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To think that the school is jumping the gun?

(149 Posts)
AdorableMisfit Tue 02-Dec-14 22:15:12

My daughter turned four at the end of June, started Reception class in September. She was never in formal education before she went to school, as due to childcare issues we couldn't take advantage of the 15 hours free nursery education (we live in a part of the country where the Council forces you to send your child to a school nursery 2.5 hours per day, 5 days a week, rather than letting you choose how to use the 15 free hours, so it just wasn't possible for us to fit it around our work and her paid nursery place).

We met with our daughter's teacher at a parents evening just before the half term holiday, so in the latter part of October. She told us then that DD was a bit disruptive, not always following instructions and generally not very good at sitting still and listening. I told the teacher that I put that down to her basicallly being new to all this school stuff and not being used to the formal educational setting and also, you know, due to being four years old. I know other four year olds who behave in much the same way. The teacher suggested that she introduce a sticker chart to try to encourage our DD to behave in class, which I thought was a good idea as she responded well to a sticker chart for potty training when smaller.

I work full time and DD goes to breakfast club and after school club, so I haven't seen the teacher since, but she has my mobile number and email address. Fast forward to today, some 5 weeks later. I've not seen any trace of the suggested sticker chart, nor have I had any more communication from the teacher about my daughter's behaviour, so I assumed that things were improving as I'd heard nothing to the contrary.

Then today, out of the blue, I got a phone call from the school nurse, saying she wants to refer my daughter to a paediatrician for assessment as they are concerned about her behaviour, because she doesn't listen and follow instructions very well, and it's hard to keep her "on task" when they want her to do something. She also said that she's been told by the teacher that my daughter will start randomly crying in class for no apparent reason (rather than crying because she doesn't get her own way, or something). This is not something the school has ever mentioned to me.

I'm absolutely fuming. Surely it's not unreasonable of me to expect that the teacher should have contacted me sooner if she had such serious concerns about DD's behaviour that she was considering contacting a medical professional about it? And surely if they are worried about my daughter's mood they should have talked to me about that before getting a nurse involved?

I have had absolutely no concerns about DD's behaviour at home. Yes, she's not very good at focusing on things she's not interested in, and no, she's not very good at listening and following instructions, but most other four year olds I know are exactly the same. It's not like she's incapable of sitting down and listening at all - she will happily sit and listen to me reading her book after book, and she can snuggle up on the sofa with me and watch an entire Disney movie. She is only four, and I'm sure she will get better at listening to her teacher with time.

AIBU to think that the school is trying to make a medical issue out of something which is completely normal behaviour?

Ps. I agreed to the referral to the paediatrician, just in case, as there's a 6 month waiting list.

Haggisfish Tue 02-Dec-14 22:20:18

Hmm I'm not sure tbh! Teachers will see many more children than you, so will have a better idea of the range of 'normal' four year old behaviour. It must be quite bad for them to be considering referral. I would have expected more communication from school, but I would also have phoned/emailed/written a note asking for an update myself. Can you ask to see them now and ask for a second teachers opinion?

itiswhatitiswhatitis Tue 02-Dec-14 22:24:34

I think the school have handled this quite badly in terms of their communication with you, if they have such serious worries they should have been keeping in touch with you more regularly rather than dropping a bombshell like this.

However that said in my experience schools rarely suggest such referrals unless they are genuinely concerned and they do have your daughters best interests at heart. I think you are wise to accept the referral because if it turns out to be nothing then you've wasted no more than a morning at the paediatrician's office but if (and it's a big if) there is an issue then identifying it sooner rather than later is a good thing.

LadyLuck10 Tue 02-Dec-14 22:26:31

In 5 weeks have you not also contacted the teacher to see how things are progressing? It works both ways. Instead of fuming, why don't you accept the referral. It may be nothing or something which you should be glad they picked up on.

itiswhatitiswhatitis Tue 02-Dec-14 22:29:02

Also my son has some rather serious attention and listening difficulties but can focus for great periods of time on activities of his own choosing, his difficulty is attending to adult led activities and instructions.

Ask the school for a meeting and ask them for some very specific information and examples of how they feel your daughter is struggling and how they are approaching it and managing it because even if the paediatrician does identify an issue the school still need strategies in place to help your daughter.

FishWithABicycle Tue 02-Dec-14 22:33:14

YANBU that it's silly to be treating this as a medical issue. She's 4. The purpose of reception year is to very gradually get children used to the concept of formal education and how to behave in a class setting. It's ridiculous that they would be making an issue over a summer-born child being not there yet.

YABU thinking the teacher should have contacted you - she already did talk to you about it. There are probably set procedures which don't involve going to extra lengths to contact you if you never come to to the school at the beginning or end of the day.

The pediatrician will probably declare that all is completely normal and tell the teacher to not be so silly.

Could you do anything to juggle your work hours a little to have one day a week where DD either doesn't go to breakfast club or doesn't go to after school club so that you have one direct contact time each week?

AdorableMisfit Tue 02-Dec-14 22:36:26

Hi Haggisfish and thanks for your thoughts.
I've emailed the school asking to arrange a meeting with the teacher and expressed my general disappointment in the lack of communication from them.
Of course the teacher has experience of a much wider range of children than me as DD is my only child, but she went to a private nursery before she started school and they never expressed any concern or suggestion that she was significantly different from her peers. But as I said, that was a less formal environment, so perhaps less noticeable to staff if there is a problem.
I just feel that the school's reaction is really premature. She hasn't even been in school for a full term yet, and she's come from an environment where she's basically spent the last three years having "free play" every day getting to choose which activities she wanted to participate in and which she didn't. Going to school is a big adjustment. Most of her classmates went to the school nursery so already knew the routines etc. I feel like they're failing to recognise that every child is different, and learns at different speeds without that necessarily meaning that there's something wrong with the child in question. You know, if she is still like this in a year's time, then perhaps there's a reason to worry, but it's only been three months, I really think it's too soon for them to say that there's a potential medical issue.
But more than that I'm just really upset that the teacher didn't contact us, and doesn't even seem to have tried the sticker chart idea (which she said she would send home with DD so we could see how she was progressing). I'm also really worried that DD is unhappy in the school (why else would she be randomly crying?) and they haven't even thought to mention that to us before taking it to the school nurse!?

piggychops Tue 02-Dec-14 22:38:36

I think it needs input from you as well. You could start a sticker chart at home to help her with doing little tasks at home. It's a bit like practising for school. Helping your DD to understand what is expected at school relies to a certain extent on a working partnership with you and the teacher, so you may need to be a bit proactive especially if it's a large class.

Permanentlyexhausted Tue 02-Dec-14 22:41:19

The teacher will be comparing your DD's behavior to that of her peers (i.e. the rest of her class) who are being asked to so the same task at the same time, so I would tend to think she has genuine cause for concern.

The 15 hours of free childcare, or her lack of access to it, is a red herring. It should not have provided your DD with any experiences that she didn't get at her nursery. Her nursery should have been preparing her for school by gradually introducing more formal educational activities.

I don't think you have anything to lose with the referral. If the conclusion is that her behavior is 'normal' then all well and good. If she does have special needs then she will have access to the help she needs to get the most from her education.

Try looking at it from a more positive angle. The school/teacher care enough about your DD to seek help for her rather than just punishing her or allowing her behavior to continue unchecked.

steppemum Tue 02-Dec-14 22:45:00

In my experience, for a teacher to go so quickly to referral is very unusual. The most common procedure would be more on the lines of the sticker charts and gradually upping the intervention and support if the positive reinforcement doesn't work.

Good experienced teachers see so many children, that they know when something isn't right.
On the other hand a very inexperienced teacher may be over reacting.

It was good to accept the referral as t can always be cancelled later. You need to go in and see the school. And you need to be prepared to do that regularly. Maybe rearrange your work so you can do pick up once a week and touch base with the teacher.

Pico2 Tue 02-Dec-14 22:48:29

I'm surprised that there is that much of a difference between the school nursery and a private nursery. My DD attends a private nursery and the day has a structure, there are times for listening (like circle time and singing before lunch), they have focus time activities to encourage them to progress. Did your DD's nursery really not expect any of that as she moved towards school?

Permanentlyexhausted Tue 02-Dec-14 22:49:51

What does your DD say about the random crying? Have you asked her whether she feels she finds it hard to concentrate sometimes and why that might be? How is she finding school in general?

AdorableMisfit Tue 02-Dec-14 22:51:45

Thanks for all your input.
I have no experience of the primary education system in the UK before as I was brought up in Scandinavia (where incidentally the school starting age is 6), but my daughter's nursery were very good at keeping in touch with us - there was a daily chart with little notes about how her day had been, etc. I guess I just assumed that the same kind of system would carry on once she started school and that if the teacher felt there was something she needed to talk to me about, she would have made some effort to contact me - how long does it take to drop someone an email? I have previously contacted the school before asking for the teacher's email address and they've declined to give it to me. It's hard to make phone contact with her, because she's obviously teaching the class during the day and not available for me to speak to.
I'm also disappointed that she said she would introduce a sticker chart at school, but then doesn't seem to have done so - in hindsight perhaps I should have rung the school to ask them to pass her a message asking where the promised sticker chart was. When the teacher spoke to us before half term, she said that DD was starting to settle into the school routines so that's why I assumed that things were improving when I hadn't heard anything to the contrary.
Due to the nature of my work (it can be quite unpredictable) and the distance from my office to the school, it's going to be difficult for me to commit to one specific day when I can definitely get to the school to pick her up myself to speak to the teacher. I have however emailed the school today, and in that email suggested that perhaps the teacher could let me know a convenient day and time of the week when I could call and speak to her on a regular basis to see how things are going. I haven't had a response yet but I'm hoping I'll hear back tomorrow.

1FluffyJumper Tue 02-Dec-14 22:52:50

Better to get a teacher that puts forward for a referral and for it to be nothing, than for teachers to let it slide for years and years and possibly miss something as mundane and medical as treatable hearing difficulty. What's the worst than can happen? What worries you? That it's a waste of time or that the teacher might have legitimate concerns? What will be will be.

skylark2 Tue 02-Dec-14 22:54:00

Is she a very new teacher?

If not, isn't it more likely that your daughter isn't actually "just 4" but that there's more of an issue? After all, teacher sees a couple of dozen new 4 year olds every year - she can't possibly refer them all to medical professionals for normal 4 year old behaviour...

YouTheCat Tue 02-Dec-14 22:56:08

Accept that referral and any help/advice you get.

Having a school that takes these things seriously and is pro-active is brilliant. It can really make a difference if help is earlier rather than later. And if there turns out to be no problem then there's no harm done.

1FluffyJumper Tue 02-Dec-14 22:56:44

I'd say for teacher to do a 'two stars and a wish' note in her book on a regular basis. You phone the school off the back of that if u have any worries. I'd guess star chart has been done in school but just not sent home. I never email parents. It's not the done thing round here.

Topseyt Tue 02-Dec-14 22:57:12

Lets hope that the paediatrician finds all is normal when you eventually get to see them.

The teacher did make the effort to speak to you at parents' evening. Possibly she felt you were not receptive to her concerns at the time, so no meaningful dialogue followed.

I wouldn't think it is jumping the gun. If there are problems then the sooner they are identified the sooner the correct support can be organised. This process may start in reception. I even know of a few cases where it began at pre-school.

Getting the help and support some children need can also be a time consuming process so it is better to start sooner rather than later.

AdorableMisfit Tue 02-Dec-14 22:59:26

On the topic of the private nursery, they did have a nursery teacher who came in, but it was not every day. They did introduce some basic things, like teaching her to write her name, but they don't seem to have done phonics for example and most of the day just seems to have been set up around what they called "free flow", where they had different activities in different rooms and the children got to choose what they wanted to do to a large extent. They did do some circle time and singing etc. and as I said, the nursery never expressed any concern that she was not like her peers.

If there IS a problem, of course I want my daughter to get all the help she can get. I'm just worried that she's going to get a label of "special needs" or "ADHD" stuck on her at the age of four, which the "normal" kids will bully her for and which will then follow her for the rest of her life and be a disadvantage for her later on in life.

YouTheCat Tue 02-Dec-14 23:03:03

Would you rather your dd got the help she needs to get the best out of school and have a happy time there, with or without a diagnosis of additional needs?

Or would you rather she was just labelled as 'the naughty child'?

piggychops Tue 02-Dec-14 23:04:16

The other way of looking at it is this: if she is diagnosed with something she will get help and support from an early age, allowing her to reach her full potential and develop strategies for managing things, rather than being labelled as "the naughty kid" which is far more likely to bring issues with other children.

OddBoots Tue 02-Dec-14 23:04:17

Please don't worry about labels. It is very hard to get a diagnosis of anything like ADHD from a professional so if one is given it is needed and helpful to the child to have it.

piggychops Tue 02-Dec-14 23:05:43

You snap!

marnia68 Tue 02-Dec-14 23:06:46

They will have a hundred times more experience of 4 yr olds than you have.They will have seen 'young' 4 yos , 4 yo's who haven't been in pre school many many times before.Yjey are much better placed to identify what constitutes normal behaviour and what isn't

AdorableMisfit Tue 02-Dec-14 23:11:49

Topsey - The reason this has shocked me so much today, is that I genuinely did not get the impression from the teacher that things were so serious they were considering a referral! The note she gave us at the parents evening said "DD is beginning to settle into Reception and is aware of rules and routines but sometimes needs reminding to follow these. She is beginning to make new friends but can sometimes find this difficult". I made her aware then that DD has always been very independent and from time to time just wants to play by herself and that I wasn't too concerned about the friends issue at that stage. She also gave me some tips on trying to encourage DD to show an interest in reading and writing (because at this point in time DD just wants to have books read to her, no interest in learning to read them herself). At no point did she say anything that remotely suggested that she thought things were so bad they needed to get her assessed by a medical expert. It really sounded like she just felt DD might need a bit more time adjusting to her new routines and that it was "teething problems" that would iron themselves out. Which is why this has surprised me so much.

And for those of you who asked, I'm not sure how experienced the teacher is, but she looks like she might be in her early to mid 20s, if that's any indication of how long someone might have been a teacher.

I have asked DD about the crying today, and she just says she doesn't cry at school. But she also claims that she's a good girl and sits down and listens to her teacher, so I tend to take what she says with a pinch of salt.

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