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CatieB

School advice anyone?

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Posted (edited)

My son is in year 9 and goes to his catchment school by taxi (we live very rurally). We have never been happy with the school, his progress is going backwards - he is bright but will not do stuff unless he has to, he needs to be pushed and the school just don’t do it. For example he very rarely gets homework. There has been a shocking lack of permanent teachers and lots of supply teachers  

Now our worst fears are confirmed, in the most recent ratings the school was given 1/5 in each category and ranked 2871 out of 3088 in the country!!! We live in the country for goods sake not an area where other issues have a knock on effect  

There would be lots of hurdles to moving him. Firstly our son really objects to moving schools, he just says no - he’s very settled and happy.  Would that make it a recipe for disaster? And is it a wise thing to do when he’s been where he is for 3 years and is about to start GCSEs 

Logistically it’s going to be a nightmare too, the next nearest, which is a relatively good school would mean a bus ride for him and us organising how to get him to a bus stop 5 miles away day in day out, so we need to be very sure. 

Im so scared to make the wrong decision. Can he do well somewhere so rubbish? 

I know there are many wise people on here who will provide me with food for thought. Thanks.  

Edited by CatieB
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I don't have kids, but if it were me in this position, I would move the kids to a new school - even if it created problems. In retrospect, that's probably what should have happened with me when I was a kid, but my father never did anything about it. I was very intelligent as a kid but I never got anywhere because the environment was all wrong for me (didn't help that I was being bullied either).

My partner and I have discussed adoption and we're both firm believers that if it meant moving, we'd move so our child(ren) could go to a good school. We're both strong believers in a good education making all the difference.

But obviously that is just what I would do; others may feel very differently about it!

I think there's also an element in there of making sure he is not just getting by, but actually enjoying learning - it makes a world of difference if the learning process is dynamic and engaging - and you don't have to go down the private school route to find it. Just food for thought, but if the school aren't giving him homework, could you hire a tutor once a week to come and do at least the basics like maths and English? Is there a subject he's particularly fond of? If so, is there anything locally you could do that would be educational and fun for him related to that subject? For instance: does he like drama? If so, could you send him to drama classes a couple of nights a week? Or if he enjoys history, is there anything like working in a museum or history talks/classes at local museums etc.?

I've always found that I learn a lot more a lot quickly if what I am learning is something I am passionate about and find interesting.

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I don’t have children either but I did used to be a secondary science teacher.

I would talk to your son about why you’re considering moving him, and explain that if he is really happy at his current school that you’ll support him in every way you can but that he’ll have to pull his socks up and work hard to prove to you that he can stay where he is and do well. Then stick to your word - speak to his teachers about your concerns (I know it’s wrong but I was always slightly biased towards giving more to students whose parents had been to see me - mainly just because it raised those children in my awareness), as AndyRoo says get a tutor for a few hours a week, help him yourselves where you can...

I do think children can do well in a ‘poor’ school but it would tend to be motivated children who manage that.

If all above fails, and I realise you don’t have much time because I do think you should probably avoid moving him once he’s started year 10, then move him.

Good luck and don’t forget these are only my opinions.

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I’d like to echo what Mullet says. Again no kids here, but I am a chemistry teacher. My experience with kids with a tendacy to laziness, is that they will not work harder if they don’t like were they are. He’s a teen, don’t expect to much self reflection. But you can help him realise that these are the options and he needs to get his act together if he wants to make it work where he is.

Talking to teachers is a good suggestion, but make sure your son is in on it and knows there might be something expected from him from the teachers side too. I hate it when parents come to “complain” but all I get to work with is their uninterested git of a kid that doesn’t invest one ounce of energy himself.

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I was very lucky in that I got into a grammar school within walking distance of home and we have other good schools locally. I loved school, did lots of extracurriculars and got fairly good grades with little effort. I also had a Maths tutor (lots of my friends had the same one) as that's a subject I struggled with.
The minimum effort really didn't work when I got to A Levels and further... I still work best last minute under pressure but I'm getting there!

Out of interest I just checked and my school is 139 of 3,088.

I agree with going into school, meet with his head of year and see what can be done to help. It may be that once they get to GCSE's they are split into ability groups (triple science instead of double award etc) and given more focused teaching. I know someone who works at a notoriously 'bad' school in Birmingham which, I assume because of their ratings, has been put into special measures which means they get extra resources (money and support) to help improve the school.

I know I wouldn't have liked moving schools at that age but ultimately it's your decision and if you can make it work it may help... Worth speaking to the new school to see if a move would be possible and what extra support they can provide?

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Thanks.

AndyRoo - we did try to move at the turn of the year, motivated by the school issue amongst other things. The house was on the market for a few months but we got to the point that we had to draw a line under it as we'd had no interest and realised it wouldn't happen before the start of GCSe's. We couldn't transfer school and to move as we would have been going about 65 miles away. 

In relation to tutors, do they have to be subject specific? Or can you get a general one? He likes Maths, English and History, but does also admit his teachers in that are quite interesting. I don't think he needs help at Maths. He probably does with Science though. 

Mullet hunter we had the talk previously, he know won't really talk as he knows we want to move him! When we discussed it previously we said he needed to pull his socks up, we now make him do an hours work a night. He does spend that time in his room but I have no real idea how to check if what he's doing is valuable or making a difference. A lot of it is on line. We went in to the school at the beginning of the year to see his year head, they didn't have any issue with him, its just us thinking he's coasting so we have seen no difference and they certainly don't send any extra work home. I find their communication bad, when he was off sick I asked for work for him to catch up on and got no reply! I know that perhaps I should chase but I find that hard for lots of reasons, not least it frustrates me they don't do their job, I do mine!

The school have just appointed a new head, but will we see any difference and if we don't its too late for my son. I just feel they say what they think you want to hear and then change little.

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2 hours ago, CatieB said:

In relation to tutors, do they have to be subject specific? Or can you get a general one? He likes Maths, English and History, but does also admit his teachers in that are quite interesting. I don't think he needs help at Maths. He probably does with Science though. 

Generally I think they tend to specialise in one particular subject - but it is probably down to the individual. Have a look round for local tutors and see who you can find.

If he needs help with science, maybe that's the one to look at. When I was at school our science lessons were broken down into 3: physics, chemistry, and biology; is there one of those he shows a particular interest in? Or feels he is not so good at?

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Hi CatieB I think if I were you I would get him along to see school before school year finishs and try to get him onboard. At his age it’s weighing up if he would be totally miserable and then not be able to work in an enriched environment or would he settle and get on with it. In my experience tutors at gcse tend to be subject specific also if you know the syllabus school uses all info is online, past papers,questions and answer plans. Also in my experience a teen +bedroom+computer may not= study and if you or OH are good in some subjects it may be more productive doing work alongside him. We also dithered with school for our teen. Her school was outstanding in helping year 11 and 12 pupils,even opening at Easter for revision ,sadly she has no motivation and despite school,private tutor and us I am not expecting much on results day.

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Posted (edited)

We were lucky in that we didn't move our children - it was supposed to be a good school - but I didn't like mine going there and taking them out and getting tutors was out of the question.  One of my neighbours who moved after us from a different area had an older son who was 14 - he hated it and never settled.  Whereas if you have children that are younger, the likelihood of settling down faster is better (but that's my opinion).  A new neighbour who's daughter started at the same secondary with all the others moving up from juniors with all her friends has had a dreadful time with dreadful teachers - she is now at another school and the parents are much happier and so is she - but then she is particularly motivated.  Sometimes you are damned if you do and damned if you don't!

My son knew who were the better teachers and worked well for them - he had no time for teachers who couldn't teach - which was infuriating for us - but it is rather like leading a horse to water!  Bolshy little so and so.>:(:roll:

Edited by Valkyrie
I writ it wronged

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Posted (edited)

Im shooting out so this is my quick reply..... so excuse typos / grammar....

Talk to him and to the School. Express your concerns.

If he is happy, that is a good start for making good progress.

If he doesn't get homework, do your own thing.  Ask for topic plans for you to reinforce at home.  Use vorderman / letts materials at home, there are loads of things you can do at home to support him and help him make progress.  LOADS online. Make sure you do it with him, rather than on his own in his room.  

Also, rather than paying time and hassle in bus rides further afield to a school where he doesn't have friends / settled etc,  there is the option of paying for a weekly private tutor for mixed subjects?

He is 9 so I am guessing Year 4.  He will only have 2 years left at Primary and that will whizz by.  With support from you and from a tutor, plus being happy at school and settled in friendships etc, he can only do well.  If he was also unhappy there I would say consider moving.

Don't always rely on what Ofsted say.  Go into school have a look round. Speak to staff, other parents and other children.  Let your own gut decide.  I think at this stage I would be reluctant to move  unless unavoidable.

Edited by Sarattie

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4 hours ago, Grandmashazzie said:

. Also in my experience a teen +bedroom+computer may not= study and if you or OH are good in some subjects it may be more productive doing work alongside him.

This!

I give this advice so often to parents! Have had parents tell me that they didn’t want to take their phones away... because the kid would get angry... right...

Although I would suggest moving his study area to the living room/kitchen. Make him hand in his phone when studying (there are also apps that lock a phone for a certain set time). He will find he will be done with studying much quicker and that it will have more effect.

And rather than asking him every day what he needs to do each day, make a week planner with him and hold him to it.

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Heres the plan so far. No matter how we try we aren't sure we can manage the logistics of moving him. We both work full time so cannot see how we would get him from a bus at 4pm from a  village about 4 miles away. This may leave us little option.

My husband has contacted the school so we can go in and have a conversation, about their changes and what we can expect, where he is at and more importantly where he could be. We will also ask them and others about tutors. We need pointers on what subjects he's not doing so well in.

Regarding us supervising him, even if I did know what I was doing, and Im definitely no teacher ( I could help him with Maths but its the one subject he doesn't need help with) we are not around to do this, he comes in and does his work long before we get in. By the time we are in and dinner is done, it usually long gone 7, often nearer 8 and IMHO no time for school work. If i (or we) were lucky enough to be around to supervise him then we'd be able to get him too and from a better school. Hence my frustration as we both need to work. 

I admire those who feel they can supervise a teen or give valuable input to secondary work, I'd have no confidence about doing this at all, Im not sure where Id even start. Why can't it just be a better school.

A friend mentioned syllabus work books... do they still exist, does anyone know if they are any good?

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I know the IB programme still has them. Have one at home for GCSE chem I think. Not sure how old it is.

And by the way, the best response you can give to any question they have about their school work, regardless of the subject:

“Have you read the text?”

seriously... if for every time I have to ask that and get a no/not sure/which text? I would get a euro, I wouldn’t have to teach anymore...:wall:

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My reaction to a dissatisfaction with local schools was quite extreme. I took them out of school altogether. It was great for my family but I can see that's not ideal for everyone. For a start we live in a London suburb so easy access to people and other resources. We didn't have the Internet then so that must make Home Ed much easier now. All the schools I rejected now have very good reputations. 

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Does the school have a homework club?   I know some do, so youngsters can stay at school to do their homework.  Worth suggesting to them?  Or would that mess up transport home?

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1 minute ago, Patricia W said:

Does the school have a homework club?   I know some do, so youngsters can stay at school to do their homework.  Worth suggesting to them?  Or would that mess up transport home?

haha the cynic in me would say that would entail too much effort from them, he doesn't get homework in general to do in a club!!!! Im sure if they gave homework the school may fair better in the results. 

Cats tails, I will take that advice, going to look into text books or syllabus books. My husband left a message for the year head yesterday, and today, about us going in to ask our questions. Still waiting for a response. 

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Regardless of how good or bad a school is, if a child does not want to learn, they won't. Some of your son's progress will be down to the school but some is also down to him. As you sure that he doesn't get homework? Has the school been rated by Ofsted? If it is poorly rated by Ofted, they will have to pull their socks up. My children went to primary school with 60 on role in a rural area that was put in Special Measures by Ofsted. It was the best thing that could have happened to it as there was lots of intervention (and cash) bought in to turn it around. Rural school particularly go through ups and downs and I think that you have to stick with them if you can and 'top up' at home if you can. Our secondary school was not great when we started, then did very well and is now going downhill again. My friend, an ex Director in a large UK company has just become a Chair of Governors in a large failing school and has turned it around and they now have a waiting list so don't give up on the school. Definitely have a chat with the school. I would actually go along without your son as you will be able to speak more frankly. Teenagers, particularly boys don't like parents talking to teachers and even less so in front of them. Get an idea of what he should be doing and try to make sure that there are incentives at home for him to get the work done. We didn't have Playstations etc to distract and no TVs in bedrooms. Working at a kitchen table if you don't trust them not to look at rubbish on YouTube helps. Boys can be 'lazy until they know where they are going' , they see little point in working hard if they have no target however bright they may be. Maybe you should suggest to your son that if things don't improve in say, 6 months, you may have to move him.

(all 3 of mine have gone through small rural state primaries and then moved to large semi rural state secondaries. 2 now doing medicine and 1 veterinary medicine so they got by going through the less than perfect state school system. I know plenty that have struggled with poor teaching in private education)

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As a Chair of Governors of a primary school (albeit Acting whilst we seek a permanent tho I have been Governor for 9 years and am Health and Safety and Premises) schools do go through ups and downs and the Head Teacher is key. If you really have concerns about the school then OfSTED are a good place to start...looking at their last report and even speaking to OfSTED themselves to express concerns.  Results are monitored and a 'coasting' school will be flagged up.

We live in a village and ES goes to secondary by bus. He is nearly 14 (September) and I encourage him to ask village friends back here once or twice a week for home work sessions and sweeten it all by offering CAKE! This gives  me an opportunity to pop into the bedroom every so often to offer more (tho' the risk of asphyxiation from Eau de Teenage boy is high!) and so monitor what is going on. They generally behave well and get on with it - think Perry from the Harry Enfield sketches (Awright, Missis Patterson!!!)

Like Chucky Mama the boy's have gone to a small (76 place) village school to a larger secondary (650 places). Ys is still at primary - going into yr 6 next Sept  - but I do think it's down to the friends that they make at secondary too and their friends attitudes. I am very pleased that ES is very good mates with the Head Master's son ;) that helps!!!

It is hard when they go out of the village to education as you don't have the interaction and feedback with the staff - just 5 mins once a year! As ES has Asperger's we do get a little extra in terms of time but, M'dear, you HAVE to push!! Doesn't come naturally but, believe me, it does get results!

Your chap clearly has great home support - many don't - so don't beat yourself up; bless you!

 

Just thought - you could, if you have time, offer your services as Governor.......keeps you informed as to what is happening and allows you to change things from the inside!!!!

 

 

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Well they finally got back to us, my husband is going in to see his year head tomorrow morning (without my son). 

Sadly time is not on our hands, as he starts year 10 and his GCSE's this September, it will then be too late to move him, hence the pressure I feel to get it right ( not that we think we can to be honest given the transportation issue).

Its not that he doesn't want to learn, he does, he is just never going to do anything off his own back. He'll do as asked and no more. He definitely doesn't get homework, its very rare and he always does it when given. He'd be bothered not to do something he were given. He's bright and not going to get anywhere near his potential.

The rating's I am talking about are beyond just the ofsted rated, it takes into account that as well as results, the overall progress of each child (which his school is rated as a negative number), outcomes etc. Im not sure who they are published by but every secondary in the country is rated. Bizarrely the school was rated poor by Ofsted and had a more recent inspection rated as good, it has really gone down hill since then and the ratings I am talking about have only just come out - they mirror our experiences as parents, many teachers have left and the head went a few months ago, the new one has literally just started last Monday. So too early to say what that will bring but I worry it will be too late for my son.

If I had time to be a Governor, I'd have time to oversee him more. I have just changed the access code to the internet though so he can't use his playstation, haha, maybe he'll be bored into doing more school work. One of my husbands questions will be about the syllabus and those work books so we can set him work ourselves, and physically see that he is doing stuff. We also want to find out about tutors once we know which subjects we should be looking at, we suspect science as a starting point but we could be wrong.

And you are so right snapdragon about being out of it, 5 mins once a year is not enough, particularly when we are so removed from everything (about 6 miles from the school and all his friends, and there is no-one nearer as we are very rural) plus the school give little in communication, the new head has said he is looking into some sort of portal to improve this so that parents can see progress and get feedback from teachers.

 

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Would Mon to Fri boarding be out of the question. I know it is horrendously expensive but might be worth it long term. As you say critical two years.Or contract with taxi firm to good school might work out cheaper than a tutor twice weekly. Tutor for one of our boys is £40 an hour.

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That may sadly rule that out too then, I had no idea it was so expensive. Boarding or fee paying anything is out of the question.

This couldn’t really have come at a worse time everything has just really changed for us, you may recall I posted on here a few years ago about me changing profession, I’ve qualifed within the last year and am on a short term contract. My husband has just been out of work for 6 months and taken a completely different type of job at a fraction of his salary. Things in a period of adjustment shall we say!

As you can imagine this is adding to a completely unstressful life. :S 

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I would stick with the school and give the new Head a chance to turn things around. A portal would be good as they can put any syllabuses, homework, progress and behaviour on there. Does your son have a school 'tutor'? They often have 'tutor groups' where there is a teacher than looks after their pastoral needs. They are a good port of call as are year heads. It is not too late for him. Get hold of the syllabus, speak to the school and use a combo of carrot and stick to jolly your son along. Finding someone to work with of similar or higher ability is also really important. It is very hard to crack on without company, especially for boys. Getting mates over to sit around a table to study with food as Soapdragon says is a good way of getting things done. If he wants to stay at this school, he has to show you that he can work through this with help from you and the improvements coming from the school (hopefully). Work carefully and diplomatically with the staff at the school. Staff don't like parents that go in all guns blazing and can stubborn and sadly can also take things out on a child. I have always been careful to avoid this scenario but have witnessed it first hand from both sides.

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My husband went in, he was very diplomatic, he opened with that we want to know at what level our son should get to so we can help him achieve the best he can - we don’t aim for A’s if that is unrealistic. His year head said that he’s currently on course for B”s and that he has really started to put in more effort. 

Regarding their side of things, apparently the new head has “vision” and recognises they need to give the pupils a “more structured” approach. My son came home today raving about an inspirational lesson he had with the head today. At least that’s a good start. I can see that inspiration would get my son far, he’d respond to that and has by and large been coasting. Ironically part of that inspiration was about writing out a mind map, something I’ve encouraged my son to do for AGES, clearly I am not the one to teach or inspire him!! 

Moving him isn’t a feasible option. The year head is going to send us the details of work books. As we suspected he needs help with science. 

Feeling marginally less panicked about the whole thing. 

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CatieB -  That sounds positive! If this new Head has identified areas for improvement (and it sounds like he/she has) then that's a great start! Bodes well for the future!

My Aspie ES has teachers that he loves and will put in 110% for; those inspirational ones who really motivate him ...and those he can't stand and doesn't bother working for ie. the ones who just don't float his boat! Horses for courses but things seem to be taking a turn for the better at your chap's school so fingers crossed! A good move might be for you/OH to e mail Head and really emphasise how much your son was raving about the lesson, how much that motivated him and how much it was really needed and appreciated - a bit of very positive reinforcement! Tho' maybe you have and sorry if so!

I do think that it's a matter of proveable fact that children DO NOT LISTEN TO THEIR PARENTS! You can tell them something until you are blue in the face and they roll their eyes and say 'Oh Muuuuuum'! But, if an independent person (esp with any authority) says the same thing then it's totally different - 9_9

A mother's place is in the wrong!

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That’s good news, the Head sounds as if she has plans and is motivated to change. Hopefully the other teachers will all join her team and improve things. Bs are great prediction and if he knows what he wants to do he may not need science.

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