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Help - 5yo with some additional needs - move to smaller school?

(10 Posts)
RunJHC Fri 05-Dec-14 09:46:41

I need help from MNers to decide whether to move DS1 from his state primary to a small private school. He's 5 and is in Year 1.

Bit of background - he's a little behind developmentally in some but not all areas - he can read at Y2 level, but struggles with writing (has hypermobile joints i.e. bendy fingers!) and his speech/language is a bit behind in terms of being able to express himself. Doesn't have an interest in maths really, but can count to 100 more or less, and do 1 more and 1 less then etc. Also struggles with some loud noises, busy playground/lunch hall. But he's very cheerful at home and I think is bright enough, has a good memory etc.

His current school is a busy state primary, which is really hot on national curriculum levels, standards etc. He's been a bit up and down in Year 1 - he has a couple of boys he's good friends with and is happy enough now he's settled in, but the class seem to spend a lot of time writing, even in maths, so his workbooks are basically blank. We're currently getting private speech therapy (on waiting list for support from the council) and the school has suggested we get private occupational therapy to help with his writing. I work full time and am currently taking lots of time off work to take him to these extra appts - not really sustainable in the long run!

There's a very small private school near us, which has 50 kids in the whole school. So it's like a little village school, with about 15 in KS1 and 15 in KS2, a teacher and a TA for each group, so all small group work, 1 to 1 time etc. I went to look round and really liked it - much more focus on the individual child's development, lots of going out and about, forest school etc, but all the basics are still done - they follow national curriculum etc but just in a different way. Also they have a nursery which my DS2 could go to (he's currently in a different pre-school). The fees are not much so that's not really an issue.

So we're going to look around again and taking the boys with us on Monday, but it feels like a massive decision to move him. I just feel like the smaller school would be able to meet his additional needs better - or in fact might just chill out and let him develop at his own pace.

Anyone with similar experience/advice? Or questions I need to pose at the small school?

Thanks - sorry for epic post.

beautifulgirls Fri 05-Dec-14 20:46:19

I think you really need to talk to the school you are considering and find out what their attitude is to additional needs and supporting children who need the extra help. Many mainstream independent schools do not support children well with extra needs, but that is not to say that this school is the same. You need to know what they would charge you for extra support too as often this is not included in the fees and could be a bit of a shock if you are not expecting this. I think you really need to trust your instinct once you have been open and honest with them - on paper it may look good, the facilities and class sizes may be very tempting but if they seem a little resistant and unsure about additional needs then the decision may not be right for your DS.

Lots of helpful advice on the SN children board here on MN too - maybe there are other smaller mainstream state schools that might be suitable nearby? Have you considered seeing a paediatrician with him to get things checked too - might be a sensible route to seeing an OT too?

sunnyfrostyday Fri 05-Dec-14 20:55:54

I agree. I think you need to have an opend and frank discussion with the school, and also look at other local state schools.

Our state primary would support you fully, but many local schools would not. It depends entirely on the Head and school.

mummytime Fri 05-Dec-14 21:09:04

I wouldn't move to a small private school. If your State one isn't very supportive, then I would be looking for another large state primary, preferably more clued up, but maybe less middle class. State schools have access to resources that private schools don't, and can't afford (especially small ones). State schools also have to try to cater for everyone, private schools don't. Private schools, especially small ones can be under financial pressure and close quickly.

Lostriver Fri 05-Dec-14 21:40:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Littlefish Fri 05-Dec-14 22:26:06

I would look for another (preferably large) state school rather than move to a private school if my dc had additional needs. In my experience, private schools are generally not particularly good at dealing with children with additional needs, plus you may need to pay for any extra support your dc receives.

EyeoftheStorm Fri 05-Dec-14 22:41:00

I have had a very good experience with a small independent school. It's all about their attitude and you'll get that from the staff and children when you look around and ask questions.

DS2 needed another year at nursery due to additional needs and the state system wouldn't let him delay reception. It was no problem at the independent school. His OT is also able to go in and work with him during the school day which means one less appointment to fit in for me.

We had older children at our state school and we were all happy there. But a large class and lack of time/money would have meant DS2 (whose problems are sensory and physical) having a really tough start.

He is thriving. The difference in him is amazing.

But it's all about the school. This one has a good reputation for dealing with SEN. It was just in the way the staff dealt with us. A similar school we visited put us off immediately - they just didn't get us or DS2.

It was the right step for us. I hope you find the right fit for your DS.

RunJHC Sat 06-Dec-14 18:52:44

Thanks everyone - all very helpful and thought provoking.

beautifulgirls - We've seen a paediatrician who was really helpful but so far the OT referral has only resulted in an in-school assessment - his current teacher told me not to hold my breath for anything further without going private. It may just be the council where we live/thresholds etc.

And really helpful questions to ask the independent school about access to additional support or whether we can arrange it then get them to work with/in the school.

Such a difficult decision! And I'm really worried about how to explain it to him if we do decide to move him. Almost makes me long for the newborn phase, when the biggest concern was a simple lack of sleep!

mummytime Sun 07-Dec-14 07:58:02

Have you spoken to the SENCO at the present school? Also do not be put off by what teachers say you will get, often they can be wrong (admittedly because of changes of staff/policies at the LA). Get ready to fight for what your DC needs, the parents willing to fight sadly are often those who get the most.
If you are unlikely to get the support at his present school, you definitely won't get it unless you pay at a private school. (The specialist private schools just charge much higher fees to cover the costs.)
I don't think that sending him to a private school, unless it is a specialist one will save you time off work either.

So either look for a private school which specialises in children with difficulties like your son, and prepare yourself for high fees. Or keep him in the state system, and fight/pay for the support he needs.

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 07-Dec-14 09:14:02

My concern would be, small school high adult to child ratio and fees no so much, is this school financially viable. Private schools that are charities, who are well in the black and thriving tend to make their financial details easily avaliable.
Even if they are just breaking even there will be no money for investment in new facilities or equipment.

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