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Choosing a primary: Help please!

(14 Posts)
sleeplessbunny Wed 24-Dec-14 10:20:57

DH and I are struggling to agree on which of the local primary schools to list as our first choice for DD (starting in Sept 2015). We are very lucky in that there are a few good local schools, and it is likely we will get our first choice because of where we live. What is really hard is knowing how to choose between them.

I favour the village school, which is only yards aways from the house but very small (<100 pupils). It has smaller than average class sizes (24-28) and has been praised by Ofsted for the way it manages mixed ability classes. The buildings are old and a bit cramped and the kids have to walk to the local playing fields for some PE activities, but having said that the school seems to do really well in the regional inter-school sports competitions so I get the impression this set up adequate. The school is currently without a headteacher (had to leave unexpectedly) which is a worry as apparently it can be hard to find a head for smaller schools.

DH favours a bigger school in a nearby town which is well known for extremely high academic achievement. It has new buildings, more space and better facilities overall. I'm sceptical because it has a reputation as a a bit of a hot house, uses setting in KS2 and although it has a great Ofsted it has been (gently) criticised for not always tailoring learning for all pupils. It always has a full intake as it is a very highly regarded school, so class sizes are likely to be the maximum.

It seems obvious to me that academic high achievers would do well at the bigger school, but as DD is late summer born I'm not convinced this would be the right place for her. The school run would also be a nightmare, but I'm trying (and failing) not to look at that side.

WWYD? Anything else we should be thinking about?

LIZS Wed 24-Dec-14 11:27:25

Did you post about this before ? An easier school run and local friends would be better for your lifestyle than a school with glittering facilities further away, which you may not even get into. If you feel she outgrows it you can move at year 3 by which time the school run would be more manageable for her as well as perhaps for you. At 4 I don't think you need really think about academic excellence at 11, after all the system may well have changed again by then.

sleeplessbunny Wed 24-Dec-14 11:55:57

No this is the first time I have posted about this, perhaps there are others with a similar dilemma!

I don't think moving in y3 is likely to be feasible as the bigger school is generally always oversubscribed. From what I can tell we would be fairly likely to get a place in reception but in-year admissions are very difficult.

LL12 Wed 24-Dec-14 16:37:16

Please remember it is only a preference not a choice, this is what many people always told me.

admission Wed 24-Dec-14 17:06:49

The smaller school may not always have smaller class sizes but what worries me more is that the head teacher has gone and no replacement in sight. Getting a new head teacher in a small school is always more difficult and the reality is that they will probably be somebody who is new to headship. If they are good then the school will flourish, if they are not that may be a problem for you in the future.
The bigger school could also be a problem if it is a distance away as firstly it may restrict opportunity to develop a good cohort of friends and secondly you will be doing all the driving around, back and from school - that does get very tiring after a bit!
I think the distance is the key issue for me. If the bigger school is walkable then I would go for that, if not go for the smaller school.
As a summer born child you do have the opportunity to delay your child starting at school until say after Christmas but that is not always the best idea. After you get the place offer that needs to be agreed with the school. An alternative which you might like to consider is whether you want to delay starting school for a full year. However to do this, you need to approach and have got an agreement in place by the cut-off date for on time applications in the middle of January. I personally think you do not have the time to get this agreement by the date. You also need to be aware that this is new and it is absolutely the decision of the LA as to whether they agree a delay of twelve months or not. You cannot demand they do this. If you go past the date in the middle of January without putting in an application then you will be treated as a late application if you subsequently apply. If you apply to not attend school till Sept 2016 but apply for places this year, the LA are much more likely to say no.

tobysmum77 Wed 24-Dec-14 19:37:30

local school every time for me

Ferguson Wed 24-Dec-14 21:08:25

I was a primary TA / helper for over twenty years.

I had ten years in a two-class entry infant school, so that was sixty children in each year group. Then, when I retired I continued voluntary help in a small school, similar to your description; Reception, Yr1 and Yr2 were all in one class. Despite what one might imagine, this did work well, and gave flexibility to accommodate a wide range of abilities.

The smaller school was more like a 'family', where everyone knew everyone else, and older children could befriend or support younger ones, while the younger ones could see older pupils achieving more advanced tasks and activities, that they could aspire to in due course.

Being happy and feeling secure in the early years of schooling is important, and provided the basics of literacy, numeracy, science, ICT, the humanities, and sports, drama and music are taught and supported in a satisfactory way, then a small school environment can produce successful, confident children.

sleeplessbunny Thu 25-Dec-14 08:14:30

Thanks everyone.
admission you reflect my worries about the vacant headteacher position. We aren't considering holding DD back for a year, she does seem ready but we are aware that she will be less developed than a lot of her peers.

LL12 Thu 25-Dec-14 12:48:55

Don't think she will be less developed then a lot of her peers, when my youngest started school (May born) she and many others were much more developed then others born in Sep/Oct.

alittletreat Fri 26-Dec-14 10:42:23

In yr3 I moved my dd out of big school (3 forms) into a small school ( 1 form) since she s become much happier and progress way better. The main issue we have with the big school was their ability sets. Children are divided into top, middle and bottom classes and again subdivided into top, middle and bottom tables in each classroom. Children are not being taught the same topics at same times and depth. Moving between sets becomes harder as children move on to another term and year. I would find out how the school manage different abilities. Or I make sure my summer dd will get into the top set or at least top tables in middle set. It may not affect all children but my summer dd is quite sensitive about where she seats rightly or not.

sleeplessbunny Fri 26-Dec-14 19:22:46

alittletreat it is exactly that sort of thing that worries me, I feel that once a child is in a lower set they have been given a label and, sometimes, a mindset that could persist. A summer born child is obviously going to be starting from a different level to the older kids so mobility through the groups is key for them to succeed. It's so hard to know whether or not this is well managed without first hand experience, though. Of course when you ask the teachers they all say yes there is mobility but they would wouldn't they? The bigger school has a weird class system anyway as the intake is 45/yr so some classes are split and some not, meaning progress through the school could be a bit haphazard. It made me a bit uncomfortable when the head explained it to us as it was obvious that it would benefit some kids but others would lose out.

alittletreat Fri 26-Dec-14 21:21:00

In the last year dd2 has learn to socialist with children of different ages. It is lovely to watch dd play with very well with children are much younger than herself. Unfortunely my dd1 stayed in the big school right till end of yr6 and never had the opportunity to pick up the same socialising skills with younger children or older ones. From my own experience if both schools are of good standard I would prefer a smaller school. However the drawback is the missing HT in the small school at themoment. Mixed abilities even ages are necessarily a bad thing. As children can learn from each other especially from the old children sometimes more effectively than from adults.

alittletreat Fri 26-Dec-14 21:25:57

Sorry it should be ( Mixed abilities and even ages are not necessarily a bad thing.)
Using a phone that s why!!!

lilacmamacat Thu 08-Jan-15 20:15:56

The most important question is which one will suit your DD's personality best? Is she out-going and happy in larger, perhaps more impersonal groups or would she be more comfortable in a smaller school where everyone knows everybody?

My DS is out-going and gregarious but he can also be very emotionally sensitive (which admittedly sounds very PFB). I have two schools within 5 minutes walk of my house, one (larger) bustling two form entry per year, one (smaller) one form entry. Academically both would be fine but my gut tells me that he would be happier in a smaller, more family-like environment so I didn't apply for the large one even though a good proportion of his friends from nursery will probably end up there.

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