Can't decide on Primary School for Son....

(19 Posts)
meggleshs Wed 30-Dec-15 14:23:58

Hiya - my DH & I are trying to settle on a primary school for our February born 4 year old. As a bit of background, I am American, where school doesn't start til 5, and often 6 for boys. I tend to lean towards the 'crunchy' end of things and the idea of little ones in uniforms, at desks just sort of goes against my understanding. My son seems like a 'typical' boy - he has a very short attention span and no interest in writing, holding a pencil. He has a very vivid imagination, and can spend literally hours playing games by himself. He still has a rest time for 2 - 3 hours, sometimes sleeping. He has been going to nursery for the last few years and has (2) long days. He seems to really bond with his teachers, and has only just started trying to make friends....

My options: Private primary, 4 - 11 which is connected to a very good Upper School. 3 small village schools, between 60 - 80 pupils, 15 in a grade, all school teach 2 year groups together (so r + 1, 2 + 3, etc) so effectively 30 in a class. Or a larger, town school which is 60 in a year group, classes of 30.

The state sector in my area is in the midst of a huge change - going from 3 to 2 tier. next year will be the first fully sorted year.

I've visited them all, and I'm still none the wiser! and 15-Jan is fast approaching!

Private Primary - no escaping that it is expensive (~£10k/year). And as much as they said that it's play based, from what I see and from several friends with children already there, it is very full on, very quickly. I can imagine my children there in year 3 or 4 if we think they need more challenges, etc. So I think that one is out.

Village Schools - I like that they are small and homey. Everyone knows everyone and there is a real family vibe. However, I would need to drive (albeit 2 - 3 miles) for each. As these primary schools will now be having an extra two year (year 5 & 6), they are all having some sort of building work. Also, as smaller schools they have less dedicated facilities - ie the lunch room doubles as an indoor play area, there are no dedicated science, art or cooking rooms. Also, some have okay pre / post school childcare, but some don't. oh, and 1 of the 3 village primary were oversubscribed last year, so I'm not sure we'd even get in. I worry that with only 5 - 10 boys in each year, if my son doesn't gel with those children there are less options for friendship groups. This happened to me when I was in school and I still regret it.

Town school - up until this year it was 300 metres from my house. Starting next year it will be 1.1 miles away. Which means that at least some days we'll walk. And in the future, my son could bike / scoot up with his friends. It will have dedicated science, art, indoor play area because it used to be the middle school. I viewed it, and I really like the head teacher and again everyone seemed very friendly. However, there really is no getting away from its size - it is 4 times the size of the village schools. There are just a lot of children all together.

Sorry for the essay... but I just can't figure it out... I think I'm leaning towards the towns school but then I think about the homey environment of the village schools and I like those. BTW - they are all outstanding / good so no difference in ofstead. Really - I am spoiled for choice and we're really lucky.

LifeIsNeverFair Wed 30-Dec-15 15:44:34

Don't be put off by the size unless you think your son would really struggle and you find it overwhelming. I have only experience (albeit limited as DC is still in primary) of what's considered to be big schools but I've never felt that DC (or me) was just a number. And the classroom and school are still 'homely'. These things depends very much on the physical layout of the premises rather than the number of pupils I'd say. What I like with a bigge school, is the opportunity to meet other children. I know that my DC has many friends outside his class more depending on interest. Just like real life is.

Good Luck in your decision!

Indantherene Wed 30-Dec-15 16:02:37

If they are reorganising on such a huge scale is there a possibility that the smaller schools will merge into one big one? Don't underestimate the disruption of ongoing building work, either.

My eldest DCs went to a lovely village school, only 90 pupils, 3 classes from YR to Y6. They built a massive housing estate next door and gave all the kids from there guaranteed entry. New children were joing the school throughout the year every single term. By the time I pulled DC4 out of there only 9 years after DC1 started there were 12 classes of 30. It had lost everything that made it a good school.

From what you've said the town school sounds like the best option. It's closer, the facilities are better, and the pool of friends is larger. They will be able to offer more clubs. Really a 2 class per year school is a fairly normal size.

Thetruthfairy Wed 30-Dec-15 16:11:03

The larger school sounds good, the extra facilities would probably sway me towards this one. I would go with your gut.
I think you also need to be very realistic about chances of getting in a school. Most good schools are over-subscribed. If you choose an option outside of your catchment you may end up given a placement that would not have been your choice.
I would go large school with the private school as a back up x

MilkRunningOutAgain Sat 02-Jan-16 08:00:53

I'm also for the town school, more facilities and clubs, and the convenience of being able to walk there , having friends who are local is a plus point too, makes it easier for him to visit friends and for them them to come to you. Good luck!

Indole Sat 02-Jan-16 23:18:32

Re desks and uniforms, I am also not a fan of uniform but most state school uniforms are fairly undemanding - polo shirt, sweatshirt and appropriate grey/navy/black trousers or skirt is about as far as it goes. Plus most decent state schools do start very slowly in terms of actually having to follow a lesson or sit at a table for a prescribed period of time. Stay away from the private school if you don't like desks and uniforms!

In your shoes I would go for the town school unless your son is likely to have real problems with a big group of children. I am sure you will know if he will!

NynaevesSister Sun 03-Jan-16 14:39:31

I would go for the town school if you like it. Son goes to a big school and it's been a great experience. We've benefited from a lot of extra facilities that a smaller school wouldn't have. We've never felt disadvantaged being in a bigger school. Also I felt it would be easier going from a big primary to secondary rather than a little village school (our other option).

EdithWeston Sun 03-Jan-16 14:50:04

Your DS is still three, but remember you are choosing a school that is likely to fit well right up until he's 11. The small school you lean towards now might not provide all the activities you want as he grows. And the bigger school may well organise the youngest ones in ways that really won't be overwhelming.

Also, think about friendships. Right now, you'll take your DS everywhere and probably get the major say in what he can go to. But what will that be like in a few years? Do you want his friends nearby, so a 9+ year old can have some tastes of independence? What about after school activities, clubs within walking distance or a drive away?

Monica101 Sun 03-Jan-16 16:02:36

If you are likely to be going private in year 3 then I would go for a village school now as it will be nicer for a little one and I don't think great facilities are as important for under 7's.

I am going private but will delay starting at all until year 1, that is one of the perks of going private at least in my area, there is not a shortage of places so I don't need to start my summer born dd off when she is just 4 and not ready.

meggleshs Sun 03-Jan-16 16:22:48

THanks everyone - Monica101 - do you know about the consultation / draft legislation regarding summer borns? depending on when your little one will be 4, you may have a automatic entitlement to start your child at 5 into reception.

Monica101 Sun 03-Jan-16 19:00:07

Thanks meggleshs, I've heard of the summer born draft but as we are Catholic and would be looking at a state Catholic we have had a very sniffy response from our local school.

I may well pursue it as it's a very good school and would save us loads to go there until year 3. But unfortunately reading summerbornchildren.org it seems a lot of people are having problems getting Catholic schools to honour the summer born admission.

Anyway, best of luck with your decision, it's all very fraught deciding on schools!

notasgreenasimcabbagelooking Sun 03-Jan-16 19:28:53

I teach P1 (NI equivalent of reception) and have done for nearly 30 years!! I'd say that in an ideal situation- where places are available!!!- there is a lot to be said for going by your gut instinct? Look for people (teacher, Classrm asst, principal, other parents) that you and your little one can bond with? I know that's idealistic - and I appreciate that I am also lucky enough to teach in an area with lot of excellent schools but you and your son with be building bonds with people,as well as covering a curriculum. You are entrusting someone with your "prized possession" for want of a better phrase. However, sometimes "choice" doesn't come into it! My class intake is 30 and we've had 55+ first choice applications for a number of years. In fact it has got to the stage where I'm a bit embarrassed that we have open days as we are almost tempting people to come and look at what they can't have!! So fill in the paperwork carefully and rank your options accordingly. And in the case of my school-stay on the waiting list!! Places DO become available!! I had a new child in my class who started around 21st June last year!! We finish on 30th June in NI!! As my Nana would have said "what is for you, won't go by you"!! Good luck with your decision making!! I can hardly believe that its time to start the intake process again.....I seem to have only just started with my current class!!!

meggleshs Sun 03-Jan-16 20:00:42

yes - I think there is too much choice for me! We would likely get into 3 schools (private (which btw is the closest at 0.3 mile!), town school where I am guaranteed a place, and the furthest of the village schools), and possibly into another 2 village schools (by last year's distance I'd get into 1 but not the other)

My gut is saying the local town school... but then there is this stupid thing about the village schools being more 'it' / perceived as desirable. makes me 2nd guess about what I'm missing...

turdfairynomore Sun 03-Jan-16 20:30:04

In my experience-as parent and teacher- there's a lot to be said for a (slightly) larger class as having 5-10 boys\girls can be tricky, especially as they get a little older? In terms of "knowing everyone", i like that vibe in a school, but it's not limited to a village school? Where I teach, nearly all the staff know everyone! Because I teach the youngest children, I've taught them all so I (and the principal) know them all...& their siblings (older and younger) and their parents (some of whom I taught!) And I also know many of the grandparents=when I start to have taught them...I'm retiring! I teach in a single entry P1-7 school-around 215 children. I'm biased I know-but I wouldn't see the desirability in a school of 60? Presumably there's a teaching principal? Composite classes? Limited resources? Teaching is tough....teaching a composite class is VERY tough (I have no issues with a well taught composite class-my own son was in a P3\4 composite and I asked that he be in it, as opposed to in the straight P3 and P4 and that was because of what I mentioned earlier...the bond between him and that teacher! She " got" him!) Tough decision! And the first of many!! I've just been doing UCAS with my "little one"!!!

AppleAndBlackberry Sun 03-Jan-16 20:36:27

I wouldn't be very keen for mixed year groups, so it would be the town school or the independent for me. Year R should be learning through play, not sitting at desks, I think it would be difficult to do that well with mixed year groups.

Indole Sun 03-Jan-16 21:55:33

Small classes are really not all they are cracked up to be! I think a lot of parents love them from afar, most having not experienced them. DD was in a class of 16 one year and a class of 34 the next year. The class of 34 was preferable. She had a decent-sized peer group and more people to bounce ideas off.

Mixed year groups, OTOH, can be pretty good IMO. DD was in a mixed Y1/2 class (as one of the younger ones) and it was brilliant for her.

cariadlet Mon 04-Jan-16 10:56:02

I wouldn't worry about the town school being too big. I teach in a large primary (3 form entry, 21 classes altogether, 30 children in most classes). It can be tricky for staff to know all other members of staff as well as in a small school, but big schools certainly don't feel impersonal to children.

My dd used to go to the same school when she was in primary and didn't find it daunting at all. Reception classes are generally kept a little separate to start with and gradually introduced to the rest of the school as children find their feet and become more confident.

There are definitely advantages to a small school, but there are different advantages to a big school eg more facilities, more than 1 teacher in a year group so teachers can share ideas etc.

For children, I think that the biggest advantage is having a large pool of possible friends. In village schools and in small private schools there may only be a few children of the same age and the same gender (children often choose to play with other boys or other girls, and their best friends are usually the same sex as themselves). That can be tricky if there is a dominant child leading a little clique, or if 1 or 2 children have different personalities/interests from the majority. Also, children are always falling out with each other and it's much easier to find somebody else to play with in a larger school.

cece Mon 04-Jan-16 11:07:45

I would see the bigger school size as a positive.
Larger pool of friends, more teachers/expertise, more facilities, more resources, more clubs....

My DC went to a school with 3 classes in each year group. It was an advantage in my opinion to have so many children to choose from at playtime. They also used to mix the children up each year so they were with different children each year. After a few years they all had so many friends they were never lonely.

I would be very reluctant to send my DC to a very small village school.

Personally unless my nearest school was drastically awful then I would go for my nearest school or the one I have the most realistic chance of being offered a place.

Inkymess Mon 04-Jan-16 20:35:19

Town school gets my vote for all the reasons others have given. We are ata 3 form school and love the size advantages

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