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Pupil Turnover in non-selective Prep schools

(17 Posts)
Chasinganewname Mon 20-Jan-14 20:26:38

My DD is at a non selective prep school in an area awash with some of the top day schools in the country. The school she attends is a through school from 3-18 which has a reputation for not being very academic although in reality it's actually very good but being relatively non selective doesn't get the results of some of the top schools in the area.

We are very happy with the school. It has excellent facilities, great extra curricular activities, communication is excellent, she's doing really well academically and working to the best of her abilities without being stressed but most of all she is happy with lovely friends.

However, there is quite high turnover of pupils whose parents feel that the children aren't pushed enough and lots of discontent around this. Having seen what the year 6 children have been doing and the amount of preparation work they have done for their 11+ I don't see this and having had older children go through a state primary school it's far and away more academic than my top of the class older children ever experienced.

The head has reassured parents that all year 6 children will be properly prepared for external 11+ as well and for their own senior school. Last year, the children went on to good schools.

My question is twofold really. Is this norm in areas where there are significant numbers of private schools where overall supply far outweighs demand? In addition,am I alone in thinking that the whole picture is more important than pure academics. It's starting to make me think that we are missing something. I should add, that the school is full, children are replaced as soon as others leave.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 20-Jan-14 22:59:42

You could be talking about DD's school and yes I am one of those parents looking to move her. What was right in reception no longer feels right, I don't think it's a bad school just the wrong school for DD. Ability is one of the reasons for moving, but not the only one.
There are many children for whom DD's school is still the right one.

manicinsomniac Mon 20-Jan-14 23:05:44

We lose some of our most academic through being non selective.

Sadly there are a certain (very small thank goodness) percentage of parents who want to buy an education that is free of children with any kind of behavioural or intellectual additional need. Our school has lots of children with a wide range of needs and, as a result, some children are moved on to selective preps instead. Such is life.

meditrina Mon 20-Jan-14 23:09:27


There's always churn in the prep school years as families move in and out.

It tends to settle down for secondary. Those who want a particular secondary may take advantage of the churn years to move towards it outside the amazingly stressy times of the main selection rounds.

tiggytape Mon 20-Jan-14 23:17:16

I think there has been a shift - more parents seem concerned purely with academics above everything else at a much earlier stage of education (I have one at secondary and one at primary and things have definitely changed over the past 5 years or so).
Our situation is that we live in commuting distance of some of the most academic (but fiercely competitive) state grammar schools. People see them as aspirational schools – a guaranteed ticket to Oxbridge or med school (even though their child is only 10 when they sit the exams and only 8 when most start tutoring!). They know the exact order of A Level result league tables, average GCSE points etc for each of the schools years in advance.
More now apply from further and further away and people go to greater and greater lengths to secure a place (2 years of tutoring instead of 1, 2 tutors per week instead of 1 etc). The completion has increased in the last few years and so has parental determination to do whatever it takes to win a place.

It is now considered brave –-odd-- for any parent of a top group child not to be doing hours of prep each night with a view to getting them a place. Either that or it is assumed they are lying such is the belief that these schools are “the best” Well of course they are the best academically because they skim off the top few % of pupils from a huge geographical area. It actually takes quite a firmly held belief in some areas to resist this pressure if for any reason you feel those schools wouldn’t suit your child.

I don't know if it is all down to the focus on comparing UK children unfavourably to children around the world who we are told they will have to compete with. Or tuition fees making university a more serious business so one that needs to be good. Or purely a school panic mania that grips people who feel they might miss out.

Chasinganewname Tue 21-Jan-14 06:54:17

I really appreciate all your comments. I think that Tiggytape's comment about parents feeling panic and left out if they don't follow the crowd is an interesting one. Certainly, most parents at the school want their child to go to one of the most academic schools at 11. Whilst DD is actually proving to be very academic, I don't think that school would suit her therefore, having viewed it, I am not focusing on it for her.

Interestingly the more academic prep school people are moving to is one I think that DD would drown in. I have viewed it several times. It's much bigger than her current school, it's privately owned which is a no no for me anyway, it's very tired and has had no investment and has big classes for a private school at about 26, no teaching assistants and no setting or differentiation. However, the exit results are excellent and like the previous poster said, this seems to eclipse anything else.

Dancingdreamer Tue 21-Jan-14 08:54:33

My DD did stay on in a non-selective school when mant of her peers went on to local super-selective or more "prestigious" schools.

Her school despite taking all the kids that the other selective schools won't take gets as better results than all the local comps and most independents. Sure the results are not as good as the superselective but only as haven't got the top slice any more.

My DD has been immensely happy at the school, however, she does lack the push you get from having other more academic kids in the year. She is often working on her own stuff in the class as she is ahead if the rest and that can lead her to coast at times. Also as the school will tend to be comfortable with lower grades at GCSEs. This isn't generally a problem, until like last week, found out that that this was the predicted GCSE grade for my daughter (otherwise all As). I had always had the feedback that she was doing well and was tip of class so assumed that meant A grade pupil. Was shock when found that this was not the case!

I agree with Lonecat that a school isn't always right all the way through. This school suited my DD at 11 but she will probably move at 16.

Chasinganewname Tue 21-Jan-14 09:20:15

Thats interesting. As it happens we do plan on moving her at 11 for various reasons and am confident that she will be well prepared for entrance exams for other schools. I have just been a bit shocked at the numbers of children leaving in years 4&5 and the general slagging off of the school by parents in those years. I was wondering if that's fairly normal in less selective schools as I am starting to feel a bit stupid that I don't share their level of concern.

MillyMollyMama Tue 21-Jan-14 10:37:45

My DD went to a girls' boarding prep school although as a day pupil. It is famously non selective and gets scholarships to Wycombe Abbey, Cheltenham Ladies College, Oundle, Haileybury etc on a regular basis, often over 20 a year. The only leavers were generally people who moved to senior school at 11, not 13. It is easily the best school in the area but has plenty of very, very bright girls. It seems to me it is all about reputation and pecking order. For some people the grass is always greener! If you like a school and your child is making progress and is happy, why move?

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Tue 21-Jan-14 11:31:29

My dd is at a very selective prep school (having come from a state primary) and parents moan there that it's not as good as school y, that standards are slipping etc and occasionally move to schools that feed 91 per cent of kids to the "best" senior school, as opposed to 90 per cent. It's just what private-school parents like to do, imo.

Yellowbeboo Tue 21-Jan-14 11:36:32

My children are at a non-selective prep that goes up to 11 and very, very few leave, in fact many join at Y3. It is an amazing school though and has some of the highest grammar place offerings the area, maybe this is why.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Tue 21-Jan-14 12:12:20

Oh, and parents at the selective prep are always complaining children aren't pushed enough and demanding more homework. Friends with dds at arguably THE girls' London prep school had them both in Kumon from day one, as they didn't think the school was drilling them hard enough biscuit

ToffeeOwnsTheSausage Tue 21-Jan-14 12:17:44

I thought you were talking about my children's previous school until you mentioned their 11+ encouragement.

The school did nothing to help, traded on the results but weren't very happy about children taking it. Having seen most children leave last year they have decided maybe they should help after all hmm.

BlueStringPudding Wed 22-Jan-14 11:00:11

My DDs went to a non-selective senior school (and turned down a place at a selective school to go there). Both did really well, were stretched in a very supportive environment and weren't the most academic in their year groups, but both got great results (A*/A grades). DD1 has offers for all 5 RG unis she chose, and DD2 is preparing to apply to Cambridge.

Their friends at selective schools have done similarly well, but I'm happy this was the right decision for them, and think DD2 in particular gained confidence in her non-selective school.

Ignore what everyone else is doing, and focus on choosing the right school for your child..

diabolo Wed 22-Jan-14 12:54:02

Interesting OP. We have deliberately chosen a less selective senior school for DS simply because we wanted the broadest education for him - not just academic hot-housing, and it has turned out to be the best decision we've ever made.

He's top set for everything, taking some iGCSE's a year early, but also having a huge amount of fun with sport, his friends, CCF and loads of other extra curricular stuff. Pastorally the school is outstanding.

Make your own choice OP and if you and your DC are happy - then why move?

Chasinganewname Thu 23-Jan-14 17:36:38

Another thank you for all your comments. I have been concerned too that if any more children leave DD's class it might unsettle her, a few left at the end of year 2, which is a normal exit point and I have a feeling that a couple more may be looking around. However, she is not at all bothered so I think that I need to relax about it. I have no doubt whatsoever that it's the right place for her until she's 11 particularly in relation to the pastoral care and how they handle a slightly unconventional child and I shall just concentrate on making sure that she continues to thrive.

Pythonesque Fri 24-Jan-14 20:58:52

The right "fit" between child and school, if a choice is available, is a tricky thing to find or predict - especially when they are small. As they get older and you have a better idea of abilities, personality, needs - then moving may indeed be appropriate if another school provides a better fit. Interestingly my son's class (small prep) has had movement both to and from a larger local prep and I think it has been very much about "fit".

I would agree though that sometimes large scale movement can represent a growing problem with a school. My daughter's previous school seemed to be haemorrhaging a bit in the junior section at one time. Head has now changed (again).

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