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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:20 am 
:? How can you be sure that you have chosen the right school for your child? I have read all of the ofsted reports, made notes about things I want clarification on, looked at the KS3, GCSE & A Level results, listened to other parents about their children's experiences at the school and even looked at the children going to and from school, but I am still so worried that 'we' may make a wrong decision.

My little man sat the 11+ at Spalding GS, but we are out of catchment. We are slightly geographically close to Bourne Grammer, but still out of catchment. He has recently changed primary schools, something that I was concerned about being his final yr at Primary and so he sat the exam at Spalding GS with all those from his previous primary school in an attempt to make him feel more comfortable, but I am not sure that this was such a good idea. We have looked at both grammar schools and are about to embark on the comprehensive secondary schools etc.

My concern is that I feel he is a difficult child to place, but that is probably because just like all of you I want the best for my son. He has traits of Aspergers Syndrome, but not so pronounced that the education system recognises it, if that is the correct way of putting it. He is not statemented or received an actual diagnosis.

He has always been in the top group for all subjects since reception class and is on target to get level 5's in his Sats and in Yr 5 was at 4a's & 4b's, somewhat disappointingly as this is where he was in Yr4. I believe that some of the others in this "top group" got level 5's so should we even be looking at a Grammar School. Will he struggle when he gets there? When he sat the practice 11+papers at school he came out top of the group(and appears he may have passed the 11+ with these results) and his teacher actually said that he didn't think that he or the school had realised his potential.

He does not appear to be able to make friends easily, has been subject to a lot of bullying both verbal & physical, is a deep thinker and can play the fool to try to get people to like him. He relishes a challenge, walked 290 miles of the Macmillan Way over 21 days during Nov05-Feb06 and in June 06 climbed the 3 peaks in 22hrs3mins all for Macmillan Cancer Relief as I have cancer and all 3 members of my family have died of cancer(2 of which he has acutely aware of as these were recently) The focus & determination he portrayed when completing the 3 peaks just amazed me!

My concern is that there is no support out there to ensure that you are choosing the right school for your child and because he has recently changed primary school, they know very little about him and I cannot easily or readily ask for their opinion. When asking the headmaster when he was in Yr5 at the previous primary, he was very non-commital and basically only voiced exactly what I was trying to achieve" Knowing your son as I do, it is important that you choose the right school for him".

BUT HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE RIGHT SCHOOL! My son said he preferred Bourne Grammar to Spalding GS, but now he says he wants to go to Spalding GS because he will know people there as his friends that he sat the 11+ with are hoping to go there, they have brothers there that he knows and he knows other boys there also. He will then say, "but I know that Bourne would be better for me or if I go to the local comp, people that I am at school with now will go there, so is that better for me and its not a bad school, is it Mum." However, I fear that he is just acting as any 10year old would, in that he just wants to go where he thinks his "friends" are going.

Worried, just a little. I know he has the ability to do well and I want him to the best opportunity to realise his potential without it being an absolute uphill struggle for him and also for him to be happy, just like all of you want for your children. Any thoughts or comments would be gratefully received and please accept my apologies for this rant, but it helps to get it off your chest and I don't want to let him down and steer him in the wrong direction!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:37 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 13, 2005 12:49 pm
Posts: 1647
Location: berkshire
Hi SJ,

Although in a completely different area to you I could of written the same message this time last year.
My son also has 'traits of aspergers' not officially diagnosed. He was given some discussion time at a local childrens centre for social skills but nothing was put on to paper in a formal way.

He has never had a statement as he has never been a problem child - behaviour wise - at school. He too had been bullied, and had certain problems.... he found it hard to react in the correct way socially, he never worked well in groups (having to concentrate on social interaction rather than the lesson) and a disruption to his normal routine or a perceived unfairness would lead to him becoming extremely upset and stressed. :roll:

My son is now in a grammar school..... none of his friends are in the same school but he has settled really well.

Try and find out as much as possible about the support the school could give your son.
I made a point of making an appointment to talk to the SEN coordinators explaining the problems my son had and seeing how they reacted.

Once I had reached my decision (and received notification that my son had reached the pass mark for the 11+) I made an appointment for my son to be shown round the school of my choice and meet the SEN coordinator... this was to give him a say in how he felt about the school.

I chose the school I thought best suited my son and, 4 weeks in, I am very happy with my choice.
My son now has an IEP that recognises his difficulties and can go to the SEN coordinator at any time in the school day if he is stressed about anything.
I had the worry that I was overstretching my child but the support he can access at the grammar will hopefully allow him to reach his academic potential.

The practise papers have shown that your child has the potential...... now you just need to give him the best opportunity.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 11:20 pm 
Hello SJ,

Such a lot of food for thought and discussion in your post that I know I cannot answer it fully, but will try to share some of my thoughts and experiences. You can only ever do your best! Unfortunately it is impossible to know a school inside out from the outside and you can only go on what information is available and your "gut instinct" when you visit. It sounds as though you have thought a lot about what you want to know about the schools. Having done this homework and visited whichever open days and evenings you can, I would recommend that you ask to visit the school on a normal working day - you get much more of a feel for the place when the kids are in situ! Ask to speak to the SENCO - explain that your son, although he hasn't needed any extra help in school and does not have a diagnosis, has some difficulties with social relationships and has been subject to bullying and ask how he school will be able to help him if any of these things become an issue. You can gauge a lot by the response to these sort of questions, which is why I think it is better to raise the issue before choosing the school.

It is a shame that we live in different areas of this rather large county as we trawled around many schools when looking for my daughter. When talking about her needs we had all sorts of responses from "We don't have children like that here" from one deputy head; the SENCO of the same school later practically begged us not to send her there and said that the only child they had had with a definite diagnosis of Asperger's had been permanently excluded after less than 8 months. Other schools pointed out that if we chose them they would "have to take her" but felt they really couldn't meet her needs. Another was a little more subtle and simply told a lot of anecdotes about children with special needs that had failed to cope with the school in some way. The positive ones engaged in a frank discussion of what her needs were and how they organised help in their school, asked pertinent qustions of us and gave answers to our questions. The one we chose did this and much more in that it really welcomed us and made us feel that not only would they work to meet our daughter's needs but that they were truly interested in her as a person and felt that they would be the right sort of school for her. They have so far lived up to and exceeded every expectation we had.

It is not terribly easy to have discussions about your child's difficulties with a school and we certainly felt vulnerable, angry, hurt, rejected at times -but so much better to know what you are up against before you submit your child to the school's tender mercies!

When we were going round Carre's in Sleaford with my son this year we happened to be there over lunchtime and one classroom had a few boys in it, some working, some playing chess - a teacher explained that it was the yr 7 formroom and that although boys were generally expected to be outside or in the canteen at lunchtime there were those who "don't like the bustle" of the playground and they can come here for a quieter environment and it was used also by boys who needed to get homework done because they were going out that evening etc. I guess we would not have got to know about this little system for dealing with the more vulnerable boys unless we had happened to be there at the right time or had asked.

The other thing you have to consider are the practical issues of how good a chance you have of getting into your chosen school. If you choose an "out of area" school you particularly need to look carefully at your chances and ask the schools themselves the relevant questions eg. for Bourne you will need to know how far away the child who lived furthest away and still got in (without a sibling) last year lived and how the numbers this year compare to last year - I understand that in some areas numbers are down but this is not the case throughout the County. At least this year we will have the 11 plus results before choosing schools!

Unless your son has a really strong and supportive friendship group from his previous school (and it did not sound as though this was the case) I would not worry about going to a different school from the others. Friendships reform and change at secondary school anyway and it can be a positive thing to make a new start where you are not known. Everyone else is new too and there will be some with none of their of their old friends there.

As for results I would not worry on that score either. Lincolnshire Grammars are taking a fairly wide spectrum of abilities compared to some other areas. 4a's and 4b's are perfectly respectable and above average at yr 5. If he passes the 11 plus there will be plenty of other children at a similar level. My daughter told me that there were some children who had not even reached level 5 in some core subjects at the end of year 7 in the Grammar school so he will not be "bottom " by any means and anyway if he has managed to do OK with all that is going on for him with trouble at school and anxiety and bereavement at home he probably has the ability to achieve far more highly anyway.

Any one set of exams are never a perfect reflection of a child's ability anyway. One of our local schools runs masterclasses for yr 6 children aimed at those who are "capable of working above level 5 " for which entry is by highly competitive exam taken summer term of yr 5. My son with his QCA results of hardly very impressive 4a, 4b, and 3a got through whereas one girl in his yr at school who got 5a in all her subjects and has a "gifted" tag in all the core subjects did not get a place. Clearly different exams test different things and any exam is only a snapshot of how well that child performs on that particular day.

Have gone on far too long and rambled I am afraid. Good luck with the school hunting. Just trust your own judgement - you know your child best. et us know how you get on.

Best wishes,

Sara


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:05 am 
Chad & Sara

Thank you so much for your posts and the support, information and understanding contained therein. It is so greatly appreciated and helpful to know that there are other people out there that have dealt with similar issues and concerns.

Once again Thank You.

SJ


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