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Educational dilemmas

Susan Hamlyn, director emerita at The Good Schools Guide, answers your educational questions.

My son is nine and we are starting to look at independent senior schools. He is partially deaf and mildly dyslexic but manages well at school and his teachers (and tutor) are pretty confident he can pass the 11+.

He sounds a bright lad. If he is quick and competent enough to demonstrate his abilities within the 11+ time limits then he must be abler than average, given the inevitable obstacles he will have encountered during his learning journey thus far.

You don't say whether he has an educational psychologist's report or if he is allowed extra time in exams, so my assumption is that you haven't taken this route. He sounds as if he might well qualify and it would be up to you to decide whether or not to pursue this idea. It is usually well worth doing. It does not mean that your son will be ‘labelled’ or stigmatised in any way.

A good EP's report is an invaluable tool and you can ensure that any school to which you apply sees it in advance of his sitting the exams. It means that they will take his difficulties – mild as they may be – into account when assessing him alongside his peers and, as importantly, it means that they will know what support they may need to provide, should they offer him a place. It is far better that there should be openness on both sides well before a child starts school. The school then knows what is expected of them and you know that they have understood what is needed and have undertaken to provide it.

Many able children – either with or without expert support – find their own strategies to manage such difficulties as your son has. They are confident and prefer to manage on their own and this is, of course, good. But expert support from trained and experienced teachers can be empowering and liberating and can offer techniques and approaches a child – however able – would not find on his own. Your son may well benefit from such support until he tells you one day that he doesn't need it any more.

If you have an educational dilemma that you’d like us to consider running in the next issue, please get in touch [email protected]

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