in catchment for worst state primary in the area - WWYD??

(91 Posts)
elephantsdung Thu 03-Jan-13 16:40:35

I haven't started a topic on here before so here goes (pls be gentle):

We live in a nice'ish house but have an estate behind us which also has the local primary school in the middle of it. This is obviously our closest primary school but also has the worst reputation and OFSTED report in the area. It has an above average no. of children who have free school meals and, 'whilst the majority are White British there are a large number of Travellers from Irish heritage' (Quoted from OFSTED report). Whilst I really don't want to offend anyone I am looking for some advice:
DS is nearly 3 so will be starting primary school in 2014, so I will need to apply this time next year. Originally I was set on moving but, having estimated moving costs this will cost us around £18-£20K to move to a similar house to the one we have now. We have also considered private school but this would make it really tight for us (and we have no.2 on the way)
This school has been closed down a few years ago and started again as it got so bad, the thing is all the other schools in the area are really good but I know there is a real push to send people to this school (as no-one wants to go?) so there's no guarantee we could get him into another school.
So my dilemma is - should we
a) stay where we are and fork out for private school (although we probably wouldn't be able to afford it for no.2 as well)
b) stay where we are and apply for all other schools except for this one and just keep fingers crossed
c) Fork out the money to move so we are close to a good school
WWYD??

Pootles2010 Thu 03-Jan-13 16:45:13

Right first things first (and ignoring casual racism hmm) - is the school really that bad, especially since being re-opened?

If you're quite sure it is, I would say option a) isn't really an option as you can't afford it for both, and surely you wouldn't just send one?

I suppose b) depends on how likely this is to work, and c) if you can afford it might be well worth looking at - can you? It would be nicer for you to live closer to the school I would have thought.

Pancakeflipper Thu 03-Jan-13 16:46:43

Check out the stats on your local council website on what has happened in the last 5 yrs at the other schools you would like. Do they always reach their quota from their catchment or do they have a number of pupils out of catchment who haven't siblings already there.

Speak to some schools, visit them and ask if the birthdate is high for The intake your child is in.

Do visit the school you are unsure of to either confirm or change your opinion.

Moving would be cheaper than private.

almapudden Thu 03-Jan-13 16:48:07

Move house.

Clary Thu 03-Jan-13 16:51:30

Have you had a look round the school? What was your impression of staff and students?

Ofsted is relevant though can be deceptive, based on a number of factors. What rating did Ofsted give it and why? I would always look carefully at teaching, leadership, SEN and behaviour, but be less concerned about some other aspects.

Local reputation can also be deceptive.

The thing is, though you don't list sending your son to the nearest school as an option, it may end up being your option; how likely are you (based on previous years/distance from school of places offered) to get into other schools? Your other two options involve considerable expense - is that something you have as a feasible option? If yes then go for that I guess.

MerryMarigold Thu 03-Jan-13 16:53:44

Pancake's advice first. You may get in somewhere else. They will not MAKE you go to nearest school IF a further one has a place available. However its a big IF. My dsis is in a similar position. She has put 2 other schools (apart from her local one) as first and second choice - and is likely to get one of them as they are both under-subscribed village schools. The downside is having to drive to them. It is nice to walk to a school, but possibly you could move to the area where the school is later on in time, and save up a bit in the meantime.

If it's really that bad, I'd choose c) even if it's downsizing. You can't choose a) unless you can afford private for both.

Dromedary Thu 03-Jan-13 16:56:58

Is the Reception class at your nearest school reasonably ok? If so, put your DC down for better schools, but accept they may end up at the bad school. If so, put them down on the waiting list of all other decent schools that are reasonably close, and cross fingers and wait for a place to come up - children do move.

If the Reception class is awful, either move or send DC to private school while at the same time putting them down on the waiting lists of all nearby decent schools.

That's assuming you can afford c) with the downsizing. If not, your only choice is b) and pray. Go to the primary school board for advice. I believe you must put in your closest school as one of your three choices, or you can end up with something that's equally bad but on the other side of town. There is no advantage for not putting your closest school.

lunar1 Thu 03-Jan-13 16:57:03

We were offered the worst school in our area. I looked round and quite honestly it made Jeremy Kyle guests look like the epitome of sophistication. We couldn't get another option as we could not apply on faith criteria.

We have gone private, we have 2 boys. We will have to make plenty of sacrifices but it feels worth it to us.

If its been shut and now re-opened then you need to take a look around because it could very well have changed, but to be fair it might take a couple of years to up its reputation.

If you really hate it after that then move, downsize if needs be.

CarlingBlackMabel Thu 03-Jan-13 17:05:40

a) Visit the school. See for yourself what it is like. In my area the demographic break down gives very high FSM and EAL levels, and the schools are lovely. Friendly, inclusive, well run and with good teaching. Results are generally v good. You have to go and see for yourself. Improving schools are often fantastic.
b) Check the stats on your Local Authority website for the 'last place awarded in distance' for all other schools in the area you like, having visited them.
c) See if there are any other schools you would have a chance at on faith grounds, for example. Nearby faith schools might have a quota for non-faith places. Check last distance for those.
d) If the nearby schools you prefer are quite big (2 or 3 form entry schools) there is a greater chance of places becoming available very quickly, within the first couple of years, or maybe even in the first few weeks.
e) If you really hate your local school and see no chance of getting a place at one you prfer, move. But make sure you move to well within the 'last distace' catchent, and be aware that the catchments for popular schools shrink every year.

elephantsdung Thu 03-Jan-13 17:08:32

Thanks for all your advice (and for not shooting me down in flames), it's very useful and is helping me to see things more clearly. I agree I should have a look at the school but I have a feeling it won't change my mind..
Lunar - I feel the school the describe is very similar... and like Clary says I'm worried that if we try and do (b) this school may end up being our only option
I think we have decided to go with moving, as, although it will cost a lot initially its probably more of an investment (especially with no.2 coming along)
x

GrumpySod Thu 03-Jan-13 17:12:23

I guess I'd like to know what you mean by Bad Ofsted for the catchment school: I assume it has abysmal KS2 SAT results (like 29%) and chronic unsatisfactory gradings from Ofsted?

If I felt that bad about it I would move house.

Haberdashery Thu 03-Jan-13 17:21:36

Honestly, go and look at it - you might be surprised. I sent DD to the worst-rated local school because I liked it. It was rated Satisfactory. All the other local schools were Outstanding or Good but I just didn't feel the same about them. Since then, her school has been inspected and found to be Good and two of the Outstanding schools have been downgraded to Good - so all the same level now. And her school is still the friendliest of the bunch.

NamingOfParts Thu 03-Jan-13 17:24:54

If it is any comfort we ended up with a Hobson's choice of one (in special measures) primary school. This school also had a very high (over 30%) FSM entitlement and was in a very deprived area with lots of social problems which impacted the school as child protection issues.

Things we found:

- they didnt eat my children!
- they had excellent skills at handling emotional problems as they occured, basically it was a very warm and caring environment
- it is what you as parents do which matters the most

Good luck with your decision.

AChickenCalledKorma Thu 03-Jan-13 17:33:16

You could very easily be describing my children's school, including the bit about it having been shut down and reopened and including the Irish travellers. We have been part of the school community for nearly seven years and have never had any concerns about our children's education, friendships or anything else. Yes, there is a very wide social mix (including several travellers) but it's very "real" and the school is fantastic at treating every child as an individual and meeting their educational needs.

When I read the Ofsted report, I hardly recognise the school they are describing. I think they exist on a different planet from me sad.

Now, your local school may be nothing like this and you may be entirely justified in running a mile. But please do go and make your own mind up before spending ££££££ on uprooting the whole family!

tiggytape Thu 03-Jan-13 18:03:01

Agree with everyone else. You'd be mad to pay ££££ to move house without even having looked at the local school. Ofsted reports are only as good as the year they cover and even then they can give an odd perception of a school (eg just because many children have English as a second language doesn't mean they aren't fluent in English. More often than not, it means they are billingual and have no extra needs at all). If, having met the Head and looked around, you really hate it then that's a different matter but you just cannot tell what a school will be like third hand.

If you do decide you don't like the school at all ,research your next nearest options. What was the last distance they offered places to last year? Would you qualify (no guarantee they will offer as far in your year but it gives you an idea)? Also, do you qualify for any other schools eg on faith grounds?

If you go to the local school and hate it and find out all other options are closed to you because of distance criteria then that would be the time to think about shelling out lots of money for private schools or a new house perhaps.

mysteryfairy Thu 03-Jan-13 18:11:23

Agree with all the other posters that you need to look at the school before you write it off.

However I'm bemused you baulk at £18-£20K on moving, but are willing to consider using independent schools from 3+ or 4+. I live in a very cheap part of the country school fees wise and I spend 18K pa on two sets of school fees (one primary, one secondary) plus pay for more expensive transport options, more expensive uniform etc so probably costs us about £20K more pa than sending the DCs locally. In our case we are happy with the school fees bill and the decisions we have made, but I do think it would be complete madness to opt for that kind of annual expense just to avoid a one off spend of £18K to get you into a state catchment that would provide a school you were happy to use.

LIZS Thu 03-Jan-13 18:14:14

Don't commit to private schooling if it is not long term option for both your dc. You may be able to offset some of the initial cost in Reception with EY funding but it quickly becomes £££

nancerama Thu 03-Jan-13 19:10:46

Echoing what everyone else has said - visit the school and also speak to other people with children there.

We moved house recently. The house we were selling was in a poor school catchment, but we were moving to gain space primarily.

We found a beautiful house, but it was in the same catchment as our old property. Identical houses in the next street go for £60k more simply because of the school catchments.

We spoke with neighbours at our old house who send their children to the "bad" school and they were all overwhelmingly positive about it. A couple of families had actually been offered waiting list places at the oversubscribed outstanding school and had turned them down as their children were thriving at the other school.

We ended up buying the house in the less favoured catchment as we couldn't actually find any parent with children there with a bad word to say about it. In fact the only people who bad mouth it are the local estate agents.

narmada Thu 03-Jan-13 21:33:01

I definitely wouldn't go only on ofsted reports, like others have said. They are not always brilliantly accurate IME.

The Irish traveller population is large at my DD's school - with a smaller English Traveller presence too; don't be small-minded and write it off your nearest school because of that! Attendance is an issue at DD's school and some of the cultural attitudes of traveller parents and children are quite different to my own but it's good that children mix with people from all different backgrounds.

Honestly, honestly, I would worry more about secondary schools - unless you are planning to go private at that stage. It matters more I think. If you Do move, make sure you stand a fair chance of your kids getting into a decentish secondary.

narmada Thu 03-Jan-13 21:35:22

Also, high FSM uptake is not an indicator of much - additional money is attached to children/ school places for every child on FSM (the so-called pupil premium), and lots of schools with high numbers of children on FSM provide excellent teaching and pastoral support.

SocietyClowns Thu 03-Jan-13 21:37:33

I'd move because you have time to do so. Hindsight is a wonderful thing... we ended up going private for dd1 which was the right choice at the time for her (and time was not on our side to move before applying for reception), but we are now wondering how on earth to pay for two children once dd2 reaches reception age. It will probably mean moving and sending both children to a new school, which will unsettle dd1 and somehow seem unfair to both sad.
Or maybe I'll win the lottery.

admission Thu 03-Jan-13 22:14:19

I think that the first thing to do is forget about going private. You can't afford it for both off-spring and is therefore a non starter.
The first thing I would do is look at the admission arrangements for the local school. Is the admission criteria based on distance to the school or on catchment zone.If it is the later then check that you are definitely in the catchment zone for the local school - there is no guarantee, catchment zones are sometimes very peculiar shapes.
You do need to look at the local school and I would suggest a visit ASAP, with an open mind to get a feel for the school. Then go to one of the other "more favoured " schools and see how they compare and contrast. I would suggest that you then go back to the local school again and make a final decision.
You can do that all by half term and be in a position to decide whether you would accept the local school or would definitely be looking for a school farther afield.
If you are looking further afield then you can get your house on the market by easter, which is the start of the busier time for selling houses and also be then having a very good, careful look at all the schools in areas that you can afford to move to. Apart from deciding which school suits you and your child best, the important thing is to find out how oversubscribed it is and what was the distance measurement to the last child offered a place. if you then use half that distance as a circle around the school, then that is probably the area that you need to find a house in, to be reasonably sure of getting a place providing that you are talking about a reasonable intake like 30 pupils or more. A smaller school is obviously much more of a lottery and could well depend on how many siblings there are in the cohort of children.

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