Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Well, I made one of the local papers this morning! Find it here. Unfortunately the article is not about my best selling books (one can but dream) but about the schooling in Dubai and choices one makes. My ds's were on the panel of kids at boarding schools. The eldest went away to school when we lived here the last time when he was ten. It was the hardest thing I have done which includes child birth and the best things I have done. Ds1 is dyslexic and when here the support (outside of the classroom) was good it was not enough. We were given the option of holding him back a year or looking at another local school. I was told by his then headmaster and that he clearly didn't have it and wouldn't go far. If the school wasn't behind him and with the bullying he experienced then I had little choice.

So with the help of the wonderfully wise Sue Anderson we decided to send him back to the UK. Any mother who has done this knows what that is like. The tears over the phone when you are miles away. The matches you never see, the small triumphs that are missed... I had to think of the boy and not me. If he continued here in education with me he would continue to believe he was stupid- the other kids said it and so did his headmaster.

He didn't look back. In small classes he could ask all the questions in his head and finally learn. He was properly assessed and told there is nothing to stop you from getting his PhD in Physics from Cambridge. So at first in small steps watched by teachers who nurtured the growing confidence Ds1 flourished. He moved onto his next school. Last week in the UK I met with his teachers who applauded his goals. He intends to do his A levels in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Art with the plan to study engineering at Imperial continuing through their masters programme. They looked at me and said he can do it. He can receive the A*s required and nothing lower than a B in the other GCSE subjects (meaning English and RE).

I only told him his headmaster's comment from all those years ago before Christmas. He was quite rightly angry (this man is still in education here in Dubai). I told DS1 the best revenge is success.

So ds1 had a convincing need to be away. Why did I send ds2? Well, he has no learning difficulties at all unless you count laziness. However I was warned that ds2 was the 'perfect' student. He sat comfortably at the top of his class here. He was joy and never a problem. A wise PE teacher said to me quietly and off the record - if you want to pull the best out of him you will need to find teachers who have time to challenge him. In boarding school they have time to know the kids and pull the best out of them. They have done so with ds2.

I am now sitting with the same dilemma with dd. The schools here are not challenging her. She is happy to do only what is asked and nothing more...It is such a waste of a clever and curious mind. I have no faith in the education provided here. Profit as with many things in Dubai is the key motivator at schools. Teachers are not supported properly and don't often stick around long. Education here could be fabulous. The multi cultural aspect of the community is wonderful. The facilities are great but the schools seem to lack the desire to reach higher and pull the best out of the their students.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts. I believe I have made the right choices for my kids thus far. Interestingly enough both boys said the same when they were on the panel yesterday.


Cathy said...

Liz, I can so relate to this.

My Son 1 has some specific learning difficulties..not severe, but enough to make him underperform at school. However the teachers didn't care, as long as he was working within the statistical average, which he was most of the time. Only when it looked as thugh he was going to score below average in his English SATs did he get any extra help.

He then encountered a teacher who called him (and the rest of the class) fools and idiots. He ended losing all his fragile self esteem and having a breakdown, from which he is still recovering.

It must have been so hard to send the boys away to school but you did so in their best interests and it is paying off. I have several friends whose autistic children now go to residential schools...they have found it hard to leave them there, however difficult things were at home, but it is working for them too.

Never doubt your own instincts, you are a great mum!


JJ said...

That's really interesting to read. It was very courageous of you to send them and I'm really glad that you found the right place.

DOT said...

I would like to sit down with that headmaster and, given an hour, I could make him feel very stupid.

Anyone of intelligence can make anyone else feel stupid, it is the job of the intelligent to make others feel they are of worth. We are all clever in our own, individual ways.

ChrisH said...

Your decisions for your children have been courageous and far-sighted so well done, Liz.

Flowerpot said...

This must be one of the most difficult decisions of all Liz. I do feel for you.

Phillipa said...

Liz - you're a caring, loving mum and that's what matters. I just feel lucky to have been able to have had my d at a local school. Mind you, I was told when I asked at her primnary school:

"Should she apply to grammar school?"
"Oh," said Teacher, it's tough to get in you know."

We ignored him but sent her to a bog standard comp in another city - and she's now leaving Oxford and has got a very prestigious Phd place at Cambridge so nahhh! Good on you for taking no notice and taking action.

Debs said...

I think you've been very brave and unselfish. Good for ds1 for doing so well at school, success definately is the best form of revenge. Good for him.

HelenMHunt said...

Sounds like you've made wise, if difficult, choices xxx

Steve Malley said...

Somehow, the thought of boarding school makes me think of Harry Potter, and of Donna Tartt's Secret History.

Of course, I realize your wee ones probably won't learn magic. I hope they also do not kill their classmates.

I do believe I need more coffee... :)

cs harris said...

That must have been an unbelievably hard decision. I applaud you for making it. Not sure I could be that selfless. And there's always the worry, What if this is the wrong thing to be doing?

Leigh said...

Oh, LIz. I do sympathise. I have enough trouble just sending my kids to playgroup...

Jenna Dawlish said...

Have you thought about Home Educating your daughter?
Not sure if this is a legal option in Dubai, but it is in the UK. I do it myself with my 2 boys.

Jenna Dawlsih

Jenna Dawlish said...

Further to my previous comment - have a look at this vid - really interesting stuff about parenting!


Jenna Dawlish said...

Ooops - I meant this link:


Fiona said...

I think feeling guilty comes with the territory when you're a parent. You sound like a wonderful mother to me.

I just had a second dyslexia assessment yesterday at Southampton uni. I can't tell you how exciting it was to be told of all the software and other, much simplier things I could use to help myself. Putting a yellow film over text was one of these things which made an amazing difference.

Susie Vereker said...

With you all the way, Liz.

In my case, I thought it was good for the boys to belong somewhere rather than have to change international schools constantly. It's hard on the mums though.

Loved your boat photos too.

liz fenwick said...

I am a bit late in coming back to you all but did want to say thanks for the support. Nothing is ever totally perfect and as parents we strive for the best!

Jenna - thanks for the home education link. It's growing here. I'm afriad that my dd and I wouldn't be able to do this at this stage. I would have had to start sooner.......she is too strong willed :-)

sexy said...