How to choose a secondary school? Please help!

(21 Posts)
AlexaDeParis Fri 16-Sep-16 17:29:11

Hello, I would like some advice, my dd is due to start secondary school sept 17. Our catchment school is a large comprehensive which is broadly average, it's rated 3 ofsted but it seems to be an ok school really from what I can tell.
There is another school she could go to , a bit further away which is rated outstanding and I really like the look of. It would be a bit more difficult to get to and from but not impossible. ( if we applied for this I would also put our catchment school on the admission form because of course she may not get in).

However my question is, how much input should you let your child have? Dd is pretty switched on but at the end of the day is only ten years old. Dd desperately wants to go to catchment school as that is where her best friend is going and vast majority of her good friends from school are going.
She says she struggles making friends (she is quiet) and wants to stay with her friends, she does have some lovely friends which I would like to keep her with.
I'm so confused!!

Local, ok-ish school with people she knows, or outstanding school but may not know anyone?

( just for reference she is fairly bright if that is relevant?)
Thanks in advance

AlexaDeParis Fri 16-Sep-16 17:35:41

Just to add, catchment school is walking distance

AlexaDeParis Fri 16-Sep-16 17:37:12

I had pretty much decided on the catchment school but am now doubting myself

TeenAndTween Fri 16-Sep-16 19:37:20

I personally don't think that friends is a good enough reason for choosing a school.

Many many y7s change friends when they start secondary anyway.
Plus it is good to have friends out of school too.

I don't think any most 10yos are mature enough to decide on their secondary school. They can't see the bigger picture.

Don't just go on Ofsteds. look round them. Get a feel.
Are they pushy exam factory or whole child. Which do you want.
What is the 'added value' like for your type of child (high/mid/low achiever).
What is the homework policy.
What are the y11s like - would you like your DD to be like them in 5 years.
What is pastoral care like.
Who gets to do triple science. What languages do they offer.
What extra curricula activities are offered.
Is the extra length of journey worth the betterness (if it is better). Do any others go in from your area.

Somerville Fri 16-Sep-16 19:42:08

It would also be worth asking your large catchment school their policy on friends moving up from junior school together - many split them between various different tutor groups to encourage new friendships.

Try to get your dd to compare how she's feel about each school if she wasn't in the same class as any of her friends because it could happen.

PerspicaciaTick Fri 16-Sep-16 19:51:54

I don't think that friendships should be the deciding factor, but I do think that you have to get your DD to really buy into the idea of the more distant school - especially if she is going to have a longer day or a tough journey on her own.
You have to find some things she is going to love and look forward to, whether that is great opportunities in a club or activity she loves, or great sports facilities or lovely outside space or a cool library - something she can use as a starting point to imagine herself happily at the school.

chocolateworshipper Fri 16-Sep-16 20:17:31

Read the Ofsted report, but don't decide just on this. Look at the value add score in the league tables (more than the % getting 5 GCSEs). Go to the open evenings, ask to look around during a normal school day (you may get a more honest view), talk to the HT. One of the major things that swung it for us, was the enthusiasm of the children at the open evening. They were proud of their school and wanted to show us everything. At another school we looked at, the children were clearly bored showing us around and had no evident pride in the school at all.

AlexaDeParis Fri 16-Sep-16 20:31:24

Thank you all! very good points and a lot to think about thank you flowers

AlexaDeParis Fri 16-Sep-16 21:23:56

Have got some open days coming up so will take all your advice on board.

Ericaequites Fri 16-Sep-16 21:55:36

Teachers who are civil and get good effort from all their students are important. Relatively early setting/streaming and reading whole books would be imperative. Fancy facilities wouldn't impress me, but clean unsmelly lavs kept unlocked would. Consider what the journey home in the dark would be like. A long journey is exhausting. I have Aspergers, but living far away from my peers made it hard to make friends.

PonderingProsecco Fri 16-Sep-16 22:24:57

Is the local school 'on the up'?
There is a lot to be said for being able to walk to school.
Do your homework, get a feel for the school.

leccybill Fri 16-Sep-16 22:30:25

I work in a school which is a 3 or RI and it's great, strict, happy kids, good results. Hoping to raise to a 2 next time.

I know of an Outstanding school nearby which is a pure exam factory. Pastoral care rubbish, all the focus is on results and basically selling their services as an outstanding school.

AlexaDeParis Sat 17-Sep-16 11:33:04

Thanks for all the replies, very much appreciated, I think things are becoming clearer.

Sadik Sat 17-Sep-16 11:55:11

I wouldn't undervalue the role of moving up with friends for a quiet shy dc. DD still mainly spends time with 2 friends from primary plus one other girl she met at a yr 5 transition day, and she's in yr 10, and several friends DC are the same or have struggled to make friends having moved up without peers.
I suspect it does depend very much on the school, of course, and whether most pupils come in 'blocks' from feeder primary schools. Even going back many years I had that problem at secondary, as an 'odd one out' as the catchment shrunk for the main secondary my primary fed, and my parents weren't churchgoers so I couldn't follow others to the CofE alternative. It took me until well into what is now yr 10 to actually make any proper friends, as everyone came up with groups already set, and I was a fairly confident child.

AlexaDeParis Sat 24-Sep-16 22:30:50

Thanks Sadik this is what I am thinking and am leaning towards the catchment school again now for this reason. Still undecided though confused

NynaevesSister Sun 25-Sep-16 12:46:37

Let son have a great deal of input on schools. However I pulled rank when it came to his first choice school, which ended up sixth choice on our form. It was outstanding but he was totally suckered in by the fancy show at the open evening. Two of his best friends got in so he was really upset with me - but then they split the intake so he wouldn't have been in the same site as one freind, and he wasn't best friends with the other by end of year 6.

We visited all the schools, and I also looked really closely at pastoral care. This was the deciding factor for me. The second choice school was the one we both liked and I liked the most and had the best feeling about. But it was also the furtherest away! Which made me put it down in second place. I am so so so glad now that he has started that we got the place. I would recommend that you look at both and put the first choice school down as the one you liked the most regardless of distance.

NynaevesSister Sun 25-Sep-16 12:47:56

If it helps he was the only lad from his primary to go there but he has already made a friend to eat lunch with.

AlexaDeParis Sun 25-Sep-16 13:03:58

Sister thanks, I agree with you on pastoral care, the outstanding school is rated quite highly on that, decisions decisions!

NynaevesSister Sun 25-Sep-16 16:07:01

Absolutely understand how you feel. I really really agonised over this school partly on distance and partly on son being shy and not having good social skills.

SaturdaySurprise Sun 25-Sep-16 18:58:44

I know a girl, who was best friends with another girl all through primary school. They went to same secondary school and even the same class. This girl was totally dumped by her best friend within a week of starting high school. The other girl made new friends quickly and cold shouldered this girl. Even if it isn't as quick and brutal as this, they often drift apart.

I don't think friends is a good reason for choosing a school.

mammasmadhouse Sun 25-Sep-16 21:53:40

We are in a very similar dilemma, we have a girls school local to us who get excellent results at GCSE and A Level, but my dd has expressed a preference for a mixed school. Having visited our local choices, I could see my dd felt at ease at the smaller mixed school she had mentioned previously,, the teachers made an effort to talk to her as well. On visiting the girls school, my dd didn't feel at ease at all, she said it was ok but her preference is still for the mixed school. My heart says that if my dd is happy its half the battle, but my head is worried about the results and distraction. The results from the mixed school are literally half as good as the girls school, although they are on the increase, they have more disadvantaged children etc. I am at the moment considering going to both schools again during open morning sessions to see if that alters things, but still not sure how I should approach this..?

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