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Small for age child never picked

(20 Posts)
innocuoussocks Thu 17-Dec-15 09:42:06

My DD is in year 2. She is the smallest child in the year by some way - about a head shorter than most of her friends. She is also one of the youngest.

She's doing really well academically and is in all the top groups but is never given the chance to take a very active role in school events. She's always the sub in sports matches, gets no lines in plays etc, never chosen to do readings, doesn't win school awards etc...

At a recent carol concert they actually stood her on the very edge of the class behind a pillar. She was upset about it because she knew no-one would be able to see her sing.

She has started to notice and told me the other day that she isn't going to bother putting up her hand at school any more as no-one can see it and she never get's chosen.

I spoke to the school about it earlier in the term and they said it was because she lacked confidence - which she does but if she is never given a chance to do anything I can't see how this will improve.

The head's only suggestion is that we hold her back a year in September (apparently she was also a small child and she was held back which was the best thing that ever happened to her.....).

Surely this will only damage her confidence more?

Anyone else had a similar problem and have any advice?

mrz Thu 17-Dec-15 09:54:56

She isn't going to gain confidence by putting her behind pillars. It seems a very strange strategy. (Normally shorter children will be placed near the front so they can be seen not hidden away.) Nor is ignoring her when she wants to answer questions ... They seem to be doing their best to wrap her up rather than encourage her.
Perhaps you could find an activity outside of school where she can shine? Dancing, drama, sport, music, art...

innocuoussocks Thu 17-Dec-15 10:05:13

Thanks for the reply. We had the same thought and signed her up for quite a few out of school activities this term - gymnastics (because of course being small is an advantage there), drama, rainbows etc... and she gets on fine at all of them. In fact, seeing how fully involved she is at her clubs was what made me really see what a disservice the school are doing her.

The school just seem to have pigeon-holed her as the class baby and I can't seem to get them to see otherwise. It's a private school so we at least have the option of finding somewhere else to send her but I'm keen to avoid as I think a move at this point would be similarly bad for her self-confidence.

YeOldeTrout Thu 17-Dec-15 10:09:06

Can they hold them back a yr?? Is this private school?

There are a few girls at DC school who are unusually small, related to health conditions, but doesn't seem to affect them like OP describes.

irvine101 Thu 17-Dec-15 10:11:53

I agree with mrz.
There is tiny girl in my ds's year group. She is nothing but confident.
She get chosen for everything, do well in sports events, etc.
They were in same reception class, and her mum told me once, that they are small as parents, so she would be small too, so they did everything to make her confident, drama, martial arts, dance etc.

I don't think it's a good idea to hold back a year if she is doing well academically.

teacherwith2kids Thu 17-Dec-15 10:13:02

Seconding mrz's idea of something out of school.

Occasionally, IME, some 'small for year /young for year' children can be 'babied', ether by adults in school or by adults in their families - in the same way that unusually tall children can be expected to be much more mature than their years (I have personal experience of the latter, but also professional experience of the former), and it sounds as if your DD's current teacher and head may be falling into that trap. It is quite a difficult conversation to have with the school, though - perhaps if you can find opportunities for your DD to do things like reading, performing, doing sports outside school, then you can bring those up as examples in your conversation?

Both of my DCs have friends who are unusually small for their age. These children do 'performing arts' type activities out of school, and through those have acquired a kind of 'stage confidence persona' which they can put on if needed, if that makes sense.

teacherwith2kids Thu 17-Dec-15 10:14:20

Sorry, cross posted, and see that you do think the school has fallen into the lazy 'class baby' thinking. Is it a good school in other ways?

innocuoussocks Thu 17-Dec-15 10:15:08

Yes it is a private school and the self-confidence issues only seem to have emerged since she has been there. She was one of the most outgoing at nursery, Mary in the nativity play etc...

I suspect I need to start looking for a new school sad

teacherwith2kids Thu 17-Dec-15 10:22:02

How open might they be to 'straight talking'?

I presume the conversation you have had with them is along the lines of 'Why is she never picked?' and their answer has been 'because she lacks self-confidence'.

If you were to go in and say 'I know that my child is physically small, but she is bright, and from nursery and from her out of school activities i know she is as capable as her age peers in many areas. However, you seem to have pigeonholed her as the 'class baby' because of her physical size and the date of her birthday - how can we work together to solve this?', what would their response be?

[I have had the 'teacher to parent' version of this, where a parent believes that their child has to be treated very differently and have much less expected of them because they are young for the year and small, and know how awkward it can be]

teacherwith2kids Thu 17-Dec-15 10:25:27

(I hope that you don't have to go down the 'Because I want her to achieve her full potential in all areas, regardless of her physical size and her birthday, I want her to go to a school that doesn't treat her differently because of these - can you manage this or should we give her a fresh start elsewhere?' route...]

innocuoussocks Thu 17-Dec-15 10:32:13

That is basically the conversation we had already - although we used the excuse of some standard test results they'd given us that showed she was actually very bright. I didn't really mention the not being picked though which may have been a mistake. I was more taking the line that she is just as capable as the rest of her year and did specifically ask them to stop 'babying' her.

Not wanting to drip feed but this may be relevant too. Until this year her DS was at the school too. He had the opposite experience - picked for everything, always winning cups, school.council, poetry competitions etc and left after he got a place at a super-academic school.

Head also said that she thought he was part of the problem as DD was affected by having such a super bright sibling. Their test scores were both in the same range so I stressed that she is just as bright - we've always known it and now they do too so we expected to see their attitude to her change.

A term later and it hasn't.

I wonder if I should have been a lot more specific and actually asked for her to be given parts in plays etc... but didn't want to come across as just a pushy parent.

teacherwith2kids Thu 17-Dec-15 10:57:00

Ah, if you have already had the conversation, backed up with test scores, and they haven't changed their attitude then you have a bigger problem than her being behind a pillar....

What age does your DS's school start? End of Y2 is a good time to move schools - the infant - junior transition - so it might be a good time to at least start looking at the options. Once a child is 'pigeonholed' - whether it be as the 'sweet little one' or 'the child who finds it hard to behave' - it can take conscious effort by the school for it to change, and it sounds like they aren't exactly being willing to do that.

Calamara Thu 17-Dec-15 11:06:01

This is my first comment here, but is a topic I feel very strongly about, through personal experience - both myself and my DS.

Schools are there to nurture all children. This doesn't just mean enabling children to do what they are naturally good at; it means supporting children to discover talents they didn't know they had. It is easy to put the confident child in front of an audience to read poetry etc. The child would have done it anyway. The school demonstrates its worth when it gets the shy child to have a go and by giving different children a go throughout the year.

As you say in your post, I also believe that what you see on stage at the school performance is indicative of what happens every day at school. The child who gets the lead role in everything is probably lovely, but is getting a different education at the expense of the others. They are getting to develop leadership skills, performance skills, confidence-building opportunities... They become a parasite on the children who sit quietly, waiting patiently for the turn that never comes.

You have tried to persuade the school to give your child a go. If I was the Head teacher I would be embarrassed and apologetic and I would be reassuring you that your child's needs will be met within her own year group, where she has friends and is doing well academically. That didn't happen - you experienced defensiveness and justification. So, you have a choice. You and your child can decide that you don't mind her being pigeonholed as the class baby who never gets to perform, but you will enjoy what the school does offer. Or, you can say it is time to explore the option of moving to a new school.

The end of Year 2 is a really good time to change schools as lots of children start at a state primary and then move into the private sector in Year 3. The timescale also gives you a whole term to look at what else is around and make a decision in a leisurely manner. We moved Prep School for a variety of reasons, but this was one of them. Not all schools are like yours and, having had that experience, you can ask directed questions. You will be able to tell from the response whether you are being fobbed off with a sales pitch or whether this is something the Head teacher really cares about.

bojorojo Thu 17-Dec-15 11:16:55

Isn't it odd that any school would not encourage a child to be the best they possibly can be? Hoeever, in my experience, Private schools are about "putting on a show" and we certainy experienced the "favourite" children being pushed to the fore whilst others were looked over and their talents were never fully developed. I think it is worse in small prep schools and there is pressure for the school to show itself off to parents. It is odd for all children not to be visible. Having said that, at senior school the lead roles for the Y7/8 play were always given to the students who were taught by one particular drama teacher. No-one else ever got a chance.

It is very difficult to ask for your DD to be given parts. Having siad that, she needs to be included but not every child can be. Can your DD volunteer for such a part by being super enthusiastic? This gets noticed. It is wrong, but often private schools are poor at inclusivity.

WaitingForSnow Thu 17-Dec-15 11:17:52

Great post calamara

innocuoussocks Thu 17-Dec-15 11:20:06

Thanks all. Yes I think we will have to look at other schools.

Cressandra Thu 17-Dec-15 11:22:04

My short child has never had this and I don't think the other shortest child in the year has either. Actually mine was upset at being in the 3rd row and invisible for the christmas performance, once, after 4+ years at school, but it was spotted and she was moved to the front before the actual show. So I don't have experience, but then your DD shouldn't either. The idea of keeping a bright child down a year is awful, it puts the 'blame' on the child.

This should be easily sortable by conversations with the teacher and if it's not, I would worry whether it's the best environment for her. I just can't begin to compute it happening at our large state school. Y1/y2 is a lovely stage, the children are so accepting of each other and their differences. There aren't any opportunities to be picked for sports teams to be fair, anyone can join. Maybe it might help to talk to the teacher with DD. DD could say she is feeling much more confident lately, and please could she have some more opportunities in class or something.

Is it possible the teacher just doesn't realise how many opportunities your DD feels she is missing? Or that your DD is getting picked to answer questions fairly, but her 6 year old brain isn't computing that 19/20ths of the time (depending on class size) it just isn't her turn? Are there one or two 'pets' who get all the glory or does your DD feel it's just her who misses out? If the teacher really is repeatedly blanking a shy child when she puts her hand up, that's bad, but there must be more likely alternatives, even though the suggestions of staying down and saying she's shy don't fill you with confidence.

innocuoussocks Thu 17-Dec-15 11:44:02

Sadly, she is right about the putting her hand up thing. I volunteered to go on a school trip and she put her hand up every time a question was asked throughout the day and was never once called on. Several other children were able to give repeated answers.

I just checked and because, as you've all said, start of year 3 is a natural entry point most of our nearby schools have now closed their registration process for September 2016 so I think we will have to tough it out a year and try and move her at the end of year 3 instead.

We do have the option of one very good school but that would involve her in a 45 minute commute through London traffic every day which isn't ideal either.

All your comments have been really helpful though and until then I am going to be much more forceful about it with the school whereas up until now I've been worried I'd be perceived as jus being 'precious' about her.

Cressandra Thu 17-Dec-15 11:50:42

Sorry, massive crosspost. I agree end of Y2 is a good time to move. Having a bright sibling can affect her self image & confidence, and you can't entirely eliminate that at home, but her school class should be a separate space where she can flourish and be taken completely on her own terms.

Bogburglar99 Thu 17-Dec-15 16:13:07

I have a titchy Y2 DD who genuinely is quite shy and quiet, but school have made every effort to build her confidence and bring her out of herself. Completely agree with your future plans!

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