Would you choose an inspirational school in a deprived estate or a 'meh' school in a slightly more affluent neighbourhood??(44 Posts)
We live in south east London - a leafy green suburb. Competition for primary places is quite high and you need to leave within about 0.4-0.8 miles of a school to stand a chance of getting in.
So there's really only two schools close to us that we stand a chance of getting in:
School A: a large 3 form intake job which had tired, messy looking facilities, drippy teachers and which basically seemed a bit "meh" when I looked round it (which is situated in a residential area surrounded by 30s 3-bed semis like ours)
School B: literally half the size of school A, 2 form entry, an inspiring headteacher, really engaged switched on teachers, have transformed the school in last 6 years going from required improvement up to "good" with Ofsted, talking about being on a journey to outstanding, kids talk about school values and aspirations, great facilities, huge forest school, loads of space and clean, ordered classrooms. But it is situated in middle of quite a deprived estate and my friends have all been a bit 😱 When I mention it because apparently it's onownfor having sweary parents who do drop offs in their PJs 😫
A few qualifying factors:
- both are Ofsted good at the moment but School A due an inspection and the head is retiring.
- school B prides itself on a "no child left behind" philosophy and achieves above national average on all key performance indicators despite a large number of kids arriving st the school with lower than average abilities and many of them coming from vulnerable homes/family situations. They do a brilliantly job supporting these children to achieve their potential and have incredible facilities for kids with physical and learning disabilities.
My son who is currently 3 seems to be on the bright side (feels cringe writing that but it's true - his nursery tell me he has the vocal of a much older child and he is very curious about the world, choosing non fiction books from the library every week and chattering away about cavemen and the water cycle etc...!), both me and DH were straight A students, graduates, professional jobs etc so am slightly concerned that whilst school B does really great work with children that require extra support they might not be set up to support/stretch/challenge more able kids?
What would you do?
Apologies if this post makes me sound like a twat - i am not being a snob about school B, I just want to make sure my son ends up somewhere that engages and challenges him - if the teachers are spending loads f time supporting children that need more help, what happens to the other kids who are more able? Because my DS is the sort who will just be naughty if he's not stimulated and challenged....
School B for me. The teachers and headteacher make the school. If they genuinely care about the kids that's what you need. An OFSTEAD fuck up can come from all kinds of reasons including stuff like having a bad admin system.
DDs old school was rated outstanding but the teachers always came across as really disinterested. I had no choice so she went anyway. By the time she left at the end of year 2 the school had a new head, half the teachers had left and it had bombed an OFSTEAD.
School b. No contest.
Engaged switched on teachers will to their best for every pupil, not just those at the bottom end.
A fully inclusive environment where all children are welcomed will give your son a far more rounded view of the world; he will naturally become more accepting of other children's abilities and disabilities.
If you are worried that he won't mix as much with the children in houses like yours (not quite sure why that's a concern), then sign him up for Beavers or other clubs on your estate.
And hey, don't knock the pyjama mamas - useful to know that you won't have to get dolled up to the nines just to do the school run, surely?
More practically; which school has better wraparound care if that's something you might find useful? What are the standard school trips? Which clubs do they have? Are there the same extra curricular opportunities such as musical instrument lessons, sports clubs, etc.?
I'd opt for the inclusive school every time myself.
Forget the Ofsted reports though; which one feels like a better fit?
B (actually sounds like the school my DC go to. Though be warned if you send your child there, you will be inundated with parents telling you that the school is awful, the parents violent, and no child learns to read. All of who reliably have it on the authority of someone who knew someone who new someone that went there 10 years ago).
This is same choice I'm making for DD 11. We've opted for school B.
I've discovered that most affluent area school results are largely affected by number of parents who can afford tutors to keep their children up to standard
Fact that it is smaller goes in its favour as well. More likely that teachers will know most if not all the children, which should give it more of a community feel.
Families in deprived areas who tend to struggle a bit more with finances are actually very involved and keen on their kids getting a good educations as that is the way out for them, same is true for immigrant families. I am obviously generalizing a lot here, but that is my impression. If School B seems like a better option for the particular needs of your child, then don't hesitate.
To clarify when I said "most affluent area school" I was referring to School A in my particular circumstances - not all 'affluent area' schools.
Go with your gut instinct. If the Head is inspirational, it doesn't matter where the school is situated.
School B sounds pretty much like the school I chose for dd even though our catchment school was outstanding. We travelled to get to it, admittedly some of the parents in the playground were a bit scary but there were never any issues as the HT had built strong home school relationships and the school had an open door policy. Dd thrived there, it was a new school when she started but within two years numbers swelled by 50% because of their reputation and the school was extended. I have no regrets, results were great, equivalent to the outstanding catchment school, even though the catchment was very different. Dd's school also had a no child left behind so they had many SEN children and also some with profound disabilities but they seemed able to cater for all abilities as they had a higher percentage of level 6 grades at the end of Primary than other local primaries and even the local independent school.
School B, no contest. We faced a similar, though not so dramatic choice, and plumped for school B. Our neighbours called us "brave" and other such nonsense. The DC had an amazing experience there, and received an enriching education way beyond that needed for the national curriculum. As it turned out, they have also done well academically. The school B type school gave them a love of learning that is standing them in good stead now that they are in the serious business of actually sitting exams.
Its a known quantity. The head of A is retiring, and you don't know who will follow them.
And as others have said, don't make all your decisions based on ofsted (although it can be useful). One of my DDs was at an "outstanding" secondary school. It was inspected within a few months of a new head starting, so she hadn't had time to fuck it up, yet.
Her headship finished around a year later, because of something really terrible that was directly the head's fault. My DD has now left, so I don't know what has happened since, but that school still has the "outstanding" it never really earned (IMO).
Mine are at a School B. They do amazing amounts of small groups to challenge everyone at the right level, from extra challenge maths to 'PE support group'.
Two years later word got round and now it's the oversubscribed one and the Outstanding one nearby which now has a new head and building disruption isn't.
I think how a school deals with struggling children is one of the best indicators you can get as to how it will deal with very able children.
I'd hazard that a school that recognises each 'struggling' individual child's needs will in general also recognise the able children's needs. It's the underlying attitude that each child has their own individual needs, that is easily extended across the range of abilities.
Whereas a school that doesn't deal well with strugglers (e.g. just ignores them until they leave for a different, better school, or until they get private tutoring to fill the gaps) may well get great results - with most and least able children all having external tutoring. But chances are that they teach to the average, and rely on those with extra needs (on either side of the ability spectrum) to cover those needs on their own. With the underlying attitude being 'this is what we do, if you don't like it (if it doesn't meet your child's needs), go elsewhere'.
So for that reason, I'd go with B.
Just be aware that if the head of school B has been there 6 years and has done an amazing job turning the school round they might feel the job is complete and time to move on. I was once told that 6 years is a good time to move. Good luck with your choice!
My DD is at a school B.
The only fly in our ointment is what happens next - if we want her to sit exams for selective (indy) secondary, we're going to have to think about how to prepare her. In school A (which get fantastic SATs results), she'd be closer to prepared in school, I think.
School B sounds great!!
I agree about looking at how the school treats pupils who are struggling as a gauge on how it values individuals' abilities.
But you want your DS to be excited about and challenged with learning. Just read back what you wrote about the two places overall. No contest from what came across to me!
School B sounds amazing. Your DS is so lucky to have the opportunity.
My DS is in the nursery equivalent of school B. Its amazing. They think so deeply about their practice and take so much effort over the children. Helping them lay the foundations for primary school in ways that go way beyond academics (although they do some great pre-writing stuff don't get me wrong). Things like: teaching them self planning and self discipline with "now and next" boards, doing emotional literacy work with glove puppets, constantly checking in with parents on their progress. Its really wonderful.
The only slight thing that irks me is the slight sense of being watched and monitored as a parent.
So with the emotional literacy for example- we were all invited to a meeting to discuss it and quite a lot of time was devoted to the process they would have to follow if someone "disclosed something." It makes me feel nervous even though I know I've done nothing wrong!
I understand why its necessary though and I'm happy to take it on the chin for DS's sake. I just wish I had the option of a School B for primary.
It will be school C- the meh school in a poor area versus school don't-even-think-about-it the over subscribed school in a posh area.
IME, schools cycle up and down.
School A. It's getting a new head teacher who, no doubt, can see all the tired facilities and tired ethos just as well as you can and will want to put their mark on the school. Perhaps the old head teacher hadn't bothered much because they were going to retire, perhaps they've been 'encouraged' to retire. School A sounds like it needs an overhaul and could be at the start of an upswing (with the new head teacher).
School B - I know of two schools where the school has improved out of all recognition under a certain head teacher. All well and good, but then that head teacher leaves and the school can sink. The two I know did. The ethos of the school changed and a certain number of teachers left after the head teacher. A completely different feel to the school.
At the end of the day, your kids will make friends at school and you will see a lot of their friends' parents.
Which set of parents will you be more comfortable with, with your kids having sleepovers and playdates at their houses? That's a big part of school at that age.
Also, probably applies more to secondary than primary, but your kids' friends' aspirations will impact on your kids' aspirations.
I'd pick School A.
School B, without any hesitation. DS2 is at a primary which is much closer to B than A and it's been mostly brilliant for him - he has significant SN and has been able to stay in mainstream all the way through.
We had a very similar situation. We went for A. In hindsight, I'd have gone for B.
We chose school A in a similar scenario 8 years ago and felt it was a no-brainer. Although, to be fair, I didn't have that much of a 'meh' feeling about School A. Yes, School B was smaller, more personal and more caring, but I didn't feel negative about School A. Headteacher in school A retired the year we joined. It was a good thing, the new headmistress was very enthusiastic and made many positive changes.
Inclusivity is great in theory, but in practice in rough areas it means disruptive behaviour that holds back the whole class. For a bright child that's particularly unfortunate. It also means that your child might make friends with a kid whose parents just freak you out, plain and simple. For example, my DD's friend is often picked up by an older sibling who is unemployed, sometimes drunk or stoned; and often smoking. It does scare me what friendships like these will develop into when children are older, because no matter how tolerant I am trying to be, I just don't want my daughter anywhere near that family. Call me judgemental or whatever you like, but I want my daughter safe.
Bigger school means bigger potential for making friends. Definitely a good thing.
For a bright child national average standards mean nothing, they are so low that finding out how your child is doing against their own potential within this system is impossible. My DS also started to expect to be correct all the time, and was handling failures and even minor mistakes quite badly (he never made any in school!) He is now in a selective, very academic secondary school which serves him much better than any of the primaries (A or B) could do.
Re Ofsted - good rating is a positive indicator. Outstanding - not necessarily. It requires the school to be mega focused on results and that's not always in the best interests of children. For example, somewhat relaxed attitude towards absences and exams is a good thing in the eyes of most parents, but not so good in the eyes of Ofsted.
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