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I'd really appreciate some contract advice please. A bit complicated. Sorry.

16 replies

avenanap · 04/04/2008 21:24

You may have read me moan on about this before and I am very sorry to ask again.

My ds is at a private school. He was moved there because he was being bullied by teachers in the state school he attended, he's very, very bright (and can be a bit eccentric and enthusiastic)and the head of the private school had experience and knowledge of working with gifted children. He is socially inapt and needs strong pastoral care. Whilst she was there she set up a behaviour programme for him and was able to offer him the support that he needed. Without warning she left and a new head took over. I had a meeting with him about ds's problems and was assured that he had the knowledge and experience to be able to help ds. Over the term the head stopped supporting ds pastoraly, he stopped using the behaviour programme and has resorted to bullying ds. ds and other children have commented on how unfairly ds is being treated by a few members of staff, he is getting into trouble for minor things, there are others getting away with doing alot more. ds is excluded from clubs because he's laughing at the behaviour of another child, this other child is allowed to continue with the clubs, ds is not. The head has told me that he considers ds to be opinionated (I know about this, being very bright does not help) and uncaring towards others, yet he can say nothing of what ds has done to back this up. I have requested details of what ds is doing so that I can help him but the head says nothing. ds is getting no support from the school, I offer the head help but I am ignored. ds has said he is not listened to. It is fairly clear that the head has no knoweldge of how to care for gifted children so I feel like he has mislead me. I have found a new school for ds for september but there is another term left at his current school. I can only just afford to pay the final terms fees but I really don't want to pay if my child is treated like this. The whole point of him being there was so that he could have the benefit of the heads experience and the pastoral care so I consider this to be a breach of my contract with them. ds had a teacher in september who was fired after a term because he was too soft and the children were not working and messing around so I consider this to be a waste of a terms fees. I have paid the last terms fees late but I am very reluctant to pay any more as I have not been happy with the level of care that ds has been recieving. I am unsure as to what to do next. I don't want to put it down to experience as I have spent alot of money already on his school fees. I could not take ds back after easter and claim poverty but I don't know how fair this would be on ds. I am tempted to request that I am not charged for the last term and that ds is treated fairly in return for me not suing them for breach of contract. I don't know what to do. I would really appreciate your suggestions.

OP posts:
K999 · 04/04/2008 21:27

What does your contract say exactly? What mention is there of the kind of care that your son will receive?

LaComtesse · 04/04/2008 21:32

Are you talking about express or implied terms of the contract? My brain isn't quite awake at the moment but I think - as K999 has already said - what it says in the contract. I'm not sure that your DS woudld be treated fairly under the circs you describe. It may be better to withdraw him now and save the fees for something else.

Miggsie · 04/04/2008 21:32

If you recieved verbal assurance that your DS would be treated in a certain way this is treated as binding, just as binding as a written contract in legal terms.
You do have a case in that the verbal assurances were not fulfilled, therefore they broke the contract by failing to provide reasonable care and specifically the items you discussed that led to you placing your son at this school.
You can write a letter citing this and say you consider the contract broken and therefore you will not be paying the next terms fees and you can withdraw your son.
This is covered by consumer contract law and you could also claim "unfair contract" if the written contract insists you pay a terms fees even after you withdraw your child.
However I would go for the broken contract of the verbal agreement.
If they cannot cite specific instances of your son's "misbehaviour" they have no case and you can claim the school made it untenable for you to keep your child there. Failure of provsion of care etc.

avenanap · 04/04/2008 21:32

I don't ever remember signing or having a contract, it was 4 years ago. I know I was never given a copy if I did sign one. On the schools web site it says about their high levels of pastoral care and how the children are treated as individuals .

OP posts:
K999 · 04/04/2008 21:42

Perhaps you have more of a chance suing them for misrepresentation then......if you have no written, formal contract as such then this makes tings quite difficult. even if you have a verbal agreement it will be open to interpretation and if you have no 'consensus in idem' then you have no contract as such.....

scanner · 04/04/2008 21:46

It might be worth investing in the cost of a well drafted solicitors letter.

avenanap · 04/04/2008 21:58

It would cost alot less than the fees.

I spoke to his teacher at the end of last term abut how he was being treated and he's said he'll speak to the rest of the staff. Should I take him and not pay the fees on the day he goes back to see if things have changed or give up and not take him back? I hate decisions like this.

This is what they say about their discipline policy: "There is excellent discipline and high standards of behaviour at our school. Other ?negative? ways of dealing with disputes are firmly discouraged and are not part of our culture. There are sanctions in place for less positive behaviour but we have a strong belief and practice in ?not getting the dirty linen out in public?. Pupils are never sent out, made to stand outside the classroom or disciplined publicly.

There is a ?Worry Procedure? in place for the pupils at the School. This is a procedure that every child understands and shows them where they can go and who they can see if in trouble, upset or worried in any way during the school day."
I asked ds about this, he knew nothing about it

OP posts:
K999 · 04/04/2008 22:10

Ask to see examples of their outstanding and excellent procedures.....they should have them all to hand if they are so good. And ask them why your ds knows nothing about them?

avenanap · 04/04/2008 22:20

I did ask them for a copy of his last school report so I could send it to a school, that was 3 months ago and I'm still waiting.I've asked the head if I can have an appointment with him when ds goes back but he has not responded. I can't get any information from them, whenever I ask they just ignore me. The 'worry procedure' really pissed me off though. They have never had anything like this. It's like they are lying to get more children into the school. I have given them the terms notice, ds wants to go back to see his friends and be in the school play. I've told him we can go on holiday with the money we'll be saving. His teacher's nice and he's finally been given work which is at his level. He keeps telling me all of the things he'll be doing when he goes back to school (minus the clubs he's been thrown off). I want him to go back to finish the year but I don't want him mistreated. I also think I should have some of the fees that I have paid back as they have not fulfilled their part of the contract. I'm so confused

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K999 · 04/04/2008 22:34

Sounds very suspicios to me and I suspect that they are certainly guilty of misrepresenting the kind of services that they offer. Keep on at them and tbh if you are still unhappy then it may be worth getting a lawyer to send a letter......

avenanap · 04/04/2008 22:41

Should I pay next terms fees do you think? I think I'll give the head the chance to contact me, I'll hear what he has to say then see a solicitor. I'll pay next terms fees if all is well and not take ds back if it is not and keep the fees, citing misrepresentation and breach of contract etc. Do you think this sounds fair?

You have been really helpful, thankyou.

OP posts:
K999 · 04/04/2008 22:56

Sounds perfectly fair to me. Ask to see everything you can. You must have a contract if you are paying least so that you know what you are expected to pay and when etc. Ask to see procedures/inspection reports. Hassle them and get on their case. I know it is a pain in the backside for you but you really have to let them know that you are seriously unhappy about your son's care. You also may find that other parents are feeling the same way. Ask around and get some kind of feedback from them.

Dont sweep it under the carpet. State your case and stick to it. Dont let them bully/intimidate or fob you off. You are the customer - you are paying the fees - you have the welfare or your son to consider and THEY are the ones who are supposed to be providing a service.....if it is sub-standard then you should flippin well let them know!!!

If you stop paying the fees you will prob soon find out soon enought that you do have a contract as they will prob try to sue you for breack of it!

missingtheaction · 04/04/2008 22:56

Write to the governers IMMEDIATLEY laying out your experiences and dissatisfactions very clearly

  • give notice that DS will be leaving the school at the end of the summer term (then you are covered if you take him out of the school then) becuase you feel the school is no longer delivering its promises

  • Do NOT just send him in and not pay without saying anything - this would put you in breach of contract, it's just like shoplifting effectively as the main product the school is supplying is education, not pastoral care. You would be taking the product without paying, and without any notice to the school. The school would be within its rights to refuse to accept him next term and/orto chase you for payment for next term for not giving notice that he is leaving!(because you will be on a term's notice). You need to stay in the right not put yourself in the wrong!

  • go and see a solicitor NOW before term starts for good advice about what to do for the coming term. I suspect you will have to pay, especially if he attends school, but if you start proceedings before term starts you might just argue yourself into next term as a 'sample' term - ie if the school effects changes and you are happy then you will stay, if not you will go and they will refund the money

  • put the time and effort and stress into finding a good alternative school for him. It is FAR better to switch him to a new school than leave him somewhere that is not right for him. IME a school is its headmaster - if you don't agree with the head then the school is not for you or your child

  • you may need to consider seriously different options like boarding school or homeschooling + private tutors to find the right solution for him

DO NOT send him in knowing you have no intention of paying!
avenanap · 04/04/2008 23:12

There are alot of parents that are unhappy how the school is being run, there are no governors to complain to, just him. He has publicly shouted at one parent that has complained about her child not being chosen for a sports team despite being good and attending most of the practice sessions with children that can't play, he threatened to give her child a bad reference for the next school (it's a primary). I have given them a terms notice, I have found ds a school that has experience of very bright children, I have been to see the head prior to moving ds to the current school but he was too young to start. The fees for the current school have to be paid by the first day of term, if I pay them and send him back there's no guarantee how he'll be treated, especially now I have given them notice. The current head wants ds to go to a boarding school because I'm a single mum . He's very vocal in his opinions. The first school ds spent an asssessment day at turned him down after speaking to the head because this wasn't the type of school he had suggested. (They said he needed somewhere smaller so he could learn to socialise although I had already told them he had been having problems before he went). I don't want him to go back and I don't want to have to pay them money I can't afford. The fees will completely clean me out.

OP posts:
K999 · 04/04/2008 23:14

Oh gosh I wish I could tell you what to do but I cant really I'm afraid. I know this must be stressful for you. Sleep on it. Dont make any rash decisions now. I am off to bed now but will keep an eye on this thread over the weekend. If I think of anyting else I will post here......

avenanap · 04/04/2008 23:20

Thankyou. You have been really helpful. I'm thinking things through very carefully, that's why I'm so confused. It's a damage limitation exercise. He knows I'm broke so I don't think they'll chase me for the fees if I don't take him back. I might give the new school a ring and see if they can take him after easter and give them the money instead.

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