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WWYD? DS sitting 11+ in September but I loved the comprehensive open eve!

(47 Posts)
yosammitysam Fri 01-Jul-11 22:54:21

We live in Kent where secondary school places are decided on whether or not your child passes the 11 plus which they sit at the beginning of yr6. It's a nightmare in many ways as I'm sure lots of you know! Anyway, we have a very bright (slightly geeky and bookish!) ds1 but he really struggles in maths which is a big chunk of the exam basically so it's borderline if he'll pass or not. The local comp is very good but very sporty. Several of his teachers suggested we get him a tutor for maths (and we have) to help him but he finds it very demanding/boring and its putting huge amounts of stress on all of us.

We went to the comprehensive open evening last night and i felt it was just a brilliant school. It has 'outstanding' across the board in its ofsted reports and has special schemes for bright students. So now I'm wondering if its worth pushing him? Friends of his who are bright seem to be being really pushed into getting into a grammar by their parents. I feel the local comp might actually be ok for our ds. I do have some reservations as its VERY sporty (and he isn't!) but I think he'd be happy.

SO: am I letting him down if I take the pressure off and say he can stop the extra work and go to the comp? Should I push him as maybe a grammar school would suit him best? Is it all about their happiness now or should you think about the long-term (university, job market etc) where maybe a grammar school education would be an advantage?

LittleBlueMouse Fri 01-Jul-11 23:04:47

It's a difficult one isn't it. I'm inclined to think the Grammar school looks better on a CV later in life.It also depends how important happiness now is in relation to happiness later. Do you derive happiness from success or through your work, is money and career important and does it define who you are?

Sometimes short term pain for long term gain really does pay off.

However if your son really does struggle with maths you may have to continue with the extra tuition long after his acceptance into grammar school. Could you or would you do this?

Have you asked him which school he would like to go to?

yosammitysam Fri 01-Jul-11 23:25:37

Thanks bluemouse I thin kyou really know hwere I'm coming from! He's only visited the comp so far and he loved it. The thing is me and dh both went to quite rough comps and were picked on for being bright, and were both very unusual for going on to university. I know our local comp is excellent and doesnt tolerate bullying and teaches all the kids to strive for success but I couldnt bear him to go through what both of us did- feeling like a fish out of water the whole time. then again as you say, would he be bumping along the bottom in a grammar? I just don't know. I always slightly resented my parents for not pushing me (they were advised to put me in for scholasrships for private schools but declined) as they thought if the local comp was good enough for everyone else it was good enough for me. I dont want our son to look back and think he could have acheived more if we had given him that extra push.
Sometimes I jus think I'm rubbish at this parenting lark. I need a proper grown up to come and make these decisions- I'm still about 17 in my head!

Ingles2 Fri 01-Jul-11 23:42:06

sam we are in exactly the same position but I finally decided today...
Ds1 is very academic.... really clever and mathematical, he'll be at a grammar come Sept.
Ds2 is bright but has dyscalculia (maths issues) and isn't motivated like Ds1. He also likes his drama and music. He won;t be sitting the 11+.. he'll be going to the comp because I think it suits his personality better and he'll be happy there.
It's been hard to decide... we could get him through the kent test,... his NVR/VR are very good... and his maths is not that bad at 110 on CATs... but it doesn't alter the fact I don't think he'll be happy with the pressure... plus I don't want him or anyone else to think that if he "fails" the 11+, the comp is a second choice.. it's not.
I'm going to be working on 11+ stuff, as I would like him in the grammar stream and it's much more likely with the comp as it's a cumulative score, not the 117 cut off like the kent test.
anyway back to you...
Have you talked to your son? What does he want? where are his friends going? Remember he can always transfer to a grammar for A levels / Int Bacc.
I think a happy motivated child at the top of his group is much more likely to succeed than a child struggling with pressure and keeping up with his academic mates

PonceyMcPonce Fri 01-Jul-11 23:50:03

Much as I think grammar schools are great, I would worry if a child needed a lot f coaching, they might crash and burn in year 7. I guess some would respond to the pressure and others would be squashed.

yosammitysam Fri 01-Jul-11 23:59:46

Glad its not just me who finds it difficult! Most of his friends will be sitting the 11+ and I don't think any of them are sure what the result will be- all fairly borderline- then will decide on schools after that and obviously those that don't pass wont be offered grammar school places so we cant just keep him with his friends.

I think I would agree Ingles he'd be better as a high flyer at a comp, its just that his teachers (he has 2 part time teachers) and the deputy head who used to teach him have said they think a grammar school environment would be best for him as he is very bright but needs pushing. He does find maths tricky but a lot of it is about his motivation- he just finds it incrediblt boring. I guess he's not like a stereotypical boy when it comes to education- he loves english and drama and history and has a very sophisticated vocabulary and wide subject knoweldge etc (because he's always got his nose in a book!)

I just worry that because the comp is a sports specialist school and also offers a lot of vocational courses and appreniceships he wont really acheive his true potential.

Ingles, are you very confideny tour ds1 will pass?

yosammitysam Sat 02-Jul-11 00:01:30

sorry- just realised your ds1 must have passed to be going to a grammar in sept! We'll have a similar issue with you as I'm not sure ds would cope as well with the additional 11 plus work and pressures of grammar school

Ingles2 Sat 02-Jul-11 00:16:12

my ds2 is exactly the same as your ds sam... english, drama, history... smile
yes, ds1 aced the 11+,.. nearly full marks, so I was very cautious as setting them up as "competition" so to speak.... but I haven't entered ds2.. cut off for the kent test was today, so it's too late.
Ds1 is exceptionally motivated... he was happy to work at anything you gave him over the summer.... show ds2 a mental maths test and he's in tears within 5 mins. I can't put our family through that for something I'm not convinced of.
Also.. what happens if he doesn't pass? appeals? or comp?
Ds1 has a friend who didn't pass... it's been very difficult for him. Whatever the real situation, the general concensus was he "failed" and he has been judged. I don't know how aware of this the boy is, but the mother took it very hard and appealed. That was unsuccessful as well.
I really wouldn't want ds2 in that position and it did help me decide not to register him.
In all honesty I think if its difficult to decide that your child will do well at grammar, it's probably not the right school.

goingmadinthecountry Sat 02-Jul-11 01:41:40

Am Kent too and wouldn't touch the non grammars in my particular town though in other areas they are great. Obviously they are not really grammars round here as most of top 25% are out of the mix. Would either home ed or sell my soul for private ed.

I worried ds would struggle at grammar as he's very dyslexic. Also secretly doubted he'd ever get in. Unfairly for him, his two older sisters struggle with nothing. Sending him was the best decision I've made - he's in Y9 now and has lived up to the high expectations his teachers have of him.

moshchops Sat 02-Jul-11 01:43:01

Let him sit it. I no its extra pressure, but it does give you options.

Is it sit the test, choose the school, and then you are told if you pass the 11+ (it was in DD's case) I placed the comp, and then two grammars on my list. She passed and then I had to appeal. Its not to hard.

mumblechum1 Sat 02-Jul-11 02:09:27

I agree you should let him sit it but if he fails, at least you have a plan B that you're comfortable with.

DS is at grammar and the academic pressure is relentless. Long term it's great as he's expected to get v good GCSE results (even though he hasn't done much revision at all), but if he wasn't so laid back he would have found the pressure pretty hard.

ZonkedOut Sat 02-Jul-11 03:47:56

Does your DS have a preference? If he wants to go to the grammar school, he might be more motivated than if he doesn't.

It might be worth keeping him in extra maths tuition either way, since if it's his weakness, it will be good to improve it anyway.

I wouldn't worry too much about which one looks better on his CV, surely his qualifications will be more important in the long run, and he's more likely to do well at those if he's happy wherever he is.

CecilyP Sat 02-Jul-11 09:47:37

If he is likely to struggle in the GS, I would say go for the comprehensive. Though, from what you have said, it looks like he would only struggle in maths. Far better that, than the other way round eg a whizz at maths but struggling in all other subjects.

With regards to the comprehensive, could you find out from parents of other non-sporty children already there if it is really a problem. Or are the sports facilities simply available for the sporty but, if you or not, it doesn't matter. I also wouldn't worry about him being bullied for being bright. He won't be the only bright pupil there.

Have you been to an open evening a the GS? If you were able to put its status as a GS out of your head, would you still find it appealing?

I really wouldn't even consider what would look better on a CV. Who, a few years after they have left school, puts the name of their school on a CV and what would that name mean to anyone outside your local area, anyway?

campingshop Sat 02-Jul-11 09:58:18

Can I ask, does the comprehensive start with a B? If so, then yes it's very good and children do very well and reach their potential there whatever that may be. I've heard that the head there failed the 11+ and then went on to Oxbridge a few years later, so he certainly doesn't believe GS is the only kind of school that children can do well at.

triskaidekaphile Sat 02-Jul-11 10:01:36

I would definitely go with the comprehensive if it looks good and you are assured of a place. Grammar schools are evil and wrong politically (socially divisive) and personally (gutting for children and families if they fail) and only to be countenanced if you cannot live with the thought of your child in the sink alternative, imo. Your alternative is fab and wonderful. Embrace it!

yosammitysam Sat 02-Jul-11 10:32:36

Cecily, thats a good point- perhaps I should put out of my head the fact that one is a grammar and one a comp and see which is the best for my son. Camping the comp starts with an H and didnt used to have a good reputation but about 10yrs ago a new head transfromed it completely and it now has an 'outstanding' ofsted report. It's GCSE pass rate is 50% A-C I think) which I understand is pretty good for a comp but the grammar is 100%! Although apparently the comp has a better 'value added' rating than the grammar no matter what level of ability the kids go in at.

Unfortunately the grammar doesnt have any open days til late september. The timescale is 11+ early Sept then lots of schools open days, results mid-October then you have to choose your school by the end of Oct.

The comp is really keen to make contact with local primaries and offers all sorts of fun taster days as their philosophy is they want to start as early as possible with the transition being positive. So my ds has already visited twice and loved it. The grammars don't do anything like this- they are so oversubscribed ( I think its 5 applicants to each place).

The thing is although the comp is great and I totally agree with its ethos and the teachers seem amazing, it is geared up to teach boys who generally don't want to learn so a lot of it is about trying to engage them in the first place. They do a lot of vocational courses in addition/instead of GCSE's as a lot of the boys will go straight into the workplace. Last year there were 160 boys, 80 stayed on to 6th form and 40 went to university or FE of some kind.

My DH feels we are making a bit of a choice about his future in terms of culture/class in terms of who his friends will be and what his aspirations are. It makes me feel really uncomfortable but I suppose we are to some extent. I'm sure he would make good friends at the comp but the boys in the year above him that will start at the grammar in Sept are soooo much like my ds! Bit nerdy etc.... I guess I'll just have to be patient and look at the grammar in Sept or call them and see if theres any chance we could have a look round sooner. Friends of mine that looked round last year said its good but a bit soulless- not much personality and a bit old fashioned in that they have very strict uniform rules etc. But they get the results and its a humanities specialist school which I think would really suit my son. I guess we had always imagined he'd go down the A-Levels, university route as we were always told he was very bright (in terms of national averages- just not by crazy 11+ standards). Though with fees and everything now I'm not sure if its such a good plan. My DH and I were both first generation university in our family and I suppose we just thought our kids would go.

ARGH!!! Could wrap myself up in knots forever!!! I guess we are lucky that he can sit it and if he doesn't pass he can go to a school that both he amd I like.

tallulah Sat 02-Jul-11 10:32:52

My DS1 is a geeky child (altho maths is his thing and he doesn't do English). We sent him to the High School having been told he wouldn't pass the 11+. He did very well there except that when he got to Options time his choices were very limited. They had to take either Business or Tourism or Health and Social care which took up 3 GCSE choices, instead of proper subjects like History and geography. It really was a waste of time.

He went to the Grammar for 6th form and found he'd missed a whole section of stuff he should have learned, and had to really struggle to catch up for A level, through no fault of his own. The High school just didn't do that level of maths, even in the top sets.

With hindsight we should have put him in for the 11+. We didn't make the same mistake with DS2 and DS3.

Incidentally I went to grammar in the 70s and got caught up in the change to comprehensive, and had the same experience as you and your DH. I really didn't want that for my DC.

yosammitysam Sat 02-Jul-11 10:32:59

BTW am really appreciating eveyones input- Thank you!

yosammitysam Sat 02-Jul-11 10:40:07

Tallulah, thats just the sort of thing we are concerned about. We were looking thorugh all the info they gave us and found as you say that at GCSE there were some strange option choices similar to what you mention and some subjects eg drama that were only offered as a BTEC not a proper GCSE. And it seemed like altogether most kids do 8 GCSE's. I sat my GCSEs not long after they came out (at a rubbish school!) and even I did 10.

It seems such an unfair system as surely kids peak/mature at different ages. I am sure my ds is capable but he'd rather be playing lego or bouncing on the trampoline than looking at past papers and who can blame him he's 10! But you are competing with lots of kids from prep-schools who have been groomed to pass 11+ from infants and also children from anywhere in the coutry (literally!) can apply for the Kent test so pass marks are raised ridiculously high. The grammars take the top 25% but not from the locality or even the county- it seems they take from the whole of South East England! There are kids at local grammars who come in from Brighto,. Croydon and surrounding areas., some have over a two hour commute!

yosammitysam Sat 02-Jul-11 10:47:15

And thats interesting what you say about going to gra,,ar for 6th form as that could potentially be an option for our ds but I guess the transition may not be easy. I remember a bf of mine left my school after GCSE's to do A-levels at an academic 6th form. He wanted to be a doctor and our school didnt offer science A-levels. But because our GCSE course was set for the lowest common denominator (double award science and it was about 70% coursework) he couldnt cope with the four seperate subjects A-levels so he had to give up on his dream which was awful.
And i struggled at university because there were huge gaps in my general knowledge as my school just wasnt geared up to focus on the academic side of things. There were loads of kids with behavioral problems etc so lessons were always disrupted and there was a really high staff turnover.

I guess we just want to give his the best possible chance to succeed and keep as many options as possible open to him. I will be tremedously proud of him whatever route he takes in life- academic or not (I'd love a mecahnic or a plumber in the family!) but I don't want to shut any doors to him and certainly not at such a young age.

coccyx Sat 02-Jul-11 10:51:55

Let him sit the 11 plus then decide from there.
Have grammar school here and hate all this extra tutoring some kids are subjected to. My friends son passed and then struggled with the work when he got there. Very stressful, he left and went to local comprehensive. Doing really well.

TickTockPillow Sat 02-Jul-11 11:05:20

GCSE options can be a gamble at Grammar Schools too though. The reason for the often very high A and A* grades is that pupils are "encouraged" not to take a subject at GCSE or AS Level unless the school is very certain that they will pass with a high mark and pupils are definitely steered to take subjects with final grades in mind.

I would let him take the 11+ test but with his dislike of maths, it could be sink or swim if he gets a place. The high expectations and high standards at Grammar School might either engage him finally in the subject or turn him off altogether. Only you can really judge that but maths is a pretty crucial subject and one that a Grammar School will not allow pupils to fall behind on. So if he isn't inspired by studying it in that environment, you could be looking at years more of coaching and battles to keep him up to speed.

CecilyP Sat 02-Jul-11 11:32:16

I'm not so sure. If he is able to pass the 11+ with his dislike of maths, there will be other children in the same boat. I went to a grammar school where we were set for maths. Some of the lowest set managed a grade 3 at CSE.

You could let him take the exam just to keep his options open, without getting too stressed about it as you do have a good back up.

Regarding GCSEs, you would expect 100% of the top 25% to get 5 A*-C. 50% of pupils achieving this in a non-selective in a selective area is quite good. This would also increase if more pupils who could have got into the grammar, decide not to go. Eight GCSE subjects seem plenty if they are the options he would like and would be useful for his future. Maybe you could find out a bit more about the options taken for the brighter children and more detail about leaver destinations of the pupils who stay on for 6th form.

mumblechum1 Sat 02-Jul-11 11:39:05

You also have to think about the transition from GCSE to A level, eg at ds's Grammar they have to get a certain number of A and B's (C's are considered a failure and just not counted in for the points) but crucially they must have B in Maths to be able to stay on for sixth form at all, even if they're not taking Maths at A level. So if your ds's Maths is weak, then he may find he has to change to a different 6th form to do A levels, even if he gets good results in other subjects.

Not all GS are quite as fussy as that, but at the open evening for DS's GS, there were almost 1000 pupils applying for 140 places, so they can afford to be.

I'd echo what an earlier poster said about the strict rules on uniform etc. Not an easy place for a rebellious type to fit in.

CecilyP Sat 02-Jul-11 11:45:22

Yes, I would agree with that too.

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