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Things I wish I had know when choosing schools - sharing some knowledge that those mums in the know will never tell you.

(96 Posts)
NaturalBlondeYeahRight Thu 09-May-13 19:41:15

Firstly, relax. Even the dodgiest school in the area is probably not that dodgy. No child will suffer in reception/yr1/yr2 if they have parents that care.

OFSTED doesn't count for shit (fact) Make your own mind up.

Sending your child to the attached nursery means nowt in the school process.

Don't just follow your friends blindly, no one type of school suits all.

Private is not the be all and end all. Nor is it a great 'back up' plan.

Going to church for a year will a three year old doesn't fool any vicar (lighthearted)


NaturalBlondeYeahRight Thu 09-May-13 21:13:21

nextphase my mistake grin It happened to me so presumed it was the same for all. You prove an excellent point for reading the fine print on admissions criteria.

I forgot another one, a wiser mum than me once said nothing is set in stone, you don't have to stay at a school that doesn't work for you. In fact, admissions other than reception year can be a lot easier.

It's very hard to type correctly on a phone....excuse my title error.

ravenAK Thu 09-May-13 21:14:33

'Ofsted is utter rubbish. Outstanding means the head is good at paperwork.'


If you are very pro- or anti- godbothering, check how much of it the school does - there's no such thing as a 'secular' school, but there is a heck of a lot of variation in how the guidelines are interpreted.

happygardening Thu 09-May-13 21:16:10

Independent Schools Inspectorate reports are also rubbish not worth the paper they're written.
Forget heads being good at paperwork these actually lie!

ArbitraryUsername Thu 09-May-13 21:17:43

Don't worry too much. It is all a crap shoot anyway. How much can you really learn from a quick tour and a chat with the head?

Primrose123 Thu 09-May-13 21:20:39

I agree with a lot of the above.

Middle class children are not always nice - very true.

The biggest thing will prove to be the other pupils in your DC's year - this is definitely true.

That parenting is the single factor that makes the most difference to a child's academic success - I agree with this too.

If a head says that there is no bullying in their school, you can pretty much guarantee that there is a lot of bullying, but they do nothing about it.

CarpeVinum that's some school run! How do you manage that?

ArbitraryUsername Thu 09-May-13 21:32:44

If your LEA has a feeder system for secondary school admissions, you're probably best off listing (realistic) preferences based on what secondary/secondaries you'd be willing for your children to go to. It's better to go to the unpopular primary that feeds to a secondary you'd be happy with than a more popular one where the feeder secondary is miles away and awkward to get to.

nbee84 Thu 09-May-13 21:41:27

That it is more important (than top exam results) for your child to enjoy school and have fun learning - if they don't at primary school age then you'd need a miracle to turn that around at secondary age.

dizzy77 Thu 09-May-13 21:54:13

Reception class 2015 watching with interest grin. It will all have changed by then, of course.

musu Thu 09-May-13 22:53:21

Know your child. Choose the right school for him/her rather than the one all their (or your) friends choose.

This can be hard to do in practice. Ds moved schools for particular reasons. He lost his school friends and I lost the mum friends I made. It was a hard move but has proven to be the right move for him.

SonorousBip Fri 10-May-13 11:24:30

Check out the office staff - they will tell you a lot more about the "tone" of the school than anything the head stands up and says when all eyes are on him/her.

Also, you will have much more to do with the office staff over your years in primary school than you will with the head - ours are really on the ball, know every child and will give you a quick call or email if there is anything wrong.

Good office staff will significantly ease your school life, particularly if you have a child who could not be relied on to bring their own body parts home if they were not attached. (Yes ds I am thinking of you).

I also think local should be a strong deciding factor when they are young - it means they get a lot of mates in the surrounding area, which all helps with the - "can ds walk back with you and you drop him off on the doorstep as I am stuck with a child with d&v" occasions - which WILL happen. Plus we have met some nice people as well.

50shadesofvomit Fri 10-May-13 11:35:54

Primaries with good SATs results often have good results because they spend large amounts of time prepping for SATs.

Last year many schools had residential trips after SATs so didn't enter any children for level 6.

My friend reckons you should look at the cars parked outside to see if the parents are similar to yourself.

If you can see the playground from the road have a watch to gauge the atmosphere.

mam29 Fri 10-May-13 12:39:21

Dont be too hard on yourself you make the best decision based on facts you had at time for us was

good ofsted
smallish school
nice head
nice outdoor space
went to ajoined preschool.

Thinks can change.

our 3rd choice has impressive open day went into special measures.

I know some on mumsnet say if ofsted dowgrade can be bad thing.

but in dds old school the pressure they putting on kids for year 6sats huge as their next inspection depends on it.
the negative environment, unsettled, temporary heads made me think yep time to move but was more specifically dd 1 wasent happy or doig academically well.

The best performing schools here

give tonnes homework
loads sat prep
reccomend tutors.

thankfully my dd year 2 doesnt even know what a sat is her new school is laid back and reminds me of my school as child traditional and fun.

Try not to judge school by all the parents there will always be the annoying competative ones and the chavvy ones.
In my opinion the chavy ones nicer hated the snobbery and how flashy old school was.

school office-old school like doctors receptionists should have run a mile then.

New school-one lady superwoman also like school mummy watches kids when ill, phones me , looks out for dd and made school life so much easier. even when sick she rang and said we starting friday club 1st come 1st served know you asked shall I put her name down.

ofsted not everything but sometimes can highlight thinks we were unaware of ie dd in infant part of roimary had no idea juniors had so many temporary teachers and were doing badly.

Govereners reports sometime schools out them online the minutes can be real eye opener.

Try not listen to everyone no schools perfect.

always even if 6th choice go visit every school in person.
1school we were going to ,look round were rude on phone so dident veiw.

Another infant school we looked at were not allowed to speak to staff/teachers and had weird supplemnetary evidence form and they were la controlled.

Yes you can ask freinds
look at last years admissions or year before
but no one years the same cathcments shrink.

dont assume faith schools all faith dds one was 50%rc but can see how admissions criteria put people off.

ring admissions and double check find mine really useful.

mrsshackleton Fri 10-May-13 12:50:11

Schools with large percentage of English as an Additional Language in state system that parents are always freaking out about
= Schools with large percentage of "cosmopolitan, bilingual" children in private system

TheWave Fri 10-May-13 12:54:01

Small school may seem perfect at age 4 but limiting at ages 7-11 yrs.

Look for evidence of ideas-sharing between different teachers. Not all teachers at primary school are good at everything.

Ask what they did at last few training days.

meglet Fri 10-May-13 12:54:33

Agree with the tutoring comments. I've found out that the best performing secondary in our town tells parents to get tutors for 'under-performing' pupils. Which my colleague did, and hey-fucking- presto, her DC passed with flying colours. The school gets the glory hmm.

That your gut instinct is worth listening to. I decided against a nearby school as we weren't able to meet staff or the head during our visit, the year 6 kids showed us round. A year or so later I know 2 people that have left said school as there was no communication with parents.

adeucalione Fri 10-May-13 12:55:05

Don't be fooled by flashy nice-to-haves, good teachers are the most important thing - pastoral care, academic achievement, parental relationships all hinge on this, not how big the playground is or the new ICT suite.

tethersend Fri 10-May-13 12:59:59

Remember that it's your child going there, not you.

<tells self>

Look at how the staff and pupils interact when you go around the school. When I visited the school my children now attend I like the fact that the Head of the Infants section knew all the children by name and that the children were actively coming up and saying hello to him.

The children's Reception teacher wasn't very good with adults but the children loved her and she was a good teacher.

BalloonSlayer Fri 10-May-13 13:22:01

- Don't be too put off if the teachers/HT don't seem to relate to YOU all that well. Look at how they relate to the children.

- If your DC is struggling in state school, don't immediately assume that private is the answer because the classes are smaller and your DC will get more attention. Some private schools are utter shite at SEN and - please someone correct me if I am wrong - I don't think they have to follow the same guidelines as state schools.

wordfactory Fri 10-May-13 13:22:11

If you have summer born DC don't let anyone assess their ability in comparison to a September born child.

Your DC and you will enjoy the experience far more if you throw yourself into it. positively.

DeWe Fri 10-May-13 13:25:04


On the gossip, make sure you get it first hand and take with a pinch of salt.

What one parent says is not necessarily the whole truth. "Head won't listen to me, and has refused meetings with me" might equal "head refused me a permanent space in the car park which I think I deserve because I've got to work, and when I wanted to discuss it for the fourth time said she didn't feel the discussion was getting anywhere..."

Certain parents like to down other schools. And rumours will propergate amongst schools, so even if you hear a rumour several times, it may well not be true.
So they'll tell you "I heard that a child moved from X school to my school because they were severely bullied. all these things happened and the school did nothing". I heard that from several people. Problem was that I knew the only child that had moved in that timescale from X school to that school, and I knew exactly the reason they'd moved. Simply down to having moved house and the younger sibling not getting in, so they moved both rather than have two different schools.

And I've lost count of the number of times generally quite sensible people have told me that the head of one local juniors is moving to take over a local primary in the last two years. This rumour was going on before the local primary's head had even announced she was moving on. confused Since the new head has been announced I've been told twice the junior's head is going to be advising them. hmm I expect with a large juniors he is thought not to have enough to do.

The best measure I've seen you can get from a school's gossip is often if the parents are saying "yes Y and Z down the road are also good schools, look round them all and see which fits your child". That means they don't feel threatened by other schools successes, so are willing to learn from them, which is surely helpful.

SomeBear Fri 10-May-13 13:42:03

Agreeing with a lot of these comments. Also to make sure you remember that going to an outstanding school does not guarantee every pupil will get outstanding results, likewise a failing school does not fail every pupil. Ofsted is only someone's opinion on a snapshot of the school. You are still your child's parent and will still have the greatest influence over their lives (not so true when they get to secondary!).

LovingKent Fri 10-May-13 14:21:16

Very useful thread - thank you. Things to think about for my DS who starts school Sept 2014. Maybe get moved to Education so more can see it?

Bonsoir Fri 10-May-13 14:53:50

That a single school may contain really rubbish old teachers awaiting their retirement while doing as little work as possible and fabulous, highly-involved, energetic teachers who give their all. Some years are good, some are bad and it is up to you as parent to fill in the gaps as you discover them. There is no point at all in tackling the school about them.

thegreylady Fri 10-May-13 15:03:46

The children your child sits next to will affect their education at least as much as the teacher.You will affect it most of all.

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