What do you do when your child is struggling at school?
My experience of school was really unpleasant so I can really relate to children who say they hate school. Now I’m an adult with a voice so I feel compelled to speak up for these children and help their parents find ways to support them.
So how did this post come about? If you’ve been following my page you will have seen the open letter I wrote to Richard Tutt, a local Head Teacher who has recently updated his school behaviour policy to include some shocking ways of forcing children to conform.
Since publishing this letter I have been inundated with messages from parents, not just from this school but from schools across the country. Many of these parents tell me their child has resorted to self-harm, said they want to die or have even attempted suicide!
Why? because they hate school.
The biggest learning for me now as a parent is that it is my responsibility to Protect, Support and Educate my children. As a parent living in the UK I have choices, they aren’t always great choices, I don’t always get my first preference and these choices all come with benefits and risks. However, I have the choice to decide what is best for my children and my family and believe my children’s happiness and well being is equally if not more important than their academic achievement.
So what do you do when your child hates school?
- Listen to your child, take their concerns seriously, try to see it from their perspective, not yours. There is this notion that children who scream and cry when dropped of by their parents will eventually get used to it. The child will stop crying eventually but that does not mean they are happy or even okay it just means they’ve given up communicating their needs because they weren’t being listened too. This is a serious breach of trust for a child-parent relationship and will likely play out in their behaviour outside of school.
- Don’t minimise their experience, what might seem petty or insignificant to you could be really important to them.
- If they are under 7, you may need to assess if they are really ready for school, they may be able to recite their ABC, write their name or be ‘bored’ at home but that does not mean they are ready or suited to be seperated from their mother (or main carer) for 6 plus hours a day and conform to the rules and responsibilities of school. As a society we have very unrealistic expectations of young children, not only in academic terms but also in terms of their ability to take care of themselves throughout the day, look after their personal belongings, sit still, engage and focus on topics they may well have no interest in. In Scandic countries children start formal education much later and still achieve the same levels later on.
- Help your child to identify their need or problem and explore ways to solve this. Children do not have the brain capacity to solve complex problems, they need you as the parent to help them. If you feel you don’t have the resources yourself, reach out to your family and friends network or local community to ask for help or support.
- Try to ensure you are as available as much as possible for them outside of school hours. If necessary collect them from school and spend some quality time together after school, this may also mean cancelling or postponing after school activities. Spending time together does not need to involve spending lots of money it could be snuggling up together and watching programmes or playing a board game. It does however involve putting your phone away and not getting distracted by housework! I know this is not an easy thing to do, I work full-time too, however you really need to consider the balance; What or who’s need is greater in this present moment? If the child’s need is greater in this moment you may need to consider reducing or changing your working hours to meet their need. It’s not an easy thing to do but there is always a way.
- Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, (you get my point) compare your child to other children, your child is unique and has their own unique set of qualities and skills, focus on these and not on how you would like them to be.
- If there are issues at school it is YOUR job as their parent to address these issues with the school. I would recommend that you put the concerns in writing and address them to the Head of the school. If they do not address your concerns ask for a copy of their complaints procedure. If you do not feel confident writing the letter yourself ask around to see if someone can help you. Avoid phone calls, if you are asked to attend a meeting, take a friend or an advocate and ask for someone to sit in on the meeting to take the minutes and make sure you get a copy, sadly these days if it’s not in writing it doesn’t count for much.
- If the school refuse to address the issue you really need to sit down with your parenting partner and consider your options. Your child’s mental wellbeing is equally, if not MORE important than their academic achievement.
- In the event the issues are not resolved promptly, look around at other local schools or elect to educate your child outside of the school system. You do not need anyone’s permission to remove your child from school, you can remove your child immediately by simply sending a letter to the head teacher (make a copy and send it recorded delivery or get a receipt if you hand it in). You do not need to contact the local authority, the head teacher is responsible for informing them on receipt of your letter. This will give you some time to consider your options and allow you to establish what your child’s needs are. You are then responsible for providing your child (if over 5 years old) with a full-time education however this looks very different to the education delivered to children inside the school system. There are many resources you can access on the internet or in you local home education community, who are generally very welcoming and helpful as many will have been through a similar experience.
‘In England and Wales Home education is given equal status with schools under section 7 of the Education Act 1996 which says:
‘The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full time education suitable a) to his age ability and aptitude, and b) any special educational needs he may have, either by attendance at a school or otherwise.
It may seem incredibly daunting to take such steps, however your child is relying on you to Nurture and Protect them, they have no one else to turn too.
If your child is struggling at school and you would like individual support to explore your options email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free 30 minute phone call. (subject to availability)