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Secondary: State, grammar or private - What did you choose?

(30 Posts)
insideoutsider Sat 21-Apr-18 21:30:40

Hello all,

I'm starting to consider secondary for my 9yo DD. She's on the school's G&T register (they sent us a letter following some 'assessment' held for several kids in the borough). She's always been 'advanced' since nursery, top table in everything throughout primary, attends the 'exclusive' maths club for the G&T kids in the borough on Saturdays, aced the yr6 SAT test papers last summer.

She loves political issues and works through discussions - we listen to LBC because of her. I was working on a report last week and was stuck. This child recommended a way to untangle it and I completed the report on the back of it blush! We are all very academic but she's on a different level - they would all rather read than do anything else. They do their homework before anything else; I hardly see it. So, in general, I encourage her; I don't want to push more.

Anyway, my heart is set on a state secondary school nearby. It's an outstanding school, quite academic, many of her school mates will be going there. However, everywhere we go where her abilities stand out (maths club, quiz eves etc), everyone asks if she's going to grammar school. I've considered it and I'm not interested really. The closest one is miles away although there is an organised school bus. However, I feel really guilty that I might be holding her back from joining co-high-ability kids; like I could be giving her something more.

Some others are telling me to apply for a bursary to go to a private school but the ones I found are not close and it just seems such a hassle as they'll expect her to keep 'performing'. She'll do anyway, but I don't want to put any kind of pressure on her.

So, what have you done and what do you think? If you had similar circumstances, did you send your dc to grammar school? Did they keep doing well at a good state school? Did you go private?

Your experiences would be very welcome smile

steppemum Sat 21-Apr-18 21:45:31

I have three bright children, two are now at grammar and one will do the 11+ in September. But they are not in the same league as your dd.

I was faced with a choice of poor secondaries or travel to the grammar.
If i had had outstanding secondaries, I am not sure if we would have done the grammar route.

But my dc are very happy there, and the reasons are mainly that they are academically stretched, and that they have a good peer group, who are a good match to them socially and academically.

I think it is perfectly possible to find those things in a decent secondary school. But not in the ones near us.

I suggest you go along to the grammar and have a look. Also go to your local school and have a look. At your local school tell them dd is on the gifted and talented register and ask how they will stretch her. Also ask about things like if the classes are streamed from year 7, and if they are streamed in all subjects.

You will be in a better position to decide if you have visited the schools. Most secondaries have open days around now, or in June/July after exams

whiteroseredrose Sat 21-Apr-18 22:04:25

I have two DC at state grammars, one at boys grammar and one at girls grammar. Both very happy and thriving. The pastoral care is great in both and there is lots of extracurricular stuff. DS is doing A levels this year and has an Oxford offer. DD is in Y10 and has high predicted grades.

But both of the schools are local and about 20 minutes walk away. So all friends are local too. We're in a area where people send their DC private only if they don't pass the 11+.

insideoutsider Sat 21-Apr-18 22:28:41

Thanks - I have been to the state school on an open day. The kids are streamed from year 7 and I'm very happy with the 'stretching' she will be getting. I haven't gone for the grammar school open day because I have a feeling I might just really like the school and see that she will fit in perfectly! That will then make us start to look towards that.

But yeah, maybe I should just go and take a look.

moominmomma1234 Sat 21-Apr-18 23:49:02

We are in a little bit of a similar position. We have a good secondary school nearby which we always assumed would be the one. But then the schools ed psych dropped a bombshell on us 2 months ago when she was assessing my 10yo ds for his handwriting struggles. A cognitive test showed him to be top 1% population. She said she had never seen a kid complete the test so fast and got full marks some sections and she said we MUST send him to grammar school !
We are NOT an academic family and are quite shocked as we know v little about grammar schools. So now do we try for grammar or send him to the good secondary where his friends are going? We are going to look round the grammar next week, I think it has to give us the WOW factor for us to consider putting him through the 11plus. I just don't know what to do for the best but I am thank full that I am having to ponder over which choice of good schools to send him too rather than a choice of bad local schools!
but yes- go visit the grammar , see what your instincts say! I think a few months preparation for the 11 plus will be needed, even with bright child, as the question types seem a little bizarre (vr/nvr) !

brilliotic Sat 21-Apr-18 23:58:44

Hi,
we're not there yet and anyway, DS is nowhere near as able as your DD.

But I have been vaguely looking at secondary schools options and have noticed that
a) in the local grammar schools (just across the county border), children tend to take 10 or more GCSEs, whereas the local comps restrict all children to max 8, exceptionally 9. After Maths, 2x English, 3xScience, that means that you cannot do a MFL (let alone two) AND History AND Geography, and if there is anything else you're interested in (computer science, arts, music, PE, ...) you'll really have to look to do that outside of school.
b) There are quite a few subjects (e.g. Latin, certain MFLs, ...) that are simply not on offer in the comps, so even if you were willing to drop something fairly important (e.g. choose not to do a MFL) you still couldn't do those subjects - they're not available.

One of our local comprehensives gets stellar results and has a great reputation. Their top sets get better results than the grammars. However it seems to me that they achieve these results in part by stopping the children from spreading themselves too thinly. Which would be fine if applied on a case-by-case basis, but not so much if done categorically.
So for some children it makes sense to say 'get 8 good GCSEs rather than 10 average ones'. IMO for some children it would be better to let them get those 10 average ones (but school won't allow it because it's bad for their stats). But even though it would be good for their stats, since it's a categorical decision (no child does more than 8), they restrict even those children capable of getting 10, or 12, great GCSEs to doing only 8.

This feels very limiting to me, especially in view of many schools now starting GCSEs a year earlier (so children only get a broad education in Y7 and Y8, and are limited to their 8 GCSE subjects from Y9 already).

From that perspective, I would review both your comprehensive options and grammar schools. It may be it's different where you are but I would certainly want to know these things before making a decision for a very able child.

(FWIW, I may feel strongly about this due to my own background. In my home country all teenagers who do A-levels take all subjects up to age 19/20 (with a few exceptions, and varying emphasis). E.g. I was examined on History, Geography, home language&literature, 2 MFLs, 3 sciences, Maths, applied Maths, and Art. It seems shocking to me that 13yos should already drop so much... and very limiting for highly able kids )

Hoppinggreen Sun 22-Apr-18 00:09:24

We went Private
Dd did get a Grammar place but it was a bit far away and the Comp isn’t great, especially for high achievers

W00t Sun 22-Apr-18 00:21:29

I think it depends entirely on the schools available to you.
I currently have one in a SS Grammar school, and one in independent- but that is because they have different strengths and different needs from one another.
Both are extremely happy at their schools, progressing well, so can't ask for more really.

There are comps with high numbers of very able pupils, there are comps that offer Latin, there are independent schools that are mediocre in offer, and there are grammars that whose results don't actually reflect decent pupil progress.
So-called go and visit all that are feasible, but remember that children need downtime, and a life outside school, and a lengthy commute can be a burden.

Petitepamplemousse Sun 22-Apr-18 00:24:15

I was ‘gifted and taleneted’ at school and went to a state secondary then state sixth form. Neither held me back. I got all A*s at GCSE and straight A’s at A Level, and had a fab experience of a socially and culturally mixed school too.

steppemum Sun 22-Apr-18 08:00:26

also, don't assume a private school is necessarily better.
In grammar areas lots of kids who don;t pass get sent to private, so the peer group may be LESS able than the grammar.
Private schools do offer lots of extras, but they are not necessarily the best place for very bright kids. You need a private that is selective and has high results.

The advantage to me of the grammar is to do with several underlying attitudes.
Its cool to be clever
ambition and success are good
aim high, push yourself, go for it.

some grammars schools though do the above without the surrounding pastoral care which also says develop the whole person, and try new things, eg clubs and activities. Some can be exam factories.
We are lucky, the grammar schools my kids go to are amazing, and as I said before, non of the above are available at the local comp.

Don't focus too much on her current friendship group. Most friendship groups break and re-form in year 7, she will make a new group of friends.

insideoutsider Sun 22-Apr-18 08:09:07

Thank you for all your replies.
The comprehensive school is one of the best in the entire region with very able kids and their results are on par or even better than many private schools. They have plenty of extra curricular activities and when we went for the open day, there were kids at school, doing their sports clubs, music clubs etc. They have their own 6th form college too. So I think I'll shelve the private idea totally. It's now the grammar school I'm thinking about.

@moominmomma1234 - I know! When they say, 'she MUST go to grammar school', you feel guilty not considering it!

@brilliotic - I'm not quite sure how many gcse's the comprehensive school offers but I'm happy for gcses to be streamlined to 8. I was on the science path a million years ago so I did Maths, English, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Home ed and a language (in a nonUK country) - I had 5 cs and didn't pass the last 2 blush. I went to Uni, did masters and on a Phd now. But I remember during the open day of the comprehensive, they said something about how the kids will choose music or art and a language for the duration - aside from their core subjects.

@W00t - one of the things that is putting me off is the commute - although there's school transport, I don't like knowing she'll be an hour away to travel. Getting there in a hurry in case of emergency won't be easy. She has a sibling and I was hoping they'd be in the same very good school and I'll engage with one school (for meetings, extra curriculars etc). She's very independent though and will like the idea of going off on her own without her sister

IheartNiles Sun 22-Apr-18 08:17:10

I’m assuming from what you say that you don’t live in a grammar area, and therefore your comp is truly comprehensive with a high % of high achievers. In which case it should be fine.

We also don’t live in a grammar area so our choices were 2 not great comprehensives. I didn’t believe they were truly comprehensive and suffer as lots of high achieving children go either to local selective very oversubscribed independents or to the 2 very good church comprehensives (require 7+ years church attendance).

There are no hard or fast rules as every area is so variable. If we were in a good grammar county then I would have been happy to continue with state after our very good state primary. If we’d had access to a very good proper comprehensive I would have been happy with that.

IheartNiles Sun 22-Apr-18 08:18:22

Just seen your last post. Excellent true comprehensive which is local to me would trump an hour away grammar.

Marmablade Sun 22-Apr-18 09:18:30

In your situation it doesn't sound as though the grammar or private offers a tangible difference in terms of benefits. There's something to be said about the social and emotional side of g&t children and if she's got friends going to the outstanding state school that should support her in that way.

Our state won't be enough for our DD but the grammar is very far away, the single sex private is too pushy (eating disorders rife) and the mixed sex private isn't selective enough. You've got an outstanding state so I'd send her there. You could always move her for GCSEs if that's right for her at the time.

insideoutsider Sun 22-Apr-18 14:22:50

Yes *@IheartNiles*, no grammars in the area - the grammars are several towns away but some kids commute from here.

@marmablade - they would all be on the same public transport / walk route home.

I always think I'm settled in my mind; we'll go to the comprehensive - until someone 'knowledgeable' turns up and says again 'she must go grammar!'

Xenia Sun 22-Apr-18 15:54:39

If she is very clever and you cannot afford school fees the state grammar will be best (and by the way not wanting to be intellectually snobbish but no one with half a brain listens to LBC - turn over to Radio 4 if you want to help your child)

FriendlyOcelot Sun 22-Apr-18 16:02:43

My y9 dd is at an excellent state comprehensive (non grammar area) where she is being stretched, stimulated and highly motivated. She’s doing 12 / 13 GCSEs (she may drop to double science if she feels it gets too much). Socially she is very happy because her friends are mostly local. Don’t underestimate how many lifts you will be expected to give as your dc grow older and want to be with their mates all the time! Without a shadow of a doubt I would go for the outstanding comprehensive.

SluttyButty Sun 22-Apr-18 16:05:53

We have no grammars in our area, she wasn't keen on the idea of a scholarship at a selective private (we couldn't afford full fees) so we sent her to a state comp but it's record of high achievers is impressive. She's flourished there, has been stretched and has just got 5 offers for uni. So an outstanding state is a good choice.

DailyWailEatsSnails Sun 22-Apr-18 16:08:42

No grammars here & we aren't made of money.

insideoutsider Sun 22-Apr-18 22:11:07

@Xenia I find your comment 'no one with half a brain listens to LBC - turn over to Radio 4 if you want to help your child' very rude - not intellectual in any way. Hosts and contributors on LBC are every day people. We listen to Radio 4, 5 live and LBC at different times of the day for different reasons. I mentioned LBC because of her interests in political discussions. IMO, a large portion of radio4's daytime schedule is entertainment. It's as though you didn't get the point of the post - it was about if you had sent your children to state, grammar or private if they were G&T.

@FriendlyOcelot - the social aspect is quite a big thing as they grow - I'm not keen on travelling hours away just so she can spend time with her school friends!

@SluttyButty - the state comprehensive also has a record of high achievers. As a PP said, it's probably because there are no grammars in the area so they all go to the state comps in the area.

Glad to hear yours are thriving without having to go to grammar. The results from the comp school is comparable and even better than many private schools (which are also some miles out of the area).

DailyWailEatsSnails Mon 23-Apr-18 05:12:28

Nigel Farage is not an every day person.

Moominmammacat Mon 23-Apr-18 08:51:08

I turned down a scholarship to a "top" private for excellent comp for my DS. Never regretted it for a second. The families of the private school kids are a few hundred thousand pounds poorer than us now and the DC are in exactly the same unis, on the same courses. Depends on the individual schools though. And I do have a strong dislike of the attitudes many private schools instill.

Xenia Mon 23-Apr-18 09:07:21

Apologies regarding any slur on LBC which I am sure does good work and you are right that the thread is about schools and every time I turn on r4 at the moment it seems to be gardener's question time. I do stand by my point that intellectual and middle class families, those at private and grammar schools do tend to listen to Radio 4 not LBC and any consideration of the viewing figures will bear this out too.

Twofishfingers Mon 23-Apr-18 12:53:28

Similar situation to yours OP. We have a very good, rated Outstanding secondary state school just around the corner from where I live. The private schools are a good 30 minutes bus journey away, and our local grammar school (local - ish still around 40 minutes away by bus at least) is extremely competitive academically and is rubbish at sports, drama, art, etc.

So we have chosen the local secondary for gifted DS2. I am sure it won't be as good academically as some of the privates/grammar, but it does offer a good balance on their curriculum and they do have a G&T programme, they stream for maths and English. My older son goes there and I am very happy with the school so far.

OhYouBadBadKitten Mon 23-Apr-18 12:58:01

We went state with dd. There are no nearby grammars and we couldn't see any advantage to sending her to a private school, none of them are selective round here and we wanted her to be mixing with people from all backgrounds.

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