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Would you opt for a 'Requires Improvement' school if you had a choice?

(26 Posts)
Celia1978 Wed 19-Feb-14 14:38:11

Should say that DD is only 12 months but we're about to start looking for a new house and realistically we're not going to do that again in the next few years (I hope!) so we're basically picking her primary school at the same time.

In the area we're hoping to move to there's one Outstanding school (tiny catchment, houses cost a fortune - though probably just about doable) and one Requires Improvement (houses more affordable and come up more frequently).

So my question is WWYD? Sit tight and keep fingers crossed you'll be able to beat off the competition in the Outstanding catchment, or go for the nice, affordable house and just put up with the school? General laziness and 'never did me any harm' attitude makes me lean towards the latter, but I have no idea what 'Requires Improvement' means in real terms - is it the kind of thing you should avoid if you have the option, which we basically do. (We live in London, so not the case that it's these schools or nothing; these are just the two where we most want to live.)

Obviously there's plenty of time between now and 2017 - school may transform itself by then (though for better or worse, who knows...).

Would be interested to hear any opinions...

TeenAndTween Wed 19-Feb-14 15:27:15

I selected our local 'Requires Improvement' (primary) school for my DDs.

The results are OK. It isn't great at pushing the more able, but then my children aren't more able.
It is small with good pastoral support, and care for children with additional needs.
They take safeguarding of children very seriously.
It is nearby which helps for quality of life.

It has taken more years (and headteachers) than I would like but it is finally improving and I really hope it will be classified as 'Good' at the next inspection.

There is one outstanding school nearby I wouldn't touch for my children as it is too big and too pushy and they would have been swamped.

The chances are that your RI school is getting attention and help to bring up its standards. Don't rule it out. Also be aware that reputations for schools hang on for years in the local community, so what 'everyone' thinks may not be actually true.

starlight1234 Wed 19-Feb-14 15:33:15

Difficult as a school can change enouroumously in a few years...I don't take a great deal of notice of Ofsted..But it does depend on what kind of a child you have and at 12 months this won't be the time it was ready for school I knew my son needed a smallish school and I loved the feel of our school...

I can also say our school was assessed as requiring improvement last year and the kids are been really pushed to get Ofsted score up...

BackforGood Wed 19-Feb-14 15:34:24

Any chance you could get to look round before you make the decision? Or talk to other parents in the area? (not sure how far you are moving). There can be all sorts of reasons for a poor OFSTED (most being that the whole OFSTED system is completely flawed), which wouldn't necessarily mean the school was a poor school.
Have you read the text of the report, rather than just the grade?
What about the OFSTED before that? I'd want to know the reasons that OFSTED said it required improvement before using anything from a report.

MummyPigsFatTummy Wed 19-Feb-14 15:40:01

2017 is a long time and lots can happen before then. In some ways, an Ofsted RI can be a good thing as the school may then pull out all the stops to improve and there is certainly time before you will be applying. Outstanding schools can coast a bit, or there could be a change of Head which can make a huge difference either way. Also, Ofsted is only part of the picture. How you feel about a school when you visit is worth much more.

Catchment areas can change a lot in that time as well, particularly in London. There are schools near us which we would have got into where we live three or four years ago which we wouldn't have a hope of now. The birth rate seems to be soaring and no new schools are being built (except free schools I think).

So you are probably best to just buy the house you like best in the area you like best (maybe visit the schools now and opt for the one which seems best to you, bearing in mind the changes which could take place, but ignoring current Ofsted) and worry about the schools when the time comes.

Not entirely relevant but the nursery our DD attends was Ofsteded earlier this year and graded Requires Improvement. We had noticed things had changed for the worse but couldn't quite put our finger on exactly what the problem was. We considered taking DD out but decided to see whether promised improvements would transpire and are we glad we did. They have improved hand over fist with loads of new activities and the staff and the children are visibly happier. DD is coming on in leaps and bounds. So an RI grade can be just the kick in the pants which is needed sometimes.

LittleMissGerardButlersMinion Wed 19-Feb-14 15:48:40

It depends what they need improvement in, but I would certainly consider it.

Our school got outstanding at the last visit, we are due a visit any time, and I think we will get either needs improvement or special measures.

We have a new head who is inexperienced, but the old head left the school in a state. At the moment it is a complete shambles, but hopefully on the way up.

So anyone looking at the school would see its marked outstanding, but trust me it is far from it.

Parents are actually hoping for special measures as then the school gets monitored and gets support.

For me good pastoral care is a must, our school has a lovely lady, but too much is pushed on her so she can't do her job.

Huitre Wed 19-Feb-14 15:58:40

Have you looked at the schools? Because when I looked round the ones I had a chance of getting into, I absolutely hated the Outstanding one. I opted for the Satisfactory one, (equivalent to the new Requires Improvement) but they've since been Ofstedded and gone up to Good.

pointythings Wed 19-Feb-14 16:14:05

I'd always make my choice based on visiting the school. There are two primaries in my small town, I visited both with DD1 and only then did I look at the OFSTEDs. Which in my case were virtually indistinguishable (both Satisfactory back then) but the choice had already been made. I don't think an OFSTED difference would have swayed it in my case, and the school has been brilliant for both my DDs.

Judyandherdreamofhorses Wed 19-Feb-14 16:17:40

I'm a teacher. I have chosen an RI school that we drive to, over four good or Outstanding nearer ones because it's right for DD.

I work in an outstanding primary and would definitely NOT send my children there!

noramum Wed 19-Feb-14 16:53:49

DD will move to a Junior withe the "Requires Improvement" stamp on it. They were Ofsted-ed last year and were downgraded from good to RI.

But: you need to read the report with lots of caution why they got the marks. In our case it is something which can be rectified fairly fast and the head, teachers and governors already asked for a re-inspection. They were very open about it, also to the Infant school parents.

So, do your homework, RI is only a mark a school can get since 18 months, so check when the report was made, what got the negative points and then make the decision.

But: a good school can also go down just by changing the head which happened to our no. 2 choice. Looking back we are glad now depsite 2 1/2 years ago couldn't decide which school to put on 1st and which on 2nd choice.

lavage Wed 19-Feb-14 18:58:57

I would go and see the school. I know two that have been put into special measures - one is now outstanding, the other is a great school but had a terrible SATs result for a particular year (partly due to several able students leaving and being replaced by kids who didn't speak any English or were very low in attainment just before the exams).

IHaveSeenMyHat Wed 19-Feb-14 19:53:33

We deliberately moved next door to an Outstanding infant and junior school.

Shortly after we moved in the junior school received Requires Improvement at their most recent inspection hmm

But I'm not worried for several reasons:

1. Moving of the Ofsted goalposts - Requires Improvement used to be called Satisfactory. Admittedly it's still not great but the inspections are more stringent.
2. The school are going to want to claw their reputation back sharpish.
3. My DD won't start junior school until 2019!

phlebasconsidered Wed 19-Feb-14 19:56:20

Visit. That is all.
Speaking as a teacher who has taught at SM, RI, Outstanding. Currently waiting on which slot next.
My own children go to a SM which I am ENTIRELY happy with. Goalposts. Moved them.

chinatown Wed 19-Feb-14 20:10:08

Yes our first choice for dd2 is an RI school and just out of catchment. We have chosen it over other, closer 'good' schools.

It is dd1s school and was ofsteded as good when dd1stsrted. We are still happy with the school, like the teachers and ha e confidence in the head. The schook are working very hard to improve (though to be honest I'd rather they just focused on wgat they were doing than jumping through hoops for ofsted).

I chose a school for DS which would have been "RI" or the equivalent when he was one. In fact it only started to improve the year before he started nursery there. But I visited, spoke to parents (we lived very close so I asked my neighbours with children) and I really liked the feel of the school.

We ended up moving for unrelated reasons but he went to nursery there and I really loved the school and I would not have had any problems in keeping him there, I liked their ethos, liked the teachers, liked the community feel of it. I believe the ofsted rating was increasing but it wasn't important to me.

I don't think that ofsted necessarily reflects the important things about a school.

RiversideMum Wed 19-Feb-14 20:20:12

The goalposts have been moved so many times. RI is probably somewhere between the old satisfactory and the old good.

TheGreatHunt Wed 19-Feb-14 20:28:55

Are you looking in se London by any chance - sounds like my two local schools which are almost across the road from each other.

We put the outstanding school first but don't expect a place (find out in April) with the needs improvement one 4th (we have six choices). The one that needs improvement has bigger facilities ie playing fields, more space but I didn't like it when I looked around. It has been taken over by a chain of academies and feels too corporate and geared towards league tables and box ticking. Also one of the reception teachers was miserable and quite "off" with the children - all I could think was "she isn't even putting on a front with visitors!". Our favourite school is actually one that is rated as "good" but is the other direction.
However I didn't love any of them tbh.

sittingbythepoolwithenzo Wed 19-Feb-14 20:34:51

My children go to a primary that has received a RI ofsted - it is a fantastic school, perfect fit for my dcs, both are thriving.

You really need to visit the schools. Our closest was an outstanding school, and it was not even on my list!

lljkk Wed 19-Feb-14 20:39:20

If the child is only 12 months now the ratings could change a huge amount in next 3.5 yrs. One of our local schools went from Good to Inadequate in 6 months recently.

Ime, what the child brings to school counts a heck of a lot more than the ratings.

LemonMousse Wed 19-Feb-14 22:29:28

DD's school (secondary) got RI in a recent Ofsted - BUT, it's a relatively new Academy (merger of 2 schools), they only have 2 year's worth of data and results for Ofsted to base their decision on.

The actual report however is quite glowing - lots of positive stuff in there but you'd actually have to read it to know that. So please don't just base your decision on 'RI' and, as others have said, visit and get a feel for the place smile

littlecrystal Thu 20-Feb-14 12:54:18

The old me would do anything to get the Outstanding (although I look more at KS2 results)
The new (more experienced me) says you need to visit the said schools and find out for yourself.
Also there must be other schools, possibly a bit further out, that are in between outstanding and RI.

my2bundles Thu 20-Feb-14 13:40:16

I would choose the area you like and move. Schools change all the time, Outstanding now could easily be in special measures by the time your lo starts, and vice versa.

Celia1978 Thu 20-Feb-14 19:59:00

Thank you everyone for really really interesting replies. Lots to think about! I totally take on board the comments about how quickly things can change, the, erm, dubious nature of Ofsted ratings and how there are many more important things about a school than the top line grade of its Ofsted.

To be honest, the academic results don't worry me that much, probably because I (perhaps foolishly) just think that we can sort out reading/numeracy at home if needs be. The only thing that really gives me pause for thought is that in the Ofsted report were comments about bad behaviour by a minority that was upsetting the children and that wasn't being monitored or resolved by the school. But on the other hand it did say that pastoral relations were generally good, so perhaps it's not that big a deal.

I think a visit may be on the cards - thanks again everyone for your input.

(And yes TheGreatHunt - SE London. Not directly opposite though so probably a different bit!)

oodyboodyboocs Fri 21-Feb-14 09:20:29

I did, because on visiting the schools I found the approach of the RQ school much friendly and more welcoming. The classes were smaller and the issues that had put them into the RQ category were being dealt with. I've also joined the school governors in order to help the school work towards attaining a good grading and to improve standards.

ohthegoats Fri 21-Feb-14 13:02:05

Yes, like oodyboody says, if your kid's school is struggling in any way, get involved. Help it improve.

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