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‘Posher’ versus ‘poorer’ school – what’s the real difference?

(325 Posts)
stickygotstuck Mon 22-Oct-12 13:58:04

A bit long, sorry.

Please feel free to be very candid about this, I am being! I am forrin and my perception/hang ups about class/social advantage are different to DH's (or the majority of the population for that matter).

My DD will start primary school next September. So far, we have seen two state schools. Both are in our catchment, although one of them is very small and oversubscribed (we are talking 70 vs. 170-ish pupils) The larger school has a Good Ofsted, so does the small school. The larger school is in our relatively 'poor' (if you like more 'working class') village, whereas the small school is in the more affluent village next door. When I have spoken to parents asking for advice I can't shake the feeling that there is a certain snobbery towards the larger, 'poorer' school, and I am not sure that it's actually a better school.

We like both schools, but they are totally different and we can't decide our order of preference.

I guess my question is, would we be missing a trick by not pushing for the small school? Is there some sort of 'social advantage' to be gained for DD? (also could it even influence whether she gets a place in the oversubscribed local state grammar later on?). We are not the type to engage in convoluted social dilly-dallying for personal gain, but we are not so naive that we think it does not exist (we are just useless at it!) and we are aware that it's not all about numbers and academic ability.

Dededum Mon 22-Oct-12 16:24:00

Our junior school, outstanding, very posh, very motivated parents. Can't say I have been that impresses, chaotic, disorganised and shit SEN. Loads of parents and Ds1's friends have not been that impressed.

One good thing is 100 in a year which gives the kids lots of friend choices. Local as well so very integrated into the local community.

Honsandrevels Mon 22-Oct-12 16:29:42

OP We are having a similar dilemma. Have you asked about the intake to the larger school? As another poster said I doubt your dd would be the only 'mc' child there.
We're currently leaning towards a bigger, more mixed intake school but it is hard to know what to do. I feel your pain.

Having mixed year group classes, is that a good thing or bad thing?!

stickygotstuck Mon 22-Oct-12 16:32:10

I appreciate all the answers, thank you all smile

aufaniae that's another big consideration, distance from potential friends. Especially as DD looks set to be an only.

CecilyP good point about other 'MC' children ending up in larger school too. I did a double take when I saw that but yes, I guess we are MC grin.

OwlLady your post fills me with joy! The larger school sounds exactly like the one your DC goes to, council estate location and all. I do have a big issue with unjustified snobbery myself, and if I am honest I don't think I have the patience for cliques (not even for the perceived 'benefit' of DD!)

We live in said council estate (well, mixed estate, mostly privately owned), are we still MC?? confused Like I said, a bit clueless about that.

tilder Mon 22-Oct-12 16:36:25

Like most things mixed year classes are good and bad. Things that can make it harder are a year being split eg year 3 with part of year 4 with the rest of year 4 with year 5. How classes are mixed may vary year on year depending on class size, pupil age, ability etc. I would also say more than 2 years mixed together can be tricky as can mixing across key stages.

FWIW I would ask lots of questions in a school with less than 80 on role.

stickygotstuck Mon 22-Oct-12 16:37:33

This is moving fast!

Tryharder: "Ask yourself this: in 40 years time, will it really matter if your DC went to Primary school A or Primary school B?". That's exactly the crux of the matter, but I really don't know the answer to that (which could well be because of my non-UK background). What do you all think??

Honsandrevels, I'm currently trying to work that out yet. Mixed classes good or bad?

VintageRainBoots Mon 22-Oct-12 16:43:47

We're currently in the States (but will move over to the UK very soon), and these concerns are just as valid over here. Rosebud is right, in my experience. The posher schools tend to have more involved parents, more fundraisers, fewer behavioral problems, and overall higher academic achievement.

At our daughter's school, each parent is asked to donate at least $1,000 per child per year, even though the school is a publicly-funded state school (tuition-free). Because the school's catchment is located in a very wealthy area, the parents can afford to give at least the suggested $1,000 per kid; 100% of the parents (including us) give the suggested $1,000/child and many parents give even more! All that extra money goes to keep class sizes smaller, pays for field trips and extracurricular activities, maintains the science and computer labs with high quality, state-of-the-art equipment, provides the school library with funds to buy new books, etc. The funding also pays the salaries of full-time aides for each of the kindergarten (reception) classes, a very nice bonus that poorer state schools just don't have.

That's my experience in the US. I imagine it's pretty similar to the UK.

TheHumancatapult Mon 22-Oct-12 16:45:24

Oh and smaller school can make making friends tricky when fall out as all kids do

OwlLady Mon 22-Oct-12 16:51:49

honestly if it's on a council estate it will have a generational reputation, that's what I have found with the one my son goes to. There is another school in the same town which is the school to be seen at and yet the ofsted is worse than the bad reputation school, there is honestly nothing wrong with it, it's just absolute snobbery. I would socio economically it is more mixed than our naive little village school but I find that a positive more than a negative tbh. The world is full of allsorts of different people, you don't need to disinfect yourself from them. Life is to be embraced grin

All of the schools in question feed into the same middle school anyway, they all end up together in the same place eventually (unless they go private obviously)

TheHumancatapult Mon 22-Oct-12 16:52:17

Dd has done big primary ( 3 class intake ) small school 90 Kids and now in one two class intakes

The small one was fab but everyone drove in so her friends were miles apart . Her class had 28 year 3/4 but the falling out was rife and course not a lot of choice of friends

One she in now is good not to big but big enough to have friends if they do falling out stuff . Good dynamics to

Oh and those that say bright kids suffer big primaries ds2 big primary even bigger senior school ( 1400) is bang on course to get 10 a/a* ( had 2 already )
So don't worry doing dd a disservice and socially wide were probably scrounger class but he has friends right across the social scale at school and they do socialise out of school

OwlLady Mon 22-Oct-12 16:53:14

actually to say the school has a bad reputation is wrong, it just induces snobbery in people, especially people who have lived here a long time who live on the other side of the road iykwim

MrsVincentPrice Mon 22-Oct-12 16:53:15

I don't think it matters enormously in primary, really. I'm assuming that you're not in an area where the 9 year olds in the rough school get recruited as drug mules? So posh and common are probably only relative.

Read the small print in the OFSTEDs - what were the weak points in each school and are those things that matter to you? And if you think your DC tends towards the academically able, then how many children got 5s and 6s in their SATs? You don't want them to go to a school where every child without SEN gets spoonfed through their Level 4 and any child with a secure Level 4 gets left to play Angry Birds for the rest of the year. Mind you it's very tough to tell for a 3 year old. You might think "DC was talking fluently at 13 months, so I need a school with a good G&T stream" only to find that she has unsuspected dyslexia and you need a school with brilliant SEN support.

aufaniae Mon 22-Oct-12 16:53:37

VintageRainBoots I think you might be surprised at the differences.

No UK state school would ask parents to commit to donating the equivalent of $1000 a year. It'd make the papers!

aufaniae Mon 22-Oct-12 16:54:02

Sorry, $1000 per child!

TheHumancatapult Mon 22-Oct-12 16:54:42


Dd school on council estate and people fight to get kids in its rated highly by patents and off stead lots people drive their kids in and use every trick get a place . Where us scrounger class just walk round corner dodging the cars

There wide range of classes at school but found them fine and dd has no problems

VintageRainBoots Mon 22-Oct-12 16:54:51

LJBrownie: "I think they are lucky to have the opportunity to go to school with people from all different cultures and backgrounds which I never really had growing up."

I don't mean to threadjack, but I wanted to add that this is a concern for us as well. We live in Los Angeles right now---we'll be in Guildford next month, yay! grin---and overall L.A. is very, very diverse both culturally and economically. However, our daughter's "posh" school reflects none of the diversity seen around L.A. 90+% of the students are "white" (Caucasian/of western European descent) and almost everyone speaks English as a first language. It's kind of sad, really.

Honsandrevels Mon 22-Oct-12 16:57:28

Thanks tilder, that's helpful.

OwlLady Mon 22-Oct-12 16:59:03

all the parents who have children at my sons school are happy with it too, it's just the perception from outsiders but tbh I think my naice village is rather small minded anyway hmm the village clique once wet their pants that there was a durty paedo in one of the fields and it turned out it was the farmer

mummytime Mon 22-Oct-12 17:01:17

Vintage it is nothing like that in the UK!!!!
Even at my DCs relatively wealthy school, they couldn't dream of asking for £1000 from parents and even hoping to receive it. Yes in richer areas the PTA can raise more money usually, and has better raffle prizes. Another key factor is that the pay rates, and funding for schools is pretty much uniform nationally (there are some increases for depravation or high cost of living in certain cities). A big, and full school has a better funding basis than a smaller one and especially one which is not full.

For example in my DCs school with about 550 pupils there is enough funds to fund a number of part-time teachers, and specialists in SEN, as well as a good contingent of TAs. This is not because it is in a wealthy area, it actually shares the same LA as far poorer areas; but because the school is full.

Stickygotstuck it really won't matter in 40 years which school your DC went to, unless one is awful; and you can't tell yet which one that will be, and if it does turn out dreadful you can move your child. One of my friends had to move her child from the MC nice school that everyone wanted, to the more deprived school down the hill; at the first school he was under performing and miserable but at the second he flourished.

VintageRainBoots Mon 22-Oct-12 17:04:25

aufaniae, it's not the school per se that asks for the donation, it's the parent support group (the PTA).

The fact of the matter is our state schools are seeing their budgets cut, and those budget cuts have dire consequences for the children (e.g., too many students in a single classroom, which adversely affects learning). At our school, some parents got together and decided that they weren't going to allow the students to suffer from the severely reduced budgets; instead, they aggressively sought "donations" from all the parents. Fortunately, we live in an area where most parents can afford $1,000/year...after all, it's still far cheaper than tuition at a private school, which is where most of the students would go if the school didn't maintain high academic standards.

tilder Mon 22-Oct-12 17:05:59

I would agree with the friendship group stuff as well. Ask how many children per year and any info on the proportion of girls to boys. Plus do class sizes decrease up the school ie do children leave part way through to go private.

Small year classes can be lovely, Cody and friendly but can have little choice in friends, some children may be more on the edge of a friendship group and when they fall out can be a nightmare!

TheHumancatapult Mon 22-Oct-12 17:06:38

And some schools that are not considered the best ds2 school at time it was good but others in area better . But this Fekt right for him . 4 years further down the line school is now so good if don't put as first choice you have no chance it's shot up in league tables and off stead

aufaniae Mon 22-Oct-12 17:07:43

Lack of funding is a problem here too. PTAs raise money here too - but it's through stuff like events and raffles etc.

However I'm sure it would make the papers here if parents were being asked for £1000 outright, even if it came from the PTA.

People would be outraged!

stickygotstuck Mon 22-Oct-12 17:10:40

Yes, thanks tilder! We did ask lots of questions at the small school. Although I think I may give the head a call, as I think we need clarification on how the mixed groups actually work. I don't think we had the best organised visit in the world due to last minute emergency at school.

MrsVincentPrice no, no drug mule recruitment around here, thankfully! We've read the Ofsted reports (last from 2010) and we were going to ask the Head about our main concern at large school (not stretching able students far enough). But she said measures had been put in place and explained in detail before we had a chance to ask.

Has anybody found that some schools hinge too much on the Management? i.e. that they tell visiting parents exactly what the want to hear? I am slightly intimidated at what seems to be an extremely efficient Head. Does that necessarily equal a soulless place to grow up in? hmm

mercibucket Mon 22-Oct-12 17:11:12

What about the grammar school? Do both schools prep for this? If you want her to go to grammar, ask at both how they prepare pupils and what percentage go
Otherwise, go on gut instinct when looking round. Mine go to a 'good with features of outstanding' but was 'satisfactory' - I see no change from the school I originally chose. It has a great ethos and pushes every child to achieve their potential. Mine are online for minimum 5s but probably 6s and they are not the only ones. They didn't need a posh school, just a school with high expectations.

VintageRainBoots Mon 22-Oct-12 17:16:17

aufaniae: Yes, I understand that people would be outraged, but it would seem like the only people who should be outraged would be the parents with children at the school; after all, they're the only ones being solicited for donations. If they were sufficiently outraged by the request they wouldn't donate at all. After all, it's a requested donation. It's not mandatory like school fees at a private school.

No one has to pay $1,000. It just so happens that most parents at our school don't mind giving the school an extra grand.

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