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State v private for our 12 year old dyslexic DD...

(30 Posts)
Anonymum40 Sat 06-Feb-16 15:05:37

Our DD is struggling in year 8 at her state secondary. It is classed as outstanding by OFSTED and we were delighted when she got a place but it doesn't seem to be working out so well.

Her primary made up a very small proportion of the 300 strong intake and she doesn't see any of her old friends in classes and has so far failed to make any good new friends so often feels lonely. She is a slightly immature August born baby, and all her old mates seem to be little teenagers these days. This is one aspect of her problem.

Her dyslexia means she struggles with certain subjects especially maths. She has a weekly dyslexia-trained tutor at home who she really likes, but she remains in the bottom set for maths. This means she is in a group with all the disruptive, needy kids and she says she finds in very distracting.

She has recently passed an entrance exam for a local private school that we feel would suit her very well - smaller groups, great arts facilities (she's quite arty) etc. However DH and I have no experience of the private system and wonder what lies ahead. Will she make friends? Will she thrive and grow in confidence? Will her grades improve? This is obviously what we hope but it's an expensive gamble.

Her current school have contacted me this week as the private school sent them a copy of the acceptance letter and are now campaigning for her to stay where she is. They produced reports from all the teachers saying how great she is (not stuff we usually hear, which makes us suspicious!) and how they don't think she has any problems. However, her dyslexia is not 'bad enough' to require any extra provision in their eyes...

So what to do? We are all completely fraught. The private school wants a reply asap and a huge deposit. My gut says go private, but my head wonders if we'd even be having this debate if she had one or two good mates she could rely on...

Thanks for reading, all advice gratefully received...

TheGonnagle Sat 06-Feb-16 15:08:45

Different schools suit different kids. There is no 'which school is best?' debate, only 'which school is best for MY child?'
What does dd want to do?

LIZS Sat 06-Feb-16 15:16:15

Does the private school cater well for children with her level of needs. Tbh I'd be looking at dyscalculia if her maths is badly affected. Has she seen an ed psych? You need some very specific commitment for support to move to the private school. Many are not that geared up in what they offer in terms of learning support.

Anonymum40 Sat 06-Feb-16 15:16:20

DD was initially really excited about getting a place at the new school - which I thought said a lot... But now the initial eupohoria of passing the entrance exam has worn off and the reality is kicking in none of us know what to do!

Anonymum40 Sat 06-Feb-16 15:18:46

LIZS - the school has offered her a place on provision that she does 1:1 maths tuition once a week, which is fine and what I feel she needs. Being a slightly less academic, liberal sort of private school it attracts quite a few dyslexic pupils. When she sat the entrance exam she was in a group of about 15 dyslexic kids.

hellsbells99 Sat 06-Feb-16 15:21:38

Can she do a taster day at the private school in the class that she would be placed in?

Anonymum40 Sat 06-Feb-16 15:25:02

At this point the school is just waiting for a reply - don't think they'd accomodate us for a taster day... She did a day of tests and team building exercises and felt pretty confident after those. It seems unfair to put too much of the decision on her at this stage...

getoffthattabletnow Sat 06-Feb-16 16:12:09

I would be surprised at any school not allowing a taster day.Its a private school and they are trying too attract you as a paying customer .I would question the exam results too.A lot of schools say they select on the basis of exam results,but everyone passes strangely.
You need to question exactly what support they will give your DD?It sounds like she needs to be assessed properly as well.Private schools expect parents to question things.Its the complete opposite to many state schools.

I've moved my Dyslexic DS to a private school with much smaller classes and its the best thing I could have done.But I'm under no illusions that he could have passed any exam upon entry.He is however improving rapidly with good teaching and Intervention and will pass entrance exams for 13+ next year hopefully.
So in summary - question everything.Compare this schools O/A results to your dd's current school.Definitely do a day there .Some private schools have a 'young' crowd others have frightfully sophisticated teenagers with lots of money to throw about.

LIZS Sat 06-Feb-16 16:15:32

Would you have to fund the 1:1? What have they said about access arrangements for future exams? You really need an Ed Psych to be involved at that stage, if not before, and that will also be at your cost.

Anonymum40 Sat 06-Feb-16 16:24:23

DD has been assessed twice since she was 7 but an educational psychologist. She was diagnosed as dyslexic at the age of 10 and her primary issue is a very poor working memory which impacts her ability in maths (and spelling, vocabulary etc but mainly maths). The private school has seen a copy of her latest report. (Another friend of mine's child was rejected as having too severe issues for them to deal with - so they do discriminate!)

Their academic results are good but really we would be moving her so that she could have a less pressurised learning environment in smaller groups with more emphasis on her as an individual. Her current school produces excellent GCSE results but at the expense of extremely stressed pressurised children.

I am glad you have encouraged me to question everything. I will ask about a taster day...

Anonymum40 Sat 06-Feb-16 16:26:14

Yes, we do have to fund the 1:1 at £36 a week... What do you mean about 'access arrangements' LIZS?? She currently has extra time for exams.

horsemadmom Sat 06-Feb-16 17:18:45

It seems to me that the behaviour issues in her maths set are hindering her progress and hurting her self-esteem. A small private that offers 1:1 (at £36 extra) may be great for her. My DD2 is dyslexic and at a very selective indie. All her teachers make time to support her and want her to succeed. It's worth every penny.

LIZS Sat 06-Feb-16 17:21:25

Access arrangements are things like extra time, rest breaks etc. You would need a further assessment within 3 years of her taking GCSEs (then A levels or similar) which demonstrates a processing skills score of less than 85. It also needs to be corroborated by teaching staff. Use of laptop is separate as it simply needs to be an established mode of working. Does she touch type?

Namehanger Sat 06-Feb-16 17:34:33

Sounds similar to what we did, moved DS1 beginning of year 9, after over two years he didn't have any friends in the good state secondary.

Again we moved him to an alternative, liberal private school with quite a few dyslexic kids. He does not have dyslexia but difficulties with social skills. There have been ups and downs, but he is now settled, he has been given the physical and emotional space to be himself.

Interestingly we then moved his younger brother who lacked academic confidence. He is thriving and starting to see that he has ability.

Readysteadyknit Sat 06-Feb-16 17:36:01

Provision for and knowledge about dyslexia varies considerably from school to school and county to county. Wandsworth, for instance are training large numbers of specialist teachers whereas Essex are very reluctant to recognise dyslexia.

Smaller classes will benefit your DD but if you are going to pay schools fees, I would ask about their provision for dyslexia. The indie schools in my area have provision but charge extra for specialist tuition.

Are her current school acting on the recommendations in her assessment?
This outlines what you should expect from the school

wheresthebeach Sat 06-Feb-16 18:05:37

Being lonely isn't going to be good for her confidence. She's done well to get into a new school so I'd move her if I was you. Seems harsh to sit her for the exam and then keep her where she is unhappy and not thriving.

Her current school is saying she doesn't have problems? Well - that tells you everything you need to know. They won't be offering any help. If they were coming back with a new and improved plan then I'd be inclined to listen - but they aren't.

My dyslexic DD was treated like that in primary. She's at a small indie school where the teachers are doing everything to help and it makes the world of difference.

Maybe if she was happy socially you wouldn't be having this debate - but that doesn't really matter as she isn't happy and there's no point in agonising about what might have been.

Anonymum40 Sat 06-Feb-16 19:00:23

Thanks wheresthebeach, you have cut through a lot of waffle to the heart of it really, I remember what jarred now about my conversation on the phone with her current school - their re-iterating that she has been judged as not having severe enough needs to warrant extra help; so no, things are not set to improve. And you're right she isn't happy, we need to do something about it.

Readysteadyknit - everything at her school seems to be based on reading age. Dropping French (which she really struggles with), extra English tuition etc are all based on this... Their one concession was extra time in exams (though this doesn't actually include all the twice-termly tests). There were many recommendations in her Ed Psych report about how lessons should be structured, instructions written down etc that just doesn't seem realistic in a secondary school with over a thousand kids... I am told all her teachers are aware of her needs and have access to her report, I'm just not sure they're all trained in how to deal with it to be honest...

She has very fragile self confidence, and always has - anything that could improve this would be great. She's a great girl, very resourceful, funny and kind with a really wise, sensible head on her shoulders... she deserves to do well...

averythinline Sat 06-Feb-16 19:08:44

I would move her...if her current school are not planning on changing anything as she's not severe enough long is she going to have to stay in that maths group....?
Is it a co-ed school? Am concerned about this happening to ds as he's struggling to get support in primary even though they recognise he's got need.....yr6 now so all the battles again for next year....the private schools near us are all v academic and pushy....
Am trying to think of back ups if our local secondary turns out the same....

TheGonnagle Sat 06-Feb-16 19:20:14

If you know there's no prospect of improvement at her current school and she's miserable...if I were you I'd move her.
And the likelihood of the school not offering a taster day is pretty slim. We looked at three independents when we moved dd and were offered three taster days.

Readysteadyknit Sat 06-Feb-16 19:25:49

Dyslexia is a recognised disability under the Equality Act 2010. The school has to make reasonable adjustments to ensure the pupil is not discriminated against - this may include providing specialist teachers and aids. I think you need to be prepared to keep reminding the school about your DD's difficulties and to expect that they make reasonable adjustment.

I do think an indie school is a better option if they already have lots of children with dyslexia and have proper systems in place - I would check out their provision carefully though.

LynetteScavo Sat 06-Feb-16 19:50:53

I would move her. My DD sounds very similar to yours academically.

I would ask for a taster day though, to put your mind at rest.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeG0es Sat 06-Feb-16 22:35:27

I've been to see the SENCO of our catchment secondary this week about my dyslexic 10yo DD and some of the questions I would be asking in your position are:

How is the extra tuition timetabled in?
Is the person who would be doing it trained in teaching dyslexic children?
Are they a member of permanent staff or contracted in?
Would it be 1to1 or in a small group?
Would she be given targets in this work and what communication would be made from the school to you about her progress in the tuition?
How do they stream or group for maths?
How would they accommodate the reasonable adjustments set out in your DD's dyslexia assessment?
How would your DD's needs be communicated amongst teaching staff?

Also on the non-academic front, what resources do they have for children who are shy, have difficulties with friendship, is there anywhere they can go at break times that is under some supervision if they need it, that sort of thing, she might not need it but it's good to know it's there if she does.

Needmoresleep Sun 07-Feb-16 09:53:07

DD is in Yr 13, with processing speeds of less than 1%. At 11 she was struggling, with her prep school suggesting she was not suited to a selective secondary. She is now doing absolutely fine and applying to top Universities for a very competitive course.

She remained within the independent system and I think this helped. I'm sure some state schools would have been fine, and not all private schools would have been, but on balance smaller classes, a relatively good work ethos spread across all sets, and a willingness to make adaptions for an individual, have really helped. (Plus the state school offered was a troubled school with a refugee unit attached, three buses away, where our daughter's needs would have been minor to those of others.)

Extra help is useful, particularly in maths and English, where problems will bleed into other subjects. But this can be done outside school as well as inside. Other things that help:

1. Teachers asking a nice, neat and conscientious girl to be a study buddy, who your child can go to to copy notes, and perhaps get a bit of help. (With the girl getting proper credit by the school.)

2. Problems being flagged up properly to subject teachers, so they perhaps give out handouts in advance and understand when a child gets a dismal mark in a test despite a good class performance. (DDs ability to misread questions in tests and exams remains depressingly predictable, and without extra time she is unlikely to finish a class test - though thankfully her teachers now mark her test on what she has done and she completes the rest after the class.)

3. Having another dyslexic child in the class so that there are at least two sitting at the bottom. DD was lucky that at both Prep and Secondary there was another child whose profile matched her own. Both classmates were clearly bright and popular so there was general acceptance that dyslexic did not mean "thick".

4. Some specialist knowledge within the school who can both coordinate with teachers and provide ideas on what might help. (Coloured lenses etc.)

Beyond that consider what your DDs strengths are. Art, music, sport, or simply being nice and well-liked. Will the new school provide space for her to build her self-esteem in non academic ways, or can this be done outside school.

Before GCSE options, I would then go through possible subjects, perhaps with the school, and consider how to approach each one. DD now has a good aural memory, perhaps developed in compensation, and is good at listening in class. (Certainly for her a quiet class with few distractions is vital for her to be able to learn.) She does not revise well if sent off to read. So short GCSE revision courses in her weakest subject worked well, plus lots of immersion (Goethe Institut summer camps) in languages. Revision guides were good as they pull out the key facts, plus provide a good basis for testing.

I think the hardest was getting DD through GCSE with doors still open and making sure she did not get lost. It now appears that DD is a natural scientist so A levels are much eassier, but this did not really become exvident till Yr 9 and it would have been so easy for her to have disengaged before then.

I would move her and then think again for sixth form.

Good luck.

getoffthattabletnow Sun 07-Feb-16 11:21:42

I think Needsmoresleep has said it perfectly.Its also lovely to hear success stories from the other side ( speaking from the point of view of the mother of an 11 year Dyslexic boy).

Op It really does sound as though your DD would be better off moving. The most important issue is making sure your daughters happiness is paramount.I've known children go for a taster day at my sons Prep school and immediately want to move schools due to loving the school and being so unhappy at the previous state school.

wheresthebeach Mon 08-Feb-16 17:46:52

Hope you find a solution for your DD that works. We are finding that the atmosphere at the school DD is at is making a big difference to her confidence. Small classes, and well behaved girls means that she can concentrate and focus. This means she needs less individual help as she's not having to deal with a lot of noise and distractions.

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