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Filling in form for DD1 to start reception next year - can't decide which order to place schools in!

(5 Posts)
Rose50 Thu 02-Dec-10 20:31:42

I had always said that I wanted to be able to walk to school, and there are 3 primary schools within walking distance to me. The "catchment area" for schools in my borough changes each year, depending on sibling intakes etc.
My 1st choice school is closest but has a ridiculously small catchment area, they have had the same small catchment area for the past 3 years and we are 0.2 miles outside of this, so not likely to get in but will still be first choice on the list - miracles do happen!

My 2nd choice is the school which most of the kids in my road attend, so much more likely to get in, but we are right on the fringes of their catchment for the last 3 years. Therefore if it is a particularly busy year we may not get in.

The dilemma rests with my 3rd choice. The 3rd choice school I can walk to is not very well regarded locally. It's KS2 results aren't great, it is one of the bottom schools in the borough. I also think much of it is snobbery as it is very close to a large council estate.
I went to the Open Morning and I was pleasantly surprised, head and teachers all seemed great. It has had an outstanding Ofsted for the past 2 inspections.
However the KS2 results do alarm me, it is well below the national average and the percentage of pupils who gained Level 5 in Maths is only 13% (the second worst in the borough) Although in their defence they do have quite a few pupils with SEN who I guess are also included in the KS2 results. Their CVA score is also good, but I'm thinking maybe this is because a lot of the pupils have a fairly low starting point at KS1.

There are also 2 other good schools who have a larger intake and we are within their catchments, but they are not within walking distance and I would have to drive. I'm really loath to have to drive, I just don't want to have to get in the car every morning and afternoon. I want to have the choice to use the car if necessary, but not have to IYSWIM.

Anyway I'm wondering if I'm just being selfish to not choose the best school possible for my daughter just so that I can have an easier school run? I've got a DD2 who will be 16 months when DD1 starts school.

Would having to drive every day really be so bad? I live in an outer London borough where the rush hour traffic can be bad, also lots of parents seem to drive their kids to school so there is the usual issue with traffic, access and parking at both of the drivable 3rd choice.

Thanks for reading, sorry it is so long blush

Rosebud05 Thu 02-Dec-10 20:59:38

Is it just the KS2 results that's putting you off the school that you could walk to? If so, have you asked the head for some context/explanation as to why they're low? How do they compare with KS1? Her or his response (frank discussion versus defensiveness) would matter a lot to me.

Aside from the pupils with SEN, is it possible that there's a lot of transition amongst pupils? Estates are often used for temporary housing, so lots of pupils starting and leaving.

One of our local schools has very good KS1 results but the worst KS2 results in the borough for exactly this reason - so many pupils move in the upper school that the KS2 SATS effectively test pupils who have been in the school a very short time.

SATS are absolutely bonkers in schools where there's lots of transition, as the tests for the key stages will be taken by different students so will in no way reflect the quality of the teaching in the school.

UniS Thu 02-Dec-10 22:50:46

Walk to school, walk to school, do not chose to be in a situation where you HAVE to drive and find parking spot and load and unload kids and never walk home with an ice lolly or pop into the park.

How about going with your 123 in just that order. If 1 & 2 are both over subscribed you may end up with 3 but it seems that's not a disaster.
KS2 results MAY be the result of a " generally not good at maths" year group going through, Have you asked any teachers what is being done to improve maths in KS2?
Also may be worth looking at the schools recent history, have the kids who were KS2 gone through lots of changes , teachers/ buildings etc.

nonicknamemum Sun 05-Dec-10 00:49:25

OP, I also really value being able to walk to school, but if I were faced the third choice you describe I would be gritting my teeth and reaching for the car keys! It may well be that the teachers are great, but a child's experience of school is hugely influenced not just by the quality of the teachers but by who she learns with. If the signs are that you child is going to be academically able, it sounds as though she may end up being a square peg in a round hole if she attends the third choice school you describe. If on further enquiry the poor SATS results turn out to be due to high levels of pupil turnover, I think you should ask yourself whether you want your daughter to be attending a school with particularly high pupil turnover. It is likely to mean that there are far more occasions when she has to deal with a school friend moving away. Having said all that, I do think that a school that performs well in the league tables may not always be the best choice for a less academic child, who may be better catered for at a school where the teachers are more used to dealing with children who would not score highly in SATS tests.

Rose50 Tue 07-Dec-10 21:46:34

Thanks everyone for your advice.
Rosebud05 - the Ofsted report does specifically mention that many pupils join in year from other schools or abroad and the report does state that this has a major impact on the KS2 results. Also that the results are adversely affected by the results of the pupils who attend the SEN classes.
It was mainly the KS2 results which was putting me off, so I am reassured by this. Although I'm also a little embarassed to admit that the fact it isn't well regarded locally does put me off. Just because, like every parent I want the best for my daughter, and don't want people to make assumptions based on which school she attends (which I know is inevitable regardless of which school she attends!)
I've also had a good look at the KS2 results for the last 6 years and they do seem to be very up and down, some years are much better than others. Some years they were above the local authority and national average.

nonicknamemum - your point that a childs experience is influenced by who she learns with is also a good point and another issue which concerns me.

I'm still undecided, I have until mid January to complete my application so I'm hoping I can come to a decision soon!

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