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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:
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Am I being unreasonable?

674 votes. Final results.

POLL
You are being unreasonable
62%
You are NOT being unreasonable
38%
NotQuiteNorma · 12/02/2024 07:57

I agree. It does seem a case of looking for reasons not to pay. Possibly a bit pissed that her DD has also been cancelled. Half of the original post doesn't really seem relevant to be honest. If you are going to decide to ask for a waiver on fees because you think the school let your child down then you need proof at the very least, not hearsay. You still benefited from the academic year. From the schools point of view, if you have indeed gone off on one based on gossip you can't verify as fact against Mrs G, why would they want your kids to remain?

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Ggttl · 12/02/2024 07:57

CatchAButterfly · 12/02/2024 07:50

Your DS has had a horrific time and I hope he is now doing ok. But honestly, sounds like you’re just looking for an excuse not to pay. You were already struggling with the fees and it does sound like you think you’ve found a reason to save money. But seeing as this happened when he was in year 11, and you’re talking about trying to avoid year 12 fees too, it clearly wasn’t that big a deal to you as otherwise you would have pulled him out.

YANBU to be annoyed at Mrs G. YABU to not pay school fees.

I agree with this. It doesn’t sound like the right place for your son but you were not forced to keep him there. Presumably the school has been providing lessons, food, facilities etc. so I don’t think you will be able to get your money back.

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SausageRollsWithMustard · 12/02/2024 07:58

Did you actually establish what Mrs G said?
It all sounds a bit 'he said she said' to me.

Although what you need to do is to focus on your son. He needs some therapy, maybe tutoring, or to concentrate on his design or related hobbies for a while, to build up his confidence.
And a 'labourer 'type job (as you describe it) is not the worst. People like builders, electricians etc are very skilled and potentially can earn a lot! It actually might work very well if he has an eye for design.

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theeyeshaveit82 · 12/02/2024 08:00

Did you actually establish what Mrs G said? 

of course the OP didn’t

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Viviennemary · 12/02/2024 08:02

The point is private schools need to balance their budgets. If the payment plan wasnt guaranteed then they can terminate it. It doesn't sound the right school for your DS. But if there are financial issues at home and you are unable to pay the school fees then that's more stress for the family and not really the schools fault.

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Scarletttulips · 12/02/2024 08:02

There is a failure to educate law - I don’t know much about it, but as the school is a business and you are required to pay fees, maybe suggest that?

As far as your sons concerned I would get him some councilling and consider a college coarse for September - or if he’s still wants a job maybe a low end retail position would be a good starting point?

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HenndigoOZ · 12/02/2024 08:03

I am guessing that as they are an elite private school, they have a waiting list and they just decided to try and make your family disappear with the payment plan cancellation and demand you suddenly settle up, even though you were sticking to the payment schedule.

I work for an Australian private school (a low fee one) and we would never cancel a payment plan that was working. It seems very odd tbh.

Unfortunately you probably should have asked for the fee waiver at the time of asking DS’s place be cancelled, when it seems they were most keen for him to go. Did they make you sign a contract upon enrolment about paying fees in lieu of notice upon departure? If so, then legally it will be difficult to argue for non payment of fees.

I would claim financial hardship (as your business isn’t doing well and you are supporting your DS) and ask for a new, long payment plan with small amounts. Going to court would be a pain from their perspective and they would most likely prefer to opt for the new payment plan.

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thaegumathteth · 12/02/2024 08:04

You'll have to pay the fees so forget that line of enquiry.

I have absolutely no idea why you'd want your Dd in the school - I presume she hasn't always been there given your ds was previously in another school and he's older?

Focus on your ds. I am saying this kindly but I don't think it's just the school who has let him down. I'd be a lot less worried about qualifications and a lot more worried about mental health right now. You need to get him help and really support him and not prioritise what you see as success.

I'd 100% move your daughter. You can't afford the fees, the school and you have a bad relationship and she's young enough to do it without impacting exams.

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Onelifeonly · 12/02/2024 08:06

I know nothing about private schools but, like any other business, assume they have contracts and can't just waive fees for time spent in education there.

Given the trauma was caused by circumstances which had nothing to do with the school (other than Mrs G saying he wasn't that bright - how does he / do you even know this?), I can't understand why you pinned all hopes on a meeting with Mrs G? Did your son not see a GP and did you not ask for therapeutic support? I understand a school might have a counsellor or similar, but from what you say, this situation went far beyond a bit of anxiety over work or friendships and needed more specialised input.

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Dolphinnoises · 12/02/2024 08:08

If you do that, they will chuck your DD out, and you know it. Bluntly, they have you over a barrel. Are you still managing the fees without the payment plan?

Your trust in this school has gone, and I don’t blame you. Is there another school your DD could go to?

Your DS needs to find his anger. Perhaps with therapy he can come to see that Mrs G is just a person, one of millions, not the final arbiter of DS’s character.

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Anjea · 12/02/2024 08:10

Almost crashing your car because of an alleged comment to another parent's is incredibly over the top.

I think after all your DS went through it's impossible to pinpoint one alleged comment to his problems, poor kid.

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Glonty · 12/02/2024 08:11

Which worktops are better?
I love being able to out hot pans/dishes on ours ans it's really easy to clean

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Onelifeonly · 12/02/2024 08:14

Pay them what you owe and focus on supporting your poor son. You are focusing on the wrong thing. What's happened has happened and can't be changed, however angry you get and whoever you choose to blame. He needs mental health support. He can get a job that isn't 'labouring' or 'blue collar' and work his way back into education when he is ready. I know several people who gained degrees long after they left their late teens / early 20s.

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SiobahnRoy · 12/02/2024 08:15

Honestly can’t understand why you’d continue to pay for something you clearly can’t afford. Remove daughter and support son.

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Jellyx · 12/02/2024 08:16

Is it true the teacher ridiculed him to another parent? Perhaps the other student was lying to him in order to bully him.

You said yourself your child is not academic (was the private education wasted on him). When you seen him struggling and school were unable or chose not to support him AND when you seen he's not the academic type you should have removed him yourself - especially with the financial stress. Perhaps your child is feeling down as he feels his parents wasted their money?

I think this is unfair to blame it all on the teacher/ school. You've mentioned lot of traumatic things have gone on and thy coupled with your sons personality / academic limitations have left him feeling down /with low self esteem.

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Jellyx · 12/02/2024 08:18

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.

Ok-
Let's days their service was crap. You chose to keep him there for 18months. I can't eat 1.5 plates of dinner then say it was rubbish and not pay!

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Witsend101 · 12/02/2024 08:19

Completely missing the point but given how you say your son was treated and how uncaring the school sounds why would you leave your daughter at the school? Especially when you can't afford it.

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Diamondcurtains · 12/02/2024 08:23

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#

This would be my suggestion.

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Tetsuo · 12/02/2024 08:29

@Avery2024, I actually have experience of this with a very similar situation and my DD.

So you have withdrawn him.

They will more than likely pursue you for the fees. It is incumbent for them to do that. The job of the bursar is to chase you for monies owed.

My situation went to court, so you will get a notice from the court which gives you a right to redress, and this is where you need to respond, clearly and with all the points you have made, where the school failed, where they did not adhere to agreements (attach any correspondence, emails, notes of meetings etc).

Be very clear, factual, and unemotional. Give a time-line of events and refer to the points at which they have not engaged with the contact that you as a parent, had with the school (refer to their inclusion contract, it will be available on their website somewhere).

In my case, they withdrew.

You absolutely have a case for similar.

But know they will pursue, so it's up to you to be bolshy and refute. With evidence.

PM me if you need to.

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Tetsuo · 12/02/2024 08:32

And my DD is now at agricultural college talking maths and English GCSE and a BTec in Agricultural Engineering and really happy and settled.

Search for alternative providers, they are out there.

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Flamme · 12/02/2024 08:40

You can always ask, and you should escalate it to the governors. However, if they say no I don't think there is too much you can do. As @Krystall has pointed out, they will simply allocate the fees you are paying for your daughter to the other debt and threaten to withdraw her place. Also my understanding is that private schools are pretty ruthless about suing. You could point out to them that, if they do sue, the way they treated your son will come out and will undoubtedly hit the papers, but it would still be very difficult for you to defend the claim successfully: they will point out, correctly, that there were lots of other reasons for your son's difficulties, and I'm afraid they will paint him as a flake and you as unreasonable parents. If you lost, you would be liable for their costs, and they do tend to instruct expensive lawyers. They might withdraw, as happened with @Tetsuo, but to be honest I wouldn't want to rely on it and it would be really stressful for you.

It does sound as if you are better walking away from this and concentrating on your son's recovery.

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BigDogEnergy · 12/02/2024 08:42

I'm not surprised your poor son is struggling so much if you "nearly crashed the car" as a result of someone saying he wasn't very bright. Your question should be how can i support my son, not how can I get out of paying these fees. You need to be investing in your sons emotional and mental health right now. He needs to build resilience and process his traumas before he can then start to find his own path.

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Moonpig82 · 12/02/2024 08:42

Hi OP What a horrible time for your son. There seems to be too much weighting on what Mrs G said ruining your son, when it’s cleat there are sadly many other factors that have lead to this current situation.

How is your son now? Is he receiving any support for his mental health?

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DreamyCyanFinch · 12/02/2024 08:44

Hello,
Just wanted to sympathise with you and your son.I have a daughter about the same age who has suffered with low selfesteem.
Even though doing well academicaly.

I just wanted to say what helped her was getting a dog, she had a pet to concerntrate on, also when she felt very stressed about school work.

Also I think your son needs to have some successes to see that he can achieve things even if not academicaly.

My son also suffered low level bullying from supposid friends re his intelligence but we managed to reason with him about this.The friends not doing any better than him.Also with regard to what sort of people say such nasty things unhappy people who maybe have doubts about themselves.

My son is study an very academicaly challenging subject now, and he also had a bit of bullying from a tutor.We managed to all have a good chat about it as a family and hopefully made him feel better about it.
I would really like to help you not sure this has but he's really lucky your son, to have a supportive family.Keep supporting him try and discuss his feeling about being dumb.Make him see it's a delusion that he is dumb.

You've all had a really unlucky time I really hope he gets out doing things and not stuck in a rut at home.
Good luck

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Moonlaserbearwolf · 12/02/2024 08:48

I also think you are focusing too much on Mrs G. Your son has had some traumatic experiences and needs help. In situations like this, it makes life easier for us to focus on 1 specific thing or individual. But, objectively, Mrs G is not the main focus here.

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