Help needed - DSS struggling in school. Boarding school choices?

(13 Posts)
ilovebrownies Mon 20-Jun-16 17:34:42

DSS 2 (15 years old, year 10) is having a very hard time in school and recommendation from both his after school tutor and therapist is to consider sending him boarding. Key question is which school? He needs a combination of a very supportive but also very structured environment, somewhere that has excellent pastoral care.

School problems seem to be a mix of things. He's not done particularly well for some time now, but his grades have been getting worse, and are currently at a level where he will not be invited back for 6th form. He then seems to get a very, very negative message when he's at his mother's house (6 days a week vs. 1 with us); for example she has a long history of telling him he's stupid and lazy (one of the reasons we started sending him to a therapist and tutor in the first place), and has now started saying that his recent poor mock exam results are entirely due to laziness on his part. As a result, he's stopped doing any work (homework or revision) entirely, and is also showing signs of anxiety. The tutor is worried that he seems to be entirely defeated and totally disengaged. His older brother boarded and absolutely thrived, so he has seen the benefits and has been making some positive comments about boarding.

DSS1 went to Marlborough, but for various reasons I'm convinced that would not be the right environment for DSS2. One of the most serious was a bullying issue that the school was very late to address, and only did so under pressure from DH. Also, DSS2 is much more sensitive than DSS1, hence needing a very supportive environment with more structure than seems to be provided at Marlborough.

Any thoughts/advice on boarding schools with excellent pastoral care greatly appreciated.

AnotherNewt Mon 20-Jun-16 17:53:51

Obvious question first, does he actually want to board?

Because whatever you think the merits of it might be, unless he's fully into the idea it simply won't work.

What GCSE board is he doing? Because transfer into year 11, unless there is a match of syllabus (and even when there is), is one of the most challenging times to be moving. Some DC just have to do it, of course. But finding your feet in a new school plus boarding for the first time, plus taking public exams only a couple of terms after entry is going to be extremely demanding.

TeenAndTween Mon 20-Jun-16 18:24:26

I guess it's not possible for him to live with you instead, and still go to same school?
You could encourage working hard, help with difficulties etc. without the disruption of a move and GCSEs which is difficult due to different exam boards etc.

mary21 Mon 20-Jun-16 18:30:23

1st have you had him screened for spe ific learning difficulties eg dyslexia but also working memory processing speeds etc. If not I suggest seeing an educational psychologist. The may also suggest schools.
Are you looking for weekly or full boarding. If the former what part of the country are you in. There are some schools that offer a 1 year gcse course but that is usually aimed at international pupils. I am not sure how the new gcse's will be affected. Or do you want him to redo year 10.
What does your DS want to do?

mary21 Mon 20-Jun-16 18:39:44

I have heard good things about Bedes near Eastborne and the Quaker schools such as Leighton Park for their individual approach and pastoral care. Do you want Co ed or all boys. Sporty or not.

happygardening Mon 20-Jun-16 19:18:08

Most not very selective boarding schools will ask a pupil to leave if their GCSE are below a certain grade. Would he and you be happy if he did yr 10 again? This is often an option in the independent sector and might broaden your options.
If you interested in full boarding you could look at St Edwards Oxford a happy very caring school, big enough to provide a good choice of friends and conventional to provide a structured environment and reasonable results as well.

ilovebrownies Tue 21-Jun-16 12:49:34

Thanks for the replies, more details/answers below:

We would love to have him more often at ours, and would hopefully give him a more stable and encouraging environment but he is very anxious about not upsetting his mum (there is a lot of emotional blackmail to him about not leaving her "alone" especially as DSS1 chose several years ago to live exclusively with his dad, and then the two of us, when not at school). Forcing the issue is a worry even if better for him in longer term as it might result in traumatising him further than he already is. The "easier" solution seems to be boarding and DH thinks he can get agreement on this.

DSS2 seems to be fine with idea of boarding, within context of sometimes being very difficult to tell what he actually thinks as sometimes very clear that he is saying what he thinks someone wants to hear as opposed to what he actually wants... 2 years ago when first discussed he seemed fine with it.

Completely agree on difficulties sending him to new school in between exam years, and that was initially raised by therapist, i.e. don't do it and wait until 6th form, unless situation becomes serious enough, which it may have. If he can't pass his gcse 's next year we are concerned about what that might do to his already low self esteem and also what options are then left available to continue onto 6th form?

Exam boards are, I think, CIE...does that make sense?

Holding back and repeating year 10, though ideally at a different school, is something we were thinking about. Does anyone have any experience with that?

Not sure on coed vs boys only, and some sport would be good (he loves football) but probably wouldn't do well in a school that is massively sporty.

happygardening Tue 21-Jun-16 13:09:18

In the world of boarding schools I would have thought your SS options are quite limited. The reality is that only the very big names with top results can afford to only cater for 1/2 the population.
I would have thought you need to try and find a school that's prepared to give him a chance, and hope that he'll turn over a new leaf and work hard and get good GCSE grades. I suspect anywhere that's even quite selective and or oversubscribed wont unless he's currently at a super selective, is terribly bright and he can convince them that he's going to really change.
I know quite few who've redone yr 10 it seems to work well for them. As you probably know not all schools offer football especially to the lower years, do look into this carefully. Does he have other hobbies etc.

snowy508601 Tue 21-Jun-16 19:49:45

would his mother even agree to it?

At the end of the day though throwing money at the problem isn't enough. He has to be willing to change .You can take a horse to water....

snowy508601 Tue 21-Jun-16 19:50:54

would his mother even agree to it?

At the end of the day though throwing money at the problem isn't enough. He has to be willing to change .You can take a horse to water....

bojorojo Wed 22-Jun-16 07:56:14

I think a child who is not working is not necessarily going to work at boarding school. They don't have a magic wand to improve work ethic. Lots of schools have work shy pupils and more of them are at the less academic schools, for obvious reasons. I would look at the Quaker schools and also ones where there is a lot going on. I don't know where you live, but don't choose one too far away because there is picking up and dropping off to consider.

Also, it comes across that this plan is to avoid the negative influence of the Mum. Just be very careful about setting him up to agree to something against the wishes of his Mother. Definitely repeat y10. It may also be, that he is not so bright and work is a struggle, hence he has decided to avoid it. The marking is probably getting tougher and so is the work. Not every child gets top grades or is academic 6th form material. Leaving his Mum aside, what is he really like academically? St Edwards is fairly academic and has lots of opportunities to spend time in Oxford! Bradfield may suit but no school will nanny a child to study. A good school will listen to a child and give encouragement but cannot perform miracles!

happygardening Wed 22-Jun-16 12:01:44

Just in case you're not aware the new head of Bradfield is Chris Stevens he was the deputy head at Marlborough!

JoJoSM2 Thu 23-Jun-16 01:00:43

I do hope he genuinely wants to board - it seems he'd really benefit from being away from his toxic mother. However, I'd worry more about his mental health and well-being than GCSE's. Perhaps he might take a little longer to get them or not do that well but the greater determiner of him being a happy person will definitely be resolving his anxiety and confidence issues. Once he's doing better on that front, he's likely to power on with his education. (Not sure about any specific schools - sorry).

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