Changing schools is one of hardest decisions you can make as a parent.
If you are in an excellent state school catchment area and have a lot of friends of your own attached to your child’s class, leaving becomes really difficult both emotionally and morally.
Not to mention the reality of a long term financial commitment looming large on the horizon.
In our case I was keener to give our son’s existing school another year or two before making such a big decision.
But having initially disagreed with my wife’s assessment that he wasn’t happy as it being mere “teething issues,” I too noticed a little of our boy’s “Zest” for life beginning to diminish somewhat.
We agonised about it for many weeks and it led to some frank and honest discussions post bed time.
In the end I decided it was too important a step to take without involving our son in the process directly.
Of course he was only 5 and a half at the time, but my wife has worked with children for many years and she maintains that whilst they won’t understand the nuances or wider picture at that age, they do know how they feel and that shouldn’t be ignored.
So we spoke to A explaining the options and asked him if he would like to try Hatherop for a couple of taster days. He said yes.
Looking back at this more than a year later, I now realise that talking to him about it was very important. My strongest piece of advice would therefore be make sure your children are part of the process and give them reassurance that existing friendships will be maintained with play dates etc. That is really important for them to hear.
His taster days went really well and the ball was in motion.
The slight cynic in me thought perhaps that would always be the case, as it’s in the interest of an independent school to make that experience as positive as possible. After all there is the reality that they need to hit a conversion rate and keep new blood coming in!
However, the meeting with the Head Mr Reed confirmed that all the Hatherop motives were and are genuine.
His own two children are at the school, so it is in his own personal as well as professional interest to make the school the best it can be.
For me that was the clincher and as it transpires, he is a man of his word who cares deeply about his pupils from what I can see.
Going to Hatherop hasn’t waved a magic wand over A, but his zest for life has come back and the smaller class sizes have helped enormously. He is a very lively boy who can occasionally be a handful.
Smaller numbers means he gets more one on one time and his reading in particular has come on in leaps and bounds.
If you do move a child it will still take time for them to find their place in the new class – especially if they are coming into an existing tight knit group, but Hatherop are excellent at managing that switch and it’s a decision we don’t regret for a second.
Furthermore, their attention to detail in home learning and support has been exemplary over these Covid disrupted times.
There were live lessons throughout the day, live assemblies with Mr Reed and daily live one to one reading sessions with the teaching assistant for every child. The pastoral support was also excellent, regular check ins with the teacher with the children and parents and constant support and guidance with the work.
Their commitment to the children did not waiver during those difficult times.
When the children were in school, the large grounds meant outdoor playtime could be conducted in safety making full use of the gardens, woods and climbing areas.
It really is a tough time when you’re trying to decide what to do about switching to independent schooling and the commitment is daunting. Especially in these uncertain times.
But in the end we decided that ensuring his experience of education is as positive as possible was worth more than a fancy holiday or a shiny car.
Best decision we ever made.