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Eldest daughter asking to try school

(24 Posts)
T25daisy Tue 04-Nov-14 17:15:49

Hi all, I'm a regular lurker on heresmile Bit stumped today as my eldest daughter aged 9 who has never been to school has been reading lots of books where school is part of the storyline recently. This has made her ask if she can go to school for a day to see what its like & thereby form her own opinion on it.
I have always said she could try it if she wanted. Now she is asking I feel in a bit of a predicament. We have three local schools with spaces. The nearest where her friends goes is in special measures, the other two are absolutely huge, 600 plus pupils but latest Ofsteds are good. I don't feel good about any of them though.
My DD says she only wants to try it, like an experiment. I get that but lets suppose she likes it and wants to give it a proper go. That's all well and good but I am still in charge of her learning and still responsible. I have actually looked around 2 of these 3 schools a while back with my friend and I didn't really get a good vibe about the big 600 pupil school, and thought the other one was ok but its now in special measures.
I don't know what to do. I can't go far out of catchment because I will still have my other daughter at home and don't think its fair to her to be driving all over the country at drop off and pick up times.
The other thing is my eldest DD is so happy, has brilliant HE friends and the self-directed project work she does is fantastic. I really think HE is a better opportunity.
WWYD? I have raised my girls to have curious minds so I totally understand why she wants to try school. Its an itch she needs to scratch, but how can I possibly send her to a school I just don't believe in?

ommmward Tue 04-Nov-14 18:01:48

I have come across several autonomous/unschooling HE families whose children have tried school at various times. There is a huge huge difference between going to school because you personally want to do it (as she would be), and going to school because that's what everyone does, and noone has offered you an alternative.

I honestly don't think it matters that much which school she goes to - there will be positives and negatives in all of them. I predict she'll be out again within a year, but with a much better sense of the advantages and disadvantages of both school and HE, from an informed position.

Two things to consider:

1) if you register and then deregister her, you'll be on the radar for the LA. Not a big deal, but maybe a bit annoying to have to send them an annual report, or else see them off with a learning philosophy and a fierce message that they have no business trying to monitor annually.

2) I think it's really important to decide BEFORE she tries school what the deal is, and to agree it with her. If she hates it, will she be able to come out at the end of the week? Or the half term? Or the term? Or the year? Important for her to know what the exit strategy would be, if it were needed.

Nigglenaggle Tue 04-Nov-14 20:46:56

If the head teacher allows it then it should be possible to try it for a week to satisfy her curiosity. I did a school swap with my cousin at primary school for no other reason than we were curious to do it. But I guess you have to get lucky with a sympathetic head.

T25daisy Tue 04-Nov-14 20:53:57

Thanks ommmwardsmile I too don't think she stay in permanently. What I really don't want is for her to be in and out, in and out. I'm happy for her to try it, in which case I think a days experiment is not really going to cut it. I think she probably needs to be there for half a term to really understand the pros and cons.
Ok its interesting you don't think it matters too much which school. So of the choices I have, I weirdly would prefer the one in special measures to the gigantic impersonal other two. My only other reservation about the one in special measures is that her friend goes there & would love to be HE!! Grass is always greener but I wonder if it might really unsettle the friend if DD goes in and later comes out. They would not be in the same class but still, I can't help worrying about that too. I know the parents have had trouble getting her to go to school.

T25daisy Tue 04-Nov-14 20:58:48

Thanks nigglenaggle, yes I can only ask the question I never know, maybe it really is just going to be a day or week & that will satisfy the itch!

Hakluyt Tue 04-Nov-14 21:02:04

Remember that just because a school is huge doesn't mean that it's impersonal!

Why is the one you like in special measures?

ReallyTired Tue 04-Nov-14 21:03:50

Why don't you take your daughter to visit all three schools in her area to see which one she likes. Personally I would avoid a school in special measures like the plague. It will be a very different school to the one you visited. I think she needs to spend at least half a term and preferely a term to see what its like. However if you want your daughter to be utterly unhappy and hate school the special measures school might do the trick.

The only issue I can think is the impact that schooling your older daughter will have on your younger daughter home ed. You will be constrained by school holidays dates and having to drop her off at 9am and pick up at 3pm.

T25daisy Tue 04-Nov-14 21:23:00

yes I know we will be constrained. It will be a pain, but what can I do? I feel I should let her try.

The one in special measures just had this homely vibe. I don't want to pick some awful school incase she wants to go longer term. Yes I will have to go around them again with DD and see what she thinks. Just didn't like the gigantic school, don't know why, it felt all business like in comparison. At the smaller one the head seemed to know pupils really well as we looked around. Just the impression I got.

Hakluyt Tue 04-Nov-14 21:28:29

A school in special measures will be busting a gut to get out again- so might well be a very good place to be. Do you know why it's in special measures?

Saracen Tue 04-Nov-14 21:34:28

It's really difficult, isn't it?

Under the circumstances (your dd's age etc) I really do agree with other posters that she needs to be allowed to have a go at school if she wants to. But the details are hard to figure out: how long she should go for, and which school.

My dh and I agreed that our then-9yo would have to commit to a whole term if she wanted to go. (That was his idea: I thought a month would be enough.) He and I also privately agreed that if she truly hated it then we'd let her come out straightaway. You can't get a realistic "school experience" in a day or a week, because one key element of the school experience is the overwhelming drudgery routine of going to the same place and doing exactly the same thing day after day.

I tell you though, a term felt like forever to all of us. I can't help thinking that we wasted a fair bit of time just for the sake of seeing it out.

Here's my blog of it, in case it interests you:

Zinkies Wed 05-Nov-14 11:30:09

Any insistence that the child "commit to" a period at school is incompatible with their educational autonomy, as is the idea that only a highly vocal child deserves to decide their educational setting.

A child whose parents attempt to deceive them as to whether they will "let" them go or not go to school is not in an autonomous educational environment.

SavoyCabbage Wed 05-Nov-14 11:40:01

My dd goes to a 600 pupil primary. There are advantages. Bigger friendship pool, more facilities ( we have an art room, performing arts centre, an animal program etc.) and there are so many teachers that your child is bound to come across one that inspires them.

girliefriend Wed 05-Nov-14 11:47:38

If a school is in special measures this normally means there is big investment and push to improve things plus it won't really matter if as you predict it won't be a long term issue. Have you met the head, what were they like?

I do think you need to listen to your dd and let her go with an open mind, she may love it and want to stay but that don't take that as a rejection!!

ReallyTired Wed 05-Nov-14 11:51:41

A school in special measures is unlikely to agree to anything out of the ordinary (like flexi schooling) because they will be under the thumb of the local authority improvement advisor. My daughter's school has become completely ruthless about attendence. The new head has referred families to the educational welfare officer far more readily than the old head.

"Any insistence that the child "commit to" a period at school is incompatible with their educational autonomy, as is the idea that only a highly vocal child deserves to decide their educational setting."

Why? Provided the parents are open with the child that they need to commit to a term. It is not easy to slip in and out of school at a whim anymore than you can slip in and out of employment at a whim.

If you are going to do the school experiment please steer your child gently to the school without problems. I think you would find an OFSTED "good" more accomodiating of unusual requests as they do not have to prove themselves.

Zinkies Wed 05-Nov-14 12:18:56

Deregistration is available on demand (in England and Wales). It is easy for a child to leave school at a moment's notice provided that they have helpful parents.

Saracen Wed 05-Nov-14 18:19:43

"A child whose parents attempt to deceive them as to whether they will "let" them go or not go to school is not in an autonomous educational environment."

That assumes that the child's school attendance will not affect anyone else in the family. I didn't "let" my children have horse riding lessons, because there was a wider financial impact. I also don't usually "let" them attend HE events which require me to drive for 2 hours in each direction. My teen could do both of those things now IF she could raise the money and find a lift somehow.

When a nine year old starts school, that is likely to require her parents to transport her there and buy special clothes. It also enters them into a legal obligation to ensure her regular attendance until such point as they deregister her, which can have a significant effect on everyone else in the family.

Nigglenaggle Wed 05-Nov-14 19:41:13

If you are sending a child to school, it's only fair to consider the school and stick to the rules I think. Sending them with the attitude that they can just stop and start as they like is just disrespectful. It's a different matter to removing a child who is having issues..

T25daisy Thu 06-Nov-14 09:18:44

Hi all, thanks for all the comments. I don't really label our home ed journey but I would guess most would put us down as autonomous. Having said that we do what's best for our family unit. I do have to think about this from all angles. In fact someone said to me yesterday 'oh it will be better for you with one in school, easier for family to help look after younger DD and you can have a break'. I just don't get how its easier for me to have one in school and one out!! To be honest I think it will be a pain but on balance I feel strongly that my eldest needs to experience school, even it if ends up being for a short amount of time.
The one in special measures seemed to have difficulties in all areas according to its Ofsted. 60% of the children have ESL, so I assume this must impact SATs. The school also has leadership issues but I know there is a new head there now who is meant to be great although I haven't personally met the new one.
ReallyTired I had not thought about the angle of this school not consenting to unusual requests. In the back of my mind I have wondered whether some kind of flexi school arrangement might work well for us, but yes I take your point about attendance etc and that they might be strict on this.
I've also thought about one of the bigger schools & what Savoycabbage has said about facilities is true. The big school has fantastic sports facilities including an indoor pool. My DD is very sporty so I think the best thing is to look around all of them again before deciding how best to proceed.
Saracen I'm just off to read your blog post! Thanks for the link. I know in my heart we just have to do this otherwise it will always crop up. I am worried about her missing out with our home ed stuff we have such good stuff coming up but hopefully all her friends etc will still be there for her if she ends up not staying in school. She's adamant it is an experiment & I feel a day or week won't really give her the full experience but will just have to see how it all goes. Thanks!!!!

ReallyTired Thu 06-Nov-14 09:55:08

The bigger school might have wrap around care if you needed the whole day to something with the home ed younger child. The swimming does sound fab.

T25daisy Thu 06-Nov-14 10:00:38

Thanks ReallyTiredsmile Helpful info & stuff I hadn't considered.

Jami74 Sun 09-Nov-14 01:56:07

My oldest tried school for the first time last year aged 10. We decided to start at the beginning of a school year and while we would have pulled her out immediately that she wasn't happy we did talk about it being a proper commitment and the importance of giving it a fair try. We'd never done lessons and she was concerned that she'd be behind but by mid-November she was apparently one of the more able. The first few weeks were hard because she wasn't used to going to bed and getting up early, eating/toileting at set times or seeing adults talk to children the way they do at school. But it wasn't awful for her, she made lots of friends, was treated well and got to experience things which are pretty much school specific. In fact she grew to love it and would have stayed if it wasn't the last year. I found it hard to have her away from the family for so much time and really frustrating at how little the school wanted to communicate with me. By the end of the school year her attitude had changed towards us and it felt a little bit like we'd lost her but within a few weeks of it ending all was back to normal and it was like she'd never been gone. It has given me an even deeper sense that autonomous education is the way to go and reassured me that children are not missing out on anything by not going. For her, she's made more local friends, had some exam experience (which could be useful in the future) and satisfied her curiosity. We've not yet had any contact from the LA.

T25daisy Tue 11-Nov-14 17:10:44

does she not want to go to secondary?

Jami74 Sat 15-Nov-14 00:14:33

T25daisy, she did but over the course of the summer she realised that she could live without school and we reminded her lots all the things which are good about home-ed. We suggested she try coming back to home-ed and if it didn't work could go to secondary school the next September. None of her school friends seem particularly happy at secondary so she doesn't feel like she's missing anything and seems really content with the way things are now. I'm glad I let her go but even gladder she came back.

Lulu3108 Sat 15-Nov-14 00:26:41

Hi, I think you are considering school at a good age, at least your daughter can get used to school and settle in if she starts at her age. Whereas if you leave it until secondary school the schools will be much bigger and no doubt stressful with GCSEs. I am someone who did not get on with school that much because I was undiagnosed dyspraxic. However I am always grateful for being thrown in the deep end in a large school and mix of people because I had flourished more with working. I am now a mature student at uni I suppose it's right for everyone when it feels ready. Good luck x

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