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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:30 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:09 pm
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Hi everyone,

I am wondering 1) what advice you would give if you were this person's friend and 2) whether you would actively give the advice or just be there as a sounding board?

I have a very close friend who has 2 children at an independent school. The older is currently in KS4 and it is too late for her to move school. I would describe her as above average in terms of ability (probably would get a string of 6s in any regular school and maybe a couple of 7s and a couple of 4/5s) but has a poor attitude and not a great work ethic; she is now stuck in a cycle where the school expects a poor attitude and therefore, with less than 25 children in the entire year, it's quite difficult to change/improve things. The family are paying through the nose for the (non selective, very small) indie and are also paying for 4 tutors in the hope that she will get good enough grades to go to a different 6th form college, currently predicted mostly 4s and 5s, maybe a few 6s. They are very unimpressed with the standard of teaching (as am I when I've seen their work; I know scores of secondary school teachers, many of whom teach at more challenging schools and the standards are generally far higher).

The younger child is less able but has a much better attitude towards work. Dc2 is in KS3 and they attempted to move him to a better indie but did not succeed because of the academic requirements. Dc2 is good at certain subjects but is currently predicted 2s and 3s in other subjects; there is no suggestion of a SEN and it is more that he does not seem able to access/understand these subjects (it's such a small school that there are only 3 classes for most subjects so very few teachers; also even the bottom sets have quite a large spread of abilities) with the teaching that is being provided.

All my teaching friends are adamant that ds2 would do far far better at a state comprehensive with more staff available (and better quality of staff/teaching) and more resources to be put into children who are struggling.

My friend has always said their local comprehensive is no good and that "no one" sends their children there; they live in an area with a high number of private schools and every single one of their friends is at an indie. Websites and Ofsted reports are often misleading I know but it appears that it takes a higher than average number of PP children and children with EAL (unsurprising maybe if those who are able all go down the indie route) - however the results are really very good and the Progress 8 is average but on the + side. Behaviour is described as good and they are particularly good at pushing the more able and the weakest; reading between the lines, maybe the average child gets overlooked a little. It looks as though places do come up from time to time. On the internet it looks like a genuinely good school.

Friend is gutted that dc2 has not got into other indie. She does not expect him to be able to get into any 6th form (other than staying in current school as their requirements are low) because of the likely GCSE results. She doesn't know what to do; she has a couple of months to try and make a plan. She wishes now that she had sent both dc via the state system. She would have saved £100k+ so far. But she is scared of moving dc2 into the state system at this stage in case it doesn't work and because she is worried that going from a school of less than 130 children in the entire school (minus 6th form) to a school of 1500+ would be too big a jump. I think they are a bit paralysed by the need to do "the right thing" for dc2, feeling very much (not necessarily fairly) that they have failed dc1 to an extent.

1) What would your advice be? Stick it out, pay for tutors and hope for the best? (Money not really a problem). Or move dc2 and see what happens? I think they have spoken to the school about the teaching over and over again without any change.

2) This is my closest friend. We get on very well but have profoundly different children and parenting styles. I have to be quite careful what I say, particularly because I am so lucky that my children are happy and settled at schools where they are doing well. I have stopped "giving advice" and moved towards a nodding/listening/"hmm, I'm so sorry" response because I don't want to upset the friendship - but I don't know if this is one time it's worth stepping out and advising actively?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:25 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 01, 2016 5:02 pm
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Tricky one.

From what you've written, it seems to me that they should look to move DC2 to the state school if at all possible. The parents have raised concerns with the current indie about DC2's attainment but have not got anywhere - this suggests to me that the indie either doesn't want to change or is not capable of changing and therefore is not going to provide DC2 with the support he needs.

I don't think it's fair on DC2 to leave him at a school that isn't catering for him and then expect him to spend his free time with tutors to bring him up to scratch.

I went to a large state comp (8 forms of entry) but didn't feel overwhelmed, even though I'm not the most outgoing of people. I tended not to notice what was going on in the rest of the school - only really paid attention to my own classes and friendship groups. It was never a worry that teachers wouldn't know me or I'd get lost in the system or anything like that. Basically, large schools don't have to be problematic or anonymous, they can be friendly and personal - and of course there's the advantage of having so many teachers doing so many subjects that there's more chance of being in a group more tailored to your own ability and interests.

Also, your friend might be sure that 'everyone' goes private but it's just not true. Around 7% of the population goes private - so the great majority go to state schools. It's not a stigma or something to be ashamed of, it's very normal.

HOWEVER, whether or not you should make any of these points to your friend is another question. Only you can really know how your friend is likely to receive this sort of advice. I have friends who would welcome it but others who might think it was interfering and unsupportive. Maybe if your friend approaches you for your opinion, you could have something like this up your sleeve ready to go - but if your friend doesn't ask, you keep your counsel for the time being?

Hope all works out OK in the end.


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