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Going private for 2 years 'catch up'. Would you?...long, sorry!

(16 Posts)
faraday Tue 22-Sep-09 14:52:34

Background: We moved into the catchment of a good (as in good for OUR DSs) secondary 4 months ago. DS1 (10, in Y6) is doing fine. He's in groups 1 or 2 out of 5 in his classes. He's adapted to his new primary school OK.

DS2 (8, Y4) is a different proposition. His Y1 teacher told us he was in a difficult position. Not 'bad' enough to get SEN provision but still 'behind' and at risk of 'slipping beneath the radar' as he is quiet (at school!) and, I feel rarely demonstrates when 'under pressure' what he CAN do. By 'pressure' I mean any sitting down and writing for 15 minutes/doing 20 tables questions type in class pressure, not Common Entrance or 11+!

He was in group 3 out of 5 in his last school, in Y3. In this NEW primary he's just been graded 4 out of 5 for maths and guided reading. (He's also been put with the Y3's for recorder after a YEAR of doing it at the last school!) I recognise that the previous school had 4 years of 'knowing' him so as to realise he is actually 'better' than he comes across.

I find that if I sit next to him and gently cajole and encourage, he actually preforms quite well. The 'ideas' are there but I believe if not 'know' that EXACTLY the same work done in a 'sit down all 30 of you and get on with it' setting would produce inferior work.

The recorder practice is doing TWO notes- he can sight read 5 or 6 (from his last school's lessons) but hasn't demonstrated to his teacher that he can.

We try and read for 15-20 mins a night, we chant tables at very frequent intervals, I question him and talk to him all the time (as in ''exploring his ideas' not Mastermind!)... I am aware of the risks of further confusing matters by trying to 'teach' DS2 at home esp once he returns, tired from 6 1/2 hours at school. He is also fairly resistant TO my help (a trait learned from his cock-sure older DB!).

But he is effectively 'failing'. And feels like he is.

I am not blaming the school. There are 30 kids, one teacher and one LSA. The school has 'the runs on the board' in terms of results and yes, I AM aware that the ante is possibly a bit higher at this school as it feeds 'God's Own Secondary' therefore attracts more -um- 'committed' parents.

Thing is, there IS a private quite nearby (fees about £2000 a term!) that I am wondering whether I should explore.

The upside is 12-13 per class and a very good record in Entrance Exam prep.

The downside is IS it an academic hothouse? A friend who sent her DS to it's 'partner' school said there's LOTS of homework and they DO tailor each DS towards the secondary the parents want which are largely also private though a fair few, being IN catchment, do send their DSs to this good state secondary.

There is also the issue of local friends BUT DS2 managed to get to know a lot of the local DCs in the half term we lived here before he got a place in the local primary AND none are in his year, let alone class anyway!

My 'plan' is to write a short note to his teacher explaining our concerns, and arrange to see him (giving him time, if necessary to come up with strategies). Then to give it a specified length of time to SEE if we've effected 'improvement'. And if, not, look elsewhere.

What would you do? How long would you give it?

bigstripeytiger Tue 22-Sep-09 15:00:55

It sounds like he might get back to performing at the level he was at at the previous school if he was more comfortable at the current school - maybe when he has been there a bit and settled in?

The private doesnt sound like it would be any better than the state school from what you have said. It sounds like your DS might be under pressure if he went there. Would your DS have to sit an exam to get into the private school?

I think that the idea of talking to the teacher and giving your DS a bit longer to settle down is a good one. The private school sounds like it might be 'out of the frying pan and into the fire'.

AMumInScotland Tue 22-Sep-09 15:08:46

I think 4 months (including the summer break) isn't very long for the new school and teacher(s?) to get to know what he is capable of, specially from the way you describe him - it doesn't sound like he "advertises" what he's capable of in typical situations.

I would make an appointment to speak to his teacher and explain that you feel he doesn't always show what he can do, and ask how you can work together to get him up to the right levels.

The private school sounds quite pressured - if they focus on getting children through entrance exams then they are likely to push quite hard, even if you're only aiming to get him up to a decent level to go back into the state system. He doesn't sound like a child who thrives under that sort of pressure.

LIZS Tue 22-Sep-09 15:22:07

He is n't actually behind, just not meeeting the potential you feel he has and as others have said it may settle in time. dd is same age and the groups may well switch around slightly this term.

I'm not sure private would necessarily help. He may well find he is more "behind" the others if it is more academic, or as least as much, which could be demotivating in itself if he is placed in lower sets again. We did choose to go private for smaller classes. ds took at least 3 years to find his level, years 3-5 were a bit of the doldrums having had a shaky education to that point and he was placed in the lowest sets until he proved himself otherwise.

However I doubt you'd feel comfortable shifting him back for year 6 so it could be more than 2 years. Also if he needs any additional support to "catch up" you would need to check if it is included in fees or over and above. Is being in the private system financially viable longer term for you ?

ABetaDad Tue 22-Sep-09 15:46:31

faraday - our DSs used to be in an academic hot house private school. Intense woudl be an understateent. They went hell for leather and no failure was allowed. The children who could not keep up were asked to leave.

We deliberatley moved DSs to a less academic school to allow them to breathe and even though they were well capable of handling the pace at the hot house school.

To be absolutley frank I think your DS2 would find the atmosphere of a hot house school absolute hell.

Reallytired Tue 22-Sep-09 15:53:36

I don't think its fair to keep changing a child's school. There is no such thing as the perfect school.

If you think your son would benefit from extra help then why don't you enrol him in Kip McGrath. Its a lot less drastic and cheaper than changing to private school.

He would be in a group of five with a qualifed teacher. The qualified teacher would be able to give you an honest opinon of child and what you can do to aid his progress.

LadyMuck Tue 22-Sep-09 15:56:04

I think that in terms of value for money, if you are looking to help ds2 "catch up" then a tutor would be better than a private school. Unless it is the right private school for him. Which if there is only one available nearby I wouldn't hold my hopes on.

faraday Tue 22-Sep-09 16:31:11

Yes, I must say the allure of the school is a) class size and b) affordability!

And yes I think the school is geared towards entrance exams- but I do have a good friend who has just, as of this week, plucked her DS from a run-of-the-mill local primary (also feeding The Secondary) into this private school in Y3 as she feels he needs a kick up the bum! Whilst it is neither here nor there, they are Asian and she readily admits that getting noses to the grindstone is actually easier for her because her DCs are culturally surrounded by academic striving (and, it must be said, achievement!). They put a lot more store by it within her community (her assertion, not mine!) whereas perhaps I tend to hear more 'Aw, boys will be boys' or 'he's a BABY! Let him play!' and 'he'll get there, give him time' (I may but the state education system won't!!)- Which is all well and good as long as they'll offer him an apprenticeship aged 16! And they are invariably the parents of DCs who are at least average if not above average.

There simply isn't the opportunity out there for a DC who doesn't get the old 5 x GCSEs 'gold standard', and being behind at 8 bodes badly for the future. I feel that although I don't necessarily agree with its principles, there's a reason the Prep school Sector/Public School Network get stuck in at 7 years old at the latest! I feel I can't 'allow' him to drop any further behind.

As for pressure, I'd agree he doesn't perform well under any whatsoever. This HAS to change if he stands a chance of not going through life feeling continuously 'thwarted' and 'misunderstood' because he KNOWS he can do better that the 'value' level he's been assigned!

faraday Tue 22-Sep-09 16:35:52

Thanks, all!

Well, tutoring is perhaps an option but I wish it didn't have to be on TOP of the hours he puts in at school! He's near to grizzly as it is 3 out of 5 days a week as it is, come 3.05pm!

I still coerce and bribe them through homework which, as I mentioned above is 50 tables questions on a maths website (of no more than 2 'flavours' at a go!); recorder 3 times a week for 10 minutes, a chapter or two of a book. The school sets 2-3 'lots' of homework on Friday ready for the next Weds which I think is fine as it gives us time to pick our moments.

faraday Tue 22-Sep-09 16:38:45

Ladymuck, there ARE other private schools around but they tend to be a lot more expensive!

Also, the local state primaries are mostly considered 'very good' so there isn't the call for private schools, and the ones that DO exist cater for the DCs who would possibly never darken a state school in all their school life, regardless of the fact they're IN the catchment for the highest attaining state secondary in the county!

faraday Tue 22-Sep-09 17:07:30

And also- by my calculations, a full day of private at £7000 a year = £40 a day. Tutors around here cost £25 an hour!

Just an idle observation..!

choosyfloosy Tue 22-Sep-09 17:14:34

faraday, would HE be a consideration? i know that it always pops up in MN threads, but he sounds like an absolutely perfect candidate for it. Much more so than for a hothouse school.

Very curious as to God's Own Secondary grin [googles idly]

AMumInScotland Tue 22-Sep-09 17:20:25

Yes, but £25 for an hour once a week is a lot less than £40 a day for 5 days a week.

If he'z grizzly at 3.05, with a tiny amount of homework, he'll be a lot more grizzly at the later finish time (I would assume) at the private school, and the much larger amount of homework.

LadyMuck Tue 22-Sep-09 18:04:06

Well I would be wary of thinking that a private school will let him gently catch up. If he is "behind" coming in at year 3 or whatever then he will either have to drop a year, or else work exceedingly hard for the first year in order to catch up - of course most of this catch up work will have to be done outside of school hours as he will have the same lessons as the rest of the class. He will still be in a class environment, not a one to one environment.

If the private school has classes of only 12-13 and is only charging £7k a year then I would like at the finances. If it is a charity then you can search for the accounts on line at the charity commission. If a class is only bringing in £84-91k a year then that has to pay for the class teacher, a share of the specialist support teachers, a share of the head salary, admin staff, heating lighting, books stationary, capital repairs etc.

Both my children are in different private primary/prep schools. The work is as differentiated as in the state schools, so we definitely don't have 5 groups in the class for maths. There is an extension group, a "SN" group (not really SN but struggling) and then the rest. I'd think about which group you think that your child will end up in. Even though the classes are smaller the teaching still isn't individual (unlike tutoring which by the way often happens at weekend).

Finally, you need to know how common it is for private school parents to have tutors too. I haven't yet found a Year 5 or 6 parents who hasn't use a tutor for at least one area at either school.

It may still be worth considering the private, but I think that you need to have a check on exactly what it is that you are expecting them to do for your son, and how you and they might jointly achieve it.

LadyMuck Tue 22-Sep-09 18:05:02

Sorry didn't preview - The work is not as differentiated as in a state school.

faraday Fri 25-Sep-09 13:25:35

Thanks all- yes, I have calmed down a bit. We have had a fair bit more information from his school over the last couple of days, and we have 'Curriculum Evening' coming up which is an opportunity to see what exactly they'll be tackling this -um term? year? and the opportunity to discuss HOW to help them. I am still keen for DH and I to make a one on one appointment to see the teacher to air our concerns, if only to make the teacher aware that WE are prepared to put in the effort to help where we can, and that DS IS disappointed at being classified 'below average'..

I take the raised point that DS may well struggle even more in a run-of-the-mill private school (ie one not geared for the slower learner)!

I didn't make a point clear earlier, which was that a tutor would cost significantly more than a private school, pro rata, but it was a bit facetious as, obviously, the tutor would be one on one. I also can't do the maths re the small class size v. fees. It IS a small, not particularly well-resourced school- ie no playing field etc but they do appear to do well with the DCs and a friend whose son was in its 'partner' school was very pleased though HER DS is smarter than mine!

Re HE, what I would LIKE to do is partially HE him! It would be great if they could do 2/3 of a morning 'core' subjects. 1/3 of 'softer' subjects then release him to me at 1pm to me to HE for a couple of hours a day. That way he'd get the social interaction and 'group discipline' of school but the faster pace of me. However, the issues (there are ALWAYS some!): The school doesn't work like that; I NEED to work 2 days a week and sadly, DS2 has learned an unfortunate attitude from DS1 who WILL NOT TAKE TELLING! DS2 is far more biddable than DS1 but he handles not wishing to learn something by wide-eyed-puppy-tears, mummy.... At EIGHT.

Did I mention he IS, no doubt, rather immature for his age? I DO wish he COULD be held back a year in the state system. It would make ALL the difference. His teachers since R have said the same (along with saying about half the boys in their classes were in the same boat!). If he were entering Y3 as he is, he'd be attaining group 3, and possibly group 2 with ease..

Oh well.

Finally, God's Own Catchment grin...
'Tis the local secondary which, OK, gets the highest state GCSE results in the county BUT also seems to find a niche for ALL its intake, not just the hyper clever. Can you believe that they don't stream? At all? BUT I suspect they specialise ie don't waste a non academic DC's time with statistics but direct them to say DT, for example. Thus that GCSE 'failure' never happens!

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