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State boarding, or similar/language immersion/mildly alternative?

(42 Posts)
onbehalfofgranny Fri 13-Nov-15 14:40:00

My DN spent the last year at my DM's after a very rigid school in the country in Europe she/DB/SIL live in wanted her to repeat a year, and a year of home not learning anything schooling.

She is a slightly nervous child and she does thrive on routine. She is also a bit of a reluctant learner and I suspect has mild SN. I can't remember what all the levels are called but she was in Y6 last year and started off doing about Y2 work in one or two subjects but was up to level in all subjects by the end.

My DB and she have tried secondary school in their home country for a term but the same issues are arising. He is now suggesting a well known private boarding school where pupils need not attend lessons (I am not putting the name in case he searches for this). I get the feeling this is because he'd like to home school her (unschooling really) but has decided it's too hard to get her to actually do anything (plus to be fair he is busy, he runs a business and SIL works).

They are asking my DF to pay the fees. He could, but I doubt he'll be keen.

We live in the NW of England and my DM/DF live in the Midlands. I am wondering if we could suggest a boarding school in either area (we couldn't have DN living here full time, and I think she and my DM had nearly enough of each other last year, but weekends etc. would be fine for DM anyway, and the odd weekend for us - we have two small DC and a small house).

I know about Dallam and DN's other language is one of the ones spoken there (it's a language college). Are there other boarding schools (ideally state boarding schools, partly for cost reasons) in either the NW or the Midlands that we might put forward as alternatives?

I think a different "alternative" school might float their boat, or a language focus.

ooopsupsideyourhead Fri 13-Nov-15 19:07:03

Keswick is also State Boarding - much smaller than Dallam. I don't even know if it takes children that aren't 'local' (as in Lake District kids that couldn't get to school in a reasonable time). There are a lots of small schools in Cumbria too. Settlebeck, Samuel Kings, Kirkby Stephen Grammar (not a grammar), Appleby Grammar (likewise), John Ruskin etc. Although I know this doesn't solve your space dilemma.

WildStallions Fri 13-Nov-15 19:24:07

I only know of one boarding school where classes are optional and it's very cheap. £12K a year I think.

It could be a perfect school for her.

A state boarding school cannot offer what this alternative school does.

onbehalfofgranny Fri 13-Nov-15 20:44:37

The main reasons my DM thinks the school they are thinking of would not suit my DN are:
DN thrives on routine, and is a generally very anxious child.
She may have mild special needs (she was treated as such by her previous primary school here, though no diagnosis) and the current (I think) head of the school in question is down as saying they don't believe in SN.

I forgot to mention a crucial point: they have asked my DF to pay the fees. They can't, so my DPs do have a practical say. My DM knows more than my DB/SIL about the DN's current school attitude/experience, she feels (and I tend to agree).

onbehalfofgranny Thu 19-Nov-15 10:27:11

Mmm... so DB and SIL have decided they can afford one or two terms' fees and are really keen on the original school and want to send DN there right now, but with no means to continue paying. I suspect they are banking on my DF paying once DN is settled. I am also pretty sure given how little insight DB seems to have into DN's personality that she won't settle (I know lots of extended family say this about their relatives and parents usually know best but DB doesn't even have much recent experience of DN living with them in the family home and has proved himself spectacularly wrong about DN before).

So my DPs are now just going to repeat that they aren't paying for this school, and DM has said that she's happy for DN to live with her again for Y7/Y8 at least (the length of time depending on DN, not on my DM), and my DF is happy to consider paying for boarding school in the future.

I feel like they need some ideas to present that might suit DN, even if not immediately. Anyone got any thoughts? Someone mentioned St Christopher's on another thread?

Oh and another issue with DN is that she is very vulnerable to bullying - another reason why DM thinks, and I agree, that a more structured school would suit her better.

Quaker schools have good reputation for a nuturing environment. Some are boarding.

mummytime Thu 19-Nov-15 10:51:52

Well the school I thought it was seems to only go to 11 nowadays, so it can't be that one. (It did used to go to 17/18).

Seriouslyffs Thu 19-Nov-15 10:59:21

Nervous, possible SN and parents overseas?! shock
It would be completely negligent to send such a child to boarding school. If the education system in her home country is such a poor fit for them the only option is even consider is 'naive gentle day school' staying with relatives.

Longstocking2 Thu 19-Nov-15 11:14:03

I think the child needs better quality assessment and in my experience of two boarding schools growing up, she needs to be at home if at all possible.

I think everyone here is involved in too complex a way.

I think ideally the parents would say to the parents to find a way to love and care for their own child within their own budget.

This will create clarity of responsibility and the avoidance of shifting parental responsibility back a generation. Not uncommon, but not always good for the child.

This child's needs sound unclear.

Just my opinion!

Longstocking2 Thu 19-Nov-15 11:15:24

To put a sensitive child into a school with uncertain funding would be extraordinary and manipulative and putting her at risk of unnecessary change.


Bogburglar99 Thu 19-Nov-15 11:23:38

I would second having a look at Quaker schools - Bootham, the Mount and Ackworth in Yorkshire, Sidcot maybe not too far from your DM.

'Mildly alternative' probably describes them nicely smile - and a very caring ethos, huge emphasis on pastoral care and nurturing the individual child, but the structure it sounds like your DN needs.

I am hugely, in theory, in favour of the approach in the school your DB favours, but DS is also an anxious and tricky child with complicated SNs and I don't think it would suit him in any way at all.

onbehalfofgranny Thu 19-Nov-15 14:36:48

Thanks all and thanks for being understanding.
My DM is also of the opinion that boarding school would be negligent for my DN but to be honest that is characteristic of some of my DB's attitudes.

Either a small state comp near my DM or starting with that and moving on to weekly boarding seem the best options, hopefully presenting these ideas will give my DB some way to save face and back down.

DN has had 7 school settings so far, all bar state primary at my DM have ended due to being withdrawn/giving up on the setting, including the current secondary school.

Longstocking I'm not quite sure what you mean by assessment but do tell me more, do you mean for SN or to help choose a school?

Longstocking2 Thu 19-Nov-15 16:42:17

Well I would find the most senior person in education that I knew and ask their advice, any good Head Teacher would have valuable things to say, I would ask if there is a SEN co-ordinator who may assesses children privately for SEN? Maybe there is such a thing. I would ask ask ask advice. I would think about a psychotherapeutic approach too. There is a child psychotherapy centre in London, they may well have contacts all over the place. I would want to keep this child close to her family, slow everything down and take as much neutral advice as can be accessed. I was a child that could have done with that kind of broad thinking and advice taking. Families are often very biased about what to do with kids for a thousand reasons, often subconscious and deeply painful. Sometimes a child triggers a painful part of a parents past and the parent can reject the child without knowing why.
this centre here may be able to put you in touch with a practitioner in this country or abroad.
Best of luck

happygardening Thu 19-Nov-15 19:25:52

"Well I thought the school it was seems to go only to 11 these days"
mummytime the only boarding school I know who have optional lessons state on their website that they go to 17.
I'm a great advocate of boarding but in my personal opinion a slightly nervous reluctant learner would probably struggle. Boarding school children have to be quite robust and are expected to shift for themselves in terms of their personal lives but also their school work they obviously aren't supervised to the same extent as a child at home could be.
On the other hand most boarding schools do have lots of routines (although this may not be the case with the school her parents are thinking about which I know nothing about I must add).
What does she feel about boarding? Does she make friends easily?
Boarding fees are very expensive most are at least 30k+ PA many will be significantly more than this and fees rise year on year if she's yr 7 that's a pretty he pity commitment.

mummytime Thu 19-Nov-15 21:10:11

If it the same one, on reading their website I think they only accept students starting up to 11, but do keep them until older.

happygardening Fri 20-Nov-15 07:57:03

mummytime your right I've just read that. An interesting school with a positively glowing ofstead report. I wonder why the OP's dad thinks it's a good place to send his DD? I would have thought a bit like a Steiner school to be really happy there you've got to be 101% signed up to its ethos and beliefs. If you are then all other schools are just not going to really do it for you. I also suspect the school wants people who are going to stick with it, from reading their website I doubt they're looking for people who want to do it for a couple of terms then return to main stream ed.
OP you mention that she's vulnerable to be being bullied and that you think a structured school might help, I'm not quite sure if I understand that (maybe I'm being a bit daft). It's all about ethos of the school and how quickly and in what way they respond to bullying, not really IMO about structure. All schools day or boarding state or independent will have the odd bit of boarding. But you do have to remember that at boarding schools there's always going to be a bit of what many will call "banter" some children shrug it off and it doesn't bother them, others are upset and for them its bullying. Secondly in my now extensive experience of boarding even within a school there will be differences, especially between houses, where different house masters create different atmospheres and also a lot depends on you fellow house mates. It only takes 1 unpleasant individual to create a difficult and unpleasant environment for others good schools bviously address this but you can't change things over night. It's also inevitable that house staff can't supervise 60+ children's every waking moment. Fairly obviously unlike a day school children are there 24/7 so for a very sensitive vulnerable to bullying child this could be very difficult.

Millymollymama Fri 20-Nov-15 08:35:42

Why can your db and sil not find another, less rigid, school where they live in Europe instead of all this effort in the UK? They are the parents after all! I actually feel sorry for this child. Does your do and sil need to be abroad? The only suitable solution here would be a cheap day school, that they can afford, or state school near the grandparents. A final decision on where the child is living and who might pay needs to be resolved. Do your parents really want all this responsibility that will curtail their life? Seems like a lot to take on when it is not their responsibility.

onbehalfofgranny Fri 20-Nov-15 11:25:18

You'd think so milky but to be fair to them my DB has a business (though they couldn't live on it), SIL has a job that is their main income, her family are there, and DN2 is happy in school.
They say there are no less rigid schools in their country. From what we've seen, it does seem quite likely.
My DM is not keen to parent a teenager again, we were enough trouble, but feels she can't wash her hands of DN.
happygardening though I can see that my DB is the kind of person who could sign up wholeheartedly to this school's ethos, it all seems very sudden, and he does seem to be taking a "see if you like it" attitude with no guarantee of continuing. The school will take her now - part way through y7, but no later, while my DM thinks, and I agree, that if DN will benefit from boarding school at all it will be later.

My DF is planning to visit us later and call them to find out what they are really thinking. I'm pretty sure he'll be interested to hear these suggestions, thanks all. And yes to Sidcot, which would be easy for weekly and just about doable for day.

Millymollymama Fri 20-Nov-15 14:31:11

Sibford is a Quaker school at Banbury.

Bogburglar99 Fri 20-Nov-15 14:39:57

There is a Quaker school at Sidcot too. Just checked as I am only really au fait with the northern ones.

To complete the set the other two are Saffron Walden and Leighton Park which is near Reading.

onbehalfofgranny Sat 21-Nov-15 22:09:00

It was the one near Banbury I meant, sorry.

Anyway they are completely convinced/have convinced DN that she must go to this school. They admit that she hasn't even looked at websites for other schools, she in fact says she does not really want to go to boarding school but wants to go to this school only and no other will do (DB says "it's the ethos" and I get the impression that DN wants to drop a couple of core subjects right now, forever, because she feels she's bad at them - one of them being a subject that she finds challenging to the point we did suspect the mild SN).

They really don't seem to be looking at the gentle/individual/caring ethos of schools - only the optional lessons feature. Which I understand my DN doing as after all she is 11 and doesn't like some lessons! As far as choice goes, more subjects are available at the comp local to my DM...

They also admit they probably can't pay for her there till 16, and say "she can try it for a few terms". It is clear they are expecting my DF to change his mind about paying, I know he won't.

I think my DM and DF are just struggling for a new set of cliches, having used up "washing their hands" and "car crash"... My DM is alternating between relieved at not having another teenager under her roof and upset at what my DN will probably be going through.

happygardening Sat 21-Nov-15 23:33:00

it's the one near Banbury I meant"
I don't know of any school near Banbury where lessons are optional like they are at [name of school removed by MNHQ]. confused I don't think lessons at Quaker schools are optional I'd be very surprised if they're not insisting pupils do core subjects like math and English.

I don't lessons are optional; just that Quaker schools tend to have a more nurturing holistic approach than a more traditional boarding school. I got the sense that not everyone is convinced [school name removed by MNHQ at the request of the OP] is the right choice.

mouldycheesefan Mon 23-Nov-15 10:28:55

If she thrives on routine then [school name removed at the OPs request] is definitely not for her!

onbehalfofgranny Mon 23-Nov-15 11:31:27

Thanks all for your messages of support. I reported one post yesterday as I was hoping not to mention the name of the school, for Google purposes. I'll just report the other two mentions. I am not sure there's much more to be said right now though of course with my DB and family who really knows, decisions are not really being made on the basis of much evidence so maybe they will be remade on the basis of not much evidence too.

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