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No idea what to do re state v private in SE London

(44 Posts)
StiffyByng Sun 21-Apr-13 13:50:31

My stepson is in yr5. He is very bright, loves learning facts and reading, and is finding lots of the stuff at primary unchallenging. He is also prone to getting disruptive and lazy when bored, and has some social issues which the school feel merit referral to a communication clinic. These are currently manifesting in him telling other kids they're not as clever as he is and not getting why they might not like to hear this. He has had a very tough few years personally so gets cut some slack for that by adults but obviously this is not good behaviour. He has a small group of friends who have similar interests but does lack peers who are as intellectually curious as him. Although his primary is Outstanding, their efforts are focused at getting everyone to level 5, so kids like my SS, who are already way beyond that, don't get much attention.

So, secondary. All our state options are large SE comprehensives, many of which are single sex. The most likely for him are Harris Boys on Peckham Rye, Forest Hill Boys or Kingsdale. We are very concerned that he will end up overlooked and increasingly disruptive at these schools, and without the individual understanding that you get at primary, will become a real problem. We also aren't sure how likely he is to find friends at these schools - we genuinely don't know what the range of pupils is like, as so many people in our area seem to send bright kids to private schools.

We can't remotely afford private schooling, and are both slightly against it in principle, but he does have a trust fund. We have already inquired about the possibility of them paying school fees but they have said they will only pay a small contribution and we would have to take them to court if we want more. We are willing to do this if it's in his best interests but we just don't know. It seems he would get challenged more, is more likely to find kindred spirits and would get greater pastoral support but we could be plain wrong.

I went to a very good comprehensive in the home counties which was a pretendy private school and my husband went to a very rough comprehensive in the north east and we both went on to very good higher educations and interesting careers and we would like the same for SS but he is much more complicated than either of us were!

So advice would be really welcome. He has expressed a preference for private school but it's not particularly well informed and mostly comes from the fact that his primary school friend is probably going to one (not one we would think of owing to distance). Time is ticking away as he will have to sit entrance tests this autumn and would probably need tutoring. We have been trying to get an answer out of his trustees since last summer and only got their final decision this week.

LondonMother Mon 22-Apr-13 21:20:55

You can't be all that far from Aske's, which might tick all your boxes if you could get him in. Does he have any musical aptitude or do you think you could get professional confirmation of his special circumstances?

StiffyByng Mon 22-Apr-13 21:21:39

Really, Copthallresident? I've always thought of it as a rather sporty hearty place, which wouldn't be his thing at all. Although I knew DC boys at uni who didn't fit that at all I guess.

I'm not sure whether we'd qualify for bursaries. We have a fairly decent income, although the mortgage and one (soon to be two) sets of childcare fees eat a lot of it, leaving us far short of school fees territory. Do school's take account of outgoings? I am about to start (very hopefully) a three year retraining period during which I would be completely non-earning, so our income will really drop, but that won't have kicked in by the time he's applying.

LondonMother Mon 22-Apr-13 21:23:17

Forgot to add that Dulwich is a terrific school. Go and have a look this term, maybe, rather than wait till the autumn - the bursary support is very generous and they have academic scholarships as well.

StiffyByng Mon 22-Apr-13 21:24:47

No musical interest at all, LondonMother, bar a few guitar lessons. His circumstances are pretty easily verifiable (has lost a mother and sibling to genetic disease, shortly to lose another sibling and coming to terms with fact he probably has same illness) so we could get medical notes without problems, and presumably the communication clinic will produce some sort of report too?

LondonMother Mon 22-Apr-13 21:28:43

X-post. Yes, Dulwich College can be a sporty, hearty place but you don't have to play any more sport than you want to. My son isn't sporty or hearty and he was very, very happy there, having transferred from a state primary school at 11. The music is top notch and so is the drama. Debating is a strength, so is chess, so is creative writing, so is modern language teaching, so are lots and lots of things, really. It's a very big school and they get all sorts of boys there. There was a thriving chicken keeping society for the last 2/3 years my son was there, for example. The new(ish) head is doing well. Don't be misled by the enormous sports fields. There's a lot more to the place than that.

LondonMother Mon 22-Apr-13 21:33:49

Stiffy, really sorry to hear about your SS's bereavements and the genetic illness. That's a heavy load for him (and all of you) to bear. I'd suggest ringing up Aske's and asking if they think he would get special consideration in these circumstances. They do give some priority for children who have a social or medical reason for needing a place there rather than anywhere else - the professional verification bit is because they need that to back the parents' case up.

Good luck!

PS I promise to shut up about Dulwich now, but you are of course a Wodehouse gel - and he went to DC, as did Raymond Chandler.

bigTillyMint Mon 22-Apr-13 21:35:20


I am sure this information will "stand in his favour" when you are applying for the state schools.

StiffyByng Mon 22-Apr-13 21:40:17

Well, yes, LM. I was trying very hard to break away from the Mike and Psmith visions as a lot will have changed in a century!

I hadn't considered thinking of the social need side of things. We have spent so much time battling over SEN provision for his sister that we think of him as the straightforward one, but of course to others he really isn't.

Copthallresident Mon 22-Apr-13 22:14:25

OP How sad. Don't want to give too much detail as might out boys but bereavement and significant family trauma, and the possibility of a genetic predisposition themselves were all factors in their experience. At one point I had to step in in locus parentis and talking to the Head gave me genuine confidence there was genuine care understanding and respect and made me feel they weren't just safe but being supported in a way that would enable them to emerge the stronger , and they have. And I got the impression there was a wide range of boys from different backgrounds and with other issues, so they didn't feel marked out IYSWIM. No idea how bursaries etc work but I would have thought it worth having the conversation.

happygardening Tue 23-Apr-13 09:42:27

What about Christ's Hospital its full boarding but they are generous with their bursaries and I understand would look very sympathetically on your SS's circumstances. There's very good trains to it from Croydon.

tiredaftertwo Tue 23-Apr-13 10:57:27

How very sad, and what a lot for you all to cope with. I am so sorry sad.

I think for state schools, for the medical and social need, you will have to show a particular reason why that particular school can meet his needs - I am sure his needs will be recognized. Are a lot of his friends likely to be going to Forest Hill for example, so you could argue that if he goes there he will have people around him who know him? I too have heard excellent things about the pastoral care at DC and at Alleyn's too.

I would talk to all the schools about him - given what he has to deal with, I think their reactions may tell you some of what you need to know.

StiffyByng Tue 23-Apr-13 14:29:11

He is torn about the concept of boarding-not that it's something we've particularly thought of. On one hand, he's read Harry Potter and Jennings and it's all good, but on the other hand, the reality of it scares him.

I think we need to do lots of talking. His friendship group is really being split up, which isn't helping his emotional state. His best friend just emigrated to Australia, one is definitely going private, one is leaving London in year 6, the girls of course will mostly be off to girls' schools... We are going to talk to the home school pastoral person at his primary, who I think will have quite a bit of experience in this, and see what she thinks. We know how high the bar is set for SEN and medical need and he certainly won't come close to that, nor would we want him to.

kissmyheathenass Tue 23-Apr-13 14:46:01

Got to post and run so I haven't read whole thread but, op, here is my very recent experience of private versus state.

Ds went to a local independent school when he started year 7. We recently moved him into a state school because:

a) he has some SEN (dyslexia mainly) and the private school SENCO was worse than shite. Flexibility in the curriculum was poor because the school was small and therefore had a small staff.
b) There was a culture of bullying in the school and it was never dealt with. Ds ended up an emotional wreck after 4 terms of constant bullying. That is when we withdrew him at a moments notice.
c) Discipline - as well as bullying there was a general feeling of poor discipline ie Year 10s leaning out of window and shouting "pussy" at parents (mothers obv) shock.
d) General atmoshphere of menace - many parents have commented on this.
e) Many wealthy dcs there made ds feel very inadequate as I drive a crap normal car and don't holiday in Hawaii. There were some very wealthy families there and I don't think ds felt like he fitted in.

Our experience of state secondary:

a) SEN fantastic - true differentiation in class and in provision (this is a top-performing state school where high achievers achieve). Ds has immediately been timetabled extra literacy lessons. Because of its size (250 in each year) they can really offer a huge array of courses to suit all pupils.
b) He hasn't been there long but, fingers crossed, hasn't been bullied and hasn't seen anyone else being bullied.
c) Discipline is very strict - immediate detentions for bad behaviour.
d) Ds says atmosphere is really nice and friendly. People are helpful and kind to each other.
e) School has a mix of wealthy (waitrose near the school) and travellers dcs. A real mix.

Please don't presume private is better. I wince when I think of the £££ we threw at ds's education only to end up with him being very unhappy.

blueemerald Tue 23-Apr-13 18:08:20

Just to throw my two cents in. I went to Alleyns and my brother (2 years younger) went to DC. My father committed suicide just before I started year 12 and my brother year 10. Alleyns were totally amazing through and through. DC had one teacher who treated my brother appallingly and the school fired him fairly sharpish. He was a nasty man but DC were as shocked as his behaviour as we were and acted swiftly.

My brother is also a totally non sporty, poetic, softly spoken soul and he was very happy there. I am also dyslexic and and dyspraxic and I received top notch assistance throughout my schooling.

alpinemeadow Tue 23-Apr-13 19:42:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tiredaftertwo Tue 23-Apr-13 20:02:38

Blueemerald, how kind of you to post with your story.

Stiffy, lots of talking sounds good. These schools are all quite different, and you have a wide range.

StiffyByng Wed 01-May-13 20:10:51

Blueemerald, thank you from me too. What a sad story. I'm sorry to disappear for a bit but we've had a health crisis with my stepdaughter.

Things have moved on a bit, in what seems a positive direction for my stepson. His home-school co-ordinator feels that he would undoubtedly qualify for entry to a small academic school with high levels of pastoral care on social grounds given his bereavements (his sister has been given a very short period to live) and own health concerns. She feels we could pick our school to some extent - she suggested Habs or the Charter School. His primary would support us without reservation.

Then he saw the community paediatrician. She feels his communication issues are too mild to refer but recognised that he is very literal and wants to keep an eye on him over the transition. However she then added that she felt it would be very important for him to be in a small, very supportive environment and said she wanted to ensure that was taken into account when he applied to secondary. She felt that Harris and Forest Hill Boys would be wrong for him. So we will have supporting statements from her and the primary.

Next step is to talk to likely schools that meet that criteria. If anyone can think of other reasonably local schools that would meet that criteria, then advice very welcome.

bigTillyMint Wed 01-May-13 20:38:42

That all sounds very helpful.

Charter isn't small, but seems to be doing well for ASD children.

Good lucksmile

kenyaq Fri 03-May-13 12:00:14

Hi there I was searching the threads for Evelyn Grace whom it has been reported have very good pastoral care an emphasis on SEN.Parents have posted although reluctant at first the students are doing well. May check it out for my child too

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