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Independent prep school & Autism

(54 Posts)
Marmitepeanutbutterandhoney Mon 12-Mar-18 20:04:54

I am having an absolute nightmare trying to find a prep willing to take my DS who has an EHCP and an autism diagnosis. He is high functioning and has no learning disabilities, he does however have anxiety.

I have been really saddened that so many schools will not even entertain the idea of having him.

We have always wished to educate privately, but at the moment we have no options. Does anyone have a child with ASD in a prep and are happy?!?!

Tempjob Mon 12-Mar-18 20:12:21

We are in Wales so it might be different where you are. I have many friends with children who are high functioning and all attend state schools. Most are reporting that they are very happy with the specialist teaching facilities or specialist ASD units that their children are in. The staff are very experienced and the class sizes are very small.

If money is no object, would you consider home schooling? You could get a great team of staff who could tailor the lessons to the needs of your little boy. You may even be able to get some state funding for this, if you can show that no state schools are appropriate.

bialystockandbloom Mon 12-Mar-18 20:15:09

It depends on individual schools ime. My ds 10yo hfa) will be going to private senior school in September, he has an EHCP, and they've been fantastic about ensuring they can meet the needs in that. He was also offered a place at private pre-prep - we didn't end up taking it for other reasons, but again they were very welcoming and supportive.

But we also visited many, both at prep and senior stages) who made it implicitly clear that they probably "couldn't meet his needs" without even meeting him or reading his EHCP hmm I realised if any school has that attitude it's basically wholly unsuitable for your dc. It might be due to their (unfounded but they don't know that) worry of lack of resources, or simply they fear it'll affect results, but either way I wouldn't want to push and push to get him into a school that really were reluctant. There definitely are independent schools happy to have sen pupils, you just need to visit and talk to lots of them.

Where in the country are you?

cantkeepawayforever Mon 12-Mar-18 20:17:51


As a teacher in a state school, i would say your experience is not uncommon - we have a number of children with SEN (including autism) who have either been 'managed out' of the private system at the point where their diagnosis became clear, or who have had it made clear from the outset that the private system is 'not for them'.

On the good side, the expertise of state schools in managing SEN is commonly much greater (except for the small number of private schools who specialise in particular SEN). On the bad side, state schools are relatively poorly funded so class sizes will tend to much larger outside specialist units.

cantkeepawayforever Mon 12-Mar-18 20:19:33

X-osted with the above - yes, there are definitely a few private schools who are welcoming to pupils with high functioning autism (possibly more at secondary age). However, it is probably the exception rather than the norm.

bialystockandbloom Mon 12-Mar-18 20:20:30

FWIW my ds has been at a state primary, we've had a very up and down time over the years (long story!), but overall I don't regret it, he's been happy there, and whatever else has happened, they have definitely been caring and supportive to him. But again, when I was I came across many other state primaries who also had a shitty attitude - eg one Senco who told me without ever meeting ds, or knowing anything about him other than his diagnosis that he'd be "better off at an EBD school" hmm

Allthebestnamesareused Mon 12-Mar-18 20:26:24

Whereabouts are You? Pm if you'd rather as I may know somewhere appropriate.

Marmitepeanutbutterandhoney Mon 12-Mar-18 20:29:25

Thanks for replies so far, very interesting to hear everyone’s experiences. We are in London. We considered private special school but they don’t want him either!! (Too able)

Home schooling could be an option, but definitely not our first option.

bialystockandbloom Mon 12-Mar-18 20:31:24

OP it depends on what's in his ECHP but one option might be that you look into direct funding - eg if it specified eg weekly counselling, you could arrange this yourself with direct funds from the EHCP, as in theory the new EHCP system allows direct payments to parents. It might be that schools are put off by the cost of providing what's specified in the statement - I'm not sure how it works but I don't know if indie schools will get the funding for provision from the LA that a state school will get, but if you're funding the extra support provision yourself they might be more willing to talk to you.

Try posting in the SN section, there are (or at least were a few years ago) posters with lots of knowledge of how this works.

bialystockandbloom Mon 12-Mar-18 20:32:50

Op I'm in London too if you want to pm me.

Tuareg Mon 12-Mar-18 20:36:16

Isn’t there a famous/well known? place near Oxford? Sorry name eludes me at the moment. They do boarding as well.

HRHPrincessMegan Mon 12-Mar-18 20:41:05

As others have said, it depends the school. And if they are clear that they can’t/aren’t equipped meet your child’s needs it’s better they are upfront about it. Some preps will put a TA as 1 on 1 support to help a child with SEN. I know of 1 high functioning autistic child who receives this support and it is paid for by his parents.

Dancinggoat Mon 12-Mar-18 20:44:02

There is a juggle for independent schools. Accommodating a child's needs , the effect on the other students and to give extra support would mean you'd have to pay for it.

Independent schools don't have the knowledge and experience that a state school has.

If a child needs extra support it can not be taken from resources that are meant for all the children. This is because you'll be taking resources from children which their parents have paid for. They may feel they can not meet the child's individual plan without impacting on resources.

Parents will not tolerate disruption as this again is not what they pay for.

This sounds hard but it's the reality of the business. The parents pay for something and expect that service.

Many people were shocked that I had to pay for dyslexia lessons for my son. That the school should provide it. I had to explain that other parents wouldn't be happy having their fees used to subsidise my child's extra help.

There are many state schools that will be excellent for your child's needs and he would probably be happier there because of this.

Caddyshack Mon 12-Mar-18 21:33:20

Many people were shocked that I had to pay for dyslexia lessons for my son. That the school should provide it. I had to explain that other parents wouldn't be happy having their fees used to subsidise my child's extra help.

Dancinggoat, I have to gently challenge this statement, because I don't think parents would necessarily complain about subsidising academic enrichment programmes, music and theatre extravaganzas for talented kids, fabulous sports facilities for the athletes... why shouldn't a school provide dyslexia support as well? Different kids, different interests, different needs...

Not that all schools have the skill or inclination to do this. But why not hold higher expectations / aspirations for schools in this regard?

cantkeepawayforever Mon 12-Mar-18 21:53:26


Again, IME, most parents who pay for education do so to remove their children from those who 'need extra help', who 'take up more of the teacher's time', who 'might be disruptive'.

In that mindset, while a non-sporting parent won't begrudge the honour talented athletes bring to the school (and thus their cost), they WILL begrudge money spent to help a child who is NOT going to bring honour to the school - UNLESS the school is one that specialises in a particular difficulty, in which case the progress those children make becomes a selling point for the school to the parents of similar children.

Apple21079 Mon 12-Mar-18 22:03:15

The key is to find the school that is best able to support your child whether that is state or independent. My son was at an independent school most of his school career and was thoroughly miserable despite our best efforts to persuade his school to give him the support he is entitled to under the law. His experience in the end was horrific, unrepeatable here, and he switched to a state school during his GCSE's. We took his previous school to disability tribunal and won - in the hope that lessons will be learned for autistic children in the future. His experience at the state school has been so much better, he is happy and has lots of friends. If a school is unable or unwilling to support a child, whatever their legal obligations, the child faces a horrendous school life. Find the right school that suits your child's needs - if a school doesn't have the right experience be very careful whatever promises they make.

merrymouse Mon 12-Mar-18 22:11:03

My experience has been that primary school can be very difficult for a high functioning autistic child which ever system you are in. We ended up patching together a mixture of homeschooling and 'alternative' schooling.

Private schools by their nature choose to cater to a narrow slice of the population, and if your child isn't their desired type they have no obligation to take them.

State schools have to take everyone, but resources are often stretched and some schools are badly designed for children who have sensory difficulties - too much open plan space, too much noise, too cramped, too much distraction in the classroom, too overwhelming. School lunch was a particular difficulty. There was also a lot of disruption to routine with things like World Book Day, Sports Week, World Week, Christmas Jumper Day, some random person popping in to talk about the Olympics Day (This was a while ago...). There was always a sense that we were putting the school out because DS didn't take these things in his stride like the other children and there was a lot of waiting for 'the call' to take him home because he wasn't coping.

Now that DS is at secondary school things are much, much easier. Partly that is the particular school he is at, but it's also that he is older and can articulate his feelings, so doesn't deal with a problem by running from the classroom, and many of the bits of school that he used to find difficult just aren't part of his day anymore. The UK system of allowing children to specialise early can be helpful for children who have 'spiky' abilities.

If you can afford to send your child to a private school you are lucky because you have a wider choice, but in the end it comes down to the school, the senco and your child's teacher, not whether the school is private or state.

Ragusa Mon 12-Mar-18 22:19:51

Whoa hold up here.

An independent school cannot refuse to admit a student solely on the basis that he or she is disabled. That is direct discrimination and challengable in the courts.

The idea that some parents will resent money being spent on additional support for a disabled pupil is abhorrent. The school should not be operating on such tight margins that it cannot afford to make modest reasonable adjustments as it is required to do by law.

Ragusa Mon 12-Mar-18 22:22:33

Of course what they can do is say things like "we don't think your son is a good fit" etc etc etc. Dishonest but harder to challenge.

Apple21079 Mon 12-Mar-18 22:34:50

The discrimination ruling that we won noted that the support which the school had failed to provide would have involved minimal cost - and we had offered to pay for it anyway. The school simply did not want to provide the support, misunderstanding their legal obligations.

merrymouse Mon 12-Mar-18 22:35:37

You can fight as much as you like, but you can’t force a school to be suitable for your child if they really don’t want your child.

It might work if you want them to provide specialist equipment, but ‘make the playground less overwhelming’ or ‘provide a brilliant TA who can cope with meltdowns and won’t leave half way through the year’ is more challenging.

I suspect that is why so many children with autism who should theoretically be receiving a mainstream education are home educated.

MandrakeLake Mon 12-Mar-18 22:35:59

I have a DS who is HFA at a Pre-Prep in london. Happy to talk by PM. There absolutely are schools which will take your son but you say he's high functioning yet you have an's going to come down to how high functioning or not he is really. I'd encourage to look for a prep where the SEN support is included in the fees. It makes a huge difference.

cantkeepawayforever Mon 12-Mar-18 22:41:04


Again IME, charging parents the full cost of any SEN adjustments (from equipment, through specialists visiting, to the full cost of a 1:1 teacher) on top of fees is a prertty good way of signalling 'you're not very welcome here'.

Yes, the parent can pay a teacher's full salary + fees + cost of visits from ed Psych + cost of visits from advisors, but tbh at this point most parents decide that the school is being pretty clear in the message that it is sending.

cantkeepawayforever Mon 12-Mar-18 22:42:13

I would agree with mandrake that a full EHCP may indicate a level of 'functioning' that a private school may not regard as 'high'. How many hours of support per week are mandated in the EHCP?

BeBesideTheSea Mon 12-Mar-18 22:43:48

A child joined my DS’s year 3 class at a non-London Prep. None of the parents of the other children “mind” - it just reinforces the inclusive nature of the school.

I do know, from chatting to them, that his parents had a number of disheartening conversations with other Prep schools though.

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