Primary decision help me!!(16 Posts)
Sleepless nights and deep over-analysis going on here. We have been debating for months between 2 primary schools. It's particularly tricky - we always thought option A - a faith school 300m down on our road - would be our choice because it's always been the only realistic choice - but schools have improved around here (London) - but when we visited option B, 400m down the road, we were really impressed and excited. Yes, I know we're past the deadline but I asked the council if I could switch options 1+2 around and miraculously they said yes, if I didn't tell anyone!) so here goes (in a nutshell)!
faith school, 450 kids, currently changing Head and questionable middle management, most parents happy but not ecstatic about it, small site, good musical reputation, extremely close to us, 5% free school meals, 20 % EAL, Jolly Phonics, lovely, safe, long-term high results and generally seen as the safe option with local parents, usually hard to get in but we have an excellent chance and a religious reference form. Building and outside space is ok but small. Parents seem pretty "middle class" and normal. Some have said bullying and dyslexia was not dealt with well. Website still stuck in the 20thC and communications with admin staff absolutely terrible! Active pta. Several friends going here.
Option B -
and Ark academy from 2013, so only two yrs results to go on , but very good results; but amazingly likeable and impressive Head; staff all changed or retrained since 2013. Communications with staff impressive. 70% EAL but seems very divided between upper and lower years (lower years more white I imagine as more £££ moves to the area). 30% free school meals. 650 kids - huge . Building a bit rambling and badly designed, playground large but just tarmac, but exciting improvements underway . Hints that not much extra-curric stuff goes on unless you sign up to (20 different) after-school clubs. Pta getting active. Parents of current pupils extremely enthusiastic. Very structured and academic apparently but current parents saying that's good. Good website, professional approach and transparent clear aims and values. 2 best nursery friends going here.
Our child is musical, gentle and of average confidence. Tendency toward getting a bit bullied/hit at current nursery, never hits back.
Anything you can say to help me decide will be appreciated!! I know, we are very lucky to have a choice.
forgot to say - Option B does Read Write Inc, which i hear is better and more effective as a whole "package"
You know more about the real life negatives of option A I presume because you know more people who go there?
It is almost certain that Option B will also have incidents of bullying for example and they may be wonderful or terrible at dealing with these but, if you don't know many people there, you don't know as much about B as A.
Your perception of Option B seems to be based more on slick website and presentation which may accurately reflect a slick and dynamic school - or may not.
My feeling would be Option A.
The new Head for school A will be the deciding factor as to how it pans out but you cannot possibly know that at this stage so it is gamble whichever school you choose.
School B sounds like it has a good sales pitch but not much more concrete than that.
School A is closer and likely to be more popular. If you get school A and later want school B, it may be easier to get move via waiting lists than if you opt for school B and then decide you want school A (because school B is so big that places may come up more often).
I think I'd also leave your form with A as first choice. It seems the less risky choice and I'd stick with that.
Yes, I know we're past the deadline but I asked the council if I could switch options 1+2 around and miraculously they said yes, if I didn't tell anyone!) so here goes (in a nutshell)!
Did they just tell you this over the phone or do you have a written record to prove this is OK and that swapping the order round would still mean your application would be treated as on-time and not as a late application?
I would keep things the order they are now OP: as it sounds as if you would be happy with either of your first 2 preferences. None of the reasons you have given sound as if it's really worth the effort of making a change.
A lot of B's pros are 'planned' rather than real. I'd probably not risk it TBH.
FWIW my DC go to a school that people have told me doesn't deal well with bullying. My own experience of 5 years there has been zero bullying of/by my children. It's a really personal thing I think.
Option A would be a clear winner to me. You've no evidence of less bullying in B. If the alternative were awful fine, take a punt on what B will become, but you have a good solid option in A. I'd go for that, and if your child turns out to be bullied or an unsupported dyslexic, consider switching at that point.
Your own take from seeing them is valuable, and of course we don't have that, but B sounds like promises rather than data. Bad experiences with admissions admin are just admin, they don't speak for the school's ethos or its teaching staff.
Ark is a particular brand of academy. Do some research and see if you like them.
But from what I know of ark I'd probably go with A
I think you are right about buying into the brand Chalk. There are lots of parents that it wouldn't suit. But that can be the same with the ethos in most schools.
I have heard not great things about what it's like to work in an Ark Academy, but most people I know who have children in one are more than happy with it. For the person that took her child out, it just wasn't what she was looking for in a school. And they are getting impressive results across the chain.
I really wouldn't be sure about being told you can change your application at this stage, though. There's a possibility that could come back to bite you in the future.
Anyone can swop options at any time.
But it may make your application a late one (which means you will get an allocation only after all on-time applications have been dealt with).
Check this very carefully, and get it in writing if they agree that this switch will be treated as on-time. Because everyone involved in the processing needs to know how your application is to be handled.
Thanks all for your replies and input.... interesting you are all saying Option A so far!
The council lady I spoke to who was pretty high up said I could email her when I'd decided what to do, with my application reference, and she would not treat it as a late application, and that it only took a sec for her to do it for me. (Worth knowing eh! Mind you, it was only a week and a half after the deadline. ) So that is not a worry (unless I change my mind another 16 times and really piss her off!!)
I didn't mean to imply bullying was a major concern at all -it's just at nursery a couple of his "good" friends seem to push him around a lot - he loves them anyway, he says. They're only 3-4 yrs old, but it made me think.
I know an almost equal number of people who are choosing either school, but I see that those making Option B their first choice say it's strategic because they won't get into Option A...
Most people who are already parents at Option A say it's lovely but there are some gripes. The parents at Option B (currently) rave about it, the only vaguely negative point I've heard is that there are leaderboards and competitive awards ceremonies all the way from reception. But maybe that's the same in all schools nowadays, and maybe it's not actually negative. (??)
Someone in the know told me today that Option B is way better for variety of after school clubs, holidays childcare provision, and better facilities because they've had injections of money. We did all LOVE the Head at Option B.
The main problem of comparison has been that I've not had much information out of Option A, whose open day was very early on when we were all new at asking the questions, the Head (who was interim) barely said anything, and at that point we didn't know about option B. Option B has been professional and inspired at every step since I've communicated with them; Option A mostly has done the bare minimum and is very complacent, I feel!
We had very similar. Complacent 'sort after' school A. Head not visible. Lower ESOL and FSM. More middle class intake. Zone 2. Found the tour very disheartening and actually witnessed a teacher losing it with class. My gentle probing (work in education) met with a very defensive response.Results okay but not amazing. School B - had been on a journey. Great results for three years but had been of special measures. Part of a federation (not ArK) that had helped them out and to outstanding. Very high EAL
And FSM. Probably 70%. Well organised, great head, exec head and planning across schools. Great vibe and high achieving ethos.They claimed they would meet the needs of my bright child.PTA small but committed. I loved it. But we were the only one who opted for it. A few jaws dropped and my inlaws weren't keen. It's been amazing experience. My child has been supported amazingly and is reading, writing and doing maths way above my expectations. She is settled and has good friends. Play dates have happened but we have usually hosted as we have a larger property.They constantly try and improve their practice and teachers are responsive warm and open. They have an app that allows us to see progress of our child, parents are invited in to classrooms weekly, phonics was supported with home packs which included whiteboards, pens, tricky words flash cards and parent training (!) for every child. My child has now started attending year 1 a few times a week to stretch her supported by teaching assistant. I didn't request it - they just asked. They really do support every child the bright, ESOL, Struggling to read and are organised to intervene.
Sorry to add, school is definitely benefitting from more pupil premium money. Because of FSM are free for all children in borough they probably don't get all they are entitled for but they use what they get well.
That's really interesting to hear Toomanywheeliebins thanks for writing!!
They definitely benefit from being part of a federation and save costs and share practice that way. School A's results this year bombed (5th worse in borough ) and head's response poor. Our child 's school got the same as last year (91% Level 4) despite harder intake. All federation schools were similar with a few getting 100% despite being previously in special measures in the life of the year 6 pupils taking exams
the only vaguely negative point I've heard is that there are leaderboards and competitive awards ceremonies all the way from reception. But maybe that's the same in all schools nowadays, and maybe it's not actually negative
I would personally view that as a strong negative.
In infants the less mature children are likely to be at 'the bottom'. This then leads in some/many to being downheartened and feeling like they are useless.
It is hard enough for a child who struggles as it is without having it pushed in their face by this kind of system. Yes they become aware they find things harder, but it is not the same as it being listed somewhere in black and white, or seeing others always getting certificates.
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