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Please help with West London schools with creative teaching and good SEN for dd with ADD?

(10 Posts)
CountryFlowers Wed 01-Jul-15 09:50:09

Morning MN,

My dd is 6 and has just been diagnosed ADD\ADHD - she is not disruptive - just finds it hard to keep focussed and sit still, and to sleep. We always believed she was on the bright side and Ed Psych said she scored in v high percentile range for most of the testing (99% in some areas). She is often tired though at school because she has to work harder (mentally) to stay focussed. So she finds it difficult to complete tasks or gets frustrated. This is compounded by the fact that the teaching style is quite formal and a bit old fashioned - I think she gets bored because she is not stimulated enough.

Ed Psych said that she needs to be in a school with good SEN that is also more academically challenging and where she can benefit from a more creative style of teaching. Does such a combination exist in West London? Am thinking Latymer Prep? Or what about Bute House? I know both are creative and I think SEN at LP is meant to be v good but what about Bute - can anyone tell me about SEN there? Or any other ideas? Obviously we would need to get ready quickly now given 7+ entry process will be looming after the summer.

Thanks MN,


CountryFlowers Wed 01-Jul-15 10:16:35

Also any views on NHEHS juniors?

Needmoresleep Wed 01-Jul-15 10:37:29

Perhaps worth thinking through the co-ed thing. On one hand boys, especially at primary age, tend to be slower to settle and so your DD will be closer to the norm and in-class teaching ought to be closer to the style she needs. However she might find a more robust setting more difficult if she already has problems concentrating.

The other big difference is that once in LP you are pretty certain to progress to the senior school. This is not the case with Bute, so you have to go through the whole West London 11+ thing. That said, if you are thinking of a different secondary, LP is probably not the best place to start from as they won't prepare as much.

SPGS and LU are very different schools. Which do you think would suit your daughter most? SPGS is great for a child is genuinely stimulated by academics, though high achieving girls often excel at other things as well. Lots of bright boys (and LU entry is far more competitive for boys) means that top set maths/science at LU is probably stronger than SPGS, but the overall range will be wider. Not necessarily a bad thing for a child who is "quirky", to use the standard MN phrase.

By many accounts SN provision at LU is good. As is their drama/music/arts. I don't know about SPGS though understand that they have a significant number who qualify for extra time, so presumably they cater well.

CountryFlowers Wed 01-Jul-15 11:04:45

needmoresleep - thanks for this - interesting what you say about co-ed. DH much prefers this idea because - as you say - she would "fit in" more with the teaching style - also she loves being around boys (and vice versa) - and we feel worried that going all-girls might remove this "natural" easiness. I agree though that it might equally make it more difficult for her to concentrate as probably the boys love her because she is just like "one of them" (but always in a pretty dress!). Haven't had much chance to think as far forward as secondary as because of her issues, we have been at sea as to what her potential really was. I was not expecting to be told by Ed Psych to look at academic schools - I was expecting more to be told the opposite! She is def v strong maths \ science and "quirky" personality. I love Bute as it keeps options open. But would they take someone like her and meet her needs (which aren't excessive)?

MMmomKK Wed 01-Jul-15 13:36:11

It is a hard one - I'd post some of this on SEN board to get some advice/experience. I am sure you are not the first one in this situation.

I think if your daughter passes LU or Bute selection you'll need to have a very detailed conversation with the schools to make sure they can provide the necessary support.

I do not know if you need to be upfront with them about her issues. Some part of me thinks that it would hurt her chances. (A friend's daughter with minor speech issues was upfront with some schools and her daugher didn't get in. Then, surprisingly, got a place at a very academic prep where she did not mention it... That was at 4+. And the girl is absolutely fine now at Y3)

As a side note - not sure if going to a school that does 11+ is so much about having options as it is about choosing the hard and stressful route... I have two children who would have to do it someday and I wish we had an option of doing a 7+ and staying at a school all the way. No one I know has anything positive to say about going through 11+...sad(

CountryFlowers Wed 01-Jul-15 13:59:23

HIMMom - you've hit on exactly the other dilemma we are facing - i.e. do we tell the school up front or not - Ed Psych says yes - because they may take into account if she gets tired or loses concentration. But I feel worried that telling them will hurt her chances. And yes, you're right to say that if there is a chance to avoid the 11+ then that would be a more sensible solution. Just want to be sure that the environment will be right for her given her needs. Do you know of anything about Bute in relation to SEN? I'm just wondering whether, if they can help with that side, maybe that environment might help her to develop her focus more. I'm going to post on SEN board for further advice - thanks for suggesting that.

404NotFound Wed 01-Jul-15 14:24:45

As the owner of an older girl with ADD I'll make a couple of general points based on our experience, if that helps?

Yes, absolutely you MUST tell prospective schools, and supply them will all the relevant documentation. Full disclosure is vital - the best school for your child is the one that wants to teach her. There's no point getting her into an academically-sought-after school that isn't prepared to go the extra mile for her and might even seek to manage her out if problems arise. If you've knowingly withheld information that the school might reasonably need, then you are being unfair to the school and to your child, and will put yourself in a very difficult position if problems arise or your child needs support.

Out of all the families I know with quirky but bright kids (and it's a lot, you do tend to gravitate towards people who share some part of your experience) the ones who have had a good outcome have been where parents have prioritised the child's emotional and social wellbeing in choosing schools. All of these children have reached their academic potential in schools that were not hothouses. The ones I know that have had really bad outcomes (including things like school refusal, eating disorders, child being excluded or asked to leave, serious MH problems) have been where people have (correctly) spotted their child's high academic ability, but have prioritised meeting their academic needs over their social and emotional ones. Some of those kids have crashed and burned really badly.

Super-high-achieving schools get that way because they select pupils who are straightforward super-high-achievers. They do not need to bother themselves with children who find some aspects of school life difficult - some will make the effort do support square peg children anyway, but many will not, or will pay lip service but not really deliver. You really really want to know beforehand what the school's reaction will be if things don't go to plan in some way, whether academically, or socially and emotionally. Some of the really bad outcomes I referred to above have involved high-profile premier league academic schools, and children with stand-out ability IQ scores - a high-quality brand name is no guarantee that it will suit your child. It is really buyer beware, and you can only assess the school's attitide if you give them all the information beforehand.

We are in the state system rather than private, but the principle is the same - find a school that wants to teach your child, rather than trying to get your child into the most prestigious school. For primary we chose a school that is considered quite rough over the league-table topping middle-class primary, and they have supported her fabulously. For secondary we have gone for a socially-mixed comprehensive over the North London superselective options, and again, early indicators are good.

I'll say it again: the best school for your child is the one that most wants to teach her. League-tables and prestigious school/uni destinations are no indicator of whether the school wants to work with your child.

CountryFlowers Wed 01-Jul-15 14:57:20

Thanks 404 - this is really good advice - the reason why I have started considering the more academic schools is purely because the Ed Psych said that her current school was underestimating her and that (in her opinion) what she needed was to be somewhere where the teaching was creative enough and academic enough to hold her interest and keep her engaged. We had in fact (prior to her diagnosis) considered a move to the local primary, as I thought that perhaps on a social level it would benefit her enormously and also the SEN provision at state level is usually much better than private - but now I am worried that she may not get the stimulation\stretch that she needs\wants.

And just to add - I'm not going by league tables - I don't care whether it is state or private - just not sure how to find a school that school will meet the her needs and help her to flourish. This is why I am posting - I need some help and suggestions to find somewhere suitable.

If a school is good at handling the SEN but rubbish at the teaching - whether top of league tables or not, my view was that school will not be right for her . I say this because current school is very accommodating and they do - as you put it - really want to teach her - but she is frustrated in the classroom and is already in danger of being turned off.

I am considering Bute because my understanding is that the teaching is out of this world in terms of its creative approach (correct me if I'm wrong someone!) But if the SEN is no good, then that will not be a good fit.

Similarly, if LP or state primary has great SEN, but she is going be distracted by boisterous boys, then what do I do? I wish I knew how to pick the right school for DD - because I totally agree with you - pick the wrong one and it could have devastating consequences down the line - I am already losing sleep over this!

404NotFound Wed 01-Jul-15 15:16:33

I wouldn't worry about 'boisterous boys' factor as long as the school is on top of it. Obviously it depends on yuor dd's personality, but if she is anything like my dd at age 6 then some aspects of the ADD presentation such as high impulsivity, lack of sense of cause and effect etc may be less noticeable in a mixed-gender environment?

Obviously that's a generalisation, and you get quiet nerdy boys and noisy energetic girls. But overall I have found that mothers who have boys tend to take my youngest dd's behaviour in their stride, whereas mothers with two well-behaved little girls tended to look shocked or appalled by some of her more random and impulsive behaviour. And I think the same applies to schools - in a class full of sensible hardworking high-achieving girls, my dd would have stood out, and not in a good way. Whereas in an environment with the full range of ability and an above-average proportion of kids with issues of one kind or another, the teachers have taken her completely in their stride, dealt well with the less-positive aspects of her behaviour without in any way expecting less from her academically.

And I think it is easier for the child as well if they can see that actually they're not the only one who has trouble following instructions or remembering things - we've had some very productive discussions about why other people do the things they do, and she's had to learn to deal with the fact that other people won't always behave in the ways that she wants them to, just as she doesn't always find it easy to do what other people might want from her.

Obviously there are schools which don't support their high-achievers well, and if your dd is bored, then that's not a good sign. But from our experience, rather than focussing purely on the academic level of prospective schools, I would be looking for somewhere that has high expectations for their able children but is also proactive and creative in trying to provide breadth of education for the full range of ability in a way that will engage and challenge your child in all the skills she needs to learn, not just the academic ones.

404NotFound Wed 01-Jul-15 15:32:25

Oh, and if you are looking at state options, the thing to do would be to look in detail at the DFE performance tables here:

If you look at the detailed data for each school, it tells you what proportion of the cohort is high/middle/low ability, and crucially it also tells you how well the children perform relative to their ability and other indicators of disadvantage. So for eg. my dd's former school has 40+% with ESL and FSM, but gets 100% of its high attainers and 39% of its middle attainers to Level 5 in Y6, which is an really good achievement given the intake. Quite a few of those dc will have got L6 as well - the DFE don't publish level 6 statistics afaik, but the school should be able to tell you.

But really it's about gut instinct - you have to go and look round, talk to the teachers, talk to the Senco, show them the EdPsych report, and find a school that you think will cherish your dd and bring out the best in her on all sorts of levels. You want the school to appreciate and enjoy her and vice versa, not endure her.

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