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DD13 with ADHD. Private vs state school decision

32 replies

TR888 · 04/07/2023 19:30

Hi. My DD13 has combined ADHD, mostly inattentive. She's very disorganised but it's just about meeting expectations in her state school. She has some friends there, although not many, and often complains that people are unkind to her.

Im considering a local private school with small class sizes (up to 16). It'd be a big stretch financially but doable. Today she had a taster day and said she's not going there. It's too boring, apparently. She says only 6-10 kids were in class (depending on the period) and they were dull 🙄. I'm not sure if she's correct (I'll ask) but if the classes are indeed that small, I wonder how vibrant the learning environment can be.

I just don't know what to do. If she stays in the state school, I'd have a lot more disposable income to provide support, I guess, and other experiences. But I worry she'll end up with the wrong kind of friends, especially as she's quite immature for her age and impressionable.

Any thoughts?

OP posts:
TR888 · 04/07/2023 20:26

Bumping x

OP posts:
cansu · 04/07/2023 20:28

What she means is that it was quiet and everyone worked. She will get more help. She will do more work.

NuffSaidSam · 04/07/2023 20:28

What's the state school like in terms of support, pastoral care, demographic, academic results etc?

Are there any other state alternatives you could look into?

If private school is going to be a stretch financially I'd have it as a last resort tbh.

purplepandas · 04/07/2023 20:29

My DD is autistic and in an independent. I have mixed feelings. The classes are bigger than the ones you mention (15-20) and the school is small which helps DD. The SEN provision is less than impressive shall we say and they are less accountable than state. Had I known then what I know now, I would not have sent DD to the independent school she goes to personally. Learning support costs too, I would check that out (I did know this but never envisaged DD would need it at the point of joining).

purplepandas · 04/07/2023 20:35

Other things to think about are length of day, our independent has changed it a bit and it is longer. This has been awful for DD. Swings and roundabouts as I think she fits in better at the independent with some DC than perhaps would in state. The demands can be greater (in her independent) than state (have niece the same age in state). Not sure I am being helpful. I do also think DD has inattentive ADHD but not attempted an assessment as yet (on the list).

TR888 · 04/07/2023 20:39

Her school is OFSTED "good" but I can't see any support for her. She's well behaved and quiet, and I just think the teachers don't notice her.

The SEN support in the private school is supposed to be very good. But in one of their letters they say one to one support is £36 for a 45 mins session...? In not sure what tree entails.

OP posts:
TR888 · 04/07/2023 20:55

I wonder if anybody else can share their experiences?

OP posts:
TR888 · 05/07/2023 07:10

Bump 🙂

OP posts:
JWR · 05/07/2023 07:36

Slightly different, we backed out of sending DD to an outstanding state school because the behaviour management policy would have destroyed her. It was the apparently typical “detention for forgetting to have a purple pen three times” set up. DD struggles massively with things like this but was academically able, generally well behaved and had no issues in school otherwise.
She went to a local girls’ school which tbh was a bit too small and didn’t really stretch her but was tolerant of her chaos and recognised that not having a specific coloured pen didn’t disrupt her learning or others’ learning. Overall she was happy, had friends and did well academically.

MrsBennetsPoorNerves · 05/07/2023 07:51

Boredom is like torture for people with adhd. The classes sound too small imo, and not particularly stimulating.

You say that she is meeting expectations in her current state school, but it sounds like your concern is that she isn't being pushed to fulfil her real potential. Has the independent school indicated what kind of support they would offer for your dd, and at what cost?

Are you thinking that you will be able to "buy" a better peer group for your dd because you're worried about her making unwise choices about who she hangs out with? Because I wouldn't assume that there won't be "unsuitable" friends in the private school, personally.

BeBraveLittlePenguin · 05/07/2023 07:56

I am surprised that the private school charges for SEN. That's usually included in the fees IME.

reallyworriedjobhunter · 05/07/2023 08:03

Does she have an EHCP? If not, organise one for her to make sure that she gets the support she needs.

Spendonsend · 05/07/2023 08:04

I would also look at the behaviour policy in each as a minority of schools turn well behaved forgetful people into naughty people who spend more time in exclusion than bullies.

Also what support they are aware of and are confident using in the classroom

1:1 is a very specific type of support and might not be needed?
But you might want to know if they do movement breaks, have rewards, help chunk work down - whatever it is she needs.

TR888 · 05/07/2023 09:48

Thanks for all your answers. This private school has many SEN students, and has a reputation to support them very well. One-to-one sessions might not be needed, you're right. But I was hoping someone could sit with her once a week or so and help her organise herself. She doesn't take advice from me or her dad on that front.

She's not academically strong. She's just meeting expectations but I anticipate she'll struggle more as the demands on her academic work increase (for example, in preparation for her GCSE). That's why I thought small class sizes could work well for her. This school is not academically selective and won't push her as much as many other private schools, but will still have higher expectations than where she is at the moment.

She's adamant she doesn't want to go to the private school - but agrees she's not happy in her current school either!I don't think the other state school in our catchment is necessarily better.

I'm really not sure what to do. Would it be very bad to make the decision to go private for her and disregard her opinion? I'm not very comfortable doing that. On the other hand, I'm the adult... I just feel I'd be doing everything in my hands to give her the best chances in this school. But maybe I'm only thinking that because I want to "do something", if that makes sense?

OP posts:
KidMania · 05/07/2023 09:53

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ICancelledTheCheque · 05/07/2023 10:04

My experience was years ago OP and I would hope that things have changed since then. I left school nearly 20 years ago!

I went to a selective private school. I was very academically capable, and in some subjects would often achieve exam grades in the top of my year (100 or so pupils).

By Y9 I started to lose my way a bit. The schools reaction was consequences or punishments rather than looking to the root cause. They simply couldn’t understand why an academic child would be struggling.

I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult which made a lot of sense. But I do really wish I’d had more support as a child. My ADHD switches between inattentive and hyper focussed - so if it was a subject I didn’t like, or the teacher or environment was boring, I just couldn’t engage. But if I was interested, or busy, I loved it, because I thrive on chaos! But I did burn out completely by sixth form due to the lack of support.

(on the flip side, my autistic brother was sent to a state school because my parents felt he wouldn’t cope with the pressure and rigidity of private. He is also hugely academically capable but failed most of his GCSEs, again due to a lack of support. He switched to a college with better SEN provision and achieved ABB for his a levels).

I suppose my point is that if you’re going to go private or state, check what provision they will put in place for your child. And if she is inattentive and finds it boring, you may not get a good result from private. IME it’s all about the support that’s offered and there’s good and bad in either.

SpaceRaiders · 05/07/2023 10:14

SEN has always been an add on in our school. And that’s seems to be the case for all the senior schools we recently looked at too.

For us the real benefit has been smaller class sizes and a level of support DD’s just did not get at their small village school. Both DD are dyslexic, suspected Autistic and ADHD combined, both very able just need the accommodations to enable them to engage fully. They went prep, village school then back to into prep. I saw a massive improvement in both DD’s learning within a term. The major difference that I see is that when I’ve had concerns, prep have been more than willing to work with me. They’ve quickly put support in place even without formal diagnosis. The village school however—well that’s a long story!

The downsides of smaller classes is it can be somewhat tricky socially. My greatest concern is that they don’t find their tribe. Thankfully both mine have been fine in prep but senior school is where friendships really start becoming tricky.

TR888 · 05/07/2023 10:31

Thanks both. Yes, the social thing is tricky. If you don't find friends in the small year group you're in, or threes conflict, there's nowhere to hide ☹️

OP posts:
mindutopia · 05/07/2023 10:47

All other things being equal, I would go for small class sizes. I went to a private secondary school (as did dh). I don't have any SEN (dh is dyslexic though) but the class size made a huge difference. I did go to a private primary school but it was still 25-30 to a class. Secondary was max 15, but usually more like 6-10. It made a world of difference. I gained a lot more confidence. I was behind in maths and then ended up doing 2 years of maths in one year. I felt supported in a completely different way and loved it. Dh hated secondary school because there was a lot of bullying (it was a very posh rah-rah sort of school, whereas mine wasn't), but he will say that in terms of academics and support from teachers, it was a good thing for him as he was just lost in his previous school.

cheezncrackers · 05/07/2023 10:53

@TR888 I have a 12-year-old with the same diagnosis as your DD and honestly, the single most important thing IMO is medication. Is your DD on medication? Because if she isn't, I highly recommend that you talk to CAMHS about at least trying it. My DC has been in private school since age 4, but to be perfectly honest with you, it was a waste of money until we got him diagnosed, because whether the education was private or state, he couldn't concentrate, focus, listen and learn. He was constantly distracted by other DC, by noises outside the classroom, and by his ADHD brain. Since getting him diagnosed and starting him on medication last summer we have seen his attainment soar. It's not about the school and I wouldn't encourage you to stretch yourselves to send your DD to a private school, when that's not, IMO, the best solution. Medication. Seriously!

Giraffesanddance · 05/07/2023 10:56

Hi OP - my DC is combined adhd ( although sounds more disruptive than your DD). He is going to an independent with high Sen ( luckily via his ehcp).

my main concern is actually similar to yours re the small class sizes and on tasters he has also described it as ‘boring’. However he often describes things as ‘boring’ when he is anxious plus he also doesn’t enjoy his mainstream either! I think his ‘boring’ is actually because other kids aren’t getting into trouble and being disruptive!

One thing the school mentioned is that because it is small there is a lot more x year friendships ( so between older and younger years) and they work to facilitate it. Also tbh although my DC is sociable and thinks he has friends ( and does have some) I do have a a fear that this is something which could get more and more difficult as he gets older. I also suspect that keeping up academically will become increasingly difficult. I suspect the impact on self confidence is likely to become really detrimental.

Obviously it depends on your DD but the final thing for me is I know very few DC with ADHD who haven’t run into lots of problems in mainstream.

Kabbalah · 05/07/2023 11:20

My 16dd went to a private girls' school ( she's now at college for her "A" levels ) but her younger brother still attends the local state school. At my dd's school they had 12 to a class. My son's school has 38, and there is only just enough space in some classrooms to fit everybody.

That's the difference.

TR888 · 05/07/2023 11:30

Hi. My daughter is medicated, yes, and it's definitely helped, especially with her behaviour at home. Also with concentration in class.

So many factors to consider! It's such a difficult decision to make. I have two other kids who'll need to stay in their state school. Financially, we could give them all many more travel and other experiences if we didn't have the privare school expense. On the other hand, I need to think long-term and how my daughter will fare as life puts more and more demands on her. If she gets good habits now, instilled by a school where she can have more support, that should hopefully stand her in good stead for the future...

OP posts:
orangeflags · 05/07/2023 11:34

I went to a school with tiny classes, as did my daughter. I'd not recommend it for a child who has trouble making friends. It can be very isolating, especially if there are odd numbers in the class.

cowzen · 05/07/2023 11:42

One other thought. We are currently in the process of getting an EHCP for my daughter (ADHD/ASD). As part of the support package at her (state) school they arranged for someone to come and observe her in a classroom environment. When I got the report I was shocked. She is academically able but if she gets “bored” then quite disruptive in class. The thing is, it is a level of disruption that goes under the radar in a state school but would almost certainly not be tolerated in many private schools - possibly leading to her being “managed out”. We are also considering private but not sure how many can really meet her needs.

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