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Mental Health in Grammar/Private Schools(42 Posts)
Hi all, I would like to start a thread regarding mental health at high achieving schools, but first I should give my experience.
I am sorry to say that I completely regret sending my dd to Tiffin Girls. She has recently been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition and is a completely different person since joining the school. She has received no support from the school whatsoever, she is just told that 'everyone experiences stress' and is forced back to lessons. The majority of the teaching is also abysmal, as she spends hours at home teaching herself in order to achieve 'pass marks' in the test, otherwise she is given a detention and forced to retake it. The homework seems to be set just to fill a quota, and is hardly ever looked over in the lesson, although they are expected to spend hours at home each night studying (according to their homework timetables). Every pupil in her year seems to be constantly on the edge of a mental breakdown and completely exhausted, and I am horrified at how the school brushes it off as normal. I sent her there to receive a high quality education in a supportive environment, but of course the school will get good results with intelligent girls with motivated parents and extensive testing. A lot of my dd's teachers just print off worksheets for them to do for the full hour in almost total silence, which I don't think anyone can consider teaching. She is often told to go around and help the class or explain at the front, a job which I think should really be the teacher's. In recent years they have cut down on trips, immersion days and bonding, with every focus on exams. Additionally, she recently received a commendation for maths in which she was congratulated for succeeding on a topic she supposedly 'found extremely tough'. However, maths is her best subject and I know she found the topic quite easy, she was only given it because she asks questions in the lessons. Most of the girls are afraid to do so because of the judgement they face from the teachers, which I sadly understand.
The girls themselves are lovely, I have never heard of any bullying and they support each other, but I struggle for any other positive words about the school. It is certainly an exam factory; they seem to care about nothing else, and I strongly believe that if every student was questioned about their mental health the majority would have a serious problem.
Ultimately, the school cares more about handing out detentions and homework than the actual wellbeing of their pupils, and I wish I had never sent my dd there.
I would like to hear other experiences and maybe some advice about this kind of stuff, as I'm not sure whether to withdraw her from the school or just stick it out until A levels.
We had similar and withdrew DD, was told she should be happy as her grades were good. Moved to comprehensive, she got friends more easily and was initially happier but academically its not great - school will not take her SATS or last year's results into account and have stuck her in 3 middle sets were she is learning nothing as new kids get put where the space is apparently. A couple of girls told her to kill herself and school refused to do anything as on way to school. She prefers it, I preferred the grammar.
How old is your daughter? We had the choice between Tiffin and a high achieving independent school back in the spring and chose the latter. I have found the pastoral care excellent so far - DD can be very anxious about things and school have been amazing at working with her to overcome her worries. She has seen a counsellor at school to help her with some of her problems at the suggestion of the head of year. Everyone has been so so helpful - really a far cry from what we experienced at primary.
Really sorry your DD is having such a tough time. I think in your shoes I would think about finding her another school if you have a reasonable local option.
I'm sorry to hear your daughter is having a tough time.
Our experience of a different grammar has been completely different - the school bends over backwards to lessen the stress levels. No public results, no academic awards etc. that I've heard of.
There was a woman here last year whose DD had been entered into her independent school's exams as an external candidate.
The problem is that some schools put success ahead of the child, with predictable results.
My heart goes out to you and your daughter OP.
There is a real trend
A real trend emerging with mental health problems at these highly academic schools. The thing is - you can see it in the girls on open days. They often look tired, stressed out and giving “the right” answers as opposed to personal experience.
I think I have seen pretty much all the girls schools in a 20 mile radius of my house. They are not all equal in terms of helping girls dealing with not just school issues but also all the other stuff that goes with being a teenager.
Take Wycombe Abbey for example. Has a reputation for being a hot house. Sure it selects at the highest level BUT the pastoral care there is excellent. They are “on it” with every single girl with a personalised learning plan. Extra help where it’s needed, almost enforced time off when it’s felt a girl is doing to much. They encourage balance.
Sometimes I think we are so focussed on choosing “the best” schools that we don’t always choose “the right” schools. My choices have raised some eyebrows from others for not aiming high enough. Do you know what though? My kids are deliriously happy and hate the school holidays (hopefully that’s because they love school so much, not that they want to get away from me). They are doing exceptionally well and outperforming friends children at the academic school down the road. Sometimes you need to make brave decisions that you know are right for your individual child.
I wish you and your daughter all the best.
One of my girls was at Tiffin, left a few years ago and now very happy at Uni. She experienced low level bullying throughout.
I don’t think they had the class test detention thing in her day but she did get detentions for being late during public transport industrial action.
I foolishly encouraged her to stay for 6th, as in my own day, girls matured and behaved properly in 6th and were treated respectfully by teachers - boy, was I wrong.
Although they were told that anything less than an A* was a fail and she felt a failure because she didn’t get the full sweep of A* at GCSE, she didn’t really experience academic pressure until 6th form and then it became so relentless that the girls sent an open letter to the SLT explaining the stress they were under. Self harm and eating disorders were rife.
My daughter was also bullied by her form tutor in 6th. The school took action, I believe because of numerous complaints about this individual, I did go to see the school.
My daughter self harmed and suffered from severe anxiety and was prescribed medication and underwent counselling. She is now recovered and off meds.
My other daughter, also suffered at her high flying very fashionable comp and was pretty much told she would die on the streets if she didn’t get all A*. She also suffered anxiety and panic attacks. Also now at Uni and very happy.
OP, I am sorry to hear your experience. Have you tried the Ed Psyc service, no knowledge of them in Kingston but were helpful to my younger daughter in a different borough.
We turned down a place at Tiffin for DD and opted for an independent instead.
I think there is a real problem with mental health issues for teenagers at all schools but the difference is how the school deals with it. Our experience is that (as others have said) the school is very approachable and always 'on it'. I suspect this is a resources issue, more staff and more time plus full time school counsellor.
I also think the our indie has the ability to offer a more rounded view experience (drama, sports , extra curricular) and that this provides a good balance to the academic demands.
OP I'm sorry that your DD had such a rubbish experience. It's heartbreaking to hear.
We turn down Tiffin for my DD and opt for a high achieving independent school and never regretted.
All schools have girls suffering mental problems and I totally agree that you will need to choose the right school regardless school rankings.
Girls in any highly achieving and selective schools, state or independent are highly competitive, lots of stress are coming from peers and themselves. independent school might have more resources and staff to support and deal with their pupils and they do provide more rounded education.
I would add that it was also my DD’s experience that a lot of girls were tutored throughout their time at Tiffin - even exceptional ones. A lot of teaching was good in her day but we did have to hire a tutor in 6th for one subject - the teacher was so bad, all the class had tutors.
Some girls also had extreme parental pressure that didn’t help.
In my DD’s experience the head of pastoral care would spend hours gossiping in the hearing of her class about various girls.
I also received a very odd phone call one day from the senco informing me my daughter was anorexic (anything but) and ‘what on earth was going on at home?’. Not anorexic and nothing, thank you!
I commented to the head of year who apologised but I should have taken it further. In hindsight it indicated the sheer incompetence of the senco and the gossipy nature of so called pastoral care. My daughter is quite a thin girl as I was at that age, and I was also called ‘anorexic’ - though we both love food and have no eating disorders.
chocolateorange, why would you make her stay for A Levels? That makes no sense - sixth form is a natural change point and a really good time for a fresh start. What year is she in now?
My dd is in year 10 at a girls selective independent - we chose it over a couple of grammars, as she won a bursary and it was nearer. There are girls who are struggling there - as there are everywhere. One of her best friends outside school goes to a failing comp and she's also struggling with self harm and depression. It's a universal issue these days, but schools do play a part in either helping or making things much worse.
My dd's school is actually very good, as they don't encourage competition, they never share girls' marks etc, there are no sets or end or year awards. They're also quite relaxed on the whole - not big on detentions or punishment. They're constantly sending emails to parents encouraging us not to put pressure on the girls. I think all that is really helpful.
My dd has still found this year hard. I think it's partly because everyone tells them that GCSEs are really important - and in a sense they are. Also, all girls - and all high achieving girls - can be a stressful environment. They're all really helpful and supportive to each other but they're also all very conscientious and ambitious, so it can be easy to think you're failing.
My dd is adamant that she wants to move to a co-ed environment for sixth form and I'm supportive of that. I'm sure some people will think we're mad to move her from the best school in our region but at A Level particularly it's the time for them to start to get independent and take responsibility for their own study. If they're in a place where they feel comfortable, it will be easier to do that.
Chocolateorange, you should definitely look around for sixth form.
Thank you all, I can definitely see some similarities. My dd definitely wants to move for sixth form, but we’re not sure where. The local comps in our area are either religious or just not great, and I can’t really afford to send her to an independent sixth form. Any other suggestions in the Kingston and Richmond area?
@chocolateorange101 - what about Esher College?
Ask about bursaries at the co-ed independents: Latymer Upper; Kingston Grammar etc. Or perhaps even Tiffin boys. Sixth form is a good time to change, and a good time to go co-ed. Boys tend to be less perfectionist.
Waldegrave is a fantastic school and Coombe Girls 6th form is also very good. Grey Court's new 6th form is doing brilliantly. Tiffin Boys, which on rep is a lot more laid back than the girls school now takes girls at 6th form. Sir Richard Reynold (RC) is so desperate for 6th form pupils they are advertising on buses!
Could you afford an Indy with a substantial scholarship? LEH won't be chucking money around because they don't need to but KGS and Surbiton will. A friends DS moved from Tiffin to KGS for 6th form and got a free place.
Cross-posted with Needsmore.
Move her. School is not worth that stress for your poor girl.
If you can afford private look at Surbiton or Kingston grammar
If not try Coombe or esher college (i am assuming these are your sort of area.) or call a faith school like the Ursuline in wim or Lady margaret's in Parsons Green is lovely. You never know in year places do come up....
Good luck, Don't let her do A Levels there. x
Could you afford an Indy with a substantial scholarship? LEH won't be chucking money around because they don't need to but KGS and Surbiton will.
Our experience with bursaries is that even really really selective and oversubscribed schools will offer them to the right candidate. I had the SPGS foundation report through my door the other day and 12% of their girls are on bursaries, two thirds of whom get 100%. All the schools will take some children at sixth form. You should contact the bursar of anywhere you may be interested in and ask - it will do no harm.
Re local sixth forms, Christ's just sent their first pupil to Cambridge last year, Waldegrave and Grey Court are really popular and I personally know children who have been to all three of these schools and enjoyed their time there. Can't comment personally on any of the others nearby.
Glaciferous - I went with scholarsips because I took "can't really afford" to mean the OP could do it with huge sacrifices, so I thought it was unlikely OP would get much of a bursary. Always worth asking though.
I am so sorry to hear your DD is feeling like this OP.
My DD1 is at a SS girls grammar, and DS is at a neighbouring boys’ one.
Both schools, but esp the boys one suffer from a reputation as exam factories but so far (y10 and y8) I would say their pastoral care for my 2 has been great.
DD1 is also anxious and a perfectionist, and very hard on herself, and I agonised (still do) about whether to put down the grammar or the very good local girls’ comp. She wanted to grammar, so grammar it was.
Now she is there, she is happy, had friends and is doing very well (disloyally, rather to our surprise!). I worry that she worries about her school work and when she has been particularly tearful have raised it with her heads of year who swept in, got in touch with teachers setting too much homework, put her in touch with the various pastoral / counselling people, and generally had a ‘little reassuring chat’. They have been great both time I have had to be in touch.
They also know what these high achieving girls are like, and tell the parents that we have to help them learn to fail and pick themselves back up, and there is a lot of emphasis on ‘good enough’ and resilience.
I am sorry you are having such a very different experience; does your daughter want to move? A friend moved her daughter from a co Ed academy to a single sex comp in y9, and her DD has thrived, despite being against the move initially.
cake, the cut off for a bursary at SPGS is £110,000 after which you receive nothing. I imagine other big name schools will be similar. I thought if the OP was on that sort of money, she'd probably already be considering that kind of school so thought the information worth putting out there.
I feel for you. I think that probably this is a how long is a piece of string issue with regards to schools - there will be great pastoral support all the way through to awful in every type/achievement level.
I went to a pretty mediocre comp in the 1990s. I developed anorexia nervosa. The school did absolutely nothing even when I was clearly ill (BMI 12), not even contacting my parents (who were in denial for ages). They did absolutely nothing about the bullying I had been experiencing prior to becoming ill, and when I went back to school after a term off, had no idea how to support me. I suspect this was all due to being overstretched, understaffed, lots of kids with bad behaviour problems and difficulties reaching basic standards etc.
This is one experience - a long time ago now.
I work in mental health and see lots of teenagers (I am in a service 14yrs +) from schools across the county. State, indep, boarding. There are a group from state schools with behavioural problems/social problems/drugs +/- mental disorders. Then those from either state (tends to be higher achieving schools) or private with depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders. The two hot house independents in town produce lots of patients, but I think there is a bias because the referral criteria for boarders tends to be lower. One thing I really notice is that whatever school you come from, if you have support at home and your parents have realistic expectations for you as an individual this is a huge help.
My advice would be if your daughter is unhappy, strongly consider moving her. This is independent of mental health problems. Objectively a bright motivated girl like your dd will do well at any school, but not if she is unhappy or ill. So I would look to move her to somewhere more nuturing, and she will hopefully recover and still get good grades.
Best of luck
SPGS is very very competitive to get into at 6th form. If you want more stress, applying to them is the way to get it! It really is not worth that.
However, smaller, less welll known indpendent schools could be an option. I do not know the state schools in your area, op, but some will have decent 6th forms because Sutton is a high achieving borough, even without the Tiffin schools.
You could look at 6th form bursaries. However, existing pupils may also be able to apply so your income may not be low enough. Some give bursaries only to those way below the cut off point advertised due to competition for places. Where my SSis lives, the bursary cut off point was advertised as £35,000. In reality the school said £25,000 because they are innundated with applicants.
I would start looking for 6th form and be flexible about where. See which school might offer a bursary and, personally, I think schools full of highly driven girls and parents is not where you should be looking. At my DDs old school, there were a few high achievers for whom results mattered 100% but many did a reasonable amount of work, did loads of extra curricular and had a varied education. Many private and top performing schools end up as exam factories because of maintaining position in the league tables. However the best private schools give far more than this to the pupils. This is the ethos I think you should look for.
Thank you everyone for the help, it is greatly appreciated. I am wary to move her now in year 10 as she is very socially anxious and struggles to make friends. She was bullied at primary school, but now has a really supportive group of friends. I know she will do well anywhere, but at the moment I think moving her will probably only make matters worse
We will definitely be looking into other sixth forms, any recommendations in the Shepperton area?
My DC are primary age so am watching with interest. I did tutor a friend's daughter who was at the local girl's grammar and she found the support awful. A friend of hers took an overdose (fortunately not enough to do any long term harm but a genuine cry for help) while she was in hospital the school put a lot of pressure on her to return to school quicker. The impetus seemed to be to get motivated, reasonably bright students, apply pressure and get good results.
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