Ofsted rating or Gut feeling

(16 Posts)
ginnybag Thu 09-May-13 14:46:36

My DD is due to start pre-school in Sept. She has offers from two school nursery classes. Hopefully, whichever one she goes to, she will also follow through into Primary from.

School One is rated Good by Ofsted, and is one that people usually fight to go to, but has had a lot of staff changes in the last few years.

School Two is currently coming out of Special Measures, but has an EY setting rated Outstanding and also has hadstaff changes since being set into Special Measures, including the EYFS Head becoming Deputy Head.

I've been to see both schools.

If I'd never read the Ofsted reports, I'd have chosen school two in a heartbeat. The children were focussed, polite, happy. The staff were honest and seemed to be engaging, down on the floor with the kids and reading with them. The facilities are fantastic.

School One was a bit grim, albeit it's an older building. No pictures or work anywhere and the kids were watching a video they'd obviously seen before with a TA sitting on a chair at the front of the carpet, ignoring them. Two kids wandered off the carpet while we were there, and were stopped by the teacher showing us around.

But there's the reports - which say that School One is achieving for its pupils and School Two is not.

I'd hate to send my DD to a school that's going to fail her now. Its an oversubscribed area - if we urn down school one now, we won't get her in later.

It's coming down to head or heart, and I'm completely stuck.

How much attention should I be paying to Ofsted over my own impressions?

Pancakeflipper Thu 09-May-13 14:53:06

Ofsted takes data from school performance and relies on a 3-4 day visit for reports.

I really feel for you. I would go wandering past at playtimes for the next few weeks. Look at the websites - should have stuff about what they do and what they have done.

A school near us went into special measures. It had a blip, a bad blip. It got loads of support and is now the best school in our area ( after 2 yrs from the doom and gloom Oftsted). It is a beautiful learning environment.

I would go with where you think your child will be happy. Children flourish when happy. Children need to have new experiences and try out things not just read/write/maths.

School 2 from what you've said! I think you should trust your instinct on this one smile

ginnybag Thu 09-May-13 15:41:27

See, that's the heart.

I think she'd be happier at the school in Special Measures. It just seemed a nicer, brighter, happier environment.

But whilst their EYFS setting is rated Oustanding, by Year Four, according to Ofsted, they have kids reading at three to four years behind their ages, which basically means they make no progress after leaving the EYFS.

That's a worry because DD is smart, and will play hell if bored. Her current childminder has had her from extremely young and freely admits she needs school. I agree with her, and I don't want her in one that won't push her or will let her coast. There's going to be very little chance of changing from there if we go there, because of the over subscription in the area.

Pancakeflipper Thu 09-May-13 15:49:19

There is a very good chance by the time your daughter gets to Year 4 the will have been huge work done to improve. I should think they will be throwing at extra resources to pull that weakness too. You could ask the Headteacher or Deputy about your concerns. The data could be showing a really bad year - you do get fluke years.

But it is a risk.

And you have to weigh that up with the weaknesses of the other school.

ginnybag Thu 09-May-13 16:11:08

No, its not a fluke year.

The whole school was a disaster, except the Early Years.

They've replaced around 80% of the staff, including the Head, and promoted the two remaining teachers, one the EYFS lead to Deputy Head, and are about to further expand her direct emit to include Year One to drive the changes through.

I've no doubt that the school are trying and could, one day, be a good school. The staff cared about their rating, that was obvious. But it's how long it takes to make the changes, what happens in the meantime, and what happens if either the Head or Deputy Head leaves.

Argggh.

I sound like the stereotypical worried mother, I know. The horrid thing is, there are two other schools in the area, which are actually far worse bets. Hence me panicking.

I was never expecting her to actually get a place at School One - I half only applied to appease my CM, who wants that school for logistics reasons!

Pancakeflipper Thu 09-May-13 16:22:59

The school is very likely to be working hard in KS2. If they are getting it right in KS2 then that's a huge advantage because they get them in Year 3 at a standard to move up.

They will be monitored closely by Ofsted as they will be receiving a lot of resources to improve ( including staff from schools who are excellent in their field). They'll be under huge scrutiny.

I honestly would be investigating both schools further.

MirandaWest Thu 09-May-13 16:29:41

Make sure you find out what the admissions criteria for the primary schools are - it is unusual for whichever nursery part you go to to have any bearing on whether you get a school place there (although it can happen). You will be applying for a primary school by January 2014 although I realise you need to decide on nursery school place sooner. You may find once your DD is at nursery school that you find out more about the rest of the school and that helps you decide which school to apply for.

BackforGood Fri 10-May-13 12:32:44

Gut feeling every time, but I'd caution against assuming that she'll carry on through into the school because of having a Nursery class place. Admissions criteria wouldn't make that happen where I live.
Accept the place where you felt it was the nicest / best place for your dd (School2) and then chat to lots of other parents to get more insight before completing your Reception application would be my advice.

doughnut44 Sat 18-May-13 15:05:19

my son is at a school where the ofsted report is not as good as the faith school he could have gone to, however he is thriving as the school has a happy atmosphere and the teacher has noticed his ability and he goes into a higher class for maths and literacy.
school is not only about education - you can back up learning at home which I have found worked with all of my kids.
a bright child should do well whatever school he is at as long as the parents step up to the mark too x

zingally Sun 23-Jun-13 19:40:26

I'd go with gut, especially for a pre-school place, where it's not hugely difficult to pull her out to another primary for reception if needs be.

As an EYFS-trained teacher myself, I'd go with gut.

Only very recently, I went on nursery visits to see our new September starters in their current settings. In one setting, rated outstanding, the staff seemed bored, bordering on aggressive with the children. When you'd think they'd make a special effort with visitors in.

In another Good rated place, the minute we walked in, we were greeted by the sound of many crying babies in the basement, and the pre-schoolers were stuffed up in an tiny attic room, up quite steep and unsafe feeling stairs. (It was an old converted town house).
My colleague and I both looked at each other and both thought "I'd never send my child here!"

We were both so concerned by what we had seen that our school contacted the county council with concerns about both settings.

3boys3dogshelp Sun 07-Jul-13 21:55:09

Hi ginny, I agree with several others - I would go with your gut. Ds1 started preschool at the local private school nursery as he was already there (has it's own nursery). It was rated as satisfactory but they were fantastic, the staff genuinely knew and cared for the children and he was learning new things every session.
Stupidly I moved him to the (private) nursery attached to his school, mainly to help meet friends etc. It was rated outstanding. When I looked round I didn't get a great feel from it at all - disinterested staff, old displays on wall, bored children. I thought I was being fussy but my gut was absolutely right, in 6 months he learned nothing and was bored. I often kept him home in summer term because he learnt more with me. Ds2 now attends nursery 1 and won't be moving!
Are you sure his nursery place will affect his school place? That is definitely not the case at any school near me.

badguider Sun 07-Jul-13 21:57:35

For nurseries for ds we're going with gut. We didn't like the nursery with the highest rating and best reputation and instead really gelled with the one that wasn't quite so good (but ok) now and which used to be really quite poor in 2010.

I am not a big believer in the inspection system tbh.

Catmint Sun 07-Jul-13 21:58:21

We spent a long time weighing up gut feeling and ofsted.

Eventually we looked at other factors, the most important being, which school could we easily walk to. Do not underestimate the value of convenience, as you will be doing this journey for years!

We went with gut, and very pleased we did.

ginnybag Fri 20-Sep-13 11:39:24

Thanks for everyone who replied to this.

We went with school 2, the lower rated school, in the end (school 1 needing to do a 'home visit' and having the weirdest intake system in the world really helped)

Two weeks in, she seems really happy, so here's hoping.

Of course, the primary admission form landed yesterday, so I've got the same decision to make all over again!

mewkins Thu 03-Oct-13 22:23:53

Good to see your dd is enjoying nursery. Just something to consider is when the last inspections were. I understand that the inspection criteria has changed in the last year or so so you may not be conparing like with like if the inspection of the better ranked school took place more than 18months or so ago. A lot of inspections of local schools have recently been carried out with the new criteria and many have dropped at least one ranking.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now