Primary school choice - reputation or Ofsted?

(33 Posts)
Springforward Sat 24-Mar-12 19:54:37

So - we're moving, and we have a choice of two good houses to buy.

One is on a nice estate with an "Excellent" school, the other on a nice street on the fringe of a market town with a "Satisfactory" school. Both schools seem to have excellent reputations locally, and get similar results. DS needs a primary school, both have places.

Would you bother too much about the Ofsted ratings when making a choice?

admission Sat 24-Mar-12 20:02:10

This is difficult. On the one hand parents have good local knowledge but in many instances the perceived view of school is way behind the actual reality. So when was the "satisfactory" Ofsted ? If it was in the last 12 months then I would be tempted to believe that report and suspect that parents locally just have not realised that the school is on a downward trend. If however the satisfactory was 2 or more years ago, it is potentially ancient history and if parents are locally happy then the probability is that the next OFsted will be better than satisfactory.
Same argument can apply to the excellent school. I would go with you gut feeling as which one is best and will suit your child more.

VivaLeBeaver Sat 24-Mar-12 20:10:23

Have you looked at value added score as well as actual results?

Haberdashery Sat 24-Mar-12 20:37:16

I would not take a blind bit of notice of Ofsted unless there is something of serious concern in the reports - you need to really read them in detail not just look at the numbers, IMO. What I would do is go and look round the schools and get a feel for what they are really like. Did this when I chose for my DD (she's in Reception) and have been really delighted with how the school has helped her become such a confident, accomplished and rounded person in such a short space of time. She is thriving in her 'satisfactory' school, which I chose over two others close by (outstanding and good with outstanding features) which on distance she would certainly have got a place in.

The school my DD attends is the least popular school in my local area and yet for my DD it is a brilliant fit and she is so very happy and also doing really well both academically and socially. From what I saw of the other schools I really don't think she would have done as well there or been as happy, despite the ratings.

Springforward Sat 24-Mar-12 21:00:24

Viva - no, didn't think of that, thanks for the tip.

Haberdashery - glad your dd is doing so well. Think i'll see if i can do a couple of quick visits before offering.

Admission - both within last 12 months.

mummytime Belgium Sat 24-Mar-12 21:05:32

Can you visit the schools? That is the only real way to choose.

QED Sat 24-Mar-12 21:08:55

I agree - you need to visit the schools if at all possible. Visited lots before moving - didn't like an outstanding one, did like a satisfactory one very much and ended up with a good one (which I also like a lot). Different schools suit different children and so if you have a chance do try and visit.

BackforGood Sat 24-Mar-12 22:51:16

I certainly wouldn't take a blind bit of notice of the actual 'grade' of OFSTED. They are so narrow in what they can grade on, and it might not be the things that are important to you. I'd read the text of the report, and that will give you a better idea, but still be very happy to send my children to a statisfactory school. After all, that means it is ...... well, ...er, satisfactory - ie, it does the job. Far more influential factors will be her natural ability and the support she gets from home.

Letchladee Sun 25-Mar-12 00:00:52

Personally, I don't think either sources are hugely reliable.

The problem with parents is that whilst they see the school and know it well, they tend only to see that school and so don't always know how that compares. My DDs moved schools from an OFSTED outstanding one to one that is deemed 'good'. I hear the parents say how great the new school is, and how you wouldn't get a school that good in the town I have moved from and I really have to bite my tongue - the old school was miles better than this school but as the parents here haven't seen the old school, I don't think they can always see the different ways in which it could be so much better.

With OFSTED, they do see schools and they do get to compare - but there is a certain amount of 'playing the game' to getting OFSTED grades, and all too often the grade you get can be determined by stuff like grades, and how well the school has played the game, rather than actually how good the school is.

Personally, I think nothing compares to visiting the schools yourself (and then using the other two to help you decide).

rillytrying Sun 25-Mar-12 08:24:36

We're struggling with this at the moment, looking to relocate to a new area where we don't know anyone, so we don't even have the 'reputation' to go on. I did post on netmums local (shhh!) and the parents who replied seemed to think all the schools in the area were very good and were very much of the 'we live in the village so our child obviously attends the village school' mentality, which I'm sure had I grown up in the area, I would be exactly the same - I think forming friendships and being settled in an area is more important (these are all 'satisfactory' schools). But when you are a newcomer to an area with a choice of villages to live in (especially if you are leaving an 'outstanding' school to make the move), it's hard.

I obviously need to visit the schools, but I'm not sure I'm going to have a 'gut feeling' which one will be best for my DS - I was charmed by every school I visited when selecting my DS's current school - something about the artwork on the wall, the little chairs and the sound of happy children playing always makes me feel positive. So I'm not sure how discriminating my instincts are!

Any tips on what specifically to look out for/questions to ask?

3duracellbunnies Sun 25-Mar-12 08:33:29

I know what you mean about little chairs and artwork, but having a bit more experience now of at least one school, maybe you could think about the things which you really love about the current school in terms of ethos etc and see which school fits in with that.

wishiwasonholiday Sun 25-Mar-12 08:41:48

Schools can change so much in a few years my ds' school was a tiny village school when he started, now they're oversubscribed and people travel for miles. They're also helping a special measures school to get back to where it should be as it is a brilliant school. It's graded good by ofsted but ofsted are only there for a few days so never see the real picture. Do you know any parents of children who go to the schools?

mrz Sun 25-Mar-12 09:00:17
helpyourself Sun 25-Mar-12 09:07:33

On the basis of theinformation you have so far, I couldn't choose. I'd visit both schools and then if they both still seemed equal go to the nearest one. If they're both equidistant, I'd find out where the other kids on your street go and plump for that one!

And in terms of what to look for on the visit, I'd look for whether the children are like yours- could you imagine your child there!

MigratingCoconuts Sun 25-Mar-12 09:16:24

I'd agree with visiting the schools.

Personally, I take OFSTED with a huge pinch of salt!

Springforward Sun 25-Mar-12 09:21:28

Thanks to all.

Someone in rl has suggested we "go with the postcode", meaning i think that schools can't beat their catchment area in the long run. Not sure i agree.

Have visited one, will call other tomorrow. Hope like hell houses don't go under offer while i'm sorting this out!

mummytime Belgium Sun 25-Mar-12 12:22:55

Well in my town there are lots of schools, some in good postcode that I wouldn't send my kids to. Some in not so good ones that seem to be really good. My DCs school has an area of social housing on its doorstep, but is also full of very aspirational MC kids. So I don't think postcode will always tell you much. I also have a friend who moved her son from his nice MC school to a "rougher" one where he thrived.

Springforward Sun 25-Mar-12 12:33:54

Mrz, that was an interesting read.

AChickenCalledKorma Sun 25-Mar-12 13:48:00

Be careful about "going with the postcode". Round here, the school that serves a pocket of social deprivation can demonstrate that its children are making better progress than the ones that are in the adjacent, leafy suburbs. Of course, those in the leafy suburbs feel lovely, but it would appear that they are riding on reputation and not necessarily trying that hard.

My kids go to the school with the worst Ofsted report, with a highly diverse population of pupils. It's serving them very well indeed.

Springforward Sun 25-Mar-12 15:34:22

Admittedly i would feel more comfortable if ds went to a school with a varied catchment area (probably because dh and i both did and we had lovely friends from a wide range of backgrounds). That probably points towards the satisfactory school, looking at upmystreet....

Idonthaveenoughtime Thu 20-Jun-13 12:09:32

Lol. I went to a very 'diverse' school. I loved playing with all my friends. My mum didn't enjoy having them round though. Little did I know one of them stole money from my piggy bank, and my mums jewellery, and all of them fueled my enthusiasm for mischief and I didn't think this was strange as their parents didn't seem to mind at all if we chased each other round with bits of wood with protruding nails or tried to strangle each other, or stole from the local shop. None of my well behaved friends came from the local council / social housing estate, all my naughty street wise friends did...they also taught me lots of good habits, like not doing my homework. I had loads of fun, but my mum switched me to another school in a middle class area out of catchment, and I still got to play with my friends in the street after school, but educationally I thrived at the other school and was much better prepared for college and university in terms of acceptable social behaviour.
That's just my experience.
If your DC/s are quiet and gentle natured they will probably avoid the mischievous kids anyway....

Idonthaveenoughtime Thu 20-Jun-13 12:14:36

I think different groups of people have different expectations of 'kids being kids', and some parents let their children make their own mistakes, or maybe they were allowed the same kind of behaviour when they were kids. I can say children definitely learn from each other and my first question after ensuring the school is warm, caring, and doing well in its results, is to see whether the other parents share my values. I'm not going to deny I had a fun (slightly feral!) childhood, but in reflection, I don't think if it had continued like that it would have done me any favours.

Galena Thu 20-Jun-13 14:26:52

Neither. The school we've chosen for DD is neither a popular school nor an outstanding school (unless the Ofsted report due out any day ranks it as such). But it was the school that will be best for DD and the school which actually appeared to WANT her!

FadedSapphire Thu 20-Jun-13 14:44:17

My children go to a school with diverse mix of children. They are happy and I am happy. Ofsted 'good' at present but due one soon. I think school great and would not move them if ofsted disagreed [though would read report with interest].
Careful with 'reputation'- doesn't half reveal narrow minded snobs.....

Galena Thu 20-Jun-13 15:24:17

I'm not madly refreshing the Ofsted page for DD's school for Sept so I can be nosy peruse the report with a fine toothcomb briefly. Oh no, not I! grin

lljkk Netherlands Thu 20-Jun-13 15:59:26

Would you bother too much about the Ofsted ratings when making a choice?

No. here's a tip, go back 6-7 years ago & see what Ofsted ratings the schools had then. Could you predict the rating now from back then? I bet not.

But I've never had a child at a school with Outstanding rating. maybe when you walk thru the doors the corridors are paved with gold. Every child gets 10xA* at GCSE. DD attends an Outstanding-rated High School from September. They have an impressive hairdresser-training suite and catering-training facilities.

Elibean Thu 20-Jun-13 16:09:04

I read the Ofsted reports, but went on instinct and experience of looking around and talking to the Head, and children at the schools.

We visited four primaries, and the one we chose was 'Good' in Ofsted terms - but as far as I'm concerned, it was head and shoulders 'Outstanding' in ethos and pastoral care. No regrets smile

Flicktheswitch Thu 20-Jun-13 16:15:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FadedSapphire Thu 20-Jun-13 16:24:56

So was the reputation of the outstanding school dire Flick?
As I said earlier on the thread my children go to a lovely school that some [arguably narrow minded snobs] avoid. I know 'outstanding' schools that coast on their middle class cohort and their parents who use home tutoring.
'Reputation' is a funny old thing. Also I don't think ofsted always pick up on the coasting schools or those that just teach to the test.

Flicktheswitch Thu 20-Jun-13 16:49:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

junkfoodaddict Thu 20-Jun-13 20:56:24

OFSTED are always talking rubbish! Certainly, what they are saying in the news today would suggest that all rubbish teachers teach in market towns and seaside towns because poorer children are falling behind their 'richer' counterparts. It has absolutely nothing to do with 'crap' teachers but everything to do with the perception that the poorer children's parents have of education. Of course not EVERY poor family has such a low opinion of education but a lot do. Many don't encourage their children due to their own negative experiences of schooling or have a poor educational background themselves and through embarrassment or their warped sense of 'I've done okay so my kid doesn't need to learn', they do not support their children's education.

I know of one inspection in which the lead inspector ADMITTED that the inspection he did of a school that was graded 'R.I' was political. He even said that he had been told to inspect the school before three years worth of data was available because it was likely 'not enough progress' could have been made in two years. Apparently a 25% increase in Level 4s at Y6 was not enough in two years and he even said that had he come just a few weeks later after this year's results were in, he would have graded the school as 'good', probably because HE KNEW that we would hit our targets. As it has turned out, due to external moderation, we hadve actually achieved ABOVE national average and our level 5 results are more than a third of the year group. He also purposefully inspected two supply teachers (who have no valid interest in the school)and one only took on a class on the first morning of inspection so had absolutely no idea what he was doing at first and absolutely no clue as to attainment and achievement of the class. I would also add that he had absolutely NO PRIMARY SCHOOL EXPERIENCE AT ALL and the 'lay inspector' also had no experience of some of the newer teaching methods so therefore graded a lesson as 'R.I' because she didn't about it!

So consequently, a school has a 'R.I' grading based upon an OFSTED team who came to inspect in order to discredit an LEA and to make a political statement.

The only way you can judge a school is from the very people who have daily contact with it - children and parents.OFSTED judge lessons based on just 20 minutes of an observation. How can they POSSIBLY make a judgement regarding how well children they do not know, have learnt and made progress???

Not one school, even outstanding schools, are perfect and you have to have an understanding that there may be something you may not like about the school. My child's school is judged 'Outstanding' as are, unusually, the two nearest schools. There are aspects of all three I ma not keen on but need tomake a judgement based upon my son's individual needs. One school is very pushy on targets - something I a not happy with for my son being at primary school. I want him to have arounded curriculum, in which he is gently encouraged, his well-being looked after and where learning is seen as an enjoyable experience - not one in which 4, 5 7 6 year olds etc, are constantly told their next targets to hit the next sub-level.

curryeater Thu 20-Jun-13 21:03:22

I think it matters what the "satisfactory" school was marked down on and how it relates to your child.
Some schools are markedly better at teaching the struggling, some, the opposite, will help gifted children realise their potential but not those less gifted. I think you need to read the ofsted report in detail and try to think what it means to your children, bearing in mind that it also matters how long ago the inspection was done.

Startail Thu 20-Jun-13 21:08:57

Buy the house you like, Ofsted is like that investment warning on adverts.

Past performance isn't an indicator of future success.

And remember a child can leave a school in SM with a level 5 and an outstanding one with a 4b if they hate their teacher, get bullied or stressed out trying to please.

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