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Have you ever been sucked into sending your child to a school by promises that amounted to nothing? What did you do?

(23 Posts)
FluffyBunnyGoneBad Sun 31-May-09 21:42:13

Question say's it all really. Long story but here's the short of it:
Promised ds would have 2 weeks of tests when he started to work out what level he was at (didn't happen), work would then be adjusted accordingly (never happened), they would also support his love of philosophy (never happened), lots of bullying, children walking into me and teachers saying nothing, very bad language the norm etc. I am really pissed I paid for this, I need to start looking for a secondary school and want to make sure I don't fall for this again so how can you tell between a genuine one and one that's just after your money/a bright child?

Please don't post to have a moan at me. It's been a long day.

TIA smile

Clary Mon 01-Jun-09 01:05:17

fluffy are you talking about the school yr DS is at now?? (I thought you were both happy).

Or is it (you mention paying) a moan about the previous, private school?

If you are thinking of private secondary then I have no knowledge. There aren't many other private options locally for you, are there?

State secondary might be really good; have you had a chat heads etc at the various more appealing options to see if they think DS would get in? They must know by now what kind of numbers they will get. My Ds1's yr at his school FWIW is smaller than average.

CarmenSanDiego Mon 01-Jun-09 03:30:53

Absolutely. My girls were at a Montessori school in the UK and thrived there. The older one (8) is quite bright and has a real compulsion for learning. The younger one (5) is an August baby and so has always been a bit more immature than her peers. Looking for something similarly alternative and permissive, I signed them up for a 'progressive' school in the US at vast expense without actually visiting the campus. They assured me they could cater well for both.

They won me over with stories of how great they are at the arts. I also heard loads of great tales from parents.

Turns out, that's pretty much the sole focus of the school. One day, they had PE, double art and then a trip to the art museum. They do art and PE every day. Science, maths and English barely get a look in. They come up with beautiful art projects but academically, they are slipping so much I've had to offer them workbooks etc. at home.

Older girl was bored. Younger one was frustrated and her confidence suffered. They started pushing me to put her down a year because they couldn't be bothered helping her. (We helped her at home and now she's caught up and reading better than any of her class)

Oh, and fundraising. Loads of fundraising. They put up a jigsaw picture of each class on each classroom. When parents donated to the school's fund, the child's picture appeared in the jigsaw. Non-donaters were empty spaces for all to see. The PTA is like an in-crowd social club focussed around money - they auction off parking spaces at the school!

Unbelievable. The whole thing. It's also utter chaos, shoutiness and children barging into each other.

They're going to another Montessori school in September and I can't wait.

My advice is to find a school that will let your kids do at least a trial day there. I went through the options for new schools with mine and then they went for trial days at two of them. The one they're going to, they seemed to love and I'm happy that it's strong academically and will give them scope to learn and explore what they are interested in.

In the past, I let my older daughter do a trial day at a 'posh' girl's school and it was great for her to see what life was like there. She decided it wasn't for her and was happier at Montessori, but I'm glad we gave it a chance to see what it was like.

Also, it's obvious but when /you/ visit, pay close attention to everything - the wall displays, the other kids, the parents, the teachers, the head. If something doesn't seem right, have a think about it and figure out just how important that might be down the line (argy-bargy in lunch queues or whatever). Is it going to annoy you on a daily basis or is it trivial? Sometimes trivial things can end up being a big deal when your child faces them every day. And you can extrapolate a lot of information from one dirty toilet or one wall hanging with a strange message.

thirtypence Mon 01-Jun-09 06:16:05

Ds was told he could be in the orchestra in year 2. Once he got there he was told year 5. Given that orchestra is at 7.30am I decided I could live with that backtrack wink.

marialuisa Mon 01-Jun-09 08:50:44

I think when looking at the other selective private schools that may be a possibility you need to bear in mind that however bright your son is, they will have lots of other kids at a similar level so they probably won't feel the need to do much individual stuff. At DD's new school kids are expected to get 5As at the end of Y5 and are supported if they are not achieving that level. They expect and encourage them to do lots of other "non-academic" stuff, even if it's not the child's natural metier rather than just doing more advanced classwork. The kids are set for maths and English but the setting is more about the pace the kids work at than the content so DD is not being particularly challenged but she's in a group where everyone finds it easy, they finish the set task fast and then get to do non-curriculum work and other interesting stuff. DD is much happier with this than her previous school where she had an individual work programme but being singled out (and there's no way it could have been hidden) made her miserable. This kind of approach may not be what your DS needs but you would have no way of telling until he was there IYSWIM.

The thing about not assessing your DS sounds odd, but AFAIK all the state secondaries do some kind of ability assessment during the first term of Y7 so that shouldn't concern you too much and I think the same applies to the independents too. BTW E had to put on an additional class for the current Y7 just to accomodate all the catchment kids but now it's there the head is keen to keep it so there may be places for out of catchment?

marialuisa Mon 01-Jun-09 09:00:17

Sorry, bit of a ramble. I think what I'm trying to say is that you should think about what the school is already offering rather than what they say they could offer and whether that's what you're looking for? Sorry to mention it but did you and DS's old school part on good terms, (if you're thinking private)as they do share info.

seeker Mon 01-Jun-09 09:23:40

FBGB - I thought your ds was at State school now?

The only way to find out anything is to visit, ask questions, talk to other parents - and remember that no school is perfect - they can't provide absolutely everything each child needs.

And report bullying every time it happens. Schools should have a policy - make sure they enforce it.

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Mon 01-Jun-09 21:03:52

Sorry, it's the old school. The more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. I know I'm probably being really unreasonable but they didn't deliver what they said. I did have meetings with them before ds started to make them aware of ds's lack of social skills and the support he needed in this. They were told that he wasn't just a year ahead in Maths and English which is why they assured me he'd be assessed very early on which never happened. It wasn't enough just to put him in a group at the top of the class, give him the same work and tell me that he wanted to draw because he'd finished his work long before everyone else, there's no point sending me reports telling me he exceeds expectations for the school in Science/maths/english, a lesson that he can do in 10 minutes isn't helping him.
His current school isn't too bad although he seems to be doing alot of revision and going over things because he's ahead in maths so much. I am taking him to look at NH as he'll need a new school (secondary) at 11 anyway. I just don't want to fall for the spill that doesn't happen again. I'm really angry that ds lost friends and I've spent so much money. I do feel misled into sending him there. IIRC, you did tell me to watch out Seeker. Thankyou.
Ds does non-academic things too, he also doesn't have alot of confidence in himself in other subjects which he doesn't excell in so he does the minimum.

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Mon 01-Jun-09 21:25:15

Sorry, another moan. Even the books he was allowed to get from the library were too easy for him to read. I had to go and talk to the librarian about his reading so he could get a book that lasted him longer then 10 minutes. They should have had a report from his old school or done a reading test rather then assume he was at his age group for this. I did give them a copy of the test results from his old school which said his reading age was 16+. I know that school's don't always take a parent's word into account but this was just silly. I know I'm being unreasonable, I really hate the disruption he's had and I feel guilty that I made the wrong decision for him. I'm still helping him with his social skills and he's progressing really well but I think having to make new friends/new school have not helped him. I didn't just move him because of this, the fees were a big problem. I'm a single mum and we go without holidays etc. I could cover them but they demanded the fees in amounts I couldn't cover all at once (1K in a week).
I made sure that it was the 'fee' issue rather then how annoyed I was which was the parting issue. NH IIRC has scholarships/bursaries but I'll have enough time to save for his fees if he goes next year. I'm not sure how much give a state school has, it's the maths/english/science that will be a problem, 1 year ahead isn't too much of a worry as they should be able to accommodate this but he's more then this. He's discovered Pii at the moment so wants to do things associated with this. I am trying to talk to him about the things he's not so strong in but he's like a sponge and takes in anything and everything yet struggles with nothing. I do feel out of my depth with him to be honest.

Thankyou smile

Clary Mon 01-Jun-09 22:17:59

fluffy sorry you feel out of yr depth.

Look, there are still things you and others can teach him! He is terrifically bright at lots of things but even yr posts here show areas to work on.

WRT schools, I don't personally think a private school will necessarily be any better at offering him the challenge he needs than a state school. But I am no expert.

I do think the range on offer at any reasonable secondary will be a revelation to him (and you?) after the small confines of a 50-pupil-a-year primary.

Try to put the bad experience of the old school behind you. Contact "possible" schools and ask them what they would offer.

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Mon 01-Jun-09 22:56:35

I think his confidence in himself and his abilities is low. He's critical about what he does so homework/school work is 'yeah, in a minute (when I can be bothered)'. Maths/science/reading though is a very different story. He's always asking questions that are normally subject based (how tribes live in Africa etc) so he does know more then he shows on paper. It's the smaller classes that I thought would benefit him. I am impressed of what I've seen about NH so far, I have a very good friend who's children went there and he was really happy about the school. It's such a risk though because the last thing I want is to move him. His stregnths are maths and science so he'd be happy in a specialist school but he needs the support socially and in the other areas, he is capable but he doesn't believe it yet. I don't know any where we live that focus on this. We're going to see NH on Thursday (polling day so no school), the head's off though so I'll take ds, see what he thinks and go back when the head's around for a chat. He's attending an after school club near you Clary and this is helping him socially.

Clary Mon 01-Jun-09 23:33:07

No no smaller classes are good.

But what I mean is the range of options/subjects/opportunities offered in a secondary school with 1500 pupils is huge and amazing.

Would he start at NH in Sept for example then? I mean before leaving primary?

Which afterschool club btw? <nosey>

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Mon 01-Jun-09 23:40:50

The one in the church, next to the shops.

I want him to finish where he is now. I really don't want to move him again. It's parents evening at some point this term so I need to talk to them about what they are planning on doing with him. He tells me what he's been doing at school and from what I gather he's done nothing but revision of things he knows since he started so it's not ideal. It's always the bog standard subjects up to GCSE isn't it? His use of language is still very flowery. He's like a minature sherlock holmes so it won't really go down to well in certain schools IYSWIM. He's pushed about quite easily I think. He will answer back to a nasty comment from another child (geek/nerd/gay boy-a favourite of some of the boys at his current school) but doesn't hit back so I do worry about this. All this being said though, I could be tempted into moving him if it were in his best interest and a long standing arrangement. I'm so fickle! blush

marialuisa Tue 02-Jun-09 08:24:01

I seem to remember that you hated NHS on your last visit there though? Make sure you ask to see the books used by kids in your DS' year and a few exercise books too. It gives you a clear idea of what goes on. They will have boys like your DS there already (I know one!), would what they offer suit DS (and your expectations)?

snorkle Tue 02-Jun-09 08:59:10

An ideal environment for him would be a school where there is a culture of acceptance/respect for geekiness/nerdiness and where there are a few other exceptionally bright children (the two often, but not always go together). I doubt it's realistic to hope for more than one or two other such children at any school, & whether or not they're in his year group might be a bit of a lottery. I really don't think marialuisa is right when she says 'however bright your son is, they will have lots of other kids at a similar level' - there is a level of brightness (which he may well be at or above) above which he will be likely to be top at any school (selective or not) and may struggle to find intellectual peers. Perhaps I'm being pessemistic when I say this - maybe a selective school in a densly populated area may attract a few such children.

How you can find this out about a school is very difficult. All are likely to claim they have many very bright children & it would be a rare school that owned up to geeks being bullied. It might be worth asking what exceptional achievements (both inside & outside school) have been achieved by students (this is something even independent schools collate when being inspected). Such a list might help give you some measure of numbers and 'degree of ableness' of their top pupils as well as the sort of opportunities the school encourages them in.

marialuisa Tue 02-Jun-09 09:55:44

Her DS may well be at the top of his year group Snorkle, DD is still easily at the top of hers, but for us having a mass of bright kids who are also good at other stuff around has very quickly got rid of DD's lack of comfort in her own skin. The thing I was trying to get across that schools such as the one Fluffybunnies is thinking of start with a mass of bright kids and whilst exceptionally bright kids may be more accepted and have opportunities available to them, the schools won't necessarily do anything more individualised, because there's no real motivation for them to do so.For my DD being less of a freak show has been more important than doing academic stuff to the full extent of her abilities, FB and her DS might find that unsatisfactory.

snorkle Tue 02-Jun-09 10:08:36

point taken marialuisa. The issue becomes 'how far out on a limb' are you? Too far & it's much more difficult not to feel a freak. Being comfortable in your skin is of paramount importance imo.

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Tue 02-Jun-09 11:48:36

We didn't see the senior school, just time for the junior school. I wasn't too impressed with how they spoke to ds. I'm at a loss of where to put him so I can't really discount it as I've not seen this part. I did ask the junior school whether they differentiated the work for very able children and they did say no as all their children were bright. I don't think he is very good at all the areas but they ones he enjoys he does excell in but I don't want him to excell too much, GSCE's and A'levels very early isn't necessarily a good thing for him to be doing. There's alot of pressure when parents do this and what's he going to be doing at school when he's done the exams? I wouldn't dream of packing him off to Uni early but at the same time, doing revision for months on end so everyone else can catch up isn't acceptable either. He will do it, he doesn't grumble but I don't know how much longer he will manage without getting bored. He does need time to mature though so the year and a bit before starting secondary school will (hopefully) do this for him. He needs confidence in the other areas that he doesn't feel so able at so I need somewhere that will help him with this as it's difficult for a parent to encourage a child if they are having work given back to them with a low mark/having to repeat work. He can do it and he know's the topics but it is a little like getting blood out of a stone sometimes (unless I allow him to use my laptop and MS word to do it). He's just come out of an academically selective school, he was top of his year but it was as you said, they had other bright boys there so just allowed him to work in a small group with the bright ones regardless of the fact that he'd already been in the same year at an old school as he'd skipped and even then he was assessed at working at a /16+ year old level. Even the spellings he was given to learn were too easy, he was getting full marks every week. They were the right level for his age, just not for him so I ended up having to write a letter. I was assured that they would assess all of his levels in the first two weeks of starting the school and they assured me they would 'stretch him'. It's not stretching a child when they consistently get 100% in tests. Am I asking too much here do you think??

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Tue 02-Jun-09 11:56:16

There was a family of very bright children in Ds's old old school, the one in ds's year was pretty much on par with ds and I know his parents are planning to send him to NHS, he already has an older brother there. They wouldn't let their children go to a school that doesn't cater for their needs so this is encouraging????

marialuisa Tue 02-Jun-09 12:11:42

NHS is streets ahead of DGS though fluffy, some of the boys who moved on to DGS from DD's old school were definitely nothing above average!

With DD we found that there was little point to spellings beyond reception, except as a way of broadening vocabulary. If a child has good phonetic knowledge and reads widely they can spell most things fairly easily, IME. You might find that the only way you can "stretch" him without going down the GCSE at 11 route, is to get him to work harder on the stuff he doesn't excel in and let him follow his other interests. It's been quite interesting to see how things are done at a new school for us. New school probably spends a lot less time on maths and English than the old school, doesn't set homework in the summer term ("but of course the children will all be reading anyway") or over weekends but DD has done loads of different assessments as well as an entrance exam so I'm sure they know where she's at. Whilst I might have looked at her maths and thought it's a bit on the easy side, she's happy and not at all bored because the "curriculum" stuff is only a small part of what's going on.

I think you need to decide what it is you are looking for and whether private school is going to be any better placed to offer that than one of the local schools, and if it is realy worth the level of sacrifice?

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Tue 02-Jun-09 12:26:51

Thanks.
I really don't think he'd cope very well in a local secondary. The catchment school really is terrible, so I will have to look at some others anyway. He does benefit from smaller classes, on a 1-1 basis he's fantastic, in a class room he can feel lost and will clown around given the chance but never when the teacher is teaching so I know he does behave. I really wasn't impressed with DGS. The boys seemed really bad mannared, swearing infront of parents, walking into me (with teachers watching), ds has told me the teachers used to shout at him, calling him a stupid, insolent boy but I really don't know about this, he told me they all used to throw things in class/shout out when certain teachers (and the head!) were teaching. I am really annoyed at all the assurances and promises they made in order to get me to sign up, I do feel mislead. I can move, we just rent so it's not too much of a problem. I feel happier when I know that ds is happy and at a school that can support him, not just acadmically as he be impulsive and will often be so quick to reply to things in a way that comes across as rude because he hasn't thought it through so we are constantly working on this.
I had a really bad time at school so I think this clouds my judgment aswell which doesn't help.

marialuisa Tue 02-Jun-09 15:26:59

I think in your position I'd choose my preferred state secondary (E, LCS or W maybe), get safely into catchment and "suck it and see" for 12 months. It's going to be much easier to transfer into private than try to find a place in one of the better local schools part way through the year if you find that the private isn't working for you. Good luck with it all, I thought I was a relaxed parent until DD started school and then found that I worry myself stupid about "getting it right"!

FluffyBunnyGoneBad Tue 02-Jun-09 17:28:18

I'm planning on having a look at them. I need to keep all the options open. It's hard though. I may just apply for the state ones aswell as NH (lots of conditions though and if we like it), just incase. I know that there were fewer babies born in 1999 though so there will maybe be some places in schools out of catchment.
Thankyou smile It's really hard for parents. I know when I was a child I was packed off to the school down the road where the LEA said I had to go. My parents were not involved in deciding at all. It didn't turn out very well though. I suppose it's this mistake that's making me more anxious about getting it right.

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