School with rapidly changing pupil population - should we rule it out?(12 Posts)
We've just found out that ds has not been offered a place at any of the schools we applied for. We didn't seriously consider the school offered to us before because there are least five others closer to us, but high birth rate has massively contracted the catchment areas of the popular schools.
The school in question was rated "satisfactory" by ofsted in 2010, but has improved to "good" in 2012. The following points in the reports cause me concern:
The rate at which pupils join and leave the school is high - for most pupils their time at the school and in the local area is transitory and very few pupils in year 6 started the school in year 1,
Three quarters of the pupils speak English as an additional language,
A signicant proportion speak little or no English on starting the school.
The level of knowledge, skills and understanding of pupils starting reception is below average but the teaching appears to be good enough that levels of attainment appears to be brought up to average or thereabouts further up the school.
We are in a grammar school area and the local non-selective secondary schools are not good, particularly for boys and "average" wouldn't be good enough for ds to get a grammar school place.
I'm not a teacher but it strikes me that teaching in such a school must be particularly difficult with the constant stream of new arrivals. They appear to deal with it well enough, but would they really be able to get the best from the few long term pupils in those circumstances?
How would you feel about sending a dc to a school like this? Have you any relevant experience either as a teacher or parent?
I'm feeling that private school is our only real option but maybe I'm being hasty...
Thanks for reading if you made it to the end (long - sorry)...
My first thought is that the 2012 Ofsted comments about very few Y6 pupils having been at the school in Y1 are specific to that cohort. If your DS does go to this school then it doesn't necessarily follow that it will be the same for him - a lot can change in a school over a few years and it would be odd to choose a school for a 4-year-old on the basis of the experience of a group of 11-year-olds (although I realise that league tables, NC tests and the like encourage exactly that!).
In 12 years of teaching I have never started and finished a school year with exactly the same children in the class. Children move house/get rehoused/disappear . One of the classes I taught had, during their time at primary school 63 children who had been in/through their class - there were 28 of them when they finished Y6 but few of them had been there from day 1. Mobility can be an issue but not necessarily a problem, it depends on the stability of the wider school and community.
Make an appointment to talk to the Head of the school and raise your concerns with him/her. You may find that you like what you hear in general and also that the mobility pattern is changing.
It depends on a lot of things -- on the plus side a school like that will have extra resources targeted at it, and Ofsted reports by their nature are a year or two behind reality -- go to the school yourself as soon as you can and see what you think. However, it is unlikely that preparing your DS for 11+ will be top of their priority list. If that's a key objective, it may be worth going private. Ask the private schools for detail on the destinations of their year 6 pupils for the last few years. Ask the state primary too. If you get a baffled stare you will at least know where you stand!
I'd be dubious tbh. There are schools with high turnover where it won't matter and schools where it does (we have one local school where children are basically here for six months then gone for six months - back to home country - and they are constantly losing their school place and having to start again and it's very disruptive). Ofsted will see high turnover often but what they are commenting on here seems to be more this sort of split home base situation that we have in our area.
If a school with lots of mobility in the population and the other demographic factors you describe, was judged 'good' under the 2012 Ofsted framework, I would conclude that the teaching is pretty good indeed,
I agree with the poster who said not to make too much out of an Ofsted comment about the current Y6. Demographics of schools change as more people from the settled community move in etc.
Thank you all for comments.
The point about the high level of pupil turnover was made in both the 2010 and 2012 reports, and thinking that it might change without evidence that it will isn't enough for me tbh.
Regarding the stability of the wider community - the community we live in is pretty stable, but this is a different community to the one the school is in. I know no-one with a child at this school, which doesn't help matters.
The point about additional resources is a good one, and the school is in a very new building, which I guess is a good thing.
I also accept that the teaching is good - at least they are good at settling new arrivals and improving the attainment of non-English speakers and pupils with below average attainment levels. I've yet to be convinced, however, that it can be deduced from this that the teaching of more able native English speakers is also just as good. In my job, i'm best at the things I do most of, and I'd have thought the same applies to teaching.
Things can indeed change a lot in a school over a couple of years, but that's a gamble. Will contact the school with a list of questions, including about the 11+ and see what the response is.
I'm not sure you should worry. My Dd is in yr1 in an Ofsted outstanding school. The area (in Greater London) has quite a high transitory population of, typically, overseas families who stay from 2years to 5 years. Many of the children leaving and joining will have EAL. In my DD's reception class of 30, 7 children had left (and been replaced) by the end of the reception year. I think it is quite hard work for the teachers, and possibly had an impact on the SATS results versus schools whose intake stay throughout the seven years...but I think it means the teaching for all pupils is of a fantastic standard. I have had no concerns about the teaching my child is receiving as a "native English speaker".
That's good to know, thanks. Reassuring to hear a positive experience from someone in a similar situation.
On the social side of thing, I imagine that the children are pretty immune to any cultural differences within their peer group, and just get on with it. Does that fit with your experience, or is there anything I should consider from this perspective?
Hi Flossie, yes I would say that the cultural differences have either gone unnoticed or been positively celebrated! My daughter (native English speaker) is fascinated by different languages which I think has been encouraged by realising that some of her classmates speak Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian as their first language at home. In my experience ( and recognising others may have different experiences) this may have been helped that there is such a variety of backgrounds rather than a dominant additional language to English that I think could have led to more tricky cultural differences emerging. The other thing to stress is that the EAL is a n interesting addition to the class culture (if that makes sense) but the school is very clearly a community school in England following the English curriculum and I have never felt any "dilution" of that. And of course the children's play ( in reception and Yr 1, which is all I've experienced) is completely immune from cultural differences.
At the moment, I don't know if there is a dominant additional language. The latest report says that the pupils are from a range of ethnic backgrounds with "Black African, Pakistani and Indian being the largest groups", which perhaps indicates that there isn't one. Another thing to find out!
I'm pretty sure I'd be listing a different set of languages to you when giving examples though!
I'm on a waiting list for a school that has way above average numbers of FSM, EAL and SEN, the Ofsted also points out that the school has high levels of mobility.
On the other hand they get great results and plenty of kids into the super-selective London day schools and grammars which is what we are after.
Go and look at the school and see what you think - counts for so much more than reading the Ofsted. Sounds like they're doing a good job anyway.
My eldests primary seems to have bit of movement as its close to local hospital so some nurses/consultants send their children there.
When we looked around in october they had 3year 2vacancies by time we applied was only 1 we out of catchment so glad she got it but she entered in year 2 and so did 3others in her class so shes 4th newbie in year 2 out of 20 intake.
Shes in mixed year 1class as younger year 2 and said 1 year 1 has left to go back to his country.
Another one of her freinds is moving house to different area of city so shes going.
But the sats are good,the ofsteds good.
Its much more multicultural and smaller less facilities than last school.
Her last school they leaving in droves due to bad ofted,loss of head,teachers always sick,moving classes or leaving.
Visit the school see if you like it.ask questions.
I wouldent always see english as foreign language as negative as some studies show immigrant children outperform even leafiest of schools in nicer areas as their parents value education.
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