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'Good' school in crap area or 'Requires Improvement' in a nice area?

(22 Posts)
ChocolateWombat Fri 07-Nov-14 17:10:52

We have a choice between 2 primaries.
The one in the posh area with expensive houses and middle class children has recently been downgraded by Ofsted from 'good' to 'requires improvement'
The other is in a bit of a ropey area,with many more children on free school meals etc and got 'good' in Ofsted last year, previously having been 'satisfactory'

Looking at the SATs results, the one in the posh area still seems to have better results.

Which would you choose in this situation?(both easy to get to and no long term implications for getting into other schools)
What about if the school in the iffy area had got 'outstanding'?


MathsTrack Fri 07-Nov-14 17:16:15

I would ignore the area and the Ofsted and visit the schools myself.

If for some reason someone put a gun to my head and made me choose based on the information you've given, I would probably go for the Good school in the crap area (your words). Rationale being that the school is improving, probably has more resources and is likely to be less pushy (my DC go to a similar sort of school, and when I see stories about MN children at middle class schools who feel all sorts of compulsions and competitiveness, I feel thankful daily).

SkullytonFlowers Fri 07-Nov-14 17:16:52

read the ofsted report for the 'requires improvement' it may be perfectly fine, but have lost its good over something minor.

my kids school recently got downgraded because of high staff turnover mixed with the kids not being given enough opportunity to do written work, but the school is still an excellent school and has a new headteacher who's making some very good changes!

ChocolateWombat Fri 07-Nov-14 17:20:43

Thanks! Sorry if the phrase 'crap area' was offensive, or the reference to free school meals. I was trying to put over the type of area I am talking about.
Guess the question is really about how much difference going to a school in a middle class type, leafy area makes.

SkullytonFlowers Fri 07-Nov-14 17:40:29

dont worry, wasn't offended at all, my kids schools ofsted said "is above the national average for children entitled to the pupil premium" which basically means we've got a lot of parents who are entitled to free school meals.

i dont live in a great area, but i did go to schools which were ofsted outstanding in a middle class area and i've also worked in them, and to be honest, sometimes the require improvements schools are actually a nicer environment!

Obviously thats just anecdotal, but i would read both ofsteds, ask some searching questions and go visit both and see what you think before you decide smile

Iggly Fri 07-Nov-14 19:14:52

The requires improvement is likely to get resources chucked at it or become an academy...

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Fri 07-Nov-14 19:24:52

I think this might be a case of what you find important and what the individual schools are like. I don't think there is a simple answer.

There's a school not far from here in an area of high deprivation (i.e. most children are on FSM) that is outstanding with a high value added and where 95-100% of children leave with level 4 in reading, writing and maths. It's undersubscribed because of a not entirely undeserved reputation regarding the behaviour of a small number of parents, and to a lesser extent the children. If that bothers you it's going to be a long 7 years. However not all schools with high levels of FSM will have that problem.

OTOH our local slightly more middle class leafy VA church school gets lower results but the children of supportive, engaged parents will do well there. It tends to be the ones on pupil premium or with SEN that don't.

You are not really going to know without visiting the schools and perhaps getting the views of parents who already have children there.

Thehedgehogsong Fri 07-Nov-14 19:30:12

Requires improvement is likely due to the fact the kids come in above average ability wise and don't achieve above average results by the end of their time there. Doesn't mean kids don't do well, just not as well as they are predicted. I'd go for the place my child woul be happiest, whichever has the kindest reception teacher and the happiest looking kids.

LePetitMarseillais Fri 07-Nov-14 19:38:51

Being downgraded from good to requires improvement is actually crap(most schools are working hard to go in the opposite direction) and what hedgehog described is inexcusable.

Iggly Fri 07-Nov-14 19:42:51

It might be worth finding out why it is has been downgraded - read the report closely and what the HT says.

If they only focus on the positives of the Ofsted as opposed to accepting changes are needed as well then I'd wager that the downgrade was a long time coming. Also look at the history.

My ds's school is in this situation - the reception is good but the ks1 and beyond is not. I'm surprised but wonder if the school got complacent after its last "good" rating.

We are going to move so I'm not too worried (plus ds is in reception!)

toomanywheeliebins Fri 07-Nov-14 19:43:02

OP. This is my area of work. I would go and look at both schools and go for the one that suits your child. However that said, the reality is that you would expect the school with FSM to get poorer results. Sadly that is the case as middle class children do much better generally. So possibly the 'posh' school is letting middle class kids coast and not adding value. FWIW, we face the same scenario. OFSTED outstanding with 60% ESOL and FSM and 'good' with million pound houses ( and where everyone we know sends their child). We will
Almost certainly go for the outstanding school. I was bowled over by it and how much stretch and focus the teachers give each child and embrace the diversity it will offer.I have been distinctly underwhelmed by the 'posh' school. Just trying to view it has been a battle. Interestingly DH feels the same which has been a surprise.

toomanywheeliebins Fri 07-Nov-14 19:43:56

Cross posted with hedgehog. That's what I meant

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Fri 07-Nov-14 19:47:30

Agree LePetit. All the schools inspected here over the last 18 months have gone up to good or outstanding. Only one has been downgraded and it truly deserved it, having been overgraded in its last 2 inspections.

LadySybilLikesCake Fri 07-Nov-14 19:50:59

'Requires improvement' in a nice area often means the children are left to coast (sorry if this offends). There's a 'value added' section IIRC, it shows the improvement since the children started the school so it would be worthwhile looking at that (as toomanywheeliebins says).

teacherwith2kids Fri 07-Nov-14 21:15:46

Something that might help is this:

Use a search that will include both schools (e.g. distance from your postcode)
Then compare the different indicators. The High / Middle / Low attainers is often very revealing for schools with very different intakes. You might see, for example, that although the 'headline' results aren't quite as good, because of the high percentage of children with lower attainment on entry, the actual results for each group of children might be better in the 'Good' school in the less good area.

So school A, with a high proportion of high attaining pupils on entry, might get 93% of them to achieve on some measure, 53% of middle attainers, and only 20% of low attainers - but the high number of high attainers bumps the 'overall' percebntage up. Whereas school B might get 100% of its high attainers, 65% of its middle attainers, and 4-0% of its low attainers to the same benchmark, but because the low attainers are a high proportion of the total, the 'headline' results are lower.

Click on the school name to get more information. Unfortunately the primary details don't go into the percentage of each type of attainer in the school which does make it harder to do the analysis, but it can be interesting to see what you can deduce.

TalkinPeace Fri 07-Nov-14 22:03:11

good in crap every time
what is the secondary provision

PastSellByDate Sun 09-Nov-14 05:49:31

I'd check two things:

performance over time (how have they done on KS2 SATs over the last 5 years - not just last year's figure which could be a blip).

age/ longevity of the HT - so is it a new HT (well that could change everything for better or worse). Is the HT in their late 50s or early 60s and looking like they'll retire shortly?

My advice is use the parent grapevine. Talk to friends/ go to the park and strike up a conversation - but find out from people with children at the school whether they like it or not.

I agree with TalkinPeace - having been there - I think the secondary options are critical - so it is worth considering whether going to that primary leads to options for secondary you'd be ultimately happy with.

Finally - know that there never is the 'perfect choice'. It's always something of a compromise - every school has its strengths and weaknesses - so try and have a checklist of what you value and really talk to people (at the school/ parents/ neighbourhood hearsay) to ensure that what you want for your child (regular access to reading books/ lots of fieldtrips/ lots of after school activities/ homework/ etc...) will be happening.

LePetitMarseillais Sun 09-Nov-14 07:00:23

Behaviour is a huge issue too but then so is not being pushed in a coasting school,you have to keep your eyes on it constantly which isn't always possible if you work.One might be an issue in one but not the other.

You'll need to weigh up the pros and cons of both.

Secondary catchment isn't much of an issue as you either live in the right catchment or you don't,it doesn't make much difference which primary you went to.

larrygrylls Sun 09-Nov-14 08:05:09

As someone who recently trained as a teacher as a second career, I am extremely sceptical of OFSTED. Firstly, as people have said, see why the school 'requires improvement'. It could be down to a lack of 'inclusion' or 'diversity' (do you care if your own kid is happy and does well?) or that it fails to 'progress' very bright kids sufficiently ( very hard if they all come in with exceedingly high predicted levels or equivalent). I would, though, be wary of high staff turnover. It indicates a lack of stability and often (though not always) poor leadership.

Above all, go and see for yourself. Does the school welcome visitors? Are you welcome to look into classrooms on the tour? Do you like what you see? If not, run a mile.

teacherwith2kids Sun 09-Nov-14 10:34:07

"Firstly, as people have said, see why the school 'requires improvement'."

Absolutely. Read the text of the report BUT I would start from the assumption that no school in a 'good' area should be in that category. Essesntially, in a 'good' area, a school will tend to have many things going for it - a low level of deprivation, a reasonably high level of parental education and support for school, the ability to generate extra money through a PTA etc, relatively few social problems, etc etc.

Obviously looks can be deceiving - locally, an area of town LOOKS very properous, but in fact the big mansions are divided up into flats and bedsits, and the poor reptation of the secondary drives educaionally-savvy parents out. the few familuies who do live in 'undivided' large houses go private.

But in general, a scjhool in a good area will have to 'work less hard to achieve the same results'. To require improvement in such an area, a school may be coasting (relying on intake to get good results), may have had a rogue poor year, may have failed to move with the times, may have gone through a period without a head, may have one or two poor or time-served teachers ... some of which are rectifiable in a very short time, but others of which take a real effort to turn round.

Read the report in detail, read the school's response to it (defensive tone is BAD, run a mile), go in and ask really detailed questions about how they have responded (ask for evidence).

The ONLY excepton is, I would say, if your child is unusually sensitive or exceptionally (and I mean exceptionally, not MN normal) able. In that case, you might select a school based on peer group, even if you know that the school itself isn't as good in terms of enabling children to make good progress. In a school in a very deprived area, there will tend to - there are obvuiously exceptions - be a slightly smaller percentage of highly able children, and thus an exceptionally able child may not have a peer group, especially if the school is small.

ChocolateWombat Sun 09-Nov-14 17:42:33

Thanks everyone.
Secondary isn't an issue, as both schools feed into the same secondary which is in the town. The Secondary is currently 'good'.

I have been following these schools for about 5 years. The one which was 'good' but has become 'satisfactory' was 'good' under the last 2 inspections and has always had better SATs results than the other school.
The one which has become 'good' was 'satisfactory' for its last 2 inspections. The results seems to have been broadly static over the period, with a bit of an improvement.

The other thing I have noticed about a 3rd school, over about 8 years, is that it has mostly been of a lowish rating (requires improvement) but has occasionally crept up to 'good' following lots of outside help, but then seems to sink back to the lower rating. Again, it is a school in a less good area, with a more difficult intake. I can see that schools like this have a harder job and that when they achieve 'good' they are doing well.....but the question is, do they sustain it? Will my local school which has recently become 'good' keep it up, or was it just that the school had a lot of help, and that given time,it's more tricky intake will lead to it slipping back down? Will the leafy school creep back to 'good', helped by its more supportive parents?

I get what everyone is saying about not relying on Ofsted too much. I have visited and hope to do so again. I realise schools can change quickly too and Ofsted is only a snapshot. When I go round schools I don't get an immediate 'feel' for them and know instinctively which is right for my child. Many people do sem to get this feeling. I just see lovely displays in all schools and a variety of work. Even on a 'working open day' I just see children learning and can't really make judgements about if the school is the one or not. So I guess I am relying to some extent on Ofsted.

In some ways, my heart says the leafy school is the best one, but that's just because the parents are mostly like us. I don't particularly have a sense of not wanting my child to mix with a broader range of people (and value that idea in lots of ways) but I guess I worry there might be a lower proportion of high achievers in the less leafy school (the SATs suggest this...however of course, I am assuming my DC will be a high achiever...haha, of course I don't know this!)

Ultimately, I think the leafy school is probably a decent school still. Looking at the report, they probably have become a bit complacent. Looks like the governors haven't held the school to account enough. There was a year of dipped results in one area (although still better than the other school) and apparantly children have not had enough chances to correct their work or act on feedback given. I'm not sure if the school has reacted defensively to these comments or is addressing them rigorously. If I visit again, I will certainly try to gauge that.

burgatroyd Mon 10-Nov-14 15:03:14

I'd go for the will be trying to improve after its last reporr

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