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SEN Undiagnosed in Top Independent School

(24 Posts)
JFK92NSOK95 Thu 28-Aug-14 06:35:56

My son attended a top independent boarding school for six years. His SEN went undiagnosed until a private A Level tutor I hired prior to A2 exams in May 2014 suggested I get an Educational Psychologist to assess him.

My background is that I was widowed unexpectedly when my boys were five and seven. My boys are mixed race and I decided that I would educate them privately to ensure they did maximised their academic and personal potential. I selected boarding school as we lived in Central London and the nature of my work was unpredictable, long hours and often away from home. This was done at great personal and financial cost.

The school concerned have taken no responsibility saying they could not have known my son had a SEN. I find this difficult to accept given they have an excellent SEN Centre. Also, their pre A Level testing showed my son to have an extremely low centile (7) for reading comprehension (I requested a copy of this test after the Head mentioned it in his correspondence to me)

I need some advise and support as I feel the school concerned have let my son down, potentially damaging his future prospects. Also, I feel they have not delivered the service I paid for.

I would appreciate any advise

forago Thu 28-Aug-14 06:46:19

they clearly don't have an excellent SEN centre do they though?

not much consolation but I think mist peoplecan see that independent schools, particularly top ones (however you measure that) are not great places for children with SEN. State schools have to deal with SEN, independent ones don't.

do the school disagree with the educational psychologist's diagnosis?

Kimaroo Thu 28-Aug-14 06:49:28

How did he do in his GCSEs?

AuntieStella Thu 28-Aug-14 06:55:07

Some schools are dreadful at identifying SEN (not sure that's limited to any particular funding sector).

But was there nothing at all evident in his performance which suggested that his performance was so very uneven?

How did he do in in GCSEs and AS?

You say the school carried out pre-A level testing. Was that before/after you had engaged the tutor? And why did they do it? Do they screen all pupils (and if so, why only in 6th form)? Or was there something specific about DS?

Hurr1cane Thu 28-Aug-14 06:55:45

What was the SEN?

In my experience schools rarely pick up on SEN, usually parents do.

happygardening Thu 28-Aug-14 08:10:17

Was he screened by the SEN dept on starting at the school? Many top independent schools routinely screen all children for dyslexia when they start if there was a problem with his reading comprehension why was it not picked up then?
The obvious question is how well has he done in the 5 or 7 years he's been there especially if his reading comprehension is so low ? If by a top independent school you mean super selective, not just famous, then I'm assuming he's done well as he would have been asked to leave when he either sat his GCSEs (most super selectives want 6 As at the very least to continue into their 6 th form) or ASs? I'm assuming you also have his A2 results are they below the predicted grades?

inthename Thu 28-Aug-14 08:53:51

Its difficult for you, but schools aren't required to diagnose SEN and independent schools aren't required to compensate parents if for whatever reason a childs performance falls below expectations. They are right in a way that they couldn't have known, unless he was underachieving for the whole six years, in which case it would have been in his school reports. Has it only come to light at A2 level? (what happened at GCSE and AS as HG said independent schools don't encourage progress through their 6th form if the child doesn't have the correct number of A*/A)

PatriciaHolm Thu 28-Aug-14 10:58:02

Presumably they were sending reports on progress from age 11 though? Did you not spot an issue? If you were happy with results until a2 (and even then it took a private tutor to spot an issue) that would suggest it's not made a major impact on his achievement.

Or are you saying that he, for example, could have got a slew of A* not As if someone had noted the issue?? Or As rather than Bs?

Either way, it's not solely the schools responsibility to spot these things. If you and they were happy until now, i really don't think you have a leg to stand on with a complaint. It would be different if you had been pushing for help for years, but you clearly haven't.

JFK92NSOK95 Thu 28-Aug-14 14:06:14

His GCSEs were good. 3 A, 6 B, 1 C. Although , he was disappointed with 2/3 of the Bs.

JFK92NSOK95 Thu 28-Aug-14 14:38:33

He was happy at the school, never particularly good at sitting exams and sometimes disappointed with the results against his efforts.

His reports show a pattern of varied comments but nothing out of the ordinary. However, some disappointing test results against expectation.

Like many parents I supported my son through exam revision. I did think his issue was exam technique and have paid for additional support in the run up to GCSE, AS and A2 exams.

As a parent of a happy boarder (there are many positive aspects to his life at the school) you are reliant mainly on communication with house and teaching staff which was good and reports which showed no particular additional problem.

The school is not in the top set academically but achieves results according to students needs and ability. There pastoral care is excellent.

I have a problem pre GCSE . He is a smart boy who has found ways a coping. This is evident by his achievements. The only real issue I have, supported by the educational psychologist, is why there was no follow through after the pre six form testing showed a centile of 7 for reading comprehension.

Hakluyt Thu 28-Aug-14 14:45:40

"The only real issue I have, supported by the educational psychologist, is why there was no follow through after the pre six form testing showed a centile of 7 for reading comprehension."

Can I ask what you did about it?

Hurr1cane Thu 28-Aug-14 14:53:55

I agree with haklyut.

Right or wrong, state school or private school, you have to chase everything up yourself.

happygardening Thu 28-Aug-14 15:52:50

Did you know about him being on the 7 th centile for reading comprehension? I perhaps mistakenly get the impression you didn't. Was he told? What about his AS/A2 results how were they? Also what subjects did he do? I'm assuming poor reading comprehension is less of a problem if he's doing math for example.
My DS1 has what is labelled as moderate dyslexia (but he can read and comprehend) his educational needs have been very poorly met in both sectors. In my now extensive experience teachers are pretty useless with any kind of SEN unless it's barn door obvious and follows a very typical pattern.
If your planning in taking some sort of legal action against the school,( again I might be mistaken but I sort feel that's in your mind) then I personally think your going to struggle and spend out a considerable sum in the process I think you'll find the school will come up with a whole raft of excuses/reasons including from their point of view he achieved all he wS expected to achieve, and he didn't work hard enough etc etc. and if money is tight you might be better of paying for a crammer if he wants better A2 results.

Hakluyt Thu 28-Aug-14 15:59:02

HG- he got 3as, 6bs and a c at GCSE- which means thqt he must have developed amazing strategies to mask being on the 7th centile for reading comprehension........

Hakluyt Thu 28-Aug-14 16:00:39

Sorry, HG- rather ironically, I misread your question about AS levels.......

happygardening Thu 28-Aug-14 17:13:56

If his AS grades were lower than expected what did you and the school say to each other and him? Or were they ok?
I'm also just a bit surprised that he got to A2 without anyone expressing any concern about his reading comprehension.
Finally I personally wouldn't take the word of tutor however good they might be, my DS was assessed for dyslexia by the SENCO at his primary school who told me he was fine even though the head and his teacher thought there was a problem, you will have to pay for a full educational psychology assessment to get a true picture of what's going on.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 30-Aug-14 13:43:36

I would imagine from my experience many parents feel that their children with Specific Learning Difficulties were let down and they didn't get what they paid for in Independent Schools , some of the time at least. There is certainly room for improvement across education (and current government policies are actually making things worse not better). Without a doubt knowledge of SpLDS and the quality of support available is very patchy whatever schools your child attends.

However with all due respect, especially given your personal circumstances, I do think that parents have a responsibility as well. SpLDs manifest themselves in everyday life, and the parent is closest to the child and most likely to pick up that they have difficulties. That is even without test results like the reading comprehension at the 7th percentile raising alarm bells that it is time to go into bat.

I do not think that you do your son any favours in assuming this was like a car with a broken gasket that should have been fixed and the school are in some way culpable. Education really should be a joint enterprise for school and parent even without there being difficulties to address. In any case there is nothing to be gained from what ifs? The emphasis should now be on getting your son the support he needs to cope with a neurological condition that your son will have to find ways to cope with for the rest of his life The good news is that support at universities is generally far better than in schools.

Icimoi Sat 30-Aug-14 15:08:06

I don't really get what advice and support you want? Yes, ideally they would have detected your son's problems and provided extra support earlier, but what's done is done. It really isn't worth getting into an argument with the school and asking for a fees refund or compensation, because they'll clearly fight very hard and there's no certainty that you would win any legal action. Better to put your energy into supporting your ds in whatever he does next.

phonebox Sat 30-Aug-14 22:32:52

What on earth has the fact that your DC are mixed race got to do with anything?

Icimoi Sun 31-Aug-14 17:21:28

I've heard from specialist education lawyers that there are very few, if any, education negligence claims these days because they cost a fortune and they've had a very poor record of success in the courts so you can't get legal aid or no win no fee deals for them. So if you were thinking about compensation, OP, it seems it would be near-impossible to get a claim off the ground, let alone succeed.

camptownraces Sun 31-Aug-14 18:49:31

So, poor reading comprehension could be a result of either
- inability to read (see letters and decode them into words)
- poor language skills (poor receptive or expressive vocabulary)
- can read, vocab reasonable, but process is so slow that the meaning isn't taken in.

What did the Ed Psych say?

TeenAndTween Mon 01-Sep-14 09:17:57

I get the feeling the OP is asking 'can I sue the school?'.

My answer to that question would be that you can try but I doubt you would win. If you didn't notice the SEN issues then they must be subtle / easy to mask. Therefore the school could argue that was why they didn't notice them either.

Just be glad that you have picked it up now for A levels when those results really matter.

(In case I sound unsympathetic, I'm not really. I think my DD1 may have some kind of SpLD, she is about to go into y11. As she progresses up secondary her difficulties are becoming more obvious to me, but would be hidden from subject teachers who only see her for 3 lessons a week).

happygardening Mon 01-Sep-14 12:17:24

TeenI think the OPs DS has already sat his A levels and I'm assuming didn't get the results hoped for and that is why she's upset about the reading/comprehension problem not being picked up. But I think you right they must be very subtle for him to have got so far into his school career with them being picked up.

proudmama2772 Mon 01-Sep-14 15:17:56

OP didn't ask if she could sue the school, but it's interesting. They provided a substandard service. Seems like they would try to make amends.

But this all really depends on how pronounced the SEN was. I have very good well meaning doctors misdiagnose. Professionals cannot be expected to get it perfectly right all the time. If they are responding to the information from the education psychologist and get your son the support now, sounds like they are at least doing the best they can now with the information?

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