Choosing a school for child who is ahead(16 Posts)
Not sure if this is the best place to post but I am hoping for some friendly help!
My DS is almost 2 1/2 and soon to start pre-school. We have enough money to educate him privately and private schools have pre-school attached where we choose may end up being his primary school.
DS appears to be very bright in terms of his communication, reading and maths skills - his nursery say he has completed the 36-50 months EYFS and is moving into 40-60 months. Social and motor skills wise he is doing well and meeting expectations for his age.
When I was young I was considered “gifted”, as I was academically able, v similar to DS. I was moved up several years at my first school (private) which was a disaster for my social development. At several subsequent schools (state) they often didn’t know what to do with me. I wasn’t stretched by the work most of the time and didn’t have to try very hard. Then when I got to A level I had no idea how to work as I just hadn’t learnt how! I don’t want the same issues for DS and I want to make sure he has a rounded education while also learning how to put effort in!
What are opinions on what to look for in a school and would the smaller class sizes private schools offer be of benefit or would they be likely to try and hothouse him?
Specifically there are two near us, one with quite an academic and sporty focus and one that is more art and music focussed (less academic) - any thoughts on which might be best?
I think it's quite hard to decide at this point. Ideally, you can find the school which has focus on academics and also sport/art/music and other things.
But if I had to choose one, I would go for academic one, since you can supplement others easily, but children spend quite a long time doing academic stuff at school.
Where abouts are you? We are having similar conversations about our 2.75 year old, so I don’t have any answers for you, but am in a similar boat
As you say your own education was messed up by varied expectations / putting you up / bringing you down, perhaps the most sensible thing would be to put him into your local state primary school at least for two or three years so you can get a better idea of his ability and how he continues to fare with ordinary children of his own age. At 7 you could move him into a prep school if you felt he wasn't getting enough attention / pushing and would benefit from smaller classes?
Music or sports are areas where, however talented you are, you just have to put effort in, so I would chose a school that offers lots of music, sport and art on top of academics for a gifted child. Does your ds show any prefetences for either music or sport? I had the same problem as you as a child. I learned how to put effort in when I moved from a German school to an US one, 1 year ahead but only with a rudimentary knowledge of English ( my foreign languages at school had been Latin, Greek and French, so of not much use). So if you feel he would benefit from things being more challenging for him, you could look for a bilingual school, if that exists near you, or you could focus on teaching him a foreign language. But my overall impression is that private pre prep schools and nurseries have moved up a notch academically. My 2 year olds Montessori nursery offers phonics and decoding games to their cohut of 18ms to 30ms olds, and almost every single child at my dd non selective pre-prep was a fledging reader by the end of nursery (average was about ORT level 2/3 by end of nursery class). There will be many prep schools were there would be no need to move up a gifted child as they would be part of a strong cohort, and they would be stretched and challenged sideways (music, sports, drama, debating, foreign languages).
You should definitely visit both, and get a feel for which seems a better fit for his character and for your family values. And as a pp said, don't discount your state primaries. The most important thing is for your DS to feel happy.
But if you think he's likely to be academic, the academic one seems likely to be a good choice. Despite your personal experience, I'd say that these schools generally don't really hot-house. Rather, they attract a higher-than-average-ability cohort, either through selection or through self-selection (based on the school's reputation), which means they are able to teach at a higher speed, and also have higher academic expectations.
DD is at a very academic private school.
My personal feeling is that it's healthier for a person's character and personal growth to be middle of a high-ability cohort than at the top of an average-ability cohort. She is also very happy there, in an environment where she seems to fit in better than at her less academic pre-schools.
Just to add, because they teach at a higher speed, they have time for:
- a lot of consolidation, making sure all the children understand thoroughly (my SIL says they never have time to consolidate in the state school where she teaches, and it's a big problem).
- loads of PE and music, special topic days where interesting things happen, plenty of history and science.
I'm in that same situation as you too OP. Very able 2.5 year old and real dilemma over schools. We're going to swap one day nursery day to a private school nursery when she turns 3 so we can try before we commit.
I think whilst most independent schools will offer reduced class sizes, they don't necessarily all over vastly better teaching and learning. I think you need to visit as many in your locality as you possibly can, I wouldn't make too much of a deal about the gifted and talented angle yet, as if you find a school that will nourish children it will do that well with low and high achievers. I would be reluctant to choose a school which is known to be very academic as it probably won't develop your child socially which as you cited was not a good thing for you personally. As a pp suggested find somewhere where you like the school and they offer lots of curriculum enhancement eg dance, music, sport, art etc. Also check costs of where they would likely go to next because whilst pre prep and prep can be affordable good independent senior schools are much more costly.
I would visit a lot of schools and check they were comfortable with free reading at a young age. DD1’s school believed in making sure you finished all its levels at the end of Y2 so we spent a lot of time reading through super-easy books and asking why they were necessary when she was reading chapter books at home. I would also really recommend learning a musical instrument from 5. It’s good for brain development, will help with anxiety in later life, and will go at his own pace, continuing to challenge him.
At 2.5, there is no ahead/behind. The children are developing so fast at that age that it means nothing.
Choose which school has a nice vibe, friendly teachers, good rules etc.
And be prepared for a bump back down to earth if little Johnny ends up being exactly the same as everyone else.
My very able 2yo DS had to attend the (then rated inadequate) local state primary. He’s now near the end of his time there and still very able but definitely the top of an average group where learning and excellence is not treasured. I would go for the school who seem to tailor more towards the individual child and find out about the behaviour/reward system as that underpins what makes a child happy.
I do think children can be ahead at 2.5. By that age, dd was starting to string CVC words together and, by 4 was able to read and had been taught quite a bit of maths. I'm sure teaching her before school has meant she is now doing better academically than she would otherwise have been. I believe there have been studies showing education in preschool makes a difference in academic outcomes. Not all children level out.
OP, if your dc learns easily, I would chose the more academic school. However, when we picked dd's school, we sort of knew which she would fit in best with when we went to look round.
I’d be slightly wary of deciding your DC are ahead and need a pushy environment at 2.5. One of mine was similar, ahead in all milestones by some margin, right until the first year of school when there was a sudden plateau and a drop off when ‘proper’ work started. Turns out although highly intelligent they are also dyslexic. Had I gunned for the pushy academic school I had in mind there would have been very little experience or provision in that school to provide support.
Remember your DC aren’t you. A few years in a good state primary to see if indeed he is gifted (or normally bright and comfortable in a mixed ability setting) would be my advice.
I don't agree with redcaryellowcar that an academic school doesn't develop children socially. A good school - regardless of academics - puts enormous effort into social development. It's probably the most important thing they do!
As I said above, I think that a very academic school can paradoxically give the most rounded education, since they have time for a much wider curriculum, and a cohort who will get a lot from it (children learn from each other too).
BUT hulahulahula is absolutely right that very academic schools aren't good if your child has dyslexia or another SLD - which can be the case even if they are very bright, and may not be apparent until they are at school.
Choosing whether to start private or whether to wait and see probably depends on how competitive it is to get into the school, ie how confident you are that your DC would get a place at a later entry point.
I would choose the academic one, as it's private there will be music and Art, unlike state where much has been cut for the Arts.
If they become good at Art you could always move them to a more Arty or specialist music school when older.
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