Keep hassling the school. Also look around at private schools BUT (and I'm saying this as a parent whose DCs have attended both state and private primary schools) bear in mind that many private schools will only want to take children who fit a certain mould. e.g. If your DS has problems following instructions and playing roughly with smaller children (both of which you've mentioned in your OP) you may find that some small private schools are ill-equipped to deal with his behaviour. It sounds as though he is bored and needs to be challenged; some private schools are better at this than others!

I'm assuming that the 80% play thing comes from the Early Years curriculum, but I don't see why your son can't be challenged more in a play-based setting? Sounds like laziness on the part if the school. Surely he could play literacy/numeracy games that are educational and fun? It does sound as though he is being deliberately held back / under-challenged due to a misapplication/misunderstanding of the guidelines or, worse, a deliberate lack of "botheredness" by the teachers about his specific needs. He sounds like a bright little boy who is bored, quite frankly! He sounds desperate to learn, and he must be incredibly frustrated that he s being held back. If the school is so over-subscribed that a bright child's needs cannot be met - well, yes, you absolutely do need to get him out of there.

Also, be aware that many private schools cannot deal with any form of SEN (I'm not suggesting that your son has SEN but we have just moved our dyslexic DS from a private school to a state school, partly because of this very issue, so it's a hot topic for me) - they don't receive any government funding for it. It sounds as though you need a traditional prep school, with the vast fees, lovely playing fields and all the other extra-curricular activities... Hope it works out for you and your DS. Good luck!

MrsMcEnroe Sun 10-Jun-12 15:26:07

Apologies for the appalling typos in my last post. Fat fingers and iPad don't mix!

mrz Sun 10-Jun-12 15:27:25

The 80% play thing does NOT come from the EYFS curriculum.

seeker Sun 10-Jun-12 15:28:51

The teacher is wrong when she says they have to play 80% ofbthe time. The LEA is wrong when they say that other schools have 2 year waiting lists- that's not how waiting lists work.

When you say he is year 3 maths what sort of things can he do? Reading Horrid Henry is very good but not exceptional for a child of this age- but reading Alice at 5 I would say is VERY exceptional- has the teacher seen him do this?

Will the music lessons have to stop when dh moves?

seeker Sun 10-Jun-12 15:29:45

And what did he say about emptying the cupboard?

MigratingCoconuts Sun 10-Jun-12 15:31:30

I'd say that you do need to consider something. Your relationship with the teacher seems to have broken down and a parent/school partnership strikes me as essential for effective learning. You appear to have issues with the school at the point of choosing it.

I too am also a bit concerned about your DS's disrespect for authority within the school, with the trashing of the filing cabinet and the continual re-entering a classroom without supervision. What do you put it down to? I would be loathed to suggest its boredom as I have rarely met a 5 year old who doesn't like playing.

Perhaps you should consider looking elsewhere for a school that provides what you are looking for in an education.

Miggsie Sun 10-Jun-12 15:31:31

I'd say that the school isn't working for him and you do need to consider alternatives, the first thing is to work out is it simply this teacher, or is it the school as a whole. Many "successful" schools, state and independent are successful because they apply the same ways of teaching to a lot of students and most of them do ok. However, if your child is outside that "fit" then the school won't work for them.
I also don't like the fact that she points out problems but gives no solutions or seems uninterested in helping.

Our experience of primary school was that the school was fine, the reception teacher was fab and let DD take the lead and encouraged her to go off at tangents (sounds like your son's teacher is "one size fits all" which is death to an inventive or socially non-standard child), the yr 1 teacher was also pretty good and gave DD extension work but her yr 2 teacher wasn't good for DD (although the kids loved her) and DD got very bored. This was when we pulled her out.

We went private but we saw some pretty awful private schools until we found the one that was right for DD. It is small and tailors work to the child. Others were just as prescriptive as your current school appears to be.

I would start looking at alternatives, your son may benefit from a boy's school if he really does have under-developed social skills.

IslaValargeone Sun 10-Jun-12 15:32:45

Understanding Alice would be exceptional, reading it would not be.

ZZZenAgain Sun 10-Jun-12 15:34:28

Would the school consider moving your ds up a year? I know a woman whose dd is I think gifted and who was so bored at school that she spent the entire school day sitting under her desk. Apparently she could do everything the class was given to do - maths, literacy etc somehow she didn't seem to actually learn it but I do think those kinds of dc are quite exceptional. THe mother got nowhere withthe school who said, like your teacher does, that she could not be given different work as the rest of the class was far behind.In the end she withdrew her dd from school. I think for the dc in question it really is not a reasonable response the school is making at present. As the child, either you go very quiet, day-dream, disconnect or you misbehave in a situation like this.

You are not getting anywhere with the teacher who seems to perhaps not like him much. Have you tried speaking directly to the head and asking his/her advice?

learnandsay Sun 10-Jun-12 15:35:16

There's so little of the term left that I'd make my decision based on next year's curriculum.

--

I'm not sure what your main concern is. Are you upset because your son is so far ahead and school can't and won't keep up with him, or are you upset because he's bored and punished for preferring school work over playing? Because if it's the latter moving him may not help, because if your son is disobedient next year and in the next school the cause of friction is bound to be something else. As far as tutoring is concerned, what do you want him to know at five or six? Do you want him to be able to do long division and multiplication? Do you want him to be able to add and subtract three figure numbers in his head? If so why? And why can't you find him suitable educational software that he can do this with? Or send him to tutorial classes in the evenings or at weekends.

Or do you really believe that your son is so advanced that the current school is never going to be suitable for a child of his gifts and in reality you've simply got to get used to the fact that you're going to have to move him and put up with the expense?

finefatmama Sun 10-Jun-12 15:36:48

He is on y3 maths workbooks and on ixl, and his homework is set at y3 on mangahigh by his tutor. Given a good enough challenge, he will sit on the computer quietly for 2 hours to complete his tasks in exchange for a reward.

He attends martial arts and flute classes in the evening and follows instructions so he's not always restless.

I think he believed his teacher didn't know what she's doing and as he used to argue with her. On one occasion, she told the class when they set up a number line that zero was the end of the line and he said she was wrong because there were negative numbers at the other end. On another occasion, she joked about the smallest and largest numbers and he told her there was infinity which looks like a sleeping 8 and that fractions were smaller than the number 1. he got sent to time out and then to the deputy head. While I agree that he shouldn't mouth off to his teacher in front of the class, he was seeking factual accuracy. Hopefully, he knows not to do that anymore.

Not sure the filing cabinet issue is that unusual as he was accused of leading a group of boys even though she wasn't there when it happened. She kept writing material and crayons and IWB pens in there and they got them out.

There was no prior express ban on looking in the drawers.
We speak to him about the incidents and have asked for notes to be sent home every time there's an incident.

He was in a control group for an autism study of multiple intelligence and head circumference at Cambridge uni when he was 20 months and the ed psych recommended him for mensa membership. Being american, she said that he could be perceived as naughty and asked us to put him in a gifted school. we were very focussed on DS1 who was in the test group at the time and didn't pay much attention. We also assumed that the ed psych couldn't know much about uk school if she thought we had gifted schools.

Thanks, will look for prep schools.

DilysPrice Sun 10-Jun-12 15:37:29

It's difficult at this stage in the year. Is it the school? or is it the teacher? The age difference will narrow as he gets up the school, but I think you need to talk to the head and or his year 1 teacher now to develop a plan. If you are happy with that plan then that's fine - if not then look elsewhere.

learnandsay Sun 10-Jun-12 15:38:45

We're getting off topic here, but you can't understand Lewis Carroll, Isla, you can only interpret it.

mrz Sun 10-Jun-12 15:40:32

"Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. `Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You ought, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage -- and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might. "

there are quite a few words there that most reception children would struggle with but yes understanding the language would be more exceptional

IslaValargeone Sun 10-Jun-12 15:43:37

I think you understand/interpret what I mean learnandsay.

learnandsay Sun 10-Jun-12 15:45:18

Well, you can have top heavy fractions which are bigger than the number 1, so your clever son isn't necessarily right about everything. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with disagreeing with the teacher, especially if she's saying something plainly wrong, like this line ends in zero when it doesn't. But the way to do that is to put your hand up and say, please, Miss, aren't the end numbers minus eight and plus eight? Rather that say, oi, you're stupid because zero is in the middle and not at the end. One is making a helpful contribution to the class and the other is being rude and disruptive. This lesson holds true for life in general, not just in Reception class.

MoreBeta Sun 10-Jun-12 15:48:03

The school is making excuses because they cannot or will not deal with a bright child. Believe it or not we had the same problem at a private school with DS1 - right down to the smug self serving answers from the Head and his teacher!

We spent two years trying to get them to address the fact he was sat in manths looking out of the window because he finished his work after 5 mins and could do problems the Head could not do in her 'special' maths class for more advanced children. She thought singing and dancing was more important than maths. GRRRRRrrr.

My advice is move your DS to private but do look carefully. He needs to be in a high achieving Pre-prep school where working 1- 2 yrs ahead of age is a standard requirement for entry. Not all private schools are 'good' for a very bright child - as we found to our cost.

MarySA Sun 10-Jun-12 15:48:57

A five year old thinks the teacher doesn't know what she's doing. Honestly, who'd be a teacher. If you can afford it and think he would do better at private school then by all means send him. But not all private schools are wonderful. But throwing things out of a filing cabinet is just plain naughty. But maybe those gifted children just do this kind of thing which wouldn't be acceptable in a non-gifted child.

learnandsay Sun 10-Jun-12 15:49:52

We don't yet know how bright the boy is. He might simply have a good tutor.

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