Please help me decide as I just can't(39 Posts)
Hi everyone, I'd really appreciate any help in making the schools decision. I'm having a pretty stressful time at the moment so I'm finding it really hard to gather my thoughts. My mum passed away a couple of months ago and I'm trying to look after my younger brother who isn't coping well and has been arrested twice. my aunty is going through chemo so I'm trying to be available to help her at weekends and I've got a new baby and my pnd has come back with a vengeance. So I guess I'm really scared I'm going to make a stupid decision on the primary school front for my 4 year old dd. she starts preschool in September and I'd really like her to attend one where she'll go up to primary with friends so we need to decide by next week. Dh says its completely my decision and doesn't really want to discuss it. I'm a sahm so he says I have more time than him to do the research but I'm teaching every evening so I find it hard to get the research done.
It's really concerning me as dd is so shy and clingy and to be honest I'm terrified about leaving her. As a child myself I had to change primary 4 times and I have such a low self esteem so I really want to get things right first time for dd.
Anyway, we have no chance if getting into our catchment school (60 places, 45 on waiting list, some of which sibling in catchment!) but we do have a good chance of getting into 4 other schools on faith grounds.
Would anyone be willing to look at my choices and help me decide? Thanks so much.
School 1 -
Catholic (I'm catholic, dh cofe), outstanding ofsted (but from 2007 with different head teacher), brilliant level 4 results, a little below average level 5 results, lovely friendly bright cheerful atmosphere and teachers, very ethnically diverse, guaranteed entry to currently the best secondary, very rough area with high levels of crime, 5 min drive but parking seems treacherous, the head teacher said their main focus was getting eal and special needs students up to the same level as the other pupils
School 2 - catholic, also linked to best secondary, school has no website or ict equipment, school yard and no playing fields, not the best area but takes from a wide catchment as catholic, good parking, school 5 minute drive, a bit dark and gloomy to walk round, kids didn't seem as happy as school 1 and I was upset to see one kid singled out in the corner of the assembly room, good attendance at local church, brilliant score on ofsted parent view, good ofsted and good results but new head starting next year. Both school 1 and 2 have linked nursery.
School 3 - catholic, amazing local reputation, good ofsted and brilliant results, great score on parent view, good resources, head doesn't meet prospective parents and has reputation of being very strict - on an online review he said to parents if your not happy there's plenty more to take your place, teachers look stressed, not linked to best secondary but not bad either, nice location, 10 min drive, playground opposite, in an area we're in quite often. Preschool not formally linked (in a scout hut instead) and seems a bit insecure (grassy path leading to old railway tunnel which fills me with dread)
At this very early stage in her life I think ethos and pastoral care are extremely important.
How did each one 'feel'?
How welcome did you feel?
If both get decent inspections and results then it is very much about the environment they provide.
I wouldn't read too much into 1 child sat separately in assembly, unless you know the circumstances you can't judge.
If your DD is shy then you need to find the place that will support her and bring her out of her shell as gently as possible.
It sounds like you felt happier with school 1.
DH need to engage more in my opinion, rathe unfair to put it all onto you.
Maybe 3 if it has such a good reputation and the parent view is high?
My next would be 1.
2 would be last due to lack of resources and space for the kids to run?
It is such a hard decision.
But you know our DC best-where do you think they'd thrive? You sound v keen on 1- go with your gut instinct.
School 4 - cofe, 15 min drive but kids travel from all over, outstanding ofsted, the best results but actually not the best compared to other schools like it (on ofsted dashboard), head very friendly, beautiful location and grounds, amazing facilities and before/after school care, involved PTA, good for parking, linked to good secondary but out of catchment so no guarantees, ofsted parent view not complimentary on leadership or bullying but only (4 out of the limited 10 views negative)
Would be wary of a school that has a head that 'doesn't meet parents'!
Not fostering good, trusting relationships is it!
School 1. Happy atmosphere and pastoral care is more important than anything else, particularly as your little one has had a tough time recently.
Double check the "guaranteed entry to secondary school" though-sometimes this is an urban myth.
Wouldn't touch a school where the Head won't meet the parents, whatever else it had going for it.
School 1, also. That they care about 'outliers' speaks volumes.
And that's it! The issues alongside the ones I've mentioned above are the faith side - I'm catholic and the kids are baptised but I've started going to dh's cofe church as I feel more at home with their ethos and they were so supportive when mum died. So would it be really disingenuous if I applied to catholic schools if I didn't really agree with it all? And the other silly issue is times if preschools- schools 1 and 2 have nursery times which fit in much better with my baby's nap, giving me more time with dd.
Forgot to say, school 4 also has a great playground opposite.
Thank you ever so much anyone for any thoughts.
You have got a lot on your plate - I hope it all calms down a little for you soon so you can collect your thoughts. From your post it sounds like you preferred school 1 out of the 3. I would go with your gut feeling - and don't put too much importance on Ofsted reports or SATS results, I don't think they give an accurate picture of what the school can do for your child. If you feel comfortable with the school, so will your DC - the rest will come naturally.
Do go and see your GP about your PND - if you can get help, take it. Us women are very good at carrying the world on our shoulders, but sometimes you need to put yourself first.
Oh and school 4 has a linked village hall preschool which seems lovely. Right, I'll be quiet now!
Aw thanks so much everyone for your replies so far, it's really great to talk this through.
Have you visited with your DD? This is a good idea if it can be done.
Don't be blinded by equipment, facilities and ofsted reports.
I'd right off school 3 straight away due to the head being up his own arse.
As you seem to have so many choices I would try and whittle it down to just 2 and then take your DD and DH if you can get him there.
See how they both feel about them. How do they interact with your DD.
Any school worth looking at would be pleased to show you round and listen to concerns and questions.
They should understand how important it is to get it right.
Smartiepants79 - thanks so much for your posts, they've really helped. I did feel most relaxed and welcome at school 1. And DD was mesmorised by the buzzy atmosphere walking round. If I could only get past my concerns over the area it would be perfect. But I keep hearing about the neighbourhood being controlled by gangs and shootings and it really panics me. Although its only a 40 minute walk I could never envisage letting DD walk there on her own. School 4 seemed very calm too and the Head made us feel very welcome. It was the polar opposite of school 1, very posh area and children standing up when the Head entered the room (it reminded me of a private school with this an the facilities...but free)
WhereMyMilk - yeah I keep thinking I should listen to the brilliant reputation school 3 has (from word of mouth and parent view) I think there's just that little niggle about the Head being a bit aloof. But I guess DD wouldn't have much contact with him? I totally agree with you on the space front with school 2. But it does have a park next to it which we could go to on the way home (unlike school 2) and it does seem good from a security point of view...and of course its linked to the best secondary...arrgh I'm going round in circles again!
Seeker - thanks for your advice. Yes the Head never meeting the parents did bother me a bit. The catholic secondaries in Nottingham have made a commitment to place every baptised child from the feeder primary into the linked secondary...but I guess that could change?
Thanks Lougle. Yes school 1 did seem the most compassionate.
conorsrockers - thank you every so much for your kind words and for your advice, I really appreciate it.
I would go for the pre-school that is easiest in terms of times and access, provided you like it. Lots of people do that so she won't necessarily move up with friends wherever. Plus to be honest at that age children make / lose friends very easily and although it may seem nice now I don't think it should be a deal breaker for you.
Then worry about the actual school later when you've got less on your plate. You will need to check church rules for the catholic / CofE schools especially as you have started going to DH's church. Just because you are at a preschool does not guarantee a place at the school, if you don't meet the criteria as well as other children.
Also, don't rule out catchment school just because it is over subscribed this year. Perhaps there were loads of siblings, but there may not be when it's your turn.
Children at 3 are often clingy and shy, that's where pre-school comes in! It helps them to mix. But try not to let your concerns project on to her as it won't help her.
I my experience a good head is what makes a school. If the head was not approachable I would stike the school off my list. Next I would go with my gut instinct about the 'feel' and atmosphere. If the children seem happy, that's a great sign. Unhappy children can't thrive.
I am looking at new schools for my dd, we are moving house. Having had 2 other dc through the primary system, I am far less concerned with Ofstead than my gut insincts.
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