Y9 disengaging with education :-(

(26 Posts)

Until the summer of Y8, DS1 was a model student. Good grades, good behaviour, enjoyed school.

For the last two terms, everything has been different.

He endures school rather than enjoying it. He is unhappy. His effort is inconsistent. He doesn't directly misbehave, but about half of his teachers say he is disengaged and a couple find him disrespectful.

At parents' evening in November he promised to turn over a new leaf, and his grades have improved, but several of his teachers are still concerned and the Head of Year called us to say this is a problem across several subjects.

He has a nice group of friends he feels comfortable with. The pastoral care at the school is good. The work is at a level that's right for him.

The only thing I can think of is that he is suffering from mild depression or something. Any other ideas?

FernieB Fri 14-Mar-14 21:37:39

Do his teachers have any ideas as to the problem? Do his friends work hard at school? My DDs are in year 9 and quite a few kids start to slack off a bit at this stage. Either they just don't see the point of working in lessons they aren't taking for options or they are just more interested in being popular.

Are you sure he's not being bullied? Are there any issues at home which could affect him? Is he just bored by it all?

The teachers have been giving him the benefit of the doubt due to his previous good form, but many of them are understandably losing patience.

The culture of his school is hard-working. They all chose to be there and are interested in doing well.

I'm sure he's not being bullied. He is very open with me and hasn't mentioned this. He's quite well thought-of and one of the more popular boys in his year. Gets invited to things.

He does work harder in the subjects he'll be doing for GCSE, so I do think that's part of it.

There were some issues at home last summer (bereavement and another family trauma) but nothing in the last nine months.

Maryz Fri 14-Mar-14 22:36:11

Have you tried straightforward bribery financial reward? That might sort out whether he isn't bothering, or can't make himself bother iyswim?

At this stage in his life education isn't, contrary to popular belief, the only thing that matters. How is he outside class? Does he have friends, interests, reasons to get up in the morning?

It is possible he is marking time, and will put in the effort when he can see it matters. Year 8 is a sort of limbo, isn't it? Before the proper exams start. You will have a better idea next year when they have made more decisions and he knows more about what he wants to do.

So I would hold tight, pick your battles and wait it out.

He is Y9 and has started GCSE courses in half of his subjects. The rest start in May.

He used to have interests, but has given up some of them in the last six months.

He seems to be OK at home, it's just school that he doesn't see the point of.

Maryz Fri 14-Mar-14 22:53:32

I'd be more worried about him giving up interests outside school.

I think a lot of kids disengage with education in early secondary because they can't see the point. Then they work out what they want to do and realise they need certain subjects/results/whatever to get there and they re-engage.

It's only if they lose interest in life in general that it becomes a worry.

Can you spark his interest, talk about what he wants to do, select certain subject that he will really try at? Rather than general "stop slacking" rants, iyswim?

cory Sat 15-Mar-14 09:03:07

Depression is a strong word used to describe a crippling condition.

Could it be the much milder situation of feeling rather nervous about growing up and his own place in the world? Many teens have moments when they just want to wind the clock back.

Fear of failure perhaps? Many teens stop trying because they are afraid of ^trying and failing^; somehow this seems more shaming than never having tried in the first place.

Or just being too immature to relate the work he is asked to do at school with any rewards in the outside world?

My ds went through a couple of years at the beginning of secondary where he tried to gain credibility with his new peers by acting the class clown. It turned out to be a combination of (unjustified) fear of bullying and fear of proving to the world that he was thick if he applied himself and then didn't do well.

What got him out of this rut was again twofold:

i) he realised that his mates weren't actually impressed by the class clown act any more- they had grown out of it and were getting on with their lives totally uninterested in his antics

ii) a couple of engaged and passionate teachers managed to spot his growing interest and potential in their subjects and encouraged it

Thank you all for your ideas. DS1 has suffered from depression before, which is what made me wonder. This seems different though. Last time he was crying every day and wishing he was dead. This time he just seems to have this persistent low mood and doesn't seem to enjoy anything anymore. But perhaps that could be a symptom of adolescence? I do try to talk to him about it, but he just clams up or cries or tells me everything is unfair or pointless.

The Head of Year plans to speak to DS1 on Mon or Tue, and then he wants to set up a meeting with DH & me.

DS1 isn't doing anything high-risk, no drugs or alcohol involved and no major behaviour issues.

But his behaviour has changed, he seems more withdrawn and doesn't seem to care anymore. I'm just not sure how much of that is normal 14 year old stuff and how much I should be concerned about.

LastingLight Sat 15-Mar-14 16:02:09

Does your DS have at least two of the following symptoms in addition to low mood?

Diminished or increased appetite
Insomnia or hypersomnia
Low energy or fatigue
Poor self-esteem
Difficulties with concentration or decision making
Feelings of hopelessness

Then he may have dysthymia, also called dysthymic disorder. It's a form of depression which is "milder" than major depression but can do just as much damage.

Thank you, LastingLight, that's really helpful. He has had three of those for about eight or nine months.

MaryMotherOfCheeses Sat 15-Mar-14 23:53:53

Oh that sounds hard.

Best of luck with the Head of Year meeting.

Did you see the GP last time he was depressed? I know it's more difficult as they get older, but can you get him back there?

DS1 met with the H of Y today and has been put on report for a week. Every teacher today signed his behaviour and effort as 'very good'. I think he is hoping that if he gets a week of 'very good' then they'll get off his back.

tryingreallytrying Thu 20-Mar-14 21:29:59

Wow, 3B1G - could be my dd you're describing (same age, same year, sister school to your ds).

I suspect the same reasons.

Maybe they should get together and moan about how unfair life is, mope around a bit... Her friends also seem like a nice bunch, working harder than her atm.

She has just got off being on report!!!

So no, don't think I've cracked the problem or got a solution, but you're certainly not alone with your ds!

If I find an answer, I'll let you know...

tryingreallytrying: that's actually quite reassuring, thank you. Sometimes it doesn't help that both schools seem to be filled with enthusiastic, hard-working students. When I go to parents' evenings, DS1 is the only one grunting at us and hiding behind his ridiculous hairstyle. All of his friends seem to be articulate, polite human beings.

tryingreallytrying Thu 20-Mar-14 22:23:05

Yup.

Totally.

I suspect in dd's case the fact that she was doing v well and great things were expected of her is now giving her the willies as gcses approach. I find the schools a bit 'pushy' - am not sure dd wouldn't have been happier somewhere with no pressure and no expectation. Because left to her own devices, she's actually naturally ridiculously academic - the kind of child who memorised the names of all 50 Mr Men off the back cover of the book at the age of 3, just as a feat of memory and a desire to know stuff. But 'having' to do stuff is the one thing most likely to make it unappealing, unfortunately. But was her choice of school...

She's now got it in her head she's not that bright and not going to do that well and I want to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy; she's easily capable. Fine line to tread - don't want to suggest gcses are easy and put her down for worrying and suggest working hard is unnecessary - but equally don't want to suggest they're v hard as she then worries they're beyond her. Trying to make clear that they're fine IF one sticks with the work.

tryingreallytrying Thu 20-Mar-14 22:25:16

And lol at the grunting behind the hairstyle! Could absolutely be my dd!!

I find the schools a bit 'pushy' - am not sure dd wouldn't have been happier somewhere with no pressure and no expectation.

Because the targets are aspirational, even if DS1 does really well, the tracker report shows "just behind target" or "concern". For example, he got A in a recent Chemistry test, but target is A*, so report showed "behind target". I would find that quite demoralising, and it's a short jump from that to "Why bother? Whatever I do won't be good enough."

However, he fell in love with the school when he visited in Y6 and he was adamant he wanted to apply. I recently asked him how he would feel about moving to a less competitive school, and he said that would be even more depressing.

tryingreallytrying Thu 20-Mar-14 22:46:08

So similar. I agree - I went to a top grammar in pre-league table days and had no pressure whatsoever and just got top grades without stress. I was middling in lots of subjects except my favourite few until O Levels (last year) but was organised enough and motivated enough to do the work when it mattered - and no-one hassled me or cared how I did before that. Dd worries about things like graduate unemployment - she's 14 ffs!! Wish there was less pressure on them and more FUN.

I think I was able to get away with messing about for some of the time and then I put the work in for end of year internal exams, GCSEs and A-levels.
For children currently at secondary school, it feels as though they are constantly being assessed. DS1 & DS2 are assessed in every subject at least five times a year. Any dip in effort is noticed and addressed. I do think they are under more pressure than I was at their age.

tryingreallytrying Fri 21-Mar-14 09:42:19

So true.

I mentioned to dd this morning that I'd been chatting on mn to the mum of her separated-at-birth-twin; she actually seemed quite pleased to see she was not alone...

tryingreallytrying Fri 21-Mar-14 09:45:05

Was going to add - I think the year 9 thing is also partly down to the fact that it's the point where bright kids who've never really had to work/been challenged start to find the work harder and actually have for the first time to try to succeed at something that doesn't immediately come easy. In this sense, they're actually at a disadvantage to their less bright peers who got past that hurdle years earlier.

tryingreallytrying Fri 21-Mar-14 09:51:57

And yes, I've suggested dd move to a sixth-form college or equivalent, look at vocational courses etc, as she keeps moaning how much she hates all academic work. But she won't countenance that either; suspect she's actually a bit of a snob academically. I do just want her to be happy wherever she is; to work for herself/her own enjoyment. But she's got herself twisted up in this 'teenager, so must rebel' thing from reading too much NME/listening to pop music, this 'my teachers say I must do X so I'm not going to do it, even if actually I might want to or it might be a good idea'. Grrr. She is so stubborn.

I suggested this as an option; DS1 wasn't impressed.

tryingreallytrying Fri 21-Mar-14 19:42:01

So did I! Am now wondering if you are my long-lost twin! grin

Freakishly similar.

tryingreallytrying Fri 21-Mar-14 19:42:46

And no, dd wasn't having any of it, either.

I think it looks quite good.

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