more info & help in selecting schools for my precious(8 Posts)
I already mentioned my dilemma in another posting in "what would you do", re: my parents giving us some lump sum to invest for my little DD's future and whether to go for free - state schooling route for my little DD and buy a property with the cash / or whether go for the private school route and therefore not invest it in a property...
I understand very well that there are good schools in both private and state sectors as well as really bad ones.
So.... has anyone ever used (or knows someone who has used) any educational consultanties for the school selection process, in order to tap into more resources than it is available to a lay-person like myself?
I imagine such consultancies would be useful for people who live abroad etc but how about UK residents who have used those companies? Recommend it?
Thanks all in advance...
Sweetie, tell me wher you are and what you are looking for and I'll do this for free. You don't need to pay someone to do this, it's not a difficult thing to do.
To be honest, everyone has a problem with their child's school, not one is perfect and normally you never really know until your child has been there for a while. No school is going to admit to having a bullying problem, nor are they going to admit to the teachers not marking homework/food being dire/head teacher being a religious fruitcake that tries to convert the children. It's only once your child has been there for a while that you get to know all of this.
Start off by looking through the phone directory or online at the schools where you live. Phone for a prospectus but remember that this only shows you the 'glossy' side of the school, the best work, the smily happy children. They are useful for seeing the facilities though and give a good overview and idea of the ethos of the school. Some are more sporty, some focus on art, some on academic. Narrow it down to what you want for your child.
Then go in to have a look around. Are the displays old? Do they represent all of the childre or just the ones that are neat/hardworking. Ask about discipline, bullying policy, special needs provisions (and how many children they have with special needs as well as what sort of needs they cater for, it's useful to see how tolerant and inclusive they are). Do the children look engaged? Asking questions? What's the head teachers 10 year plan? (lets you know how long they are planning to stay, IME, the head makes the school).
I wouldn't pay someone to do this for you.
Buying in educational consultancy advice is like paying people to tell you what colour cushions to buy- only for the truly inept and/or people with money to burn. Just go and see some schools and put your daughter's name down for the one(s) you like.
I do believe it is easy to overthink the options. I know of someone who did use a consultancy when moving back to uk , to find both house and shortlist of schools. Wasn't a huge sum of money but she didn't really come up with any more than someone local or who knew the area could have done.
Its easy - go to the schools nearest to your home and look around them. Ask questions, read the Ofsted reports, look at their stats and standing in the league tables for KS1 & KS2 SATs (if you are so inclined - I'm not).
Are you aware that your DD is especially bright (we all tend to think they are, esp first children, until they get to school and mix with other kids, and we may find they are not quite as exceptional as we thought). If you are putting her in a selective independent she needs to be able to manage it emotionally and educationally. Is she a strong character or the shy retiring type, who might be better in a less selective school.
Lastly fees are a massive commitment - you will be looking at more £120-£150,000 over the next 14 years to the end of education, and THEN university for four years. No point starting if you will have to pull her out and change schools if you have a financial crisis or baby number 2/3 comes along.
If you live in a pleasant area, populated by largely middle class profs/semi profs, your local schools should be fine. Bonus is you can walk to school, your DD can go to a local childminder or after-school club if you work, you shouldn't get bogged down with masses of homework at weekends like some preps give, and your DD will have local friends she can play with and have after school play and tea dates with - those are the sort of things a memorable and happy childhood are made of - some freedom to play. Local friends are important - ms DS1 is 20 and will be found out and about with people he was in reception class with as well as those he has met through work. DS2 went to an independent senior school miles away, but he still mixes with all his old friends from infant and junior school because they all live around the corner, esp this summer while he and they have had the long summer post-GCSE.
Think less about academic achievement and more about personal happiness, because the former is meaningless without the latter IMHO.
Thanks, you have been helpful. Sometimes you may not see the most obvious things that everyone else may take for granted, if you are not very clear headed and are loaded with millions of other things to think about, just like myself...
I do appreciate it.
Give consultancies a miss. Visit local schools and independents and see for yourself whether you think the independents are that much better. Talk to the children in the playground. Do they look you in the eye and respond, or do they grunt into their fringes? Above all, choose a school - irrespective of state or independent - where you think your DD will be happy as well as learning something. Personally, I'd say independent schools are the best investment you can make for a child, but that's just my opinion.
If you are looking for primary you might consider what sort of secondary you'd like. For instance, if you are set on an academic secondary, unless your DD is pretty bright and/or well motivated, she would have a better chance coming from a quite 'driven' prep school. Even then, you could move her from a state primary at the end of year 2, by which time you might have a clearer idea of her abilities and personality. If there is a state secondary you love, does it give priority to certain 'feeder' primaries?
When you visit, ask which secondaries the children move to.
Wander past possible schools at coming-out time and try to picture youself and your DD among the children and parents (bearing in mind that your little DD will be bigger and more boisterous herself after a few years at school).
Another really good way of finding out about schools is word of mouth. Go to every mother and toddler group within reach, join the NCT, visit the library, specially if they have children's activities, try a local church (or similar), specially if they have children's groups. Then strike up conversations about the local schools with other mothers. Most people love talking about schools, but tend to have strong opinions. Just be careful to take the personality of the mother into account - even someone you don't take to can give you useful insight into what you wouldn't like!
And lastly, check how likely your DD is to be offered a place at each school you like. If you fall madly in love with one, what will your strategy be if she doesn't get in? Some state primaries have quite complicated entry criteria and a small one can have most places taken by siblings some years.
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