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I can't decide on a primary school! How did you do it?

(12 Posts)
Idonthaveenoughtime Mon 07-Jan-13 22:34:31

Hello,
I am trying to decide on a primary school for my child. I've only a few days to go before the deadline and can't decide as there are only two even worth considering in my area. I'm actually at the point where I'm thinking I'm not going to work, I'm going to stay home and home educate (other half doesn't quite know what to say to that.)
The only thing I actually care about is that she is encouraged and taught to acheive at or above the level expected of her, that they teach her to write well, properly comprehend and execute mathematics, give her the opportunity to develop independantly any particular talents she may have, and give her a sound general knowledge. In other words the basis to equip her for A*s at secondary then on to oxbridge or whatever she decides she wants to do if she has the ability, basically the whole point of going to school. Aside from the after school clubs on offer, music, languages etc, I'm not particularly interested in the airy fairy things like inclusivity and equality that the ofsted reports talk about as this seems rather fashionable and political to me.
School 1 has a good ofsted report (previously was only satisfactory)
School 2 is an infants school with an outstanding school report, which goes on to a good rated Junior school (also previously satisfactory).
However, there is a school outside of my area which has 100% of it's pupils achieving level 5 and above at their Ks2 Sats, and yet they are only ranked as Good! So I am starting to believe that ofsted is just political nonsense as surely the whole point of school is that it prepares your child for secondary by helping them achieve and reach their full academic potential.
Comparing School 1 to the infants school is difficult, the infants is outstanding but I can't find any formal league table of results to evidence this so how exactly does ofsted judge it is outstanding without formal examination to prove the teaching is really that excellent? After all, and ofsted report is only based on one day in the school every few years! Clearly the children that go on to the junior school are only achieving good grades once they get there...which are not so good as the grades of the children in school 1! There is also the problem that it is very unlikely that that we will be living in the area by the time my child leaves Year two so it feels like I'm stabbing around in the dark because I'm comparing the infants stage of two schools which have no empirical evidence available to judge how well my child will be taught.
Then there is the issue of after school care. My daughter attends the nursery that will provide her after school care if she continues to the attached school, she will have to go to a different nursery/childminder if she goes to the outstanding infants, not sure how I feel about this either.
Hard to compare open days as I was shown around the infants by a very persuasive head teacher and the primary (school 1) by a school secretary due to having to arrange it outside of the set open days. Very difficult to compare indeed, and I didn't get a 'this is the right school feeling' at all, not for either of them. If i had any choice at all i definitly would not want to send her to either of these schools! I would send her to the little rural school with 100% test results and class size of 10! But it's too far to travel.
Slight advantage of the infants is that they teach them robotics and computer programming at a basic level, however, how much of this do you think is just being talked up to impress at the open day, it may just be a bit of a gimick. Lol.
How did you guys decide! This is so difficult! I'm terrified I'm gonig to ruin my daughters life as once she's in it feels unfair to disrupt her and switch schools.

noblegiraffe Mon 07-Jan-13 22:43:52

Just to clarify, achieving 100% level 5 at KS2 doesn't mean that the school is great, necessarily, it could just mean that the kids who go to it are clever, and would have got a level 5 if they went to your local options. You need to look a bit more closely at the breakdown of results and see how much progress these students are making. If, in the school with less than 100% results all the kids are making 2 levels of progress in each of the assessed areas at KS2, but in the 100% level 5 school they aren't, then this would make the school with the lower headline results the better school as they are the ones actually helping all the students achieve their potential. Progress is the key, not simple attainment.

tiggytape Mon 07-Jan-13 22:53:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tricot39 Tue 08-Jan-13 06:34:01

Have you seen the department for education performance tables? You can download data/pdf for primary and secondary schools in your local authority area which might give you the information you are after. Not sure it helps much though.

Nishky Tue 08-Jan-13 06:46:19

I took the children and we chose the one that felt right- isn't talking about Oxbridge a bit premature at this stage

how about a school where your child may be happy

does she have friends that will go to either of the schools?
is she interested in activities that will be available at any of the schools (drama/art/sport etc)
is the time spent travelling an issue, will one school mean more time in after school care than another?

LoopsInHoops Tue 08-Jan-13 06:47:59

Ofsted rating is largely based on the accuracy of the provided data. The 'good' school out of catchment may have provided less cast-iron data. With those SAT levels, I would assume thy have a middle class intake.

No state primary is going to make a song and dance about its academics per se. It isn't seen as the most important thing any more. For hot-housing at primary you will have to pay.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 08-Jan-13 06:54:55

OP did you look at admittance stats for the two schools - are you sure you will get into both with distance etc? That could make your decision easy.

I wouldn't Home Ed if I were you - that's always a decision you can take later if you feel it's best once DD has started school.

SminkoPinko Tue 08-Jan-13 07:02:35

The schools sound quite similar so I would send her to the one where she can stay in her current childcare provision.

allyfe Tue 08-Jan-13 13:12:51

When showing round some friends of mine round their school (the one with the best SAT's in the area), the children answered in response to the question about sports that the weren't doing that at the moment so that they could do extra SATs preperation. What should be important is how well a child can think and reason, not just how they perform in a test. Also, encouraging a passion and love for learning will take them much closer to University than drilling them will. Different children learn in different ways. Does the school focus on individual learning needs/differences? Both for advanced learners and those who need extra help? Would you let your child be a performer or an artist? I would be wary about setting them up for Oxbridge now because you may find that it isn't what makes them happy in life.
Based on what you have said, I would consider the village school (if you would get in). You can always move closer to it. If you like that school best and think she will be happiest there, it sounds the best choice to me. Unless you are just being swayed by the results.

crazymum53 Wed 09-Jan-13 11:22:33

Only the results of KS2 SATs are published in league tables whereas KS1 SATs are internally assessed by the teachers and are not published.
However individual infant schools may provide parents with a Table of their KS1 results and possibly include information about how these compare to the national average.
Primary and Junior schools are judges by OFSTED on how much progress children make between KS1 and KS2 compared to schools with a similar pupil profile (that takes into account pupils background, special needs etc.) nationally. Children who achieve level 2 at KS2 are expected to reach level 4 at KS2 (and children who achieve level 3 at KS1 are expected to reach level 5 at KS2.
There are several problems comparing separate infant/junior school and primary schools.
1. Infant schools are judged by OFSTED on how much progress is made between entry at reception and the end of KS1. Because this is done by teacher assessment, some infant schools may be rather generous and give lots of level 3s to make the school look good. But these children then don't achieve level 5 at Junior school, making the Junior school look "worse" than the infants.
2. Primary schools tend to have a better transition from KS1 to KS2 and pupils tend not to transfer to other schools. It is possible that a significant proportion of the infant school pupils (possibly the high achieving ones) may not transfer to the linked junior school but move to either a "better" junior school or enter the private school system at this age.
3. Some pupils may move out of the area during KS2 so that they are in the catchment area for "better" secondary schools, this can also affect results at KS2 as well. But this would probably affect several schools in the area.

Hope this helps you make a decision.

WorkingtoohardMama Wed 09-Jan-13 11:36:22

I went with the one where I thought my son would be happiest, and so far so good - he is doing brilliantly, exceeding expectations in all areas.

Children will learn more when they feel secure and happy.

We visited the 2 schools in our catchment, when we walked out of the first, I just felt uncomfortable about the prospect of my ds going there, at the second school, I felt immediately at home, the environment in the school was really caring and I felt they had the same values as us, maybe that sounds like I load of crap, but I've always felt that we made the right decision.

Seeline Wed 09-Jan-13 11:46:06

If you really don't think you'll still be living in the area by the end of KS1, I think that maybe you are over-thinking the issues. Both schools seem to be producing children that can read and write - much will depend on your own childs abilities (Oxbridge could well be a bridge too far, and impossible to assess at this age).
You must have preferred one school over hte other when you visited - where did the children seem most engaged/happy? Were the buildings/faciliteis better at one? Did they both have good outside play areas?
Go and walk past both schools at playtime/home time - do the children seem hapy/polite/well behaved?
See if you can chat to some of the parents with kids already at the schools - I have been approachedin the playground a couple of times by propsepective parents sounding out the place!

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