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Is there big difference between good and outstanding schools?

(32 Posts)
Fiona2011231 Thu 18-Apr-13 15:29:43

So I was told that I only got the 2nd preference school, which is rated Good by Ofsted.

I called the 1st choice school (outstanding by Ofsted inspection) and was told the cut off distance this year is very small. It is only 270 metres while last year it was nearly 500 metres. Also, this year in that 30-pupil class, 17 managed to enter thanks to the sibling policy. So even though I will be in the waiting list, I don't think my chance is high.

I'm resigned to the possibility that my son will study in the 2nd preference school for a long time.

In that case, may I ask if there are really big differences between a good and oustanding primary school? In the oustanding school, pupils achieved an average points score of 33.1 per pupil in Year 6 Sats, while in the other schools, pupils got the score of 28.4.

Is this really a big gap if you hope your child will be taught well enough for exams into a grammar, or even a private, school?

Thank you for your advice.

christinarossetti Thu 18-Apr-13 15:42:42

There's huge variation between schools judged to be in a particular category by Ofsted. It also depends when the judgement was made - the Ofsted framework has changed twice since Jan '12 and schools need to have more and more impressive data to be classified as 'good' or better.

To be honest, I would be more concerned about his induction into reception than the data for Y6 at this point.

Did you like the school when you visited?

Fiona2011231 Thu 18-Apr-13 15:48:28

Dear christinarossetti, thank you for your kind reply.

The 2nd preference school is praised for its 'huge' transformation from a bad to a good school. The maths and English tests are nearly neck to neck to the other outstanding school (93% vs 97%).

However, as it was transformed recently, it is clear it does not have the 'tradition' as the other school. So I am afraid any change there may be temporary or fleeting once the good head is gone.

christinarossetti Thu 18-Apr-13 15:54:01

But that's true of any school, fiona. Any school is only as good as its head, senior leadership team and teachers! The head of the outstanding school may also leave.

'Tradition' doesn't tell you anything about what will happen in the future!

lottieandmia Thu 18-Apr-13 16:02:02

IME 'good' rated provisions can be better than 'outstanding' ones - in terms of what I was looking for for my child.

lottieandmia Thu 18-Apr-13 16:03:52

imo schools that are most likely to disappoint are the ones with a traditional good reputation because they sometimes rest on their laurels - there is a school near me like this.

cansu Thu 18-Apr-13 16:06:30

The school I worked in went from outstanding to satisfactory and then to Good. I can honestly say there was little difference in the school across that time period. Judgements can change very quickly and the parameters are changed frequently. I would disregard the outstanding vs good and look instead at the school and whether you had a good feeling when you visited.

Squarepebbles Thu 18-Apr-13 16:10:45

Our school went from Outstanding to Satisfactory(new head)- utterly arrogant and resting on it's laurels.Real culture of zero parental info and complacency.

To get Good at the moment isn't easy,they must be doing something right.

I personally would choose Good over Outstanding after our experience.Said school will be aiming for Outstanding and working accordingly.I doubt the head will go until he/ she has done it.Even if he/ she did the new one would be aiming to be credited for the accolade.

LTtemp Thu 18-Apr-13 16:13:56

Ofsted gradings really are just a small part of the picture. It is really important that you visit the schools and speak to the head teacher. This will really give you a feel for the school and you might find that the "good" school will suit your child better.

Pyrrah Thu 18-Apr-13 16:33:42

Totally depends on the school.

I visited 5 in total - 4 rated Outstanding and 1 rated Good.

The difference between the best Outstanding and the worst Outstanding (obviously my own opinion on what made one better than the other) was hugely more than the difference between the Good and the lower two of the Outstandings. In fact I listed the Good school as my 3rd option out of the 6.

If you are looking towards 11+ etc then as long as you know what they need to be achieving to be in with a chance and how the system works they that is just as important.

Btw, one of the schools I looked at made it reasonably clear that they didn't really approve of private education and it was obvious they wouldn't go out of their way to assist - made me worry about things like reference letters from the HT.

Another voluntarily offered the information that they provided extra tuition for children aiming at the super-selectives and encourage parents to apply (and they had a very impressive track record).

Fiona2011231 Thu 18-Apr-13 16:46:37

Thank you everyone for this lively and helpful discussion. It makes me look forward to the upcoming months rather than be sad about the current outcome.

To Pyrrah, your point about some schools hating private schools is spot on. I heard many stories about how schools do not encourage it due to the 'class ideology'. In other cases, it is simply that the state schools do not have enough resources to 'train' its pupils, especially in the interview skills.

In the Good schools that I visited, I think the staff are good and its academic results, as I said earlier, is really good.

One sensitive thing, if I may say, is that more than 20% of the pupils there receive free school meals. I need to be careful in my words here. But in your experience, does this fact create any tension?

Thank you.

lottieandmia Thu 18-Apr-13 16:55:56

Why would it cause tension that more than 20% get free school meals? I doubt this information is published - ie nobody will know who is in receipt of free school meals.

Blu Thu 18-Apr-13 17:21:33

So the majority of the Yr6 pupils were at the school whe it was judged to be far less successful.

You have presumably read the Ofsted inspection and know on what gorunds it is good and where they sugest improvement?

In truth, if the Yr 6 results are so close to the other school having only recently improved AND it has the statistical impact of a higher FSM intake it is possibly even a better school in terms of actual teaching than the other! What are the comparitive Value Added scores?

20% FSM isn't esp high, though. And no, should not create tension.

A 'Good' school should, you know, actually be good.

And no state schools coach children for either private or grammar, even 'Outstanding' ones. It isn't idealogy, it simply isn't part of the curriculum to do so.

Blu Thu 18-Apr-13 17:24:08

Though a good school will be offereing enrichment or extension classes to v able pupils - who will be the ones most likely to be entering any super-selective schools. They don't generally do VR and NVR 11+ type coaching though.

christinarossetti Thu 18-Apr-13 17:28:30

20% of children receiving FSM's is pretty average, if you take a national picture.

I think you're right to focus on the positives in the school that you have been offered and hope that it works out for you and your son.

sittinginthesun Thu 18-Apr-13 18:38:30

My dcs are at a "good" school, and I have friends with children at most of the local primaries, including two "outstanding" schools.

From my personal knowledge, the two rated Outstanding would be my last choice!

Yes, they get the results in year 6, but the parents all tutor privately from mid Year 4.

Bullying, over testing leading to stressed and anxious children. One of the school's senior management team are putting so much pressure on staff, there's going to be a lot of changes as a number are leaving. And, I also know that children with SEN are being "persuaded" that one of the schools isn't "the right place" for them and are leaving.

Another local school which several of my friends chose as it was "traditional" has just been classed "satisfactory", due to poor, boring teaching.

Go on your gut feeling, rather than the Ofsted.

BigBoobiedBertha Thu 18-Apr-13 18:39:14

don't think 20% FSM is particularly high and I doubt very much that it is the difference between the good and the outstanding. Indeed, more FSM children means more pupil premium so more money for schools this year. It is going up quite significantly here - can't remember if it is national thing or not but that money can be used for the good of all the school if used wisely.

I wouldn't be comparing SATs either - comparing the results of one school against another isn't really possible because they aren't the same children. You should be looking at the Value Added scores not the SATs.

IMO as a governor of a junior school that went through Ofsted in September (so under the new framework), I think the rating is a reflection of the management of the school as much as anything and their vision for the future. It takes time to build that up. It doesn't mean that the newly good school is somehow lacking but their new procedures haven't had a chance to prove that they are outstanding, iyswim.

The other big thing is that you have to provide evidence for everything so, for example, one of the things to improve in our school is that sometimes teachers’ marking does not always tell pupils clearly how well they are doing, how to improve their work, or what the next steps in learning are. That has to be evidenced in writing every time even if the teachers have spoken to the children about their work. It doesn't mean that the teaching is any worse than an outstanding school but that the evidence of that teaching is not as good. It probably won't make much of a difference to the outcome of a majority of the children.

Or it could be something not relating to teaching at all . A while ago Ofsted were very hot on safeguarding so if they arrived at a school and the CRB register was not up to date then regardless of the teaching, the leadership or the progress they couldn't be outstanding. Again you will have to read the Ofsted to see if it was something like this.

I would be more than happy to send my child to a good school (or a satisfactory one come to that) if I thought they would be happy there. It can be the best school in the world on paper but if a child isn't happy and it isn't a good fit then they aren't going to do as well as they could.

Lifesagame Thu 18-Apr-13 19:02:22

DS1 started at a "good" school (which has risen over the last few years after languishing previously) and I couldn't be happier with it. His reading and writing are coming on brilliantly, the staff and head are fantastic and parents are fully encouraged to be part of and welcomed into the school. He's had so many amazing experiences and done so many great things since starting. It really sends a shiver of excitement down my spine to think how amazing it's been for him and how well he's settled.

There is also a "must have" school in our area (not sure what last rating was but general consensus is it's the bees knees!) which I also looked at to compare even though I knew we would never get in even if we loved it. It was a real disappointment compared to viewing our current school - the "feeling" for me just wasn't there. I also know a lady who has a child at both schools - and she thinks our school is way better. I guess I'm saying don't believe everything you read or hear!!

Pyrrah Thu 18-Apr-13 19:07:24

This website is really helpful for looking at how different groups of students do at any particular school in terms of value added and gives you lots of other info.

FSM: I really wouldn't worry at all. The school I'm desperate for a place at (that has a amazing record for getting kids into super-selectives and got 20% of the kids getting L6 in KS2 Maths) has 40% FSM, 10% SEN and 52% EAL.

The one we currently have a place at has 30% FSM, 16% SEN and 35% EAL.

In my borough, all children get free school meals so you can't tell who is an official FSM child and who isn't. London in general is very mixed in a lot of areas so you have a very wide range of socio-economic backgrounds in all the schools.

Blu - the school does extension lessons for more able students as a matter of course and they arrange for specific help in preparing for 11+ (ie VR and NVR) after school (we're not a grammar county).

Generally the overall vibe is one of the most important things - the school we have been allocated is very sought after - but I just don't have a good feeling about it despite two visits. Can't put my finger on it, but at the Good school and the one I want, it was totally different. I didn't go into the visits with any particular bias towards a school so it really was just gut reaction.

muminlondon Thu 18-Apr-13 19:34:36

It sounds like your allocated school is on the way up if the inspection was recent, which can be an exciting journey. There is no guarantee for any school that the staff or intake will remain the same for 7 years - and all teachers have different styles. I'd also say that moving schools can be disruptive unless there clearly are problems.

teacherwith2kids Thu 18-Apr-13 19:43:47

I chose a Good school over an Outstanding one - and have never regretted it (no, scrub that, I regretted it for 2 terms of 1 year for 1 child, out of c. 12 years in total over 2 children - but there can be a teacher who ius a poor fit for a particular child in any school, whatever the Ofsted grade).

As a teacher, you often find more innovation / genuine spark/ desire to improve in a school that 'wants to strive for the next grade' than one that 'is desperate to retain its current Outstanding grade' Particularly in the current regime, in which outstanding schools are essentially exempt from inspections unless serious concerns arise, such schools can ossify and become complacent / lazy / resistant to change very easily...and that doesn't make them as great a place to learn as a school on an upward trajectory.

1969Sarah Thu 18-Apr-13 21:01:21

Our "outstanding" school is far from outstanding. Those that head the school lie and deceive and parent involvement into school is not welcomed.

There may be schools who genuinely deserve an "outstanding" badge but when I started a thread about making a decision to leave our outstanding school not so long ago there was a huge number of others on MN who were in the same boat - all across the country!

Once you see through the spin its shocking!

Pyrrah Thu 18-Apr-13 21:18:59

Oops sorry... website:

Fiona2011231 Fri 19-Apr-13 09:41:25

Thanks to everyone for your kind advice and suggestions. I have learned quite a lot from you.

PastSellByDate Fri 19-Apr-13 10:15:18

Hi Fiona2011231

I think you can see from all the comment that no school is perfect. You may be going to a school that was formerly 'satisfactory' and now rated 'good' and has 20% FSM but that may not necessarily mean anything.

A friend was in a similar boat and went to a school which it turned out had a new head, was turning things around whilst the school we ended up at was locally a very well respected 'good' school with fantastic KS2 results. 6 years on her school is rated outstanding, is getting to die for KS2 results year after year and our school scraped a good, and has spent the last 5 years below 80% NC Level 4 (the government target) in Maths/ English combined on KS2 SATs. Last year they pulled a stunning 62% NC Level 4 Maths/ English - just 2% above current 'floor' standard and will be 3% below floor standard in 2014. Scores just keep dropping and dropping and the Head and Governors just keep spinning about how that year was a 'bad year' - we've had 5 in a row from what I can work out.

So my advice is stay on the waiting list for this outstanding school by all means, but think of this positively, you may have the best of both worlds. You can try out this 'good' school and you may just find out this was your lucky day.

Success can sometimes be down to environment and individuals sparking and supporting curiosity. There's no reason to believe at this stage that is impossible for your DC.

Keep calm, be positive outwardly about it all for your DC, and make it a point to be observant about what you see when you do go into the school. Do staff seem efficient? friendly? hard working? dedicated? Do staff go that extra mile to help when a child is struggling? Is the school a ghost town at 4 p.m.? Do they make an effort to explain things for new parents? How is school communication with home? Is the school/ are the grounds in good condition? Are classes bright and cheery places? What do parents who have been there a while think? Are children going on to pass the 11+ from this school? Are children taking Level 6 SATs at this school? What are the outside activities?

It genuinely can take years to work all this out but just keep observing and thinking about it all. Don't rush to judge but do keep up contact with the alternative school - people will move and vacancies will come up - so if you are unhappy with your present choice you can always change course later (lucky old you!).

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