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Yr8 Daughter is Miserable -- What Can I Do?

(32 Posts)
Spalva Thu 08-Nov-12 10:02:22

This is a long story -- one I've shared in two other posts here. Short: we moved to the UK (Essex) in late August; dd did not get any of our top-choice schools; she is in a local state school where behaviour is not very good; all of it is a huge adjustment for her, coming from a different country, a tiny school, being multilingual, very bright, etc; I appealed to our top choice school and lost; she is on waiting list for that school.

So...she has not made one friend. She is very lonesome and very homesick (last country was not our home but she considers it to be so). The kids at school taunt her for not hiking up her skirt (one girl actually said, "I'm loving the length of your skirt!" then giggling with her group of friends), for not having any friends (they come to her and ask her why she's alone, she replies that she hasn't any friends yet, they say awwwww and walk off). She says yesterday a boy purposefully poured water on her feet, saying Oops! in a very sarcastic tone. I try to help her but she's 12 and sensitive and just wants a friend! There was a girl downstairs from us who was talking to her but now she's not anymore. There was a boy who said she's pretty and was always happy to see her who is now not speaking to her anymore, either.

All this would probably be fine if she was academically challenged because she loves school and that would make up for a lot. She says she feels the school is actually opposite to what it says its specialisation is. She is extremely keen on those subjects but she feels her teachers actually hate those subjects. They seem to have put her in a low set in English despite the fact that I reassured them several times that she is in the top 3 percentile (they think she is an English-learner despite the fact that I am American). She chose to read Emma in class because that was the only book on the entire list that she hadn't already read. She says English class is so disruptive that she can't concentrate to read and nothing gets done.
She doesn't really understand the whole system very well and nobody has taken the time to explain things like sets and how the grading works, etc.

The school has very few interesting clubs. Her form tutor (he's wonderful) keeps urging her to join but there are no science-related clubs, no robotics, no rocketry, no animation, no website building, etc. She would play basketball but it's netball and she has no clue about that sport. There is no school newspaper. I'm just mentioning ones she was involved in the tiny school she was at before.

There is no space in any other school around here. I'm almost certainly going to take her out and home educate by the end of the week. I do have her academic review to attend this afternoon, so I'm hoping to sort some things out.

What would you do? How can I help her? How can I find a better school for her? I'm confused, stressed and quite lonesome myself, actually, since I haven't made any friends yet either. I suppose I'm also just looking for some sympathy here.

ImperialFireworksInMyKnickers Thu 08-Nov-12 10:07:04

As someone who changed schools at about the same age I feel enormous sympathy for your dd. I do think you need to get her out now. I never really settled at that school and have not retained any friends, all my friends are people I met at university or later. Hopefully you will get offered a place at the desired school soon - do you know how far down the list you are?

And here's some <hugs> for you btw!

Spalva Thu 08-Nov-12 10:20:52

Yes, that's what I said to dh last night.

She is number two, as far as I know. And that school always has loads of kids who leave (like last year there were over 70 who left during the year outside of the usual leavers).

Thank you so much for the hugs!

joanbyers Thu 08-Nov-12 12:35:09

My sister was in pretty much the exact same situation at this age. We had moved from a sheltered sort of 1950s-style British school overseas, to the UK and she went straight in at Y7 to a 'bog-standard comprehensive' with no prior experience (certainly my parents had no idea what it would be like) of the British schooling system.

It was completely hopeless for her, although she did have one friend.

She left after one term and transferred to the local super-selective private school. Parents couldn't really afford this and we moved somewhere leafier where she transferred to a much nicer comprehensive.

I would be contacting the local private schools regarding places for next term, or sooner....

Spalva Thu 08-Nov-12 12:55:43

Yes, she came from an international school with 9 kids in her year. It was expensive but we were on an expatriate contract so with some help from the organization and some from the school we could get by. But now we're here, husband as a contractor, living in a 2 bed with four people and trying to manage (we have a mortgage in France as well). There is no way we can afford it. We would have put her in one of the French schools in London if we could afford to live anywhere near there and if they had space (they aren't even taking applications).

Abra1d Thu 08-Nov-12 13:00:41

See what's available for bursaries in independent schools. Quite a few girls in my daughter's private, very academic, day school have some assistance with fees.

Doesn't Essex still have some grammar schools, though? These would be free, if you could move to a grammar area and apply. Others will know more about how to do this if you're coming in a bit late.

Alonglongway Thu 08-Nov-12 23:36:35

Have a look at interhigh if you are serious about looking at home ed. it's online school and depends very much on the individual learning style but my bright DD1 is finding it a welcome release after difficult time in mainstream school. Very efficient timetable too so they end up with lots of time to do other stuff.

TimeChild Fri 09-Nov-12 08:06:34

Essex has grammar schools and I thought their state schools were generally well regarded. Conversely I don't think there that many private schools in the county. There is an international school in Ingatestone - are you anywhere near there?

Good luck!

Madmog Fri 09-Nov-12 10:21:55

I would contact any other schools in the area you are interested in (if you haven't done so already) and get her name on their waiting list. In the meantime, if she is to stay at the school, I think it would be worth speaking to the school and explaining she's finding it hard. Before my daughter started Y7 it was made very clear to parents we could contact the school's Pastoral Support Worker, Head of Year or Tutor if our children had problems. We were told that's what they are there for and they would rather spend time early on trying to help, than have the risk of an unhappy child who didn't want to be in school.

I think schools probably have different standards behaviour etc, so some of what she is experiencing with the other children would be far less likely to happen at another school. My daughter's school is strict regarding uniform, behaviour in and out of class, and the children know the consequences. I know some children get it wrong, but generally it feels that the teachers have respect, children are well turned out with ties correctly in place, skirts nearer the knee than bottom, but at the same time are well liked and very approachable.

Is there a parents/mentoring evening soon. You can discuss grades, level of work then. If not, might be worth a note to the tutor asking for an explanation as you don't understand the system and where they assess your daughter is on the scale. If at the top, is there anything which can be done to progress her further.

I hope things work out very soon.

Spalva Fri 09-Nov-12 12:40:54

We are within the 15 mi. area of grammar schools in Chelmsford -- but it would be quite a commute. Honestly, so far I haven't given it much thought as I am uncomfortable with the competitive spirit, as I have understood it, of those schools. I don't particularly want dd to be taught to the test. But I am open to the idea that I have it all wrong.

I have scoured the area for schools that would meet her needs and have applied to any that seem to suit her: All are full.

As for Ingatestone, she is fairly high up on the waiting list. So I was thinking it could possible be a matter of taking her out now and getting her into that school after winter break, possibly? I'm crossing my fingers hard on that one. Wishful thinking, possibly.

I did last night have an academic review with her form tutor, who is really fantastic. He seems to truly care about how dd is doing and has tried several things to get her adjusted to school and find some friends. Even dd was pepped up after the meeting and saying that she wanted to keep trying. That lasted about five hours! :-)

This particular school is simply a very big comprehensive with a wide catchment. Her form tutor said even the kids moving up have a big culture shock when they start. There is just a lot of bad behaviour, swearing, skirt-hiking (forgive me, but I just don't get that one except that I see it as a rebellion against all the rules; dd even says "they make so many rules but none of the right ones."), and more I probably don't want to know about. She is in top-set in English but she says the boys choose picture books to read and everyone is disruptive that she can't get anything done. It's just a poor fit for her.

I do thank everyone for their contributions. I'll make my decision over the weekend; I'm leaning toward taking her out until we can sort out a better situation for her.

BrigitBigKnickers Fri 09-Nov-12 13:09:07

From your previous posts I know the school you are talking about- they have a new head but it will take time to turn the place around.

It might be worth asking the local independent school (about 5 mins walk from the one your DD is at) about bursaries/ scholarships. My DD is there and it's a very international school. The pastoral care is fantastic and the extra curricular stuff is outstanding. They also do the IB.

I take it you have enquired about St M in Hutton? Or even go a little further afield into Billericay- The Mayflower is a good school and is easy to get to via rail from where you live.

If she is bright have you considered some of the grammar schools in Southend? I think they do a 13+ for entry into year 9. They are further afield but there are bus services that go from where you live and are also accessible by train and bus.

RedHelenB Fri 09-Nov-12 13:23:30

Why not give netball a try? It won't take long to learn the rules, my dd in Y7 is only now starting to learn it.

Abra1d Fri 09-Nov-12 13:36:55

Don't worry about the commute time, unless it is unbearable for you to get her there. They get used to longer journeys to and from school.

Spalva Fri 09-Nov-12 13:48:46

BrigitBigKnickers, I've thought of that school. I suppose I'll try, though really in our current circumstances we can't afford to pay anything -- and I mean anything.

Yes, St. M is full. Mayflower is full. We're on the waiting list.

Hadn't thought of Southend. It's not that far.

As for the new head, I just can't say I'm properly impressed.

Thank you!

RedHelenB -- I don't know why. She is totally against it. I think because she was very, very disappointed to find that boys and girls are separated at PE (she gets on better with boys than girls). I think she considers netball sexist. Will have to speak with her about it.

Abra1d -- It's not about me since we don't own a car here. I did commute about 30-45 mins to my high school but I was 14. I think she would be fine, actually, but can't imagine papa being okay with it.

take3 Fri 09-Nov-12 21:39:18

I would seriously think about home educating and then finding something else... whatever that might be. It sounds like she is very miserable and it is awful to think of her waking up each morning and having to face what she has been. Poor thing. Do hope you manage to find another school place soon.. In the mean time, home educating could have so many benefits for her confidence, love of learning and her relationship with you.

racingheart Sat 10-Nov-12 09:44:03

I agree with take 3 on this. No point at all in her staying at that school. It will just destroy her and it won't help her make friends at a new school if her confidence is shattered. Can't begin to tell you how much I loathe that sort of environment. It has nothing to do with education.

I wouldn't get too hung up about grammars being overly competitive. To get into, maybe, but once DC are there, they are just surrounded by bright children who love to learn and work hard, and who are impressed by peers who do the same.

In your shoes, I'd move heaven and earth to get her into grammar at 13+. Home school and join every outside club you can, so that in the evenings she's doing dance or drama (very good for confidence) guides, music, choir, etc, anything that can help her get to know a wider social circle.

Stay in very regular contact with any schools you genuinely like. Let them know how badly she's being bullied and how imperative it is for her emotional well being to get her moved.

As to papa not being happy with a long commute - surely he's not happier with her being bullied nearby? Round here lots of children commute up to an hour or an hour and a half to school. They use the bus and train to socialise, do homework, plug into i-pods and laptops, which they'd only be doing at home anyway, and generally relax after school. They seem to love it. Commuting is not a hardship if the school is right.

manicstreetpreacher Sat 10-Nov-12 10:18:02

As you know I'm in a similar situation atm so I'm a bit lost too. All I can do is send you both my very best wishes because I know how this feels. It looks as though we may have to look into home ed. Ironically enough, my dd came home happy yesterday because there had actually been a day of no name calling! If only it could stay that way.

Does the fault lie with the parents? My dd isn't perfect but she wouldn't treat other kids like that. They're like pack animals. I would be mortified if I thought that a child of mine would behave in that manner.

I wish you both well, she sounds lovely and deserves better. x

Funnylittleturkishdelight Sat 10-Nov-12 10:32:33

Spalva my heart goes out to you! This is an awful situation.

I'm in that area and think I could give you some more constructive advice- but can't put too much on here as it will out me! Please PM me and I have a couple of suggestions that might help.

Copthallresident Sat 10-Nov-12 10:58:38

Spalva We returned to the UK with a 7 and 11 year old who had been in a lovely International school. You cannot underestimate the culture shock. The 11 year old was lucky to find a friend in the same boat and they gathered a group of friends around them that were either from different cultures, or enjoyed that aspect of their friendship group. The 7 year old had a miserable time at her primary where all the girls were little Englanders who kept telling her she was "wild" and "weird" (most of her friends in her International school were Australian or American and her outgoing nature was valued there) Luckily her class teacher had taught in an International School and her verdict was that the her "wildness" was a good influence in terms of broadening the horizons of the girls as much as my daughter needing to change. At secondary school she too ended up in a friendship group with other girls who grew up or lived in a different cultural context. The norms that prevail at this age are so pervasive and teenagers so intolerant of difference that if none of her peers "get" where she is coming from then I think it is going to be really hard for her to fit in anywhere. We had a chance to go back to the country where we lived, and were very very happy. I would have gone like a shot but my, by then, 14 year old, really hated the idea that she was going to have to adjust to another teen culture, the music, the clothes and how you wear them etc etc When looking at new schools I would advise that you do look for somewhere where she is going to find other "third country kids".

KittiesInsane Sat 10-Nov-12 16:56:01


I'm sorry your kids had such a rough time, Copthall, but not every bunch of British teenagers are so intolerant of differences, honestly. Schools around here really do vary a lot, and moving to a different school as soon as possible could well mean that she fits right in.

Copthallresident Sat 10-Nov-12 17:57:29

KittiesInsane I'm afraid it is an issue for just about every family I know who has come back to the UK, I wasn't inferring it's impossible to fit in, just that you shouldn't underestimate the psychological adjustment required for children for whom another country, and culture, has been home. When my eldest DD started at her new school I asked if there were any other expat children returning to the UK and the Bursar looked witheringly at me and said "Well there is one but she is returning from Poland, not at all the same" except that DD and the girl from Poland became the closest of friends, as a result of that shared experience and still are. Her Mum became one of my closest friends too.

It might be something OP takes into account in focusing on her choice of a different school.

KittiesInsane Sat 10-Nov-12 18:33:34

Yes, I don't have any experience of the expat problems. I was going on my child's experience of moving from a very intolerant school that tried to make him fit in, to one that encouraged children to be themselves. Same social mix, similar intake, but somehow very different ethos.

Spalva Sun 11-Nov-12 15:24:26

take3 -- Yes, that's what we'll do. Thank you for helping.

racingheart -- Thank you for all the information. I appreciate it so much. I agree that the long commute would be fine for her. And papa's just a big softy in the end, he just hesitates for a moment when things are different. Hopefully, we'll find some activities. She said last night, that although she has a lot of fun at scouts, nobody there has befriended her either. Like you said, not great for confidence.

Copthallresident -- Yes, I must agree with you. I don't think British teens are any worse than teens -- or children -- anywhere (from much experience in many countries) but I can fight to get her where there will be other kids like her. She is high up on a waiting list for a school that will have third culture kids. Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experience.

Funnylittleturkishdelight (or FLTD), if I figure it out I'll PM you!

ManicStreetPreacher -- Thank you! Beware of those good days. From personal experience, I know it can cause us to drag out the actual Big Day of removing them from school. I did this when she was only 4: at nursery she would have excellent days and really bad days and I was so confused...wish I'd just taken her out straight away. Really do. Best wishes to you and your dd. And, yes, I often wonder who the parents are. And I sort of know. They just don't want to admit reality.

manicstreetpreacher Mon 12-Nov-12 17:26:05

And, yes, I often wonder who the parents are. And I sort of know. They just don't want to admit reality.

Oh, how true.

racingheart Mon 12-Nov-12 23:26:12

Spalva, I think with groups like Scouts it can be hard to make close friendships (though camp might help) but the main thing is to be socialising. For it to be normal to mill around in a generally positive atmosphere with other people her age. She doesn't need to find close friends there, just to have fun. It's great that she said she enjoys it.

Manic - the fault doesn't lie with the parents. Not unless you think you're remiss for not teaching her to fit in with the crowd and put others down to make herself feel better. I think the fault lies with the school leadership. In schools where such behaviour isn't tolerated, it doesn't happen. The girls behaving like this must at some level feel unprotected by the adults around them - it's feral behaviour, pack behaviour.

A child I know (also third country family) had a really appalling time at primary due to isolation and bullying. Our local primary has a poor track record on bullying. (Naice area so staff say it doesn't happen, not with all these naice white kids around. Oh but it does.) He moved to a school with zero tolerance. I saw him the other day, a changed boy. All his aggression had gone. He looked so gentle - his real self shone through. It was so lovely to see.

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