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Help! DS with additional needs - move to smaller school?

(5 Posts)
RunJHC Fri 05-Dec-14 20:35:40

I need help from MNers to decide whether to move DS1 from his state primary to a small private school. He's 5 and is in Year 1.

Bit of background - he's a little behind developmentally in some but not all areas - he can read at Y2 level, but struggles with writing (has hypermobile joints i.e. bendy fingers!) and his speech/language is a bit behind in terms of being able to express himself. Doesn't have an interest in maths really, but can count to 100 more or less, and do 1 more and 1 less than etc. Also struggles with some loud noises, busy playground/lunch hall. But he's very cheerful at home and I think is bright enough, has a good memory etc.

His current school is a busy state primary, which is really hot on national curriculum levels, standards etc. He's been a bit up and down in Year 1 - he has a couple of boys he's good friends with and is happy enough now he's settled in, but the class seem to spend a lot of time writing, even in maths, so his workbooks are basically blank. We're currently getting private speech therapy (on waiting list for support from the council) and the school has suggested we get private occupational therapy to help with his writing. I work full time and am currently taking lots of time off work to take him to these extra appts - not really sustainable in the long run!

There's a very small private school near us, which has 50 kids in the whole school. So it's like a little village school, with about 15 in KS1 and 15 in KS2, a teacher and a TA for each group, so all small group work, 1 to 1 time etc. I went to look round and really liked it - much more focus on the individual child's development, lots of going out and about, forest school etc, but all the basics are still done - they follow national curriculum etc but just in a different way. Also they have a nursery which my DS2 could go to (he's currently in a different pre-school). The fees are not much so that's not really an issue.

So we're going to look around again and taking the boys with us on Monday, but it feels like a massive decision to move him. I just feel like the smaller school would be able to meet his additional needs better - or in fact might just chill out and let him develop at his own pace.

Anyone with similar experience/advice? Or questions I need to pose at the small school?

Thanks - sorry for epic post.

bjkmummy Sat 06-Dec-14 10:44:37

i moved my daughter to a small state primary school - less than 30 kids - it has helped her but as its a state school the help hasn't been there for sen kids and the schools sen budget is tiny which has caused some issue but in a private school you may not face the same issues

LIZS Sat 06-Dec-14 10:50:31

A cheap private school with just 50 kids is going to be always on a financial knife edge. Many such have gone to the wall in recent years or been taken over by larger ones. Who owns it, what is their hierarchy and accountability? If it is a charity then you can look up the accounts with the Charities commission. You don't want to find yourselves facing a sudden closure and nowhere to go to. Also they may have trouble attracting and retaining good teachers.

kleinzeit Sat 06-Dec-14 16:00:37

Be very open with the school about your DS’s needs, and get them to be open about what they expect from him. I would want to be clear about what happens if he doesn’t keep up academically with his class and/or if it turns out that he needs a lot of extra support. The worry about a small school (state or private) is if they don’t have enough staff to cover extra support for a child who needs it. How would additional support be provided and paid for?

And also what is your DS’s behaviour like – any tantrums or aggression? Hopefully that's not an issue for your DS but it can be a problem for some kids with communication difficulties, and private schools might not keep a child who is too challenging either to staff or other children.

By the way, if you are regularly taking your DS out of school for extra appointments you may be able to come to an arrangement for one of the TAs to take him, either privately with the TA or through the school. I always took DS myself but at my DS’s (state) primary school another parent arranged for one of the TAs to take her DS to a weekly therapy group.

Best of luck, I hope it all goes well.

RunJHC Sat 06-Dec-14 18:48:42

Thanks everyone - all very helpful and thought provoking. Good tip about the charity accounts - I've had a quick look but will read in more detail. DS2 is pretty well behaved (particularly at school...) so I don't think that would be a problem, but I'll definitely ask about the extra support they can offer if he's not keeping up etc or if his additional needs increase.

Such a difficult decision! And I'm really worried about how to explain it to him if we do decide to move. Almost makes me long for the newborn phase, when the biggest concern was a simple lack of sleep!

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