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Anyone backpedalled on pushy parenting and changed course?

(257 Posts)
AnnaBBB Tue 25-Jun-13 17:55:19

Am having real second thoughts about applying for highly selective /academic senior schools for DS even though he is quite academic ....... I feel already there is too much teaching is to the test and confess I have contributed to that pressure at home too in an effort to improve his shot at getting into these schools ....but there seems to be little creativity in it all ....I am wondering if it is having the opposite effect of fostering a genuine joy of learning, and the prospect of having him spend several more years of being hothoused at senior school and then having to follow that through at home to keep up in a highly competitive place where everyone needs to get A * or they feel a failure could backfire... the constant testing even at 9/10 years old is making him lose perspective of what he really used to love about a subject and he is starting to question the point of it all. Am curious if others having got into these highly selective schools (aka intensely competitive exam factories/hot houses), regretted it and then pulled their DCs out for similar reasons. Plus you read stories of child geniuses whose parents hothoused them even giving up their own jobs to home school (so effectively 1:1 tutoring) who then grow up to say they feel they lost their childhood and would never put their own children through it (Ruth Lawrence for one). Is it really worth it in the end?

bico Wed 03-Jul-13 19:24:49

He was top third in previous school and this one has a similar cohort. Not stunningly academic but not bottom of class material.

I think the mention of any issues so late in the year is frankly a bit silly. However I'm happy that it has led to an EP assessment as I'm curious to see whether it confirms what I think I know about ds and what makes him tick.

IndridCold Wed 03-Jul-13 15:04:54

bico That's so strange! I was going to ask you if he was a busy, sociable boy. This sounds EXACTLY what we went through with our DS at this age, also a busy and friendly boy. Bright, but if he found the work a bit dull would want to chat with his friends and could easily distract the whole class with jokes. Several of his class teachers did not deal with this well.

He was finally sorted out by his wonderful year 4 teacher! She had a chat with him to explain how he was expected to behave; she then gave him a choice of two or three different strategies to help him stay focussed, and we've never looked back.

It must be frustrating to have been hit with this right at the end of the school year. I'm no expert but from what you say the ADHD thing seems to be a bit of a flyer. You boy sounds great, and being busy and enjoying trying out new things will get him a long way in life. It sounds as if he just needs a bit of guidance on how to improve his concentration in class.

happygardening Wed 03-Jul-13 15:03:10

Was he very academic at his previous school?

I didn't mean he doesnt love it by the way but he has so much to do in a day if he's a choirister maybe he just need to learn to juggle the whole lot and prioritise different things at different times in the school year and even week he is only young he may take time to do this.

bico Wed 03-Jul-13 14:40:48

I don't know. I've only seen his homework which has always been ridiculously easy. I assumed that was the standard level for year 4 but I now know, at least for English, he has been given easier work. I've seen his maths books and they are full of ticks but again I don't know how the work he has been getting compares to the rest of his class. I reckon he is average at English and his exam result puts him practically bottom of the class. He was very strong in Maths last year but again his result puts him near bottom.

Ds thrives on being busy. He loves his new school and the life he has there. We were at his sports day yesterday and I discovered that he knows everyone and they know him. Mums from different school years were saying how much their dcs like ds. He's settled very well indeed so we just need to sort out his academic progress and see why that has been poor this year, albeit not across the board.

happygardening Wed 03-Jul-13 13:49:59

bico was he just having a off day or has his progress in English and math been poor all this term/year?
If it was an off day I wouldn't worry I once watched one of the worlds greatest riders if not the worlds greatest rider make a mistake in a top competition that even a novice rider would be embarrassed to make it happens. Children can progress in fits and starts if I'm correct he only started at the current prep last yr its all new to him and being a chorister must mean that he has so much more to learn than other children.
Russian I think you need to lighten up a bit my comment was meant as a joke.

bico Wed 03-Jul-13 10:51:10

At the moment I'm pretty confident that the school will do what's necessary to support ds. They've acknowledged that his form teacher was wrong in not raising these issues some time ago. I've had no contact with her since early January.

The head of middle school will be teaching ds next year so he will see for himself if there is anything. The plan is for the school Senco to observe ds in lessons and report to the EP and for the EP also to observe lessons. The school will notify the EP this week so they can do whatever they can over the summer holidays. However since ds doesn't exhibit any ADHD like issues at home she will need to see him in the classroom to understand what are his form teacher's concerns.

My main concern and original reason for asking whether ds should see an EP is because of his underperformance this year highlighted by his very poor maths and English exam results. They put him near the bottom of the class amongst some children who need a lot of support. His CAT scores bear no relation to that.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 03-Jul-13 10:26:33

happy Such a misnomer. What a spiteful comment. Of course I'm not delighted that SEn provision is dire in the private sector. What a ridiculous thing to say. I'm not surprised though - about the crapness of provision. People always out stuff they don't understand on the 'too difficult' pile.

happygardening Wed 03-Jul-13 09:01:38

bico I agree with Russian a new experience but would add I'm sure much to her delight that SEN support in many preps is absolutely bloody awful even worse that in the state sector.
I have two dyslexic DS's one quite severe we have had EP assessments done on both one has had three done over the years by different EP's none have ever been done in the classroom although reports were sent from the school by the so called heads of learning support. If I was you I would get it done during the summer holidays the school will probably know of an EP that they send children too.
I've listened for many years to teachers telling me that they don't understand DS1 and also endless complaints about he fails to write etc etc. His IQ puts him in the top 5%, he's exceedingly articulate and has a high reading age and excellent comprehension but has spent much of his school career in the bottom 5% of the year being endlessly given the most basic of work which like you DS he doesn't bother to even complete. I genuinely don't know the answer to this but will tell you you need to have endless time and energy to persuade the many jobs worth you will meet through his school career to get off their over paid over holidayed backsides and actually make an effort start vociferously expressing you concerns and never assume that the staff are doing what they have agreed to do. My DS at you DS's age was also the child that all predicted would be an inventor or a mad scientist etc sadly its never happened. I'm know bitter and cynical about many in the teaching profession in both sectors.

bico Tue 02-Jul-13 16:38:50

He is a child who does naturally question things which I assume may be tedious for his teacher. He is a chorister and loves it. I do wonder if his teacher maybe has let school work slip because she's conscious of how busy he is. I've probably seen her to speak to about three times this academic year including this week's meeting and two parents' evenings and she's always quick to talk about how she doesn't get form time with him and how busy his schedule is. He's the sort of child that thrives on hard work so her kindness has done him no favours.

britishsummer Tue 02-Jul-13 13:14:17

bico, am I correct in thinking your son is a chorister. I bet you the choirmaster would have a valid opinion as to whether your son has ADHD. I suspect he is rushing through his work and not being told that he needs to put the extra effort in to improve it. Possibly the teachers find it harder to teach children who ask questions!

RussiansOnTheSpree Tue 02-Jul-13 12:48:06

My experience of SEN support in schools is almost 100% appalling. Sadly.

Copthallresident Tue 02-Jul-13 12:13:17

It is very strange, so far as I know, ADHD isn't something you leave at the school gate, or start with in one school year, it is something you are born with and which is a set of behaviours at home and school, and on playdates etc. This link supports that It is a bit like one teacher telling me DD1 must have been "cured" of dyslexia (and that was a teacher I had the utmost respect for) I'm afraid there is a lot of ignorance of learning difficulties in the teaching profession, ask any parent with a child with SpLDs, they receive minimal training on it, and the variation is such that even a lot of teachers with SEN qualifications don't always understand the needs of a particular child.

It might be helpful to post something in SEN or to start a thread in Education that is headed something along the lines of Is my child bored or is teacher's July diagnosis of ADHD correct? That will hopefully attract some posters with experience of ADHD, including some teachers or ex teachers who can give you the benefit of their experience. Personally I would be ratcheting it up to the Headteacher as such a serious diagnosis should have been highlighted not just months, but years ago. And I would be persuing whatever avenues I could to get a diagnosis. It sounds very much as if the teachers are all being defensive which suggests a closing of ranks.

You mention small class sizes, and exams, so I assume it is a prep school? I'm afraid that prep schools do not have to work within any sort of policy framework on SEN and so expertise is patchy, sometimes non existent, unless they are a specialist school.

bico Tue 02-Jul-13 12:00:14

They 'suspect' he has ADHD rather than offering a formal diagnosis. I'm wondering whether it is worth contacting our GP (who is also a paediatric registrar). He knows ds very well indeed and has never suggested anything like that.

I suppose what concerns me most is when would they have told me their suspicions if I hadn't arranged a meeting with them to discuss ds's exam results?

Amongst the parents of his peers he is the child that everyone thinks will grow up and do something extraordinary such as being a famous inventor or achieving world recognition. He is different but I can't see really anything that fits an ADHD profile, but then I'm not an expert or a teacher.

AnnaBBB Tue 02-Jul-13 11:36:12

Gosh what an easy label to stick on him...ADHD....and then to wait til the end of the year to leave you with that comment without any formal assessment or observation by a SENCO having been done in the classroom. I also go back to the point that i thought only a expert should be giving you a diagnosis like that

bico Tue 02-Jul-13 10:39:50

I had a meeting yesterday with the form teacher, the other form teacher in the year (who teaches ds some subjects) and the head of middle school.

Both the teachers sat there saying how they thought ds had ADHD. I have sent a rather blunt email to the head of year today saying that I don't want anymore time wasted. I also said that if the teacher suspected ds had ADHD then why had she waited until the end of the year to tell me? If he genuinely has then he must be an utter pain in the arse to teach. More likely she didn't want the added work that an EP would have entailed.

I would be very very surprised if ds has ADHD. He apparently doesn't finish work in class and isn't particularly organised but those are the only symptoms that fit that diagnosis. More likely he doesn't finish work in class because he doesn't see the point in filling in worksheets. He refuses to do any extension work set as the teacher (apparently) always says he doesn't have to do it, so he doesn't.

Throughout his schooling he has been top third of the class but always described as capable of much more. Now he is very much near the bottom of the class. I have asked whether the school SENCO can do an assessment before the end of term and prior to the referral to the EP. Unfortunately we only have one day of proper school left before the end of term so that isn't going to happen.

On a positive note ds has enjoyed the teaching this year and said how easy the work has been!

IndridCold Tue 02-Jul-13 09:40:09

Don't write, arrange immediately to go in and see someone (head of year/head).

For your own sanity I don't think you should leave this until September. It sounds like it needs the opinion of a (more experienced) third party, who knows you and your DS, to have a look first. Perhaps one of the more senior staff could sit in for part of a lesson and see what they think?

FWIW if a bright child, who has no problems at home, has spent the year messing about in class to the point that his work has deteriorated and he has wasted a whole year, then I'm afraid that I would hold the teacher almost entirely to blame for that.

bico Tue 02-Jul-13 08:32:16

Sorry Copthall I should have thanked you for the link. I'm more convinced that ds doesn't have ADHD. Yes he doesn't concentrate in class as well as he might but I do wonder if he is just bored and not very good at dealing with that. He has never struggled with any work he has been set and not struggled to complete homework. His teacher does say he doesn't always finish work in class but if he is being given work sheets I wonder if he just can't be bothered. I'm happy with the referral to the EP as I am keen to have a broad assessment of ds's cognitive ability. His recent CAT scores were above average in all but spatial ability which came out as high ability.

bico Tue 02-Jul-13 08:24:09

The idea of waiting until Sept is to ensure the EP sees ds in a classroom setting. The child I have at home does not exhibit any of the signs of ADHD so I'm not sure whether it is something that would just manifest itself in a classroom setting. It also doesn't manifest in any group activities he does outside school.

It does seem that his teacher has been giving him very easy work. He told me today that he has complained about that and asked to do the normal writing work than filling in worksheets but hasn't been allowed to. I'd find that extremely odd if true. She does seem to be helping him race to the bottom of the class. He said he is on the lowest ability table and thoroughly fed up and bored with the work he gets to do. Again, he hasn't mentioned this before so not sure how true it is. Having said that ds has always been the type of child that will not talk about school. Of course I've seen his homework and always thought how easy it was but assumed that was the standard of the work set, rather than ds getting easier work.

I will write to the school and say that I am disappointed that ds's teacher appears to have been under the impression that ds has ADHD but not bothered to contact me to do anything about getting a diagnosis. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't insisted on a meeting to discuss ds's exam results?

Interestingly when ds was in year 1 his teacher didn't think he concentrated as well as he might. He had the usual sight and hearing tests which were fine. He was also referred to the community paediatrician and queried Aspergers because he had an exceptionally developed imagination (at that age he had a whole host of invisible friends!). The result was he was assessed as being very imaginative and definitely not Aspergers (again he didn't have any of the traits you'd associate with an Aspergers diagnosis). ADHD was never mentioned and ds is very much the same child now he was in year 1. I could have a chat with his GP but if he isn't exhibiting any signs of ADHD outside school I'm not sure we'd get very far. Hence waiting for an EP assessment that will give a detailed profile of ds which will be a useful aid to assist his learning. Amongst my friends with same aged children he is considered to be 'very bright' but who knows? He has exceptional language skills and a high reading age but clearly hasn't applied himself at school this year and I don't think his teacher is completely to blame for that.

Copthallresident Tue 02-Jul-13 07:16:25

A link from the OU

Copthallresident Tue 02-Jul-13 07:07:59

I have yet to hear of a child being ADHD whose parents didn't seek a diagnosis because they already suspected it? If it does make sense to you then I don't think the fact it is the holidays need be a barrier to getting a diagnosis but from the experience of friends it is as much a medical diagnosis as one concerned with learning, there are wider psychological implications and it is important to see the right psychologist. Their GPs have been involved. I assume there is an equivalent to the independent Dyslexia charities that exist for parents who need help and advice.

You don't sound convinced though since you believe your son is seeking reassurance rather than having difficulty with paying attention. Learning Difficulties are not just the classic problems with reading writing and spelling that are associated with Dyslexia, they are a range of problems on a spectrum that also covers working memory, processing skills, motor control, numeracy. each child will have a different profile. Every year at my DD's very selective indie ends up with about 10% being diagnosed with a specific learning difficulty, which is about right as it exists in 10 % of the population at every level of ability, most of those get diagnosed post 11 because difficulties with working memory and processing skills often don't get spotted at primary level or don't manifest themselves until DCs are coping with more difficult work. You mention some exam results being excellent and some terrible and that would be entirely consistent since your learning difficulties will often but not always ambush you in exam conditions, it is so easy for your brain to fail to process a question correctly or for you to make silly errors that you don't spot. Bright children who have a learning difficulty can be disruptive and / or attention seeking because they get bored if work isn't challenging, they find it difficult, or the teaching doesn't work for their learning style.

Your teacher does seem to be raising a serious issue out of the blue, it sounds like defence rather than proactively supporting your son. The advantage of an Ed Psych assessment is that you get a measure of ability as well as difficulties and how to manage them, which you could then use to make sure his teacher does understand him next year, even that isn't an exact science since the latest Ed Psych we have seen has spotted DD has also got problems associated with Dyspraxia which now we have looked at the symptoms explains a lot, she's 17 and this is the fourth assessment she has had..... Ed Psychs also work in the holidays, again organisations like the Dyslexia Association can help.

bico Tue 02-Jul-13 01:02:29

No time to do anything this term unfortunately. No idea what she actually does to help ds focus, other than telling him. It was an eye opener today to discover that after a year of teaching ds his teacher really hasn't got to know him at all. She considers him to be attention seeking and asking for help when he doesn't need it. He lacks confidence in his ability so unless he has reassurance I think he will seek attention.

She showed me some of the work she gets him to do and then showed me work of dcs she said were less able than him. The work he is given is very very easy (filling in blanks in a written paragraph rather than writing the paragraph from scratch). She doesn't seem to get that ds will do what he is asked to do and not more but if he is encouraged to do more he will. His handwriting has deteriorated over this academic year from being beautifully cursive to barely legible and disjointed.

What I don't know is whether his teacher's now very low expectations are the best that ds can achieve. Whatever the answer I wish we had had this conversation at Easter rather than at the very end of the school year (school breaks up on Friday). Part of me feels sad that an EP assessment could have been done earlier and we would have things to work on over the summer; but part of me thinks it may be better to wait in the hope that his new teacher may be more interested in working ds out.

AnnaBBB Tue 02-Jul-13 00:41:58


Of course it is possible for a child to be very very bright and have ADHD but I wondered how a teacher would make an assessment of ADHD before getting a specialist involved

Sounds like it is worth getting an ed psych involved but does the school not have an SEN who could observe your DS in lessons without him knowing and report back to you in the meantime?

Also wonder if the teacher explained to you what strategies are being used by your DS teachers in class to help your DS if focus is the issue?

bico Tue 02-Jul-13 00:25:47

Not really sure what school is expecting. Ds's teacher described ds at the start of the year as 'very very bright'. Now she has said if he works really hard and tries his absolute best he may be able to be 'average at a push'. No explanation for such a huge change over the course of this year.

I strongly suspect that ds's teacher really can't figure out the mass of contradictions that makes up ds. He is different from a lot of other children we know so I think that makes it hard to understand what makes him tick. It has been made very apparent to me that unfortunately his teacher this year doesn't have the time or the patience to work him out despite small class sizes.

It's a shame as I would have expected her to contact me if she was thinking a referral to an EP would help. Instead it was left to me to ask for the meeting and for me to make the suggestion, which she leapt on. Unfortunately I asked for the meeting because ds's end of year exam results varied between being excellent to truly dreadful in subjects he was previously considered to excel in. She justified this by saying that subjects were harder this year. I don't understand why if she thought ds was struggling that she chose not to contact me about it. Apparently he's definitely not dyslexic but she's sure he has ADHD. Seems odd that she'd want to struggle through the year with a child that presumably is very hard to teach (if he does have ADHD).

Copthallresident Mon 01-Jul-13 15:23:34

bico I didn't appreciate your son was very young. We had to do intensive extra work with DD2 to enable her to learn to read, write and spell at a level that was average for her age in Year 2, and that was in conjunction with the schools SEN teacher. It wasn't pushy at all, the usual methods of teaching reading, spelling and writing, relying heavily on look / see were never going to work for her. We needed to teach her the phonics, rule by rule and how to form letters step by step. She actually really enjoyed it because finally it all made sense and she was making progress. Before that she wasn't so much lacking confidence as totally bemused by school, clearly couldn't work out how they could expect her to do things that were clearly impossible! Even now her ED Psych highlighted that her reading skills apparently rely heavily on context. She wasn't formally diagnosed until 3 years later but as the SEN said the methods for pupils who are not learning in the usual way are the same. You will be able to get similar learning materials through the British Dyslexia Association or similar. I also know of parents who have had children as old as 10 who have taken their DCs out of school to be similarly taken back and taught the basics.

britishsummer Mon 01-Jul-13 14:24:04

bico, the subtext from your DS's school sounds as though they are expecting you to supplement what they are doing in school, fine if you are just reinforcing their groundwork, not so good if you end up by having to take charge because the standard prep school approach does n't benefit your DS's learning approach. As your DS is very young, it is a good thing to be clear sighted about a school's shortcomings at this stage rather than finding out too late in year 6-8.

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