Secondary School

In September we began our search for a secondary school even though it doesn’t seem five minutes since he started nursery school.  As George has a statement of special educational needs, we have begun to look around now, at the start of year five rather than year six.  This is so we can have our school choices and evidence ready for his year five statement review.

Not only do we have to find a school that best fits his needs, we are in the position that we live in the neighbouring borough to his current school, this somewhat complicates things as it is harder to get a place at an out of borough school.

We first took George to look around my old High school, I’ve not been back in the 16 years since I left so I was really excited to take a trip down memory lane.  The school has expanded extensively so there were many new buildings to see and explore.  As we started our guided tour it became apparent that George was really struggling, his tics were in overdrive and the signs of anxiety on his face were plain to see.

There were lots of practical demonstrations to see and games to take part in as we went round.  When we arrived at the science lab we realised there were going to be issues for George we hadn’t even considered.

We had discussed the huge increase in size from a primary school of just 300 or so to a high school with 1500 pupils, the moving to new classrooms with new teachers each lesson and the problems this could cause.  We hadn’t really thought about the new lessons George would get to partake in.  At primary school there are no practical classrooms so George has never been in a science lab, woodwork, sewing or home economics room.  George was invited to take part in a science experiment.  Whilst he was listening to the teacher speak he was absent minded and squirting various chemicals out of the pipette.  Concentration and impulse control in practical lessons could be tricky.  Then there is the smell of the lab, George is very sensitive to smell and the overpowering smell of a science lab could be unbearable to George.  A lot of George’s tics involve touching his face or chewing things, not a great idea in a science lab full of chemicals.

On the positive side, this particular school has an ASD hub.  Although George doesn’t have an ASD diagnosis and would be based in the mainstream classrooms, as a lot of his symptoms cross over into ASD territory he would be able to make use of the resources there during lunch, break times or if he needed for particular subjects.  He relaxed a lot more in this room and loved exploring the sensory toys they had out on display.

We have looked at a few more schools and they have varied enormously in the support they can offer.

We now have time to have a long think, re-visit the schools and decide which can best fit his needs. It is such a worry how he will deal with such a huge transition, just moving from one year group to another takes weeks of preparation, it’s a good job we’ve started early.

I’d be glad to hear any words of wisdom from any parents that have already tackled the transition to high school, what steps you took, what helped ease your child into the new school?

Moving-On

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1 thought on “Secondary School”

  1. Hi

    My son is 11 and he always struggled big time with moving up a year in junior school. I dreaded senior school. He started in September without his formal diagnosis which made things harder. The honeymoon period ended after about a month and it got tough for a while. The homework came thick and fast and mid term exams left his sister with a few bruises and several slaps across the face. Some of his teachers would give a punishment for tics, the standard school punishment is to copy out the schools two page code of conduct, my son has handwriting issues!!! He had a mentor which is a blue report for organisation and homework help. His massively overdeveloped sense of injustice looked at this as punishment. He begged to leave, threatened to kill the teachers etc etc. The mentor did help him organise himself and get to class on time. Checked his homework was done praised him and avoided negative attention. My sons confidence improved as he was away from the bullies in primary school, the snobby mothers looking down at the “naughty boy”. He discovered he was very good at science and yes even practical lessons and he too fiddles and touches everything but omg his science report was out of this world. I don’t even think the teacher knows there is anything wrong with him. He is so fascinated that I think his tics and fiddling compulsions must stop. He is fascinated by the human biology and doesn’t laugh like the other boys. He also realised that he was not a naughty boy because in senior school he met boys with much bigger issues than him who were always in trouble. He got his official diagnosis a few weeks before Xmas so cyps and a tic advisor went into school after Xmas and explained the basics to them. They said the school was genuinely interested in how ts and the comorbid stuff might affect him in class. I had his first parents review mid January and it was very good. They were extremely pleased with him and said that since his report he had made huge progress and that if they had regraded his behaviour it would be all a’s and b’s. This coincided with his diagnosis but also two weeks before Xmas he would usually be starting to wax like mad as he always does, descending into unbearable clown/rage boy mood swings. Christmas was bearable for the first time in years. So a very difficult first term which gradually improved towards Xmas and has remained that way. He now does his homework without me asking let alone forcing. He does most of it in break times so he doesn’t need to do it after school when he’s not at his best. Hard to believe if you could see the damage done to my house after 7 years of 20 minutes a week primary school homework. There school again uses written punishment for late homework and they still have to do the homework. Three months was all it took to get him doing it all the time and mainly at school. Only one homework tantrum since winter term started. I think the key to it is he is in control not me. If he doesn’t do his homework it’s his choice. At primary school I had to make him which ment it was me and our sitting room that he took his anger out on. he gets no homework accommodations either as they have a no exception rule. We have exams again this week but his sister has only been slapped once which is a huge improvement. Nothing significant has been broken except a few coat hangers and he’s come home hyper today because they are removing his blue report as his mentor is so pleased with him. It’s taken 15 weeks but he had no organisation skills at all, couldn’t remember where his classes were or any of his things. He is more organised than me now and rarely messes up. I am sure there will be many challenges ahead and rocky patches but all in all much better than I expected. Sometimes when ppl ask he will say he likes school and tells them that he would recommend it for their kids. Sometimes he mostly likes it, occasionally hating the odd teacher or complaining that the work was too EASY and he needs to get good marks to be moved up a set away from the kids who mess about and don’t want to do well!! I couldn’t write what he would have said about primary school. If you pick a school with a good pastoral system and clear consistent rules and expectations that most staff follow fairly then it might not be as bad as you think. MY sons school is strict but fair in its treatment of all pupils. He head teacher will hold a door open for children because he expects them to do the same. They push all children to there absolute potential and encourage positive reinforcement. None of the negativity seen in a lot of his primary school teachers. I sometimes think it is too strick but it obviously works because they have taken a school where a very high proportion of the children are pupil premium and live in some pretty awful council estates and made it one of the top 300 in England and top in our area. It’s even used in a telegraph article and has a government paper written about how this school which serves a predominantly deprived catchment has managed to buck the trend of shocking senior school reading decline. I didn’t really do much looking for schools. We failed to get s place at the Emmanuel foundations school which has its own application and my son picked Cardinal Hume as his first council choice. I knew nothing about it except it was strick and they got 71% GCSE pass with math and English. I think we are lucky to have two excellent schools and even luckier to have got a place at one. You are wise to look now because i got lucky. As you already have the diagnosis you can really pull them apart and see what they can do to accommodate your child. I wasn’t in that situation as we didn’t have the diagnosis. I heard all the stories about kids starting to develop coprolalia with the stress of senior school and I was terrified. It’s easier now than primary in some ways. Acne and hair starting to sprout so I’m sure it will get tougher. Good luck in your search for a school and remember if it’s not right you can always move them but don’t leave it. Trust your instincts. I kept giving primary one more term, till the end of the year, his next teacher might be better etc till it wasn’t worth it as the upheaval might have affected his sats.

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