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Looking for alternatives to mainstream school

(29 Posts)
Carmen10 Sat 22-Mar-14 00:53:22

Hello everyone,

I’m having lots of trouble with dd. She has been labelled as a 'school refuser' and is now at her sixth school. It’s awful because she cries literally every morning and begs not to go. Her attendance is low and we have started to receive warnings about it. The school tried putting her in a special centre they have for children with SEN so she can work in a small group, but this didn’t change anything.

In classes she’s the opposite of a troublemaker – teachers all say she’s very well-behaved, always follows instructions and is kind to the other pupils. So there are no behavioural difficulties in that sense, but she’s quietly very rebellious/anti-authoritarian and complains about worksheets being boring. I’d understand if she didn’t like learning, but she is academically motivated outside of school. At the moment she’s self-teaching Arabic from a book and CD, and whenever she gets pocket money the first thing she buys is a book. She’s at the bottom of the class for maths and at the top for English. She never really excels in exams and says that she doesn’t understand what the questions mean.

She’s also different – in personality and interests – to lots of the other students. Her favourite bands are the Velvet Underground and Patti Smith, she reads Allen Ginsberg (!) and is interested in Taoism. She gets on better with her teachers than her classmates and doesn’t like being forced to play with her own age group at break times. At parties dd always wants to sit with the adults. A while ago she refused to return to the Brownies after disagreeing with the pledge (she doesn’t like the royal family and disagrees with patriotism). She hasn’t got this from her parents – I’m neutral on these issues! Despite seemingly not caring about schoolwork she is a worrier with a perfectionist streak.

Not sure whether HE is possible. There are practical reasons why it would be difficult. Also, dd is painfully shy and would never want to go outside unless she really had to!

I just don’t know what to do anymore. She’ll be starting senior school in September so I’m tempted to wait and see whether the environment of secondary school will suit her more. Does anyone have any ideas or recommendations? Do you think she’ll ever adapt to school, or do we need to look at alternatives? She comes out of her shell when she’s in a very informal environment and when she doesn’t feel as though teachers are talking down to her.

(I asked her what she would do if she wasn’t at school. Her response: ‘I could make a treehouse and keep hedgehogs in it!!!’ grin)

ancientbuchanan Sat 22-Mar-14 01:05:43

Is she your only?

If so , she may well be bored by her peer group as she is used to adult conversation. Does she have friends of her own age?

Can you find her something that she does our of school that she enjoys which has a range if age groups in it? Volunteering with animals, bell ringing, something in the local park? Because getting used to your peer group is one if the hardest and most scary things.

Carmen10 Sat 22-Mar-14 01:23:35

Yes, she's an only child. It definitely could be a result of hearing too much adult conversation! She's friends with neighbours' children who are close to her age and there's another friend who is the same age, but he lives quite far away so visits are infrequent.

I'm trying to encourage her to go back to dance class because she liked that but stopped going because she was scared of going on stage to perform. Volunteering could be a good option because she likes nature and animals. Thanks for the suggestions.

lisad123everybodydancenow Sat 22-Mar-14 01:37:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Carmen10 Sat 22-Mar-14 02:03:46

I've asked why she doesn't like school, but the response has always been vague 'I just don't like it' kind of statements. Tbh she doesn't seem to know, though at one school there was a concrete reason (bullying).

As for the six schools, I think I'm to blame for that. blush I always assumed things might get better if she found a school she liked. We moved house twice due to my job so dd had to leave then, the bullying I mentioned above actually got worse after I informed school staff so that was one move.

I know how horrible it is when they're miserable at school, so it's great to hear your dd1 is happier now. smile

basildonbond Sat 22-Mar-14 06:57:47

6 schools!! No wonder she's never settled .. She needs to learn that sometimes you have to stick at things before they improve

A lot of quirky children find secondary school easier than primary as there is a bigger range of children and the lessons are often more interesting

ThreeBeeOneGee Sat 22-Mar-14 07:14:27

A lot of quirky children find secondary school easier than primary as there is a bigger range of children and the lessons are often more interesting

This has been our experience too (with DS2)

MerlinFromCamelot Sat 22-Mar-14 08:19:16

Dd1 hated primary school, each and every day...

All changes with secondary. Loves it and doing very well.

OneInEight Sat 22-Mar-14 08:42:50

There is a lot in your post I recognize in my sons (including the dislike of the royal family) who were diagnosed with AS last year so I wonder if you have considered whether your daughter has an autistic spectrum disorder too?

What support have any of the schools put in? Has she been seen by an educational psychologist for instance who might be able to identify reasons why she dislikes school so much or why there is a big discrepancy in her aptitude for maths and english. Has school given her the chance to join any social skills groups? My sons are academically very able but at the same time find it incredibly difficult to express their own needs or to process simple instructions especially when stressed. Because of the latter they find school very difficult and because of the former it can be difficult for teachers to recognise that they have processing difficulties & make adjustments for this.

We find with ds2 (who hates school) that it is best to treat the school /work refusal as a panic attack rather than him being deliberately difficult. We don't punish (anymore) and try to deal with it calmly. School use very much the same approach now and he is slowly improving.

ds2 will be going to a specialist, independent secondary where we are hoping the very small class sizes will reduce his anxiety levels. He was statemented last year because of his anxiety and behavioural issues and without this the LA would not have funded the school. In the first instance I think you need to organise a meeting with the school senco's (both primary and secondary) to see what support they can put in.

sunsout Sat 22-Mar-14 10:37:21

Have you ever spoken to your family gp? Will counselling be what she need?

Floralnomad Sat 22-Mar-14 10:42:54

If you are looking at the HE route have a look at Interhigh and Briteschool ,they are online interactive schools .

Dededum Sat 22-Mar-14 10:52:14

Did she get to choose her secondary school or input what one she wants to go?

If she starts in September you are a little late to change your mind.
Private schools, in my experience, tend to cater for easy kids. I looked for DS1, who is a bit ASD, who hated school and didn't want to go to any secondary school. Now yr 8, it's been hard work at times but starting to settle.

Think you have to stick with what you have chosen, let her know there is no alternative, keep in school, communicate lots with school and let her know how well she is doing.

I hated junior school, made a few mates at secondary school and only felt happy at sixth form college. For some people it takes settle.

Has she had any sort of formal assessment? There are lots of possible variables from SEN / SN to exceptional intelligence or possibly both. An educational psychologist might be a good starting point.

Chewbecca Sat 22-Mar-14 22:45:48

I have no personal experience of the situation but read your post & it reminded me of Summerhill alternative school in Suffolk.

Sammy3 Mon 24-Mar-14 00:07:09

Reading your post made me think of one of the Steiner Waldorf schools in my county which seems to get good results with an alternative take on education I know next to nothing about them though. I think there are a few around the UK so maybe there's one near you that you could visit.

basildonbond Mon 24-Mar-14 06:35:28

Noooo not Steiner!!!! Just do a quick search on here for reasons why not (and yes, we do have personal experience)

ThreeTomatoes Mon 24-Mar-14 07:05:34

I think your dd sounds brilliant. It's such a shame that just because a child doesn't 'fit in' to the norm (which is how it sounds to me) we think they're the problem. Especially as in this case she's been moved 6 times, crikey! Love that she disagreed with the Brownies pledge without any input from you! She can obviously think for herself, is independent and self-motivated, and understands the negative aspect of authority. She's going to go far, OP!

Contrary to what Dededum said, it's not too late to change your mind about secondary! Perfect timing in fact, I'd say.

Will PM you, OP.

NigellasDealer Mon 24-Mar-14 07:12:30

did you know that if you home ed now she can go to FE college to do her GCSEs?
she sounds great, and does not need to 'see her GP' but mainstream school simply does not suit everyone and she sounds exceptional.

ThreeTomatoes Mon 24-Mar-14 07:13:05

Trying desperately to PM you OP but when i click Send it opens a new tab on the mumsnet Haven page?! Will try again later once I get to work!!

onadifferentplanet Mon 24-Mar-14 07:17:51

I too would suggest Steiner if you have a local one with a senior school. I have nothing but praise for the one my son has been at since he was 12 though I realise that goes against the general MN opinion. Ds' class is full of quirky individual children ,it doesn't suit everyone but might be worth considering.

worldgonecrazy Mon 24-Mar-14 09:14:45

Your daughter may like the Steiner system, but the best thing to do is go for a look around and see if she likes it, that is if there is one in your area.

My daughter is very happy at her Steiner school, and the other children are all lovely too.

Itscoldouthere Mon 24-Mar-14 10:30:25

Where do you live OP?

Have a look at St Christophers School Letchworth. If you are in London they run a bus from Highgate and lots of London children also get the train.

The school is a normal school, but is very informal in feel, no uniform, everyone is called by their first names even the headmaster, there are lots of different individual types at the school who seem to get on very well.

It is private so expensive, but we have sent our children their as they didn't fit very well in their large London school.

wannaBanana Mon 24-Mar-14 11:51:00

OP, look at one of the LST academies. They use an online learning portal that can be accessed from home, and therefore adapted to children's different learning styles and pace. Their Ofsteds haven't been great, but the system may provide a very positive alternative for a school refuser. It's a popular niche approach in Sweden, but the jury is still out on whether it has translated well to large UK comps.

mary21 Mon 24-Mar-14 11:54:42

sounds like she is very bright. is there an equivalent to Winchester for girls that encourages free thought?

SheherazadeSchadenfreude Mon 24-Mar-14 23:06:38

I was just going to suggest St Chris as well. My DD is there, and thriving.

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