CAF DILEMMA A BIT OF WISDOM PLEASE!

(15 Posts)
splitbrain Fri 26-Oct-12 15:54:03

After many sleepless nights, I still can’t make up my mind as to what school to put as first preference and would appreciate a few words of wisdom… The options are:

A superselective boys grammar. DS passed the exam, we all like it. One of the best schools in the country apparently. Single sex, lots of extracurricular opportunities. DS not likely to be the top anymore as it will be full of very very bright boys (is that good or bad for his confidence?). School with proven record. Great facilities. Sounds great but it’s too far so it means leaving our house which we love, living farther from friends and family, having a long commute into town, a “suburban” life we have never had before, basically a big big change. No other children from his primary. A clean cut.

B: a new non selective small free school local to us, promises to be academic which suits DS personality with focus on classics which DS happens to love. Mixed school. Fewer extracurricular and narrower GCSE options. DS likely to be very near if not at the top. School with no proven record whatsoever, first cohort of children very happy they say. Fewer facilities. But friends from primary likely to go there. It means staying in our house, near family, a quick bus ride to town, life as we know it, one long uninterrupted easy continuum.

DH and I are both torn. What do you think? Do we turn our life around for DS school? Is it worth it? OTOH, how can I deny him a place at a great school? OTOH, what if the local school turns out to be all they promise, a happy option and a good enough education?

Sorry, this is long!

BackforGood Fri 26-Oct-12 16:38:40

Seriously ? Moving house, leaving all you know and love, just for a school, when the option you have is a good option ? hmm
How would house move affect everything else ? Work ? Commute ? Your own wellbeing / happiness ? What if he didn't like it / it doesn't work out, and he has to carry the "they gave up everything to give me this chance" guilt ?

brentwoodgal Fri 26-Oct-12 18:02:06

Firstly, great news that your DS passed the super-selective exam. Do you really only have 2 options? Is there another super-selective that is closer to you which you could apply to?

I agree a house move seems like a big shake up for you all - do you have other DCs to consider?

In terms of the free school I would personally have asked or thought about the following questions:-

Do you think it will really deliver on what it promises? (You have 5 years to wait for the first cohort to get their e-Bacc/GCSE results) Have you found out if all the teachers are secondary school qualified? Is the head a teacher or someone from outside education? Have you done a bit of research on the Trust that backs the school - do they seem credible? Do you think your DS will be stretched enough if the curriculum is limited? Do they have a library and schemes in place like "accelerated reading"? How many after school clubs are there and do they cover things your DS is interested in? What are the sporting facilities like? Can you get access to the OFSTED pre-opening reports so you can at least have some comfort in looking at something objective? Is the school full - ie did they fill all places for the current cohort? Are they likely to fill all places in the next 2-3 years...the last thing you want is the school to be closed due to lack of pupils/interest. Are the teachers teaching more than one subject, and if so what track record do they have in all the subjects they cover?

Free schools can often be masters of spin and great at PR to ensure maximum applications so please forgive me if I sound cynical!!!

Good luck with your decision.

splitbrain Fri 26-Oct-12 20:01:46

Thanks for the food for thought. We don't have any other DCs and we work at home albeit the occasional meeting in town. The new school is already oversubscribed and is likely to be in the next years. No fields on site but they do seem to care for sports. Library disappointing but they need time. I just have to sum up the courage to decide. I want DS to be a happy boy besides enjoying a good education - don't we all? - hence all the confusion! Didn't know OFSTED do preopening reports.

BeingFluffy Fri 26-Oct-12 22:57:07

I speak as the parent of a child at a superselective. To be honest superselectives are not necessarily better schools - they just have a higher proportion of very clever children. However the superselective sounds good on the face of it and personally speaking I wouldn't worry about not being the brightest - my child liked the fact that all the children in the class were clever. He would also benefit from the opportunity to be involved in sports teams, perhaps music and drama and established after school clubs and opportunities such as Duke of Edinburgh Aware, Young Enterprise etc.

Personally, I would be inclined to go for the new school. I think if your son is clever enough to get a place at the superselective he would do well at any school. If the free school is reasonably high profile and likely to remain so, I would stay put and keep your house and friends. I would check out streaming, and what GCSE and A' levels are likely to be on offer though. I agree with what the previous poster said about checking out who is behind the school and whether that support is likely to continue.

choicedilemma Sat 27-Oct-12 14:02:27

Well done your ds on passing the test for superselective!

We also had a dilemma (hence change on name....) as ds got scores that would historically got him in to a superselective. He has never been that keen although did warm up a bit once we saw the shool on a normal working day. For him it would mean a long bus commute, no local friends likely to go. No issue for us about moving house though.

We have in the end placed the school second in favour of a local, rapidly improving school (poor history, new head about 3 years ago, improving beyond recognition since head started). Reasons for us were good pastoral care, excellent extra curricular activities, a real warmth and buzz about the school that the superselective just did not have. A few raised eyebrows, yes. A few anxieties that we might be passing up something - in passing. Our ds is bright enough and hardworking enough to do well anywhere. (Don't get me wrong, the local school is pretty impressive and would have been our first choice if ds had not got the scores needed - last year 85% GCSE inc English and Maths compared with superselective 93%).

It's a really hard decision for you given the school does not yet have much history. But there are many advantages of staying local. For us it was clear that if we went for the ss school we would have to be 100% comitted and I just didn't quite like it enough to do that. And you can always move for 6th form anyway.

And what does your ds think?

I wish you luck.

splitbrain Sat 27-Oct-12 17:08:19

Thanks choicedilemma, you made the right choice given the good results and the good things your local school was offering.

We are set on filling the CAF tonight... I had a chat with DS, we spoke about what it means, moving, no friends, growing up in a different place, etc. He thought about it long and hard... then he looked me in the eye and said: I still really want to go there (the grammar). confused

gazzalw Sun 28-Oct-12 15:41:12

I think that the friends thing is a total red-herring TBQH. DS's primary school class of 29 went to 13 different secondary schools so very few of them went with any established friends. I think even those that did have found that actually they have had virtually nothing to do with their primary school friends. They all adapt very quickly so the friendship issue is not really even worthy of consideration in your decision-making...

visualarts Sun 28-Oct-12 15:51:15

Do you absolutely have to move, or would it be just about commutable for your ds? Where we live there are a few children who make long journeys - it is far from ideal, but on the other hand moving house has its disadvantages too.
I might not go as far as gazzawl about the friends issue, but I think there are risks in choosing school based on friends; they may pull out at the last minute, quite often school puts them in different classes and they drift apart, or, if friend A decides to drop friend B that can cause huge hurt. Also ds could stay in touch with his primary friends - even if you move it should be possible to meet up at weekends/holidays?

twoterrors Sun 28-Oct-12 15:52:02

Splitbrain, what a very, very hard decision. I think if the local school had a track record, it would feel more solid - as it is you are comparing two very different options.

How much would the rest of you mind moving? And would it be possible to move near a handy station rather than to near the school? That can mean you all have a manageable commute (people do it from South London to the selective schools in the 'burbs - the children are going against the crowds).

I agree about not worrying about where primary friends go - that can pan out either way.

splitbrain Mon 29-Oct-12 21:33:26

Thank you all for your sound advice. I have looked into handy stations, comutting arrangements, etc. We have put the grammar school first.

DS is very excited about the school. When he sat the exam we promised him moving was a possibiity. I do not want to go back on that promise.

I feel good.

gazzalw Tue 30-Oct-12 06:52:35

Good for you - fingers crossed...Let us know how it all pans out. Think you've made the right decision particularly if your DS is so keen to go to the grammar school!

twoterrors Tue 30-Oct-12 08:34:35

Great - I do think with all this hideous school stuff, you have to keep looking forward and not reconsidering old decisions - that way madness lies! I too think if he is that keen you have made the right call, especially as the other school is an unknown quantity and much could change both within it and in education in the next few years. The grammar will be used to weathering upheaval. Good luck to your ds.

choicedilemma Tue 30-Oct-12 08:51:36

Well done, I agree with twoterrors, nothing to be gained by revisiting decisions. If your ds is that keen then it's definately the right decision.

splitbrain Sun 03-Mar-13 22:26:44

Dear all,
you were so generous with your advice and I did promise gazzalw to tell you the outcome...It's a surprising one. As it happens, DS did get first preference therefore a place in the superselective. But we won't need to move because he also got offered a full scholarship to a top indie very close to us. I still love the grammar but this way we have the best of both worlds in one, a challenging selective school and a local one too. Thank you again. Those CAF days seem so far now.

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