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Would it be ridiculous to send DCs to a school in special measures?

(29 Posts)
Hopefully Fri 26-Oct-12 16:40:46

We have just moved to a new area, and since we didn't know it at all, more or less had to take what we could get, property-wise (we are renting and just couldn't get down here quickly enough for viewings to snap up the best houses).

DS1 is due to start reception in September next year, and our catchment school is in special measures - it has improved at every report since it was put in special measures in 2011, but as far as I can gather it is not up to a better Ofsted rating yet. The two next nearest schools are over-sibscribed, and as we are well away from the catchment boundary (we are bang in the middle of our school's catchment area, about 1/4 mile from the school), I don't see us getting into them unless we move.

I am by no means wedded to an Outstanding Ofsted school, but I am wondering whether a school that is actually unsatisfactory as far as Ofsted is concerned is a huge mistake, and we should be looking at moving (arghhhhh, I hate moving). The only problem with that is that we won't be able to move until after applications close, as the 6 month lease on our house isn't up till then, so we would have to go through the transfer/appeal process.

In the 2011 report, the catchment school had 2s and 3s for things like moral etc, but 4 for class structure, teaching standards etc. These have improved, but not a huge amount, going by the interim letters to the head teacher on the Ofsted site. However, the school facilities are brilliant (unusual for schools round here), loads of space, modern buildings, playing fields etc (no idea how sporty DS1 will turn out to be, he doesn't exactly seem that keen at the moment, but then we are more of an outdoorsy than a sporty family, iykwim).

Anyway, I am going to see the school in the next week or two, but I am wondering whether even a great 'feeling' (if I get that) is enough to offset such a poor Ofsted rating? We are involved parents, perfectly happy to help with reading/writing etc at home, and I think DS1 is pretty smart (although v shy and quiet among his peers - another concern as this is quite a big primary at 350 pupils).

Hassled Fri 26-Oct-12 16:44:47

I think you should pay more attention to the look and feel, the atmosphere, whether the kids seem happy and whether you instinctively like the staff than you should to the Ofsted grade.

And if the school is struggling, there will be a lot of input from the Local Authority and a lot of support (additional pots of money for catch-up, that sort of thing) - the school may well turn itself round very quickly. It certainly won't be allowed to just carry on with whatever failings Ofsted found.

givemeaclue Fri 26-Oct-12 17:11:19

If you are renting, move to somewhere near a better school.

Fuzzymum1 Fri 26-Oct-12 17:46:07

Our school went into special measures at the end of my eldest's reception year. I was in two minds as to whether to move him but decided to stick it out. Within a little over a year it was out of SM and a few years later we had people from out of catchment trying hard to get their kids in. My eldest two boys have both been right through the school and did very well and now DS3 is there and thriving (admittedly it's 13 years since SM)

Prarieflower Fri 26-Oct-12 18:16:08

I'm staggered people would actually send their kids to a school where they liked the look of the staff but teaching standards were the lowest they can be.shock

You must be v knowledgeable re teaching to be able to be able to ignore an OFSTED grade and calculate how your kids will do from how the teaching staff look.

If it was me I'd run for the hills to be frank.What if they don't improve after a year?Your rec teacher is one of the most important a kid an have.Say it grinds on and on?

Big gamble imvho.

SunflowersSmile Fri 26-Oct-12 18:27:48

Visit the school and ask lots of questions.
As others have said schools in special measures get a lot of support.
I have experience of a school that went from special measures to good with outstanding bits within 3 years.

slipslider Fri 26-Oct-12 18:36:20

I would suggest that schools in special measures make good progress to improve as they get funding and the support from outside agencies to do so.
Being in special measures requires the leadership of the school to be poor so it may be that the actual teaching is ok but there are other aspects that let them down...records, attainment, specific learning objectives etc. It may be that the staff do not have a secure leadership team who will scrutinise plans, books and discuss learning with children (as happens in ours every other week) etc.
As a teacher if I deliver a lesson by following my plan it is deemed as being 'needs improvement' as I should be ensuring that each child is making progress in that lesson. So for example if I had some who didn't understand it and I didn't change from my plans to accommodate this then they would not make the progress. If I had another group who really got what I was teaching then it would be expected that I again deviate from my plans to push them onto the next steps. So it may be that they have good ideas, good resources and good delivery of lessons but the assessment during the lesson times is not as robust as it should be. You need to read the report and find the weaknesses and how they compare to your prejudgements.

Hopefully Fri 26-Oct-12 18:41:06

Thanks for all your thoughts, much appreciated. The head is quite new, so there is still plenty of change going on. I am going to arrange a visit and see how they feel and what they are doing to address the special situation. Slip thanks for the explanation, that's helped me understand some of the wording in the ofsted report a bit more clearly.

midseasonsale Fri 26-Oct-12 19:02:06

I'd probably have moved into a nicer catchment. The school will be under pressure to make big improvements but could take a while to turn around.

SunflowersSmile Fri 26-Oct-12 19:20:42

Ah yes with school I am talking about there was a change in Head which made a huge positive difference. So op it may well be a good sign there is quite a new Head at this school.

EnolaAlone Fri 26-Oct-12 20:09:49

Maybe look at the history of the school too, has it always been struggling, or is this a blip? The new Head is a good sign. My mum works at a school that has generally been good, went into special measures, then a new Head took over and it has now gone back to good. Think it went into decline in management when the old Head was coasting to retirement, but the teaching has always been good.

IslaValargeone Fri 26-Oct-12 20:14:10

Despite what has been said regarding lots of help and support being offered to schools in special measures. I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole I'm afraid.
I'm very much with Prarieflower on this one.

topknob Fri 26-Oct-12 20:15:03

Well a school in special measures can only get better !

teacherwith2kids Fri 26-Oct-12 20:17:07

Agree with Enola - look at the history. A generally 'good' or better school with a single SM judgement us a very different beast from a school which has oscillated between SM and Satisfactory for a decade....

Those suggesting not to touch it with a bargepole - with the new Ofsted criteria and arrangements, a LOT of previously Good or Outstanding scholols are being catapulted straight int Notice to improve or SM....

Prarieflower Fri 26-Oct-12 20:40:38

Ours has gone from Outstanding to Satisfactory-don't think I'd want my kids to go somewhere lower to be frank.Having said that there is uber arrogance at our school ( still regards itself as Outstanding) which is frustrating(and damaging imvho),I'd wager a school in SM wouldn't be so arrogant.

At ours behaviour and teaching is fine(teaching satisfactory but a lot was good).There is no bullying. Management,consistency,information ahem,not so good iykwim!

As teacher said if this has been a long term thing I'd be worried also if teaching/behaviour was unsatisfactory it would be a no way jose for me.

I know people say it can only get better but it can seem tortuously slow when you're actually living with it. Having said that I was a teacher myself so perhaps you notice the negatives more.

volley Fri 26-Oct-12 21:28:27

What term is your child 5 in?
Remember that they don't legally have to start school until the term after they turn 5, so if you are very unsure and you need to buy yourselves more time in respect of moving remember this!
You also get funding for nursery until the term after they turn 5, so they could always stay at nursery a bit longer also.

Sneepy Fri 26-Oct-12 21:52:28

I would go round all the schools near you, you might be surprised. If you don't like the catchment one, put it last in your preferences as a safety net. You might very well get into one of the farther away ones and if not, you can go on the waiting lists. There's a lot of shaking down before school starts in september, even in my area (schools v oversubscribed, lots of 'dead areas') most people get their preference. If not in the first round, then off the waiting list later.

My friend's kids go to a school in SM. They are happy enough with it, but it just doesn't sound great to me. They don't have a sports day, they have trouble getting enough parents to go on field trips--little things, but they add up to a not-as-great experience for the kids.

beezmum Fri 26-Oct-12 22:00:54

It's a bit of a snooping thing to do but I googled my dds new school head's old school and ofsted reports. It gave me some idea of what the new heads expectations would be because of where they came from. Amusingly (in retrospect) the ofsted were quite positive bout dds new head but the parental survey (at her old school) was much more negative. I soon found out why parents hadn't liked her.

Tricccky Fri 26-Oct-12 23:16:46

You need to meet the head and as many teachers as you can manage. Has the head made changes to the staff? What impression do you get of the LA's attitude - are they pumping resource in? Be very very direct when you meet the head and ask what they are doing to improve and what their aspirations are. How do they intend to make sure it gets a better rating? Would they send their own children to this school (totally unfair question - but I have found that the speed/defensiveness/style of response can give you an interesting, if not decisive, view). How do the most able do at Yr 6 at the moment? Which schools do they go onto and what SATs levels are they getting?
FWIW I have a friend who's eldest went to a school that was in special measures. They 'took a chance' based on their impression of the head teacher. ALL their friends thought they were mad but they didn't have the finances to go private or move and this was really their only state option (London). They got involved in the school (both parents have been governors over the past 10 years). Their youngest (of 3) has just left the school, which is now good by OFSTED standards. All three children went on to very academic selective secondaries and the eldest is now at Oxford.

Also, don't forget that decisions aren't for life.... You could take the risk now and move later if things don't work out.

Prarieflower Fri 26-Oct-12 23:20:16

Don't be taken in by smarm or spin though.

simpson Fri 26-Oct-12 23:24:12

I wouldn't rule it out tbh...

I would have a look, go by what you feel and as others have said ask questions, ask what changes have been made etc etc...

DS (now in yr3) was at a school that was put into special measures a few months after he started reception, loads of teachers left were sacked and a new head teacher was brought in and things are changing rapidly....

It is not an outstanding school yet, but it is not far off and the difference is amazing and there is a real feel of community within the school which is lovely especially as DD has just started reception there...

lisad123 Fri 26-Oct-12 23:29:28

We removed dd1 from her failing school. They were so stressed by ofstead and spent so much time getting paperwork and ducks in a row, they had little time for the kids!
Personally we stuck with it for 18months but that was enough. As for LA being in, I can't say I ever saw then confused

TuftyFinch Fri 26-Oct-12 23:49:06

I would go and look at the school, talk to the teachers/ head. I would not rule out a school in SM if I thought my child would be happy there. We moved 60 miles away from our catchment 'Outstanding' school so^ our DC could go to a 'Satisfactory' school. Sometimes 'Outstanding' schools are very good at playing 'the Ofsted game' but lacking in terms of pastoral care. I think some parents hold Ofsted ratings too highly, my biggest concern is that my DC are happy and feel valued at school. At the 'Outstanding' school they wouldn't have been very happy. They are thriving at the 'Satisfactory' school. You have to look beyond the rating. Most Ofsted inspectors are private consultants. The consultancy they work for are often the same company who sweeps in to 'turn the school around'.

steppemum Sat 27-Oct-12 00:14:43

my friend teahces at a school in speacial measures. It got that way as they couldn't get a head. She is one of the new teachers drafted in to help. She says it is a lovely school, with lovely kids and small classes. She would be happy for her dd to go there.

It really depends on why it is in special measures, and at what stage they are in. You said it went in in 2011. That means it has been working on it for a while and has a new head.

On a thread a few weeks back someone asked what to look for in a primary school and I gave a big list. All the things on the list would be possible for a school in SM. One big question would be how many of the staff are new?

When we moved we considered a school which was separate infant and junior. Junior was rubbish, but infant good. The infant head was about to take over the juniors, but our son was already y3. It was a hard call to make if the school would improve fats enough.

Mutteroo Sat 27-Oct-12 04:26:47

A friend worked at a school in special measures. Bad side was the atmosphere was tense amoung the staff and SMT. Good side was the masses of additional support thrown at the school. They were supported by a school who had been in SM and is now considered outstanding. The friend jumped ship last term and now works at the outstanding school. She cannot believe the difference in her stress levels!

The staff at the school in SM were no less committed than the outstanding school staff, it was the stress of constant inspections that took its toll on the staff which may or may not have impacted on the pupils?

It's important to visit the school and gauge your own opinion. I picked a 'satsfactory' Infant school which became a 'very good school with outstanding features' two years later. A school on the up feels much more comfortable than a coasting school in my book.

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