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Tonbridge and Caterham - any experiences for boys with ADHD?

(12 Posts)
Lisa2912 Wed 18-Oct-17 15:18:01

My son is in year 8, got the green light for Tonbridge (subject to passing CE) which was his first choice of school. He's very sporty, reasonably bright (should pass his CE according to his current prep school) and many of his friends are going there. Our problem is that, since accepting the place, he has been diagnosed as having severe ADHD and mild ASD. We have done as much as we can to help, he goes to counselling and is now on medication that makes a world of difference. A year after the diagnosis, he is now like any other active boy, and according to his current teachers you couldn't pick him out in a class as having ADHD let alone severe ADHD.
Our problem is that Tonbridge are completely panicking and trying their best to dissuade us from sending him there (couched as "you need to think very carefully whether this high pressure environment is the best one to allow your son to flourish", summoning us to see the Head for a 45 minute chat on issues he may encounter, asking to observe him in his current school and have him there for a day....). They have said they won't withdraw his conditional offer, but they do mark the CE papers.
His current school (which sends several boys a year to Tonbridge) is telling us that it's definitely the right school for him because of the structured days, the house system (he will be a day boy as we live 15 mins away), the sports and the academic standard (but he won't be the brightest in the year by any means).
I am not at all keen to send my son to a school that doesn't want him, despite his enthusiasm for it. Equally, he will want somewhere good at sports and I would like there to be a reasonable academic standard (he'll coast if he can...whilst I'm not pushy academically, I feel some challenges are good!) I am also keen for there to be a good range of other activities as I suspect that his passion will not be academic subjects.
A number of people have suggested Caterham, but before deciding to apply there, I would love to have some feedback on how they deal with boys in this position (or any other learning difficulty): I don't want two schools talking me out of sending him there!
Also, any feedback from parents at Tonbridge on if/how they do support boys once they get there would be fantastic.
I realise how lucky we are to be able to consider two schools like this, and that many boys in his position would not have these options. As he's rather low on confidence (too many years of underperforming and/or getting in to trouble before his diagnosis) I am really keen to find a supportive environment for him. I know - I want the world!
Many thanks in advance for any help or advice you can give

dishdash1 Thu 19-Oct-17 02:05:46

Tonbridge are behaving like arses! Clearly they’re not interested in taking kids with SEN. perhaps you should steer clear of them, given their attitude.

I’m a little surprised Caterham is your second choice as it’s such a different school from Tonbridge. Are you mostly aiming for somewhere academically rigorous? What was it you liked about Tonbridge?

Have you considered Brighton or Kings Canterbury? After those I’d suggest Worth followed by Eastbourne and the three Woodard Schools (Ardingly, Hurst, Lancing).

childmaintenanceserviceinquiry Thu 19-Oct-17 02:37:20

So have you discounted the grammar schools? Judd if he is bright and sporty and equally local. All the grammar schools claim to have pastoral care for SEN etc. Whether they really do or not is another question!

I know several families who really like Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys (the former boys tech, southborough).

The fear of the label though - it is shocking. Why cant these schools realise that children with SEN have so much to offer?

Dumbledore345 Thu 19-Oct-17 08:29:19

Just highlights the rubbish spouted by these schools on added value.

They take only the brightest students. Even the mildest SEN are weeded out. And then they claim to have worked miracles with the high percentage of A and A* grades.
Although Tonbridge was not involved, the fact that a number of big name schools also appear to have cheated by giving their privileged, clever, students advance notice of questions at Pre-U makes you wonder whether the emperor is wearing any clothes at all.
Why has the cheating issue gone so quiet? Swept under the carpet?

ooerrmissus Thu 19-Oct-17 08:51:03

No experience with Tonbridge but a very similar experience when looking at schools for DS1 who has Aspergers. One school looked great, very impressed at open day but the attitude of the head of learning support was so dismissive that I just knew that if he needed help he wasn’t going to get it. They were set up to help students with dyslexia and nothing else. The school he is at is brilliant, he has a team of people in hand to help with various things he’s struggling with - organising himself and the social side of things mostly- and we are very very impressed. I should point out this is one of the top boarding schools so it’s not true that they are all ignoring SEN students!
Anyway the point of the post is that if you get the feeling they don’t want him, walk away. He deserves a school that will appreciate and treasure him and support him when he needs it. It doesn’t sound like Tonbridge are prepared to do that. Their loss.

Clavinova Thu 19-Oct-17 09:15:06

They take only the brightest students. Yes - it's a very academic school.
Even the mildest SEN are weeded out. Probably not correct.

If you search for the school's Accessibility Plan 2016-2019 (a PDF file I can't link to) on the Tonbridge website it reveals that Tonbridge already have 10 pupils with ADD/ADHD/ASD and 1 with Autism. Also, 36 pupils with Dyslexia, 8 with Dyspraxia, 19 with Processing disorders, several with serious medical/physical problems etc. In total, 91 pupils with SpLD in 2016.

Perhaps the op's mention of severe ADHD has the school worried though? If his current prep school are happy with his conduct in class, I suppose there is no harm in allowing Tonbridge to come and observe him. A trial day on his own seems a little unfair - could Tonbridge invite all the boys from his prep school headed there for an 'experience day' of some sort?

Has the Prep School Head not reassured the Tonbridge Head?

In my experience, you get all sorts of 'quirky' or 'very active' boys (and some teachers!) at independent schools - goodness knows how many are undiagnosed with something.

HRHPrincessMegan Thu 19-Oct-17 09:28:17

There are all sorts at Tonbridge. I know the reputation based on results, both academic and on the sporting field, can make it seem that all boys who attend are phenomenal type A’s, but I know as many quirky individuals who are blossoming there.

I think you are right to be concerned about the school’s comments though and it is a worry that they mark his CE paper. I don’t think Caterham would be a good alternative though - it’s more along the lines of Sevenoaks school. I hear great things about Sutton Valence.

AttentionSufficientHyperOrderd Thu 19-Oct-17 09:42:39

What I can’t understand is why on earth you went and told To bridge he’s got ‘Severe’ ADHD? What did you expect them to do? On the good schools guide, most indies will indicate that they take children with ‘mild’ SEN, if any at all, they rarely take ‘moderate’ let alone ‘severe’. You’ve really shot yourself in the foot with this one.

Lisa2912 Thu 19-Oct-17 16:18:18

Thank you for all your thoughts and comments. Just to clarify:
dishdash1 he doesn't want to board, and we live too far for those schools. Whilst I don't have a major problem moving, his sister is very happily settled at her school a mile down the road from us, so we would need to move somewhere where each could be a day child rather than a boarder. In terms of why Caterham, it was suggested by the head of his school as being more friendly. Before applying, I was trying to find out if it might be more ADHD friendly. I'm not in any way wedded to Caterham, but he is currently scoring As at mock common entrance (except for English!) so is reasonably academic. I wouldn't prioritise that over happiness by any means, but it would be a nice extra!
AttentionDeficitHyperOrderd we were obliged to give a copy of the diagnosis to Tonbridge, and that contained the fateful words "severe" ADHD - although I agree that is what has caused the problems.
Clavinova his current head is great, and he, his deputy and the SENCo lady have spent 45 mins on the phone to the head of Tonbridge reassuring him. It clearly hasn't done the trick as it was after this that they asked to have him there for the day! I genuinely don't think the Head is watering down what he tells us - he's trying hard to help us find a Plan B but still says that he feels our son will do best at Tonbridge because of the structure, the fact that they are used to dealing with boys and the sports.
HRHPrincessMegan I have also heard good things about Sutton Valence, and he could be a day boy there. He's on the list but we've been told that he's unlikely to get a place as we only registered him after we got the diagnosis and they say they are only offering 15 places in year 9 (it's become very popular recently!) Interesting that Caterham might be more like Sevenoaks - he didn't apply there because from our experience, you need to be more of a self starter, very independent (he struggles due to lack of organisation) and self motivated. If Caterham is also like that, it's probably not the right place for him. Childmaintenenceserviceenquiry that also applies to grammars (I've been told): whilst they cannot discriminate against SEN kids, the resources are more stretched and kids can fall between the cracks. He would also have to wait for a place to come up as he is looking at 13+ entry, but I am making enquiries.
I agree with what many posters have said about it being sad how academic schools treat SEN children. He currently receives no support or help in class or exams, seems to have friends and socialises with them, pays attention in most of his classes (and the ones he doesn't, others are also messing around, so the problem may not just be him). I do realise that issues may well develop in the coming years hence the need to find a supportive school, but he's been able to work at a good level up to now (hence his late diagnosis at 11.5) and I think he will continue to do so. I desperately want to send him to a school that wants him but the diagnosis is worrying more than just Tonbridge - but Caterham seem more relaxed (in fact, they have told our head they are happy for him to apply despite the diagnosis).
I agree that Tonbridge will have far more than the advertised number of kids with ADHD/ADD/ASD - even as a proportion of the population that's below average, and with a higher proportion of boys having those conditions, I think they may not be aware of quite what they currently have!
Thank you again all - any further comments welcomed, and I really appreciate the time you have put in to posting

AttentionSufficientHyperOrderd Thu 19-Oct-17 16:36:46

OP I have pm’ed you.

dishdash1 Thu 19-Oct-17 21:47:30

Ah, I just assumed you wanted boarding. However now I’ve googled what train lines Caterham is on, I can see how it’d be doable if you live where I’m guessing.

* *still says that he feels our son will do best at Tonbridge because of the structure, the fact that they are used to dealing with boys and the sports.

^ sounds like the old fashioned Public school elements of Tonbridge culture really suit him. I agree with others that Caterham will not be similar in that regard and is more like Sevenoaks, ie like the posh Indy version of a Comp.

I think you will either have to compromise on location or the type of school you’re looking for; either go for somewhere close such as Sevenoaks or Sutton Valence, or pick somewhere that is a good fit but gives him a longer journey. For example, Worth is very similar to Tonbridge culturally and they have a school bus from Tunbridge Wells (I think they want 60 or 65% CE) and Ardingly also have a bus from Tunbridge Wells, though they’re less selective (55% CE) and less religious but more sporty. I think there’s also a fairly academic school in Croydon which may have a good bus route? It might be called Whitgift, but I’m not sure on that.

childmaintenanceserviceinquiry Fri 20-Oct-17 10:20:31

Yes there are many good quality academic schools in Croydon - Whitgift and Trinity - being 2 of them. Both academically selective, offering an enormous range of subjects and other interests.

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