Should My Child Change Schools?

If your child is unhappy at school what should you do? When is changing schools something you should consider?

Children who weren't successful with their first choice of secondary school are sometimes put on a waiting list for a transfer when a place becomes available - but should you always take up the offer, especially if your child has settled into the current school?

Amanda Gummer, an educational psychologist, has this advice: "If your child has settled in well I'd talk to them about the option of moving and be led by them. Moving a child against their will can have a detrimental effect and they are likely not to settle into the new school.

"At 11, most children are able to understand logical arguments, so if they can see a good reason to move, they are likely to be more accepting. Furthermore, moving your child mid-year without your child being positive about the move can make children vulnerable and more likely to fall in with other disaffected children."

There is similar advice from educational psychologist Teresa Bliss: "If your child has settled, found friends and is happy, I'd leave them there unless there are significant considerations such as journey times and the cost of getting them there. But the decision to move a child depends on the underlying reasons.

"If your child is very unhappy and always 'ill' and avoiding school then you need to think hard about your options. I encourage children and parents to work through any difficulties, but if the school is unreceptive and their response ineffective, then a move may be best, especially with children whose special educational needs are not being met."

Lucy's son, when in Year 7, used to be sick almost daily as he faced another day at his school. "I knew that Jack would not cope when he went from a small primary school to a much larger secondary school.

"His teachers in Year 6 assured me he'd be fine but I knew he wouldn't be, because he was struggling anyway and despite my concerns the school had not assessed him. He was an August baby and I'd even asked for him to be held back a year, but this was refused.

"Eventually, he was assessed and diagnosed with dyslexia and some other learning difficulties, but by this time he was only attending school part time because he found it so stressful. I was backing up his education with tutoring.

"It took a long time to have him assessed but once this had taken place he was offered a place paid for by the education authority at an independent school for children with severe dyslexia."

Suzie's son William was bullied at school, from the start of Year 7. "The bullying started in Year 7 even though he was with a large group of children from his primary school. But once they were at secondary school they changed and became less friendly. The teachers did what they could to sort it but he was still bullied when he went into Year 8.

"I realised he'd be with the same year group right through school, so it seemed best to offer him the option of changing schools. He looked around the new school and felt positive about and is happy there. He's also lost weight because before he was comfort-eating due to his unhappiness."

Taking your child out of a school should be a last resort. Anna Ni Chiaomh, Head of Year 7 at King Alfred School, London, says: 'I'd generally advise against changing schools because it sometimes gives a child the impression that they cannot deal with life's challenges and this could be detrimental to their development.

"Make sure that you have raised all the issues with the school first, that the school fully understands the situation and they have put measures in place."

Teresa Bliss adds: "Parents give their child a blueprint on how to manage and behave in the outside world. If a parent is positive about a school it can help their child settle in. But sometimes, as I have seen with some children, even this doesn't help.

"If a child is being bullied and they are unhappy, which can result in self-harm, and the school isn't putting effective measures in place, then a change of school may be the only option.

"The same applies to children who have special needs when the school can't be bothered to differentiate for them, although sometimes a report from someone like myself can be helpful and a way forward."

If your child is happy at school it's better to allow them to stay there even if the school's academic performance or facilities are not as good as your preferred school. Moving a child away from their friends may result in them being very unsettled and any advantages of the new school could be lost.

However, all the experts agree that if your child is being bullied or their learning needs are not being met and you have discussed these with the school, it may be time to consider a change - but only if your child is happy to be moved.

More on Parentdish: Appealing for a school place