Overruling child’s choice of secondary school

(28 Posts)
Purp1eSky Sat 19-Oct-13 04:43:13

We have to apply for a secondary school place for our ds by Oct 31st but we don’t agree! My dh and I both feel strongly that the best school for our ds is the one for which we are in catchment, but there is another very good, but very different school which our ds wants to go to that is a similar distance away. The majority of his classmates will go to the catchment area school, but there will also be a number of children going to the other school.

We have discussed with him a number of reasons for wanting him to go to our preferred school, but he cannot be persuaded. There is however one reason which is a strong influence for me which we have not been able to discuss and that is that I am terminally ill and am unlikely to be around for the whole of his education. I feel that he would get better support through the difficult time ahead at our preferred school, but we cannot discuss this with him as he doesn’t know the full extent of my illness as at the moment.

He hasn’t been able to articulate his reasons for wanting to go to the other school or his reasons for not wanting to go to our preferred school so it is difficult to reassure him. We suspect his real reason is simply that one of his best friends (who will almost definitely go to the other school as his sisters already go there) has been influencing him, but he does have another best friend who will go to our preferred school.

I feel so strongly that our preference is the right choice for our ds that I want to overrule his wishes, but I am worried that he will resent this and may have difficulty settling in just because he did not get his choice. Does anyone have any experience of overruling their child’s choice of secondary school?

Ett36 Sat 19-Oct-13 07:58:35

gosh I am sorry to hear what a situation you are in. my parents sent me to not my choice of school. I did know why though and as an adult thank them for it greatly as educationally it was the right choice. good luck x

MadameGazelleIsMyMum Sat 19-Oct-13 08:26:37

Sorry to hear of your illness. If you really feel this is right then I would overrule DC. Can you make the other school the second choice <clueless about application process> to mollify him a bit? Or if he won't accept it and will be unpleasant, engage in some subterfuge about the reason for going to your choice? I don't normally advocate dishonesty to DCs, but these circs may call for it. Hugs OP.

tethersend Sat 19-Oct-13 08:37:12

Can you lie?

Tell him you've put his choice first and yours second, but actually put yours first and his second. Then tell him he didn't get in to his school and has a place at yours.

Sneaky, but you do have a very good reason for being so.

lljkk Sat 19-Oct-13 09:15:05

That's complicated & unfair. sad I think you should tell him some version of the truth about your illness. Maybe not the full prognosis, but something about why your illness has so much bearing.

It seems to me that the school that will make him happiest socially will be the best support he could get.

Purp1eSky Sat 19-Oct-13 11:07:05

Thanks for your responses and support. We have talked to our ds about my illness but he doesn't know that I won't get better... we expect (hope) it will be years before I lose the fight so we don't want to burden him with the full truth at this stage and to him I appear reasonably well at the moment so he's not worried about that.

There are many reasons why we prefer the school in catchment, so my illness is just one factor which we don't have to tell him about. I am sure he would be happy at our choice of school - that is one reason why we want him to go there - he would know more of the other children and it is a much smaller school so the staff know all the pupils as well. It is also a specialist school for design and technology which is what he wants to do. Academically it currently ranks slightly above his preferred school, but they do have similar results over recent years. The approach is very different however, with our preferred school being more informal and offering a wider variety of exam subjects and non-curricular opportunities, particularly for outdoor pursuits which he loves. But even this doesn't seem to be persuading him.

I don't want to lie to him and say I put his choice first when actually I didn't - I'm not comfortable with lying even if it is for a good reason.

I am hoping that if we do overrule him, he will only 'hate' us for a short while and then it will all be forgotten. If anyone can give me a clue about this it would help as the last thing I want is for him to resent our decision forever (particularly as my 'forever' is only a few years sad).

Bemused33 Sat 19-Oct-13 11:31:48

I think I would be a bit more honest about your illness. It will be easier for him to be there if your health declines, they will be more supportive etc so not the full truth but around the lines of you will more than likely decline. sad I really feel for you this is such a huge horrible decision and with the added stress of your illness I cannot imagine.

That being said if he still insists I would let him go as if he is happier going then it might be better for him to be there when things become difficult. Xx

newgirl Sat 19-Oct-13 11:44:26

I think don't bring illness into it as I imagine he will agree with you to please you. It might be a huge pressure if then something happens at school and he doesn't feel he can be open?

Could you visit his choice again during the day? My dd in y7 now and I think on whole every child I know has become very attached to their school quickly so i imagine if your choice is good he will swiftly enjoy it and move on from his first choice

hedwig2001 Sat 19-Oct-13 12:07:31

My son really wanted to go to our catchment school with his close friends. We wanted him to go to another.
The catchment school had not great results, poor facilities and teachers who seemed defeated by the problems at the school.
We were lucky. He got a place at the other school. He has settled in well, has a close group of friends and is thriving in Yr 8.
An 11 year old does not necessarily know what is best for him.

dyslexicdespot Sat 19-Oct-13 12:28:07

I read your post with tremendous sadness, and wanted to convey my sincere sympathy with you. The situation you are in is in many ways one of my worst fears and I wish you all the best.

While I am not in your position I would strongly suggest that you are completely honest with your son about your disease prognosis. I have seen first hand the devastating consequences of not being fully honest with children about their parents terminal illness.

I am linking to a very well written article on the subject:

www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/sep/21/cant-protect-children-by-lying

MortifiedAdams Sat 19-Oct-13 12:30:54

Could it be that he wants to move apart from.most of.his Primary school friends? Maybe he doesnt get on with the ones that are going to.your preferred school and he wants a fresh start.

Mutteroo Sun 20-Oct-13 02:34:52

OP you are in a terribly uncomfortable position, but I wonder if your son has an inkling of what the truth is already? Maybe for him its a fear of what might be & he's chosen the school because he feels the best friend there will be more supportive? You know your child best & this is just an opinion, but I would advise you to speak honestly with your son. Also look around both schools again during a normal school day. Ask to speak to someone at the schools about pastoral care. You never know, you & DH may change your minds?

I'm sending my very best, best wishes Purp1eSky & hope your illness can be managed successfully for as many years as possible.

sashh Sun 20-Oct-13 11:44:26

He hasn’t been able to articulate his reasons for wanting to go to the other school or his reasons for not wanting to go to our preferred school so it is difficult to reassure him.

Have you thought that maybe he is trying to find out how ill you are? If you let him go to his choice of school then you can't really be very ill.

Why have you not told him? He is old enough to understand and old enough to want memories.

This is not about schools, this is about you and your child.

lljkk Sun 20-Oct-13 12:21:00

I think getting him to articulate the reasons for his preference might be very important. I know how hard this is (DS2 is very inarticulate in general).

bundaberg Sun 20-Oct-13 12:27:41

i think that at 10/11 children should not be given final choice in their school. input yes of course, but not final decision (unless it's unanimous of course!)

I think you and his dad need to sit down with him and explain every reason why you think that this school will be better for him.
and then ask him to provide you with compelling reasons why he disagrees and thinks the other is better.

if he can't then you get to make the final choice. You're looking at this long term, he isn't! he is reacting on gut, you are doing it because you know what will be best for him...

cory Sun 20-Oct-13 15:22:39

Really sorry to hear about your situation.

Can you get any support from a knowledgeable charity or similar re telling him the truth? I know my friend who died from cancer had a lot of support from the MacMillan trust and they helped her to decide to tell her children the truth. This made the atmosphere in the house much easier and the whole family could be involved in discussing arrangements both during her illness and afterwards. It also meant she was not too ill to support them and comfort them when the blow fell.

I understand that this is horrendously hard, but I think you underestimate how quickly your ds will grow up once he goes to secondary school and how much it will be expected and normal to involve him in discussions as a rational adult. Having to lie to a 12/13yo is not actually that different from having to lie to your spouse or any other adult who lives with you. It is likely to poison the atmosphere because he will know something is wrong and your decisions based on what you know won't make sense based on what he knows.

Lying to him about your application would seem totally out of the question. Any memories you leave him with now, any feelings of having been lied to or betrayed or not trusted will be with him forever, because you won't be there to explain.

PottyLotty Sun 20-Oct-13 15:48:39

Sorry about your situation.

If it were for my children I would explain to them that we put both choices down on the form and it is not up to you which school they go to but the LEA. You have no say in it.
Does he know you order it in preference ?
If not then I would suggest to him that its in distance and you have to list the closest one first or something along those lines.

At the end of the day a 10 year old will only be worried about not knowing anyone or having any friends at school but once they start they will make new friends. I think its too big a choice to let a child decide which school they go to. You should put your foot down and make the choice but explain you have taken into account what he has said. If he has not offered any good reason to go to the other school then you should choose the one you think is right.

Im currently deciding for my DD. She wanted to go to the school where all her friends were going until the head visited her school and told them theres little chance she will be in the same class as her friends due to the numbers in the year (248 I believe) . I took her to the open evening of a very good school in the next town and she really enjoyed her visit. SO much shes even prepared to make new friends to go there.

aliasPrickleandJones Sun 20-Oct-13 19:38:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Purp1eSky Sun 20-Oct-13 20:27:14

I'm shocked that some of you think that we have lied to our son. This post wasn't about my illness it was about how our son may react if we overrule his choice of secondary school. We have had professional advice as to what to say to our son regarding my illness and we are happy that we have told him as much as he needs to know at this stage. We have been open and honest with him from the start and told him about my illness in words that he can understand and have certainly never lied to him. He has had the opportunity to ask us questions and we are always honest in our replies and he also has support from his current school if he needs to talk to someone else and we asked him if he wants to talk to a counsellor but he didn't. Once we know the prognosis ourselves we will tell him, but at the moment no-one knows - it's just a waiting game. We have a good support network to help us deal with this as a family so I don't need advice on this aspect on this forum.

We have talked to our son again regarding the two schools, but still not managed to get any nearer knowing what to do for the best. He knows we have to put the schools in order of preference on the application. We will put both of them down, but he knows he will almost definitely get a place at our preferred school if we put that first as we are in catchment, whereas he may not get his choice even if we do put it down first.

LittleSiouxieSue Sun 20-Oct-13 20:49:59

I was wondering how you judge how good the pastoral care is when you visit a school? This is usually a very difficult area to decide whether one school would be better than another. Also the staff and policies may change before you need them and your DS will also mature so what you see now is without the benefit of a crystal ball! I tend to want my children to settle well and really want to be part of the school they go to. Buying into a school was important to them. However, if you are likely to lose a place at your catchment school if you do not put it first but gamble on the other, possibly ending up with nothing, I would go with your choice . If you think you will get into your DS's choice, I would go with that as no school will be unsupportive. I wish you well.

summerends Sun 20-Oct-13 22:24:44

OP, why don't you talk privately to the mother of the friend you think may be influencing your DS to go to the other school. She may be able to find out more from her son what your DS likes so much about it. It may be something nebulous but very important in that he just felt more comfortable there when he visited. If however it is just his friend enthusing about how great it would be if they were together there then in your shoes I would be happy to overrule his wishes. However his friend's mother might be able help to you in dissuading him from his choice.

Sunnymeg Mon 21-Oct-13 18:26:03

So sorry to hear of your situation.

In my experience children from primary schools are often split at secondary, so your DS may find that he is not with his friends, even if he is at the same school as them. My DS was the only one from his primary to go to his secondary. He still sees his friends from primary at weekends and a load of them are meeting up during half term. We sent DS to the school we thought was best for him, where he will get the most opportunity and the best education.

ohnoimnot Mon 21-Oct-13 18:48:32

Im so,so sorry to read your post it made me cry.

I think your son will take comfort in the fact that you chose his school when he is older. I have children the same age as you and I wont let them choose the school they go to. I listen to their opinions but ultimately I know what is best for them, as do you.

StressedandFrazzled Tue 22-Oct-13 10:05:30

This post made me cry too. I would always say that unless his choice school is sub-standard, let your son make the choice, but of course this is subjective...My parents chose my secondary school, and I was miserable there, and to this day can't understand what made them chose it.

EuroStar2013 Tue 22-Oct-13 10:29:22

"We have a good support network to help us deal with this as a family so I don't need advice on this aspect on this forum." Well said, shame you need to say it, eh?

Do what you feel is best regarding schools. I over-ruled my daughter, felt it was part of parental responsibility to make what I thought was the best decision. (That's why we get to sign the form and not them.) No regrets though it made for a longer journey. She now can't remember why she wanted to go to the other one. Nuf said

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