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Transfer prep school...help deciding location and school!

(4 Posts)
bambina0x0x Tue 04-Apr-17 11:12:01

DS Year 5 at prep school and unsure whether to move him before senior school. Youngest in age group plus was educated in 2 NY private schools, (4 years at first one as included nursery, tests every week, strongly academic - taught a grade level above all other NY private schools) with no sports, did fine though hard for him to toe the line as it was "cookie cutter" conformity and got time out or sent to office if you literally even moved your leg when supposed to be standing in line. Then enrolling for one year at child centred school - top group for everything and found the work too easy, no homework except reading so I also homeschooled him in higher grade level/s outside of school which he was happy with. Within two weeks he was one of most popular kids in year group, enjoying sports and non-academic subjects as well as science and social studies, so many playdates and out of school activities/experiences as school didn't finish late. He really found himself there and came out his shell for first time. Knew would have to transfer back to UK at end of the year and didn't know what prep schools were like over here. Knew he had ADHD Applied Brighton College just before he took educational testing that showed he had SEN needs (already diagnosed with ADHD but also now with Dysgraphia/dyspraxia). In practice tests before Brighton tests, he was scoring high 90s in the Bond math and reasoning tests for the year above and about 80% in year group above his age. English for his appropriate age group was a struggle - didn't get accepted - was told he was fine with maths and reasoning but English wasn't strong enough. (As said, we didn't have form to show he had SEN needs yet). Joined a prep school over here where thy had report, skipping a year to correct age group. Has become so reserved and has low self esteem and not good at anything. Almost at end of 2nd year and they still haven't sorted out SEN requirements sufficiently. Was top set maths last year but now 2nd set as struggles to answer the questions that ask you to explain in sentences how you worked out the answer, though knows how to do them. Was told he would have got 100% in maths by teacher but ran out of time so got C - SEN won't give him extra time as don't want to apply for the paperwork until near the end so it's still valid for Common Entrance. He's tired all the time!
Thinking of moving him for September to Bedales prep.

Pros of staying where he is:
Forest to run around in which he loves.
Represents u13A chess team (only area he feels good about) and u11 County team (he's 9).
Wide curriculum of academic and non-academic.
Good skills taught, such as handshaking and greeting people appropriately, instilled from a young age.

Cons of staying:
It's all prepping for the common entrance in the next few years, which he doesn't need to take.
Is supposed to see OT twice a week but they pull him out of classes so he misses the thread of topics, and so is only seen once a week, against recommendation of OT.
Also misses lots of full afternoons due to being in both u11A and u13A chess teams, but don't want to take him out as is only area he feels good about.
Gets stressed out by not having enough time for the frequent tests, yet if he was given the time he's entitled to, would be able to feel more relaxed and teachers would have better idea of what he does/doesn't know.
School day so long - 6:30 weekdays, plus saturday school. (Also attends a foreign language and culture school on Sunday for a couple of hours which is our choice but a necessary part of our heritage but he loves going and has a blast and a SEN teacher for the language and the culture is hands on learning, many friends there).
New Head of SEN this year who tells me all i should do at home with DS is sit him in front of tv due to school being so tiring - (tells me not to let him do things he loves like playing board games, building lego and completing puzzles!).
Absolutely ZERO family time!
Highly competitive atmosphere (mostly around the parents i think, but bound to trickle down to the kids - am not a fan of the "quantile charts" sent out to parents each term, comparing your child to how other children are doing - it should only be about your own child and them being appreciated for reaching their own potential, rather than about how you stack up against the others, imo).

Pro of moving to Bedales Prep:
School finishes earlier, even if you do an optional activity after school
Not taken out of classes for SEN and when we went through that area there were many small rooms to cater for individuals to have their needs met.
No Saturday school for year 6, and in year 7 and 8 they have it but just in morning, not till 4 like at present
Smaller class sizes and no prepping for Common Entrance exams so they're learning and developing creativity as opposed to being prepared for exams.
Son loved the DT, textiles and art (joined in an art class with his current year group there and didn't want to leave) and conversed with teachers rather than withdrawing in to himself.
Flexi boarding available
Approach to learning seemed more hands-on which is more his style.
Not so many hours spent on sport (DS likes to blow off steam outside but at current school spends so many afternoons a week playing in the bottom team of each sport which seems somewhat redundant)
Outdoor work (DS loves any excuse to use his hands, and loves animals and nature)
By moving to the prep school first, it wouldn't mean leaving all your friends behind AS WELL as transitioning to a big Senior school for year 9 all at once, since many of the new friends he would make would move up with him.
School felt more homely and less ostentatious
DS liked it enough to say he'd be willing to repeat year 5 at Bedales prep and be oldest in year instead of youngest in year, if they thought he needed that much to be confident in English.

Cons:
Although they spend time in the countryside and woods, DS was worried about missing out on being able to run into the woods any time you feel like it during playtime like at his current school, where they have permanent tree houses
Although he's the only one of our culture at current prep, there is SOME diversity, which DS both notices and appreciates. I'm a little concerned there wouldn't be enough at the other prep.

As for the Senior part of Bedales, it seemed right up DS' street in many ways: he instantly felt a sense of calmness there (he really picks up on calm/stimulating atmospheres and it has an effect on him).
Love the breath of being able to take A Levels and get credits/diploma in BACS courses too
DS fell in love with the science labs and the DT/art/textiles building.
They have a chess team.
Global awareness is on syllabus but seemed from conversation there that it's due to the kids needing to be made aware due to such a countryside lifestyle.

ALSO older DD goes to ACS Cobham as boarder. He's seen the school when she went for her tour so he's toured the grounds and senior but not middle school. Middle school starts its' first year in UK equivalent of year 6, again this upcoming September.
He also loved that when he saw it, and considering whether to see if they have spaces:
PROs:
American sports not English ones, and DS misses his USA sports
Social studies rather than geography, which is more global encompassing (in my opinion) way of learning about the world
Shorter days and no saturday school.
Option to US high school diploma with AP courses or IB.
Closer to London and others of our culture.
Global community

CONS:
No DT or textiles, as far as I can see on website!
Concerned DD would overshadow him as he'd be known as her brother instead of himself
Concerned would be too materialistic of an atmosphere for him
Taken out of classes for SEN
No Latin (DS always interested in where words comes from)

Haven't seen campus' but curious about the other ACS schools too... Not sure what areas are like to live in. Hillingdon looked more promising in school sense than Egham. DT available at both, though no textiles, and new science building finishing this summer term. Chess team (but only up to year 9 but could play within London if still interested), Egham campus only IB from lower to senior school so middle school starts 11. Hillingdon has IB and US system and focus on STEM which son loves and middle school starts at 10.... Both schools having busing, widening the field of where you could live (In London would rather live in place with green spaces and museums, or outside of London, somewhere with countryside - not a concrete town like Slough (sorry to anyone who lives there!!! ) Somewhere asthetically pleasing with lots to do, or places to visit.

Also, where we live right now is next to a toxic extended family situation which we don't really need on our doorstep. We avoid as much as possible. Hard to get to know people here.

DS as a person LOVES city life AND a real quiet life!
We traveled a lot last summer and he had to stay in the desert with me for a while on field work and he had a blast, feeling so calm in all the nature, and having a blast without tv, flushing toilets (they were composting ones) etc. etc.
In cities he loves to sketch and always says his favourite thing is to see the different types of architecture and how beautiful it can look.
Always likes things that are a bit different: At Smithsonian Institute - Space museum or stamp museum? "Stamps please!"
At the zoo: Gorillas or lions? "No thanks, let's go and see the reptiles and amphibians!"
Superheroes? "No!" Black and white old movies? "Yes!" Original Dad's Army episodes? "Yes Please!".
Science Museum in London: Rockets, aircraft and space Hall? "Oh look over here!!!! Fabrics!!" (Followed by 2.5 hours in the Fabrics section)...... He's his own dear self all right.....

I do wonder if perhaps weighing everything up we should be more in the city, and VISIT the countryside, as opposed to other way round, and I wouldn't have to worry about his exposure to global awareness....

Happy family makes for happy child: I've always made friends really easily in the city (lived in them for almost 16 years). Not sure how easy it would be to make friends in Hampshire. Hard to meet people i imagine? No one I know lives in current county where only came as originally are up here. Just doesn't feel like a good fit for either of us....

Sorry for the length....you can see, with so much on the table, that I'm overwhelmed with what to do with the choices! No idea what's best for him, plus limited time as I'll be working abroad 2nd half of summer term.

Allthebestnamesareused Tue 04-Apr-17 11:58:09

I read it all! Promise.

From what you have said I would say Bedales.

How important to you is it for him to potentially have a high school diploma. Are there plans to go back to the US at all? I moved to the US after my o levels (as they were then). Both my sister and I were moved up a school year because the level of education there was below what we had covered in our O levels. So it may actually be better just to go through the UK system as it is recognised by US universities anyway.

bojorojo Thu 06-Apr-17 16:05:55

Prep schools prep for CE! That's their job. If you don't want or need that, then Bedales would be good. Any through school would work but Bedales is perhaps more creative but I note they do Latin. U.K. Qualifications are portable so I think you have to make a decision and stick with it. No swapping or changing mid way as this would be confusing.

The current maths national curriculum does require reading scenarios and then doing the maths. There won't be any avoiding this as the curriculum is not just sums. Explaining what you did to get an answer is also desirable. Don't expect miracles from another school! Children do grow out of running about in forests.

I am sure lots of Bedales parents live in London and nearer the school. It's that sort of place!

bambina0x0x Thu 06-Apr-17 19:01:48

Thanks both of you for your replies. They've pretty much confirmed what I thought, that his current school isn't probably the best fit for him. Good point about living closer to London and commuting to Bedales, to get best of both worlds! Still a little on the fence about whether to do Bedales or consider international school though - because ACS Cobham and Hillingdon don't just do US curriculum but offer IB. I noticed Hillingdon have a brand new science building and do DT as an activity. The way social studies instead of geography works got my son really excited in US: went like this:
Studied Japan, so in English they researched differences and similarities between schools and wrote about it, library time they read and discussed the myths, legends and customs. Then a Buddhist monk visited the school to talk to them about meditating and also showed them how to do sand mandalas in art which they then did. A Japanese mum came in and taught them in cooking class how to roll their own sushi. They went on field trip to visit Japanese restaurant to see how it works behind scenes then opened up their own Japanese restaurant designing their own menu and interviewing for the position they wanted to have. Designed a menu and made the food etc. and invited the parents to a meal with the money going to charity - so very cross curricular. Seems Bedales are pretty cross curricular from their website too. I suppose DS, finishing so early at Bedales could always find clubs and things outside of school where he could carry on with a US sport if he really wanted to, thereby widening his circle of friends. Note though, that although DS is really into the artistic subjects, he's not scholarship material for art! He just LOVES textiles, DT and the other arts which I supposed is what counts and why the breath of BACs as you move up through the school means you can pursue your interests as credits while taking your strong subjects as core ones. And who knows, he could become so inspired by the arts there that he really puts in dedication to pursue it further.

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