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Choosing a secondary school - help needed please.

(12 Posts)
Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 10:11:58

I have a ds in year 6 so by 31st October we have to make a choice as to where he goes next.

We live in a very rural area so have only one state comprehensive in the local town. It's good, getting better, feel ds would get a good education there (if he worked hard enough that is!) and most of his friends are going there. The bus is free and they do lots of afterschool stuff that he could go to. Brand new millions of pounds science block and good sports. Open evening tonight although I did go last year too.

Then there is another state comprehensive 15 miles away (the second nearest to us) which is outstanding. I love this school. I went to the open evening last night and was so impressed with the facilities, teachers, results, everything, the whole ethos of the school impressed me. DS might have a few friends go there. The bus is £1000 a year as it is out of catchment for us and afterschool stuff would be difficult, although they do do a late bus twice a week. I feel this school would offer him a fantastic education.

And finally there is an independent school, again about 15 miles away. Selective but not really, really selective or academic. Results good (but not fantastic considering it is selective) Beautiful grounds, small classes, good pastoral care and real family ethos about this place which I love. Brilliant sports facilities obviously. BUT £5000 a term, plus school bus fees, plus uniform. (ex dh would pay all in the beginning but when dd goes too, we would help with fees) DS knows a few kids who are there already but nobody from his school his going there in year 7. And obviously he has to get in!!

And I seriously cannot make up my mind. I am swayed by what other people say,what ds wants (which changes day to bloody day) and dh. My dh is SO anti state and pro private, it is really difficult to have a conversation with him about it. He doesn't even think the independent school is good enough!!! I was state educated and am fine!! He went to boarding school from 7year old(!) and loved it and thinks it's the only way!!

I guess I think I 'should' send him private but am battling with the 'why?' - when there is a brilliant state school down the road a bit!

Help. I know it's my decision, but any opinions REALLY gratefully received! Also posted in primary education too.

Thanks for reading the essay!

jeee Thu 06-Oct-11 10:18:53

I would apply for the state school - it leaves your options open at this stage. Look round all the schools, and don't fall into the trap of assuming that something's better because you'd be paying for it (though you don't seem to think that).

ithoughtthiswasoriginal Thu 06-Oct-11 10:33:58

Where does your DS want to go?

The outstanding state sounds like a reasonable compromise. It comes across in your post that this is where you would choose for your DS.

It sounds like your problem is convincing your DH. IME men can be very fixed and stubborn about things like education.

If I had an able child (no SpLD etc..) and they could get in to an outstanding comp it would be a no brainer. Send him there and spend the money on enriching holidays, extra tutoring and shoes other sensible stuff grin.

MillyR Thu 06-Oct-11 10:47:24

My perspective between the two state schools would be:

1. The journey. If you can afford it, £1000 for bus fares is worth it for the school you like. DS does a similar bus journey and it has improved his English as he reads every day on the long bus journey. It also gives children the chance to chat before they arrive at school and start working.

2. The friends situation. DS went to a different school to his friends. He soon made new friends. It takes the pressure off friendships if you have old friends from primary school that you see locally and new friends from school. Even if he did go to the nearest school, he could well end up in a different form or sets to his current friends.

I think that the atmosphere of the school - extracurricular activities, broad curriculum that is not all about passing exams, friendliness, caring teachers, pupils who seem to care about each other, is a better guide than results. One of the things I thought was important at open evening was seeing existing pupils actively engaged in what they were doing without supervision.

Snorbs Thu 06-Oct-11 11:11:46

How long will the 15 mile journey take? And is there any alternative means of getting there other than the school bus?

The reason I ask is that the friends he will make at this distant school will likely live a long way away from your home. If he can't get to meet up with his new mates it could become a problem.

I know what you mean about being bowled over by how wonderful a school looks. One of the schools I went to see with my DS was just fantastic but we were outside the catchment area. But since then I have heard from parents whose children do go to that school that the school puts on a great show for open day but is less good at maintaining it day in, day out.

Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 11:14:51

Up until 2 days ago, ds always said he wanted to go to the independent school. He went on a visit day last tuesday and came out of it full of enthusiasam (sp) at first but then commented about a few things he didn't like (minor - such as being put in goal at playtime for eg) and didn't seem quite so keen.

All his friends are talking about where they are going to go at school - that is choice 1 - so couple these things together and he got all teary and said he wanted to go there instead.

Last night after the open evening I said to put aside his fears about friends and to concentrate on the school itself, the atmosphere and what it had to offer him, knowing that as a friendly boy, he would easily make new friends where ever he goes. So he changed his mind and said the independent school was again his first choice.

And who knows what he will say after tonight!!

Ithought - dh is ds's stepdad so although has an opinion, and a very bloody strong one at that - it is not up to him. Ex dh loves the independent, although loved last night, but I have not had a chance to talk to him about it in depth and he cannot come tonight so I feel this big decision rests with me!! And my head is all over place as a result! Hence coming on mumsnet.

And yes, the thought of saving all that money is very attractive!

MillyR Thu 06-Oct-11 11:15:18

Another aspect with the friends thing is how they organise the forms. At the school DS goes to, they organise forms (for the first two years) by geographical areas, so DS was in a form with children who lived reasonably near him. I think it would have been more problematic if the school hadn't done that.

Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 11:19:49

snorbs, the bus leaves our local village at 8am and gets back at 4.10pm. The journey would take about half and hour I guess. The friends not being nearby is something I have thought about a lot, but he plays football for the local team and goes to cubs, soon to be scouts, so would still maintain his friendships around here. And although I place a lot of importance on this sort of thing, I think I need to think more about the education he will receive iyswim.

We know a good number of families with dc's at the out of catchment state and they all rave about it and think it is a fantastic school, all the time, so i have to believe them I guess.

Poppyella Thu 06-Oct-11 11:22:41

Milly - that is a very good idea, and not something I asked last night. They did say that they have an inset day - prior to the 2 main ones in July - soley for children who are the only ones, or one of two, coming from a particular primary school. They do really seem to care about this and the pastoral care seems fab.

Clary Fri 07-Oct-11 00:29:50

I went to a secondary school 6 miles away from home, DH went to one about 15 miles away (same county but 50 miles north of me) involving an hour's commute each way every day.

Both of us had the experience of knowing very few children from our primary at secondary (grammar school system so most went to more local sec mod).

In addition we both had the experience of our best mates living 15 miles in the other direction. I had good friends whose houses I never went to. We were both so relieved as parents to have a good secondary 10 mins walk away.

While you don't have that, OP, you do have a good secondary a few miles away that all his mates will go to. That would be my choice every time. Would he even get into the outstanding state school 15 miles away anyway? (sorry but no-one seems to have asked; in our neck of the woods there is an outstanding state secondary about 3 miles from us and you don't tend to get in there outside the catchment. If they do take outside catchment in th eodd low year it is a big piece of local gossip grin)

Blimey at yr post that the 15-mile bus journey takes half an hour! It takes 20 mins to get 3 miles into town from my house - more after about 8am!

Fennel Fri 07-Oct-11 09:54:22

We have also gone for adequate local school over "better" schools further away. I think that life is a lot nicer if you don't have a long commute, DP and I loathe long commutes to work and have gone to great lengths to avoid having to do them, and I thnk it's important for kids too. My 11yo has a pleasant 10 min cycle ride to school with local friends, she's home at 3.15, all bright and breezy with lots of free time. I think that benefit is often underestimated.

My dc have been in an Outstanding, a Good, and a Satisfactory primary school (we moved house twice), and their experience has not been very different really, the Outstanding was better at passing ofsteds, the Satisfactory is very friendly and small and cosy and not very good at the box-ticking. My dc have been happy and progressed in each of them. I do think a lot of the success in education is down to child and family, whichever school they go to.

Poppyella Sat 08-Oct-11 15:14:36

Well, I have now been to all 3 and my gut feeling is the outstanding 'out of catchment' school. I came away from there with such a buzz and a great feeling about the school. It is hard to ignore that really. The local school is good, getting better, the head has been there 5 years now and the improvements are vast. However, I just don't have the same positivity about it.

The private school is great, gorgeous setting and fab facilities but its just a bit staid. The rapport the kids seem to have with the teachers at the out of catchment school was and eye opener. Banter and mutual respect, friendliness and approachability, none of which was apparent at the others.

I just wish that I could swop their locations around!!

Now all we need is for ex dh to come and see the local school and then we can make our decision . And just for the record, I almost fainted the other night because dh said he would even consider the outstanding school for the dt's when their time comes to go to secondary school - which for him to say is a fecking miracle grin

Thanks for all your helpful comments.

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