Choosing a school(17 Posts)
Caznay, you'll be sent a form in the post to fill in with you choice of schools. You can put down 3 but there's no point if you want them to go to only 1 of them.
Judith1, do you have friends whose children go to the school of your choice? If so you could be a bit sneaky and pretend they childmind your child after school so they couldn't pick up from two schools at once??!!!
I'm due to look round our local state primary tomorrow, with a view to sending my twins there next September. Can anyone advise of any particular questions I should ask/ things I should look out for. According to the Ofsted report it's reasonably good but that was done a few years ago.
Many thanks in advance.
What kind of after-school activities are there?
How are parental consultations organised and how often (our primary school isn't good at this - you have to ask for an appointment)?
When does homework kick in ?(if you have strong views either way)
How often will your children read to the teacher one-to-one? (not just in small groups)
If its a big school, what is their policy/experience of keeping twins together/separating them? (Similar issue with friendship groups)
Just a few ideas - hope it goes well
Put your ds's name down as soon as poss - you can always withdraw (and even if there is a registration fee or whatever, it won't be much) and it keeps your options open. Don't know about the C of E question as we don't have any church or catholic schools nearby.
Robbie - how did the visit go?
Bron - this will depend on the school's policy. Church schools (least in our area) all have their own policy eg of a couple of Catholic ones round my way, one wanted signed statements of church attendence from Fr, another just a baptism certificate. They may be a list of priorities for entry, like the state primaries eg siblings first, then regular church attending catholics, non attending catholics, other (Christian) denominations etc etc. This will depend on the "competition" I guess, and how strictly that school feels about certain things. You will need to ask them. Their entry criteria can be different from the borough schools.
My friend went for the less stringent requirements type of Catholic school (she and the kids are Catholic) her dh is (nominally) C of E and turns up and signs when he is told to!! If you have different religion to partner then this might be OK for you. But surely most important is to discuss with partner that one or other type of church school is actually what you want, and what that means for the non Catholic partner. It is not just about getting a better education, the school ethos is different to state school and you may find that the God stuff starts in nursery. If you or your husband are lapsed rather than active Christians you may find that a bit of a shock. So you will need to be sure that a Christian schooling is what you want and one that you are prepared to actively support, as practicing Christians of one or both faiths, rather than choosing a Catholic school because there is less prospect of a good all round education in a state school where there is a multi faith environment (in which we in Britain actually live in). I don't know what area of the country you live in, if you are in a metropolitan area you will find that many church schools do well. I cannot believe it is all down to the quality of the teachers, I think it is also about the type of kids attending and where their baseline is. I merely look at the intake of my dd's school half the kids with EAL, and many from poorer or less educated backgrounds etc. However intake at friends Cath school will be all English mother tongue (though that doesn't mean that the parents are rich and/or educated). But I do think it means the teachers have to work harder at state schools to get the results than the church school. Any teachers out there with any evidence of this??
SATS results are not all, the quality of the environment, the happiness factor of the children, the stability of the staff etc etc. Sorry this is a bit rambly you may think I am a rabid anti Christian (I am not ... some of my best friends are either good Catholics or good Proddys ... !!! ) but my heart just thinks "brainwashing" and "give me the boy at seven" etc etc.
The visit was fine - seems like a really good school. Lots of after schools clubs all run by teachers, own brand new IT dept with about 20 brand spanking new computers, good sats results, good PTA. I suppose my worry is class sizes - my two would join the nursery just before their fourth birthday and it was a bit crazy in there - one teacher and one classroom assistant per 30 children - just doesn't seem enough really. Am now in a bit of a dilemna. I'd feel really bad about going private from 4, even if at 11 there isn't much option where I live - not to mention what it would cost. I would like my kids to go locally (private options are all a drive away) and to mix with a diverse group of people but it's hard to argue that they'd do better in a class of 30 than a class of 16. Anyone have any thoughts?
don't forget that you have visited at a really early stage in the school year, before the nursery children have had a chance to get socialised and used to the routines etc. If you had gone a month or two later I am sure you would be less concerned about this. The school you went to see has got 30 in the class because it's known as a good school.
I have a friend who works in the nursery at a really posh (film star/rock star/sheikh)private school. Her view is that the first few weeks are always the hardest as they get the children to stop acting as mummy's little darling who can do whatever she likes, and settle down to being a part of a group with rules.
Schools are different from home: 30 children (or even 16)in a home would be a nightmare, but at school they quickly learn to accept different and cooperative ways of getting on. And the teachers are amazingly skilful.
Robbie, I am going to play devil's advocate here re class size. What are the intake of children made up of - are they kids who have been to nursery / pre school already and are used to sitting down, listening and learning or is this the first formal learning situation for some children? Are there kids where English is a second language (please I am truly not being racist here, simply trying to point out that if this is the case then these kids will obviously take up more of the teacher's time)? What percentage of kids (if any) have special educational needs? A lot of this info is found in the OFsted report and the dreaded key stage results publications as mentioned before. The reason why I am saying this is because your situation seems very similar to mine, except our local school has 35 in its reception class, so I have really thought these issues through. I hope I haven't offended people here, what I mean to be saying is how much attention do you think your child will receive bearing in mind all the other children in the class?
In defence of small schools, my DD has just started at a school with a roll of 28 children in total and it is fantastic, the best school environment any of my children have been in. She has an individually planned programme worked out for her and the care and love the children receive is incredible. My older daughter also blossomed there when she transferred from a 400+ roll primary school and it really set her up for secondary school.
Class size can obviously be an important factor in a child's school experience for better or worse cf: Chairmum & Robinw.
I strongly believe that there is also a very positive side to schools with high proportions of children who have English as an additional language, Batters, and that in many instances a child's school experience is considerably the richer for the diversity of pupils' backgrounds. Likewise, I want my kids to be aware of and sensitive to people's unique needs and to be comfortable with people's differing learning and physical abilities. I would also like them to be able to access help should SEN issues arise in their school careers.
(Sorry to sound like a preachy seventies throwback, btw!)
The school pretty much reflects the area - quite a lot of kids from wealthy families and quite alot of council estate kids and not too much in between. Consequently the number of kids eligible for free school meals and with special needs is higher than the national average but so are results vs similar schools. Copper your point about it being early in the school year is a good one. I definitely got a feeling that the older classes were much more focused and less out of control, it's the nursery and reception I'm worried about - as batters suggests in only takes a couple of difficult children to disrupt things for everyone in a class that size. I don't really know how teachers can keep control, without being really hardline. As for things like one-to-one attention, I can't see that it's possible, though they said each child got one-to-one reading once a week (is this enough???).
The problem is that if they don't go at four, I imagine there's a much less good chance of them getting in at 5, 6, or 7 - particularly as we need two places.
But then maybe in a year's time they'll be the world's most outgoing, confident kids and I won't have to worry...
Scummymummy I totally agree with you about diversity - that is one of the reasons I love London. What I meant by my posting (and I stick by it) is that this diversity impacts upon the teaching.
Batters, I take your point. I also think you have to bear in mind there is a great teacher shortage - I don't know where you live, but in SE London it is bad. The sheer fact that teachers are so stretched must mean individual attention suffers. My sons' primary school is huge (three classes per year) and very diverse. The diversity is mostly a good thing. The strain it puts on the overworked teachers is not. If there were more teachers, then everyone would be happy.
Also, there are many reasons to label children as having special educational needs. While this gives children access to the help they need, it also enables the school to set lower average achievement targets. At least this is my understanding of it - please let me know if I am wrong. Therefore, when you get teaching staff under pressure, there is a strong reason to label as many children as possible as having special educational needs, for better or worse.
One thing that might be worth bearing in mind. If you want to get your child to an oversubscibed state primary, it may be easier to get them in after the first year or two. It is worth putting their name on the waiting list. Catchment area criteria seems to matter less for later entrants. At my son's first primary - oversubscribed at reception - I was surprised how many pupils left in years 1 to 2 because their parents were moving away etc.
Robbie, we went through the same thing. The state school down the street from us has great results and a good reputation, but it's definitely overcrowded with large class sizes.
When I visited, however, there was always more than one adult in a classroom-- maybe just one teacher, but then at least an additional assistant or parent volunteer or someone else to help out. The classes were fairly calm and orderly (as orderly as you can expect from 5 year olds without getting scary). Also, there are three separated play areas for recess, so the older kids and younger kids aren't all in the same place at the same time. The headmistress is a no nonsense type who had been at the school for 23 years. And (now, I'm doubting this bit of info, but this is what I remember) she said that the teacher who had been there the shortest amount of time had been there for 6 years. So, very very little staff turnover.
The school smelled like school lunches (ugh), but the corridors are filled with the kids' artwork and there are notices up everywhere about after school clubs, trips and neat things to do. All in all, it seems a happy, kid-friendly place.
We have decided to send our son there. The fact that it's less than a minute away has been a large factor also. There's a lot to be said about not having to take the boy on a long commute every morning!
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