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Going onto a secondary/senior school without knowing any other children. Experiences?

(44 Posts)
harryhausen Mon 24-Jun-13 09:33:15

This is a hypothetical question at this moment in time. If anyone has sent their dc to a senior school without any of their peer group can I ask how you found it? How did your DC settle?

My dd is only at the end of Y3. At the moment she's very bright and doing really well. The primary is a bog standard state - not outstanding, not awful. Always in the middle of says and league tables. The nearest secondary school is literally around the corner from the school and the children are naturally pushed in that direction. The problem, I don't think the school is much good. It has a new shiny building and has just become an academy, teachers are lovely....but the results are bad. I know it may improve. It may not. It's always under subscribed.

Dd has already started making 'plans' to go to that secondary school although I've told her we don't know yet.

This morning I was talking to some mums I know with dcs in y5 who are going to look around the (bad) school today. I asked them if they would look at anywhere else and was shocked to hear they all said no, that they couldn't be bothered. I find this is the attitude of most parents at the primary. That the most important thing is that they're with their friends and not bother with results. It depresses me a bit as I feel abnormal that I want to look elsewhere.

We're in S.Bristol. We have no selective grammar schools. My only (better) option would be going into N.Somerset (as I'm virtually on the border) but this is by no means a given. I'm in a bit of a stress about it actually....and she's only 8!grin

So after a huge long ramble (this is like therapy!) can I ask anyone's experiences of not choosing a school along with their dcs peers. How was it and was it the better decision? It is most important that the dc have good friends and therefore do well no matter where they go?

harryhausen Wed 26-Jun-13 08:10:27

Thanks Crazymum (and everyone else). You've been really helpful and I've learned a few things.

I'm sure I will return with more in the futuresmile

crazymum53 Tue 25-Jun-13 20:36:53

All preferences are equal and the schools do not know what order you are placed on the LEA form, so no you wouldn't be discriminated against in this way.
Other LEAs have to apply the admissions criteria e.g. distance to all applicants equally too so they don't offer places to people who live in their LEA first either.
You can find out from the schools how many pupils they take from Bristol each year and the distance to weigh up your chances of obtaining a place.
Most schools provide very good information about how they manage the Y6/7 transition too and this is a good question to ask at Open evenings.

harryhausen Tue 25-Jun-13 20:25:11

Ah pants. I thought that was too good to be truegrin.

Do the other schools discriminate against you if you put a lottery school first? I.e Would Chew not accept us as we didn't put as first choice?

Portofino Tue 25-Jun-13 19:52:22

I was the only one from my primary. It was a bit scary the first day, but fine ever after.

crazymum53 Tue 25-Jun-13 19:47:21

Harry It's incorrect not greedy. You apply on the Bristol form and then they pass on the information to the other neighbouring LEAs so no you don't get more than 3 preferences.
PS Cathedral and CGS are Bristol LEA
Chew Valley is BANES
St Katherines is North Somerset
So that's potentially 3 different LEAs.
John Cabot is South Gloucestershire!
It is possible that the Cathedral school may be expanding their intake over the next few years so your chances could improve if this happens.

harryhausen Tue 25-Jun-13 19:21:57

Thanks Books. Really good to hear. I will heed your advicesmile

Juggling and Crazymum - as I'm on the border of N.somerset is it possible to apply to both Education Authorities? I.e apply
Bristol - 3 choices
BANES - 3 choices.

Or is that just greedy?

BooksandaCuppa Tue 25-Jun-13 17:38:30

My ds started this year (last Sept) in year 7 at an independent school where he knew no-one at all (though vaguely knew one family with older children).

He has social issues anyway, having Asperger's, but we were sure we were making the right decision on choosing the best school for his needs and not fretting too much about friendships from primary (it helped that his two 'best' primary friends were a) a year younger than him so not moving up anyway and b) a girl, who I assumed would drift away from him at secondary).

He has settled in brilliantly.

OK, the school is renowned for its pastoral care and we have weekly emails from the SENCO and can contact her with social concerns if necessary. It also helped that one of the nicest and most friendly boys in his year had a birthday in early October and wanted to include ds - so he quickly became part of this boy's 'group' who came up together from prep.

It also helped that there's a weekend away for all the year 7s about four weeks in at a PGL type centre so all the children can get to know one another.

At the school where I work we have a sleepover for the new year 7s about two weeks in where they sleep in their form rooms and do activities til late on, etc.

Most schools do excellent settling in programmes now and, as others have said, many children are not friends with the same people they came up from primary with by Christmas anyway.

Choose the best school for her over current friendships anytime.

1. Bristol Cathedral
2. CGS
3. Catchment or other better school you are likely to get offered a place at.

How's that ? And I don't even live there - though I did once (and in Southville at one point)
Also maybe there's time to learn a language for a specialist place at CGS ?

crazymum53 Tue 25-Jun-13 17:07:52

You only have 3 choices in Bristol and the lottery schools are so oversubscribed for a first or only child that the chances of obtaining a place are quite low: about 10:1 for Bristol Cathedral school slightly better for CGS.
You could risk applying for 2 lottery schools, but if you want avoid your catchment school you need a 3rd preference where you stand a much higher chance of being awarded a place.

Just noticing that crazymum says (within her excellent informative post) ... "It is only recommended that you apply to one lottery school though"

- well, that seems interesting to me. I think if it's possible why wouldn't you apply to them all (if you like them all) ?

harryhausen Tue 25-Jun-13 09:35:35

Thank you all so much. It's so great to find a wealth of experience on here. It's really helpful when I'm in worry-fest (which I often am about this!).

Crazymum, thank you so much for that. You are so much more clued up than mesmile I may well pm you in a few weeks for info when I start to get my head around stuff. Nice to have a S.bristol mum who's ahead of me!

I believe there is a bus service to Chew from us. I'm in a nowhere land between the edge of Bishopsworth and Dundry.

I think I'm just going to quietly start going to all the open days I can and never mention it to anyone. The whole thing about the fantastic lottery schools (that people try and put you off applying to!) scholarships, catchments etc is so confusing.

crazymum53 Tue 25-Jun-13 09:13:18

Hi. I am South Bristol too and have a child in Y8 so have been through the secondary application process.
We did consider Chew Valley school, but rejected this option because there was no school transport to our area. I understand that there is a bus service from Whitchurch though. St Katherines does have a bus service from South Bristol.
You need to check the admissions criteria for Colston Girls for your postcode but I understand that they do take girls from all Bristol postcodes but postcodes nearer the school have a higher priority. For the Cathedral school all Bristol postcodes are treated the same. If your child is awarded one of the specialist places (languages for CGS, Music for Cathedral) this is not dependent on postcode.
The other lottery school that does take some pupils from South Bristol is John Cabot in Kingswood and they do also have a bus service. You need to be within a certain distance from the school to qualify though.
It is only recommended that you apply to one lottery school though.
Schools in South Bristol are improving and they do have rigorous setting or streaming policies so it is worth a look round one of them nearer the time as a 3rd preference.
The faith requirements for Redcliffe do not apply to the sixth form so your child may be able to change schools.
Hope this helps. Please pm me if you would like any further info.

mrsmuffintop Tue 25-Jun-13 04:06:22

My DD started secondary school this year (year 7) at a private girls school - she didn't know anyone there at all. She settled in beautifully and hasn't looked back. The school has great pastoral care and put a lot of effort into orientation.

I would just choose the best school that you can for your child and not take peers into consideration. At that age she will make friends quickly.

harryhausen Mon 24-Jun-13 20:07:43

Thanks Marmite. It's always interesting to hear others local school experiences.

I'm not sure Colston Girls extends its 'catchment' out to us. I know it's a lottery system (isn't it?) but I think they only allow applications from various postcodes. Or is that totally wrong?

I know friends in Southville last year who banked on Backwell but didn't get a place so went to St Katherine's. However, I'm nearer Backwell than Southville so I don't know what to think.
Chew Valley is rated Outstanding and has had consistently good results for years, however hardly anyone I know considers it. Although it is oversubscribed. I'm unsure why about that too.

It's all so confusing. It's hard to get a real view point as many parents will just defend their own choice and tell you awful stories about another schoolgrin

Marmitelover55 Mon 24-Jun-13 19:19:02

I started visiting secondary schools when DD1 was in year 3, as I was so worried about the whole thing (I'm in Bristol too). As I have 2 DDs, I put Colston's Girls' first, not really thinking we had much chance. As it turns out we have been lucky, and she is 1 of 7 in her year of 60 with a place - a couple of her close friends are going too. I think only a couple got into Cathedral though, as it is so clogged up with siblings.

Having worried about this for years, I do honestly think things in Bristol are really improving. Less children leave the city now as a result. This may mean that you could be lucky with Backwell too. A friend's DD in Long Ashton got in from the waiting list.

An ex colleague has her daughter at Chew Valley and she is really happy and doing well - from what I have heard it is a good school too.

Good luck - I hope you find a solution.

AChickenCalledKorma Mon 24-Jun-13 18:10:51

I went to a different secondary from all my friends. There was one other girl from my school who went there, but I really didn't like her!

Honestly? The first day was really tough - I got lost and sobbed my way through art. But on the second day, some nice girls strode up to me on the school path, saying "you looked a bit fed up yesterday", grabbed me cheerfully by the arm and by the time we reached the school building we were giggling together like the best of friends. I never looked back.

In your situation, I definitely wouldn't just go with the flow. Look around and find the right school - she'll cope. And you may well find that you are not the only one, by the time the other parents' children are a bit older.

harryhausen Mon 24-Jun-13 14:35:17

Thanks LadyMcbeth. The more positive stories people give the better I feel.
I went to school in Wales over 30 years ago. Back then I don't recall any league tables or even a 'choice'. It was quite rural, so it was just a given that all the surrounding villages sent their 11yr olds to that school (which in turn turned out to be a great school because it was so mixed but that's for another thread!). So I ended up going to nursery, primary and secondary with all the same children. I even ended up at the same college as some. I do think this is clouding my judgement a bit, and am beginning to see that this experience is not at all normalsmile

harryhausen Mon 24-Jun-13 14:30:33

Yes Sunny, that's sounds fantastic. I would feel much better if the school I choose did that. A good question to ask on open dayssmile

LadyMacbethIsBored Mon 24-Jun-13 14:22:58

No-one from my primary school went to my secondary school It was 24 years ago so my memory is a little hazy but I have no recollection of being worried about it or of it being a problem. I remained friends with some people from my primary school and made new friends. I'm still friends with people from both schools now.

Ooh, what a nice thoughtful school sunny smile

Sunnymeg Mon 24-Jun-13 14:16:19

My Y6 DS is the only one going to his secondary school in September. The secondary school has arranged after school activities for the 'singles' who are joining. So far he has been swimming, done a treasure hunt and is due to go for a sports afternoon this week. He is already talking about the other children he has met. I presume these will be put in the same form as him when he starts.

I would imagine many schools do a similar sort of thing.

I think you just want them to be with other children who have some respect for their teachers and find learning a generally interesting and positive experience, apart from any more fancy considerations, don't you !

Having been a teacher myself I know how shocking and disruptive some children's behaviour can be. Think it's really true that a few can spoil things for all the rest.

Anyway, I hope you can find a really good school for your DD, where she will be very happy, and make some good friends too x

harryhausen Mon 24-Jun-13 10:41:04

Thanks Juggling. I have a similar mindset to you I think. It's good to know your dd is doing well.

I know it's mainly about the family behind you and their support but I'd like the school environment (and their peers) to just be up for learning and aspiring.
Also nice to know I'm not completely mad for thinking about this at the end of y3. Most people have told me I'm crazy. I really must stop listening to other people so muchgrin

harryhausen Mon 24-Jun-13 10:37:45

Senua, our local schools sound very similar. We live a bit away from our primary and people claim we live 'miles' away. Most children live 2 streets away from the school, their parents went there and they live next door to their mum and their sister. I find that really alien to me.

Haven't read whole thread but looks like you're getting some good, local advice.

On the general question I think I'd try to find someone who was going up to same secondary to get to know at least a little before DC moved up - but at a push this could hopefully be done in the summer hols.

Both my DC's have gone up/ will go to secondary with a few friends from primary, but many others going to a different (more local) school.

I think you're quite right to think ahead in a pro-active way about which would be the best secondary for your DD. The friendship aspect can be worked on alongside this. But I'm really glad mine are at a good school with others who (mainly) want to do their best.

And I'm impressed with how well DD (14) has kept in touch with good friends who've moved to different schools, and even different cities. As well as developing a lovely friendship group at her new school.

I hope DS will develop some similarly good friendships when he moves up to secondary in September.
Luckily he's moving up with a couple of good friends which should get him off to a good start.

Good luck with it all harry smile

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