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Y7 not settling (selective independent) - when is enough?

(24 Posts)
AgnesLadyDollan Wed 06-Nov-19 14:33:02

My DD was successful in getting into one of the very selective girls' independent schools in London. She was thrilled, and we were too. But she's not settling there, and things are getting worse not better. The school know and they've been supportive, e.g. buddying her up for lessons and activities to help her make friends. They say her work's up to standard, though DD doesn't think it is and she's worried and stressed about not being good enough no matter what we and the teachers say to her. In the first half term she didn't settle, so we did our best to reassure her, and explained it's quite normal to find things strange and difficult at first. Now it's worse, and she cries in the morning and says she hates school and doesn't want to go. She was never, ever like this before, she absolutely loved primary school, and it's breaking my heart to see her like this.

I'm beginning to think we've made a bad mistake in sending her to a school that's bound to be high-pressure because of its intake, instead of somewhere a bit more laid-back. Has anyone been in this position and what did you do? Stick with it - until when? Or start looking at alternatives? I'm not at all sure what alternatives to look at, even. We can consider other independents close to the north London/Hertfordshire borders, or we'd consider weekly boarding further afield (we did originally think about that). Would we be going for Year 8 entry? Or do schools have entry points mid-year? I'm at such a loss because once DD's primary school advised to put her on the exam track we stopped looking around at anything else and I don't know where (or if!) to start.

OP’s posts: |
JoJoSM2 Wed 06-Nov-19 14:42:50

That can sometimes be the problem with highly selective schools. Everyone is clever so it is more difficult to feel confident. A school with a more mixed intake but still able to stretch the able students might be a better fit. I think I’d be tempted to ring around the schools you liked to see if they might take your daughter. Not sure if there’s any benefit in waiting till September.

Velveteenfruitbowl Wed 06-Nov-19 14:48:29

I think it depends on what the issue is? Is it about not being the cleverest? If so she is far better off dealing with that while it won’t effect her life long term and she is still living at home. However, it may be worth attempting to deal with it incrementally, perhaps moving her to a competitive school but less so than her current school now and then moving her into a more competitive school later on. If the issue is something else like not making friends you need to deal with that (sometimes it’s a simple as moving to a school with a cohort that she gets on with better) or low self esteem etc you need to deal with that and take the inability to deal with the academic pressure as a symptom rather than a cause.

Zodlebud Wed 06-Nov-19 16:18:38

Have a look at Queenswood. Very flexible boarding from one night a week to full time and a comprehensive door to door transportation service covering a lot of Herts and North London.

Game changer for us - they get results without the drama. Girls there are happy and so do well.

Needmoresleep Wed 06-Nov-19 16:53:10

It happens and schools are generally supportive. Talk to her current school and suggest you are thinking of cutting your losses before her confidence is eroded further. They may suggest alternatives and ease her passage. Over the years we have known girls sucessfully switch from Putney to G&L, SPGS to both G&L and LU, from LU to Ibstock and G&L and so on. Often all that is needed is fresh start.

Worth, obviously, doing your best to work out why thete are problems so you can avoid them in the future.

Theovertoad Wed 06-Nov-19 17:49:35

Has she got any friends at her new school? Where did her friends from her old school go to? Is she still in touch with them?
Could you look at the school where her primary friends have gone to?

mbell Wed 06-Nov-19 18:29:23

I could have written your post 1 year ago except there was bullying involved too. Hard to go from a settled group of friends to all new. No longer the smartest etc. We stuck with it and daughter now in Year 8 and adoring every moment of school.

Talk to the school and let your daughter know this happens to lots of children (I only realised how many girls felt this way once I spoke with other parents).

Best of luck!

AgnesLadyDollan Wed 06-Nov-19 19:09:04

Some very good ideas here, thank you everyone. mbell it's good to know there's light at the end of the tunnel. There's no bullying involved as far as I'm aware although it's possible that DD hasn't told me. I'll make another appointment to talk to the school. I've been a couple of times but I haven't said we're getting to the point of cutting our losses so I'll be frank about that and see what they say. I don't want to give the impression that the school have been in any way remiss because I don't think they have, it's just that it may not be the right environment for DD. It's so sad because she was so excited in the summer about going.

Theovertoad her friends from her old school are quite scattered now. Her best friend is a weekly boarder at a school some distance away that we hadn't considered and she loves it. DD sees her sometimes at weekends and I think she's envious. Zodlebud Queenswood was one we originally ruled out as we thought the fees were a bit of a stretch for us. At the time we were looking they were more expensive than most. I'll have another look though and thanks for the suggestion.

OP’s posts: |
Zodlebud Wed 06-Nov-19 19:32:48

Queenswood fees are very expensive compared to other schools but they include a significant contribution to refurbishment and capital projects (as evidenced in their new sports hall and refurbished boarding houses) and it’s very full on. It follows a full boarding school programme even though they have plenty of day girls too. You are essentially paying for 8am to 6pm school.

But yes. Not something to embark on financially without careful consideration.

FanDabbyFloozy Wed 06-Nov-19 23:52:02

I don't want to pry but is it a school with the brown uniform or the green/blue one?

If it's the former, the pastoral care is meant to be very strong these days but the competition is high and may not be for everyone. Are there local girls from the coach that she could meet on a Saturday for a look around the shops or activities she could join closer to home but with friends from school (e.g. Guides)?

If you feel the school is working with you on solving the issue, I'd stick it out until Christmas before phoning around. But then I'd hit the phones to sort out for year 8.

Btw I wouldn't be tempted to jump from one highly academic school to another if pressure is part of the issue. What kind of primary was she in?

sendsummer Thu 07-Nov-19 06:51:14

What is happening for homework? Does she find it too long or difficult. Is she doing it unaided or is she involving you constantly for reassurance or help? It may be that her work is up to scratch but she feels on a back foot and stressed getting it to that standard. So constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode without the balm of friendships to get perspective from.
In some cases there may be a relative advantage in year 7 for other pupils from what they have previously covered at primary school. If that is possible it is worth pointing it out to her ie she finds it a struggle now but others will find it harder later.
As PPs have said talk again with the school including for advice about the best contingency schools and a sensible timeframe before definitely changing. Perhaps arrange a visit to her friend’s school if affordable Seeing alternatives could work both ways when she compares them to her present school.
The fact that you are listening to her and considering other schools will help her feel supported through a tough phase. By your deadline for moving her, she may well have got through it and be more settled. If not you have a best alternative.

Needmoresleep Thu 07-Nov-19 07:41:35

Sendsummer has a good point. Did your DD come from a state primary? If so there will be a lot of catch up. (DD came from a prep with classmates preparing for 13+ CE so was ahead in virtually everything, but spotted how tough it was for others.) They do catch up within the year and after that it is a level playing field.

Yr7 was difficult for DD as there were some very big characters in her class and it took till after Christmas for the quieter ones to find each other and form their own support groups. DD luckily did a lot of extra curricular outside school so was able to compare notes with girls she had known a while, so knew that she was not alone in finding a new environment challenging. I would recommend seeking out opportunities to support her self confidence by encouraging activities she is good at or spending time with established friends or any extended family she is close to.

Answerthequestion Thu 07-Nov-19 07:49:34

These highly selective girls schools aren’t for everyone regardless of how clever the girls are. I’m a big fan of co-Ed for precisely the reason that I think it dilutes some of that overt competition. However, if you have identified that it’s not for her there’s no shame in it. I believe that the green school has excellent pastoral care, I’ve heard far less positive things about the brown school from friends of my eldest who go there.

Other schools worth looking at are Royal Masonic which I’ve only heard good thongs about and Aldenham which will get results for clever kids but is mixed ability

Ultimately, is she better at the top of a more mixed ability cohort or does she have the resilience to hover nearer the bottom of a highly selective school and still feel that she’s bright and able.

We took the view that our children were better off near the top of somewhere mixed ability and it paid off, eldest got 8’s and a couple of 7’s. Maybe a selective school would have made the 8’s 9’s and the 7’s 8’s but at what cost? He still has the grades to consider pretty much any university apart from Oxbridge (which was never him anyway) and did it with a healthy dose of high self esteem which he wouldn’t have had at a more selective school where he would have hovered near the bottom

ittakes2 Thu 07-Nov-19 09:27:09

I always like to have a plan A and a plan B - my Plan A would be to get her some counselling - sounds like she might have perfectionist traits - my plan B would be to put her name down at a school with less pressure. My daughter was the same and we did the same - pulled her out of grammar school at the end of year 7 and put her in a less academic but lovely private school. We decided her mental health and the concept that she enjoys school (plus the reduced stress on the family) was more important than any grades she could have been pushed to achieve at grammar.

ittakes2 Thu 07-Nov-19 09:28:33

Also, I agree with poster that co-ed less pressure. My daughter's twin brother goes to a different grammar and they are much more laid back than my daughter's all girls grammar was/is.

AgnesLadyDollan Thu 07-Nov-19 11:01:40

Thank you, everyone, for your ideas, and also for your questions which have given me lots to think about. DD was in a state primary but it had lots of children leaving for the independent sector. I didn't do very well at school myself and in any case everything seems to have changed so I'm no help to DD with her homework blush - she seems very miserable over it, but also defensive if I try to support her.

Ultimately, is she better at the top of a more mixed ability cohort or does she have the resilience to hover nearer the bottom of a highly selective school and still feel that she’s bright and able.

I think that's the big question and I don't know the answer! We thought she'd do better in the highly selective school but we could have been mistaken. The school she's at is one of the ones people have speculated about and I do think they're taking our concerns seriously but ultimately it's a high-pressure competitive environment and maybe not as right for DD as we'd thought it would be. I think for now we'll get on with talking with the school to see if it improves with time but also investigating options in case it doesn't. We hadn't even thought about co-ed, I'll start looking at those as well.

OP’s posts: |
RightToElectronics Thu 07-Nov-19 11:14:41

There may be several issues here.

State >> competitive private is a big culture shock. I had a version of that at 18 entering Oxford - and even at that age it was hard to not get down on yourself & lose the joy of study. If its this kind of thing - could the school overtly address it - e.g. by buddying her up with a 6th former who also joined from a state school - to reassure your DD that steep step transitions are a sign of her doing well not badly.

As a wildcard - she sounds exceptionally bright and like she's achieved very highly in the exams without intensive pressure or coaching from either you or the school. Kids like that - there can be a difficult side underlying the glitter - and Y7 and Y8 is prime time for autistic traits to reveal in girls. The trajectory being that they're super perfectionist and high achieving - but struggle with the cognitive flexibility of the 'rules changing' when they're suddenly at the bottom of a very different kind of school - and struggle to identify and express their own emotions about it before they've snowballed and become damaging. Plus hormones etc (hence why 12/13 is a prime time for struggle). If you're in that ballpark - diagnosis helps to frame the conversations more constructively with both her and the school.

The above two interpretations would advise to give school a bit more time to fix - and to try not to transplant the problem elsewhere without really addressing it.

Or it might just be an awkward fit for her. People can and do move at all points of their secondary school career.

PandaandCat Thu 07-Nov-19 11:15:57

No exactly the same but my DD went to state primary, very happy, lots of friends, very high achieving. She was the only girl that got into the London all girls grammar. Academically it was brilliant though largely achieved by very bright intake and 2 hours homework per night plus no teacher recruitment issues. Friendships were very difficult as no-one lived close and she felt very isolated and quickly became very unhappy. She felt school only cared about results. She struggled with no longer being top in everything though was above average overall and top or second in 3 subjects. She kept saying she had become stupid and if she ever made a mistake on a test girls would laugh at her. We continued to end of year 7 but didn't improve and school wouldn't help much.

Year 8 moved her to comprehensive in different area and much happier, lots of friends, closer so day is 1.5 hours shorter which she gets to socialise in. She feels clever again. Academically it isn't as good as some subjects have trouble recruiting teachers though core subjects (maths, English, science) are taught very well - maths and English is better at the comprehensive. Languages, computing etc they struggle to get teachers will required skills. All but one of her friends are boys so co-ed has made a huge difference to her.

Every child and school is different and staying to end of year 7 did mean we were absolutely certain things wouldn't improve but once you are sure of what isn't right and attempts to fix it have failed and you've found a better option would for it if things don't improve.

FanDabbyFloozy Thu 07-Nov-19 14:14:20

There are some great schools around the area but do watch for the ones with the popular cliques (I hinted at one above). Some of the mixed indep schools are party central with an "in" gang and a "not in" gang. I would therefore also consider some of the state schools in the area. There are some of the best schools in the country around Herts/North London which are definitely worth a look.

Gloschick Thu 07-Nov-19 22:19:19

She could weekly board at St George's, Harpenden (high performing comp). They are advertising for year 8 applications for 2020 on their website, so presumably they anticipate having boarding spaces.

Qqwweerrtty Fri 08-Nov-19 18:32:39

My son is at a very selective school. It took him about a year to get used to it - absolutely loves it now. Lunch times are often the worst times. Is she doing lunch time clubs? Can she go to the library? You could try asking her to give a ranking out of 10 for all the different areas of school e.g. maths, history, break time, swimming, friends etc. It is quite a good way of pinpointing problem areas and may also help her to see that it isn’t all so terrible.

HelloDulling Fri 08-Nov-19 18:40:53

Moving part way through the school year is quite normal, if there are spaces, so don’t worry about that.

Interestingly, my son’s co-Ed school is far more competitive that my daughter’s all-girls, though their results are close to identical.

Doraismissing Sat 09-Nov-19 22:28:06

If it's the brown school then start looking elsewhere. IME from fiends with girls there pastoral care is fairly nonexistent

Tvstar Tue 12-Nov-19 11:54:57

It us very very early days. She hasn't even done a term yet. Starting a new school is very tiring. I think you need to give it at least a year

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