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Beginners questions on schools

(9 Posts)
IceBergJam Sun 23-Sep-12 21:38:45

What is the difference between State, Private, Grammar etc

How do you find out what the schools are like in your area and how they compare to one another?

Im dissapointed by my stepchildrens education, and want to clue myself up for when I need to start looking for my dsughter . If we go down the fee paying route, then I need to start sorting out a plan now.

My DSC are late teens now and I was pretty clueless about schools until these last two years , and I dont like what I have seen .

SoldeInvierno Sun 23-Sep-12 22:09:36

State: they are free. Every child is entitle to go.
Private / Independent: you pay and in return you get small classes, bigger sports fields, etc
Grammar: secondary schools for children who excel academically. Not every county has grammar schools. But I believe some schools still have the name "grammar" in their title, even though they are just private schools

SoldeInvierno Sun 23-Sep-12 22:12:20

about comparison: if they are state schools, you can check their ofsted reports on line. If they are private, you have to visit them and make up your mind based on the information they give you and your impression of them. Be aware that Ofsted reports can be misleading though. I would still go and visit any school you were considering, regardless of whether they are state or not.

If you are considering a private school, you might want to start early. Some of them have got long waiting lists.

meditrina Sun 23-Sep-12 22:27:40

Private schools can be inspected by OFSTED. If they are not, then you can find their Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) report on line.

Grammar schools are academically selective state schools. They exist only in some counties. They may or may not have the word 'grammar' in their name, and schools with 'grammar' in the name might be grammars, comprehensives or independents; it should be easy to work out what it is from the website.

For state schools, the admission criteria will be published. You need to look carefully at these to see which ones you stand a realistic chance of securing a place in. Independents set their own admission policies; you have to check individually for each you might be interested in.

happygardening Sun 23-Sep-12 22:51:32

Independent (private) schools are inspected by the independent schools inspectorate but they are not as the name suggests an independent organisation it is independent schools they inspect. Their reports are not necessarily gospel and infact many believe not worth the paper they're written on. There is the Good School Guide again many are sceptical about how unbiased thiis is and the Tatler produces a guide to the top school this time it makes no claims tof beunbiased! Opinion is very divided about which is best with feeling on MN running very high. Bursaries are available especially at senior level but ultimately you are probably best to assume you will pay and fees vary from a couple of thousand a term through to pushing £11 000 per term!
IMO the very top independent schools offer an education that is vastly superior in every way to that offered by the state whether it be selective or non selective but 1. you have to have the money to pay the fees and some of these are boarding so at the top end of price range and 2 many are difficult if not very difficult to get into. The good news is that many of these top schools are very much moving towards "a needs blind" admission policy or in other words are increasingly offering generous bursaries.
It's easy when your children are little to say it must be coed or state or no boarding don't rule anything out at this stage look at lots even if youtlingit like the look of them try and be open minded but remember even in the state sector heads etc are sales men.
Good luck.

IceBergJam Mon 24-Sep-12 08:17:42

Thanks so far.

Is there a way of finding a list of all schools in an area or just an Internet search?
Grammar schools, how do you know if they are true Grammar schools? We have one close by that you pay small fees to.

BikeRunSki Mon 24-Sep-12 08:24:07

Start by looking at your Local Authority's Education Services page on their website, for a list of local state schools.

Farahilda Mon 24-Sep-12 08:27:08

If you have to pay fees, small or otherwise, then it is not a state school (who may ask for voluntary contributions, but are not permitted to exact payments).

acebaby Mon 24-Sep-12 15:06:33

If you are looking for state schools, you can do a search for all schools near you using the Ofsted web site ( If you read through the reports, these will tell you whether the school is selective or not.

For private schools, as others have said, look at the ISI website to see inspection reports. It might also be worth getting a month's subscription to the Good School's Guide, which gives reviews of some (mainly private) schools and also has really useful and easy to interpret catchment maps.

The other type of school, you may come across are 'public' schools (just to add confusion!). These tend to be the big fee-paying secondary schools, often with boarding.

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