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Primary school options driving me crazy

(21 Posts)
Sohardtochooseausername Wed 02-Nov-16 14:10:35

Hello, this is my first post on Mumsnet.

We recently moved to the city I grew up in. We have moved around the corner from the school I went to 6th form in (private, all girls.) My daughter is 4 and in the nursery and is due to start primary school in August 2017.

She's not settled particularly well and I am not entirely inspired by the school despite having had an excellent experience myself - which was quite a long time ago. I'm concerned it's a bit precious and rareified and I don't exactly fit in with the parents who are all a lot richer than we are. I'm the only mum who works full time and I feel excluded from a lot of the activities which are during the day.

My daughter is picking up on a lot of bad behaviour from the other children and being obnoxious in a way she hasn't been before. I'm also worried that they have a bit of a model to conform to and that there is quite a lot of pressure to fit the mold.

The pros are small class sizes, excellent facilities, beautiful classrooms, playing fields, lots of sport, wrap around care, and a community around the corner that my only child could become part of for life. But I am worried that it's not right for her.

It is enrolment time for the local primary school. It's 'satisfactory' and 'good' in the inspection report and we went to visit it today. It was scruffy and the playground and classrooms were a bit depressing, but the children seemed happy and there was a lot of talk about the community, children helping each other, and the children who took us on the tour were really articulate and had a great sense of humour.

The thing is I'm not completely sold on either of these options for my daughter. I know many parents probably feel like this but I am trying to find a solution that caters to her needs - she is bright, needs to be challenged, needs to feel included, is impulsive to the point of recklessness, can be disruptive... I want her to grow up with a good sense of the world feel she can do anything she wants, but also to be kind to people, be thoughtful of others' needs and understand that not everyone is as lucky as she is.

Taking money out of the equation I just don't know what I should do. Should I look at other private schools or send her to the local school and play it by ear? Or keep her where she is and hope she settles into it? I'm keeping my own emotional connection to the school out of it as well - because it was a school that changed my life it doesn't necessarily mean it is the best place for her.

catslife Wed 02-Nov-16 15:37:33

I think I would go and have a look round a few other schools, both independent and state if possible, to see if that helps. You may find that another school is a better fit for your child than these options.
OK there isn't necessarily a "perfect" school for your child, but that should help you make up your mind.

Sohardtochooseausername Wed 02-Nov-16 15:54:11

Thanks catslife - I don't think there are any other state options as the local schools are full to bursting so you are limited to catchment only. Religious school is out of the question and that is the other state option.

But there are a lot of independent schools which would perhaps be worth visiting for comparison, so thanks, I will have a look at a couple more of those. I am kicking myself as they all had open days earlier in the year and I thought I had made my mind up!

TeenAndTween Wed 02-Nov-16 17:13:44

Send her to the state primary.
If necessary in later primary years pay for a bit of tutoring.

You like the children at the state option way more than at the independent one. You didn't say anything negative about the education at the state one.

bojorojo Wed 02-Nov-16 17:55:21

I think I would not have been so attached to a school that I went to X years ago without considering that it, and the parent body, may have changed. However, scruffy buildings in a state school do not mean the education is not good enough - it just means they are a bit short of money. I am not sure what you mean by satisfactory and good from Ofsted. It is either one or the other although satisfactory is likely to be a very old judgement and not worth considering. You should look at the latest Sats results and progress made by the children to have a more up to date view of the quality of the school.

If you don't feel you fit in at the private school, do you want to feel this for the next 14 years? We had some full-time working parents at our prep school and they managed to turn up to things from time to time. No-one thought anything of it and I am amazed you are the only one working full time. The families must all be affluent. I always feel all-through schools are claustrophobic anyway. A change or two at natural breaks is good.

Have a much more in depth look at the state school. You will never find a school that teaches everything you want. A great many of the attributes you mention are really down to you. Your DD does not have to copy others if you lay down clear expectations and provide her with the guidance she needs to be the young person you desire.

Leeds2 Wed 02-Nov-16 18:04:40

You would probably be better to arrange a trip round the other private schools on an "ordinary" day, rather than an open day as you will see them as they usually operate and not what they put on because they know prospective parents will be turning up! A friend of mine used to work in a private school where she said they had the most magnificent collection of musical instruments which were kept under the stage and only ever appeared on open days ......... The children were not allowed to use them! Most private schools will be happy for you to do a tour at a time convenient to you.

Also. if you were happy to name one or both of the schools mentioned in your OP, people here may be able to help. Understand if you don't want to though.

Sohardtochooseausername Wed 02-Nov-16 20:42:02

Thanks for all your insight - I find it really helpful to understand what choice I am making.

Bojorojo, we are in Scotland so inspection reports are different and we don't have sats. I'm not too worried about the academic side of things for primary as I'm keener she gets an all round thing.

The academic side of the state school seems pretty good. They teach in sets where appropriate and have good resources. They do German from age 7, which I thought was a good thing, and have close ties with the university.

Lots of the stuff they were doing in terms of learning seemed similar to the private school, and the work on the walls was impressive.

I think the point about a lot of the wider values stuff coming from us is valid - but since she will spend a lot of time at school I want a bit of consistency! We're working hard on some of her behaviour at the moment. But I am such a rookie I don't know what is ok for a 4 year old and what's not. I just want her to be happy!

JoJoSM2 Thu 03-Nov-16 18:54:27

If you're not in love with either school just go with the state one and save yourself a lot of money...

bojorojo Thu 03-Nov-16 21:49:01

I didn't realise Scotland was different regarding Ofsted. In order to judge the values of a school, see their behaviour policy on their web site and try and judge the ethos of the school. They may well use Golden Rules which will underpin your values and provide consistency. Children do mature at different rates and I think having school and home working together on the same values and behaviour is important as are expectations of the school. Children often modify their behaviour when they see good behaviour in other children being rewarded. No need to worry just yet. She is pushing her boundaries to see how far she can go. This is usually aimed at parents, not teachers.

Private schools often follow the national curriculum and this has recently been revised so that, for example, maths in year 6 now incorporates work that was previously tackled in y7 at secondary school. I would not expect to see huge differences other than class size. Really small class sizes can lead to a lack of friendship opportunities.

Go and have another look at the behaviour documents and see if the state primary meets your requirements. You can always go on the Parent association to raise money for the school.

Shurelyshomemistake Thu 03-Nov-16 21:57:59

State schools are generally very good at meeting a wide range of needs. Indies can be but they also can filter out any kids who they think don't fit. If your DD has some behavioural issues (they all do but you know what I mean!) and you did not like the behaviour of the indy school pupils.... I'd discount that one.

Sohardtochooseausername Thu 03-Nov-16 22:06:55

I know... my OH and I were both half joking today about what we could buy the local school with what we'd be paying in fees... I'm going to register for the local school and see a couple of other independents, keep the options open till the spring.
Got told this morning by teacher that my DD bit another child on Tuesday. (Parent complained yesterday.) But no adults witnessed the incident and my DD says 2 girls bit her first. Something not very good is happening and I need to get to the bottom of it as she is stuck there until the summer at least.

Sohardtochooseausername Thu 03-Nov-16 22:10:03

Bojorojo, they do have golden rules, they have been stuck all over the walls since August. I haven't seen much evidence of them happening! I'm gutted because in the same preschool her teacher in ante-preschool was fab and I got lots of stories about what they had done that day, friends, etc. Now all stories about 'good choices' -and pushing and biting.

bojorojo Fri 04-Nov-16 01:24:19

I am a governor of an English Primary school. The rules are constantly reinforced to the children during play and whenever there is any poor behaviour. They are the subject of assemblies and part of our dialogue with parents. They are not just stuck on the wall and ignored. They are a fundamental part of our expectations of behaviour.
I am surprised biting has occurred without an adult noticing. In fact I am amazed the bitten child did not complain at the time. It sounds like these children are not adequately supervised. That should be very possible in pre school with high staff:teacher ratios. I would wonder what the staff are actually doing and they really should be vigilant if children are pushing and biting. They should have discussed any incidents with you and work with you, and other parents, about improving behaviour.

I have been aware that some parent choose private school nurseries to help with their inadequate parenting skills. People think if they throw money at it, the problem will be solved. I am not saying you are doing this but others might be. I would make an appointment to see the head of the nursery and find out what they intend to do regarding behaviour. Children can bite out of frustration and lack of the words to stop another child annoying them, but staff should be aware of this. I think this is not a suitable setting and perhaps you could check if the Golden rules actually mean anything in the state school you are considering. How do they ensure children behave well towards each other?

Sohardtochooseausername Fri 04-Nov-16 06:35:05

Bojorojo - this is all very helpful. I have chosen private nurseries simply because I could have all day childcare while I am working. Childminders are very difficult to find and I've wanted things to be consistent for my child as possible - and until this term I have been confident that my daughter has been happy and safe and all the other good things.

I have had two consultations with the head of the preschool in the last month on this issue and each time she seemed to be all over the problems but they are not improving. I agree that it seems this class is not adequately supervised. My DD also had an accident yesterday for the first time in months and told me that it was because no one could take her to the toilet.

I am trying my best not to completely freak out.

I spoke to the parent rep about it yesterday and will be finding out a bit more from her at the weekend. She says I am not alone in my concerns.

I will try and talk to the head today re recent biting and accident but after I've spoken to the parent rep properly I think my next step will be to go to the head of the primary school.

Again, thanks for your help. Really appreciated!

bojorojo Fri 04-Nov-16 19:25:08

I hope you had a useful meeting. Any incidents such as biting must be recorded so it will be interesting to know if the staff have recorded anything. When my child was bitten at nursery (there were teeth marks) I was informed that the incident had occurred and what they staff were doing about it. In our case it was a one off incident and not repeated.

I am not judging anyone for wanting full day wrap around care. If I am honest though, do you think that bad behaviour is occurring because the children are very tired? Are there enough chill out zones for the children? It will be interesting to see what the parent rep finds out and I do wonder if the staff are of a high enough quality to deal with a few challenging children. A good nursery will work with parents to improve behaviour and this should now be happening because they are not going to learn effectively if the behaviour is poor and the class is continually unsettled.

Sohardtochooseausername Fri 04-Nov-16 21:04:15

Thanks bojorojo. Impromptu meeting this morning with the head and my daughter was kind of unsatisfactory. They are bringing in the school psychologist to work on friendships and introducing yet another way to reward good behaviour. I'm not convinced and I think your point about chilling out is key. In my DD's previous childcare I think there was more formal quiet time. I think that parent pressure at this school may have led to there being a need for constant activity. The head asked me if I could work less or hire a childminder so DD could have shorter days. I am about to move to a more flexible workplace which will allow me to pick her up an hour earlier on some days so hopefully this will have an impact and I may ask for grandparents to help more.

Ironically my DD is furious with me when I do pick her up earlier as they have after school club with the primary school girls and she loves this.

MiaowTheCat Fri 04-Nov-16 21:06:14

Not that much help with your school choices but a minor word of possible reassurance - DD1 sounds very very like your daughter - basically nice bright kid but can be a pain in the arse if she gets the chance to be. She was in loads of trouble her final year at preschool - partly big fish in a small pond-itis, partly her being a little sod and at least partly a personality clash with the deputy manager. It hit the point where I considered removing her early in the summer term rather than be pulled aside for "a quick word". I kept her there because after I'd unpicked all the incidents I was being told about quite carefully and objectively (I ran it past other people who came to exactly the same conclusions I did), it was all coming back to the deputy manager who was fairly rarely in charge and the manager was a really good 'un and all the other staff generally "got" DD1.

She started at our local state primary in September - is raking in the good behaviour points and awards, friends with everyone and by all accounts a model pupil in her class - she got an absolutely glowing parents evening report (and I'm an ex-teacher so can read between the lines of teacher speak very very well). She bloody well loves school - she'd move in and live there if she could do!

Andcake Fri 04-Nov-16 21:27:57

Must admit the boredom at the end of preschool rings true for us. Ds summer born was bored as well...school has improved his behaviour no end.
Overall I would go state and move back to private later as I don't think you are getting value for money.

Sohardtochooseausername Fri 04-Nov-16 22:01:26

Miowthecat that is so reassuring! Thank you!

Sohardtochooseausername Fri 04-Nov-16 22:02:04

Andcake that is also excellent to hear! Thanks!

Sohardtochooseausername Fri 04-Nov-16 22:07:23

PS my OH picked DD up this afternoon and said they were falling over themselves to tell him how bright and amazing DD is and that they will deal with her discipline in a way that is more appropriate to her. I don't know what this means but time will tell.

I'm leaning towards state primary and waiting to see as I am sure she will be absolutely fine socially and academically there. It is more the class sizes, wrap around care, lunches, playground, extracurricular stuff that bugs me but hey, didn't do me or OH that much harm...! I am being a bit unreasonable because she is my special snowflake!

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