Worried we've chosen the wrong school for DD (Year 10)

(16 Posts)
NeonPinkNails Wed 07-Sep-16 18:42:00

DD is at Upper School (3 tier system here so she's been there a year), she's happy and seems to be doing well. But I am worried that the school is not doing its best by her and that we should have chosen a different one.

When we applied the school had a pretty good name and Ofsted report, we were happy when we looked round although we did prefer another local one which just seemed better in some ways. DD was adamant though that she wanted to go to this one as all her friends were. As an only child her friends are everything to her, she can be quite lacking in confidence and we felt she would thrive best where she felt happy and secure.

Since she's been there the school has had a terrible Ofsted and people are taking their kids out or choosing to send them to other schools (including the one I preferred) when they move up. DD is still happy, her reports are good and her grades are OK but I can't help feeling she isn't being pushed enough - she's fairly bright but a bit of a 'coaster' - she'll do what she's asked but not much more yet because she's well behaved and pleasant teachers fall over themselves to pat her on the back for things like turning up with the right equipment or working quietly - basic stuff that all kids should be doing! Their standards just don't seem to be very high and it makes me question whether her 'good' grades will actually translate into decent GCSE results in 2 years time which doesn't seem that far away. I also worry that the school is too focused now on ticking boxes for Ofsted instead of concentrating on teaching the kids - especially those like DD who don't cause any trouble or have any SEN.

The first thing DD said when she heard about the bad Ofsted was 'I don't want to move' (she knows me well!) and some of her friends are still on waiting lists for other schools so I don't think it's really an option, plus this is not a great time to think of changing now she's chosen her options and is starting GCSE work. But she'll only get one chance and I can't help wondering if we've made the wrong decision and should have stuck to our guns about the 'better' school.

WWYD? Really appreciate any advice - thanks.

bojorojo Wed 07-Sep-16 21:21:53

I think you read the Ofsted report very carefully and then scrutinise the development plan the school will be preparing to address the shortcomings, you will begin to see what the school is planning to do to improve. If the Ofsted report says the teaching is poor, lessons are not planned according to how well the children are learning (assessment) and the children are not making enough progress whilst in the school, I would be worried. I would not necessarily jump ship if I believed the school could turn around.

Does the plan address the shortcomings but do Ofsted criticise the leadership of the school? Do you think the school can put everything right? Or will this report create turmoil? Can they attract good teachers who will really set challenging work or do you think the teachers will continue to set work that is too easy and the school does not have the high quality leadership to do anything about it? Usually not challenging students is because progress is not rigorously monitored and assessment of work is poor.

Most teachers like well behaved children but must teach them effectively. The Leadership team and governors have let the school get into this position, so do you have faith in them to make immediate improvements? This is key. If you don't, then perhaps go elsewhere.

Summerwood1 Wed 07-Sep-16 21:23:47

She's happy,that is what matters.

bojorojo Wed 07-Sep-16 21:31:55

Most children are happy when they are not asked to do much! Most children thrive when more is expected of them.

NeonPinkNails Wed 07-Sep-16 22:10:37

Yes I do need to look at the Ofsted report again - iirc a lot of it was about managing bad behaviour (good luck to them with that), poor attendance (which they've addressed by bringing in a reward scheme where you can win an iPad confused), lack of SEN provision, not sure what else off the top of my head. I know they've done an awful lot of work over the summer but not sure how effective it will be yet.

Thing is though, wouldn't this be a really bad time to move her, even assuming that was an option?

Foxyloxy1plus1 Wed 07-Sep-16 22:18:49

Well, it could be a bad time because of her GCSE courses. Do other schools have the courses she's chosen. She wants to stay where she is, with her friends. That's clearly important to her. Do you have confidence that she would settle if she were to move? That could have an impact on her performance.

Whatever decision you make, it'll have to be fairly soon because of the exam courses. Schools aren't always keen on slotting pupils in part way through the course.

bojorojo Wed 07-Sep-16 23:20:39

They absolutely do need to manage poor behaviour because it impacts on the outcomes of students who want to do well but are constantly interrupted because of the behaviour of others. SEND needs that are not addressed may be adding to that. It sounds like they have work to do but you may find it difficult to prize your DD away from it! You may find it difficult in y10 and have a resentful DD on your hands who will not respond well. The situation is difficult and, if the report is not complaining about quality of teaching, assessment, progress made, attainment and poor leadership, then stay. The things I have mentioned would be more of a red line for your DD than the things you mention. I would definitely expect to see behaviour improving though.

Obviously children who are absent a lot will not do well. Bribes for good attendance are sometimes used but delivering interesting, relevant lessons with an appropriate curriculum will help enormously too! Also it will be vital for the school to work with parents. Let's hope they are doing all of these things! How do they decide who gets the iPad? This builds up problems if the children who always had excellent attendance never get anything but the marginally improved poor attenders get all the goodies on offer.

sashh Thu 08-Sep-16 10:04:33

Since the government rolled out the 'all schools need to become academies' every school that is not an academy has had a poor ofsted.

Call me cynical but it is happening. Have a look at all the schools in your area.

t4nut Thu 08-Sep-16 10:57:51

That's nonsense sash

NeonPinkNails Thu 08-Sep-16 11:46:33

I don't know if that's true or not but in this case the school is an academy. In fact the report blames the time and effort spent setting this up for some of the problems they're experiencing because they seem to have lost focus.

t4nut Thu 08-Sep-16 12:14:53

Its completely untrue.

What you're seeing is a change in the grading system and requirements, so 6 years on schools that hat previously been rated satisfactory are now considered at the same standard to be requires improvement.

Academisation can take a huge amount of time and resource, and if the school doesn't keep its focus then leadership and standards can slip.

redskytonight Thu 08-Sep-16 12:39:17

were you concerned before the Ofsted came out? The school has not dramatically changed overnight smile

NeonPinkNails Thu 08-Sep-16 12:46:59

DD had only been there 1 term when the inspection took place so we hadn't had a chance to form much of an opinion other than our initial one which was that the school was fine but we slightly preferred another one.

Academisation can take a huge amount of time and resource, and if the school doesn't keep its focus then leadership and standards can slip

It sounds as though this is what has happened.

I am really worried that we should have stuck to our guns and gone for the better school. It doesn't help that hardly any of the new starters from our village this term have gone to DD's school - it makes me feel as though we just settled for the catchment school rather than considering all the options even though that's not the case.

bojorojo Thu 08-Sep-16 22:31:01

People talk! It may be that in the year between you choosing the school, and parents choosing the school this year, there has been quite a big change. People got wind, and voted with their feet. Also, often the chattering classes announce they are not going to the local school, and the sheep follow them.

You have made a decision so there are now problems in changing that. The crucial question is - do you think the school can get back to what they were, quickly? If becoming an academy is embedded now, then they may be capable of improving rapidly.

Witchend Fri 09-Sep-16 12:52:23

I agree with looking at the Ofsted. What does it mean for your child?

Hopeless with pushing bright children on but good for those who are struggling or vice versa may be great for your child but not for another.

Also what are they saying. "Ok, it's a fair cop, how can we improve" is different from "it's not fair. They came on the wrong day and they didn't give us a chance as they'd decided before they came in."

I know people who have had children at an Ofsted inadequate school who have said they've never had any problems and their child has done as well as anyone could ever have hoped for.
And children who have been failed at an outstanding one.

I knew someone who thought their dc's school was the bees knees. Thrilled to get in, travelling well out of area.
I had a few raised eyebrows from some things quite early on eg. one time her eldest ds had come home with homework that they hadn't a clue on. She'd asked the teacher about it and they'd said that bit of homework was really beyond year 2. Only thing was at my dc's school they did it early in year 1 and the whole class grasped the concept and by year 2 they were doing far more difficult stuff.

I never said anything, then she told me that they'd been given inadequate and the leadership was saying it was completely wrong and a disgrace and some governors had "resigned in protest." And people were leaving left right and centre-although the head was refusing to go even though Ofsted recommended they did...

I went and read the Ofsted. And I thought "this is totally damning". It was terrible. And the results were worse. And the governors hadn't resigned, they had been told to go because they had ignored/missed things they shouldn't have. So the governors were lying about it on the school website-as well as to friends.

So I suggested gently that looking before other schools filled up might be a good idea. And was told I was wrong and Ofsted was wrong and it was a brilliant school etc.

A year later the children were moved after a disastrous year where academically they'd actually gone backwards, and had been taught by supply most of the time.

But to me the red flag was not the Ofsted. It was the leadership failure to face up to it and admit there was a problem. So improving something you refuse to admit is an issue doesn't happen. They spent that year's energy on telling people the Ofsted was wrong. Not on looking to see how they could improve.

Personally I think actually they moved at the wrong time. A year before, yes, join the rats deserting the sinking ship!
But the next year, the head (and most of the teachers who hadn't jumped) had been removed and replaced with experienced teachers, there was money and experience being poured into the school. And the class sizes were small 15-20 in a class but they were not mixing classes.
I think that year might well have been extra good and regained all and more lost.

NeonPinkNails Fri 09-Sep-16 16:48:37

Hmm, that's really interesting. I think in this case they are admitting where they've gone wrong and I know they've got an action plan in place and have made significant steps already to address the issues raised. So in many ways that school could actually be a very good place to be now or in the next few years. But it's all so uncertain! It's my DD's (and others) future at stake and I can't help thinking I should have gone with my gut instinct and chosen a 'safer' option.

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