We were looking for kindness really, and that was why finding Lewes New School was such a relief.
“I’m so bored of having to do all my hard working. There’s a whole world out there. I just want to see the world without my suncream or my hat on.” (Our son reflecting on school during his Reception year at his state primary school.)
The difficulty we were having with the school that my son attended for the Reception year was unclear at first. We were wondering if we had not done what we were supposed to do as parents to prepare him for school. We were very respectful of the teachers and their views. But, we know now, he was being asked every day at school to do things that he couldn’t manage and he was telling everyone very clearly.
Towards the end of the summer term he was refusing to sit at a desk so that he wouldn’t have to go through the humiliation of being made to write when he could barely work out how to hold a pencil. The teacher was very frustrated and let us know – there were targets to meet. We suggested to the school that it might help him spend more time doing the things he enjoyed such as reading and explorative play outside, to step back from the areas that he was finding difficult and to take a break from writing practice. But the focus was always on his ‘under-developed’ areas. They told us with increasing frequency that we needed to be stricter with him, we needed to make him sit down and learn to write and to do his homework.
He was supposed to have been ‘ready for school’ and at the time this seemed reasonable to us. We increased our efforts and tried to get our son to learn to do the things that he was supposed to be able to do independently while at school; tasks such as remembering to go to the toilet, remembering to drink water (first he needed to find his water bottle), getting changed for PE (first he had to find his peg).
We suggested that he might need extra help. We suggested that he, himself (as an individual) might not be ready for all that was being asked of him. But they told us he couldn’t be bothered. They were more experienced than us and we felt that we must be lacking in some respect. We were trying to make our child fit into this environment, but it didn’t feel ok. We were trying but it wasn’t working. And he was starting to get very upset about everything.
We were concerned about him going into Year 1 as the children would be spending much more time sitting at desks and writing. So, after a long think during the summer holidays, we wrote to the school to say that he was leaving and, without a plan, we took him out of school.
What we couldn’t understand was that our beautiful, intelligent, curious, friendly, chatty, articulate and knowledgeable child was not acceptable. We didn’t say that to the school of course, but they didn’t seem to see this themselves. Plus, some of these qualities are not so easily measured.
Our next stop was homeschooling. We discovered a whole world that was empty and quiet while everyone was busy at work or at school and felt rather clever about it. Why would you do anything else? However the relentness nature of homeschooling soon became apparent – being a parent, combined with keeping on top of paid work, plus the burden of responsibility for one’s child’s education created too great a strain on our family.
A year later we were thinking about school again. We looked at a variety of schools as we didn’t want another false start. Somehow they all seemed to be the same, but there was something different about Lewes New School. At Lewes New School our son’s social and emotional education is considered as important as his academic learning. He can be himself and develop as an individual who knows himself. He has a voice and what he says matters – that is something that we, his parents, now understand better.
As for his writing, he has been given support to develop his skills in this area in his own time. He now writes in a beautiful script, albeit slowly and with a lot of huffing and puffing, but he is very proud of his work. His self-confidence, though it had been somewhat dented, has improved so much, and his love of learning has continued to grow and he loves going to school.