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How do I decide between 2 good schools??!!

(27 Posts)
leatherlover Tue 26-Mar-13 11:41:27

Dear MN'ers I haven't posted for ages but am hoping you kind souls will offer me your advice...We are moving to area that is smack bang in the middle of 2 good primary schools. They are both CofE (one VC and one VA incidentally). One is twice the size of the other with more space, better sports facilities and newly refurbed buildings so a bit more swanky looking. Both schools were inspected last in 2010. The swanky one was a good with some outstanding features and the smaller more rustic one was an outstanding in all areas except 1. The head of that one was described as an 'inspirational leader'. Both heads have been in their posts for over 10 years. The swanky head believes that SATS are a valuable tool when implemented in the right way, the rustic one says they serve only to make schools look good in league tables and boycotted them 2 years ago when they had the choice. The swanky school has turned out over achieving year 6's in maths and English over the last 3 years. The rustic one has seen maths results go down in the middle years over the last 2 years and their last inset was focused on bringing it up. My 7 year old daughter who will be joining one of them in yr 3 can't make up her mind which SHE likes better either!!! Any ideas? Thank you!

Teachercreature Tue 26-Mar-13 12:20:04

I'd say both sound good but in very different ways. The choice here seems to me what do you want your daughter's education to be like? (And what would suit her personality best?)

I have taught in a high achieving school and also more of a "caring approach" one. Which is important to you as a parent? Which philosophy do you agree with?

Do you want your daughter strongly encouraged to work at high academic levels, with the potential risk always that she may feel some stress, but alternatively she may relish the challenge depending on her own learning style and character?

Or do you want her gently nurtured with the risk that she may not learn quite as much academically, given dropping SATS levels (quite agree they aren't all-important for the children, but they do serve as a useful indicator to us here of the school's priorities!)

Hope that is of some use!

CecilyP Tue 26-Mar-13 12:27:30

When you say one is twice the size of the other, can you give us a rough idea of the relevant sizes. In terms of results going down, in a very small school, the achievements of just ONE child can make a significant difference.

QuintEggSensuality Tue 26-Mar-13 12:32:14

What do you think came first actually, the boycotting of league tables or the declining results? The Y6 who are sitting SATS were in Y4 when the head decided on that tactical move....

I would go for the school that offers the best education, because the children are there to learn, not houla hoop in a touchy feelt environment.

leatherlover Tue 26-Mar-13 12:41:54

Food for thought Teacher...I think it's important that learning is made fun for children as it seems to me that they would naturally then want to achieve more. DD is a child who does seem to need a lot of nurturing. Do you think the children you worked with in the high achieving school seemed to thrive on a bit of stress? Were there kids that you felt were often struggling? My DD is currently a 'middle of the road' student where academia is concerned but then she is in a small school at the moment that doesn't place great emphasis on academia. Given a more competitive environment would she be encouraged to do more than 'middle of the road'....

diplodocus Tue 26-Mar-13 12:46:51

I would say make sure you check the year sizes in the upper year of the smaller school. What we find in our village school is year sizes in Yr R start off pleasantly small, but kids drop out over time (particularly to join private schools) meaning year sizes are absolutely tiny by year 5 and 6, with very limited friendship options.

leatherlover Tue 26-Mar-13 12:56:09

CecilyP the small school has 189 pupils all told so the other is closer to 400 so I understand that a small number in a small year group that really struggle would reflect badly in the results overall. I'm not too concerned about that especially as the school acknowledges it needs to focus here. QuintEgg that's a very good question and one that I shall be exploring a little more by looking more closely at the other results for that year!

Teachercreature Tue 26-Mar-13 13:07:47

I've actually been at two very high achieving places - one also embraced fun and the other not so much! Now I personally totally agree with you and love to make learning fun, but not all schools have that ethos.

The answer to how the children got on is it depended on the child. The academic ones loved the challenge and the pace, as did the confident ones. (Since the aim wasn't just to get the higher levels up, but all children to achieve.) However there were always a few who found it a bit much and did get stressed, no matter how much they were reassured. (Not so much struggling, but feeling the pressure.) Do you feel your daughter would respond well to a challenge? Or would it upset her? Would you be prepared to support the school or would it upset you?

Also, did you feel there was fun in the high achieving place? Did the children look happy? Were there bright displays up on the walls? What does the Ofsted report say regarding how the children view their school? Is it possible they do nurture the children there too in order to get the best from them, or do you feel they are simply too pressurising? What is their ethos? (Some high achieving schools are lovely!)

And are you sure the rustic school is really nurturing and not just laidback and (as QuintEgg says!) making a tactical retreat from SATs? (Again, have a good look at what their Ofsted says, and watch out for the hints!)

One last thing to bear in mind is yes, middle-of-the-road - and even weaker - students can indeed be helped to excel with the right encouragement. But she may not excel even with more of a challenge and may have already reached her potential. (I know that probably sounds obvious but some parents can find that very upsetting if it happens, so I just thought I'd mention it!)

I hope that helps - please do let me know if there's anything else you need, I fully agree it's an important decision. smile

mrsscoob Tue 26-Mar-13 13:08:47

Leatherlover have you been to visit them yet? I couldn't work out from your post if you had or if you got your info from ofsted/online reports.

Farewelltoarms Tue 26-Mar-13 13:18:40

Go for the one that's nearer to/easier to get to your house.
There done, easy.

leatherlover Tue 26-Mar-13 13:31:40

Mrsscoob -yes we went to visit them both last week and I spoke to them with more questions this week but still can't decide! Farewell I think it will probably come to that in end especially since nurseries are easier for the closer one (I have 2 others)!! I'm a bit hung up on the boy/girl ratio of the one that's closest ie the smaller more rustic one. 2/3rds of the class she'd be joining are boys and she's a real girlie girl so I'm wondering if that would be an issue...Sounds daft when I write it down but she really doesn't like boys that much hahaha!

leatherlover Tue 26-Mar-13 13:34:04

Teacher it's amazing how much more stuff there is to consider once someone points you to it! Thank you..

Teachercreature Tue 26-Mar-13 13:37:38

You're welcome. (My daughter also not a fan of boys but has accustomed herself, with much eye rolling!!) Good luck choosing - at least they both sound nice, good situation to be in! smile

leatherlover Tue 26-Mar-13 14:16:03

Another thought...what about cultural diversity in the classroom? I've always taken it for granted living in London but out in the sticks there is very little cultural diversity at least not in the classrooms of rural West Sussex...At least in the bigger school there is a bit more of a mix but should this have a bearing on my decision? After all the kids in all schools now have to learn about other religions and cultures even where it's all white Brits...

Teachercreature Tue 26-Mar-13 15:11:01

I wouldn't worry too much about that - yes they do all teach about different religions and cultures. And you yourself will find opportunities to develop her appreciation too since it's something you are considering.

Most important thing from any school to my mind is that your child is happy there. Happy child is more likely to learn anyway, and if there is anything else you need to work on in addition that can be handled at primary level without too much of a problem usually (especially with a current middle-road pupil). It's definitely about what will most suit you all here, and everyone's different!

Just went back to your original post and it's very encouraging that both are considered to be such good schools - I think you can't really go wrong here, which is a great position to be in!

educator123 Fri 29-Mar-13 09:23:25

I am in a very similar situation and really struggling.

Both have high academic achievement one has under 50 and one has 165!!

I like both for different reasons. So tough!!

One is closer to us and although that's a good thing I don't want to choose based solely on convenience.

Also as someone mentioned a percentage do leave one of the schools at 7 ish to to go onto private schools.

Teachercreature Fri 29-Mar-13 12:31:07

hi educator - what are the reasons for liking each one?

What age is your child and what sort of personality? (Think that fit is most important if all else is equal.)

educator123 Fri 29-Mar-13 13:00:16

I like the small one as it's nurturing, they seem to instill good values family like atmosphere.
Everyone gets to take part in everything they do with number being so low.

The bigger one I like as there is more friendship options I suppose (some intakes at the smaller School can be tiny or end up with only one boy/girl) They seem to have a innovate curriculum and lots of extra curricular good reputation with lots travelling too it.

I have four dc two are of school age - .reception and year2.
The reception age child is of a caring nature and would prob be suited to the nurturing environment and taking care of the younger children as she gets older etc.

My year two child loves activity being outdoors and has enjoyed/wants to try any sport on offer.
She gets on with anyone boys or girls.

Number 3 - he starts school in just over a year and so far seems quite similar to number 2...

It's hard to tell what will suit all four long term!

Teachercreature Fri 29-Mar-13 13:28:46

OK that is a tricky one, no wonder you are torn! How much bigger is the bigger one? And what does its Oftsed report say re how the children are cared for etc? If they are also caring, I'd probably be tempted to go for the bigger school. I know it seems a long way off but it's better prep for secondary to be somewhere larger, and as you say more friendship options. Also if lots travel to get there it's likely to be good.

But again, it is still a win-win situation and the other one would be good too, just in slightly different ways smile

educator123 Fri 29-Mar-13 13:37:50

I know so tricky. The larger one does have a good reputation locally with some even leaving the local prep school to go there.

Ofsted 2011 all areas outstanding.
If mine join they will be at full capacity (167) my younger child making a class of 19 and my older making a class of 25...head doesn't like more than that per class - but I know the council can override it which worries me in the future.

The small one just had report - Good with outstanding feature (all behaviour) and some teaching.

See my dilemma!?

I suppose from a black and white point of view the larger is more likely to suit all four dcs if they are all different as there is more facilities etc.

I feel like it's the loss of walking holding me back...but want them to have the best start so don't want it to be the decider...both good school thou - HARD!

Teachercreature Fri 29-Mar-13 16:02:29

Classes of 19 and 25 sound great! The larger school isn't that much larger - I've been at a school with three form entry before, so 90 in every year, and it was still very good indeed. If the Oftsed says outstanding and that many people are leaving to go there, I'd agree maybe that one (especially given as you say more likely to suit all four.)

With walking, you could always park a little way from school and walk in the rest?

educator123 Fri 29-Mar-13 18:06:30

I think I would have to do that just a bit of a PITA especially with a toddler baby car seats etc. But I suppose In time it would get easier once they are all at school.
It's always been 'the school' in the area for year and at the last inspection the inspector was reduced to tears as was very impressed!!

lljkk Fri 29-Mar-13 20:15:38

I'd make cultural diversity a factor. DC school was 99.7% white and Oh what a Titter when some Chinese kids started. Only natural innocent curiousity but the children had to be told in Assembly that "Chinky eye" jokes might cause offence.

I think of small schools as suffocating & under-resourced, too.

Teachercreature Fri 29-Mar-13 22:13:36

A crying inspector?! Yeah I think I'd go there!

Either way, hope it goes well for you all.

educator123 Sat 30-Mar-13 08:43:39

Thank you - and thanks for the advise. Always good to have a teacher opinion on things as well as other parents smile

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