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What to do if you don't like your only choice of school?

(18 Posts)
Falcon1 Tue 22-Nov-16 15:08:39

My DD starts reception in September. As all local schools are massively oversubscribed and I'm not prepared to pretend to be religious, we only have one school that we've any chance of getting into (the other community schools are more than a mile away). I've just been to a tour of said school. It's rated 'good' but I just don't like it very much. There was loud music blaring in some of the classrooms, the results are poor, and whilst this does reflect the intake, I wasn't convinced that sufficient emphasis is placed on achievement. I feel worried that it's not the right school. But there doesn't seem to be anything I can do. Did anyone else feel like they were 'settling' on a primary school, only to be pleasantly surprised? Do you think it's worth mentioning my concerns to the Head teacher, or is that not the done thing before you actually have a child there? Is it worth applying to other schools and hope that a space comes up on the waiting list?

tiggytape Tue 22-Nov-16 16:35:14

You should absolutely apply to all of the schools that you like better but making sure you list your banker school (your local one you feel certain you'll meet the distance criteria for even if you don't like it) on the form somewhere.

You never know - maybe the religious schools won't fill all their spaces with churchgoers this year or maybe lots of people will go private. It is definitely worth filling up every preference on your form.

If you don't qualify for any of the schools you liked better and placed higher on your list, then you will get allocated the local school that you placed lower on your list that you do meet the criteria for. You will however be able to go on the waiting lists of all the school you said you liked better and you may get an offer that way (it depends who else is on the list that qualified more than you do eg by living closer).

I don't think there's any point talking to the Head at this stage. If your child joins the schools and you have worries about noise or progress or anything else relating to your child, then you can raise it then
However, it would be unusual for an adult without a child at the school to pass comment or complain about school procedures glimpsed on just one day (unless you saw any safety or safeguarding concerns of course).

IN answer to your last question - people every year get allocated a school they either didn't ask for or actively didn't want and generally, most people end up happy with where their child is (to the extent that many offered a waiting list place at their 1st choice school, months later, refuse it).

attheendoftheday Tue 22-Nov-16 17:15:13

In our experience you become a volunteer and a governor and try to make the school better.

We also do a lot of supplementing our dd's education at home.

golfbuggy Tue 22-Nov-16 17:44:47

Suck it and see. Supplement at home if necessary (easy enough to do at primary level). We had one choice for both infants and junior, so our decision was not whether we loved them, but whether we hated them enough to do something drastic like move! It''s fair to say that whilst neither school fits the "best school ever" description, they have both been "good enough". And of course I have no idea how my DC would have faired somewhere else!

canwestart2016again Tue 22-Nov-16 17:46:16

We were in your situation. We moved. It is a possibility?

Manumission Tue 22-Nov-16 17:50:28

What would you say to the headteacher?

It amounts to 'I don't like the look of your school' doesn't it?

Unless you have some very concrete, specific concerns about DD's needs (medical, SN or social) that you can present in the guise of concerns about "a less than ideal fit" and then discuss positively how to ameliorate that for her, I'd bite your tongue.

A year will be enough to decide if you're pleasantly surprised.

Options for a plan B boil down to private sector, Home Ed or house move by the sounds of it.

Seachangeshell Tue 22-Nov-16 17:57:50

If the school is rated 'good ' then it is. The value added will be good, meaning that a lot of children come in at a very low level from home, but that they then make good progress. They have a harder job than some other schools where the children have had a better start in life.

Falcon1 Tue 22-Nov-16 20:33:24

Thanks for all your messages. Some good advice. You're right about speaking to the head. Was a stupid idea in hindsight.

We are keen to move but can't yet for financial reasons. Certainly not before we have to apply anyway.

I like the idea of becoming a governor, or at least being very active in making the school a success.

Dixiechickonhols Tue 22-Nov-16 22:01:41

Are there any schools further out that are undersubscribed. There is a village near us with 2 under subscribed schools - hardly any village children and no public transport whatsoever. But doable by car. Maybe speak to LA admissions? Not sure how accurate it is but rightmove has a school checker which may give you some ideas for undersubscribed schools to look into.

smellyboot Wed 23-Nov-16 14:47:17

I'd also consider going again if they do open days or Xmas fair or something. It's hard to gauge a school on just a short visit. I assume the loud music was down to a particular activity? It's rated as good but yet you say results are poor - that's unusual. Lots of schools near us have challenging intakes but great results e.g. Lots of children who don't speak English on entry, non affluent demographics, high pupil premium.
Other posters are right though - the vast majority of people end up happy enough with their allocated schools once they have got involved.
Some move them later into more popular schools when spaces come up, but a lot later don't bother.
Does it suit you in other ways - close by, facilities, sports, music etc.
SATS are only a tiny part of your DC overall experience

BertrandRussell Wed 23-Nov-16 14:49:28

How is it rated good if the results are poor?

smellyboot Wed 23-Nov-16 14:53:03

I did one school tour with some other potential parents where another parent very directly asked the new HT what he was going to do about the previous culture of under achieving and poor results in that school. He was brilliant and was very clear in his response. He talked lots about how they were now tracking achievement. I was impressed. That was 4 years ago. He's transformed the school since. I also promptly put it down on my list - above the local outstanding school I didn't like.
It's totally valid to ask the question if you are concerned about achievement IMO

readingrainbow Wed 23-Nov-16 14:53:20

I would speak to LA admissions, and ask about undersubscribed schools. That's what I did when we moved to our current home, as I had 3 dc in primary and wanted them all in the same school! We ended up in a lovely little school that they are thriving in; very happy with our choice.

Wigeon Wed 23-Nov-16 22:08:20

Is there a school improvement plan, or something similar, on their website? Rather than saying to the Head "your school seems a bit shit, is it", you can say things like "what do you think are the strengths and areas to improve of this school?", "what are you priority areas to focus on over the coming year?". Or "I saw your maths results seem quite a bit lower than the national average, why do you think that is?" Any Head worth their salt should be able to rattle off a really clear assessment of what they do well and what they are improving, and how.

I would strongly caution about thinking that being a govenor might mitigate your concerns. It could be a fabulous opportunity to be part of the school's journey of improvement, but ONLY if the Head and governing body are committed to honest self appraisal and dedicated to changing and improving where they have identified a need to change. And if the Head is committted to working with the governors to do this. If not, it can be a totally thankless, demoralising task...

Bertrand - surely they will be "good" if they can demonstrate that they have pupils making good progress? So if the results are poor, that suggests pupils entered the school with very low attainment, or high SEN and / or pupil premium pupils, and the school may still have done a huge amount to get the results they do. I am guessing.

kesstrel Thu 24-Nov-16 18:11:59

Until two months ago, Ofsted had a policy of only coming back to inspect a "good" school once in seven years. A primary school can go seriously downhill in just a couple of years if a good headteacher leaves, especially if it's a small school, and even big schools can certainly deteriorate seriously in a period of 5 or 6 years.

BertrandRussell Thu 24-Nov-16 18:14:27

"Bertrand - surely they will be "good" if they can demonstrate that they have pupils making good progress? So if the results are poor, that suggests pupils entered the school with very low attainment, or high SEN and / or pupil premium pupils, and the school may still have done a huge amount to get the results they do. I am guessing."

Absolutely. So a sign of a very effective school, surely? Not one you would want to avoid?

Falcon1 Mon 28-Nov-16 13:29:58

Thank you all for your comments - only just seen the last few.

To answer your questions, it is a 'good' school in that they do very well with their intake - children enter at a level that is much lower than average and go on to achieve about average. So this is great, but I just worry that it might not serve higher ability children that well. I did ask the Head about this and she outlined how children of different ability are taken off into smaller groups (so like streaming), and that there are clubs children can attend e.g. maths club. But I'm not wholly convinced that this is enough if the general level of ability is quite low.

I also asked about the music in the classroom. The Head said that music is used for all kinds of lessons - it's up to the teacher to decide when it is appropriate. I really don't think it would aid concentration - maybe Mozart or something, but not Heart FM!

On the plus side, the school is very near to us, has good facilities (it gets more funding per head than most schools due to the pupil premium) and the Head seems very switched on/passionate. Speaking to other parents, reports are mixed but most seem broadly happy.

Getting into another under-subscribed school isn't an option as there don't seem to be any!

smellyboot Mon 28-Nov-16 23:25:05

That exra funding can make a massive difference.

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