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To not uproot family for "the best school"

(24 Posts)
smileyreiley Tue 10-Jan-17 09:53:50

My kids are still young but have been wrestling with the choice of secondary schools for some time. We live in an area where local school is an Acadamey and kids are streamed on ability- 10 mins to school. We are about 45 min drive from a town with some excellent grammar schools- great results.
My oldest still a bit young (7) to gauge grammar ability but I would certainly be coaching all my kids that way.
Other things to think of is the local area, it's a sad fact to admit but the grammar school town would have my kids in school with less of a mix, most kids from professional households etc, I hear minimal reports on kids behaviour bullying etc- local school much bigger, large mix of social backgrounds and some horrendous reports of fighting bullying etc
Sounds a no brainier- but I really not a snob at heart, and I brining up my kids to treat everyone with respect and equip them (as best I can)with necessary life skills to meet the inevitable bullies in this world.
I just find it hard to justify sending them prob an hr trip each way everyday, when , (albeit, worse results )school on their doorstep.
Moving to nearer town would be a massive upheaval- away from our lovely house we have built up, and friend social network, family, and DH business.
Should Academic achievement be my main determinant or will my kids thrive wherever they are with right support at home?
Has the schools record got such an impact on kids achievement?? Or will kids with the ability get same results regardless of setting?
I would love them to come out of school with good grades as good marks are very easily carried, in life!

Particularly interested in opinion of those who have gone through this type of decision, perhaps were really unsure of school and have regretted or are pleased with what they decided.

PhilODox Tue 10-Jan-17 09:59:21

Well, what are the school options in the town if your children don't pass for the grammar?

PerspicaciaTick Tue 10-Jan-17 10:00:32

You would probably be better off posting this in Secondary Education. AIBU won't get you the thoughtful answers you seem to be looking for. You will also get 101 replies saying your last paragraph makes you sound like a journo.

PhilODox Tue 10-Jan-17 10:02:00

BTW- you can see how children of broad ability bands achieve in each state school in England in the dfe performance tables.
But by 7, you should really know which band your child falls into.
Which type of grammar is it? The type that takes 25-30% of children, or super-selective taking 5%?

HardofCleaning Tue 10-Jan-17 10:05:38

I live in a grammar area and have experience in both "comprehensives" (actually secondary moderns) and Grammars. To be honest I would never consider sending my child to the secondary modern, although I'd be very happy with a comprehensive in a non grammar area.

I saw horrific behaviour, fighting etc. It wasn't the majority of children acting in this way but all were affected and most didn't feel safe at school. While I think the teaching was amazing at the secondary modern it didn't cater for the most able children. The top set for maths had children achieving anywhere from A to D. Obviously this means not much time, if any, can be spent on A* or even A grade topics as there is so much pressure to get as many kids as possible at least a C. There was much less aspiration - a B was considered brilliant and no one felt the need to encourage any achievement beyond that even for highly capable students.

Kpo58 Tue 10-Jan-17 10:06:05

Just because a school streams on ability, it doesn't mean that they will let the children move between streams. Mine didn't and it meant that people who could have gotten better exam results were prevented from doing so.

DailyFail1 Tue 10-Jan-17 10:16:10

Agree with Kpo58. Most comprehensives don't do streaming well. So if that's what interests you then the Grammar would be a better idea.

I personally believe that while kids can achieve at any school with the right support, you do need to (as a parent) do what's right by them. If you know the local comp is rife with bullying and there are better schools then set aside your principals and do everything you can to get your dc into them.

Draylon Tue 10-Jan-17 10:29:27

IMO a DC can go through school without encountering significant poor behaviour/bullying/fighting, if you choose the right school.

I can't vouch for adult life but then, as I tell my DC, you can't choose your classmates, but you can choose your work colleagues.

Sure, you'll get people telling you about the bullying and poor behaviour in their DC's GS, but that points to a poorly managed school which you might reconsider sending your DC to.

I'd shy away from any school regardless of its exam results if it had a well-founded reputation for unmanaged poor behaviour.

I was discussing this with someone last week, the idea that 'DC must be equipped to cope with bullying' (via encountering it). Her DSs left a struggling infants, aged 7, thence onto a private prep and associated upper school, eldest now well into a RG uni degree. He's a quiet, well-mannered, clever young man who has never had to deal with anything other than some ribbing in his entire school career. He'll leave with a good degree, will get on a graduate scheme and will be able to afford to live in a nice area with a well-paid job.

Obviously as in any life, completely unforeseeable events may veer him off course, but the fact is, he's avoided foreseeable situations like the increased likelihood of being bullied if a lad like himself found himself in a rough school.

FTR I actually don't think you have to mix with people from all walks of life every day of your life in order to be able to rub along with them. It's a fallacy that such schools are a big, happy melting pot of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. As your description of the local school attests!

My DSs attend the local comp, which is rather 'leafy'. Relatively racially diverse, yes, but culturally quite similar; ambitious, high achieving MC DC of professional parents; but we moved to be in catchment for this school!

Final point: What's the 11+ failure school like?? And an hour each way to school isn't that big a deal. I did it from 10-17. To go to a GS!

Surreyblah Tue 10-Jan-17 10:34:26

I would personally look further into your local school and, if unhappy with it, move, if the secondary modern or any other options in the new location seem alright/possible.

steppemum Tue 10-Jan-17 10:36:22

well, I'll put my cards on the table here, my kids travel to a grammar school in the next town, one hour door to door.

For us it has been worth it. Partly because of the personality of my kids. Ds thrives in the slightly competative, its 'cool to be clever' atmosphere of his school. He would have followed peer pressure at the local comp to underperform (not cool to do homework etc). We have friends who chose the comp and chose not to travel and that is exactly what has happened to their ds.
Partly also becuase my kids are bright and I wanted the best for them academically.

BUT our local schools are crap. So for us the option was a crap comp v. grammar.
In another local town there are 2 really wonderful amazing comps. If we lived there I wouldn't have bothered with the grammar.

I would say that
1. you must consider the options if your dc don't pass. In some areas the pressure for places is very high and the chances small.
2. if you do move, then they don't get in, what then?
3. Consider all dcs. What is first gets in, what will you do with the others if they don;'t get in.
4. Go and look at the non grammar school options. Is there really only one? Do all children go to this academy? There are loads of secondary schools in our town (mostly crap) and we are not that large.
5. When you go and look, seriously ask about their birght children and see what they say. I found that the way they responded told me a lot about their attitude to excellence.
6. I would not want my kids in a secondary modern (although they don't call themelves that) in a grammar area, much better to be in a truly comp system.
7. In the end it was the school as a whole we chose, not just for academic reasons, but also the ethos, the way they love boys (ds is at a boys school) loads of good male role models, such a positive approach and atmosphere, excellent behaviour, high expectations, and so on. Dd1 is at the girl's school next door. Her school also fits her well, really pastoral, lots of creative and club activity as well as academic, motto of the school says learning should be fun (grammar school) so much that fits her well.
Choose a school, because you like the school as a whole, not just becuase of grammar /not grammar.

steppemum Tue 10-Jan-17 10:43:02

and in both the girls and boys grammar there is no poor behaviour and no problem with bullying. (I'm sure it crops up now and then, but it is swiftly and effectively dealt with)

poor behaviour is swiftly dealt with, kids talk to teachers with respect, no messing round in classes etc.
Totally possible to do in any school I think, if the management is good, but much easier to do in a grammar where the parents have worked hard to get the kids there and want them there.

Hoppinggreen Tue 10-Jan-17 10:43:23

Moving for a Grammar school is very risky if you don't like the alternatives in that area as even very bright kids can fail to get in - the exam is one test on one day and with even lots of prep an academic kid can "blow it".
Basing your whole life around your child doing well in just 1 exam is pretty daft and puts too much pressure on them.
My DD did the 11+ but we always made sure she knew that it was just 1 of the options and we assured her that even the "worst case scenario" local Comp would be absolutely fine - it actually wouldn't have been but there was no point in telling her that!!

bigmouthstrikesagain Tue 10-Jan-17 10:46:13

If the grammars in this area are creaming off the high achievers and 'naice' children, then it is understandable that the other schools in the area will be having difficulties competing academically. I feel fortunate to live in an area where in affect we have no 'choice' there is one (outstanding) Upper school (lower/middle/upper school system) in the area and ds will be going there. There will be a mix of everyone who happens to live in the catchment area, the results are very good, it is a huge school and sixth form college.

Choice creates stress and I feel for you OP. I can not be sure what I would do in this situation as my ds - high achieving academically and with Aspergers - would probably benefit from an academic grammar school environment - but it might not be the best preparation for life in general - which is much more than just good grades.

I have to disagree that you can choose your work colleagues draylon - unless you are Alan Sugar?? I found that work, like school, can include bullying, sitting next to dickheads and having to do boring stuff - not all the time but - it is not all in your control.

steppemum Tue 10-Jan-17 10:50:04

totally agree hoping - there were some serioulsy stressed kids on 11+ day, whose parents had told them they had to pass or their future would be ruined etc.

We found a good alternate for ds and dd. It was still not local, they would have had to travel the same disctance, and slightly more risky in terms of getting in (but there was a glut of places in both ds year and dds) Both were comps. We visited them and they liked them, and we always talked about 2 really good schools, they will either go to Grammar or Comp, and they were both really good, how lucky are we to have that choice.

TeenAndTween Tue 10-Jan-17 10:50:38

All schools have some bullying, it's how they deal with it that counts.

Of course the grammar will have better headline results. But what are it's progress scores like?

Reputations (especially bad ones) can be years out of date.

Are you talking streaming or setting? Setting is preferable as it allows for an uneven profile.

EssentialHummus Tue 10-Jan-17 10:56:06

Could you stay where you are and sit the grammar entrance, or are you out of their catchment (if they have one)?

Is it a Kent type where 25-30% go to the grammar, or a north London super-selective horror show where kids scoring 90% still aren't good enough?

Without knowing your area/schools, I expect that a comp in an area that doesn't cream off the top 25-30%, is better than a comp that does, for the reasons that big gives.

Disclaimer: I'm not there yet, but I used to tutor for the 11+ in N. London and am in the process of moving house into the catchment of a "leafy comp" so my DC don't have to go through that.

EssentialHummus Tue 10-Jan-17 10:56:43

(ie. such was my dislike of the 11+ prep mill and the pressure it put on quite young children)

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Tue 10-Jan-17 10:58:57

Uprooting your family and moving house (to presumably a more expensive town?) based purely on an assumption that your DCs will at some point get a place at a highly competitive grammar school seems rather short sighted.

You don't know whether your DCs will be academic enough to get places yet. IMHO, you should be looking at family life as a complete picture. If, in time, you do end up having DCs in the grammar schools with a 1hr commute you could always make the decision to move closer then.

What are the non-grammar options like in the other town? Are they any better than your local school?

cheekyfunkymonkey Tue 10-Jan-17 10:59:45

It's not just about academic achievement is it though, it's about who your kids interact with and who their friends and support network growing up is likely to be. If the academy is full of fighting and bullying then I would be relocating in a heartbeat.

dangermouseisace Tue 10-Jan-17 11:05:55

I'd stay where you are for the time being. Things change a lot, schools can change a lot over time. I live in an area with comps and grammars…some of the comps had bad reputations in the past but are now really good schools that get excellent results. Some of course, aren't that great.

Also, just because you don't hear about bullying from the grammar doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I went to a comp in a 'naice' area and it had, and still has, an excellent reputation. Got bullied.

GetAHaircutCarl Tue 10-Jan-17 11:22:46

Tough one OP.

Selling up and moving for a school with no real idea if you'll get a place is a high risk strategy. What are the other schools in the town like?

That said, I absolutely do not subscribe to the 'a bright child will do well anywhere' trope. Some schools do not provide a suitable education for their high ability cohorts. They do not offer appropriate subjects, they do not attract the right teachers, they do not have sufficient like ability pupils, they do not expend precious resources on a small number of high ability DC ...

I would also say that school is far more than a place to get academic qualifications. It is a community. And you will want your DC to (broadly) share the values of the community. You will also want your DC to learn in an environment that is conducive. If this cannot be had in your local academy then look elsewhere.

steppemum Tue 10-Jan-17 11:37:42

Essential - there are more than those two models of grammar and 11+!

Over the border (in the county where my kids grammar school is) the grammars are superselective. You chose to take the exam, it isn't sat across the county and certainly not prepared for in schools. Of the kids who sit it, approx 40% go on to a grammar school.

The way the grammars are spread out means that non of the remaining comps are secondary moderns, they all have a full cross section of ability. They are also very good school and many chose them in preference to the grammars.

If your child is bright and suitably prepared they stand a pretty good chance of getting in. By prepared I don't mean massively tutored, just generally polished up on key things and done some practice of exam technique. Easy enough to do at home.

smileyreiley Thu 12-Jan-17 09:02:01

Thanks all, lots to think about- and just like in my own mind differing opinions
I think the personality of the child matters too- are they solo workers or easily influenced etc
The town we don't live in has a range of very good attainable grammars, excellent super selective grammar and good all ability- measuring this in the league tables
Decision is still 3 years away but I like to have thought through all options
I will continue to ponder (i.e. Torture myself!)

Surreyblah Thu 12-Jan-17 09:55:17

Given the new info I would move for sure.

Less easily influenced types can still be negatively affected by poor peer behaviour, eg disruption to lessons, stressed teachers. That was my experience at school anyway!

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