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How important is a local school?(23 Posts)
I need some help, ladies. My DS2 has loved his first year at nursery at a Pre-Prep around 10miles from home. He's due to go into the Reception class in September. The school is becoming v academic and part of the reason we wanted him to start in Pre-Prep was that there was a better chance of getting him into the senior school when the time comes. It takes me an hour round trip in the mornings though - and we are the only family from this area, all the other parents are local to the school.
We're new to the country/area and feel that we have completely underestimated the benefits of putting DS2 into the local prep school. This school is also really good - emphasis is on the rounded individual with a greater breadth of ability in the school. We had originally looked round it but thought the one further away had better facilities - new sports hall, swimming pool etc sport being v important to DH. As it transpires the Pre-Prep have limited access to them as the Senior School use them mostly.
So - do we move him although he is really happy there? The upsides are the school is walking distance, more chance of local friends for DS2, more potential support for me with meeting local mums and also we'd be more plugged in to the local scene as the town/village we're in is pretty small and this is where we've decided to put down roots. General consensus amongst parents I've spoken to is that there isn't really much difference in the prep schools.
Any advice would be great as I'm struggling with prioritising what is best for DS2 and what 'might' be better for the family as a whole....is it selfish to look at the latter or should it just be about the best fit for my son?
I can only speak from my own experience. My children go to the local school and its been a revelation for us as a family - local friends for them (and for us), which I think only get stronger as they get older and start after school activities (brownie camp, football training) etc besides the usual play dates etc. Definitely an emphasis on every individual, not just the academic side of it (although that is strong too).
If I felt the school 10 miles away was better and have him an increased chance of getting into the preferred secondary school, it would be a tough call. It would have to be demonstrably better to give up the local connection. If there really wasn't any evidence to show he'd be disadvantaged by going to local school, that would have to be my preference.
Good luck whatever you decide, its a tricky decision.
I used to do just under an hour's round trip to take my DC1 to a nursery school.
We moved her to a local nursery feeding into pre-school and Reception class and it was a revelation - so nice to know people more locally and feel like we are part of the community now. We definitely didn't get that from the further-away nursery.
And the time I saved on the round trip was a revelation.
But I guess you are talking about the private system, which is completely different.
slightly different slant here but I went to school 12 miles from home from the age of 5. There were others in the school who lived in our village, in my class there were 4 of us in our village.
It was a real pain for my parents taking us there I expect, easily an hour round trip although from Yr6 I went by public transport and we did do car shares some days otherwise.
I didn't see school friends outside of school but to be honest that is often the case with private schools as people travel further. Did it bother me? I can't remember it being a problem, in the holidays and sometimes at weekends we saw people and I played with other children in our road from different schools happily so I don't think I really noticed or missed out. It actually seemed more annoying once I was a teenager to be honest.
If the schools are about as good as each other then the local one would probably be better especially from the point of view of YOU making friends as well. Ours was the only real option, the local school wasn't good and it was the nearest private.
All I would say is that to be honest to your child there will probably not seem to be a problem staying at the further away one as they won't know any difference but that isn't to say it wouldn't be nicer to be at the nearer one and see friends more.
Thanks ladies - Poppywearer, I think state or private the benefits of going local would be the same. You've both echoed my thoughts - I suppose the only kicker would be if we moved him and then he didn't get into the senior school later on....but 6 years is a long time and anything could happen. Apparently all the kids in the local prep got into their first choice Senior schools - and I asked specifically about tutoring (I'm not a fan) and the Registrar said the Head doesn't encourage it and that most, barring a couple, got in on the strength of their existing education, rather than being hot housed for the last 6mths before the entrance exams. So I saw that as a good thing!
Happy to hear any other experiences - the more the merrier!!
Thanks Perriwinkle - I suppose if I was to be absolutely honest local friends for DS2 would be an added bonus, but it would be more to integrate us as a family into the local community - is that selfish..?
If the schools are comparable then you'll save yourself 2 hours a day in the car. It will also give your DS much more chance of developing friendships if he can go to other children's houses and vice versa without it being a huge deal.
I don't know if my opinion is any help either, as I know nothing of private schools, but I think a school being local enough to walk to is a MASSIVE "plus" when you are comparing schools. As you say, it's not just about frinds for your dc, but it's about being part of the community around that school (and the same faces then turn up at Beavers/ Cubs / Scouts and swimming lessons etc) and being able to help each other out, and just generally get to know one another.
Honestly can't say how much that happens in private ed though, or how important it is for getting into secondary school of your choice.
I'd agree with Perriwinkle about some schools which draw from large catchments but you've said that both schools are mostly attended by children local to each area.
My brother went to a 10-mile away secondary school. Great school. His best friend lived 3 miles in the opposite direction from school, they NEVER got to socialise out of school time. If it's not a total dealbreaker then try the local one, you could always move him back at year 3 (after key stage 1) if you or he don't find it nicer.
I would say local school is huge plus. Local friends for all of you, people to help if you are ill/running late, DS can walk to school by himself when he's older with his friends, he will have friends locally and it will be easy to play with them. Don't underestimate this. My DS is 9 and has lots of local friends, they play football at the park, play outside. Without that, he would be totally dependent on me for seeing any friends, as it is he can see them ad hoc.
You can always move back to the existing prep school during years 4, 5 or 6 if you didn't like the way the local school was going. It is worth having a good view as to how competitive entry to the senior schools of your choice really are. They're not always as competitive as you think, but sometimes it is also down to what happens on the day.
I think distance becomes more of an issue in prep school when sports fixtures and after school activities come into the question. Look closely at the prep school calendar and see how many afterschool events there are: parents evenings, socials, concerts etc to say nothing of open afternoons, sports/charity days when you may be asked to be at school for part of the day. Finally who is your emergency help if for whatever reason you can't pick up?
I have one at local prep and had one at a prep 5 miles away which fed automatically into a senior school. I have to say that having to sit competitive entrance exams is not a huge bundle of fun, but the children were at the best schools for them as individuals. But when they were both at preps 5 miles apart, school pick up was not fun...
Commuting by car to school is do-able, of course it is. We did it for primary. However, it's a darn sight easier now they're at a (secondary) school they walk to, and can also walk to their friends' houses
not that they don't still demand lifts.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
I don't see how it is selfish to be thinking about the whole family in the situation. You have moved to an area and settled, it is just as important that you get to meet families as it is that he makes friends and it would be a lot easier to do that if it is local.
I also don't see how it is selfish to think of integrating yourselves as a family in this situation.
To be honest, to me this would be a total no-brainer. Very very hard (if not impossible) to beat a good local school.
If you are worried about your DS settling with changing school, don't. My DS changed school 3 times in his first 4 years of school, he is settled, happy and achieves well.
I recently moved my children from a local school to one 10 miles away. There have been ups and downs. There is no doubt that they are not as included in local activities (cricket, football etc). However, I am not sure that this bothers them. I do drive long distances to ensure that they see their friends and this can be a bit of a pain but they see them with the same frequency as they did when all of their friends were local.
For me the upside has been not being involved in school gate politics and local dramas. But then I am an anti-social so and so and am much happier having taken a step back from these things. If you would enjoy being immersed in it all, then a local school has many advantages.
Not quite the same scenario you have OP but bits of our situation may help!
DS is at a pre-prep 13 miles from home, but it's also very close to direct rail links (if the car isn't available or it's snowing etc - this has happened a lot this year!) and also I work 7 mins drive away. Because of this it works very well. I just have to make extra effort to get DS to playdates and parties at weekends.
When he's older it may be a problem as he can't exactly walk to a friends house alone, but in some respects that might be a good thing!
To get community friends, we do local cricket, we plan to start Beavers this autumn, and there's also the local church. We do have local schools that are very good, both state and indie, but dealbreaker for me was the ability to get to work without sticking DS in childcare for hours while I was driving to and fro. This way I get that time with him, and he doesn't mind!
If I didn't work or worked in the town? He'd be at a local school. On my few 'adult' days off, doing the school run is indeed a pain!
Your DS is young enough to make a move quite easily but I wouldn't go into it expecting a smooth assimilation into village life. Read all the other threads about school gate politics/cliques.
We have two sets of nice neighbours with DC one school year older than our DS but they have nothing in common. One a girl into pink princesses and one boy into dance/drama. DS enjoys kicking balls of all varieties all day so none is enthusiastic about calling for the others. DS has made strong friendships through sporting activities as well as school and this has brought the bonus of having two groups of friends.
Your DS can join beavers/football etc to make local friends. You could volunteer to help as a way of breaking the ice.
Interesting thoughts - thanks. I hadn't even thought about school gate politics...or what would happen if you fell out with someone from school but kept on bumping into them in the village/at beavers/cricket etc. More food for thought!
Assuming that both schools have large-ish intakes, I don't think falling out with someone is that much more or less of a problem based on how close you live to school. School is such a large part of life.
For me, the further school would have to be much better to justify the distance.
Firstly, there is your life. Two hours a day is a lot of school run, petrol, cost, etc. And as you say, no local back up.
I also think that there is a big difference between being the non-local kid where people are spread over a large area and being the non-local kid where everyone else lives close. The latter is a lot harder - you miss out on so many informal events, the cub camp they all go on together, etc.
Also, you don't say if you are WAH at the moment. If you aren't, how much more difficult would the further school make it if you wanted to in future? If you are, I presume it's being pretty curtailed by your travel time as I guess you'd have mentioned it if the school was close to your work.
Oh, also there are the inevitable parents evenings, etc. So an hour to do school run. Home for a bit and then out again on an hour's round trip to attend X. If your partner works, will it affect his (or her) ability to make events like nativity plays, concerts, etc.
All brilliant and valid comments - we're going to move him to the local Prep. Thanks to everyone who posted xxx
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