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Talking to school about withdrawing/maintaining relationship with school

(3 Posts)
littlepinkmouseofsugar Wed 03-Feb-16 12:17:47

This is my first post after lurking for a fair while...

We have been thinking seriously about home schooling one of our children. She has always been a fast learner and is very academic, and the school she is at, although nice enough, has never been a good match for her. It's a local village school with one form entry, so there are not a lot of specialist staff and they like many other schools are woefully under-funded which I suspect doesn't help things generally in terms of resources.

Her year group is very very diverse in terms of ability, so the focus has always been for the teacher and TA to focus on the strugglers while the more able children such as my child are left to work independently. The (new) national curriculum is so prescriptive it doesn't appear to give much scope for going off piste even IF the teachers did much/any extension work. While I appreciate that the other children have needs and there are boxes to be ticked and lots of assessment etc involved for teachers nowadays, it has meant for several years now (I live in hope each new school year and with each new teacher that things will improve but that has yet to happen five years on), that my child is left to their own devices or has sat bored while the rest of the class 'learns' yet again that all triangles have three sides or how to do their times tables or how to write using the past tense and other things she mastered years ago.

We have never raised this issue we have with the school as teachers have either been unapproachable and scary to be honest, or perfectly nice and I have sympathy for them having to juggle a class of children who are very differing in ability. At parent evenings they do all the next target bullshit and witter on about next stages that she's working towards, when I know perfectly well she can already do those things, so there has seemed little point in rocking the boat and asking for harder work for her as the teachers seem to have their own tick box agenda as far as targets and curriculum go to prove progress and the like. I suspect the levels that they've put down on reports and the like are under-rated so they can prove her progress and also make their jobs easier by not having to stretch her as much.

I think school has been good for her socially as she does tend towards the introvert side of things, but I think she's now very bored with sitting and listening to the same topics being repeated and having less scope for learning at her level. I don't want her to stop enjoying learning! I think she'd get a lot out of self initiated learning at home as she's quite driven and spends all non-school hours working towards Brownie badges, making things, coding, writing etc and would relish the chance to do more of what she's interested in and at her own pace. I'd love to see what she can do as well, when she's got far more hours in the day to put into her projects.

We're hoping to take her out at some point in the next term or so, after a school residential trip which she is keen to do.

My concern is how to do so politely as it were, without ruffling feathers at school, in case we decide that home schooling isn't for us and want her to go back there. Also, more importantly, we have another younger child currently in the school and also have a third child not yet of school age. There's no chance we'd change schools for them as it's really convenient in terms of location. Our younger child in the school is very outgoing and sociable, so we have no issues with her staying there at all for the present as she actually enjoys school and also learns better from people she's not related to at this point in time.

So, my question is to those who have withdrawn a child from a school and who have kept a sibling(s) in the same school - how does one do so without burning bridges as such? I don't want any resentment or prejudices towards my child who will stay in the school as school suits her, but I suspect the school will be really surprised at our decision to take our older child out given to date we've not been 'one of those parents'. I suspect they are relying on her to up their grade averages for the class when they do year 6 sats in two years time, so may be miffed to lose her. I really don't want them to take our decision personally, especially her class teacher who seems nice enough, but fear they will, as it's human nature.

I thought a meeting with the head teacher (and class teacher?) might be the polite thing to do, rather than just send in a letter notifying the school of our intentions, but am unsure how to approach it. The newish headteacher although I have had no issues with him, isn't the most approachable person either, which makes it harder. But then maybe they'd try and talk us out of our decision?

Any thoughts/advice/experiences welcome!

Saracen Wed 03-Feb-16 13:21:22

If you are worried that your decision might give offence, it might be easier to outline your reasons in the letter you send in when you deregister your daughter, instead of having a meeting where your real frustrations and disappointments might slip out. Give as little notice as you feel able to do, and they will have less chance to try to grab you in the playground and talk you out of your decision. Once it's done, I expect they'll be fine with it. It will be clear you don't hate the school or you wouldn't be leaving your younger child there.

If they ask for a meeting you could give a breezy, "Oh no thanks, that's very kind but isn't necessary, we have it all arranged".

When you explain your reasons (you don't have to, but it sounds like you want to), don't mention any of the things you have said above about school not suiting your daughter. Instead talk about the benefits you expect she will get from home education. You could say how much you are looking forward to doing some individual work with her at her own pace and concentrating on things which especially interest her, and how well you think this will suit her. No teacher (or headteacher) worth their salt would fail to recognise how great it is for kids to get lots of one-to-one and be able to work at their own pace. They'd do it themselves if only they had the resources.

You could close your letter by thanking them for the things they have done for your daughter. Don't lie, obviously, but mention whatever you do like about the school. For example, "We have really appreciated the great pastoral care at this school and dd has liked her teachers" - omitting all mention of academics if that is best left out!

Expect other parents to ask you about your reasons at the school gates, and practice some positive things to say to them which aren't critical of the school. You could talk about how much you enjoy going on lots of outings, for example. Then quickly change the subject back to school things, how your younger dd is having fun etc.

littlepinkmouseofsugar Wed 03-Feb-16 16:38:01

Thank you Saracen, that's really helpful! My brain sometimes stumbles on the other half of a problem as I have a teething toddler ad am a bit sleep deprived, so I can't see the wood for the trees...

Yes, you are right in your comment if we weren't happy we wouldn't be leaving our other child at the school. Hopefully they will see it that way too.

That's a really good idea to be presenting it as a positive decision for our child to give her one-to-one learning (albeit with a toddler in tow) and to work at her pace and level, rather than a failing on the part of the school to extend her.

And also good call in terms of thanking them for the positive experiences - I'm sure we can come up with a few aspects she has enjoyed or we've felt were beneficial.

I guess I need to think of it as similar to a school report a child receives, but in reverse - lots of positive spin and glossing over the problems ;-)

Yes, the school gate is possibly an issue, but on the plus side from the summer term the school encourages the children in her year to walk to/from school, so there will be fewer of her cohort's parents there at pick up time so we might evade some comments I hope.

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