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Dithering over school application - help!

(49 Posts)
glorious Wed 28-Dec-16 19:10:32

I'm really struggling to decide the order of preferences for DD's primary school application.

We have a good chance of getting a place at any of the three schools in question. Our LA operates a catchment system and all children in catchment got into the two we are in catchment for in all of the last 5 years. The third is a faith school and we qualify under the faith criteria and would have got in 4 out of the last 5 years.

So it does feel like a genuine choice and I keep changing my mind about what order to put them in.

School 1
* we live next door
* nice playground
* traditionally the school that people round here want to send their children to
* friends with children there think it's good
* I worry it's a bit complacent - ofsted raises concerns about higher achievers not being stretched and it has a very privileged intake. SATS results are not great.
* no open day and prospectus isn't even up to date. Doesn't send a good message to me about communication with parents
* no uniform, which worries me from a practical point of view

School 2
* new(ish) school in federation with another. This year is the first with a Y6 so no SATSs results to look at
* amazing new building
* good ofsted
* I really rated the headteacher and the whole ethos on the open day
* 15 minute journey in the wrong direction

School 3
* historically by far the most successful on paper - outstanding ofsted, best SATS results by a mile
* friends with children there rave about it
* one form intake and very family/friendly atmosphere which I think DD would benefit from
* 15 minute journey going past my husband's office and the station I will commute from, but a bit of a pain as it's in town
* 2016 SATS results were absolutely rubbish

Help! Which would you pick and why?

GlitterGlue Wed 28-Dec-16 19:16:48

What about wrap around & holiday care? Do any of them offer it or have outsider providers who collect?

SenoritaViva Wed 28-Dec-16 19:16:58

Go with your gut feel on favourite, especially thoughts on the head important. I work in a school and the leadership is key.

A school that doesn't have open doors and communication would worry me.

mytinselsinatangle Wed 28-Dec-16 19:19:08

School 1 - location is ideal.

With hindsight sats results and ofstead are really not the be all and end all. I think parental input is as important as the education a school gives. If you are interested and support at home, they will do well.

smellyboot Wed 28-Dec-16 19:24:02

I'm not a fan of one form entry schools as I find them too small. Cute at 4. Claustrophobic by 9/10. Close location wins for me every time as its sooo useful later on. I'd love no uniform. Luckily we have a very lax uniform policy which is a happy medium. No daft rules to be adhered to. No stress of DC insist on wearing some thing else or you have forgotten to do the laundry!!!

BikeRunSki Wed 28-Dec-16 19:24:19

1- never underestimate the practicality of living very close to school.

Then 2, then 3. The SAT results of the third school would concern me. Is there a reason ?

All this is overridden by the provision of wrap around care though.

smellyboot Wed 28-Dec-16 19:27:01

There was an article I read recently about 2016 SATS results making no sense. I looked at all our local schools and some good schools had awful results. Even the most amazing schools, incl ours had ropey results. They made no sense to me

glorious Wed 28-Dec-16 19:27:12

Thanks for your thoughts.

Good point glitter. They all offer wraparound for the same hours (though cost different amounts). In any case none of them offer enough wraparound so we will need an au pair or some other childcare regardless. They all also have holiday care.

senorita yes I'm half inclined to do that but then what do I know about the quality of school leadership - it's hard to tell how much some just put on a better show than others. I'm also worried about the logistics of getting DD to and from the one I liked the best.

tinsel yes, I think you're right that I should stop worrying about the statistics and reports. All the schools are fine really, it's not like any of them are truly dreadful. I'm more concerned about whether she will be happy at school and I'm not totally confident in that.

In a way I wish we still lived where we used to as we basically had no choice there so I'd have just got on with it!

mirokarikovo Wed 28-Dec-16 19:27:28

I would go for school 1
There is a huge benefit to being right next to the school from a community point of view and so your child feels secure and confident in the new environment.

I wouldn't be hugely concerned about the issue that you raise of potential complacency - if this was a point in their latest ofsted they will be working to address this and your dc will benefit.

Research has shown that the vast majority of beneficial outcomes from primary education is most strongly correlated with having books and reading at home and engaged parents. Then hereditary intelligence. The quality of school comes 4th.

Given that the school next door is good, there us no sensible reason not to go for it so that your child can more easily be part of extra-curricular stuff and be within walking distance of friends.

smellyboot Wed 28-Dec-16 19:28:44

oh and 15mins on foot or in car? If its in the car then I'd eliminate as far too far for us. Local friends on the doorstep are a huge asset and makes life so so much easier later on

JaniceBattersby Wed 28-Dec-16 19:29:03

I'd go with the closest school every time. We did even though it wasn't the best school on paper. It makes life so, so much easier for everyone to be able to walk to school. It's easier sociallly, logistically and you feel much more part of the school community. Not having to get in the car very morning is bliss.

Collecting is easier and if you have more than one child you don't have to drag them out in the car ,multiple times to do pick up for after school clubs etc.

I'd be a really big supporter of a return to the catchment school system for all if he government proposed it.

gallicgirl Wed 28-Dec-16 19:30:11

I'd disregard the 2016 sats results as the government changed the format and standards so a lot of schools had worse results than expected, how were they in previous years?

Leadership and communication are really important as they shape the ethos of the school. My daughter's teacher left unexpectedly at the end of the first term of reception year but I wasn't worried as the leadership team was excellent and quickly put a plan in place to fill the breach.

I think it's important to remember that you're choosing a school for the next 7 years and consider what will suit your child then as well as now.

The comment about wraparound care is a useful point. Also what clubs do the schools offer?

Without knowing your child, I'd be inclined to go with 3 then 2.

GlitterGlue Wed 28-Dec-16 19:31:54

If it's an au pair then presume school one will be easiest?

Do check that care accepts reception children or is likely to have space.

I have to go in the wrong direction and it's surprising how much time it can add to a journey.

glorious Wed 28-Dec-16 19:32:54

Sorry missed more posts while I was typing my essay!

smellyboot yeah I can see how that could happen. My own school was very small and I liked it but that's just me. It's fairly unlikely we'll still be here by Y6 so I'm not sure how much weight to give to how she might feel when she's older.

bike not that I'm aware of. Across the whole town it seems that the schools that were good before have done badly and vice versa. Most of the middling ones are still middling. It's quite odd. Sounds like it might be similar where smelly is. I do take your point about local though, and we do know some children who will be going to that school already. There's a lovely local community around the school which it would be nice to be part of. However it is a small town so she's going to be within easy reach of friends wherever she goes.

irvineoneohone Wed 28-Dec-16 19:38:01

I would put school 3, 2, 1 in that order.
privileged intake and not so great SATS results(I assume not just 2016 results), plus no stretching of able sounds no-no for me.
But I usually prefer close and not 1 form entry.

glorious Wed 28-Dec-16 19:39:34

smelly 15 minutes on foot, much less on a bike (which we generally use). I don't even drive so car journeys are not a consideration!

gallic in previous years school 3 has the best SATs results by a mile (and the best in the whole town). School 1 is middling. School 2 doesn't have any but the school they are in federation with does about as well as school 1.

DD is an only and likely to remain so.

It seems a lot of people would go for the closest. It would certainly be convenient (tempted to build a gate in our fence wink). And we will have a fairly complicated and stressful existence so there is a lot to be said for that. But it's not worth her being unhappy at school for, and that's what worries me most.

smellyboot Wed 28-Dec-16 19:45:42

You mention she may be unhappy at school but I am not sure why you say that?? If its a decent school and she can make friends locally, I cant see why she would be unhappy? We are a huge school but DC who are both shy and boistrous thrive as it caters well for all individuals and has an interesting curriculum with great teachers and very few discipline issues.

glorious Wed 28-Dec-16 19:50:16

I don't know really. She could equally be unhappy at any of them for all I can tell.

I was pretty unhappy at my first school because I got extremely bored, so I may be projecting my own experiences. It was a very different kind of school and obviously a while ago, and DD is not me (!) so I do know it's not actually relevant.

I think that I just feel very responsible for getting it right so I'm over thinking it.

EweAreHere Wed 28-Dec-16 19:50:50

Tentatively: 3, 1, 2.

But 1 might be re-considered as the first choice if you want your child to be able to meet up with friends easily. It does get tricky if you don't live near the school and most of the other children do ... they'll get left out of a lot of playdates, etc.

SATs last year were new and crazy and the school will suss them out long before your child sits them. If the education has traditionally been strong, otw, your child will be find regardless of SATs scores overall. They will.

2 would put me off because I intensely dislike the academies/federated schools around here and their ethos.

smellyboot Wed 28-Dec-16 19:55:58

For reception I'd look for interesting outdoor provision - our building is old and crumbly but we have brilliant out door classroom space, mud kitchens, play facilties etc. We have a specialist sports coach and 60% of school play an instrument etc. The EYFS is very very different from years ago and its much much more interactive and play / explorative based. In our school that approach goes up the school.

smellyboot Wed 28-Dec-16 19:58:22

Being 5 mins from school it awesome for impromptu play dates, and DC spending time at friends houses as only a few mins walk. I never had that as I was 15min drive from my school. My DC benefit hugely from it.

Biscuitsneeded Wed 28-Dec-16 20:02:28

1. Being at your local school will mean local friends. Sats, ofsted etc aren't so important as feeling part of your immediate community. Avoid one-form entry - too claustrophobic.

OP you aren't in Cambridge are you?

jamdonut Wed 28-Dec-16 20:10:43

I would (and did) go for closest school. It had its problems but all 3 children came out the other side unscathed. So Ofsted reckon they don't stretch high attainers. I'm sure that is being addressed as it was in the last report, because come the next Inspection that's going to be looked at straight away! If you feel your children fall into that category, forewarned is forearmed and can be tackled if a problem arises, surely? And it's not a massive problem, really.
Being close to the school is a huge advantage, for all sorts of reasons, not least not having to leave home so early!

jamdonut Wed 28-Dec-16 20:20:07

Why do you think she will be unhappy at school?

She could be unhappy at any of them!!!! No one knows what will happen, wherever you decide.

bangingmyheadoffabrickwall Wed 28-Dec-16 21:07:34

School 3 would be my first choice. 2016 SAT results would not bother me in he slightest as EVERY SCHOOL did rubbish compared to previous years and that is the problem - you cannot compare as 2016 was so different and the expectations were higher with little time to ensure children were up to standard.

School 2 as second choice. Maybe look into a childminder nearer the school.

School 1. Wouldn't touch it. A school with no open day or up to date prospectus tells me that SLT have little respect or time or effort in their school. Personally I don't like the use of no uniform. Uniform promotes identity and respect (IMO) and would want my child to feel connected to a school.

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