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Clever child being bullied

(23 Posts)
janeychocciechip Wed 04-Jan-17 23:47:35

Hello, I'm new to the forum, and hoping some other mums can share some advice smile

My 10yo is very clever, and I have moved him from a state school into a public one as it's more academically rigorous. However, he is now being picked on at his new school for being clever! Perhaps I was naive, but I thought this would stop at a school like that. At a bit of a loss now sad

blankmind Thu 05-Jan-17 00:38:44

Private schools vary widely e.g. did he have to sit any entrance exams, have an interview etc? Have you taken the bullying up with the Head and let him know he has an anti-achievement faction amongst his pupils? How it's dealt with will let you know if it's worthwhile staying or leaving.

Perhaps do some research anyway and find a school that will encourage his talents alongside similarly gifted pupils.

scaryclown Thu 05-Jan-17 00:55:59

Sadly private schools arent full of the more able. .the ability amd intelligence spread is similar to the overall population. Though achievement is usually more recognised, it selects by money not ability.

The worst thing a private school educated person can experience is someone clever who didn't go to public school as it messes up their ideas about genetic elitism.

That said cleverness is a school asset as it pushes the averages up.and talking to teachers should help.

catkind Thu 05-Jan-17 09:26:20

Having been at selective private school and state school, i also got bullied for being clever at the selective. My theory is that more people at selective school were interested in academic achievement so it was more a quality to be envied and therefore picked on.

Scary clown, private schools at least select for parental interest and engagement in education. Many directly select for actual academic ability too. They are unlikely to have the full range of abilities that are in the general population. Also having been in both systems, at uni with people from both systems and worked with people from both systems, bollocks to the elitism bit as far as I've seen.

Advice is the same as for any school though I'd think - speak to the teacher first, and if it doesn't get sorted, escalate/ask to see anti bullying policy etc.

BertrandRussell Thu 05-Jan-17 09:29:38

There is this bizarre belief that there is no bullying at private schools or selective schools. I am sorry you have found out the hard way that this is not true. How is the school dealing with it?

bojorojo Thu 05-Jan-17 11:02:53

I think it really depends on the independent school. My DD2 attended a prep school where many children achieved academic scholarships to top boarding and day schools. It was not,however, a selective school, and nurtured all talents whether it was sport, art, music etc.

I would suggest, therefore, that they key to choosing an independent school for a very bright child is to ascertain if they have plenty of other very bright children. Or at least enough for bright children to be considered "normal" within the school population. If you choose a school based on destinations of pupils, this tells you more about the school than the wealth of the parents.

At Early Years my DD2 attended a different prep and this was populated by largely well-meaning and reasonably well off parents but few children were bright. The bright ones went somewhere else at 7 that had a track record for scholarships and academic achievement.

Without being rude, is there any aspect of his personality that means he is not fitting in? I have not seen bullying of clever children at the state primary school my DD1 went to. There were four in her year group of 70 who went to Oxford/Cambridge and others who did medicine. Five achieved full marks in the 11 plus system here. Therefore I do think you are unlucky and I think the school he is now in should be made aware of the bullying. However, if it just calling him "the prof" or similar then it is more of an accolade given to gifted mathematicians. Some children do find it difficult to cope with a child who is top in every subject, every time. Has he arrived at the school and become a short-term focal point because he is noticably more clever than anyone else?

If it is far worse, you must speak to the school but you cannot assume everyone is pleasant in a private school. What friends does he have and how can you nurture friendships with pleasant children? There must be some!!!

cantkeepawayforever Thu 05-Jan-17 11:23:50

Bullying is possible anywhere, and for a variety of things - not always the obvious or apparent ones.

It may be that your DS is being bullied because he is clever, in which case you should seek help from the school as a matter of urgency. Or - and i have seen this happen - that he believes himself to be cleverer than everyone else (perhaps because this was true in his last school) and is projecting this in a way that the others in his class find annoying / 'not the way things are done round here'.

IME in different schools, outstandingly bright children have not been targets of bullies due to their intellect. However, some bright children - and some not so bright but who believe they are 'the best' or affect a very overt 'boffin' persona - have been targeted in my experience because of behaviour that can be directly or indirectly linked to their ability. Some of this was absolutely appalling bullying, based on e.g. ASD-type traits or interest in specific arcane areas of knowledge that others did not value (DS was the victim of this type of bullying when very young). On occasion, however, what the child or parent described as bullying was actually a response to arrogance / boastfulness / disdain or open criticism sometimes amounting to bullying of those less able by the 'clever' child themselves.

I am not suggesting that this is what is happening in the OP's case. Just that straightforward 'bullying of a clever child because they are clever' is, IME, not always the full explanation and there may be more going on.

catkind Thu 05-Jan-17 12:08:11

That feels a bit victim blaming cantkeepaway. Are you sure they were actually being boastful etc, or is that the bullies' interpretation? Again only IME but boasting etc suggests confidence, and bullies tend to pick on weakness not confidence.

cantkeepawayforever Thu 05-Jan-17 12:24:58


I've reread my post and see what you mean, catkind. Apologies. I have dealt with serious bullying both as a parent and as a teacher, and have also dealt with bullying claims (from children and also from parents) in both those roles that turned out to be something slightly different.

(Sometimes boasting does come from confidence, but sometimes boasting - and its rather nasty cousin, the belittling of others - can come from a position of weakness / lack of confidence that the boaster is trying to cover up.)

I suppose what I was trying to say - in, I agree, a way that can be read as victim blaming, for which i apologise - that the position that the OP finds herself and her DS in (where a claim of bullying is being made) COULD possibly arise from a variety of different things, and it can be worth probing / considering a little before going into school in an all-guns-blazing 'my son is being bullied because he is clever' way. Definitely worth an open conversation with the school whatever, to get their perspective and to get them on side and aware. Then if bullying is occurring - due to cleverness, due to being new, due to having been in a state school previously, due to some behaviour or mannerism or any other perceived 'difference' - it can be dealt with.

cantkeepawayforever Thu 05-Jan-17 12:32:33

Also, in the specific cases I was musing about when writing my first post, yes, the boasting was a) very obvious and public and b) often wholly unjustified based on the comparison of actual work. I agree that a claim of 'boastfulness' from the bullies, un-detected by anyone else, would indeed just be their interpretation and would bring forth a very different response.

I'm not explaining this very well, am I? Bullying is unacceptable, full stop. Bullying occurs in all types of school, and is dealt with well or badly in all types of school, and that is common knowledge. The only thing I was questioning was the OP''s assertion that her DS was definitely being bullied because he is clever - there MAY (or may not) be other / different reasons, some of which her DS MIGHT be able to influence.

BarbarianMum Thu 05-Jan-17 12:35:59

Actually though, the OP doen't need to identify why her ds is being bullied - that's largely irrelevant. The school needs to tackle the bullying behaviour which needs to stop - if it turns out during this process that the OP's son is somehow contributing to the problem through his own poor behaviour they can address this at the same time.

OpalTree Thu 05-Jan-17 12:37:23

I remember the brightest girls at my grammar being picked on. I believe this is because everyone had felt brainy at primary school, but then had their nose put out of joint a bit on going to the grammar and only being mediocre compared to classmates.

cantkeepawayforever Thu 05-Jan-17 12:38:16

Exactly, Barbarian. Sorry to be so confuddled this morning!

Clavinova Thu 05-Jan-17 12:48:43

Was your ds also bullied at his previous school? Your op suggests he was; "I thought this would stop.' Please speak to his teachers.

BIgBagofJelly Thu 05-Jan-17 12:50:15

scaryclown if you look at the ability profile of independent schools they are generally above the general population. (Not because Rich people are necessarily cleverer but you're selecting for parents who are probably educated themselves and prioritise education, and because many select on academic ability). I also call bollocks to the ingrained elitism - while it may exist in some schools it's certainly not standard.

I think Independent schools have a huge variation in ethos and character and so some can inculcate a terrible attitude in their students while others foster a wonderful caring atmosphere. How the school deals with the bullying will tell you a lot about whether this is an unlucky blip or an institutional problem.

Is your DS by far the cleverest in his class or is there really some other reason for the bullying? Either way the school has a responsibility to act immediately.

Hoppinggreen Thu 05-Jan-17 13:09:20

Either it's the school or there another reason for the bullying.
DD goes to a Private school and she is very academic, she's also very popular. She says it's the cleverest kids that are the coolest at her school. Someone made a comment about her being a "nerd" once and was shot down by the rest of the class for being jealous.
At her State Primary she certainly wasn't bullied for being bright either so I think there is something else going on.
Either way the school should be handling this properly, it's horrible seeing your child being bullied - it make you feel helpless.

scaryclown Thu 05-Jan-17 13:28:59

it fascinating how many people here project 'boastfulness' or 'arrogance' onto OPs DS in order to avoid the issue.

I have been accused of both these traits before even openimg my mouth by bullies in workplaces school and college including teachers, because i'm taller and fitter than average. bullies see that and immediately start labelling...because it time you get an answer right..if the bullies have done their job well it triggers a 'showing off..belittling you..' response rather than no response or interested response. That's how bullyimg works.

I was told by a teacher that i 'must have done something to annoy them' when 30 pupils were waiting to beat me up after school. That teacher was scared of the hard kids.

Don't comfuse outcones of a schiol with school's teaching ability, if the intake are particularly wealthy as its the wealth that predicts better than ability. What you want to see are intake performance versus final results and see how many poor performers improved. Difficult when so many get A* i know...

If you can get him to reposition 'clever' bullying as uncomfortable compliments then that may help as well as encouraging open talk about bullying and or helping him form alliances maybe.?

Actually my experience of people who send kids to public school is that quite a few are from self-employed business people who are aggressive and bullying themselves, and not very bright or deeply educated, however behaviour does tend to be better and theres less anti-intellectualism. the fact that pupils tend to be richer does mean they are more comfortable, have greater opportunities, and bigger houses.

BarbarianMum Thu 05-Jan-17 13:48:30

<<if you look at the ability profile of independent schools they are generally above the general population.>>

Very many independant primary schools are selective in some shape or form whilst state primaries are not. This makes comparing them a nonsense, unless you first remove the school that do select on ability from the comparison.

BIgBagofJelly Thu 05-Jan-17 13:58:19

Well that was exactly my point. For various reasons, selection being a very obvious (but not the only one as many non-selective schools have an above average intake) one, the ability profile of independent schools is higher.

sirfredfredgeorge Thu 05-Jan-17 14:07:56

I think it's unhelpful to say "bullying because of X" in all cases, partly because it's so difficult to genuinely identify X, but mostly because it's completely irrelevant to the actions required to stop it.

Simply provide the school with information on the bullying that can help them prevent it, and follow up regularly to ensure that they do.

Even self justifying "oh it's because he's X" is unhelpful, the trait X might be part of the "bullies" justification, but it's unlikely to be the actual cause.

BertrandRussell Thu 05-Jan-17 14:10:12

In my experience clever children just bully with a bigger vocabulary.

Autumnsky Thu 05-Jan-17 14:23:47

It's better not to only rely on school. Even a school with very good anti bully strategy, there are still lots of occasions that teacher can't see and help.
The most important thing is to have a group of friend.I believe that in a selective school, there are more bright children, so the chance to meet similar mind friends are bigger.

bojorojo Fri 06-Jan-17 10:55:56

Bertrand - so is all bullying oral/verbal? Obviously it is not.

I don't think many people have suggested the problem is with the victim, it is more that a conclusion is reached before all the facts are known. Let's hope the school has a rigorous policy to deal with bullying and that it is sorted out.

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