Secondary School for DD1,choice between one in Special Measures & one with a drug problem.

(32 Posts)
Mirage Fri 21-Jun-13 11:40:32

We have to decide on a state secondary school for DD1 this year and I'm getting really worried.The catchment school has always had a bad name,I went there and swore that I'd never inflict it on a child of mine.Classes were continually disrupted,things set on fire,if you were quiet or tried to work,you'd be bullied for being 'posh'.No one I knew went to university,I left at 16 just to get away from the place.

I've tried to put my bad experience aside and was gradually coming around to her having to go there,helped by the fact that it was rated good in it's most recent OFSTED inspection.However,last month it was inspected again and was classed as inadequate across the board and put into special measures.There were serious concerns about attainment,quality of teaching and pupils' behaviour.

The only other school locally is smaller,but has an equally bad reputation for behaviour and a serious drug problem.Parents are pulling their kids out left right and centre.If DD1 goes to this school,I will have to drop her off and pick her up every day,as there is no transport provided,which at least means that she won't be hanging about the place after school.She'll only just have turned 11 when she goes and is not at all street wise.

She wants to go where her friends are going,but a lot are going private if they can afford it.We can't,but could manage to pay for a tutor if need be.

My head is spinning,I really wanted better for my DDs and am gutted that the choice of schools is so bad. DH doesn't come from around here and doesn't know quite how poor they are.He seems unconcerned about it all.sad

Takver Fri 21-Jun-13 12:28:06

That's crap sad

Do you know anyone with dc at the school that has been put into special measures?

FWIW a local school to here went into special measures recently - but I have friends with dc there and they're very happy with the school and how their children are progressing. I think the school is obviously failing some children, but it isn't a nasty place to be, IYKWIM.

Also, I'm sure others with more experience will be along, but I think going into special measures can often be quite a good thing in that money / resources will be put into the school?

imnotmymum Fri 21-Jun-13 12:28:54

Is there no other school???? In that position I would home school or move

Startail Fri 21-Jun-13 12:42:55

SMs school, rather than one parents are pulling their DCs from.

They will come down on behaviour and attainment like a tin of bricks, to get out of SM.

Quality of teaching is very subjective and harder to fix as you can't recruit good teachers out of thin air.

What Ofsted see as bad teaching, old fashioned chalk and talk, DD1 likes. New fangled group work she hates.

Teachers get marked down for not differentiating, when they know certain DCs aren't going to join in, however good the lesson.

If a school sets and your DC is bright enough to get in the higher sets, chances are they will do OK, SM or no SM.

Madlizzy Fri 21-Jun-13 12:57:54

I think the goalposts with Ofsted have changed recently, so schools that were previously good have been marked down. As mentioned, when a school is in special measures, they'll be working very hard to get out of it, so I'd choose that one. My kids are in a school which was in special measures and has pulled itself up by the bootstraps and got itself a good rating. They're all doing well there.

Talkinpeace Fri 21-Jun-13 13:25:49

Is the SM school an Academy : if it is, worry. If it is LEA and there is no sponsor hovering in the wings, go for it, as it will turn around in a couple of terms.

School with drug problem. Do you have tangible evidence of this - like court records?
Just that all secondary schools have drug problems, especially affluent ones. But the drug kids and the bright kids tend not to overlap socially.

LuvMyBoyz Fri 21-Jun-13 14:40:17

School in Special Measures will be monitored and advice an d money put into it to improve it. All good for pupils. And, as has already been said, it may not even be all that bad. Go and visit both of them...the feeling you get from being in the schools should really help with the decision.

Dededum Fri 21-Jun-13 16:50:07

Our outstanding junior has just got downgraded to requires improvement.

Go and have a look round and see how it feels.

Mirage Fri 21-Jun-13 19:03:35

Thank you all.I've been very careful not to let DD1 hear anything negative about these schools from me,especially as she knows I went to one of them,so it is a relief to let off steam here.

There isn't any point in moving,we live in a lovely village and if we moved away,would never be able to move back as houses here come on the market so rarely.My business and the family farm are here and if we moved,we'd still be in crap school catchment,but living in a town instead.I can't afford to give up my business to home school either.

All the secondaries here are Academies.It is bizarre in that we are surrounded by Outstanding Primaries,including the DDs Primary [also an Academy] but the secondaries are dire.I heard about the drugs and the SM from a family member who works in local education and has a fair bit to do with all the local schools.

I will go and see them both,I suppose it is a case of choosing the one that is the lesser evil.Not what I ever thought I'd be doing.sad

Hopeful646 Sat 22-Jun-13 08:54:16

Most secondary schools have drug problems of some sort I'm afraid so I wouldn't let that put you off especially as you say it's a smaller school.
It seems the SM school's persistent bad reputation is justified as it has gone into special measures you say.
Are there only just two secondary options?

colander Sat 22-Jun-13 09:56:43

I wouldn't pay a huge amount of attention to the Ofsted grade. They have changed guidelines and lots of schools are suddenly doing worse. You can read the report on the Ofsted website, but the most important thing is how you feel about the schools when you visit. Don't visit on an open day, ask to come in on a normal day if they will let you, and talk to as many current parents as you can. You may find they aren't as bad as you think they are (hopefully!). Otherwise, private school with a bursary? My dds go to private schools, but I'm a secondary school teacher so it is probably a case of "knowing too much" about the current state of education!

lljkk Sat 22-Jun-13 10:18:43

Anyone else desperate to know where OP is that those are her only options? I couldn't send DC to a school that I hated myself.

I live in one of the lowest density counties/districts in England & still got a realistic choice of 6 or 7 different secondaries. Transport costs arethe only hurdle. There are private minibus services to some of them.

Coconutty Sat 22-Jun-13 10:24:34

You need to look further afield tbh, I wouldn't send my kids to either of them even if it meant a longer journey.

Have you looked into bursaries for the private schools?
(Although everyone else's comments also valid)

Mirage Sat 22-Jun-13 10:32:17

Sadly,the 'choice' is pretty much those two schools.The LEA decided to close one of the other local secondaries,despite a huge influx of EU workers into the area plus the baby boom of the early 2000's.There are 3 other secondaries which are not quite so bad,within a 10 mile radius,but because we are rural,we aren't in the catchment for any of these,even kids in the same town are being turned away.A parent of a child leaving our primary this year told me that none of the children from our primary or any of the surrounding village primaries who put down the 3 not so bad secondaries,was offered a place in any of them,hence the rush to the private sector.

How do bursaries work? Are they based on ability? DD1 is an end of August child,if she'd been a day later she'd be in the year below,so although she is fairly bright,she is never at the top of the class academically or otherwise.The nearest private school is a Catholic one and charges £15k a year,way out of our league.

colander Sat 22-Jun-13 10:39:05

Bursaries depend on the school, but private schools in our area offer up to 100% bursaries for children that would otherwise not be able to attend. The scholarships (usually 10% - 20% off fees in our area) are for the most able, but the bursaries are for kids that get in, but whose parents would otherwise not be able to afford to send them. Worth investigating anyway.

Serious bursaries will be means tested, although academic ability will normally also be taken into account. Summer birthday may be considered - all schools will vary and will have a lot of discretion - you have nothing to lose by looking into it.

colander Sat 22-Jun-13 12:41:42

I meant to add that I teach in a private school, and I don't know which kids get the bursaries so, as AintNobobdy says, they are very discreet. They offer them as part of their charitable status I think so will always have some each year.

toolatetobed Sun 23-Jun-13 21:10:47

What a rotten situation to be in! If I were in your position, I would investigate any private schools that were conceivably within reach and which might award a bursary and apply for them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. However, it's important to be realistic with your daughter about her actual chances of getting a place. As regards the two local state secondaries, find out whether either of them set early and, if so, in which subjects. A school that sets earlier in more subjects is likely to be better for your daughter as the most disruptive kids are unlikely to be in the top set (at least not for long), whereas your DD will be likely to get a place in the top sets (even if she might not be in the top set at a higher achieving school). As others have said, visit both schools on a normal day. One of our local schools (the one most parents try to avoid) is very good at putting on a good show at open evening, but my son fortunately visited the school on a normal day while he was still at primary school and was able to report back to me on the behaviour he witnessed.

Lottie4 Mon 24-Jun-13 10:37:39

I haven't got any experience of drugs, but there's always a risk even with the best schools.

If a school is under special measures, at least it is being monitored.
Do go to parents welcome evenings at both schools. Be honest and gently voice your concerns to the Head and members of staff. See what reaction you get. We asked a lot of questions and both schools we looked at for our daughter invited us to walk around with a member of staff during lesson time as we were obviously the sort of people who wanted to be sure. You could always try and plan a visit like this at breaktime to see what's happening then. If a school is under special measures any decent Head will be looking at ways to improve with his team. If they are that bad a Super Head may be called in. My daughter's old school has a Super Head and the two schools I've heard him supporting have greatly improved.

Obviously take your daughter with you to parents evenings. We had a look at two. One was very welcoming, they had older children lined up to answer ours and our childrens questions, were clearly proud of the childrens work and many tutors in departments gave us time. The other there was no member of staff at the entrance, we got no welcome, the Head wasn't around, from what the teachers were saying it didn't feel right for our daughter and my daughter particularly wanted to see the drama department but it was closed. What I'm trying to say is that you may get a better feel when you look around.

I know you are concerned, but don't forget if you can support your daughter that will go a long way as well. I've always made sure mine has had what she needs to do work, we bought a laptop and I let her choose some books to back up research. If your daughter does her best and puts time into homework that will help. Some children at my daughter's school spend approx. 1 hour a day on homework, my daughter chooses to do approx hours which pays off as she's mainly gets As, a few Bs for her homework. From what shes said there are others clearly brighter, so the effort does help.

mummytime Mon 24-Jun-13 10:55:37

I would look at transport routes and see what schools are physically possible for your DD. Ignore others who put you off even applying, go and look at all feasible school. For any you like, make notes of what special features you especially like for your DD. Even after places have been allocated and you can appeal, maybe you will see something on your visits which makes a strong case for why your DD needs to go to that school.
Do also look at the two more local schools, and don't be afraid to ask awkward questions.
Do contact local privates and bluntly ask about bursaries.

Mirage Mon 24-Jun-13 19:29:52

Thank you all.I've done a bit of digging and apparently SM school has a bad drug problem and 4 pupils have been expelled over it,and one of the not so bad schools is fast gaining a bad reputation too.I have spoken to a friend who lives about 10 miles away the comp her children go to sounds and looks a possibility.We are way out of catchment but will go and see it any way.

I've looked at all the private schools that I can think of locally and the most reasonable one is still £10k a year.Sadly,unless we got a 100% bursary,that would be way above our means,especially as DD2 will be in the same situation in 2 years time.

I am going to speak to some friends whose DDs will be in the same position and see if hiring a tutor and home educating between all of us might be an option.There are at least 5 DC,and between us we could perhaps work out a rota for being at home with them.

Thanks for all your input and suggestions,I thought I might get shouted down for not wanting my DDs to go to a bad school.It is nice to know that people do understand my dilemma.

Onlyconnect Mon 24-Jun-13 19:40:11

I am so sorry for you. What a situation. In all honesty I have to say if I were in your position I would do anything to keep my child out of those schools. Where behaviour is a real problem it is worse than parents would ever imagine in my experience. It is also very hard to fix.
Schools are also good at pulling the wool over parents' eyes. They need decent pupils to be able to improve and will do whatever they can to attract them.
If you can't go private can you get a group of parents together and home educate ( may be naive) or approach a school further away as a group and get a mini gusto as the children there?
Good luck.

xylem8 Mon 24-Jun-13 20:36:43

All secondary schools outstanding or special measures, independent or state, grammar or comprehensive will have a drug problem to some extent.
where would be the next nearest secondary school?

Talkinpeace Mon 24-Jun-13 20:49:55

ANY school with large numbers of teenagers, especially rich / poor / motivated / unmotivated ones will have drugs.
You just keep your DCs away from it.

4 pupils expelled : out of how many and over what time?

if there are 1500 pupils and around 50 involved in drug stupidity, they are pretty easy to avoid.

An old friend of mine was expelled from three well known gels boarding schools for her drug behaviour. She's still loaded and I presume still off the rails.

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