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Changing school after Yr8 due to lack of friends

(39 Posts)
PinkiePromise Thu 11-Jun-15 13:35:11

DD1 is coming to the end of year 8 at our very local and Ofsted graded 'outstanding' comprehensive. She is achieving good grades. But she has no real friends and has never really settled there. She has people that she sits with at lunch, but she has never, in almost 2 years had contact with anyone outside school, not even a text or a phone call (I have itemised bills so I know). Her 5 yr old sister is her best friend.

Over the past couple of weeks, it has all come tumbling out about how unhappy she really is. We knew that she didn't fit in really, she is teased for her accent, we live somewhere with a very strong accent but despite being born and bred her she does not have an accent. She is viewed as posh and a geek.

She is at the best Comprehensive school in the area, I don't think things would be better for her at another one. We are looking into sending her to a local private school with some very kind financial help from my parents. My issue is, I am not sure this is the answer either. What if she doesn't make friends there? How will she cope with not being top of the class necessarily. It is on the other side of our city, not a five minute walk away, a massive upheaval. But she is so excited at the thought of a fresh start.

My question is does anyone have experience of changing their child's school for similar reasons and how did it work out? A big part of me feels better the devil you know, but it could turn out that moving is amazing for her, I just don't know.

JessiePinkman Thu 11-Jun-15 13:39:48

That is a long time not to make any friends. If it were me, I'd move her, then she has a chance at being happy & making friends. My dcs happiness is the most important thing to me so not being top of the class would not affect my judgement (if you're top there's further to fall surely wink)

NoonarAgain Thu 11-Jun-15 13:39:55

pinkie, how was she at primary school? did she have friends then? if so, it sounds like its most likely just that its not the right school for her. the move sounds like a good plan.

your poor dd sad i do sympathise. i have my own school thread at the mo about my dd 1 who is the same age, but with her we have different issues.

KleineDracheKokosnuss Thu 11-Jun-15 13:40:10

Move her. Seriously, I should have been moved from my secondary and wasn't. Instead it was years of misery that left me with 'issues' about schools that I'm only figuring out now even exist.

She'll get over not being top of the class, and it could be amazing for her.

bryte Thu 11-Jun-15 13:49:35

I'd move her, there's nothing to lose. I wouldn't worry about her no longer being top of the class. for all you know, she might still be near top of the class. If not, she might not mind anyway if she is amongst people who are more similar to her. Year 9 is a good year to move too.

PinkiePromise Thu 11-Jun-15 13:50:30

She always seemed quite well liked at primary school, but her entire class went up to the same secondary school because it is on our doorstep, yet she seems to be alone now.

The issue with being top of the class is that she has been all through primary school and now at secondary school and it has become part of who she is to herself. She is very critical of herself if she perceives that she is doing badly. She says that she is rubbish at English but her report gave her a Level 7a, which in my understanding is great, but she doesn't see it that way. Although in some ways I suppose it might be good for her not to be top because I also think that is part of the problem possibly as to how other people view her.

At the moment she has 100% attendance for the last 2 years, she gets up every day and goes in, no excuses like I would have made at her age, she isn't happy but she is getting on with it. She isn't bullied or anything, just generally a bit insignificant to people I think. I think I am scared that things could be worse if she moves, but I don't want to deny her the chance of things being better. Everybody deserves the chance to be happy and she is a lovely girl.

I don't like change, but I think that she needs it, so maybe I need to accept what seems scary to me, seems wonderful to her and take the chance. She is going for a taster day next week, so hopefully that will give her an idea of whether she will feel happier there.

BertrandRussell Thu 11-Jun-15 13:54:49

Fine to move her if that feels the right thing to do. But please don't assume that teasing and bullying doesn't happen in private schools..........

PinkiePromise Thu 11-Jun-15 14:01:05

I went to an all girls private school as this one is, so I very much know what they are like. It was often a very bitchy environment. I think maybe that is why I don't see it as the golden ticket that she does. At least without real friends there is none of the falling out, the drama, the backlash that can go with all of that. I do worry that what she has is not as bad as what she could be going to. But then, she could love it. It is whether that risk is worth taking.

Ultimately I will let her decide after she has visited next week. I am just finding it so hard to know what will be right for her.

BertrandRussell Thu 11-Jun-15 14:03:29

What are the private school's results like?

PinkiePromise Thu 11-Jun-15 14:11:52

They aren't amazing for a private school. There is another private school which is mixed and more selective, but it has no spaces. It gets 83% getting 5 GCSE's and the average points score for A level isn't much better than where she currently is.

I think that because she is bright she will do well wherever she goes. I am really paying for the chance of friendship which seems ridiculous! There is another very comprehensive further afield but it would require us to move house and uproot her younger sister for her to go there, and I don't feel that I can do that.

Fleecyleesy Thu 11-Jun-15 14:20:08

If she feels positive about this change then I think I would go ahead and hope that it sorts things out for her.

Maybe you could explain to her that the top of the class thing is only a school thing. When you are applying for jobs, people look at your qualifications and top of the class is not one of them! Also tell her to view it positively that she will have kids of her own standard to work with and kids at higher standards to spur her on (sorry I don't understand the levels you put in the OP). They can all get good grades, they aren't competing against each other in the classroom, they will be competing against everyone else in the country.

PastSellByDate Thu 11-Jun-15 14:23:59

PinkiePromise:

I agree with JessiePinkman who commented that's a long time not to make friends.

However.... Your DD says she does sit with friends at lunch ... if she had no friends it would be all alone.

I wonder - how active is your DD with clubs? Does she play an instrument, belong to choir? Has she joined the book club or a science club? Would she consider being in a play or helping make the sets.

I know for both my DDs the way they have made friends is gradually accruing experiences with them or sharing similar likes/ dislikes.

I would also say, from my own deep and distant past, there is also the possibility that friendship groups are getting a bit more fluid. With puberty than can be a divide between kids who drop out/ kids who get into the opposite sex or same sex/ kids who get geeky/ kids who get wrapped up in their activities.

Your DD may just not have found her feet yet. Is there some way you can help smooth things for her - have a friend round for a sleepover or agree to take your DD & friends to a movie?

I wish I could say that another school would definitely be better - but I can't. Moving could be a change for the better but there's no guarantee.

What I will say is I had a very hard year at age 12/13 when my two best friends moved away and for quite a while I really felt I had no friends - when in fact I was gradually making a new set of friends who slowly but surely included me in their friendship group. I just didn't realise it at the time.

HTH

TeenAndTween Thu 11-Jun-15 14:33:00

How much is she set at the moment for lessons?
Our school only sets a bit in the first 2 years, then much more so from y9. This means it can be harder for like-minded kids to find each other.

My DD, who is average academically, but hardworking, not into fashion etc, didn't really find her friends until y9.

If you really think there is a strong likelihood she would be happier elsewhere, then move her. But if you think the reasons would move with her, then maybe stay where you are, and encourage clubs both in and out of school?

PinkiePromise Thu 11-Jun-15 14:54:45

They have been in sets from the start so she is in set 1. I didn't really make my closest friend at school until we were in year 10 and we had several GCSE classes together. I have told her things can change.

The girls she sat with for lunch are ones who she met at the start of Y7. She seemed so happy at first. After a while of seeing people from primary school being out with new friends, i asked her why she didn't ask if her friends wanted to do anything. After a year of me nagging about it and just thinking she was being a bit shy she finally snapped and said that she had asked and they had said 'no' that she couldn't go into town with them shopping or whatever they were getting up to, and they were doing things together without her. that must be a horrible feeling. She began to sit with some other girls from her class at around Easter time, but I know who some of them are as she used to go dancing with them and I see them out together and she does not get invited.

pastsellby she doesn't do any clubs anymore. She used to do dance and athletics in year 7 but hasn't been keen on taking anything up this year. She does go dancing outside school and has girls that she gets along with there, but they mostly go to school in a neighbouring borough (we live near the border of two).

It is hard because I fell the reasons may move with her, and different problems could be created, but I think she feels that this is a great opportunity for something better. I don't think either of us can know for sure, until she tries it. I do wish I hadn't investigated the possibility of moving in some ways. I said initially she could go somewhere else for 6th form, but her face just crumpled and she said '3 more years is a long time without friends'. I just want her to be happy.

PinkiePromise Thu 11-Jun-15 14:55:46

Thank you for all of your replies by the way.

Lambbone Thu 11-Jun-15 15:19:54

I know it is centuries ago, but I didn't make any proper friends until year 9. I don't know how it happened either - I think we just suddenly started sitting next to each other in class and that was that. And after that, everything was better, and we as a pair made friends with other like-minded girls. And we are still friends, a scary number of years later.

It wasn't as if I was being deliberately excluded or anything, I just never really clicked with anyone before that. There were lots of girls at the school that I knew from primary, and they were all OK - just not on my wavelength, nor I on theirs. I wasn't all that bothered as my favourite thing was to have my head stuck in a book (still is), but when I found my friend life became so much better. We were both top of the class all the time too - we divvied the honours up between us, and in many ways it was an important part of our identities.

So what am I saying? Be careful I guess. Her friend may well be lurking in her class waiting, and years 7 and 8 are so difficult anyway in terms of working out who you are. There is no guarantee that a new school would be better, and the current place has lots of advantages.

BertrandRussell Thu 11-Jun-15 15:34:36

Hmm. That starts to look more complicated. If the private school results aren't any better, and if she isn't actively unhappy then I might think twice, to be honest. Is there an outside activity that she might like to do where she might find soul mates? My ds is a bit of an oddity in his school, but he does drama quite seriously outside school. He has people to have lunch and a chat with at school- but his friends are all from drama.

summerends Thu 11-Jun-15 16:02:47

I would do as you suggest and let her have the try-out and see if she comes back widely enthusiastic with girls she immediately feels happy with. If her response is mitigated or you think the product of wishful thinking then she needs to be persuaded that it is n't the 'golden ticket'. Having said that being the only one with 'a posh accent' especially at that age could be enough for her to continue as the outsider.

However in any case I agree with Bertrand, focus on creating a different peer group with an outside activity and tell her that strong friendships may have to wait until later.

twentyten Thu 11-Jun-15 16:06:58

A try out would be a really good idea.

Cashiernumberfive Thu 11-Jun-15 21:26:02

My DD only really settled into school friendship groups from the end of Yr 9 /beginning Yr 10 when they were setted for their GCSEs and surprisingly most of her good friends are boys.

She didn't seem to fit with the shopping/make up and fashion girls nor the flicky haired 'populars'. Tbh in retrospect I think that she didn't want to change too much to 'fit in' with those groups.

We actively encouraged her to participate in activities outside school like Guides, Rock Music and a Church run Youth group (despite her not being religious) and she has made some really good girl friends from these activities, although they are not in the BFF league.

If your daughter is unhappy and would like to move and you can afford to do it, then try a taster day/week to see if she really does like the new environment.

I would say that you can't force friendships and sometimes we look at the teenage years through rose tinted glasses. Sometimes the supposed tight friendship groups are, in fact, nests of vipers with insecurity being the tie that binds them together.

Also, by remaining independent, it means that your DD will be able to make her own choices and not be unduly affected by peer pressure to fit in (drugs/smoking/drink/sex).

marialuisa Fri 12-Jun-15 07:29:03

I think your DD should spend a day at the other school and get a feel for it. We had to move DD in Y8 (different reason) and she spent a day at a couple of schools, after those taster days she had clear opinions on which was the better option for her and things have worked out well.
To me, it does sound like she's very unhappy but grown up enough to try and "get on" with things. I wonder if your dislike of change and own school experiences are perhaps minimising how she's feeling, a bit?

thehat Fri 12-Jun-15 07:55:15

Have you approached your current school for support? Some secondary schools run a lunch time club where children who are finding it difficult to make friends or who are alone at lunchtime, can sit together. An adult will be with them to help them chat and get along.

A form tutor/ HOY will usually invite a student who they think may need the extra support, but perhaps they are not aware your daughter could be invited.

mummytime Fri 12-Jun-15 09:53:56

I would definitely talk to the school, maybe even talk to her old school as well. Does she do anything outside of school? Does she have friends there?
I think outside school interests are very important.
If she is depressed, then take her to your GP.
Does the school offer any in school counselling?

I would move her if the problem was just about school, but unless you know things are better elsewhere, then I would be wary - I do know one girls who was moved a lot through schools, and never really settled (and wasn't in education at all last time I heard). In her case I do wonder if there is an undiagnosed SN (and her mother is a psychologist so I couldn't really have mentioned it...).

In your DD's case the most probable issues are: a) an SN, or b) teenage depression, or c) unlucky contemporaries at school, or d) a combination.
But until you have more idea of what is the underlying issue then its hard to tell what the solution is.

Being involved in things outside school has been crucial to my DC.

PinkiePromise Fri 12-Jun-15 11:58:45

Thank you again for all of the replies.

She really doesn't want me to talk to her current school about it. If it was a case that she is being bullied then I would be straight in there, but making people like her more isn't really something that the school can do. She does have people to spend the school day with, but it has never gone further than that for her. She has never met up with anyone outside school and no-one contacts her. I spent much of the last year nagging her to be more proactive in friendships and invite herself along to do things. This is where she says the girls she sits with at school actually said 'no'.

I don't think that she is depressed. I have suffered with depression since I was a teenager, and I don't see that in her currently. She is happy at home, and does generally have the 'I will just get on with it' attitude towards school. But she says that recently she has started to think that she is going to spend her teenage years without friends and that makes her really unhappy.

I did talk to her HoY earlier in the year about her feeling that she didn't fit in and not having formed real friendships. She had asked to change her name from her original double barrelled surname to just one part of it because she felt it made her stand out too much. I allowed her to do this and that is when I talked to the school who said that they would keep an eye on things. But I suppose that outwardly if she always has people to sit with, it must look like she is fine.

She dances as an outside activity with an entirely different group of girls mainly from another school but doesn't mix socially.

Last night I asked her what her ideal outcome from this was and she said 'to move school have some real friends and to do well there' and her worst case scenario 'to move school, have no friends, no-one to even sit with and struggle to keep up with the work and fail all of my exams!' Therein lies the problem for me, as well as possibly being the best case, moving could also be the worst case, and my natural risk aversion feels stick with the fairly unhappy status quo for fear of making it worse.

Sorry for the length of my posts!

ealingwestmum Fri 12-Jun-15 12:38:40

Feel for you and your DD. Your risk concerns are valid also - but also if things do not change in Y9 for her, then it's more difficult to move in Y10 with focus on exam prep.

The more concerning factor is that your localish private school is not that highly rated by you. I know that your folks are paying, but have you checked the pastoral side of things there, how often do girls move out of year, how do well do they integrate etc. Your daughter is highly academic (but doesn't think she is), so this trait may also need addressing as her anxiety to over achieve may be an inhibitor to her relaxing amongst her cohort.

Does she know what she wants to achieve from a school move (other than making new friends)? What things may she need to address to make things work? I mean simple things like being more open to joining in, signing up to extra curricula stuff etc. Sometimes a move is enough for some to clean the slate and immerse with a renewed energy, and she does actually sound well up for it. Therefore there's a great chance that she'll make it work for herself if the motivation is self driven.

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