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Just pay, or go for state with some reservations?

(41 Posts)
Having3 Wed 10-Oct-12 20:34:44

Just want some advice really, and maybe reassurance.Before we had kids we bought our house in a very mixed area of the city without thinking about schools.House is lovely but the local state primaries which we have a good chance of getting into have a large number of non-English speakers in reception and are about 30%FSM.Both have 1 or 2 on the latest Ofsteds but reading between the lines it seems like the non-English speakers do especially well and make lots of progress.Doesn't say much about the others.We are a well-off middle class family and from what I can see from the school gates (DC1 already has started at the nursery) most of the other families are probably not professionals and the majority are not English.Not being a snob, that's just how it is.Is there any evidence to suggest that my DCs will be held back if they are in a class full of non-English speakers, and if they are taught with children from families which may have a different approach to & expectations from education?I know it is hard to get 1 or 2 on Ofsteds, but for both the actual achievement of the children is 3.I think they got good marks for other things.I also feel slightly uncomfortable that my DCs will be in a social and ethnic minority.Am I just worrying about nothing?We could afford to go privately but we both went to state primaries(although in nice towns in different parts of England) did well and I want to be able to walk round the corner to school rather than drive across a city, and I can't help feeling that paying out for primary education, although is a safe bet, is also an unnecessary use of money.I just want my DCs to have a good start and to reach their potential at school.Any views?

MacyGracy Wed 10-Oct-12 20:47:27

Why do you think a private school will be more English? My kids top rated prep has approx 40% ethnic minority (we love the cultural mix and our kids have a wide range of friends from many different backgrounds).

Having3 Wed 10-Oct-12 21:24:40

MacyGracy I don't think a private school will be more white(which is what I think you mean rather than English).I've already looked round them and it is obvious that they are culturally diverse.But the fact that the parents have chosen to, and are able to pay, means that the social backgrounds of the children are different from those of the children at out local inner city primary.My query is whether my DCs will be disadvantaged by being at a school which puts a lot of energy into improving outcomes for linguistically and socially disadvantaged children rather than at a private school where everyone is probably on a more even starting line.

Farewelltoarms Wed 10-Oct-12 21:38:29

30% fsm is only marginally above average...
As for those pesky esol kids - would it help if you thought of them as bilingual?

PoppyScarer Wed 10-Oct-12 21:41:09

FWIW I think my DD's state school is too white/English. I wish it were more diverse. I want my DD exposed to other cultures.

I would go state as a default. You are very lucky to have the option to go private if it doesn't work out for you.

Having3 Wed 10-Oct-12 21:47:37

Interesting about the FSM , didn't know that.
As for language, the kids are certainly not bilingual at the moment in the nursery!
But you have missed the point.My children are probably going to go to this school.I am looking for reassurance, not sarcasm assuming that I think bilingual children are "pesky".

MurderOfProse Wed 10-Oct-12 22:28:55

DD1 is in Y1 and goes to such a school (although we're moving out of London in a few weeks) - from your post and what you describe, you could easily be living right near me (am in SE London!)

I won't lie, the school is Ofsted Outstanding but given she was unlikely to stay there long as we'd been planning an escape from London for some time, I was more concerned about the social side of her education. Would she be ostracised for not speaking the language of the majority for instance?

In her class of 30, there are about 3 or 4 children who are white British - the rest are an extremely varied mix, mostly African but some Eastern European and a few Asian countries thrown in for good measure. Most speak English as a second language. The borough is one of the most deprived in the country and the take up of FSM is 33%.

I needn't have worried. She has been fine, totally fine. Far better than I would have expected, and miles better than I was at my 100% white middle class village school. She's made loads of friends, and is an extremely popular child. One thing I love is that she just takes it for granted that people have different backgrounds and cultures, and subconsciously would not have a racist bone in her body - I was 19 when I left home and it was a real culture shock. I've made plenty of friends too, in fact none of them are white British at all. I actually found I had less in common with the local white British families in many ways - as the others were more likely to be better educated for a start, and have more similar views on child rearing despite the continents between us.

I also worried about the exact same thing you did - would all that help given to those who need extra help with English detract from giving DD1 the challenges she needs? The answer is no - it's made no difference. They've set her challenging work and she has absolutely raced ahead. Her teacher today told me she's at least two years if not more ahead and has been setting appropriate work for her, so I can categorically say she has not been held back. Basically the school is used to this situation and everybody is in mini groups in each class of similar abilities. So there is a very diverse range of ability in each class but nobody suffers as a result.

I'm actually really very sad to be taking her away from this school when we relocate as I don't think we will find a better one. I never dreamt I would find myself thinking that just over a year ago. In fact a diverse population of both race and class is something I'm hoping to find in her next school.

I hope that reassures you a little!

mamadoc Wed 10-Oct-12 22:37:02

We bought our house way pre-kids with no thought of schools. It is on a council estate where some people have bought thanks to dear ole Maggie T.
We are not rich enough to afford private despite both being middle class professional people.
Our school is ethnically diverse and higher than average fsm and eal. Latest Ofsted was good.
I think my DD benefits enormously from going there. She has friends from many different cultures (they were able to field a parent from all the major world faiths and a few beside for the celebrations topic in reception) and across social backgrounds.
I think that if a school can teach disadvantaged kids well then it can teach all kids well. Good teaching and good policies and strategies for behaviour are even more necessary when you can't assume parents will be doing the job for you. I think our school is actually better than the supposedly more desirable, CofE, white, middle class place down the road.
I am a parent governor which is quite a serious commitment but means I have got to know the head and the teachers and I have a lot of confidence that they are really good.
So in summary try to look behind the headlines at the staff especially the head and if they are good and motivated then there is no need to worry and a lot of opportunities.

AshieFan Wed 10-Oct-12 22:45:41

Putting my non-judgemental hat on, I would say that you have to go with your gut instincts. Reading your post, it seems the only reason you would send your child to the local school is because of convenience and cost as you have too many concerns about it.

But is your DC1 happy in nursery and is he making progress? Can you get a sense of what the rest of the school is like, not from an ofsted report but from what you can observe?

As a supply teacher in a big metroplex, I have worked in many varied schools but the vast majority being the type of schools you describe, sometimes with white middle class children in the classes. These groups children are not "disadvantaged" in the class because actually, no matter what their background, teachers and schools strive to make sure that children make appropriate levels of progress through appropriate levels of support and challenge.

But like I said, go with your instincts.

KTK9 Wed 10-Oct-12 23:54:38

DD was in in an outstanding state primary - with two children in the whole school, who were not white British.

We moved her to a private prep and she now has a diverse range of nationalities in her class of 20 and to be honest it is great.

The school is a really interesting mix of cultures and much healthier for it.

redskyatnight Thu 11-Oct-12 09:21:13

My experience is that the children who started nursery or Reception not speaking English have risen to the top half of the class by Y2. They quite often tend to have very aspirational parents who spend lots of time doing "extra" at home.

I shudder sometimes at the mix of children at DD's school, but DD cares not one bit. Secretly I am thrilled that she will mix happily with children from families that (I am embarressed to say) I shy away from. Actually it's been good from me - I'm a lot less judgemental than I was and now realise that you cant' always tell a book by its cover.

sleepingbunny Thu 11-Oct-12 11:16:44

I'd second, or third, what many people have said here. Just dropped my daughters off in nursery and yr 1 of a similar school to many of those described (SE London - but I think not the same one as poster above was describing!). We're now on the third year there and love it. DOn't want to sway you either way, but I think I was nervous when DD1 was in nursery so I just wanted to give you a few thoughts.

1. The composition of the school nursery may well be very different from Reception - most working mothers find it really hard to use a school nursery because of the hours of traipsing back and forth. The few working parents who use ours have au pairs on nannies or use childminders that they have to pay for expensive full days, but there are certainly lots of children who join in Reception from private nurseries. The classes in Reception/Yr 1 feel quite different.

2. The children who struggled in English in Nursery are completely fluent by Yr 1. I would second whoever said they tend to be top of the class. Lots of extra tuition out of school and interested parents ensure this. DD1 quite miffed she can't speak two languages. She frequently pretends she can speak "fairy spanish" in an attempt to fit in with her friends.

3. Remember you don't see all the parents at the school gates. You'd seldom see me, for example, doing a pick up, probably because I am a professional and therefore at work. Many use afterschool clubs. We have an au pair, so you might well think my DDs have very young parents with not very good English and there are several others the same in Dds class.
You could try finding out whether the school has a thriving PTA which can be a way to meet other parents.

4. As for being challenged, schools with wide ability ranges can be brilliant at this. My dd is in ability groups for most things and is challenged just fine (neither crazily at the top of the class nor coasting along, which is exactly what I wanted). Talk to the head if you have concerns on this, they should have all sorts of tracking data to set your mind at rest.

5. Free School Meals = money. At its most basic, the Government uses the FSM measure to decide how much money schools get. Though 30pc actually is not very high (ours has dropped to around that now) it does help to pay for the things that really make a difference to the kids. In our school for example proper phonic based reading books for everyone (realise now that not all schools have that), wonderful story sacks for the younger children and lots and lots of TA support for the teachers. Oh, and in DD's school's case lots of muscial instruments and visiting theatre groups, which she loves.

6. Never underestimate what help your own child might need. My DD1 had some hearing difficulties in YrR (now resolved). I hadn't expected to need the school's excellent knowledge of dealing with children with special educational needs, but I was jolly glad it was there.

7. My girls are really happy. They have loads of friends from all walks of life, a busy social life (lots of playdates/ fantastic clubs available) and the school is very cohesive. Yesterday, for example, DD1 saw a child in the uniform of the local secondary and screamed - "SHE WAS AT MY SCHOOL". Rushed up to her, gave her a huge hug. Said grown-up girl knew my DD's name and all about her. And that's a common theme - school is like a big family for her - they all look out for each other.

(for what it's worth, school is overall 2 with lots of 1s on Ofsted)

QuintessentialShadows Thu 11-Oct-12 11:27:23

"the non-English speakers do especially well and make lots of progress."

That would be because they are using their brain much more as they are acquiring another language at such a young age, and will from the point of nursery onward at least, grow up bilingual. This has impact on all aspects of their learning and attainment.

I dont think you need to worry about your dd.

RaisinBoys Thu 11-Oct-12 12:57:01

We are a well-off middle class family and from what I can see from the school gates (DC1 already has started at the nursery) most of the other families are probably not professionals and the majority are not English.Not being a snob, that's just how it is

Blimey! Did you manage to ascertain the socio-economic profile of the entire parent group based on limited exposure to those you see at the gate?

I will not repeat all the excellent points made above.

If you want a middle class, white British only school (which is clearly what you mean) I'm sure you can find one.

Ultimately it is your children, who are world citizens, and will be mixing with all sorts of people from a range of backgrounds and cultures at University and work, who will suffer as a result of your prejudiced stereotyping.

Having3 Thu 11-Oct-12 14:51:50

raisinboys those facts are not solely my observations.The first thing that the head said when we looked round was that there was very diverse mix of children, very few with professional parents,many from very deprived backgrounds and a large proportion of non-English speakers, points reiterated by the reception teacher on another visit, and by the nursery teachers.Sorry if I piss you off by being professional White middle class but I was just trying explain that our family are not the norm there.
Thank you to everyone else ,especially the SE London mums who seem to understand the situation perfectly, have bothered to read what I have written and have reassured me that the outcome will probably be fine.

radicalsubstitution Thu 11-Oct-12 16:45:56

DS' school has a very low percentage of children who are not white-british. It also has a very small percentage of children on fsm. However, you really do have to look beyond these 'measures' to decide what the families are going to be like.

There are some children of minority ethnic groups who live in multi-occupancy housing and come from very deprived backgrounds. They are very often the best behaved children as they come from families where it is appreciated that education is THE only route out of poverty. Unusually (or maybe not), the after school club has a very high percentage of children from minority bacckgrounds - probably because both parents are working long hours in fairly low paid jobs.

The area that the school takes children from is often described as 'white trash' and there are plenty of families who, although not on fsm, certainly have low aspirations for their children. The language that I hear parents using both to and in front of their children is pretty colourful. There is also a fair old collection of 'status dogs' chained up to the railiings on the entrances to the school in the morning.

The latest statistics show that it is white boys from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds that make the least academic progress in schools.

RaisinBoys Thu 11-Oct-12 17:07:14

Sorry if I piss you off by being professional White middle class but I was just trying explain that our family are not the norm there.

You really don't piss me off for being white or middle class. My husband and inlaws are.

What pisses me off is people making sweeping generalisations about a whole set of parents based on the look of them at the school gates.

Many may be poor and come from deprived backgrounds, but they will have the same aspirations for their children as you do for yours.

I recently attended a parent council at our school to discuss how parents could help their children at home with their learning: only 1 white middle class man turned up (and we have a broad mix of parents in our school), the rest of those attending were from ethnic minority communities, some with English as an additional language.

And radical is right - it is white working class boys who are currently making the poorest progress at school. Colour is not the issue (well not for some) - it is about the aspirations we have for our children.

Oh and your Head, Nursery and Reception teachers sound like they need new material!

RaisinBoys Thu 11-Oct-12 17:08:39

Oh and SE London born and bred - now SW so not exactly a million miles away - so I more than understand your "situation"

QuintessentialShadows Thu 11-Oct-12 18:55:20

"Sorry if I piss you off by being professional White middle class but I was just trying explain that our family are not the norm there."

Can you even be "middle-class" if you have opted for a non middle class area? Should you not be over in Richmond!?

wink

Having3 Thu 11-Oct-12 19:09:46

Er,no you don't..The SE London mums had experience of similar sounding schools,we actually live where Billy Elliot was filmed several hundred miles away.
You have made some interesting points but the general tone is spooky by a couple of sweeping statements you have also made about stereotyping and prejudice.
The main question here was can anyone achieve their potential in a school which focuses very much on children who are disadvantaged by various factors and is such a school the best choice for anyone,when you are in the position to actually have a choice.The resounding answer seems to be yes,and that I should have faith in the teachers to bring out the best in my own children whilst they benefit from the varied social and cultural experience the school can offer.

Having3 Thu 11-Oct-12 19:11:18

Sorry,spoiled,not spooky,raisinboys

QuintessentialShadows Thu 11-Oct-12 19:15:31

grin

Op, I am sorry, but I rarely come across an op who sound so thoroughly up their own arse. I am not sure you realize just how your posts come across? The smuggery and "know better than though" beggars belief!

parp

Having3 Thu 11-Oct-12 19:26:08

Good job it's just on mumsnet then & not in RL.Or I won't have any friends at the school gate grin
Sorry if I've offended anyone

messtins Thu 11-Oct-12 19:59:00

Not offended. We faced a very similar decision and in the end sent our DS to very racially and culturally mixed school with high proportion of FSM, rather than the "nice white middle class" school which was our other option. My DH has been a governor at the school since before we had kids so we did have insider information but our decision very much against local wisdom and raised a few eyebrows. Both schools have good OFSTED, both get similar results but from a very different intake. So far (he's Y1) we are very pleased. He has friends of varied nationality and colour, is learning loads about other cultures and is flying academically because of the school's extensive experience in differentiating work for various abilities. I think he's also learned some valuable lessons that not everyone has his advantages. I admit to having a bit of a wobble before letting PFB go to play at a house on the local dodgy estate, but you know what? The family are really nice and it was fine. The toughest thing will be having some of your own prejudices from your nice white middle class upbringing challenged.

QuintessentialShadows Thu 11-Oct-12 20:12:27

grin

We are facing similar dilemmas over secondary schools, over here in leafy SW, but our options are either Faith school (our Religious Credentials are not entirely up to scratch) the local Satisfactory Academy (heading towards "Good" apparently) or the independent sector.

To be honest, a multi cultural Outstanding secondary in the state sector would top my list any day, if I could get my hands on one without having to move!

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