good but grossly overcrowded local comp on our street versus boys only selective 15 miles away

(76 Posts)
lingle Tue 20-Nov-12 11:35:46

I don't know if anyone can help me here....

I want DS1 to be happy, but I would also like him to fulfill his potential. DS and I both had the experience of going to comps. being top of everything, everyone presuming we'd be off to Oxbridge and then not getting in because we weren't guided in the application process (I applied to read English at Kings Cambridge - the most popular subject+the most popular college - and ended up being put in the "pool"). DS1 is showing at least as much potential as we did......

We are just on the border between our comprehensive area and the neighbouring 11+ area. After Christmas we have to decide whether to start tutoring DS1 (9) for the selective boys only (groan) grammar. My heart isn't in it - I want to believe he can fulfill his potential in the school on our street. But it's grossly overcrowded - we just missed out on the building schools for the future programme. I've been working in the local overcrowded primary this year and I've seen for myself the impact of overcrowding on quality.

Anyone want to talk?

TheWave Tue 20-Nov-12 13:19:19

Find out more about the comprehensive and any Oxbridge programme first maybe? Look at the numbers in the actual classes in Yr7, Yr11 and Yr12, say.

Consider going there from Yr7, spend your 11plus tutoring money on getting a bit of tutoring in Years 10 and 11 if you think he needs it, and stay or change for 6th form if you think you need to? You can get him into the grammar then if he wanted to for example.

There is a lot to be said for local if he wants after school clubs, sports, etc, or needs tutoring. Does he want to commute?

lingle Tue 20-Nov-12 13:53:09

thanks for replying. his immediate instinct was wanting to be at the local school. but he's very biddable.

I know we shouldn't be so influenced by our own experience but it's hard not to be isn't it?

I am attracted to the sixth form idea. I think that's well worth thinking about.

YDdraigGoch Tue 20-Nov-12 13:57:48

Ask the local comp how many kids go to Oxbridge each year, or what other universities and degrees students from teh school go on to do. The school should know.

Ask them about their gifted and talented programme, and what they do to encourage high achievers.

lingle Tue 20-Nov-12 14:27:56

thank you. They (the comp) do have an Oxbridge club, and they published details of the four students who were accepted by Oxbridge this year. I guess I should see that as encouraging.

Thinking strategically, the super-selective actually underperforms in terms of Oxbridge acceptances even though it has some of the best results in the country. I think the system is moving towards a "does your potential stand out?" approach rather than a "have you been schooled for us?" approach. So oddly enough it may be better to apply from a comp by the time DS has to make these decisions.

HeathRobinson Tue 20-Nov-12 14:35:45

I think there's a lot to be said for local school friends and a school you can walk to.

lingle Tue 20-Nov-12 14:43:54

yes, I feel the same.

It's hard not to let your own experiences dominate isn't it?

HeathRobinson Tue 20-Nov-12 16:08:59

Yes it is. I went to a grammar and wanted my kids to go as well. They didn't, they went instead to a nearer school along with a good friendship group from junior school. I think it was instrumental in settling them in at secondary.

APMF Wed 21-Nov-12 09:26:27

DS was so bored at his primary school despite being on the top table for all his subjects. He just found the work too easy. Getting harder words in spelling tests was the most the teacher was prepared to do to accommodate.

We feared that history was going to repeat itself if he were to attend the secondary at the top of the road. So he sat and passed the 11+ for entry to a school 11 miles away.

DS is in Year 8 now and we have absolutely no regrets. 'Thriving' is a word that is often overused here on MN but DS is thriving in this competitive environment. For the first time on his life he is with kids that are smarter than him. This spurs him on even if it's just so he can remain within spitting distance grades wise of these academic scholars.

The school coach cost £400 a term so that is a bit of a burden. The social side isn't an issue since he has friends from his local after school activities.

The whole thing has pros and cons but for us we know we did the right thing for DS.

mummytime Wed 21-Nov-12 09:44:28

By the end of primary a lot of pupils are bored. A lot really thrive at secondary with separate subjects and lots of teachers. And this is regardless of whether they are Comprehensives or Grammars. The best schools try to get the best out of all their pupils, its just at a Comprehensive this could mean a much wider range of final options than a Grammar.

I'd probably go local, as the Comp sounds quite dynamic. Definitely ask to visit both.

nagynolonger Wed 21-Nov-12 09:52:57

For me the fact that the grammar is single sex would put me off. I have 5 sons and a DD and the one thing I was certain about was that I wanted mixed sex education for them all.

Also try to not let what you and DH went through at school worry you too much. Your DS is of a different generation things have changed in schools and you can guide him aswell. There is 17 years between DS1 and DS5. They went to the same school but their experience of school was different.

lingle Thu 22-Nov-12 13:57:22

These are very helpful replies, thank you.

DS is in year 5 at present and we just missed the Comprehensive's open day last month (silly us). Is it the done thing to call at the beginning of next term and ask to speak with someone? It's a huge school so quite forbidding compared to primary.

If DS is to sit the 11+, we'd want to start thinking about the exam technique aspect at the beginning of 2013 so it would be great if we didn't have to go through that.....

mummytime Thu 22-Nov-12 14:16:48

I would phone the school now, and ask if you can visit. Secondaries don't tend to have a "Christmas" season like primaries, so it should be operating pretty much normally until the last week of term. Its much better to see schools when they are operating normally, anyway.

APMF Fri 23-Nov-12 09:37:55

@mummytime - The kids would get 1 of 2 list of spellings to learn. The less literate ones would get the list with simpler words. The problem was that the supposedly harder list was still relatively simple. I spoke to the teacher but she wasn't prepared to set a harder list for the brighter kids. I didn't get any support from the other mums. The way they saw it homework just got in the way of scouts etc so the easier the better.

The above is just one example. Basically DS was bored because the work was too easy as opposed to some general malaise to do with being at primary school.

As for Comps offering more options, more is not necessarily 'more'. My nephew is at a Comp. Yes he has more options than my DCs but many of these options are meant to appeal to those kids that won't be applying to Russell Group universities.

mummytime Fri 23-Nov-12 10:50:51

Well my kids go to a fab comp, 10 went to Oxbridge this year. Their options range from Latin to time in college for practical courses such as hair dressing and plumbing. I know not all Comps are the same, but a good one can rival a grammar, especially if the commute is going to be considerable. I have known pupils drop out of a super-selective grammar because the commute was too much.

CecilyP Fri 23-Nov-12 10:54:42

If you felt that your kids needed a list of hard words to spell, why did you not just set some from a dictionary? I'm sure many of the other mums thought learning a list of random spellings just for the sake of it, was simply a pointless activity, rather than it getting in the way of scouts.

Did none of the school work involve any independent writing? If so, it is as easy or as hard as the writer wishes to make it.

APMF Fri 23-Nov-12 11:43:33

Next you be telling me that I should stop complaining about the bad waiter and go get the food myself.

My point is that a lot of state schools teach to the national average. If your child is below then extra help is available. If your child is above then that's great since it means more resources can be diverted to the other kids.

teacherwith2kids Fri 23-Nov-12 11:51:49

We faced a similar question for DS (less extreme commute, though)

We went for local comp. Our reasons were:
- Social. DS has many ASD traits, and transferring with a 'known' group hugely eased the transition for him.
- Life balance. DS can fully participate in all after school activities - he stays on at school, or if other activties (such as county jazz ensembles) are outsikde school, he gets home in good time to do his homework and then go on to those activities. Reliance on a bus service or a lengthy commute ca reduce those opportunities.
- Mixed. DS really benefits from being in a mixed school. Though he's a 'typical boy' in many respects, he really likes the 'balance' that girls bring to his classes and social / work environment.
- Academic. Actually, when I dug down into it, given that the comp's intake is essentially secondary modern (due to the presence of a grammar) its results are fantastic. Definitely evidence that the bright could flourish, that children were going on to appropriate higher education etc etc.

If, after GCSEs, DS wants to transfer to a grammar, he will almost certainly be able to - so if we don't think he will receive 'proper preparation' fpor his university of choice, he can transfer at that point. Is that an option available to you?

teacherwith2kids Fri 23-Nov-12 11:54:19

"My point is that a lot of state schools teach to the national average. If your child is below then extra help is available. If your child is above then that's great since it means more resources can be diverted to the other kids."

APMF, I realise that you speak from experience of 1 school. What evidence do you have that that could be generalised to 'a lot of state schools'? It's not my experience in any but 1 of the 10+ schools I have experienced directly.

mummytime Fri 23-Nov-12 12:15:03

I agree teacher, I have experience of the two schools my children go to, have worked in three more, formally observed two more and have friends who work in several more. It is very rare that I have seen work just pitched at the average child.

On the other hand I don't like homework in primary, as not having it enables my youngest to explore the "other" things she is interested in; from dark matter to starting a business to fashion to history, or even just getting high scores on Mathletics (as well as learning the scripts of "Dani's House").

But OP you need to look at the schools, not just judge on labels and see which school is best for your son. If everything is equal I would probably go for local (actually I pretty much did for my eldest, and it worked out well).

APMF Fri 23-Nov-12 12:16:18

Elsewhere, both here and the real world, people are discussing the failings of the British state education system. And you telling me that my negative experiences are merely based on one school and that I would have a different perspective if only I was as knowledgeable as you? Interesting perspective.

So often the national debate contradicts the local debate. National debate - exams are being dumbed down. Everyone is getting an A. UK falling down international literary/maths list. Local/MN debate - my DC is at a very good Comp. A lots of kids leave with 5 GCSEs at A to C. So in ya face pushy mom. That would be more biting if the experts werent telling us that exams are getting easier and every one is getting As smile

CecilyP Fri 23-Nov-12 12:27:48

Next you be telling me that I should stop complaining about the bad waiter and go get the food myself.

I think you rather missed my point; you were the only one who wanted a list of harder spellings to learn - you were not able to rope in anyone else because no-one else was interested. That did not stop you doing it for yourself if you thought it important.

socharlotte Fri 23-Nov-12 12:53:26

We are just on the border between our comprehensive area and the neighbouring 11+ area.
this is a key point. How do they allocate places outside the catcghment? If they do it on distance , you need to find out the furthest away admitted for the last few years.

socharlotte Fri 23-Nov-12 12:56:18

If he is bright, and you are, why do you need to other with tutoring.just working through a few papers should be enough.

TheWave Fri 23-Nov-12 12:58:18

Not "everyone is getting an A" at comps. There are those that are pushed to get that C, there are those that are pushed to get that A, there are those that are pushed to get that A*, there are those that are going to be pushed to get to Oxbridge if they can.

I don't think that resources are going to the bottom of the pile, they are going where needed for the above to happen.

All the comps I know also talk about the top of the school results as well as the A* to Cs at the open evenings/on their websites etc.

Teachers have targets for their GCSEs based on KS2 levels and KS3 levels for each child and would be questioned if they weren't being achieved for the upper end as well as the middle and those with lower ability. (I'm not a teacher btw)

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