Superselective Nightmare(21 Posts)
Last year my young son started at one of the London Day Superselectives. (Age 8). I am shocked at the school. Despite being a school which promotes itself as a place for inquisive children who want to learn. Intellectually curious. My son comes home frustrated. They discourage any questions that do not relate to the strict curriculum. For music, drama and sport they choose from the same 8 boys everytime and leave everyone else disappointed. Has anyone else had this issue? Any ideas?
From your description, I think I know which school you must be talking about. I always think that it must be difficult to teach a room full of intellectually curious children asking questions and I do not know how big the classes are. There has to be a balance between stifling curiosity and keeping control of the lessons. I think my DS has to spend a very large part of the day in total silence tbh, at another london day school but not superselective. At DS's school all children take part in drama, sport and music; there are lots of streamed teams. Although your child gets to play, they probably know their 'ranking' because all team lists are 'ranked' according to ability. In those circumstances, I might be happy to be in your situation!
I guess I feel like I am spending so so much money on this school and all the beautiful sporting, music and drama that sold us on paying all this money are really only for the "eight" who have somehow been selected to receive all the extra coachin, tuition etc. I might be able to deal with this if the classr
Room was a "different" learning experience but I suspect it is worse than the semi selective school ds1 attended which was brilliant at making sure that everyone could participate.
He is in year 5 now and I don't know what to do.
"Super selective" at eight turns out to be a hot-housing , curriculum driven experience aimed at exams, exams, exams for pushy parents? Who would have guessed it? You're paying, so you presumably have choices and avenues of complaint. Use them.
What plans do you have or secondary? If you have your eye on an 11+ school, it could be tricky to move because you want him settled in the run up, and although many schools would welcome a pupil if they have a year 5 vacancy, it's harder to move at year 6. Can you afford to sacrifice a term's fees in lieu? If so, then if you are still unhappy then perhaps start seeking a different prep at half term and move him in January.
If 13+, then you may still decide a move is the only option, but there won't be the same time pressure.
The very best thing about private school is choice.
You can simply choose another school OP.
Don't be silly,OFCOURSE it's like that.whydo you think their orchestra/choir/sports team win the county /national level competitions? Because they only let the REALLY talented children into the team.
All the average ones like your child get to sit on the sidelines so the teachers can concentrate on the children who will bring glory to the school.
Did you honestly believe that the school took in a cross section of children and made them all brilliant? No,they take in the brighter group of children ( excluding those with sn) with the richest/most motivated parents. Then they screen them again so that only the most talented get to participate In asrts /sports . And they focus ALL their energies on exam passes rather than a broad general education.
Surely you knew this when you chose to send your child there?
The school's main job is to get them onto the "next stage", eg through Common Entrance. This is what parents expect and pay for.
Pushing for great results, and nurturing quieter kids, dosen't really go hand in hand. Some sail through without noticing the pressure whilst others can end up quite anxious. Boys at this age can be very competitive with each other to the extent of being unkind, which does not help.
One advantage of this sort of school, and I too suspect I know the one you are talking about, is that so many activities are offered that your son ought to be able to find something he is good at, whether art, drama, or a particular sport, which he can make his thing. However if he really finds it difficult to put himself forward, he can end up being trampled upon.
Individual members of staff may be more sympathetic than you expect. I suspect meeting the demands of both CE and pushy parents can be quite difficult. Perhaps a meeting with a tutor or form teacher to discuss a strategy whereby your son can find areas in which to shine and to develop self esteem?
Otherwise and others have said - wrong school for your child. Children are not all the same and only some will thrive in a hot-house prep. It does not mean that he is not bright enough, nor that he has failed. If you decide to move you should not find it too difficult. Though London parents seem to have a ranking system largely based on how hard it is to get in, and what the end results are, gentler schools often believe that they provide a better and more rounded education. It also suits some children to be towards the top of their year group.
I can think of two sets of parents who pulled their kids out of high pressure preps. One said they got their child back. He had previously become so anxious they did not recognise him. The second boy commented at the end of his first week that his new school was great. People, including teachers and fellow pupils, were nice to each other.
In fairness plenty of boys thrive in a high pressure environment. It really depends on the child.
I went to a school like that.
My personal opinion is that it suits high-flying, ultra-confident children but it ruins the confidence of others. (I am in the second category.) I have 5 A-levels at grade A (no A* back then) and a first from a RG uni but feel like a dunce as Im not sporty and beautiful and clever and popular and top in everything else.
I completely recognise what you describe as a normal hot house. I think the decision you have to make is whether you keep him where he is in the hope that the alpha-boys' qualities rub off on him or you send him to a less academic place where he can be confidentially top of the class and do well as a result. I really think it's a personality issue and that if he's not super confident then sending him to a less academic (prestigious?) school and playing the long game could be a better solution.
I can't understand why you're surprised......what were you expecting?
My three older children went to a pre prep that lasted till secondary. To help with school runs ds2 is at the junior school where ds1 goes to senior school. While the SS seems to offer lots of opportunities for boys to achieve and lots of pastoral care..the junior part seems to be much more exam focused and yes like a hot house. In terms of achievement ds2 is doing very well. Excels in some subjects, middle of the pack in others. What shocks me is that all these little boys who are supposed to be so smart are not encouraged to explore. Too many questions and the child is put down. On the sport and music front I am afraid that I fell for the idea that they had so many teams and orchestras. But the previous comments are correct. Only the top ones are encouraged and coached. The others are left to flounder. But worst of all the same seven boys seem to be selected for every team, performance and concert. Wasn't like that in the old school. I guess I was silly to think it would be a better place. .
I think we all like to think our children will get a chance, don't we? It can be hard, whether you are paying or not, to see your child consistently left out or on the sidelines . I would move and change school at 13.
Oddly the well known academic senior schools seem to have better reputations for support and pastoral care than their junior schools. I guess pupils are older and there are a lot more options both extra curricular and academic. It would still be horrid to be struggling academically but apart from that there is normally room for everyone to find their forte.
One problem in being at a prep that leads onto to one of these schools is that your reputation within your peer group can get fixed aged 8. So if you are quiet then there is little scope to reinvent yourself with a move to secondary.
I would sort of disagree with Black Mogul. I would move now, preferably to a mixed prep. (Half the number of boys so more scope to be picked for teams, and girls at this age, whilst studious, tend not to be as competitive.) This then gives your son a chance to find out what sort of boy he is and thus where he will feel most comfortable at secondary.
If where he is does not suit him, you do not want another decade of this. It is his whole childhood.
I remember when my son started at a very academic secondary school at 13 having been to a relatively relaxed prep, another mother saying her son, who came from the prep, had asked to buy a book following a visit to a museum. My son had regularly read five books of his own choosing a week. (He was a natural bookworm - though computer games have now taken over!) Hers apparently had always been too busy with homework and so never had had the time for independent reading. Sad. I think it is so important that children have time to explore their own interests.
The school sounds dreadful. Also, what's he in year 5 at age 8 for - isn't that normally for children aged 9-10? Surely it's not an advantage to be in a higher year if it results in him missing out on sport, music and drama and being discouraged from asking questions?
rabbit the OP said his ds started at the school last year aged 8, which is correct for year 4. He would have turned 9 in year 4 and started year 5 aged 9. Ds is 9 and in year 5 and won't be 10 until the end of the school year. Personally I would be moving ds from this sort of school as I think confidence is a fragile thing and this sort of school will do no good to those who are never selected for teams etc.
Ah - that makes more sense. Thank you, bisjo. The school still sounds dreadful!
Sounds horrendous. However, if that's the route you've chosen, don't expect the 'lesser' children to be picked for sports teams! They wouldn't pick less able mathematicians for a maths team, would they?
You make your bed....
Move him. Agree with Needsmoresleep - coed is a good idea as there will be half the number of boys. Look for a school that is genuinely an all round school - depth in sports teams, music that caters for the elite through to the tone deaf but keen singer in a non selective choir, lots of after school clubs to expand his interests, and which has a good track record of getting DC into lots of secondary schools at 11 and 13, doesn't just feed into one or two.
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