Really rather thick question - can someone tell me how to tell if our local school is any good?(17 Posts)
I can see its ofstead rating, but I have nothing to compare it to - I'm new to this, be gentle.
Primary or secondary? For primary go ot upmystreet.com and enter your postcode. You can get secondary on upmystreet too - but you have to find it yourself - that should be a direct link to primary schools.
"Good" is a relative term. People go by all sorts of things. The best way of all is to talk to other local parents and see what they say. Do most people in your area send their children there? Do you like their children? If so there can't really be that much wrong with it.
If it's data you are after, you'll find it all on the BBC website: here
Bear in mind there can be all sorts of stories behind those figures. If a school has gone up in the SATs ratings recently then it probably means it has acquired a pushy head who has had a real drive to get the kids working to exams. This may not be much fun. School is about more than just work and exams. Some schools may be really good for music, sport and drama, even if they are not the top ones academically.
You need to ask around and find out how children like your child get on there, and if they're happy.
You have to be wary of Ofsteds, I got some practice in reading them as we moved area and school twice when my older two children were infant age and we had to find new schools in new areas.
We have had experience of primaries with Excellent, Good and now Satisfactory (which means not good) Ofsteds and really there has been very little difference between these schools in terms of our experience with them, also in terms of SATS results, and how they feel. Our current school had a Satisfactory ofsted as it's a little village school which had an old head, was expanding, and in flux. It's a much-loved school (by parents and children) with few discipline problems, good academic results, socially lovely. But it's last official Ofsted would make it seem a poor school.
thanks... this is the thing UD, you could be talking about our school.
its 'improved' a lot recently with a new head, but I've heard that a lot of local mums don't like it. I work so I don't really know any local mums cos I didn't do the mums and toddler groups and I'm a bit lost!
I'm confused as to whether its about not liking change from some people that knew the old head ( a much loved woman who died tragically in a car crash ) or its really a bad place. If I hadn't heard this stuff I'd think it was a lovely village school with good results....
I was in this situation last year - you feel sooo lost not knowing what to look for. I would go look round the school, look at stuff on the wall etc. See if it feels like a happy place, and if the kids seem happy and confident. Go there at pick up time and see what sort of atmosphere there is. There is bound to be resistance to change in this situation, so take that on board when you listen to other people...
It depends what is important to you as well. For me the most important thing for Primary school was that it be a happy fun place to learn, so the school my DS will go to does not have great SATs results, but the children love it there.
Our local primary is a 'failing' school which always suprises me as it's a small village school with no obvious social problems.
It's in a lovely setting and the parents seem very ordinary - in a good sense.
I don't know what it can be doing so badly.
The only thing to do is go on a normal working day. Would your DC be happy there? Would you be happy for him to be there?
Some of these little village primaries (like ours) fail on a few issues (things I might consider minor) because they don't offer absolutely everything the bigger schools have.
Our village school was very child-oriented, according to parents who knew it in the "old days" before the new head, 2 years ago now. Rather than Ofsted or SATS oriented. The parents mostly liked that, but it was reflected in the poor Ofsted. So they got a new head who ONLY cared about Ofsted box-ticking, the school is shooting up in the rankings but most of that is about box-ticking and form-filling, not much has changed at the day to day experience of school for the children.
When we moved to our current area, we were warned by lots of local parents that the local school was 'no good' and we should send our children to the CofE school instead. The implication was that middle class parents would not send their children there.
We chose to ignore them, after visiting the school which seemed to have a great atmosphere (and a new head who appeared to be very on the ball). Six years later, the local school has done a great job of educating my children, all the pupils love it, we have just been awarded an Outstanding Ofsted with Grade One in every single area, and the SATs results aren't bad either.
The CofE school on the other hand, has been in and out of special measures.
Trust your instincts and go by how the school feels to you.
If you visit a few schools and meet the head, some teachers and see the children, it is likely you will get a gut feeling about the school.
If you can try and go to a school fair. This gives you a good indication of the general atmosphere of the school. If there are lots of parents and staff helping out and there seems to be lots of laughter, that's a great sign.
I'd also ask about pastoral/ emotional intelligence policies. These are just important as Ofsted and SATs results but are often forgotten.
I had a very similar experience to LadyGlencora. I would never listen to local parents-go by your own instinct.
Sometimes when people talk a perfectly good school down, it reflects their own petty prejudices. For example, the secondary I want to send my girls to has good exam results (for a comprehensive) and has been rated as Ofsted outstanding. Still people say, "But it is not as good as it used to be." Why??? The exam results have not changed, the only thing that has changed is that there are more black students than before.
The penny dropped for me when one mother said she would not consider the school because of its proximity to Lewisham. I thought that's strange your dd would not need to travel through there (not that it is a dangerous place anyway ). Then it all became perfectly clear!
Schools are really different from each other. Go and visit a few schools and get a feeling for the range of options out there. Go completely with your instinct, don't listen too hard to what other parents say unless they know your dc well and have personal experience of the school.
It's all swings and roundabouts and in the end, unfortunately you'll never really know if it's right for your family until your dc gets there.
Have a look on some of the education threads on here. You will see that what people call a 'good' school varies a lot. Some people like very child orientated, some like strong discipline, some like lots of art, drama and/or music, some like the main concentration to be on getting the three Rs. Some people think school A is far to pushy and there is too much homework, others think school B doesn't challenge the children enough.
You need to go round several schools (as other posters have said) and try to feel which school matches your ideal (as far as possible!). Have a good look at the older children - do you want your DC to be like them? How would you feel about them coming round to your house?
It's hard when your DC is little as the junior age children can look a bit intimidating, but in reality you might not want your DC at, say, 9 to be creeping around nervously, scared to open his mouth, any more than you would want him/her to be totally wild and inconsiderate.
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