Small state secondaries - do they exist?! Or small nurturing private in Surrey?(21 Posts)
I am planning ahead (or rather worrying ahead) about a secondary for my DS who is currently in Year 3 in an Outstanding state primary in London suburbs. He is a bright boy but also anxious, and not sporty so tends to be friends mostly with the girls. He is very gentle and not at all streetwise! Our secondary options are either a very selective grammar ( even if he got in I think he would hate it), or a very large state secondary. I have always thought that he should go somewhere that his friends are going, and that is familiar as he needs routine and familiarity, but now I'm wondering if we should move out to Surrey and either find a smaller state secondary or even cash in on the property market and pay for a small private school (think could just about do this but as a state teacher I am not entirely sure about private schools even though I went to one myself!) I think his closest girl friends will be off to the girl's grammar so he might not be with them anyway.... So all rather vague and rambling but any advice would be welcome!
Scottish Highlands? Tiny schools here - excellent results but a bit of a commute. (Also, a shortage of teachers, in case you want a job).
Small is not necessarily good for people who are socially anxious. You can't hide or be anonymous if you want to be, and there is a smaller pool of potential friends. And regardless of the size of the school, classes tend to be about the same size. And kids tend to hunt with their own small pack anyway. I would just look at what you like about a school and ignore the size. And d bear in mind that he will be a different person in 3 years time anyway!
Large schools don't necessarily equal uncaring options! I have a socially anxious, somewhat nerdy (his term!) ds who is just in year 7 (in Surrey/London borders, as it goes). He has gone to what in my terms is a HUGE (state) secondary - with a 7 class intake. He has a gang of very likeminded friends (currently mostly male, but I expect that to change) - who are into rubix cubes, STEM club etc - none of them really use their phones/do online gaming/social media etc - they are complete throw-backs!
I was nervous, but he's settled in so easily - actually much better than primary. I wonder whether having a larger intake makes there more of a chance they can 'find their tribe'.
I was also nervous ds - as a quiet, nervous child would be lost by the teachers. I was amazed at parent's eve by how well all the teachers had got a sense of him - much better, actually, than some of his primary teachers who had him solidly (I should say, I am the daughter of teachers, but primary focused, so perhaps had an unfair view of secondary teachers as floating more about the relationships with pupils that primary teachers can easily develop)
NB Also talk to the schools about their settling in options - I think two of ds' mates got to go to extra settling in sessions as they were esp anxious about the transition - this was proactively offered.
Ito of small nurturing privates - there are some of these. In general they are (from what I understand) more likely to attract those children who academically aren't likely to fit into the more 'obvious' private choices. That may be unfair, but it's my perception from listening to friends who are looking private (both those with academic and non-academic children)
Scottish Highlands may be pushing it! Tempting though. That's reassuring re bigger schools not necessarily being anonymous machines. I really hope that he finds his tribe at some point. At the moment that geeky thing doesn't seem to exist, it's just football and more football. I know he'll probably change in the next 3 years, it's just going so quickly I can't help thinking about it (wonder where he gets his anxiety from hmm?!!). You're right, I need to just wait and see how things pan out and not pre judge the schools on their size. Thanks folks.
I think the self-defining geek came in for ds at end of Y5/Y6, but secondary is where it has really crystallised, and become A Thing rather than a way of saying 'I don't like footie' iykwim.
DD is in a small state secondary (80 in her year, though it's unusually small, 120 more normal). I'd say there are pluses and minuses. There's definitely a limited pool of friends, but then OTOH there are a lot of cross year friendships, helped by the fact they run a lot of lunch time clubs.
We rejected the much bigger (180 in year) alternative despite excellent results at least in part because it is a school that has grown drastically and as a result is very overcrowded, lots of classes in portakabins etc.
In contrast, I went to a 7 form entry school that didn't feel big at all - it was very friendly and caring - the difference being that the site, management structure etc was sized for that many pupils
It might be worth looking at bigger schools that are divided into smaller schools in some way e.g. by a house system. The head of house will only need to get to know 30 new children in year 7 (even though they will also have older children in the year) whereas if it is a head of year system mean the head of year might have to get to know 200 children at once.
In my experience a "geeky" or socially awkward child is far more likely to find friends and peers in a big school. My 3 all thrived in a 300 in take school, because they could find people like them, and it offered far more clubs and activities.
The only "small" state secondary I know in Surrey is Cobham free school. Most others are at least 700 pupils big, and I wouldn't guarantee those won't increase as there is a lot of pressure on places.
There are fewer boys private schools than girls, and most are selective. They are also not cheap.
My ds is at Reeds cobham about 60 in years 7&8 then doubling from year 9 . Only 600 ish in the entire school ds is year 8 and pretty much knows everyone in his year group classes are around 16 / 18 each
Yes Reeds and Halliford are the smaller ones I would suggest. Reeds used to be smaller with 40 intake at 11+ and 60 at 13+ but seem to be growing that? Halliford is I think about 40 at 11+ and 15 at 13+. Reeds mid-level academically and Halliford lower level.
Small state school not to far from me. All the in area kids are tempted out to one of the top ten schools in the country just over the border. 500 kids there. Nice school. Area is expensive to buy a house unfortunately
I wouldn't want a very small secondary. It will limit your GCSEs options as well as your sports and friends.
I would choose a school with good pastoral care. There are 2 ways they tend to this either head of year or head of house.
Don't consider any school that doesn't have one of those. They should be a full time member of staff (not necessarily a teacher) who's job is just pastoral care.
Between the 2, head of house works better than head of year. Because then they only have a small number in each year. So can spend Sep looking after the Y7s and may the Y11s etc.
Oh and also ask about class size. Some schools have 30 in a class. Some 25 or less.
Yes Reeds got a new headmaster the same year my ds started from Guildford grammar and all of a sudden apparently got more popular and standards are rising, just glad we got in before the rush 😱
I've had a similar experience as deepdark and mummytime, sending a mildly eccentric, geeky girl to a large comp. Seems very happy. Happier than at primary as she now has her own tribe of lovely, likeminded friends (both sexes). At primary she had a couple of friends but felt unpopular, but now she's happier socially and had no grief from anyone. She enjoys the clubs and lessons and likes the teachers. I worried for years about sending her to secondary. So far so good!
Thanks for the reassurance re bigger schools and suggestions for private. I will be asking lots of questions re pastoral care when the time comes! It would be awful if we paid all that money for a smaller school and he still didn't 'find his tribe'. Lots to think about for next couple of years.thanks to all.
Just to add to what others have said about small secondaries not necessarily being the best option for an anxious or geeky child.
We took DS (Aspergers/ADHD/very quirky and geeky) out of one of the smaller private schools listed on this thread early in Y7 and put him into a big state secondary. For exactly the reasons that others have outlined.
This is the conclusion we came to: in any given year group a child like DS will have a pretty small group of potential friends, given that at least 50% are going to write him off as weird, 10% might be actively nasty, and another 30% might be kind and supportive but not really 'get' him enough to actually want to be friends with him. So that's maybe 10% of a year group as potential mates (and DS, despite his ASD dx, is desperate for mates). In a year group of 50 or 60, that's maybe five or six potentials, and what if you don't gel with them?
On the other hand, in a year group of 200 plus? Much more potential. More geeks, more variety of clubs, less rugby. DS has never looked back and is happy and thriving.
I know someone at Cobham Free School and he seems to like it. Bishop David Brown is also quite a small state school. Everyone I know who goes there likes it - I know it doesn't have an historically great reputation but it is very popular with those that attend it.
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