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Please have a look at this school, knowledgeable mums!

(20 Posts)
PrettyBelle Fri 11-Oct-13 12:15:23

Hi, DS is at a private prep school and will be sitting 11+ exams in January for a few academically selective schools. Problem is, he is more "above average" than "excellent" in English (although in Maths he is working at level 6) so might not get into his 1st and 2nd choice schools.

My dilemma is, if that were to be the case, whether to send him to a less academic private or to a very sought-after local comp (we can be pretty sure of getting a place there since it's our nearest school).

This is the school link - does it sound good and strong academically? This all is very new to me.

Just to clarify, I am very happy with the private education DS is receiving now and would not hesitate to send him to a selective indie. But if he doesn't get in, then I need to decide which option would be best for him and best value of money for me. He was at a state primary before so I am not entirely fixed on private education in general - not yet, anyway...

Thanks a lot in advance for your views.

Norudeshitrequired Fri 11-Oct-13 12:27:16

The results are above the national average and also above average for the LA. The vast majority of the pupils make the expected level of progress.
On the face of it the stats look okay, but the stats only tell part of the story. You need to decided whether the school fits your child's personality and learning needs. Check if they are having an open evening and pop along to get a feel for the place.

tiggytape Fri 11-Oct-13 12:30:28

George Abbot is a very good comp in the sense of being popular, getting good results and being very well regarded. Most people in that area set their sigths on getting a place and would be delighted to get in. It is always oversubscribed and, for a mixed ability school, gets excellent results.

However it still has the same features as most London / Surrey comps i.e huge intake, maximum class sizes, nearly 2000 pupils at the school etc. So as far as comps go, it is very good but obviously in some areas cannot compete with the type of highly selective schools in the same area. It depends what you are looking for and what suits your DS

What does your Head Teacher say? They should know if your DS is of the standard required for the private grammar school and selective schools. RGS for example has a reputation for being highly selective and focusing on English / literacy elements in their exam so they might advise that RGS is a long shot. Or they might not. They may say his English is good enough to pass and his maths exceeds the standard by a long way. Maybe have a chat with his current school?

PrettyBelle Fri 11-Oct-13 12:33:16

Thanks Norudeshitrequired! After your post I sort of wonder why local parents are so keen to get into this school if it's just okay.

It specialises in visual arts - wich DS has not showed much interest not talent in yet.

My main concern is that his problem with English will continue in a large school. My next concern is that he will feel lost due to the sheer size of it - he doesn't seem very mature yet.

I couldn't make the open day but will arrange a visit for the school.

PrettyBelle Fri 11-Oct-13 12:39:35

tiggytape, thanks for your view. DS has only been in his current school for a short while so the HT has not been able to assess him fully and therefore couldn't make an accurate prediction of his chances for selectives - so we will just have to work hard, sit the exams and see.

In his recent school English test paper DS didn't fare that well in comprehension but wrote a good story. DS said he was being lazy and can do better. He is also bilingual and according to his English teacher this may be taken into account by the senior school.

I wish I had a clearer idea - hence considering all options at this point.

PrettyBelle Fri 11-Oct-13 12:42:54

I may like some non-selective indies for DS as well - they look and feel good. It's just that my financial self is not sure there is much point in paying 5K+ per term for schools where academic achievement is comparable to the state comp's.

Norudeshitrequired Fri 11-Oct-13 13:01:16

Thanks Norudeshitrequired! After your post I sort of wonder why local parents are so keen to get into this school if it's just okay.

Because it isn't just okay - it is above average. It's well above the national average and also above the LAs average.
Other schools in the area will be below average and around the average mark so his one is better than those schools. Are there any performing better than this school or is this the most successful results wise? People will clamber towards the best of the bunch.
What does ofsted say about the school? Does it specialise in anything? Stats on their own are not very helpful.

PrettyBelle Fri 11-Oct-13 13:19:14

Norudeshitrequired, this one is the best performing state comp in the town and maybe in surrounding towns too. The most recent OFSTED dates back to 2006 when it was rated outstanding. It specialises in visual arts which is not one of DS's strengths/interests (so far anyway). He is much more into sports.

I wonder, if I compare it to not-so-selective indies, how much better indies have to fare in academic stats to be worth the money?

78bunion Fri 11-Oct-13 14:06:18

506th (FT league tables 2012)
Royal Grammar Guildford 15th.

Massive difference, isn't there?

tiggytape Fri 11-Oct-13 14:22:39

You can't compare like that though.
RGS takes children whose parents can afford the fees and who pass a very challenging entrance exam.
GA takes anyone who happens to live close enough.

If GA had a stringent entry test and charged £15k per year, its results would probably look very different too!

School specialisms in the state sector mean very little. They used to come with extra focus and funding but much of that has now been dropped. All state schools will offer a broad range of subjects although it is true that there can be less sporting opportunities at comps than at some independents. Apart from anything, with 200+ pupils per year comps have more children to choose from so it can be harder to make the teams.

PrettyBelle Fri 11-Oct-13 14:35:51

Thanks 78bunion and tiggytape!

Indeed, I am not comparing GA with RGS. In fact, I somewhat wish RGS wasn't quite so superb - it attracts lots of external candidates for that reason yet in our area it's the only boy's senior school. So local boys that failed to get in have to travel crazy distances to their 2nd choice indies.

In terms of comparison, I was thinking more along the lines of how GA compares to St George's College in Weybridge or Reeds school in Cobham (they are less selective than RGS).

Labro Fri 11-Oct-13 16:33:53

Hi, RGS is now VERY selective, Reeds and St Georges both have 11+ exams and are attracting those that don't get RGS. Its difficult to compare those with GA because GA is not selective at all.

holidaysrcoming Fri 11-Oct-13 16:38:50

I think your comment

I wonder, if I compare it to not-so-selective indies, how much better indies have to fare in academic stats to be worth the money?

is interesting. On academics alone I suspect if you managed to obtain the data from the top sets at GA, it would make some of these indies appear less 'worth it' so I guess the question is more are the extras worth it, or would he get more out of ind school life to make it worth it?

What else is important to your ds - sports/music/drama?

fwiw I've seen GA recently and thought it looked pretty fab....from pupils to teachers to facilities.

78bunion Fri 11-Oct-13 17:15:51

St George's Weybridge 250th (local comp 500 and something).
Also private schools tend to be quite good at the extra curricular things which may or may not matter to parents and probably longer term better job prospects and better advice on the best universities for particular careers.

thegamesafoot Sat 12-Oct-13 21:14:52

I wonder whether the thing you really need to focus on is your ds's personality and self motivation. Is he self motivated, able to cope with distractions and self confident enough to not be influenced by the cool, less engaged kids? Of course that's not to say these issues never arise in private schools, however they are usually smaller, selective in some capacity and may have firmer disciple (it does depend on the specific school of course).

If your DS is used to smaller class sizes, the greater amount of individual attention and the quiet focus and greater discipline that tend to go with private schools will he do as well in a large, less personal state school? I think knowing the answers to these questions will tell you whether the money is worth it for your DS, rather than trying to compare the academic results or extra curricular options.

Just because many children at GA get academic results similar to the ones gained by the pupils going to the less selective private schools doesn't mean your DS will - a school needs to be the right fit for his personality / strengths and weaknesses.

If you and he can visit and get a good feel for what GA is like that will also help you to know whether he is better off staying private or has the right mindset to be as successfull at GA as compared to a private school.

PrettyBelle Sat 12-Oct-13 21:59:29

Thanks everyone for your useful insight!

thegamesafoot, DS has only been at his prep school since the beginning of the year and that's his (and mine) first experience of private education. So far I am very pleased and he seems so too. He said that they are studying more and learning more, he likes the fact that it's a boys' school, likes having competitive football matches nearly every week, likes - in his own words - that everybody is working hard. For me, it feels like a small and safe world where he has a lot of opportunities offered to him. I finally have confidence in the education he is receiving.

I liked our first-choice senior school, will see the other two shortly. Have my eyes on one another - it's much more expensive, can't help wondering if it's really worth 21K per year although would love to have DS there.

PrettyBelle Sat 12-Oct-13 22:01:08

holidaysrcoming, DS is into sports - not so much drama. He also likes learning an instrument but it's early days. I guess the smaller classes and more individual attention is what really matters to me.

holidaysrcoming Sun 13-Oct-13 11:05:18

I think thegamesafoot has it spot on in terms of focussing on your ds's fit to the school rather than comparing academic results.

IME it seems to me that when the financial strain is significant parents feel it harder to justify the cost when results at the local comps are good. But as has been said, I think you have to look at it the other way.

Are there many seniors under £21k round here for boys? Barring RGS, I didn't think so ?!

Dededum Sun 13-Oct-13 11:19:56

Cranleigh at 21k

How about King Edwards at Witley? Loads of sports, football speciality and 'normal' school as much as possible for a private school. Train to Witley station and then short walk.

I know lots of families with boys at GA, strict, heavy on discipline and very organised. But they are happy. Not the right school for my boy. Guildford County more chilled, smaller, big musical speciality and great pastoral care. St Peters, catholic or at least Christian. Again good pastoral care.

RGS tough if you have to cram to get in as full of very smart boys.

muminlondon Sun 13-Oct-13 11:58:28

If Reeds is selective it must take a few middle ability pupils too because average point score (pupils) is lower than GA's top set, which in turn is bigger than average. It's in same 'similar schools' category (another new feature of the tables) as JFS, Graveney, Waldegrave - all understandably popular and high achieving schools.

St George's Weybridge may be slightly more selective as its overall point score is 9 pts higher per pupil but point scores are explained here - the difference is only between one A/A* out of eight.

Looking at the Guardian subject comparison tool the whole school has comparable attainment and a wider curriculum - beats Reeds at PE too.

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