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Stigma of SEN during 11+ in London

(30 Posts)
orcadive Mon 05-Oct-20 15:34:05

Any thoughts on sharing learning differences with independent schools as part of the 11+ process? We are in London where it is already extremely competitive. I have a bright ds with ADHD who I worry will be discriminated against during the selection process because of the diagnosis. He takes meds which control symptoms (inattentive, not hyperactive) but was already mild enough in his behaviour that ADHD was never flagged to us by school prior to diagnosis.

I guess I'm asking: did anyone go through this process and (a) submit ed psych report and then regret it because they felt their child missed out on the right school for them or (b) apply with SEN diagnosis/es and find that it didn't really affect the 11+ results and offers?

OP’s posts: |
AveEldon Mon 05-Oct-20 15:43:37

Usually people submitting ed pysch reports will be doing so in order to access extra time or other exam arrangements

If a school discriminates against SEN then perhaps it's not the school you want your child to attend?

orcadive Mon 05-Oct-20 15:50:06

I am wondering if they all discriminate, to be honest, which would leave us with no choice! There are already limited options for boys in West London.

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redpandaalert Mon 05-Oct-20 16:02:03

Had in general positive response from schools last autumn with ADD. With ADD you can get 10% extra time if it's stated in the report that your DS needs it. You do need to talk to sencos before applying as you can gauge how receptive they are. There were a couple of schools that were very negative. Better to be up front and honest.

After8itsgrownuptime Mon 05-Oct-20 16:20:26

My son has an Ed psyche and we are currently going through the 11+ in SW London. We have gone for gently selective schools that seem to have good SEN but will help him fulfil his potential.
I have to agree with PP , that any school that discriminates is not a school I want my son to go to anyway!

Arofan Mon 05-Oct-20 18:10:25

OP, when we were looking for senior schools for DS we made sure we were very open about the fact he had adhd. Those who seemed po faced we struck off our list straightaway. I made sure before submitting an application I asked if they head a head of SENCO and arranged a meeting with them. The meetings were quite revealing and enabled us to shortlist a range of very good, not overly selective but with very good pastoral care for him. He has flourished at his school and this yr got fantastic GCSE results. So yes, some discriminate, usually the very popular very, very selective schools but there are other good ones were he will thrive.

One of the things you must come to terms with is that your ds will not thrive in perhaps, the top-flight school you've always had in mind. the reason why the dc in those schools do well is precisely because they need very little hand-holding, and are neurotypical. Your ds will thrive and exceed your expectations in a much kinder school. But it took a long while before we (dh in particular) could accept this. Don't hide his condition, it will expose itself eventually anyway and you'll constantly be in a state of anxiety.

bashstreetkids Mon 05-Oct-20 22:44:47

I would echo what other posters have said. My DD went through the London 11+ last year and I was so worried that she would be judged unfavourably for her ADD and High Functioning ASD diagnosis (alongside worrying about how she'd deal with the stress or manage to maintain focus during the assessment process). There was only one school which actively discouraged our application and I took the view that it is better we know now that the SEN department were not well briefed or welcoming. Some others were more enlightened and well informed than others.

Nearly every school we applied to was supportive, keen to have a very open and honest conversation with us, which meant when she started in September, we felt that the school were well prepared and working in partnership with us to settle her in. She didn't have to hide who she is and has been allocated members of staff to help her make the transition.

I feel for you because I had the chance to track down key staff and ask some very direct questions, this is obviously harder with online open days. This was invaluable in helping us make decisions about where would suit her best. She ended up doing really well in the exams (despite all my fears and sleepless nights) and had several excellent options to chose from.

Good luck- this process is so stressful, especially when your child has additional needs.

realitybites1 Tue 06-Oct-20 09:35:36

Really interesting perspectives here. @bashstreetkids Would you mind sharing what schools you felt were/were not welcoming to neurodiverse children?

bashstreetkids Tue 06-Oct-20 09:54:58

In fairness, it was the head SENCO at an all girls school who said 'we once had a girl with that diagnosis and it didn't go well, so I am not sure we are the right school for your daughter'. It was very revealing that a SENCO believed that all children on the spectrum have identical struggles- we didn't disagree, as it spoke volumes about her level of expertise.

As it was, our daughter got offers at much more competitive, academic, progressive schools, so I felt it was a lucky escape. What I would say is that I was pleasantly surprised at how accommodating some very competitive schools were and I wouldn't make any negative assumptions in advance.

For what it's worth, I've frequently heard that Latymer Upper School and Dulwich College are excellent at supporting neuro diverse kids (this is not from first hand experience as we only applied to girl's schools).

Good luck

bunty1 Tue 06-Oct-20 09:56:41

Hi we’ve just gone through the 11+ last year. DD is ADD. I asked the Ed Psych to put all her strengths on the first page of the report as they don’t read all 20 pages of each one they get! She got into all schools except one. Good luck !

Brioches1 Tue 06-Oct-20 11:54:37

It’s a tough one. Unfortunately because your son is taking medication there is no choice but to reveal his condition to school. My oldest also had a similar problem, so I was honest with schools when he did 10+ and despite doing well in the exams he did not get offers. Next year I tried for different (more competitive) schools but did not declare his condition and he got offers from all schools he applied to. He is doing well, and I am very happy with my decision.

orcadive Tue 06-Oct-20 12:18:15

Thank you all so much for these insightful comments. It is so helpful to hear thoughts from those have gone through this before.

I'd also welcome any private messages of schools that have shown themselves to be not-so-well-informed on neurodiversity. We have had one terrible interaction with a senior school so far but happy to have that one off the list.

Worth point

OP’s posts: |
orcadive Tue 06-Oct-20 12:21:52

Disregard "worth point" typos!

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Needmoresleep Tue 06-Oct-20 14:59:42

Our dyslexic DD went through this a decade ago. I would not call it "stigma" or discrimination, more about fit.

First some questions:

1. What are they good at. DD was sporty, and we wanted her to maintain her self esteem.

2. How bright is he? A friend who was deputy head at a West London girl's school asked if I could see DD going to Oxford. An odd question, but actually DD was already a good mathematician so yes, it was a possibility. Top tier schools (SPGS etc) will want pupils who are good at everything. The next tier down will take kids who are very good at some things, as long as they are not so bad in the things they are weak at (maths or English) that it affects their ability to progress.

3. Where are his friends hoping to go? To some extent friendship groups are formed by academic ability, so DD was friendly with a nice group of purposeful girls. I wanted her to go to the same sort of school they were going to, even if her exam marks tended to be more scattered.

There is no point in trying to get extra time, unless a child is going to use that extra time constructively. Looking back 10/11 was about the toughest point where DD had not really acquired the coping skills that would see her through the rest of her school career. Instead she sat the exams (she did 7, but was generally quite happy to have a day off school) and we wrote letters after, saying that the school would have notice the disparity between her maths and English. If offered a place we would want to meet the SEN department early and work out a strategy to support her, including over the summer before she started.

(Luckily she was in a prep so had the fall back of staying on until 13, so we only really applied to schools she wanted to go to, which kept the pressure off. At 13 we would have tried a wider academic and geographical range.)

She got her first choice which was a co-ed with a good reputation for sports, and a strong reputation for SEN support. She went on Westminster for sixth form which had extremely good SEN support. The aim should be to find the right academic and social fit, and then see which schools are prepared to take on a child with a different profile.

Are you getting any advice from the school?

orcadive Tue 06-Oct-20 17:13:03

Thank you @Needmoresleep. I'm glad your daughter found her path. Sounds like she did amazingly well.

Unfortunately, I think with ADHD it is a stigma. Dyslexia is less so (or not at all in most cases). Ironic, though, given that you can take a medicine which can address the symptoms of ADHD but not so for dyslexia. I think schools are wary of the behavioural components that sometimes accompany ADHD and are afraid that they may have problem down the line. In our case there are no behavioural issues but the schools will still be afraid this is the case, despite our assurances and his previous school experience.

OP’s posts: |
Needmoresleep Tue 06-Oct-20 17:32:25

I will disagree slightly. My observation is that non NT kids display a variety of characteristics, and it very common for a child who is, say, dyslexic to have other issues. So DDs processing speeds are astonishingly slow, but it has also been suggested that she is probably on some sort of ADD/ADHD scale. She needs to concentrate a lot so dislikes it when others disrupt classroom teaching. She also cannot sit still.

Set against that are some real advantages. She has developed an astonishing memory and is quick to grasp concepts, so, as long as she can listen in class, has been able to learn and retain.

I guess what I am trying to say is that whilst it is more challenging to be different, it is possible to overcome some of it. My strongest piece of advice would be to encourage your child to develop interests and talents, to help preserve his self esteem. And then to really think about his academic strengths and what might suit him best. For example we looked for a co-ed school as we felt that DD's spikey profile and her disinterest in ever reading a book, was more common with boys. And also coping strategies. Does exercise help, diet? Medication or not, I suspect you can't cure difference, only celebrate it.

Needmoresleep Tue 06-Oct-20 18:03:03

I should add that I first joined MN about that time when I was in the depths of despair over 11+. The prep school head, who did not "believe" in dyslexia, said unhelpfully that DD (who had a dreadful CAT score) would not be able to cope in a mainstream London private school. His recommendation was "country boarding". He also refused to have her put into higher sets, even though her exam results and class performance warranted it.

Senior schools were a lot more constructive.

Good luck.

myfatiguehastiredness Tue 06-Oct-20 19:43:41

Speaking from the other side, I would far rather know about all the SEN than discover it in the third week in September when some poor kid is struggling when a few reasonable adjustments could have been in place. I get a lot of reports. The ones I treat with suspicion are the ones who have not bothered to contact me to discuss needs, see if it is a good fit, what our offer is in terms of provision and just to chat. Neurodiversity is more than dealable with if parents and school work in partnership.
Do declare it. If schools are sniffy then frankly you are better off without them.

orcadive Tue 06-Oct-20 20:04:58

Thank you @myfatiguehastiredness. That is good to hear.

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SheRaTheAllPowerful Tue 06-Oct-20 20:10:21

It would be really helpful if people could name schools, I’m going to be going through this with my daughter next year and we are west London too.

ChiefStew Wed 07-Oct-20 00:23:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ChiefStew Wed 07-Oct-20 00:25:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

zebra15 Wed 07-Oct-20 15:23:42

@orcadive Perhaps you should look at Fulham School, Kew House, Maida Vale School, which are more open to children with SEN and looking to foster a "whole child" (as opposed to academic results only) approach. I have gone through the West London 11+ exams in 2019 with one DS who is super sporty, bright but not super academic, with no SEN and it took a massive, uphill push (plus regular tutoring) to get him into a decent independent co-ed day school. The competition is fierce.
My other DS, currently in Y5 with mild dyslexia is just starting to look at schools. I have decided not even to bother with the academic schools (Latymer Upper, Hampton, SPBS) for him as the exams are very demanding, the schools are oversubscribed, and they take their pick from the most academic children. Why put him through the stress and hassle of the exams only to find later that the school is a poor fit?

Lucinda76 Wed 07-Oct-20 16:17:52

Northbridge House school takes lots of SEN children.

ChiefStew Mon 19-Oct-20 09:13:58

@Lucinda76 Do you have personal experience of Northbridge House? If so I’d really appreciate hearing your - or anyone else’s! - thoughts. Feel free to DM me.

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