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Choosing a school

(14 Posts)
PrimaryConfusion Tue 24-Nov-15 13:56:15

Name changed for this.

Ds starts school next september. We've been to look around 3 schools, 1 in our village and 2 in the next village over (about 4-5 miles away). We're in catchment for all schools.

School 1 is in our village, it's attached to the nursery DS goes to now so he spends time with the current reception children and they have free play between the rooms sometimes. Most of his nursery friends will go to this school and my step mom works in the school. It's about a mile away so I can walk there. His current nursery run the after school and holiday club, they also have a breakfast club. I like the school, but I'm not sure I love it.

School 2 I didn't like at all.

School 3 is about 5 miles away in the next village. I love it. It's smaller than school 1, no mixed year group classes. They have a buddy system between reception and year 5 to help the children settle. The playground is nicer. There's a separate library which there isn't in school 1. They also have a before and after school club that runs from the same times as school 1 but no breakfast club. I can drive through the next village on my way to work so its not a problem to drop off.

My head is saying send ds to school 1 based on practicalities, his friends are there, family nearby etc. However I really do love school 3 and I feel the slightly smaller school might benefit ds, but then it'd be nice for him to make school friends in our village. Both schools are rated the same in ofsted.

So wwyd? What was most important to you when looking at a school? Practicality or gut instinct?
I'm a lone parent so no one to help me make this decision.
Thanks in advance

LibrariesGaveUsP0wer Tue 24-Nov-15 13:59:56

The lone parent thing would swing school 1 for me. Nothing like being able to call on local back up the day your car breaks down and you get stranded at work or you get the flu.

I don't think a nicer playground and library would make up for 10 mile round trip either smile

LetsSplashMummy Tue 24-Nov-15 14:05:31

School 1 definitely, having your step mum on hand to help out is so much more useful than a nicer playground. You are also more likely to really become part of your local community instead of sort of floating between the two. You will meet people on the walk to school which you won't on your drive to school/work and as DS gets older and wants to go to friends' houses, it will be great that they are walking distance and not a drive away.

Millymollymama Tue 24-Nov-15 14:12:03

Honestly - go with your village school. If it is just as good educationally as the other one, then your child will gain immense value from local friendships and moving up with everyone else. So will you. You will be forever in the car if you go 5 miles away. Most children do settle in school with or without a buddy system. You are taking him away from possible local friends so no doubt a buddy system would look appealing. If he stays in the village, he will have his buddies with him right from the start.

As you have another year, try and invite possible friends from nursery round to tea or lunch on a Saturday. Try and get involved with your village and then you will feel part of it and so will he. A separate library is not the most important thing in a primary school and nor is the quality of the playground, as log as it is safe! He won't notice either, because he is not in a position to make comparisons!

What you really must look for is: How good is the teaching, what progress do the children make, is the Head approachable and whether you are confident your DS will do well at your chosen school. He will have a bigger choice of friends locally and your step mum is around to help out if need be. What does your step mum think of the school?

TwoTwoOneBravo Tue 24-Nov-15 14:21:36

Unless it's dreadful, I would opt for your closest school every time. My DD attended a school 5 miles away for a year or so after a house move. Absolutely lovely school but the logistics were very difficult. lt was a PITA getting her there. Rush hour traffic was awful, play dates were difficult to organise and it was a right trek going back there in the evenings for meetings with teachers, school plays etc. Not to mention the cost. I drove 100 miles a week doing the school run and spent £50 weekly on petrol.

DD is now at a local school and everything is much easier!

Pico2 Tue 24-Nov-15 14:28:36

I'd avoid putting too much emphasis on the physical environment. It's the easiest thing to see going round the school, but your DS won't be looking at the playground wondering if it's as good as the one at another school.

The buddy thing isn't as important if he already mixes with the reception children as it won't be so much of a settling in issue.

I'd go for school 1.

ConfusedAboutSchools Tue 24-Nov-15 14:39:41

Go for school 1. As you can see from my user name I was in a similar boat (school 1 nearby, good rating, lots of friends going/there already, short walk; school 2 outstanding rating and all the bells and whistles). I realised having friends and being in the local community (for both social life and help with pickups in a squeeze) was actually going to enhance the DCs lives (and ours) a lot more than better computers and a smart uniform...

MerryMarigold Tue 24-Nov-15 14:48:09

My dsis went with her gut instinct when it came to her dd. Her dh agreed with her. She is a teacher (and he used to be) - so they knew what they were looking for. Now she has a job in her dd's school as it helped with drop off/ pick up and the school is an absolute mess. She's worked for nearly 20 years as a teacher and been a lot of schools, so she's good at judging from the inside IYSWIM and she said this is one of the worst.

It is very very VERY hard to judge on a visit.

I've also come to realise with my kids going to 3 different primary schools that there tends to be different benefits of different schools - swings and roundabouts. They went to an Ofsted rated 3 for a half a term, but actually the kids were lovely, the Sports teams/ facilities great, the grounds amazing, school discipline was great (no bullying at all) and the music teaching fantastic. Now they have moved to Ofsted 1 and I'd say the kids have not been as kind, the music/ sports not good and the grounds/ equipment not good (though they are now used to that after 3 weeks), but the basic teaching is very good. It's really hard. In the end, I'd think more about practical issues as there are likely to be good and bad things about both of them.

Personally I would go where he is likely to have local friends. Ferrying them around is a pain, and being able to walk up the road to a friend's house/ share school runs etc. is a godsend.

PrimaryConfusion Tue 24-Nov-15 15:09:16

Thank you all!

I know school 1 makes so much more sense. I wish I'd not even been to look at school 3 in all honesty because now I have this problem!

It's hard to explain why I love school 3 so much really. Just a feeling I got. All of the staff were lovely and really approachable. It just felt right.

We only moved to the area a year ago so while we know people, most of my friends with children live in the big town not in our village.

It's so hard because I'd worked in a lot of the schools where we used to live so knew them, this is all new!

I think part of this is me stressing about an upcoming house move and just totally questioning myself about it all really confused

MerryMarigold Tue 24-Nov-15 16:11:21

OP, whilst you may have friends in town now, it is likely that his friends in Y2,3,4,5,6 are going to be mostly school friends.

LibrariesGaveUsP0wer Tue 24-Nov-15 17:22:11

We only moved to the area a year ago so while we know people, most of my friends with children live in the big town not in our village.

Yes, do bear in mind that quite soon those people will be your friends and his friends will be children from his school (mostly).

How long does the 5 mile drive take? Bear in mind how much of a hassle it will be when, eg. the school disco starts at 5pm etc. Especially this time of year, the back and forth can add up.

EdithWeston Tue 24-Nov-15 17:27:46

He won't be rising reception age for long. The small nurturing feel you are attracted to for 3 or 4 yo isn't necessarily going to be the right thing for a 7 or 10 yo.

And the bigger school means more potential friends, more sports and activities. And firm roots in the village matter (those who don't go to the village school may well end up 'othered', not nastily but just not part of day to day life).

PrimaryConfusion Tue 24-Nov-15 19:33:16

Yes you're right saying that the people we know are my friends that happen to have children, rather than his friends.

The 5 miles takes no more than 10 minutes to drive, it's straight down a pretty rural road that is only really used for getting between the two villages, and isn't the main road between the two if that makes sense.

School 1 was actually always my first choice, I only went to look around the others so I knew what to put down for a 2nd/3rd choice on the application and it's all thrown me!

I'm feeling quite overwhelmed as we've had a lot of change recently, So I'm just doubting all of my choices right now.

I think you're all right. During primary ds having his friends nearby will be more important to him, and both schools lead into the same secondary anyway. School 1 definitely makes sense from a practical point of view.

Thank you for taking the time to reply and talking some sense into me!

Kanga59 Wed 25-Nov-15 20:41:14

I sent my son to my version of your option 1, in the September just gone, and after the first half term I switched him to your option 3. Go with your gut and don't worry about the local friends, drop off convenience etc etc. It doesn't matter and this will only become more apparent over time. Go with the best school. Definitely.

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