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AIBU?

To not want to pay DS's 2022-23 school fees?

138 replies

Avery2024 · 11/02/2024 23:58

Loads of backstory here... 

DS and DD both attended what is regarded as an 'elite private school' (not bragging, just giving context). Over the past 3 years, we have struggled with the fees due to my business closing during Covid and being stuck overseas for almost a year due to travel restrictions. However, the school were understanding and allowed us to enter into a payment plan, which we stuck to.

In 2022, DS entered Year 11 and was clear that he was struggling. He has ADHD (which is medicated) and homeschooling had really not worked for him. Added to this, his friend died in the most horrific circumstances, his best friend's dad committed suicide, his diving teacher was exposed as a paedophile and he was involved in two serious car accidents, all within a very short period of time.  

I reached out to the Head of Learning Enhancement, Mrs G, at the beginning of the year as I felt DS needed some extra help and could we please have a short meeting. The school is very well resourced and she is in charge of coordinating any extra help that the students may need. It is a huge school with a strong emphasis on mental health. Her response was that we should speak again 'after the reports come out'. I replied that this was not for some time and that DS needed some help now as this was a very important year. She ignored my request. I emailed Mrs G a few more times but did not hear back. DS was then savagely beaten up by another boy at the school. The school to their credit dealt with it and expelled the boy. Nevertheless, DS was shaken by this and the incident just added to DS's problems.

A while later and quite suddenly, we noticed a change in DS. Although he was never what you would call an academic high flyer, nevertheless he had ambition and had planned to go to university to study industrial design. He was Design Ambassador at his previous school and it was clear that he had a flair for design. He spoke passionately about having his own design consultancy, buying a live/work unit locally that he had seen and getting a dog.  He had it all planned out.

But suddenly out of the blue he started talking about leaving school as he was "too stupid for uni". He stopped caring about school work and started talking about leaving and taking on manual jobs, which isn't really him. Aside from anything else, he does not like to get dirty. He kept calling himself "dumb" and "useless". He had always been quite a confident boy and this behaviour was new. We had no idea what was going on until I finally heard from Mrs G suggesting we meet. Finally! I told DS in the car when I picked him up from school that Mrs G has finally agreed to meet with us and jokingly said I was tempted to tell her no, she had had her chance. DS then said, "Yeah! And she told [another boy's] mum that I was not the brightest!" I was so shocked I nearly crashed the car. I pulled over and DS burst into tears. He said that everybody thinks he's stupid.  

We arrived home and I immediately emailed Mrs G (and the entire cc list that she had included on her email) that I was furious that she had told ANOTHER PARENT that DS was "not the brightest" and I did not want her anywhere near our son. The other people on cc (Head of Year, Head of Senior School, School Psychologist, etc) quickly organised a meeting (excluding Mrs G) and tried to put a programme together for DS. However, after a few meetings, it was clear that we had lost him. No amount of help was going to do anything now. A few months went by and DS was still completely disengaged from school.

I was still angry at Mrs G as I partly blamed her for us losing nearly a year and for her hurtful comment. We had always been very quiet parents and not ones to make a fuss. Nevertheless, I felt something needed to be done about Mrs G so DH went to see the Headmaster. At the very least, she owed DS an apology. The Headmaster was VERY defensive of Mrs G and kept saying how 'professional' she was. Honestly, that is the last word I would use to describe her. So nothing was done.

Then 2 weeks later and completely out of the blue, the School Accountant contacted us to tell us our Payment Plan was cancelled and we had until the end of the week to settle the fees for both DS and DD. I haven't mentioned DD until now as there's not a lot to say. She is a model student, quiet and well-behaved. She was in Year 5 at the time. The accountant said that if we did not pay the fees by the end of the week, DD 's place would be cancelled with immediate effect. They were allowing DS to stay on as he only had another year to go. This seemed so cruel to DD. She is such a lovely girl. It also didn't make sense. We had a Payment Plan and we were sticking to it. The demand just seemed to come from nowhere.  

DS was still talking about leaving school and becoming a labourer or something, his motivation for school was zero and so I asked the school if they would consider cancelling DS's place and keeping DD. They agreed. So DS left school. We sacrificed DS for DD but felt coerced into it. This was a year ago. Needless to say, the labouring didn't work out. He tried another blue collar job and that didn't work out either. So he's at home, jobless, sad and depressed whilst all his friends are at uni.  

I just feel the school let him down. I am struggling to still pay his fees from his last year at school and I resent it so much. He could have done so well if the school had helped him rather than ridicule him to another parent. I don't want to pay the last year of fees but they've got us over a barrel with DD.

Thanks for listening. Would like to know your thoughts.

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?

674 votes. Final results.

POLL
You are being unreasonable
62%
You are NOT being unreasonable
38%
Acapulco12 · 12/02/2024 00:22

i’m so sorry to read this. You and your DS have been through so much. Unfortunately I don’t have any helpful advice to give you, but I’m hoping that others will. I just wanted to say I’m so sorry about this situation.

This is a bit off-topic, as it’s not to do with what you’ve asked for advice on, but you mention your DS is unhappy. What would he like to do at the moment? Would he like to go back to school to do his last couple of years of school and then go to uni maybe, or would he like to start work now?

Avery2024 · 12/02/2024 00:26

Thank you so much @Acapulco12, I really appreciate your reply. He has lost all confidence. I honestly can't see him returning to education.

OP posts:
Acapulco12 · 12/02/2024 00:42

I’m really sorry to hear it. Would something like therapy or mentoring help your son? It might help him with processing the difficult things he’s been through and with looking forward to what he can go on to do next.

Guavafish1 · 12/02/2024 00:56

Sounds like the school didn't help your son in many ways and a relationship break down with the school.

You can not change the past now, I think you have to focus on helping your sons mental health.

He can still go to university, he can retake exams and go to college too.

If he is not academically gifted, then maybe other vocational or apprentship based course would better suit him.

Krystall · 12/02/2024 01:01

I work in a private school in the finance department and specifically dealing with the school bills. We sometimes agree to a payment plan for a pupil that left without notice, but we would never do that for current pupils so your particular situation isn’t one that we would encounter. We also have a more structured process for escalation of non payment and would never have suddenly announced pay by the end of the week or the places are withdrawn. Our ‘final warning’ comes in the form of payment by [last day of half term] or there will be no place at the start of the next half term - and there will have been a lot of communication before that point too.

But that aside, if you do not pay your older debt relating to your son’s past fees, you would definitely be jeopardising your daughter’s place if this was at my school. In fact we would allocate money that you believe you are paying for her fees to the older debt and we reserve the right to do that in our parents’ contract.

I don’t want to comment on Mrs G too much as I am not teaching staff, the comment was inappropriate and unprofessional, but is it a stretch to blame it for everything that went wrong for your son? It sounds like there were a lot of other factors in play that were not the schools fault.

As to where you are now, well as you have identified your position is weak as you have a child at the school that you want to stay at the school. We do not waive fees easily and certainly not when there is a child still at the school.

I once saw a parent effectively argue his way out of paying for a term in lieu of notice because his child had left because of bullying, although the dissimilarities to your situation are that he didn’t have another child there and also his daughter did not receive that teaching, the fees were charged because there wasn’t a full term of notice, whereas it sounds like your son did attend school for a period that fees have not been paid for.

TheBeeHives · 12/02/2024 01:04

all the best op, whats the reasons for "Accountant contacted us to tell us our Payment Plan was cancelled" was there any reasons etc

Testina · 12/02/2024 01:06

It sounds like his issues went far beyond school. What an awful year for him 😢

Did he sit any GCSEs last summer?
I can’t work out the timeline here - is the Y11 in 2022 a mistake? It doesn’t fit with him leaving to get a job a year ago when your daughter stayed on instead, or fit with his friends being a university - he wouldn’t be due to go until Sep 2025.

I think moving forward depends a bit on what his actual age and GCSEs are. Sounds like therapy plus get into a different education environment would be the way forward - local college, practical design related course perhaps. But mostly some healing time first.

Whether you need to pay the year’s school fees would depend on your contract.

I don’t really understand the comment about being over a barrel with your daughter.. why on earth would you want her there! Sounds like she’s around the right age to move to secondary - is she Y6 now?

StephanieLampshade · 12/02/2024 01:11

I do hope your son has been seeing a trauma therapist.

That isn't something the school would have in house.

If not then organising that should be the first priority.

Untreated trauma becomes more and more problematic.

I'm not sure the school were responsible for this.

Unfortunately with an elite and oversubscribed private school, they will want to protect their exam results and reputation and I think the situation became difficult for them to resolve. Not admirable behaviour.

If you don't pay they will take legal action so I would make arrangements to pay.

But trauma therapy is essential.

defiant2024 · 12/02/2024 01:14

I would not pay. I would not have my other child in this shithole either.

Jellycatspyjamas · 12/02/2024 01:23

I replied that this was not for some time and that DS needed some help now as this was a very important year. She ignored my request. I emailed Mrs G a few more times but did not hear back. DS was then savagely beaten up by another boy at the school.

To be honest, this is the point at which you needed to send that “copied to all” email stressing your sons need for additional support in school and demanding a meeting. This is a service you’re paying for, I wouldn’t accept that from a state school much less one I was paying school fees for.

I don’t know that there’s much you can do now, he’s left school and at the time you didn’t really deal with the alleged comment from the teacher - did you ever meet with her to find out her side of things? I know as a parent of SEN kids I’m very used to having to fight their corner, being quiet and not making a fuss doesn’t really work.

I’d try asking for a waiver of the fees for the year he effectively didn’t attend due to lack of support from the school (evidenced by your emails asking for a meeting that went unanswered) but I think it’s a long shot.

Schoolrefusa · 12/02/2024 01:23

This is so upsetting to read as if does sound like Mrs G could have helped and instead caused huge damage. I disagree one can't blame her for everything as it can take one person's lack of action and then damaging words to completely crush your DS' confidence and to tip a vulnerable child (from what he had already been through) from coping to not coping . And it is very hard to rebuild that damage. I could not be leaving it there.
I feel for you OP as if you owe fees from before he left (for terms he had already spent there) it sounds more complicated. I would raise a complaint that your payment plan should not have been changed with so little notice as this sounds very bad practice.

Could you move your daughter ?

Avery2024 · 12/02/2024 01:30

Thanks for all your replies. I would like to request a waiver of Fees for Year 11 and half of Year 12. They totally let him down.

OP posts:
caringcarer · 12/02/2024 01:34

I'd pay because your DS was taught by the school and if they took you to court they would definitely win. Your DS clearly had a year from hell to deal with. From what you say his best friend dying, his friends Dad committing suicide and 2 X car accidents were not in any way related to the school. They dealt with the bullying swiftly and effectively. Mrs G should have been more professional. I think that is your only gripe with the school. Have you thought you yourself stated when school suggested your DD left you sacrificed your DS for your DD. After all he had been through that was not kind of you. You see how he is now, not only does he probably think his school let him down he probably thinks you love your DD more than him. I'd get him urgent counselling. Then I'd be looking to get him into a different educational environment. Try a college. Look at apprenticeships. Speak to a career adviser with your son. Make him see you haven't given up on him. I'd move your DD at the end of this academic year so be giving her notice before the end of the Easter term. You must pay your debts to the school though.

Testina · 12/02/2024 01:37

What country are you in? If he was England / Wales, no elite private school would have let him enter Y12 without very good GCSE results in Y11. As you’re asking a legal point on refusing to pay, it would help to know. And for posters like the one above with direct experience in private school debt repayment, and again it could make a difference in another country, what normal practice was.

I think you would be hard pressed to get a waiver on Y11, because you would be deemed “happy” with what they delivered, when you kept him there for Y12, until he withdrew.

BananaSpanner · 12/02/2024 01:43

He needs to apply for a local college for courses that interest him, they don’t have to be hugely academic but something related to his interests.

To be honest, given the way the school have treated you re this payment plan, I would be withdrawing DD from there also. You are not going to be able to argue anything with them in relation to fees if you have another one still there and it sounds like the relationship has broken down anyway. If she would be due to start y7 in September, this summer would be a good time to move her.

ArseInTheCoOpWindow · 12/02/2024 01:46

Avery2024 · 11/02/2024 23:58

Loads of backstory here... 

DS and DD both attended what is regarded as an 'elite private school' (not bragging, just giving context). Over the past 3 years, we have struggled with the fees due to my business closing during Covid and being stuck overseas for almost a year due to travel restrictions. However, the school were understanding and allowed us to enter into a payment plan, which we stuck to.

In 2022, DS entered Year 11 and was clear that he was struggling. He has ADHD (which is medicated) and homeschooling had really not worked for him. Added to this, his friend died in the most horrific circumstances, his best friend's dad committed suicide, his diving teacher was exposed as a paedophile and he was involved in two serious car accidents, all within a very short period of time.  

I reached out to the Head of Learning Enhancement, Mrs G, at the beginning of the year as I felt DS needed some extra help and could we please have a short meeting. The school is very well resourced and she is in charge of coordinating any extra help that the students may need. It is a huge school with a strong emphasis on mental health. Her response was that we should speak again 'after the reports come out'. I replied that this was not for some time and that DS needed some help now as this was a very important year. She ignored my request. I emailed Mrs G a few more times but did not hear back. DS was then savagely beaten up by another boy at the school. The school to their credit dealt with it and expelled the boy. Nevertheless, DS was shaken by this and the incident just added to DS's problems.

A while later and quite suddenly, we noticed a change in DS. Although he was never what you would call an academic high flyer, nevertheless he had ambition and had planned to go to university to study industrial design. He was Design Ambassador at his previous school and it was clear that he had a flair for design. He spoke passionately about having his own design consultancy, buying a live/work unit locally that he had seen and getting a dog.  He had it all planned out.

But suddenly out of the blue he started talking about leaving school as he was "too stupid for uni". He stopped caring about school work and started talking about leaving and taking on manual jobs, which isn't really him. Aside from anything else, he does not like to get dirty. He kept calling himself "dumb" and "useless". He had always been quite a confident boy and this behaviour was new. We had no idea what was going on until I finally heard from Mrs G suggesting we meet. Finally! I told DS in the car when I picked him up from school that Mrs G has finally agreed to meet with us and jokingly said I was tempted to tell her no, she had had her chance. DS then said, "Yeah! And she told [another boy's] mum that I was not the brightest!" I was so shocked I nearly crashed the car. I pulled over and DS burst into tears. He said that everybody thinks he's stupid.  

We arrived home and I immediately emailed Mrs G (and the entire cc list that she had included on her email) that I was furious that she had told ANOTHER PARENT that DS was "not the brightest" and I did not want her anywhere near our son. The other people on cc (Head of Year, Head of Senior School, School Psychologist, etc) quickly organised a meeting (excluding Mrs G) and tried to put a programme together for DS. However, after a few meetings, it was clear that we had lost him. No amount of help was going to do anything now. A few months went by and DS was still completely disengaged from school.

I was still angry at Mrs G as I partly blamed her for us losing nearly a year and for her hurtful comment. We had always been very quiet parents and not ones to make a fuss. Nevertheless, I felt something needed to be done about Mrs G so DH went to see the Headmaster. At the very least, she owed DS an apology. The Headmaster was VERY defensive of Mrs G and kept saying how 'professional' she was. Honestly, that is the last word I would use to describe her. So nothing was done.

Then 2 weeks later and completely out of the blue, the School Accountant contacted us to tell us our Payment Plan was cancelled and we had until the end of the week to settle the fees for both DS and DD. I haven't mentioned DD until now as there's not a lot to say. She is a model student, quiet and well-behaved. She was in Year 5 at the time. The accountant said that if we did not pay the fees by the end of the week, DD 's place would be cancelled with immediate effect. They were allowing DS to stay on as he only had another year to go. This seemed so cruel to DD. She is such a lovely girl. It also didn't make sense. We had a Payment Plan and we were sticking to it. The demand just seemed to come from nowhere.  

DS was still talking about leaving school and becoming a labourer or something, his motivation for school was zero and so I asked the school if they would consider cancelling DS's place and keeping DD. They agreed. So DS left school. We sacrificed DS for DD but felt coerced into it. This was a year ago. Needless to say, the labouring didn't work out. He tried another blue collar job and that didn't work out either. So he's at home, jobless, sad and depressed whilst all his friends are at uni.  

I just feel the school let him down. I am struggling to still pay his fees from his last year at school and I resent it so much. He could have done so well if the school had helped him rather than ridicule him to another parent. I don't want to pay the last year of fees but they've got us over a barrel with DD.

Thanks for listening. Would like to know your thoughts.

My Dd dropped out of school in Year 12. She’s got AUDHD. She hadn’t been through the same as your ds but was totally traumatised by school and refused to set foot in a school ever again.

12 months later she has an EHCP and is going to an ASD 6 th form. One or 2 children to
a teacher. Quiet, easy relaxed but very supportive staff. Each child has their own support mentor. Anything less like a school is hard to imagine.

Give him time. You need an EHCP.

dorajean · 12/02/2024 02:44

@Avery2024
I’m very sorry to hear about all that your DS has been through.
I think the priority now is helping his mental health & maybe helping him start some activities he enjoys.
For mental health - it sounds like he needs some kind of therapy/counselling/maybe CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I think he needs to contact his GP. Also see if he can get a referral to mental health services in your area - often GPs refer or he might be able to self-refer if he feels able to.
I suggest looking at some websites that might help for mental health ideas, e.g. Mind, Young minds, ADHD Foundation etc.
He might find some mental health apps useful. There are many different types - e.g. Headspace is well recommended as is the Samaritans app. Find what works for him.
The website ‘get self help’ is a great starting place to try to help yourself if you are waiting for a referral to mental health services. E.g.

This overview on low self-esteem and self help.
https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/media/r3zllrdf/selfesteemqr.pdf

This worksheet on depression and self help.
https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/DepressionSelfHelp.pdf

They also have an ADHD self help webpage (disclaimer - it’s very long so I haven’t read it all - you might want to read it all yourself before passing it to your DS).
https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/adhd-self-help/


I also think you and your DS should get together and brainstorm any activities he’d like to do/try. This could be anything to help get his spirits up. Something with a routine will probably be particularly helpful. E.g. any clubs he’d like to try? Running club, football club, choir, orchestra, craft club, IT club, programming club etc. etc.
Any general activities he’d like to try? Maybe he would like to try going to the gym or going swimming etc.
Any volunteering opportunities that might interest him? E.g. volunteering in a nature conservation organisation, volunteering at a local museum he’s interested in, volunteering in a charity shop etc.
Absolutely no pressure if he’s not ready for this yet, but he might like to think about any jobs that would interest him - that could be a part-time job in his favourite shop that he wants to apply for, to a longer-term career/job goal he’d like to begin to pursue.

Also there might be ADHD support groups he could access (online or in your local area).

Also, it’s so easy to compare himself to ‘all his friends at uni’ but there’s likely some people he knows that aren’t at university now. Even so, I was reminded of the phrase ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. As hard as it is, it is probably healthier for you and him to focus on his life now and what steps he wants to take to improve his life, than thinking of ‘all his friends having fun at uni without him’.

Best wishes to you and your DS

https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/DepressionSelfHelp.pdf

Ohnoooooooo · 12/02/2024 02:51

At my daughter’s private school you could send a complaint into the board and ask for fees to be waivered or reduced - could you do that?
I’m sorry it sounds like your son has had a horrendous time. I am wondering though did you speak to the other parent who apparently had told you son Mrs G said he as not bright? I am wondering if your son’s friend said his mum said that…and there is a case of Chinese whispers changing things slightly or the other boy said this to put down your son?

businesshelp · 12/02/2024 03:56

This sounds like an awful situation to be in. Poor DS. I second looking into an apprenticeship - you don't have to be very academic to get in and there's so much variety.

Lougle · 12/02/2024 04:20

I am sorry he has had such a hard time. What a lot to cope with. However, I think your description of 'blue collar job' says a lot and it sounds like he has taken on feelings of failure because of the value you place on academic success.

I agree that an EHCP is the way forward.

Frangipanyoul8r · 12/02/2024 04:31

He’s had an awful time of it but it sounds like his school issues in isolation wouldn’t have derailed him from his studies alone. It’s everything that’s happened out of school that’s been the issue.

It sounds like there’s a melting pot of family and financial issues happening for you at the moment. Unfortunately you just have to keep going through it all, don’t waste too much energy on this one issue.

DomPom47 · 12/02/2024 04:48

Did your son sit his GCSE’s? Grades?
If he hasn’t done so he needs to speak to a professional about how he is feeling and work on his self confidence.
He does not need to go to university and he has not enjoyed the jobs he attempted.
Have you/he thought about apprenticeships linked to design?
https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/apprentices/browse-by-interests/creative-design#

Creative and design

https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/apprentices/browse-by-interests/creative-design#

MCOut · 12/02/2024 05:08

Your poor DS. What is their complaints procedure, is there someone you can escalate to above the head? They are punishing you for advocating for your child so it’s completely understandable for you not to want to pay but I think you will have to negotiate on that.

Your DS needs some therapy and then see if you can insist that he retakes Yr 12 & 13 in a more supportive environment. Especially with older children it’s hard to do but try because him doing blue collar work is completely OTT, don’t entertain it. I had a friend who was struggling so our school held her back a year and she’s now got a PhD. There are retake specialist places.

Mumof2teens79 · 12/02/2024 05:34

Avery2024 · 12/02/2024 01:30

Thanks for all your replies. I would like to request a waiver of Fees for Year 11 and half of Year 12. They totally let him down.

I thought he left before Y12? Didn't he leave a yearvago half way through Y11?

10ThousandSpoons · 12/02/2024 05:44

What were the T&Cs for the payment plan?

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