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Can someone give any primary school choice advice- and preferably knock some sense into me?!

(49 Posts)

I need to apply for my PFB eldest's school place. We have 3 choices and I'm really struggling to weigh up the pros and cons. DD has twin brothers 1 school year behind her so I really feel like I'm choosing for all 3.

school 1: our local village school. The only one in walking distance. 1 form entry and takes 35. Split up into mixed year groups for key stage 1 (though all together for music and PE). It has form for letting more in on appeal- has taken up to 39 in one class. They are then all together for key stage 2. It's a church school with an outstanding ofsted. lots of reward systems in place that im.not sure i like. Our concerns are class size especially as dt1 hates big and busy and that should it be a big year for DD (and there's 41 in the village preschool which feeds into it for school next year) and she struggles we won't be able to move into a smaller school as with the dts we'd be looking for 3 spaces in the same class.

school 2: smaller school in the next village over. 2 miles away but along winding single track country roads so not child-biking suitable I don't think. Takes 15. only 15 in reception then mixed year teaching from there in so a standard class of 30. Gets an ofsted good, has a newish head who seems great, not a religious school. They also do some forest school stuff but kind of as and when. Buses children to and from a bigger village school so does offer before and after school care. my concern is would it push them academically if they were bright, especially the older children of the mixed year class? it was pulled up in its ofsted for that- with the previous head though.

school 3: furthest away- 6.5 miles. but under subscribed so we would get in. They take up to 14 but never normally have more than 11 at the most. Reception alone then mixed year teaching . Well set up forest school programme, seems lovely, ofsted outstanding and they say there's nowhere they could improve. My concern is the distance there and no local friends.

So I can't weigh up in my mind which is most important; being able to walk to school? local friends? smaller classes? more academic? more fun and outdoors based?

seriously driving myself bonkers!

Hakluyt Tue 02-Dec-14 19:03:30

Why is the 3rd school undersubscribed?

mummytime Tue 02-Dec-14 19:20:42

Personally I wouldn't want any of them. Sorry but in all of them all 3 of your children are likely to be in the same class at some point? Doesn't sound good to me. But I like big schools (at least 2 form entry).

magichamster Tue 02-Dec-14 19:29:28

Ok, just a few thoughts.

Firstly, you say the first school has taken in 39 in a class before now. Schools are not allowed to have more than 30 in an infant school, so there has to be 2 teachers for that amount of children. Even if they say they take 35, they cannot (except in exceptional circumstances) have more than 30 in a class. This rule doesn't apply to KS2, but I would be suprised to see a class with 39 in it. What don't you like about the reward system? Most schools do have some sort of reward system. You say it's a church school - is that something you are looking for, or would you be happier in a non church school? However, you can walk and your children will have lots of local friends.

I live in a rural area (which I imagine you do from the description of the schools available to you), and there are lots of small schools. Whilst they can be lovely when children are small, they can get a bit claustrophobic as the children get older, and you can have quite a small pool to get friends from (especially as you will have twins in another year), and they might feel a bit out of it if they don't live in the same village their friend live in. That said, if there are lots of clubs in your village then the dc's can make local friends there. You do often find that small schools have quite good links with each other, particularly if they feed into the same secondary.

Hope that helps!

TeenAndTween Tue 02-Dec-14 19:32:16

I don't understand how they can take 35 in Reception without splitting them up (unless there are two proper teachers). Infant Class Size rules?

magichamster Tue 02-Dec-14 19:39:07

But like mummytime, none of them sound brilliant. Are there any other options?

BackforGood Tue 02-Dec-14 19:43:24

Agree about the numbers - will mean they have 2 teachers if they go above 30.

Personally, I think there are a lot of negatives to being in such a small school, but, as all 3 are the same, then the advantage of being able to walk to school, and all that adds to the 8years you will be going there, is massive, and would sway me in direction of school 1.

wigglylines Tue 02-Dec-14 19:43:32

I would say a very important thing is the school ethos. I had totally made up my mind which school I would send DS to, on paper. Then I visited them, and completely changed my mind. The ethos of the school that looked great was totally out of step with our values, and the other one seemed made for us.

Have you visited them all? Did you get a chance to have a good chat with the teachers? What were your impressions?

My DCs go to a school with an intake of 35. They split Yr R by age, about 25 of the younger ones go in a class on their own, the other 10 go in a class with about 15 of the younger Yr 1s. The other 20 Year 1s go in a class with the youngest 8 or so Yr 2s, the remaining 26 or so Yr 2s go in a class of their own. So, 4 classes for 105 children, about 26 per class.

They do end up in a class of about 35 in KS2, but they have a FT extra teacher splitting their time between the 4 classes plus HLTAs and it seems fine (my two are in Years 4 and 6 now).

I think being in walking distance is a huge benefit, socially and for your convenience if you are doing pickups at different times for after school clubs, going in and out for assemblies, maybe helping in class (if you are that way inclined). Regarding size, I wouldn't want mine to be in a school any smaller than they are now, small schools tend to have less facilities, less after school club provision (both as childcare and for activities), less experience with SENs should that be needed, also the children have less scope for changing friendship groups when the inevitable fallouts happen - by Yr 6 they have been together for 7 years and tensions inevitably arise.

Pooka Tue 02-Dec-14 20:01:22

Intake of 11 would be way too small for my liking.

If more than 6 mile 'catchment' any number of those classmates could be much further away for play dates.

So third choice too far and too small.

I'd go for choice 1. Close, local friends, must be organising the year groups efficiently to have done well with ofsted (though how old us the report, and I do take ofsted with a ladle of salt). Mostly, it's local and walkable and there'll be lots of familiar faces.

The local school split them as whoknowswherethetimegoes describes. So youngest 25 reception children are in a reception class. The older ones (so including my DD as she's a 9th September birthday) go in a class with the younger year 1's. But come KS2 the whole class comes back together. So up to (as per recent intakes) 39 though I hear there are 36 in the current reception.

The school who take 15, school 2, run a lot of after school clubs and most friends will be within a 15 minute drive.
School 3 is under subscribed as it is very rural. It takes from a huge catchment but has an excellent reputation. it's just in the middle of nowhere. Literally.
I was leaning towards school 2 but I'm worried about all the driving and the lack of local friends. Though I suppose until older, they are accompanied to any friend's houses anyway. It's so hard to decide.

tippytappywriter Tue 02-Dec-14 20:22:55

If there is nothing that really swings you towards one of them I suggest you go local. It will be so much easier if you need to ask someone else to take the other children when one is sick, when you need to go back and forth because they do different after school clubs or you forget their lunch!

tippytappywriter Tue 02-Dec-14 20:24:41

And although you probably can't imagine it now it is really nice to let them have some independence to walk to school alone or with friends when they get older.

Hakluyt Tue 02-Dec-14 20:27:08

An undersubscribed very rural school with a huge catchment and an intake of 11 sounds ripe for closure to me..............

A 15 minute drive back and forth to pick DCs up from friends houses when they play after school could be an hour round trip if the friends live in the opposite direction. Also you need extra car seats / space in the car to bring a friend home at all. Whereas if they all walk it is very easy.

It is also a lot easier to make ad-hoc arrangements awith other parents for taking one of your DCs to school if you are at home with a poorly one, or if you are a bit late getting back frome somewhere, or are ill yourself. This can also make life a lot easier.

Hakluyt Tue 02-Dec-14 20:30:10

And you are soon going to have 3 children in this school- with 3 different sets of friends, 3 different after school clubs, 3 different lots of illnesses............

bearwithspecs Tue 02-Dec-14 21:17:20

Local every time unless you could go a mile or two to a much larger school. I am not a fan of tiny schools as too claustrophobic

cheminotte Tue 02-Dec-14 21:35:32

Playdates are only accompan ied in ReceptionReception and Year 1 Ime. After thaton their own. Having friends on the street at the same school is so beneficial. Go for the local one.

admission Tue 02-Dec-14 22:46:28

I think if you were talking about a single child then options 2 and 3 might be appropriate but as soon as you start talking about 3 children and 2 are twins then I think you need to look to your own sanity as much as anything. Trying to do three lots of friends, three lots of after school clubs etc simply says that the right answer is the local school. Also with an admission number of 35, the probability is that if in catchment that you will get places for both twins, with admission numbers of 15 and 14 I would not want to guarantee that your twins would get places in the other two schools,.

hakluyt the school shares a headteacher with an even smaller rural school with 40 in the school in total. This makes it financially viable- it won't close.

I'm just worried about the big class sizes. IF they take extras and have 38 or 39 again at school 1 that seems daft to me; to teach that many children aged 7-8. There will be another 2 mums from this village doing the school run to school 2.

argh, why am I finding it so hard?!

sorry- first comment there us about school 3 and the second about school 1.

there are no bigger schools round here, I'm in a village

NoSquirrels Tue 02-Dec-14 23:51:36

The things is, when they reach KS2 the class size numbers won't seem so onerous. They change a lot from weeny 4-5 year old Reception kids to more able to do individual learning etc. And if the school organises its teaching resources well then there will be adequate teachers for the class sizes.

I would go local, in the situation you describe. Grew up somewhere remarkably similar, and the local basis of friends houses to walk to was great. When we lived a 8 mile car journey away it got much more difficult and less enjoyable for me, as a child. And was no doubt a pain in the bum for my parents too as a taxi service. They also lift-shared etc., but you add a lot of extra organisational stress to your daily life.

You have DTs - 3 kids close in age is hard to manage, and I would give them the wider pool of friendships if I were you.

MollyBdenum Tue 02-Dec-14 23:53:33

I like the sound of school 2. My DC go a bigger school which has mixed year classes and it works really well. DD is pretty bright, and she really benefits from the opportunity to work with older children every other year, as she is no longer effortlessly able to outshine the others. Other children find that with younger children boosts their skills and confidence. The children seem to build really strong relationships across the year groups.

steppemum Tue 02-Dec-14 23:59:38

local.
The value of being walking distance at primary is huge. Especially as you live in a village, so it is your village school.

BikeRunSki Wed 03-Dec-14 03:49:50

With nothing else to swing it, the one you can walk to. Seriously, do you really want to be doing a 13 mile round trip 10x a week? We had a similar choice and chose the school we could walk to. Huge advantage at 8.30 am!

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