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Private schools and poor mental health

(23 Posts)
Realhousewifeofealing Tue 04-Mar-14 12:05:11

- how prevalent is this ? Are some children just vulnerable or does the school really have that much influence over the mental health of our kids- why does it not happen in competitive state schools ?? What about boys ??? Really torn between state vs private for this reason . Would hate for any of my kids to feel this pressured because I had made he wrong choice ?

lauramac Tue 04-Mar-14 12:15:24

I think like so many things it depends on the school and the child. My older children both went to a competitive, sought after independent day school. However I know for a fact that it bends over backwards with pastoral care and supporting children through horrendous personal circumstances. There is also plenty of support for children who are struggling with a subject or other aspects of school life.

Other schools are not so good. I can think of one well know state school and one well know independent school where children have suffered breakdowns or been kicked out for not making the grade. Not good - and enough for me to turn down places or not apply at all.

Take off any rose tinted glasses and ask yourself where your child will be really happy. Many children thrive in uber-competitive environments but for some it is too much and a step too far. Go with your gut instinct too - I'm a firm believer that schools are like houses - we all have different tates but when you find the right one you just know it's right.

basildonbond Tue 04-Mar-14 12:42:57

Why do you think it doesn't happen at state schools? I know if more than one child at academic state schools who've suffered from mental health problems - I don't think it's necessarily a state/private issue

MarshaBrady Tue 04-Mar-14 12:46:45

Match the school to the child. If it's too competitive and academic for the child then chances are they won't get in.

Ds1 is in a prep school, it is selective but nurturing, He's very happy there because he completely suits the school and vice versa.

horsemadmom Tue 04-Mar-14 13:25:39

The articles in The Times were very misleading. If you read it very carefully, it said ONE counsellor has seen an increase in referals from competitive indie schools. I think this is good news. It means that they are tightening up pastoral care and not ignoring or chucking out girls who have eating disorders or self-harm. In my experience of an uber-competitive girls' indie, they are all over the girls. DD1 lost all her puppy fat (for want of a better word) over one year and they clocked it. Unbeknownst to her, they were watching her at lunch as a result. No action was taken because she was eating healthy meals and not going to the loos after (bulimia watch). It was done unobtrusively.
This type of issue happens in every type of school and has done forever. My mum roomed with a cutter at uni and I had 2 friends hospitalised at school for anorexia. It's great IMO that schools are more on top of it.

Realhousewifeofealing Tue 04-Mar-14 13:47:46

Thanks horsemadmom and others , having gone to the comp at the end of the road , all this stuff is new to me - kind of feel the fact that it's been 'outed' is a Good thing

Elibean Tue 04-Mar-14 13:54:36

I think it's obvious that too much pressure can cause psychological/emotional suffering - in the long term, if not immediately. And I think some kids will suffer from that more easily than others, and some kids can cope with more pressure than others.

But I think that can happen in private AND state schools, and its not about state or private - its about the individual school, and the individual child.

OP, check out individual schools and look at how relaxed/happy the children seem as well as how 'successful' they are. That will tell you the most, along with your gut feeling smile

MillyMollyMama Tue 04-Mar-14 15:06:38

I do not think you can check this out by visiting a school. No-one is ever going to admit they have problems with pupils being under pressure.

It happened at my DDs "nurturing" independent senior school and the pastoral care staff took literally no action even though they knew some girls, including mine, had problems. They did notice a girl who lost weight very quickly but she was always on their radar for a number of other reasons. Girls who cried, quietly, could not sleep and were generally "not themselves" were generally not even talked to by the pastoral staff who put their collective heads in the sand! The academic staff just told her to buck up and improve her performance. Sometimes stress can be exacerbated by hormonal problems, which in turn promote a feeling of worthlessness and an inability to concentrate. I was shocked at how my DD deteriorated over about a month and anyone who knew her could see she was struggling. She looked grey and was very prone to tears. Utterly not her at all. I asked her Housemistress why her obvious problems had not been taken seriously and she said she knew she was not sleeping but had decided that this was not particularly serious because my DD was a strong character. This comment was made with A levels just 10 weeks away. Therefore if you were deemed "strong", no help was considered necessary.

None of this attitude was remotely apparent when we looked at the school. How could it possibly be? My DD also showed prospective parents around the school as she held their special award for her character and devotion to the school and she was a 6th form academic scholar. She was bright and articulate but they still did not notice or care when she was clearly unwell.

Shootingatpigeons Tue 04-Mar-14 15:53:16

My DDs went to a very selective girls' school. In the my older DDs year there really were none of these issues. I might be able to say that a couple of my DD's friend's self esteem and confidence may have suffered from not getting the best results in the year. B really is for bad from the perspective they gain in these schools, completely out of perspective by real life standards. However nothing that you could define as a mental health problem.

DD2s year was very very sad. Several girls did end up having not just counselling but more intensive intervention and residential help with depression, eating disorders and drug and drink dependency, from a scarily young age. It may have been the school wasn't the right environment for some of the individuals but the problems definitely originated in the home environment and then spread into affecting the whole year. There was a lot of attentions seeking manipulation of the norms, disruptive behaviour and exclusion. My DD really suffered because she was good at having empathy for the girls concerned but not good at protecting herself from being a target for their attention seeking self esteem building manipulation, something that others joined in with out of self preservation. She is now at another school and cannot believe how "normal" the atmosphere and social norms are. One teacher responsible for pastoral care said she the stories she was hearing made her weep at night and she has not experienced anything like it in thirty years.

The school really did try to proactively support those girls, my only criticism would be that perhaps their mental health problems meant that some girls did not experience the same boundaries on their behaviour as others, and a focus in terms of encouragement, that left others feeling discouraged and unprotected. And that then when the results started to look threatened there was a kneejerk reaction which wasn't helpful to anyone.

There was absolutely no way we could have known that a cohort like that would appear at the school though.

nibs777 Tue 04-Mar-14 17:42:39

No exam in the world is worth losing your mental health over ....seems like alleviation of pressure needs to be applied in a jointly agreed course by the parents and the teachers.

ClaraMaugham Tue 04-Mar-14 17:52:51

I'm sorry your daughters had such difficult experiences MillyMolly and Shooting. We all (or at least all of us hanging around an education forum) try to choose the best schools for our children and it's very painful when it doesn't work out.

There really is no way to second guess where these problems will arise though. I've heard about four cases of self harm in a local state school which does not have the reputation of putting its pupils under much pressure. It's co-ed too.

missinglalaland Tue 04-Mar-14 18:26:43

My dd is yr5, so we are thinking carefully about where to send her for secondary. These accounts are making me think more deeply. At the moment she is a pre-pubescent 9 year old...it won't be long until she is a teenager being influenced by other teenagers. As shootingpigeons points out, it is well nigh impossible to know what a dc's cohort is going to be like. And as ClaraMaugham points out, it can happen anywhere, not just at the big names that the newspapers love to gossip about.

I don't know what to do with the insights you have given me, but I appreciate them all the same.

Shootingatpigeons Tue 04-Mar-14 18:38:13

I can only offer the benefit of hindsight. My instinct was that another school would suit my DD at 11 but that was not enough to stop me letting her follow her sister as she wished. I am not sure that was the wrong decision but I do wish I had moved her, as several people did, at the first sign it wasn't working, which was in Year 7, when the posturing and excluding started, almost from the word go. She, and I, felt that it might be jumping from the frying pan into the fire, but we were wrong.

On the plus side she is a changed girl in her new school, lots of friends who like her for herself, a lot more confidence academically. And she says that no one will be able to get away with that sort of behaviour with her again, not that, as I point out, she is likely to encounter it outside a women's prison. I do think that a girls school can provide a fertile environment for that sort of game playing behaviour, but then they have advantages too.

cory Tue 04-Mar-14 18:41:55

My dd went to a lovely nurturing comprehensive: she still ended up making repeated suicide attempts. Nothing to do with pressure from the school, just her own health issues.

They did have an lot to do with her recovery though, through endless supportiveness and out-of-the-box thinking and never-ever-giving-up.

And that is what I would look for in a school. Not a place that claims never to have any problems (who would believe that with hundreds of teenagers around?), but a place which can afford to be open about the fact that problems do happen from time to time, and is prepared to have a plan to tackle them.

It's like bullying: I would give a wide berth to any school that says "there is no bullying here" and pay attention to a school that said "if bullying occurs, this is how we tackle it".

ClaraMaugham Tue 04-Mar-14 18:57:26

Cory I think that's absolutely spot on.

ancientbuchanan Tue 04-Mar-14 19:03:01

I too agree with cory.

Of the three young people I have known commit suicide, 1 private, 2 state and of the state 1 grammar. You can't assume.

tinytalker Tue 04-Mar-14 19:21:56

I work in a Private school and my children go to state schools and ALL of the schools have counsellors and all of the schools have children with mental health, self esteem, anxiety & depression issues.

Realhousewifeofealing Tue 04-Mar-14 19:57:09

wise words from everyone..........why then is it the private sector which is targeted by the media - is it sour grapes?

TalkinPeace Tue 04-Mar-14 20:22:27

Its a LOT simpler than that

Parents who can afford private schools can afford to send their kiddies to see a counsellor.

The remainder of the population stick with GPs who have the courtesy not to blab to the press.

Dancingqueen17 Tue 04-Mar-14 22:48:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cory Wed 05-Mar-14 09:02:54

Given how high the incident of eating disorders and depression is in the general population (and probably always has been), coupled with the fact that puberty is a period when MH problems often surface, it would be more surprising to find a school that didn't have to deal with these problems.

bunnybing Wed 05-Mar-14 10:15:12

don't think it's necessarily a private school problem, or that you can tell from looking round a school how many of the children have mental health problems.

The teachers may know who in the class has had problems, but the stats won't be available to prospective parents. When I was a teacher it was 2 low ability children who had had problems (not eating disorders) so not always the straight A students.

posadas Wed 05-Mar-14 11:33:12

I think this issue is getting "press" in part because the HM of King's College School (Wimbledon) is hosting a conference on mental health, counselling in schools, etc. As his is a "private" school, perhaps the press has picked up more on the private angel. As others have said, adolescent mental health problems are not the preserve of any sector or type of school.

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