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Can I pursue our prep school for failure to educate my son properly?

(46 Posts)
MamiSandra243 Mon 22-Jun-15 18:38:11

Our son attends a local, very small prep school. He only has 11 children in his class and is in Year 4. The fees are approximately £11 per year.

When he joined the school about a year ago, we were assured that due to the small class sizes, the school is able to give every child the attention they need. It is on this basis that we decided to send him to this school. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Shortly after joining the English teacher resigned but has not been replaced by an equally experienced teacher. English lessons now frequently involve the children being left to their own devices (like being asked to just read their own books for an hour). They produce very little written work in class - only one A5 book full compared to 3 A4 exercise books in my friend's daughter's primary (same year). When we asked to see the workbooks, the school refused and seems very cagey. His English homework has never been marked. When we asked for this to happen back in January, the English teacher at first replied she has no time to mark and when we protested that marking and giving feedback is crucial, she simply stopped setting written homework. There has been none set since January.

In Maths, our son is often left bored whilst the teacher helps weaker children. When we questioned why he cannot give him work too, we were told this was impossible due to the spectrum of ability in the class and the small size.

We are fuming to be paying so much money and our son is treading water. As far as we can see, the school is not performing its obligations under the contract, i.e. educating our child as promised.

Do any of you have any knowledge of either sueing the school for breach of contract or withholding fees to compensate? I mean if you order a new kitchen and the shop says it includes fitting, but then doesn't do it, you have a case. Doesn't the same apply here?

Thank you.


MamiSandra243 Mon 22-Jun-15 18:39:08

I mean £11000 per year, not £11 smile smile

LIZS Mon 22-Jun-15 18:40:40

You need to follow the complaints procedures first. Tbh I don't rate your chances of suing. Perhaps your expectations were too high, after all such a small school is unlikely to be financially robust or attract and retain high calibre staff.

formidable Mon 22-Jun-15 18:42:23

No you must be joking! No the same doesn't apply grin

Where is your proof for all of this? What is the school complaints procedure? Have you followed it? Have you withdrawn him for next year?

Have you spoken to the head?

Gdydgkyk Mon 22-Jun-15 18:43:11

Your best bet is a solicitor but you would need hard evidence.

What level was he on in year 2 sats? Can you have his workbooks assessed by a teacher now in year 4 so you can work out the progress made

ZeroFunDame Mon 22-Jun-15 18:43:24

Surely it would be cheaper and very much more cost effective to find another school?

Fleecyleesy Mon 22-Jun-15 18:45:50

I would think that the school's contract or terms and conditions or whatever will have this sewn up tightly so you'd be unable to get anything back. I'd change school.

keely79 Mon 22-Jun-15 18:45:59

Disclaimer that this isn't legal advice - but I think technically you could sue for negligence or potentially breach of contract depending on the promises made by the school when you entered your child.

However, would strongly suggest taking up with the head first and going through official complaints process. How do the other parents feel about it? Might be taken more seriously if there are a few of you making the complaint. Presumably lack of English teaching is throughout the levels.

cuntycowfacemonkey Mon 22-Jun-15 18:46:11

If it's really that inadequate then vote with your feet and move your son to a better school.

Gdydgkyk Mon 22-Jun-15 18:47:05

Also first speak to head and make formal complaint

QuiteLikely5 Mon 22-Jun-15 18:49:46

Why haven't you changed his school?

LIZS Mon 22-Jun-15 18:51:00

Assume you have issued notice op?

TwiggyHeart Mon 22-Jun-15 18:51:37

I have a family member who works in a similar sounding setting, the comment about small classes sizes and ability mixes is one of her frequent 'gripes'. I think the lack of any TA support in the classroom means those in the middle of the ability spectrum miss out even with tiny class sizes.....I think perhaps a change of school is your best option.

meditrina Mon 22-Jun-15 18:51:56

Have you located the school's grievance procedure?

You will not stand a chance in a legal action unless you have exhausted all avenues for remedy within the contract, so you have to go through every step. You'll also need as documented an evidence trail as possible of every single time you have raised your dissatisfaction, and evidence of what teaching is going on (or not going on).

Comparisons to other schools won't help you. But comparisons to their previous year 4s might.

christinarossetti Mon 22-Jun-15 18:53:39

Not a

ZeroFunDame Mon 22-Jun-15 18:57:43

I presume it is no longer "your" school if the relationship has broken down to the extent that you're considering litigation? (You surely don't want your DS to continue there?)

Are you simply trying to avoid paying one term's notice on top of fees at a new school come September?

It is all very annoying - but his yr 4 work can be caught up over the summer.

CremeBrulee Mon 22-Jun-15 19:00:28

Your most pragmatic solution is to vote with your feet. Find a better school that meets your requirements, reserve a place & serve notice that you will be withdrawing your son for this school.

Don't forget you must give a terms notice - they will enforce this and nothing you have written is evidence that you are not liable to pay it.

If you haven't already served notice & you can't afford to pay two lots of fees for September then you're stuck until January now.

happygardening Mon 22-Jun-15 19:14:41

IME of complaining at our old prep about shocking teaching and then again at DS1's comp your wasting your time teachers are exceedingly adept at passing the blame onto someone else preferably your DC they clearly do some course in it at Uni.
Just move him to another school.
If you trying to avoid paying next terms fees Id try and negotiate something in the first instance.

MamiSandra243 Mon 22-Jun-15 19:22:27

Thanks for all your replies. I should have said in my original post that yes, we have spoken to the teachers and the head, more than once. This is what the complaints procedure suggests. The head has given empty promises, but not followed it through and now he is leaving at the end of this term. I know my gripes are based on facts because other parents in the class have raised the same complaints. We are trying to move him to another school of our choice, but it is full for his year group and we are on the waiting list. I do intend to give notice. I am not looking for a freebie, but for what I am paying for. Not to mark homework for example or letting children sit a lesson out reading a book is not doing a job properly. I am not keen on litigation, too costly, lengthy, stressful, but I feel it would be reasonable to demand a partial refund of fees given they have not done their job properly. Has anyone succeeded in this way? Thank you.

happygardening Mon 22-Jun-15 19:28:29

Good luck with that one, at prep we paid a small fortune for private tuition for DS in Latin 4 months before his difficult entrance exam because the old Latin teacher had retired and the new one had never done Latin but taught French so apparently there was some sort of connection. My DH is not brilliant at Latin but he noticed fundamental errors in marking etc but the school just ignored our complaints in the end as he was leaving anyway I just gave up and moved on.
It just depends how much energy and effort you have to devote to something you probably won't win.

formidable Mon 22-Jun-15 19:28:31

Well you can ask but I have never heard of anyone being successful.

Independent schools are businesses and they aren't going to give money away. Legally they would put themselves in a very weak position as they'd basically be admitting liability and would open the floodgates for all the other parents to also ask for a refund.

Parents kick off a fair bit and asking for fees back is usually the first demand. It's always messy.

Floralnomad Mon 22-Jun-15 19:29:12

Have you given the required notice to leave without owing them money - if not I'd lower your sights to trying to get out of paying that as I really doubt you will have any luck getting money back .

LIZS Mon 22-Jun-15 19:29:34

Not known of anyone who has been financially recompensed. Only heard of fees in lieu being waivered where school has agreed a child's individual needs are not being met ie. Sen or managed out due to poor behaviour or not making the grade academically. If the school is so bad leave anyway. Your case, if you have one at all, is somewhat weakened by staying regardless. There will be a process beyond the head including governors and the academic sm. It doesn't sound as if you have documented your complaint thus far. Think you may have to accept that you have been naive and fallen for rhetoric.

formidable Mon 22-Jun-15 19:31:07

Yes if a school want rid of a child quickly they might waive the fee.

ZeroFunDame Mon 22-Jun-15 19:40:24

Not suggesting you wanted a freebie - just that you would naturally feel aggrieved at having to give them even more money.

Anyway. A tiny school, less than competent staff, a disappearing head, a slew of disgruntled parents? D'you think it'll last much longer? Revenge, cold dishes, etc ...

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