Deadline in 2 days - which primary school to put 1st???(30 Posts)
Ok, this sounds pathetic but whilst I have put in my school application for DD it can still be changed until Midnight Weds. So... Of my top 2 choices - realistically we will get one of them - I can't decide which to put 1st. Really don't want to make the wrong decision and although I know overall she will be ok in either I just feel this great anxiety that we'll mess it up!
School 1 - ofsted outstanding, 4 form intake, standards seem good and I know 2 children currently in reception whose parents are happy with it. Good reputation locally although know of 2 parents quite unhappy with how their children's additional needs were managed.
School 2 - ofsted satisfactory, 1 form intake, is church school and we are active church members, has good community feel, being small all the children know each other, know quite a few families with older children there but who have quite mixed opinions of the school. Newish (2 years) head trying hard to improve standards but most recent Ofsted in Sept still only satisfactory..
Deep down I think we should choose the church school but academically and overall the other one seems better. Dd seems to be quite bright and obviously we want her to achieve her potential. So, any thoughts to help me decide please? (Dh unsure too)
Thanks for all your help, and you have been helpful definitely. Just thought I'd update to say in the end we stuck with our original choice and have put the bigger school first, and the church school second. Still have mixed feelings in some ways but it's done now so we just have to wait and see what happens! Dh is definitely happy and says he will be disappointed if we get the church school, I'm not so sure. Probably be happy either way. And as one of you said at the end of the day nothing is permanent so who knows what the future will bring us!
Also you say that parents with kids there have mixed opinions... that would be a decider for me, and I would opt for the bigger school.
My dd was at a one-form church school and moved in Y3 to a three-form school. The main reason was that there weren't enough friendship opportunities - she's thrived at the bigger school but also adored her old one, which was actually better academically. But the difference between our situation and yours is that the church school took kids from a very wide catchment (so no community feel) and also there was a high proportion of kids from difficult backgrounds.
One-form entry is lovely for infants, not so good for bright sociable girls as they get older is my feeling. But your one might be fine if you think she will get on with the children who go there and you have that community feel (which is really important). I would check how many children leave between reception and Y6 - in our church school, fewer than 50 per cent stayed the course.
Have you checked KS2 results? Why is Church school satisfactory? What the reports say for quality of teaching?
Ok this is what I would do if I was you (not me). Church school no 1, large school no 2. Then leave it up to fate, god or the education authority. You can always top up on the education side and as so many have said academic achievement is about the school, kid and parents working together.
In our experience with a four form entry, one year classes were mixed up going from reception to year1 as one class had nearly all boys - 22 boys and, because families move, by end of year only 6 girls. It is still majority boys but only bus a few.
Another time they mixed up year 4 going into year 5 because of a little bit of bullying in one class where an unhealthy friendship group dominated to the extent it was impacting on learning for the whole class - to a point that was noticeable to parents. Although a late mix up at this stage was not popular as friends were split up, the progress of the entire cohort was impressive after the change. My friend whose daughter was in that year was really pleased they took that step.
So perhaps this could be something you ask the school if they do while you are trying to make up your mind. Deadline tomorrow!
And there is a chance we won't get the bigger one (we would have missed it this year but got it the previous 2) whereas if we put the church school first we will definitely get it as we fulfil all the criteria.
Don't worry about second guessing which one you will qualify for.
If you put the big one 1st and don't qualify for it, you will still get offered the church school that you do qualify for. You don't lose out just because you put it second (as long as you meet their criteria).
If you qualify for both of them then you will get offered whichever one you put first
I know it seems silly to think about it now but is there any impact on secondary school places - e.g. are you in an 11+ area so academic performance in primary is important. Is there a CofE secondary which has feeder schools (less likely than RC), do both schools tend to feed into the same secondary school or different ones. Obviously if you plan to move then these points are irrelevant but if you are in your forever area then worth considering. It was only yesterday that I was applying for reception now dd1 is suddenly in yr4 and beginning to think about secondary.
Thanks everyone. Lots of help there.
In terms of distance there is not much in it, the church school is slightly closer but both are within a 15-20 minute walk. We are well positioned in that respect!
I can imagine fitting in with the parents at the church school more in some ways, probably partly because I know quite a few families who have children there already whereas I only know a couple at the other one. I do like the way the church and school work together and this has increased in recent years too. I can imagine my dd singing in the church choir at school masses.
Writing this down it makes me feel more inclined to go with the church one. Spoke to dh again last night and he still really feels academically the other would be better (which I agree with really) so between us we still don't have a definite yes either way! And there is a chance we won't get the bigger one (we would have missed it this year but got it the previous 2) whereas if we put the church school first we will definitely get it as we fulfil all the criteria.
This is stressing me out! Every time I think I'm sure something else pops into my head!
I think that when I was in a similar position:
(a) I didn't appreciate quite how valuable proximity is - it makes a huge difference to be very close to the school and to have the majority of your child's classmates within easy walking distance - so put ore weight on whichever of these two is close. Going for a school which is further away can lead to isolation as your child's friends may live just as far in the opposite direction and thus be a quite unfeasable distance for popping-around.
(b) Until I had a long talk with a (recently retired) teacher friend I was placing too much weight on OFSTED reports. Schools can get an outstanding rating by focusing on box-ticking exercises which leave serious flaws in the children's care and education because there will always be subtle gaps between the boxes-to-tick issues, as real people are all so different from one another. Those that do have Outstanding ratings can be convinced they are doing everything right and may not seek to improve things. Schools that are thriving and doing brilliant things for the benefit of their children may get a lower ranking purely for administrative reasons which don't affect your child - but whatever they do fall short on you can be sure they will be trying to improve it so if the report criticises something that is important to you, it will be getting additional investment and effort.
(c) I also found out that research has shown that about 80% of the value and outcome of primary education depends on the parents, rather than the school - if parents are highly engaged, impart a love of learning to their child and read with their child every day, children thrive and progress even if they are at a terrible school. If parents are disengaged, treat school as a chore and don't engage with daily reading practice, children will do badly even if they are at an outstanding school. So, relax a bit - to some extent it doesn't matter as much as you think it does which school you choose, as a lot of what happens next will be up to you anyway whichever school you choose (and this is another argument in favour of the closest school if this will allow you to be more engaged and give your child more time for reading practice etc)
If the small church school with the less-good ofsted is closer to you, I think I would definitely put that first.
If it is further away and the larger school is nearest I would be less certain about that though.
Although there are more children in the big school, realistically they usually stick to their class. dd2 is in a bulge year so there are two classes but they never play with each other unless they are friends outside school. Also they don't mix the classes up to address an inbalance in gender. If there was bullying then maybe they would move classes around but realistically if there is unresolved bullying then moving children is only a temporary fix. On the other hand as classes tend to stick together in either school she will probably mainly get to know 29 children, there are just more extra children in the bigger school.
I think that you need to go with your gut feeling and also children do move even from desirable schools so it probably will be possible to change at a later date if she is v unhappy.
2 or 3 form entry is ideal for size but, as that's not an option, 4 classes are better than 1 all other things being equal. 1 class means only 11-15 potential friends to choose from for the whole of her primary years. Apart from the academic side of things, good friendships will dictate very much how happy she will be at school and that's important too.
I chose our 1 form intake church school fort DD (now year 5). It's was great for reception to year 2 but the smallness has been an issue since then as friendships inevitably change as children get older (especially in my opinion with girls) and in an one form intake there is no where to go. The friendships groups are small and cliquey purely as once you have taken out the boys ( sorry if that offends but the reality seems to be there is a gender divide at this age) there just aren't enough girls to go around. Also our church school lost it's lovely pastoral focus when trying to achieve it's improved ofstead as it has become all about results. If it were me I would go for the big school. I appreciate my judgement is clouded by my own experience though.
Go for the closest to your house and the friendliest in your opinion. As you said, your DD will be fine whichever school she is in.
How did you feel about both of them when you went to visit OP?
Do you prefer the church school because you can easily imagine fitting in with parents there?
If you want to choose the church school you should. You know your child and should trust your instincts.
If it doesn't work out, you'll probably change later on to the bigger school if you live quite near. Most decisions aren't irreversible.
Both schools have a range of after school clubs.
The church one has after school care, not sure about the other one.
The big one has a swimming pool..
I would go with the church school especially as you are both involved in the church.
Think about what it will be like for your dd when she's older as well as now - a one-form intake gives a smaller pool of potential friends (especially if she ends up in a class that has more boys than girls). Clashes between children - either yours or others who are disrupting lessons - can be resolved by a bit of mixing up of classes if necessary at a larger school but this is never an option with a single form intake.
Also, one advantage of a bigger intake is that a school can fund more specialist teachers and equipment, and also greater number of floating teachers to cover illness, maternity cover and so on. If a teacher is off sick they're more likely to have a familiar teacher stepping in than a supply teacher unfamiliar with the school and its systems.
What about instrument lessons and after-school clubs and activities? Do both schools offer a similar range?
Although a school with a bigger intake can seem like it ought to be overwhelming, especially when we're picturing four-year olds going there, there are some advantages to consider.
Are you in London?
My DC goes to what is now a 4 form entry. I was terrified. He was at a 1 form entry for nursery. As it happened it was only an issue for me. For him it has been great. The school has really helped make it seem like a much smaller school. You don't ever feel that overwhelmed. Benefits of the big school include lots more resources avail like speech therapist and OT on site.
My other half was in favour of the big school as he said it makes transition to secondary a lot easier.
Also scope to rearrange classes if there's an imbalance. Which has happened.
Definitely the church school. Sounds like that's where you 'belong' and its incredibly important for children to feel that. Also small children get 'lost' in massive schools. Better to be somewhere where 'every child ' is well known, loved and cared for. Speaking as a teacher and mother of two.
That's helpful thanks. In a lot of ways I think the church school would be better for her but the bigger school at open day did go on about how it doesn't feel like a big school to the children etc.. It is laid out well, albeit perhaps a bit cramped.
I think because the bigger school overall has such a good reputation, good facilities, better Ofsted etc I feel as though she should go there but I keep coming back to the church school in my head. I feel pulled really!
My dh at open day was certain he wanted the bigger school but now isn't so sure. We are both involved in the church and that part is important to us but equally we don't want that to be the only issue.
We had a very similar dilemma to you when ds started school, although the poor ofsted report was made when he was in year 1.
We chose the small church school with just 1 class per year, as ds is quite a shy child and when we visited both schools the church school was very focused on helping the children feel happy at school, whereas the head at the larger school spent the whole time telling us how everything they do helps your child meet the curriculum, very little about their mental well being.
We decided that ds would learn best where he felt happiest, and although since the bad ofsted - they were put in special measures, new head appointed last year - I obviously had concerns, the school is now going from strength to strength and i still feel that we made the best decision for us.
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