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Why did - or didn't you - send your dc to community school?

(21 Posts)
phdlife Sat 11-Jun-11 04:18:34

I don't even know if they've got community schools in uk, so it may be a moot question anyway.

I don't mean steiner or montessori, btw - just an alternative school that tries to create a home-like, rather than institutional setting for learning. It does aim to have kids reaching state school standards by the end of primary, though.

I'm interested in it because ds, who starts school next year, is v sensitive, thoughtful, introverted, with a strong nerd inheritance. It has taken us the full six months just to cope with 2.5 days/week of kindy and home time is fraught because he is exhausted, wants me 100%, and can't get far enough away from worshipful, extrovert 2yo dd.

At kindy he steadfastly avoids the Big Boys Who Play Running Around, so I'm really wondering how he's going to cope with the increased hours when their are six times as many kids around, and with Aussie schools' strong emphasis on sport, sport and sport and bullying of non-sporty boys.

Just interested in others' thoughts and experiences...

IndigoBell Sat 11-Jun-11 06:59:07

We don't have community schools in the UK.

IndigoBell Sat 11-Jun-11 08:54:06

However, knowing what I know now about the state system, if I had an option like you describe, I'd def take it......

mrz Sat 11-Jun-11 09:20:11

We do have Community schools in my area but they are ordinary state schools. The school where I teach is called xxxxxxx community school and the school my children attended was called yyyyy community school

fivegomadindorset Sat 11-Jun-11 09:22:16

Community schools in our area are state schools that are not faith schools.

cory Sat 11-Jun-11 09:24:31

We don't have community schools, but actually the infants school round the corner- small state school- is not far off the kind of atmosphere you describe. Very inclusive, very warm, not pushing on the sports side, special small play area for the youngest, child-led activities in Reception. I have had one very bright but disabled child in that school, and one child who was a late developer and selectively mute- and I have nothing but praise for them. The anti-bullying skills they taught the children have stayed with that whole group of children as they've progressed to junior and secondary.

My advice would be to watch any individual school very closely rather than going by the label. There have been posters on here complaining bitterly of bullying in alternative schools.

Malaleuca Sat 11-Jun-11 09:41:18

It does aim to have kids reaching state school standards by the end of primary,
I don't think any school would profess anything else!
My children went to an alternative school. It had many good qualities but academic excellence wasn't one of them. I liked the other qualities well enough that I made sure the academics were covered at home where necessary.
I think it's is very difficult to generalise about alternative or community schools. It depends on the current staffing and also the current crop of parents.

ragged Sat 11-Jun-11 09:51:08

OP: can you tell us more about your "community school", how it works in practice?

phdlife Sun 12-Jun-11 12:53:25

I can't say much about how the school works in practice, because I have no experience, but we're going to have a look on wednesday. The prospectus makes me think they want a LOT of parental involvement which makes me go 'hmm'. as you say, melaleuca, it would depend a lot on the current crop of parents.

indigobell, what was it about state school system that you would have wanted to avoid?

I have not heard one single bad thing about the local state school; it is relatively small and all the mums I've spoken to are very happy with it.

meditrina Sun 12-Jun-11 13:10:40

To me, community school would simply mean a non-faith state school.

More important than the name/type of the school, or how many places are allocated on faith criteria, is what the ethos of the school is like. You can best find that out by visiting.

phdlife Tue 14-Jun-11 23:34:03

meditrina, I don't know what you mean by a non-faith state school or if I could even find such a beast here, but I do know there are a lot of profound differences between this community school and the way our state schools are organised.

for instance:

- democratic decision-making (ie, including students) vs. adult (primarily teacher/principal) decision-making
- non-uniforms vs uniforms
- mixed-age learning groups vs. years or grades based primarily on age
- an emphasis on cooperation vs. competition (so, for instance, 'sport' may include roller-skating or bike-riding, not just team sports or athletics)
- qualitative rather than quantitative evaluation
- to some extent students choose how to use their own time, vs. rigid class-based, school-determined schedules

I realise I'll get the best sense of how that ethos plays out in practise by visiting, but it also seems to me that sending a kid to an alternative school is a fairly big decision - bigger than a state/faith split, since these schools still have largely the same top-down educational structure - so I was interested in some of the pro's and con's that other MNers have considered.

meditrina Tue 14-Jun-11 23:51:29

By non-faith state school, I meant one that is not formally affiliated to a particular religion or denomination.

I'm not sure you can get a state school to go that far down the lines you suggest. All UK state schools have to deliver the NC in a way that satisfies OFSTED.

Are you in a position to consider the private sector?

Because if so, then you might like to look at Summerhill or when your DCs are secondary age, Bedales.

phdlife Wed 15-Jun-11 00:05:42

None of our state schools are formally affiliated with any particular religion but so far as I know they all have christian prayers as part of their ethos
All our private schools are formally affiliated with one religion or another
I couldn't afford to go private anyway
And I would not consider Summerhill or Bedales, because the commute would be a bitch. We're in Oz, you see wink

meditrina Wed 15-Jun-11 00:19:44

Sorry - the fleeting reference in OP to UK made me think you were moving here and looking for a UK community school which would not replicate your experiences to date.

Malaleuca Wed 15-Jun-11 05:49:52

An important factor with community schools is often overlooked and that is simply that the small size makes some things difficult - team games like soccer or netball, theatrical productions, choirs may not happen because there are not the specialist teachers around - parents at my children's small school often stepped into the role!
And regarding the point about the parent group - there may well be a range of child-rearing approaches and several agendas operating in the school, as the stronger personalities attempt to impose their own particular view of what is a 'community school'. This often is about how much autonomy the children do have.
It's fabulous to be closely involved with a school like this but can also be a nightmare and the willing parent helpers can be ruthlessly exploited!
I'll be very interested to hear your impressions of the school you visit.

mummytime Wed 15-Jun-11 06:41:15

I really think your question is not particularly relevant in the UK. I know lots of schools which sound a bit like you describe, some have no uniform (lots) but that I would think is irrelevant to the feel of the place. Some are big, but very democratic. Some are pro competitive games but in other ways would have the feel you talk about, others are anti competetive games. There are small Christian schools which are very much based on self-learning. There are ex-village schools, now "independent" which need a lot of parental commitment.

There is also a lot of recent emphasis on more democracy in UK state schools, so school councils, and even pupils involved in the recruitment of new teachers (how much varies from school to school, but it is rare for teachers to be recruited without at least teaching a short "lesson", and usually asked for feedback on the teachers at the senior stage).

southofthethames Wed 15-Jun-11 17:08:53

If your child is tired easily after kindy, could he have a nap when he gets home? Or just an earlier bed time? How long are his hour now and how long are the primary school hours in Oz in your state/town?

southofthethames Wed 15-Jun-11 17:11:36

There might be a couple of free schools or very small village schools (in a sparsely populated area) that come closest to what OP describes, but generally the state schools here are fairly big and follow similar timetables.

emsies Wed 15-Jun-11 17:27:52

The Uk system and the Aussie system really are quite different. I don't think you're going to get a lot of help from this (UK based) board sadly.

Have you chatted to other mums at kinder or at playgroups?

phdlife Thu 16-Jun-11 12:20:28

thanks emsies - was beginning to suspect that I was talking a different language smile I've only been back from UK a couple of years so haven't yet found anyone who'd put their dc's through an alternative school - it's only the tiniest proportion, after all. I went along today, though, and thought it was wonderful, so I guess now I have to really think hard about the pros/cons of mainstream vs. alternative schooling. hmm....

emsies Thu 16-Jun-11 13:38:50

Private schooling in general is a lot more common in Aus though isn't it? (Not sure if that makes a difference). My husbands family are Australian and we thought about emigrating to Melbourne but there is absolutely no way we could afford it!

I do like the kinder system though, the ones we saw had TONS of outdoor play area and such an outdoor focus. And I loved that they start school a year later...

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