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Do I choose the large academic hothouse or the 'rounded' small school?

(29 Posts)
GSTONES Mon 17-Nov-14 13:02:44

I have been told that my daughter is very academically able and is currently doing very well at her current nursery setting BUT she is quite shy and whilst she loves having friends she is not a child that will just go and join in.

She will stand there at a party and not really join in unless a friend comes and takes her hand and then she has a fabulous time but if no one comes to get her she will just stand there and look sad sad Makes me very sad sad

I want a school that will stretch her academically but that school has 80 in the year (20 each class) and I worry that the number of pupils will be overwhelming for her. Or the opposite is a school which gets good results (no academic awards when children leave at yr 6), is very nurturing, but only has 36 in the year group (18 each class).

Any one else been in this position? What did you choose?


enderwoman Mon 17-Nov-14 13:06:14

Are you talking about state schools?

Personally I would start off at the gentler school and consider moving to the more academic school later (7 or 8?) if the academics become a problem. Just because she's academic now doesn't mean she will always be and my opinion is that the children who do best at hothouses are confident, competitive types which doesn't sound like your daughter (yet?)

Rivercam Mon 17-Nov-14 13:06:55

Have you visited them? If not, go and visit. You will sense what is right.

Duckstar Mon 17-Nov-14 13:15:42

Agree with enderwoman go for the nurturing school. A good nurturing school will focus on the individual child. There's only 18 class so they can push her academically. I presume you are talking private given class sizes. Very common in private schools to move at 7 (7+). So if you think in a couple of years she needs to be pushed more you could move her then.

MrsDrJohnWatson Mon 17-Nov-14 13:17:18

Visit the schools. The advantage of the larger one is that it might be able to offer more. My DC go to a large school but actually it has never felt that big. Youngest is the quiet one in class and I thought he'd just get forgotten but that never happened. He is so shy that I realise now the bigger school was the best option as he is used to it and won't find the transition. To secondary so hard.

GSTONES Mon 17-Nov-14 13:17:55

They are independent schools

She is very competitive (she is 4) and she has to be the winner to the other side in her swimming lessons, jump the highest in her ballet classes and be the fastest at running when with her cousins.

That's why I think the academic school will suit her as there will be children for her to compete against.

She won't get lost academically (I don't think) but might get lost socially.

She was previously at a nursery setting where she didn't settle as she cried that she didn't have anyone to play with (she didn't really) we moved her and she has thrived and I think that is because she has friends to play with. I can't work out what the difference is between the first setting and the second.

I worry that in the rounded school she will get on well socially but not stretched (which is mentioned in their recent report).

I have been to visit the schools twice and countless open days ........ it hasn't helped. I see the benefits of both.

Riverland Mon 17-Nov-14 13:19:45

Rounded school! If she's already competitive, it will provide a balance for her.

GooseyLoosey Mon 17-Nov-14 13:28:51

Only you can make this decision as only you know your child.

I have 2 DC - they are now 10 and 11. They were at the local primcary school until Yrs 3 and 4.

Ds is academically able and is at an agressively academic school (since 8). He thrives. However, ds is also loud, pushy and arogant. The school is good at curbing his ego and he has the confidence to meet everything head on. He is not cowed by his environment or the competition. That said, ds's biggest problems are with his social interactions and we have always sought a school for him that would support this.

Dd is quiet and shy. She sits around the average academically. She would be crushed by ds's school. They would never notice her. She is at a more nurturing school where they notice her as an individual and are able to spot her needs - whatever they are.

There is no perfect school - sometimes I wish ds's school paid more attention to him as an individual and dd's school, more attention to academic outcomes.

Betsy003 Mon 17-Nov-14 13:57:08

There will be academic bright children in both schools. I expect the parents will be totally different generally. In the very competitive school there will be very pushy parents and in the grounded school there will be more balanced parents possibly.

I would choose a more rounded school with a grounded ethos and top pastoral care. I would not choose a competitive type school as it can make very competitive children unbearably awful with bad sportsmanship and twisted values that only centre upon achievement. There are more important qualities to value. Valuing yourself in terms of achievement is a recipe for disaster.

Also she is obviously a sensitive girl. All that holding back before joining in is her reflecting and observing. She needs to feel emotionally held to blossom.

Betsy003 Mon 17-Nov-14 14:05:06

Look at the parent portal on line and check their value added. Value added will give a clear indication if children are reaching their potential in a specific school.

Oddly our local comp has great value added, so the kids there out performing their individual expectations. However our local boys grammar has poor value added and so children don't reach their personal potential while going through the grammar school

Are there ofsted reports that talk about the children's progress through the system.

It is possible that the more pastoral school has a slightly higher level of children with dyslexia?

redskybynight Mon 17-Nov-14 14:05:48

I've actually found that a bigger school (and 80 in a year group is hardly big!) can be better for a socially shy child - there is more chance of her finding someone she hits off with. In a smaller peer group everyone can end up in one friendship group, which is a problem if you don't fit in. My niece was one of 8 girls in her class last year - the other 7 girls were all friends and she wasn't - was a miserable experience for her and she's now moved schools.

erin99 Mon 17-Nov-14 16:33:22

We went for the bigger school. DD was the child who was always clamped to my lap at toddler group when the others were off playing, so I nearly went down the teeny tiny route. But as it turned out, she wasn't overwhelmed in a big year with classes of 30. She didn't gel well with her YR class but in the wider mix of a big year she is now very happy in friendships with children from other YR classes.

I did avoid a school that was all open plan, because I thought it wouldbe too much for her.

Also as others said, it's all about how it feels. Our (state) school has a reputation for being academic, but it's very nurturing and focussed on building children's self esteem. Our children get way less homework or spelling tests than those at neighbouring schools.

GSTONES Mon 17-Nov-14 23:15:28

Thanks all, very interesting to hear your views. Choosing a school for my daughter just seems so difficult and I feel so much pressure to do the right thing for her.

MMmomKK Tue 18-Nov-14 01:18:10

Dd1 was very similar at 4yo. Academically very able but terribly shy. She was also born in the end of May, which didn't help.

She went to a girls only private school with 2 small classes - 16-18 people in the class. School had a reputation of being "academic" but I found that in the early grades there is not a lot of difference between the more academic ones and the other private schools.

Dd1 really flourished and by Y2 no one believed that she was once why! She would definitely have been lost at a larger school - I just can imagine her looking terrified at the playground with 80 kids... Especially if it's a mixed school.

OP - I just wanted to say that these school choices are not final. Dd1 took an exam and moved to another school for Y3 - a bigger school with even better academics. By now she is much better able to deal with it. For us this approach worked best.

Dd2, on the other hand, has no confidence issues (or rather has the opposite problem at times). She started right away at the bigger school and took to it like duck to the water.

TheWordFactory Tue 18-Nov-14 08:09:22

There are two issues here;

First, the size. Personally I would go with the larger school. It is clearly doing well financially and should be swimming in cash and resources.

Second, a nice large pool for friends as the DC will mix with their year not just their form.

Third, there are enough DC to ensure decent setting can work and to justify the expense of subject specific teachers and resources in line with ability.

The other issue is selection. By selecting out any below average DC (as best they can at 4), it means that academic work can go at a greater pace and resources used more efficiently.

Whether that's a good thing or not at 4, is a matter for you.

TrisMas Tue 18-Nov-14 12:33:28

I had exactly your issue with dd. We chose the small school and although dd is still shy she has Improved dramatically. She is much more confident and she exceeded accademically aswell. She went to a lovely private preschool and all her friends went to different schools, some large and some small. All the mums I see regularly are amazed at how advanced dd is accademically, in their words, more so than their dc of the same age. So the small school certainly hasn't done her any harm. Good luck.

PeterParkerSays Tue 18-Nov-14 12:39:13

When is her birthday? I think a child starting school at 4, who is 5 in late September or October will cope better with the academic hot house than an August 5 year old.

Betsy003 Tue 18-Nov-14 12:47:12

I'd go for the one with the best ethos and pastoral care because she will thrive at a school where she feels emotionally held. There are still a few very competitive kids at DS's nice school and they truly bring out the worst in each other. Watching them makes me cringe sometimes. Thankfully the school has excellent pastoral care and is able to help them reflect well.

PastSellByDate Tue 18-Nov-14 12:51:46


Do you know which schools other classmates at nursery will be going to? It may help to choose the school where a few friends from nursery will be there as well (to smooth that transition).

Regardless of large/ small school choice - I would highly recommend visiting in person with your child (on an open day) and seeing the school for yourself. Remember that on an open day both places will be on their best behaviour - but have a look round - is there lot's going on, do the things children do there sound like fun? Is there a good library system?

Also - ask neighbours/ friends in the area about their opinions of these schools.

Personally - primary is a very easy environment to lend help as a parent - it's quite manageable - so if you feel emotionally your child would cope better in a small/ manageable environment perhaps that should win out (but know that you may need to do a bit more at home).

iseenodust Tue 18-Nov-14 13:20:07

You mentioned your DD likes to run, swim etc. Do both schools offer similar games facilities or are there more sports clubs at the larger school, at which she may find friends with shared interests?

GSTONES Tue 18-Nov-14 14:28:50

My daughter is a November baby so very early on in the year she will turn 5.

Unfortunately none of her friends at nursery will be going to the same school as her as they are going to the local school and we wouldn't be in that catchment area anyway. There are girls and boys at the academic school that she would recognise but they are not children she has befriended at nursery.

The facilities are fab at the academic school, swimming pool, acres of space, a theatre, great library, good range of after school activities and a fabulous state of the art music school.

The rounded school has a swimming pool and 200 acres but some of the school is a little worn and tired and could do with some money spending on it. They don't really have a library as such just a wall of shelves with books on in a corridor :S They are a good sporting and musical school and 1 or 2 children a year win scholarships at 13 but no academic scholarships/prizes have ever been awarded.

I canvas opinion on the schools from everyone that I know who currently has or has had children at the schools. The general consensus is that the academic school is very good and gives the parents exactly what they wanted from the school - good academics. I have noticed that a few children are very self assured to the point of it being insufferable but I think this has more to do with the parents.
Thoughts on the rounded school is that it is great in the pre-prep department, lots of handholding and nurturing but then probably 1/5th of the children at yr3 transfer out to schools where there is more going on.

My daughter is determined she wants to go to the academic school as she played with playdoh on the open day ......... it's the small things at that age!

Thanks for all of your opinions and questions, definitely helping me move towards a decision.

Leeds2 Tue 18-Nov-14 15:42:00

My DD is now 16, but I was faced with the very same dilemma both when she started in Reception, and when she went to secondary. Both times, I chose the more rounded school over the academic hothouse because I wanted to develop her confidence. I was happy she could've coped with the work at the academic school, but I felt that she would just fade into the background. I have never regretted the choices, and they were absolutely the right ones to make for her.

In your case, I would probably start her at the smaller school and consider moving in Year 3 if you think things aren't working out.

howtodrainyourflagon Tue 18-Nov-14 17:56:44

Tbh as one school has classes of 18 and the other 20 there's not a lot in it.

bearwithspecs Tue 18-Nov-14 22:42:41

Bigger school every time for me. Bigger pool of potential friends. Can be an issue esp for girls in later years. What is cute at 4 is stifling at 10

Snapespotions Tue 18-Nov-14 23:25:25

I would never choose a school with only 18 in a year group - such a narrow pool of potential friends. I'd go for the bigger school for that reason alone!

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