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How on earth do people actually know which school is right for their children?

(53 Posts)
JenaiMorris Tue 09-Apr-13 09:48:52

I'm just pondering really - ds is at secondary already and fingers crossed, won't need to move.

Looking back on how I chose primary I'm really not sure I picked the right one. I went for one that was fluffier, less strict, less pushy thinking that anything too rigid wouldn't suit him at all, but then he was 4! And actually, the more strictly structured lessons he has now (such as in maths) are the ones he does far better in.

And of course now I'm thinking that I should have sent him to a more traditional secondary grin

I often read threads on MN where posters list their requirements for a school ("strong academics", "traditional", "caring" etc etc). How do people know this?

Like I said this really is just a ponder...

slipshodsibyl Tue 09-Apr-13 09:53:40

You don't until they are there. Even then you will never knowforsure as you can tore run the experiment with the same child at a different school. Much of the agonising on here is wishful thinking and telling ourselves that we have more control and knowledge than we do. It is exacerbated in the case of private education since parents are paying and feel they are exercising choice in a greater way.

If you like the school and it is well regarded then it will have more in common with other schools than it will have differences, state and private.

Hope your children have a happy school life.

slipshodsibyl Tue 09-Apr-13 09:54:17

'As you can not run the same experiment.' Sorry

JenaiMorris Tue 09-Apr-13 10:21:22

You're right of course.

I think the realisation that ds is growing up so bloody fast and that "the experiment" is so far on gives me doubts. I wouldn't have convinced him to go to another secondary anyway - he wanted to go to this one and even if he'd have done better in theory elsewhere, he'd have resented it.

I also think it's taken being away from the primary for a while to see its faults. Not that it was dreadful or anything.

yy to there being more similarities than differences, and to us thinking we have more control and knowledge than we do.

ShoeHorn Tue 09-Apr-13 10:24:06

You don't really know a school until you hve been there and experienced it for yourself. Lots of schools have marvellous websites and reviews, but it does not suit every child.

It was trial and error with our dc. We moved school if we felt it was right.

janinlondon Tue 09-Apr-13 11:47:11

I think there is great merit in going with the child's gut feeling. If they really want a school, they will probably be happy in it. DD knew, absolutely, which school she wanted at age 4, and again at 11. And was right both times. Though there may have also been an element of being determined to be right in her choice once she was there!

moonbells Tue 09-Apr-13 12:09:16

I just went with the school I'd have liked/done best to have gone to! Assuming DS has a lot of my character traits (which he has) and also DH's, he needs 'firm handling' as it were, or he'll run rings round the teachers. We chose one that has a reputation for expecting high standards of behaviour from the kids, and good academics.

So far (Reception!) he loves it.

PiHigh Tue 09-Apr-13 12:21:29

We chose the one where the staff made DD1 feel comfortable at the open evening. She's quite quiet/shy and I wanted somewhere that she felt comfortable. the school we chose was very much about developing their social sides as well as the academic side.

I've no idea how she would be at the other schools we considered but at the one we chose she has definitely made lots of progress and they've encouraged her to be more confident.

Talkinpeace Tue 09-Apr-13 13:10:29

because its the local one and there is little or no choice?

Pyrrah Tue 09-Apr-13 13:26:38

I'm the eldest of 4 - with big age gaps - and my parents got through most of the private schools in the area between all of us since we all had different personalities and needs.

I saw how they picked things and what I liked and didn't like about schools which helps a lot when looking at DD.

It probably makes a difference if you are someone who believes that you are buying a service (state - taxes, private - big cheque) and if you don't get what you want you will vote with your feet compared with someone who just picks the local school and doesn't worry unless child is v unhappy there. Neither stance is bad, just different ways of looking.

With DD, I already know that she is very confident, extroverted and gregarious. She's also very bright but will do the minimum she can get away with (picked up by current teacher quite fast). I therefore want a pushy school with small teaching groups who will expect her to fulfill her potential rather than 'just' tick the SATs box. As she is so outgoing I wasn't worried about whether she was in a smaller or larger school. If my nephew was my child I would be looking for somewhere more nurturing and not too pushy.

Lots of people say it's too early to tell what a child is like when they are 4/5. I think it's hard to say exactly how academic or otherwise they will be at that age, but basic personality traits will be pretty clear in a lot of children. Things like shyness can be helped, but an extrovert child is unlikely to suddenly become a wallflower.

TeWiSavesTheDay Tue 09-Apr-13 13:32:15

I have no idea really!

DD doesn't even start school until September. I ended up picking a school that was quite similar to the kind of school I went to, probably because it felt more familiar so I was more confident in what they were doing.

I discounted two schools for being very crowded (not all that big schools, but in tiny buildings/classrooms) because I though DD would get lost. Maybe she would have thrived in that kind of environment, I have no way of knowing.

GreatUncleEddie Tue 09-Apr-13 13:38:52

Always remember that many children would be just fine at any of a number of different schools.

JenaiMorris Tue 09-Apr-13 14:08:46

I remember going to ds's very first parents evening and discovering that he was quite different at school to the way I thought I knew him! And now he's on the brink of his teens I feel like I'm having to get to know him all over again. Which thinking about it (as I write) makes sense because whilst of course he's still ds, he's growing fast.

I know actually that a few of the things that completely turned me off at least one school were far more about me - there were rules/priorities that I knew I'd have to support but wouldn't be happy about for example. I suppose when people post shopping lists maybe again it's as much about them and what they want as about finding the best fit for their children.

That's not necessarily a bad thing - if school and parents disagree over

JenaiMorris Tue 09-Apr-13 14:09:23


if school and parents disagree over policies and priorities, it's never going to be in a child's best interests.

ATouchOfStuffing Tue 09-Apr-13 14:13:35

I am starting to think about this now and DD is only 20mo! Mainly because people keep asking if I have 'put her down' for a place somewhere. I am now starting to panic that I don't A. Know what they mean and B. Whether I should be visiting schools now !
One of the schools I would love her to go to is private and I think I can just about afford it, but it is hard to know what will happen in a few years. In this respect I wonder if I do need to put her on a waiting list now.
Did you have to register them somewhere? God I feel really clueless about it all tbh!

QTPie Tue 09-Apr-13 14:21:20

ATouchofStuffing, we signed DS for his school (where he is going to start preschool next week - now. 3 years 2 months) when he was 18 months old.

We went for somewhere with a similar ethos to our own parenting (traditional, good discipline, respect for others, but caring), somewhere with great staff, great facilities, somewhere where sports are also important.

It is important to consider not only what suits your DC, but also remember that school and peers have a huge influence in shaping your DC (school age is when a parent becomes a lot less influential as other influences take over). This is why many parents drive themselves demented trying tiger their DC into a good school.

But agree with a previous poster, there should be more than one "right" school for any child.

QTPie Tue 09-Apr-13 14:23:27

Oh and we wanted somewhere where academic excellence was encouraged and opportunities available to stretch DS: he will get bored if he coasts along (much as I did).

JenaiMorris Tue 09-Apr-13 14:32:49

But how do you know he'll get bored, QT? Or that he'd coast elsewhere?

(sorry I don't mean to sound confrontational!).

ATouch of - you can't put your child's name down for a state school. The situation will differ with private schools, depending on demand I imagine. If you want you child to go to Radley when he's 13, you'd better get a wriggle on. But I think that's quite an extreme example grin

mumofthemonsters808 Tue 09-Apr-13 14:37:53

Here in Greater Manchester it is not the case of which school you prefer it is which school you can get into.Long gone are the days when a place at your local school was guaranteed.

Xenia Tue 09-Apr-13 14:39:56

I suppose we started with day schools in the top 20 for A level results in the UK and that worked fine. You only tend to have a choice in places that are not worth going to and if it is a very good school there will be a lot of competition to obtain a place and the school chooses your child not vice versa. That is one way of looking at it. The older 3 who have all graduated by now seemed to do okay that way.

On the putting names down schools like Haberdashers, North London Collegiate where ours went there is no advantage in putting a name down early. There will be a deadline the year before but if you let first in go then children who are not at all bright would get in. you have to sort by IQ in effect and you cannot so easily do that 5 years before they start.

TeWiSavesTheDay Tue 09-Apr-13 14:41:15

If it is private I would ask the ones you like what their policy is. Sometimes you do have to put the name down early.

With state schools everyone chooses at the same time and even if the school has a name down system, here at least it doesn't give those kids any priority over places, it just means the school will contact you about how to apply etc at the right time.

GreatUncleEddie Tue 09-Apr-13 15:20:11

"You only tend to have a choice in places that are not worth going to"

Xenia you have surpassed yourself there I think.

JenaiMorris Tue 09-Apr-13 15:30:33

That did make me grin GreatUncle, although I get the impression that some people (rightly or wrongly) feel the same about the state sector.

QTPie Tue 09-Apr-13 16:18:22

JenaiMorris, because he takes after me (and that was easy to identify by 18 months).

Doesn't mean that he would be bored and coast everywhere, but he needs opportunities.

My experience of school was that it just catered for the middle ground and probably didn't support either end of the wider spectrum very well.

BertieBotts Tue 09-Apr-13 16:25:15

Stuffing only if you're looking private. If you're going for state schools you can't "put their name down" at 20 months anyway. You apply the Christmas before they would start, so start looking the previous September.

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