Please help me understand England's education system !

(20 Posts)
mumtosp Mon 11-Nov-13 12:43:56

Hi all,

I wasn't educated here... I've been living here for more than 7 years now but never bothered with the education system as I didn't have any children. I now have a DS who is 1 and I'm starting to think about schools and I must say I'm thoroughly confused ! sad

Here are my questions...
How do you decide between Private and State (assuming you can afford private)? Do private schools really give you a better start in life?

When do I need to start thinking about schools? I have friends whose DCs are in private schools and I'm being told off for not deciding which pre-prep DS should go to !! confused

What about Grammar schools? I was under the impression that they still exist... but after reading this article and the comments I'm not so sure anymore BBC !

Is it better to send DS to a state primary and then to an independent secondary?

And finally, what are the 3+, 4+, 7+ and 11+ !?! thoroughly confused

TIA and apologies I'm being so naive !
smile

Talkinpeace Mon 11-Nov-13 14:30:42
PottyLotty Mon 11-Nov-13 14:34:47

Private/State/Grammar is personal preference.

State schools cost nothing to send your child there as its covered by paying your tax/national insurance. They can range from being fantastically brilliant to being dreadfully awful. You have to do your own homework on finding out which schools you are in the catchment/cluster area of to help you decide on a private or State education. Your Local Education Authority can help you find your local schools. (search for LEA + area you live in )

Private schools are fee paying schools where you pay termly/annually for your childs education. They are sometimes exam entry too where they only take the brightest children. Very often they do offer oportunities and standards of education that state schools just cannot offer. There are of course some that are no better than the local state school so you will have to look into each school you are considering and compare them.

State Grammar schools are few and far between (mainly in Kent/SE of the country) and most require an exam to be passed before entry. They usually use the 11+ exam taken in year 5 of primary school so when they apply for their high school place in year 6 they will already know if they have a place at the Grammar school. They are usually funded by the tax payer (although some private schools call themselves Grammar Schools but you have to pay to send your child there) and are for the brightest children who have passed the entry exam.

A prep-school would only be if you are sending your child to a private school rather than state school. The state system offers free nursery places for 3 and 4 year olds instead. There may well be a waiting list for your local prep-school hence why your friends are suggesting you get your childs name down now.

Whether you send your child to state primary and then independant senior school is entirely up to you and your child.

Sorry im rather vague but at the end of the day it is what suits you as a family. You need to do the background work yourself for the schools in your area and then work out whether its for you or not. Always keep your options open and consider everything.

prh47bridge Mon 11-Nov-13 15:31:48

When do I need to start thinking about schools?

If you send your son to a state school he will start in the September following his fourth birthday. You can apply the previous autumn with the deadline for applications being mid-January - around 8 months before he would start school. If you want to go private you may need to start thinking about it much earlier.

What about Grammar schools? I was under the impression that they still exist

Grammar schools are secondary schools so that is a long way away. There are still a few state grammar schools but in most areas all secondary schools are comprehensives, so whether or not grammar schools are an option for your son depends on where you live.

bebanjo Mon 11-Nov-13 15:46:13

Home ed is also a legal option in the uk.
Just to confuse you a bit more.

out2lunch Mon 11-Nov-13 15:53:18

and your child doen't need to start at 4 - they can wait til 5.

prh47bridge Mon 11-Nov-13 16:08:46

and your child doen't need to start at 4 - they can wait til 5.

True but you need to apply as if he will start in the September following his fourth birthday. You then have the option of deferring the start until the term following his fifth birthday (provided that isn't a full year). And these days most children do start at 4.

bsc Mon 11-Nov-13 16:16:10

If you are cnsidering fee-paying, and live in an area with increased birth rate (I.e. most urban areas) you need to get your DS' name down now. Schools all have open days where you can view what they offer.
State maintained schools have open days, usually at this time of year too, but it's more the norm to view when your child is 3 or so, and you're doing the preference form.
All state applications are handled by the LA admissions dept, independent are handled by the individual school.
HTH
It really, really depends where you live tbh!

ErrolTheDragon Mon 11-Nov-13 16:22:19

>When do I need to start thinking about schools?

If you live in an area where there are lots of faith schools, you may need to start thinking about it very early, as some of them give priority to children whose parents have attended a particular church for some period of time, which can be up to two years. And some of the RC schools give priority to children baptized into that church. Totally bizarre that this sort of thing can be a selection criterion for a state-funded school but better to be forewarned.

>They usually use the 11+ exam taken in year 5 of primary school so when they apply for their high school place in year 6 they will already know if they have a place at the Grammar school.

The few hereabouts do the 11+ at the start of yr6 (so results known before applications put in) - I thought that was the norm. I've never heard of the 11+ being done in yr5.

The 11+ is the only exam which relates to state schools, and then only to grammars. The others I assume are what different independent schools may use - a lot of private primaries (especially away from the madness of the London area) don't have any selection at all. The 'public schools' - confusingly, the really prestigious private ones such as Eton - have a 13+ exam (Common Entrance).

PottyLotty Wed 13-Nov-13 09:22:00

Errolthedragon (fab name by the way ) My DD will be taking her 11+ for the Grammar School in July next year. She is in year 5 and starts year 6 in September. We apply for her high school place in October next year.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 13-Nov-13 11:51:16

Gosh, that's tough - mine had the summer hols between yr5 and 6 to prepare, they do the exams in September and the results are back well before the application deadline at the end of Oct.

mumtosp Thu 14-Nov-13 22:43:42

Hi all,

Thanks for your answers smile I think I'm slowly getting there!

I live in Bromley which is technically a part of Greater London, but some of the residents still like to think of it as part of Kent. So grammar schools are an option.

Given that we have some very good (although over subscribed) state primaries, I'm keen on DS going to one of them....

lalalonglegs Thu 14-Nov-13 23:02:47

Your local authority will publish information on the distance the last child to be offered a place using distance criteria lives from the school so, by looking at this over the past three or four years, you will have an idea how close you have to live to a particular school in order to stand a reasonable chance of getting your child a place there.

Be aware that some boroughs have recently changed from measuring using a walking distance - so the most efficient route using roads and lit footpaths you could use to reach the school - to a straight line method - drawing a circle with the school at its centre - which makes it look as if the distances have shrunk enormously from one year to the next. But it's only a change in measuring method not sudden pressure on the places available.

pyrrah Fri 15-Nov-13 22:03:44

If you have great state primaries in your area then I would opt for that over private prep.

But... if you are aiming for places like Eton, Westminster etc for secondary then you would be wise to consider prep school. It's hard to swap into a prep for the final two years till Common Entrance (13+) and many of the big Public Schools now do pre-tests and you'd want to prep for those (although a child at my DD's state primary with well over 50% FSM did the Eton pre-tests last year and passed, so it can be done).

For Secondary, if you are aiming at the Grammar schools then you will almost certainly need to tutor in the preceding years if you are at a state school (and quite a few private school parents bring the tutors in as well). If you are aiming for Grammar then check your fall-backs. If the local comprehensives are dire then you might want to sit for some of the selective or non selective independents to give yourself options should DC not make the grammar.

In many areas, the competition for Grammar places is crazy - some have 2,000 applicants for 120 places and every single one of that 2,000 will be a very bright high-achieving child. It's not about a pass-mark, it's about getting high enough marks to put you in amongst the other 119 highest scorers. The same thing applies to London super-selective indies as well - huge competition for a small number of places.

The ideal is a fantastic primary next-door and a fantastic state comprehensive at the end of the road.

Remember also that you don't really get a 'choice' of state schools. You will need to tick the right boxes. Out of my 7 nearest primary schools, 3 were CofE and 2 were RC. My husband is Jewish and we're both atheist, DD is not baptised - this instantly ruled out 5/7 schools even if we had wanted her to go there as we couldn't tick the church attendance/baptism boxes. Of the 2 remaining, we lived too far from one to stand a chance (800 metres away, last distance offered was 540 metres) and squeaked into the other by 20 metres. So basically we had the 'choice' of ONE school.

So, check whether you actually live within a potential distance of schools you like - in some areas of London this can be as little as 120 metres from the school gate being the furthest distance offered!

mumtosp Fri 03-Jan-14 16:26:25

Thanks all for all your replies.... my search continues....
Just a question on league tables... which one do you look at (there's more than one !!) and do you trust them?

SheCharlie Fri 03-Jan-14 20:00:02

Here is the Bromely schools league tables...

http://www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/group.pl?qtype=LA&superview=pri&view=aat&set=1&tab=1&no=305&pg=1

Hope this helps too.

lljkk Netherlands Fri 03-Jan-14 20:03:17

No I don't trust league tables. They say a huge amount about the socioeconomic character of the parents. And rather little about quality of education or how your child will fare.

SheCharlie Fri 03-Jan-14 20:05:58

Oh.... trust them.
With today's potential of fudging things, anything is possible, I suppose!
I think they show a reasonable reflection of things though.
smile

CaroBeaner Sun 05-Jan-14 17:17:09

wrt league tables - look up schools on the Dept of Education website. Under each school will be a vast list of statistics, which tell you how effective the education at that school is for each of 3 ability bands of child. It will tell you how many are performing according to potential, how many achieve expected levels, etc. And you can compare each school to others with the same kind of ability intake.

You live in Bromley but you can apply to schools in other boroughs, too.

In the end your choice will be limited to the schools that can offer you a place based on how far away you live, or how far you meet the faith criteria.

mumtosp Fri 24-Jan-14 20:21:41

Hi all,

Thanks again for all your replies... All this has been really helpful, especially because house hunting right now and a major part of that is finding a house close to good schools - ofcourse it could all change in 3 years time ! Aarrrggghhhh !!

Another question: Since Bromley has grammar schools and we also have access to the Kent grammar schools (and like every other parent I'm hoping that DS is bright enough to get into them smile ) do you think a private primary schools will prepare him better for the entrance exams?
I know a few parents who have send their kids to state schools and have a private tutor, but then there are some who have choosen private primaries with the aim of getting into grammar schools....

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