Any advice please?! School fee nightmare(21 Posts)
I nearly killed myself putting my son through private education and last year, while in year 10, everything went wrong for him at the school he had been at for 11 years and he was endlessly punished for small infractions and was on the verge of imminent expulsion. When I went to discuss with the head, he told me my son was in the wrong school and that the only strategy re handling him would be more punishment. I felt I had no choice but to pull my son out of the school, especially when I received a letter from the head after our meeting warning me that he had grave fears for my sons future. I have long had concerns re possible SEN which might account for my sons (actually not very) disruptive behaviour and they ran tests and confirmed he has a slow processing function. So I felt very let down by their not having spotted anything earlier and by the punishment regime which had put my son into a protracted depression. It all seemed futile, I quickly moved my son feeling we had no other choice and the problem now is that because I didn't give a terms notice, they are chasing me for this terms fees. They are sending me very heavy letters, I cannot afford to pay and have already lost my deposit. I feel they failed in their duty of care towards my son and I am aghast at their pursuing me. Any advice, please?
They are a business. You have, presumably, a contract with them, which means you are committed to paying your fees.
If you can't afford to have your son in the school why did you send him there? And if you could afford to have him there before you pulled him out, why can't you afford it now?
Of course they're going to pursue you!!! You owe them money.
Does your contract with the school state a notice period/outstanding fees due in the event of expulsion? It seems like the school were actively pushing you to withdraw him from the school, sort of like an educational version of constructive dismissal.
In the event that it turns out you do need to pay the outstanding fees, I would be inclined to contact the school as soon as possible, explain you do not have the funds to pay the outstanding balance, and see if they will agree to a longer repayment period.
I understand they are a business but they have failed my son. I cannot afford to pay because I have had to pay for the new school and can't do both. They very clearly wanted him out. When he returned from his last expulsion he was immediately given a red card on his first day back, so was then 4 red cards away from expulsion. His underlying sen issues hadn't been addressed, we were forced out, it was not what I wanted. I will contact them but I have spoken to other parents who've been similarly let down and actively pursued and had no luck.
Unless you followed their complaints procedure and you removed him by mutual consent you are liable for the fees in lieu of notice. Your best bet is to request a payment plan before they take you to court.
I would see a solicitor or CAB. I don't think it is quite so cut and dried. You could certainly negotiate.
It doesn't matter. It's a business and you entered into a business agreement. Can't see why you can't see that?
Under any contract both sides have obligations. If the OP feels the school have not fulfilled their side of the contract she can withdraw her son without notice. Clearly whether they have would ultimately be decided by a court.
More pragmatically private schools don't want bad publicity so they would probably accept a reasonable offer rather than go to court.
... and private schools don't want pupils who don't fit their 'ideal' profile, or who have specific pastoral needs.
But that's different.
The OP has terminated her contract without giving the requisite notice. She owes the school money.
I have no sympathy with people who want private education but don't think they have to pay for it, or who don't understand the financial agreement they're entering into.
I have paid them nearly £200k over 11 years so I don't expect to have something for free. When my son was having a difficult time, I felt they abandoned him and we were stuck in a situation where he would be endlessly punished without any effort to deal with the underlying problems or tackle it in a way specific to him.
I think most private schools require a term's notice. How many times have you raised your concerns over SEN issues with the school? What did they do about it at an earlier date? This could be where you could stand your ground in that you feel they haven't done much/anything/or talked to you earlier about where to go from here.
Some schools are particularly good with SEN issues and some aren't. He really needed to be at a school who could help him.
Why were the school giving him red cards and expulsions?
Search back on education threads as I recall other situations like this - it is definitely not as clear cut as it might seem.
Try not though to blame the school for not spotting SEN, they are not professionals in this area and it can be very hard to diagnose some SEN.
Our private school "failed" to spot Ds's dyslexia but when I look at it rationally (and the latest Ed Psych confirmed this when doing the report) is that DS is very good at hiding his dyslexia as he is reasonably bright. This means it is very hard to spot....
Also private schools do not want disruptive kids in class, yes you are paying for education, but so is everyone else!
Lastly I think you may be minimizing the behavior - he is your son after all! Many parents get called in to deal with kids behavior - it has to be fairly bad for them to say goodbye to the fees you are paying.
Oh and with regards to the contract - you would be fine if he had been expelled as they would be terminating the contract. With you terminating it you are obliged to pay a full terms fees - this is very standard. I think you will have to pay.
I am sorry to hear how the school let you down. Unless you want to get into a long protracted and expensive legal battle with this school, I would suggest you pay up, put it down to experience and try your best to move on. I know it doesn't seem fair but I don't think you will beat their clear rule on notice period.
I do hear what you are saying about the SEN, some schools and staff are not very good at dealing with it which can result in a child really suffering and having SEN issues interpreted as laziness and stupidness (you think we would have moved on by now!). Concentrate on getting your son properly diagnosed and then getting the correct measures put in place at the new school ie extra time, support etc.
If you have the time and energy to pursue it then maybe you have a case. The school cannot have it both ways and say he is on verge of being expelled. You needed another school and they were not providing satisfactory schooling and missed SEN issues. I'd consult a solicitor and see what they say. Write to the school and advise them you are seeking legal advise and will get back to them in due course.
The key thing is whether you followed the grievance procedure, because if there is provision for remedy within a contract, that needs to be attempted rather than just breaking the contract.
Have you a written record of all the exchanges with the school over his behaviour, plus a list of dates of all meetings?
Without those, it would be very hard to bring a case.
Schools have insurance which will cover legal costs for pursuing non-paid fees, and usually proceed that way.
I'm afraid one of the very commonest ways of trying to wriggle out of the contracted notice period is to claim that the school failed in some way. Because it is so common, you really do need to be able to show that in your case it is genuine, and for that you need to be able to document what has happened and show you at least started to use the grievance procedures.
(cases which start, 'but I didn't know I there was a grievance procedure' can be expected fail)
More pragmatically private schools don't want bad publicity so they would probably accept a reasonable offer rather than go to court
more like, schools don't want others to get out of the notice period by claiming bad treatment so they will pursue it
OP, if you followed their grievance procedure to the letter you might have a case
Your op is very strong in the way it blames the school. Unless you were there how can you know that his behavioural problems were only minor?
You know him best and didn't know he has Sen yet you expect the school to. As others have said it must have been pretty bad to say goodbye to a paying customer.
Why did you as his parent allow the punishment regime to continue for so long?? So long that your child became depressed?
Negligent of the school but more negligent of you for realising there were serious issues and waiting until he was expelled before doing anything about it!
Your poor son and all you can think about is the money! What about your son's mental health!? You should have prioritised that at the first sign of any problem!
I hope you can now put all your resources into trying to undo 11 years of inappropriate schooling.
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