OK, so this post will partly be me trying to get my thoughts down so please bear with me
DS is in Y4 so we are starting to think about secondary schools as depending on what choice we make we might have to start taking actions quite soon.
Our options are as follows:
1.Local comprehensive. Highly regarded. Ofsted Outstanding. Excellent facilities. 15 minutes walk from home. Majority (as in 90%+) of his primary school will go there.
DH doesnt see why we should look beyond this school and in fact I would be quite happy for him to go there. But I have a niggle at the back of my mind that I should be considering
2.Grammar. We are not in a grammar area, but we are on the edge of one, and in 4 of the last 5 years DS would have got a place if hed passed the 11+. Worries are of course that DS might not pass the 11+ (he is doing well at school, but not exceptionally so iyswim. His predicted levels for end of Y4 are reading 4a, writing 3a and maths 4b). Worry that even if he did pass he might not get on because of distance. And if he did get in it would be an hour on the school bus to get to school I know lots do this but having suffered a similar trip to school myself I dont want to wish it on my own children.
If we did consider this option seriously we could move to mitigate the distance issues, but that would mean DD (currently in Y2) also having to move school.
Also have option
3. Private. Same issues as grammar re passing entrance exam and distance to travel to school. Also have issues re money. To afford this we would both need to work full time which we do at the moment, but I am on a contract that ends in 2015 (and unlikely to be renewed as the job Im doing wont exist after that) and DHs company are constantly (it feels) making people redundant. Were both very employable but of course you worry in the current climate. The job risk is slightly mitigated as we have savings that could cover private school fees for a bit so wouldnt be a total disaster if one of us were out of work.
My main worry is that I think I feel that is DS goes to the comp he may coast, and Im letting him down by not at least giving him the chance to try for the others (though not sure I want to let him try and fail ) . The education.gov website shows that children entering the comp as high achievers get an average of B at GCSE. Compared to the grammar and private school that are getting their children A averages (I realise these are selective so Im not comparing like with like, but dont think the high achievers pool at the comp is that* out of step with their intakes to justify a whole grade average less.
If we did go for the private or grammar options we would definitely look at tutoring (though maybe doing it ourselves) and quite probably moving, so don't want to enter into either lightly ...
OP, I feel your pain. It's very stressful and my DD is in Y3, so I will be you next year.
I think one of the things you can do right now is to find out when the open days are of the grammar school and the private one and go and visit and do proper research. You need to stop thinking hypothetically, and compare actual schools. You may find yourself getting tremendously excited by a school and decide to go for a place. You may find that really, you don't like the head, the vibe, the students or the facilities aren't that great.
I would also suggest the 11 plus forum, if you want to take things further. Good luck whatever you decide.
What is your ds like? Does he coast if he can get away with it? Or does he react badly to being pushed too hard and dig his heels in?
What do you think he would make of an hour's journey to school when 90+ percent of his classmates walk to the local comprehensive? Would it limit out-of-school activities and hobbies closer to home, because he got home too late?
What would you have to miss out on if you paid for a private education? Would that mean saying no to some of the more expensive hobbies he might want to take up, or family outings to, eg, theatres or anywhere that costs a bit of money?
'The education.gov website shows that children entering the comp as high achievers get an average of B at GCSE. Compared to the grammar and private school that are getting their children A averages'
I'd be wary of simplifying this measure. 'High attainers' were 33% of the 2012 GCSE cohort, quite a large group, but grammars/private selectives are taking the highest subset - e.g. more of those getting 5a rather than just reaching 5c. Also don't confuse average grades per entry with average grades per student - some bright children get all As, others don't. It also depends on the child's interests, the school's specialism and the curriculum followed in four or five years' time.
What does your DS say?
I am a tutor and I pick up students from the state and private sector during exam time and (for some) all year round - kids at the most expensive schools in the country and kids at some pretty poor local schools. After 7 years tutoring (I am also a PhD student and lecturer at King's College London, so I see undergrads too) I have learned:
1. Pick the school that makes your child happy - don't go for status - seen so many kids who were sent to where they "ought" to go and fail on an epic scale (this includes v expensive posh schools AND kids who needed more attention and small schools/classes being sent to large state schools on a basis of principle rather than cost).
2. Private schools provide loads of options to take part in "rounding" activities inc charity work etc - good state ones do too, but if yours doesn't, you will want to look at organising extra sport/music etc - universities want well-rounded, interesting and interested students, although, again, ones that do things for the love of it rather than because they had an endless cycle of activities rammed down their throats.
3. If you go state, you can spend on long-term tutors etc and have a huge amount of choice/involvement in your child's education. A really good tutor helps a child with confidence/thought/development and doesn't just hot-house - I loathe the idea (and so refuse to accept) of students being crammed for entrance exams, or the parents who think their 5 year old requires a PhD student to teach them.
4. State schools can have (again not all, just my experience of the 4 main schools in my area) a willingness to go for the median level of ability. This means that often a C will do. Conversely, private schools can either a) be nannying, so students are spoon-fed or b) put huge pressure on students to succeed (at my school, the stress response manifested in eating disorders). On the other hand, you get to do cool subjects like Latin (not joking!... Latin is genuinely an awesome language).
5. Ask a lot about opportunities available at each school, their philosophy of education and their pastoral care. What academic support do they give to the brightest and to the weakest?
Hope that helps... As I say, entirely based on my own experiences rather than any statistics or research!
Based on the levels given, he's not particularly clever, unlikely to get a good 11+ pass if at all, so what your looking at there is mid-stream.
Compare the mid-stream (not the gram's first stream), with the comps high stream, as in a comp he is more likely to be first stream, and if he wasn't you'd be mad to leave him in a mid or low stream comp if you've a private option.
So perhaps look at your choices as
Mid stream gram
First stream comp
private (if he's still mid to low ability at application time)
Gawd how I feel your pain I keep relaxing with state comp & then panicking again for the same reasons as you.
mine is year 5 & I have spent the last year or so swinging from accepting that though we have no say in which state school she actually goes too, we have a good chance of getting her into her first choice, which is outstanding & does suit her skill set, to panicking that by doing that we are selling her short & should be trying for a private Grammar school scholarship/bursary -
the 2 high standing local girls grammars both would take her based on her passing 11+, which as she's a been a high achiever all through school, won't be a problem for her - she HATES the idea if going to an all girls school - which having refused a move to one myself as a teen, I unfortunately completely understand - I wish I didn't as that would actually be our easiest option - the only local mixed grammar is private, right on out doorstep, but known to be very high pressure & much harder to get a bursary/scholarship for & DD has health problems affected by stress & a perfectionist streak a mile wide, so that could actually be counter productive - where with the best state comp, we can actually use her health problems to get her in there as its also known for its quality of pastoral care -
But then she already has quite strong ideas of her future career path - but about as opposite poles as you can get - reconstructive surgeon - or a tattooist - lol
Ehhn your post made very interesting reading - thank you
Pay the fees but check the results of the schools too. Some private schools are for children who are not very bright and take those who do not get into other private schools.
I agree with the comment "a C will do" DS1 is at one of the countries top performing non selective state schools his IQ puts him in the top 5% but he has a serious processing disorder bottom 3%. To get him to achieve better grades than a C would require effort but his comp were astonished that we wanted anything more than a C and unprepared to put in the extra effort to enable him to access the curriculum so that he could get more than a C.
In his case we have found in the past that private ed was no better but his difficulties are "very rare" as a general principle when people pay they want and expect better grades than their DC's would have got in the state sector and most private schools are perfectly aware of this and work hard to try and achieve this.
Having said this there are many crap private schools out there and many fab state schools paying doesn't mean it's guaranteed to be better but from my experience and from talking to others the " a C grade is good enough" culture definitely exists very firmly in even the "top" state schools.
Year 4 and a 4a,4b and 3a and he's 'mid to low ability' acc to someone above? Really? I so don't understand these level things since I'd have thought these were fairly high ability. Certainly not low...
Anyway op, send him to outstanding local comp and enjoy all the myriad advantages. I wish I had that option for mine.
For Y4 those levels are above average!
I would choose the local outstanding comp. If you are concerned about coasting as he approaches GCSEs your ds could have extra tuition if needed to boost his grades.
A 1 hour travel each way to another school would only be worth it if your local school wasn't good.
"Based on the levels given, he's not particularly clever, unlikely to get a good 11+ pass if at all, so what your looking at there is mid-stream."
Goodness, are you sure about your assessment of OP's DC and those levels?
I'd say that's more than okay. DD2 has always been top of her class in an OFSTED-rated "Excellent" school. She got 4B, 4C, 4A and 4 at the end of year report in YR4. She scored a "good 11+ pass" for a superselective in Essex. She is by no means unique in getting into the GS with YR4 SATS scores like her's, and OP's DC. I'd be interested in your evidence for your statement as above.
OP - those scores are ok for a punt at the 11+.
We are in a very similar situation but we cannot afford private school anyway. My dc is in year 5 and only got level 4s everything inc science however dcs CAT has got very well above average. The teacher believes dc stands a chance to pass 11+. So we decided to prepare dc for the 11+ then think again. If dc passes the 11+ we would face another dilemma whether to put the comp or gs as dc first choice. Then the true is even dc passed 11+ it doesnt necessary mean that dc will get a gs place anyway as the competition is so high nowadays. My dc always wants to study medicine since the age of 3 or 4. He may be just an average child but he works very hard for his dream. So my heart feels he would be happier in a well balance mix comp my head thinks a single sex gs may be better maximise his exam results and opportunity for a good uni. Before I had children never did I expect to be so hard being a parent?
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