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Independent, or mixed-year state for DD?

(10 Posts)
Technoprisoners Wed 27-Jul-11 16:58:19

DD will be starting school next Sept. Both brothers attend local, outstanding primary and are doing well. However, the school operates a mixed-year setting; both boys, being autumn-born, have benefitted from being able to work and play with pupils from the year above in their classes.

DD is a July baby - as one of the younger children in her year group, she would be "kept back" at the end of YR while the older ones would move up to the next class. Ordinarily, I wouldn't be too bothered about this, but she is very very bright, socially and academically. I think she would feel it psychologically to remain behind, that her wonderful but overstretched teacher would just 'coast' her, being one of the younger ones, and she wouldn't reach her full potential. She would be in a class of 29.

However, the boys are doing well there, so it is a dilemma ... She currently attends a nursery attached to an independent school, and I am seriously thinking that she would be best to stay on there, where she will be in a much smaller class and move on each year with her cohort. The school has a good reputation generally, and is non-selective.

Please, does anyone have any views or opinions, or any advice on what sort of questions we should be asking her potential teachers to help us make the decision?

MigratingCoconuts Wed 27-Jul-11 17:07:09

tricky...I would be inclined to keep her at the state school as it might raise odd questions amoungst the siblings about why she is not going to the state school.

I would also feel inclined to see how it goes as it is not a given that she will coast yet.

Where would being at the private school take you inthe end? how many years would she stay there until you considered transfering her, if at all?

not much help, I know grin

teacherwith2kids Wed 27-Jul-11 17:16:18

I would ask, first, about the basis for splitting Year 1 pupils between classes. A pure age split is relatively unusual - normally it would be a decision based on a range of factors including emotional maturity, social skills and academic progress. So you may be worrying about something that won't happen - of your daughter is doing well socially and academically at the end of reception, she may well be moved up into the next class anyway.

If the split is 'pure' age based, then they will have faced the issue of bright summer-born children before. Ask what their strategies are to ensure that such children make good progress in their second year (you could ask whether children from Year 1 in both classes make the same amount of progress, whether they are lower, middle or higher ability - if you get a detailed response to that one that shows that all ability groups make good progress in both classes and the teacher doesn't 'flannel' at all, then I would say that you would be OK).

The thing is, the work that split Year 1s do in different classes can look very different - in one case more play-based, in the other more formal. However, despite the work 'looking a little different', then end points in terms of actual academic progress can be very similar. You could ask whether they see a difference in Year 2 between the children who have been in the two classes.

I would be a little wary of going down the private school route with one child and not with any others unless you have a very clear rationale that all your children understand. For various reasons, I and my siblings took different routes through education ... and my younger brother does now speak to me but it took quite a while after we all left school to achieve that due to the perceived 'unfairness' of the arrangements.

IslaValargeone Wed 27-Jul-11 17:16:38

We had our dd in a mixed class, it didn't really work for us, however I would ask lots of questions first before you make any decisions. In a big class there are likely to be other bright kids too, which would probably mean the school is fairly used to differentiating work for those kids, so your child may not be left to coast?

Ladymuck Wed 27-Jul-11 17:22:46

Will the school operate mixed age classes all the way through so that this will be a constant aspect of her schooling? or is it just for a year?

Technoprisoners Wed 27-Jul-11 19:03:02

Thank you everyone for your replies - some interesting points to consider.

Migrating - in all likelihood, our 3 dcs would all be at the independent by the time they reach Y7, so DD would just be going there a few years earlier, in effect. We are passionate supporters of good state education, but the secondary options round here are pretty dire, hence the independent route. My normal reaction, like you, is to "see how it goes" but I have this big worry about the attainment of girls and how to nip any self-esteem issues in the bud right at the beginning ... so I feel that, although the choice has been right for our autumn-born boys, the possibility that she may be overlooked in some way is something I have to consider. I don't want to take chances with her and send her to a large, mixed-age class where there may well be several other children who are very bright, but which will also have its fair share of low-attainers (it is with these children, and the middle-rankers, that the school gains its value-added reputation).

Teacherwith2kids - yes, the split is purely on age. Each year group is approx 20 pupils, the oldest 10 of whom move on, so her being July, she would certainly stay back. Before children, I was a teacher (secondary) and my faith in teachers doesn't want me to think that her needs will not be catered for .. but ... it will be a big class, DD is very self-sufficient and self-determining ... If I am honest, if I were her over-stretched and exhausted teacher, I might be seriously tempted to let her get on with it ... and that admission gives me a lump in my throat.

Isla - I think I am more worried about the psychological effect upon a high-ability girl at being 'left behind' not just once, but throughout her time, Ladymuck at primary. I have faith in the Year R teacher, knowing her well now ... up to a point.

Okay - I need to interview the Head and the poor, overworked YrR/Yr1 teacher. The Head is a real PR, talk-the-talk sort of chap. Part of me resents this and part of me thinks, "well, it is an Outstanding school, he obviously knows his onions so maybe he has the right to ...". I will feel terrible, professional guilt if I grill the Yr R teacher ruthlessly; the Head will give me flannel. I need hard stats to answer Teacher's questions about progress in second year and comparing attainments in Yr2, but what stats exactly do I ask for and will he give them to me?

MigratingCoconuts Wed 27-Jul-11 19:36:42

I foyu are planning to go independant eventually anyway then I see less of an issue here.

However teacher makes some really excellent points that it is worth clearing up first so that you know you ahve all bases covered before making the decision.

MigratingCoconuts Wed 27-Jul-11 19:37:08

sorry, 'if you are'

sugartongue Wed 27-Jul-11 22:56:45


Just my experience of the whole split class shebang - i know anecdotal evidence is of only limited use, but fwiw...My sister and I went to a primary with spilt classes. I was an autumn baby and always went up, and my sister was a summer baby and always went down. I felt the massive benefits of being taught with the older kids, and she felt the massive disadvantages of always being dragged downwards. She would definitely have benefitted being in a different school

mummytime Thu 28-Jul-11 07:38:27

I wouldn't worry about self esteem issues in girls at 4, 5, 6 or 7. At that age most girls feel superior, it is at secondary that such issues can arise. I would however also talk to the private school, do they select academically at 7, how do they rate this State school?
BTW at my DCs school its not just the middle rankers who add to the schools reputation (eg. at year 6 its not just the percentage of level 4's its level 5's too).

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