Sending my average DS to the local comp....or private?

(76 Posts)
Parmarella Wed 09-Oct-13 11:52:54

DS in y6 is average. To me this is an achievement as only 2 years ago he was 18 months behind!

I was thinking of sending him to our local comp, as it is quite good (good pastoral care, friendly, 85% 5+ A-C GCSE INCL Maths and Engl. but of course big classes and some low level disruption which is distracting)

Most MNers seem to have above average kids.

So I was wondering if anyone who has a more average DS, and sent him to the local comp, could tell me how they fared?

Lots of my friends send kids private, but the private schools here do not have better results than the comps, apart from one super selective he would not get into anyway.

Am I deluded in thinking an average kid at a local comp could do well in the end? Or will they slowly sink without a trace in a middle- bottom set? ( as MIL seems to think).

He is clever enough, just not "school clever" IYKWIM.

Have my heart set on the local comp, DS would liek to go there too, but no experience myself of the state system so am I seeing it with rose tinted spectacles?

Please reassure me about average kids at comprehensives!

Parmarella Thu 10-Oct-13 07:06:51

Mutteroo, that os interesting. I had the feeling at the small private school they were nice enough but the teachers were so lacklustre, even DS commented on it.

JustinB's mum, I have visited all the schools twice, once on a normal day on my own, and once on an open day with DS.

Either way it will be a leap of faith necessitating a bit of luck.( after all you can be lucky or unlucky with yeargroup, tutor etc)

curlew Thu 10-Oct-13 07:07:11

Can I ask how you know there is low level disruption? Doe it happen in the top sets(assuming that's where your ds will be)?

Parmarella Thu 10-Oct-13 07:08:47

Curlew, more in low levels ( it is mentioned by ofsted) and not sure DS would be high sets as he is (only) average (level 4b or 4c)

MaggieW Thu 10-Oct-13 14:09:16

My DS, average in performance, but capable of more, has just started at local secondary comp. It has similar results and is a true London multicultural school. I got some particularly patronising comments from other Y6 mothers (whose kids were going private) last year (and also some interesting ones on MN) but saw that as being more about their own insecurities and prejudices than our choice.

On what I've seen so far, and I know it's very early days, we've made absolutely the right choice. DS finds the work so much more interesting than primary, is much more motivated to do homework, has great teachers and, above all, is very happy. He seems to have upped his game work-wise as well. I was worried about him sinking, and I think will always have that worry, but he's had a great start and I really couldn't have asked for more than that. I know we'll have ups and downs along the way, but I feel confident the school will help him (and us) to ride these out. I think what I'm basically saying is to disregard everything but your child's needs when choosing, which I am sure is what you're doing. Good luck.

mummytime Thu 10-Oct-13 14:17:05

A friend of mine has a DD at a high performing Academic girls school, and she has complained about some lessons being lacklustre. She is also trying to transfer her children out of their private schools into state ones.

jennycoast Thu 10-Oct-13 14:43:29

I'd think that at a comp with those sorts of results (that really is exceptional) that if Ofsted have mentioned low level disruption being a problem, the school will now have a thorough action plan to resolve it. If that's is your only concern, why don't you call and ask to speak to the head about it?

I think someone else mentioned this upthread, but don't assume that class sizes will be massively different. DD2 is in a school where 20 is the norm for most teaching classes, 25 for a few subjects.

Parmarella Thu 10-Oct-13 17:23:33

MaggieW, that sounds sensible, and I think it is what I will be doing too.

jennycoast, I have spoken to the HT, but not asked specifically about the low level disruption, as I thought it might just be a natural "byproduct" of large classes? It happens in primaries too.

muminlondon Thu 10-Oct-13 18:49:36

Still curious about the low level disruption and whether you're concerned because you observed about it or read about it in an Ofsted report. When is this happening?

A lot of schools are now getting marked down by Ofsted because the teacher spends too much time talking and not getting the children themselves to talk, ask questions, discuss theories, compare answers, etc. So if the disruption is about children discussing work or their understanding of the task it's not a bad thing. Whereas in schools with beautifully behaved children and no background noise they may look like they are listening intently or dutifully writing notes but there's no real learning or probing going on.

Also in secondary schools they are constantly moving around and if school periods are shorter, this may happen more frequently. So it might be a feature of the first 10 minutes but it is obviously not interfering with their learning.

Just a thought ...

VivaLeThrustBadger Thu 10-Oct-13 18:56:49

If the comp and the private are getting similar results it could well be that the teaching is better in the comp.

A private school with smaller classes, better resources, with kids who all have parents who are interested in their education, they should be getting better results. Which makes me think the comp is a better option.

Parmarella Thu 10-Oct-13 21:59:57

Muminlondon, well you have explained it really. It was mentioned in Ofsted ( but only in a very few classes) and the impression I got when walking around.

But I was last in a comp in the 80s, and things have changed!

muminlondon Thu 10-Oct-13 23:27:23

If it was mentioned in the Ofsted report and they have a good head, they could sort that out. All schools have 25 hours of teaching/learning time per week but some choose to have four periods of 1 hour 10 minutes ending up with, say, 20 periods, others break up every 50 minutes and have 30 periods. I quite like the idea of longer periods with more in-depth focus but (without knowing much about this) it might suit boys better to have shorter periods, or a broad curriculum, or it might reduce the amount of homework they'd have to rely on. Otherwise, surely they could just make sure the teachers are more efficient in ending their lessons on time.

I'm sure they'll be on to it. I like the idea of noisy engagement rather than passive silence, though!

clary Fri 11-Oct-13 00:11:51

Those GCSE marks are very impressive!

My DS1 is pretty well below average (due to SEN) and goes to the local secondary school. He is doing OK FWIW.

I teach in a secondary serving a relatively not well-off area. Lots of the students achieve very well, if they are prepared to work hard and have average ability they usually leave with a clutch of C-B grades smile

Your local school sounds like a no-brainer, I agree.

muminlondon noisy engagement is what I am aiming for smile well I'm not getting passive silence anyway!

curlew Fri 11-Oct-13 03:10:30

I think sometimes you have to decide whether what you're hearing is low level disruption or a purposeful hum.

When I first started to go into modern secondary schools I couldn't always tell the difference, because my own secondary school experience was of the complete silence at all times type. It's very easy to sit in complete silence and not take in anything that is being said to you and it look like a good lesson.

However, proper low level disruption is a pain in the neck!

Parmarella Fri 11-Oct-13 07:01:13

I have to admit that it was me thinking the kids talked rather a lot in some of the lessons I saw. So low level disruption is probably a misnomer, I linked the two together.

I am sooo out of touch! I went to a very academic school jn the 80s where mostly we copied silently of the board, or answered questions in our books. I remember secondary as dry and dull. I would love it to be a bit more fun and dynamic for DS!

Parmarella Fri 11-Oct-13 07:06:01

The HT made a very good impression, very no nonsense, to the point, but friendly. Same for a deputy head I met ( who actually explained the school ethos is all about involving kids and engaging them, rather than a "teacher talks, pupils listen" set up), I am just so old fashioned in my mind and think letting kids talk in class sounds a bit "newfangled" and risky. I blame my old school!

mummytime Fri 11-Oct-13 07:25:38

Talking in lessons really isn't necessarily disruptive. If you can overhear what they are saying and it is about the subject, it means they are very engaged in learning.
If you think about it, in any training you do as an adult; there are frequent opportunities to discuss, often in small groups. As an adult I have never been to a course (as opposed to a public lecture) where someone just stands up the front and talks, while I write notes. If they did I would probably forget most of it when I went home, or even worse go home having mis-understood something crucial.

Low level disruption is when pupils talk at the wrong time, are mainly off topic, are not engaged in the work, and are probably bored. Boredom comes from work being too easy or too hard, or presented in a totally undemanding way.

musicalfamily Fri 11-Oct-13 09:05:33

Back to the original question, it sounds like your son is happy and doing well. In the years I have learned that you can only make the choice that feels the right one at the time, which doesn't always turn out how you want it to be for so many reasons. And remember that every child is different.

What I am trying to say is that I would carry on there and then review the situation regularly - you can always switch later on, provided he maintains a good standard of education.

The reason I say all of the above is that in my experience, a school can be excellent for a child and terrible for another, for so many reasons: change of teachers, style/personality of teachers not agreeing with the child, school ethos being wrong for the child, bad fit with a particular year group, the list really is endless.

I have had 3 children so far in an outstanding state primary and 2 are sailing through and one has had a hard time/hated it most of the time. I have no illusions that it will be a similar situation at secondary. If I were you I would just wait and keep a firm eye on what's going on.

cory Fri 11-Oct-13 09:24:23

Ds is average/slightly below average and he is very happy at the comp.

Any low level disruption he has probably been responsible for himself tbh (blush), but the school have dealt with it swiftly and efficiently and he is pulling himself together as a result. He was in bottom sets in primary and is now slowly moving up. Partly because of engaged teaching, partly because of the example of the other pupils.

Parmarella Fri 11-Oct-13 09:52:28

well, having visited schools twice, with and without DS, and talking to DH, friends, and MN (wink), and thinking carefully about all the plusses and minuses, I have just signed him up for this comprehensive.

The privates are out, if they can't outperform the state schools here, what's the point. We can do loads of sport locally anyway. (and do)

People have commented on the results of the comp being good, but it is the "poor relation" of the excellent one a bit further down the road which gets a stonking 93% 5A*-c incl Eng, Maths GCSE (oversubscribed and out of catchment though).

We seem to be living in a good place for comps I guess.

It feels nice to have made a decision. Intuitively this feels right as well.

PrettyBelle Fri 11-Oct-13 12:25:18

Parmarella, just wanted to thank you for this thread and for sharing your experience. I may be looking at a similar situation in a few months' time so it was very helpful. Best of luck to your son in his studies!

Gilbertus Fri 11-Oct-13 12:37:09

Sounds like youve made a good decision. We went private for our average but sporty dd1 but only because the school has excellent results which are quite a lot better than the local comp (which is in itself above average I believe). There are a few privates locally which have results below the comp and tbh I think those parents are wasting their money!

willyoulistentome Fri 11-Oct-13 12:45:29

I'm at the same stage as you. Have also been wondering whether we could afford private for our 'academically average at best' son. Looked a few privates. There are a couple of super selective ones which he would not get into even if we could afford it. Plus being so selective there is WEAK SN support - only for physical SN really. I also looked at the local comps.

Our catchment one is 'Outstanding' but over subscsribed, and has FABULOUS support for SN kids. Only 600 kids.

One the other way is also 'Outstanding' and has a fabulous feel, amazing facilities and also good SN support. It also has a 6th form, so that one less worry in 5 years time. We are not actually in catchment, but with a lot of appealing we would probably get him in according to the HT. Nobody who persisted was turned away in previous years.

I LOVED both of them, so now I have to decide which order to put them in on our application.

Another one that was 'good' which he would get into easily even though we are not in catchment, I HATED. Shabby, gloomy,buildings, scruffy dour staff and kids. Obscenities over the walls - even in the 'artwork' on display. Uninspiring HT.

Also looked at non selective privates - hated them too for the same reason as the shabby comp. ( apart from the F words in the changing rooms)

We will go state. In our area, unless you are loaded AND a genius it's by far the best option for average kids around here. We are very lucky.

KittiesInsane Fri 11-Oct-13 14:42:31

Seriously? 93% 5A* to C for a comp?
Seriously?

Our local is supposed to be in the top 10 comps in the country and doesn't get that.

Have they published the '5A* to G' results by mistake?

KittiesInsane Fri 11-Oct-13 14:46:00

...or are they selecting on the sly, by plush postcode and expensive uniform?

curlew Fri 11-Oct-13 14:47:33

They certainly have very few low attainers or FSM kids.............

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