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How do you make the final decision to move primary schools?

(22 Posts)
hattyyellow123 Fri 17-Feb-17 09:23:06

Would really value and welcome any help. DD is 7 and my older child left the same primary school last year. This is the nearest school to us. It used to be very well respected in the area and much loved by the families who attended.

Older child has gone up to secondary and gaps have been identified across their knowledge in maths, extra coaching given by the school which is great - but I'm concerned that these things weren't picked up on before.

Comparing SATs/progress results to other schools in the area (very similar class sizes and mix of kids) - I've belatedly realised that our school was significantly behind. I know these marks aren't everything but compared with other schools locally I had expected to see a similar pattern and we are way, way behind everyone else. Our maths is in bottom 10% of the UK.

DD is relatively happy, she doesn't like change. She has no really close friends, as she is the only girl in the small year - she is in a group at playtime and she is liked by her peers - but no close relationships - very few party or tea invites as her closest friend moved school in year 1.

Her class has had supply teachers since this time last year and there's been a massive load of changes in senior leadership and staffing.

When talking to the new Head, he's not been able to tell me anything on the record - which concerns me. He has revealed off the record that there were a number of significant (his word) challenges which led to the poor results and that a lot of people had to go as a result from the teaching staff. We've lost 6 teachers in the last year.

I feel massively let down that these changes apparently happened over a three year period - that while the last head and teachers were nodding happily and telling us all was fine - it wasn't and that was reflected across a lot of the year 6's and the gaps being revealed in their knowledge.

The Governors didn't tell us as parents and I now understand that they don't plan to. No explanation, no apology for their results being so far under everyone else's. No sympathy for the kids who've left who had all these gaps in their knowledge. Maybe we should have known this, but I'm not a teacher, I'm not an expert with the curriculum. My kids seemed happy, they could read and write and have an interesting conversation.

I don't know what to do with my younger DD. The new head keeps telling me that things are turning around, that progress will be steadily made and by the time he leaves everything will be fine. But the school have been lying to us for several years now and my trust has broken - they said everything was fine before and it wasn't.

What would you do? Would you trust the school? I believe OFSTED are due any moment..if I could believe the head then the easiest thing would be to leave DD there - we'd have to change all our working times and patterns to go to the other school we've found - of course she must come first but it's a big decision with lots of impact.

Would really welcome any help. We've looked aat a number of other local schools. One we liked but I've heard from one parent that her child was bullied so I'm trying to get to the bottom of this..we don't have many schools near us so the choice isn't huge and some of the others aren't great. I don't want to jump too soon if they are getting lots of investment as a school. But I'm getting no response at all re my very polite questions as to what happened last year and when the problems started. I'd like an above the board discussion for all parents and that's not happening - is that asking too much?

Many thanks if you've got this far!

bojorojo Fri 17-Feb-17 12:02:52

Firstly. Just because bullying happened to one child, it does not follow it will happen to yours and did the school deal with it effectively?

Regarding your own school - where is the investment coming from? Is it now an academy?

I think schools are very remiss in not being honest with parents about shortcomings but they are Never, Ever, going to admit to poor teaching and the parents talking to each is the best form of evaluation you are likely to get!

The school is also poor in that it appeared to tolerate poor teaching. If they have shipped out 6 teachers, there must have been real problems. If Ofsted are coming, and if you are in the bottom 10% I think it will be soon, then the Head and the Governors must demonstrate they are putting things right. If Ofsted do not see improvement (and it will need to be quick and massive) I suggest you will be RI. A new Head taking over in these circumstances will have his work cut out to get a quick improvement. He will be able to put things in place, but evaluation of success is going to take a lot longer.

You also have the double problem in that the Governors do not appear to have required improvement earlier. It could be that they are not up to scratch either. The Only Way this school will improve is through high quality leadership and and high quality teaching. The question you need to ask yourself is: Do I believe the new Head, the Governors and the Teachers are capable of delivering the curriculum to my my child so that she is makes good progress in all areas of the curriculum? (You may wish to think about how the school will make good any deficiti of learning). Do you trust them to improve? If you do not, then I would go. I actually think too many parents do not know what good progress looks like and are not aware of how well other children learn in other schools - you have no experience of other schools so it is understandable.

It would be good if the school started to invite parents to curriculum evenings and have Open Days so you can see work. You should also get information about what your child will be studying each term and details of the progress she is making. When teachers fail to assess progress, they do not know what level they should be pitching the work for your child. This leads to under-achievement for many. This is possibly the problem the school is facing.

I hope you come to a conclusion!

nat73 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:06:36

Hello there. We are in a similar boat. Small primary. DC1 (aged 7) is very happy. School tells us everything is rosy. Child in Year 6 asked for maths help and I have been helping them for 6 months. TBH I am amazed at how poor their maths is (weak grasp of most stuff in the curriculum). I've asked the HT about the poor maths and she has said its not the case. Most of the parents are very happy but have low academic expectations (IMO).

I am now having sleepless nights and really worried about whether we should move our happy child, keep her where she is and hope all my instincts are wrong or get her some tutoring and hope she doesn't get bored at school.

We have been to visit other schools which have inferior facilities and yet get much better results but then it involves driving. Our school is only 200m up the road.

Our maths and writing were in bottom 10%.

nat73 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:09:50

I think bojorojo gives some very good advice. I think most parents think everything is good if they are told their child is doing well and their child is happy. You would think so. But I think the reality is there are other happy children in other schools who are being taught by better teachers. But because we only have experience of 1 school that's all we know.

hattyyellow123 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:13:26

Thank you so so much. This is so so helpful!

When teachers fail to assess progress, they do not know what level they should be pitching the work for your child. This leads to under-achievement for many. This is possibly the problem the school is facing.

Talking in depth to other schools - I've been picking the brains of other heads until I've been blue in the face - I think you've hit the nail on the head. That's exactly what went wrong. They didn't put the systems in three-four years ago to prepare for all the SATs changes and they got massively caught out. The head wasn't on it, the staff weren't and the governors weren't. They just drifted along on their laurels and we parents had no idea as it had always been a really respected and popular school up to then (ofsted used to be good with some outstanding features).

The school are about to put a new tracking system in mid year - that feels like another kick in the teeth. Should they have put this in at the start of the year - why are they moving to a new system now? I imagine everything is to do with ofsted at the moment.

They also are talking about keeping on the current supply teacher for her class who is an NQT. I imagine they have to wait re OFSTED before they can decide this? I feel they massively need an experienced teacher to deal with the class - especially with the gender balance - lots and lots of very young boys in the group who are very lively.

Can you tell me what RI means please?

If Ofsted do not see improvement (and it will need to be quick and massive) I suggest you will be RI.

hattyyellow123 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:13:52

thanks nat, that's really reassuring - we are blaming ourselves for not realising.

hattyyellow123 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:17:28

sorry nat, missed your first message- i'm so sorry you're in the same boat sad
our Head also keeps giving the blanket message that everything now is absolutely fine - but it's his first headship which annoys me too! if they realised last year things were so bad - and fired the headmaster who came on board 4 years ago (they just told us he'd left) - why didn't they take a more experienced head on? is it just saving money.

bojorojo - it's a faith school so the diocese are in charge..i'm not sure therefore if it would become an academy under this arrangement..

hattyyellow123 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:19:46

Nat, what do you think you will do? It's so hard when it's so much about instinct - when the teachers are telling you that all is fine but to you things just don't look right. DD doesn't know her basic timetables and we've been working on this at home - but I really feel this is a basic the school ought to be doing. I've checked out her SAT's scores for year 2 and they were good - but she was in the only class that seems to be fine -the problems seem to come after this and there are 2 NQT's teaching the top two classes (small school so the years twin)

Astro55 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:20:50

I moved DD in year 6 - the difference was very clear!

I would be asking about the % of kids who need extra help - because if your child is middle - they will be ignored

nat73 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:25:08

TBH at our school we seem to be the only parents who have spotted the SATS are crap and the children are behind. All of the other parents say oh Mrs whatsit says they are lovely to teach and everything is fine.

If this is the case how come when you go to other schools they are more advanced in their writing, maths, make good progress at KS2 etc? Why were they so unprepared for the SATS? We had all sorts of supply teachers and wheel spinning last year so I think some of the kids lost a year and now there is a mad scramble to catch up...

I feel very frustrated. Its a lovely school with fab facilities but I just feel they haven't moved to first gear and we are 'behind'. A friend of mine who is a teacher said as a county(!) we are 5 years behind!

nat73 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:33:33

I think the schools are under alot of pressure to get everyone to pass (over the hurdle) and there's no incentive for anything better than that. (Of the 10 local schools out of 120 kids no one was in the top 5%)....

The year 6 pupil I was helping still doesn't know all her times tables which I find shocking and I told the HT surely this should be secure but she said 'oh its not as easy as that'. Seriously???

Our school prides itself on being good with SEN and I recognise its valuable for everyone but I feel like that is where alot of the energy goes.

I wouldn't worry too much about the NQTs - everyone has to start somewhere and they could be very good? Someone who has been doing it 30 years could equally be poor. I have been told our lower KS2 teacher is weak (and the supply teacher they have for him is apparently hopeless - although the HT has described them as 'excellent') so I am sweating.

We are going to look at another state primary after half term and see how that goes... Its a worry I have to say.

nat73 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:34:27

To be fair to my husband (who I ignore most of the time) he did start saying the school was crap after 6 months and I've ignored this for 2.5 years now!

hattyyellow123 Fri 17-Feb-17 12:48:56

astro that's exactly it - she's a quiet girl who gets on with it but needs a teacher who spots this and, in my ideal world, wanders over and says how are you getting on with that..can you just explain to me how you think this sum works - because she won't put her hand up..

and my older child was the same - and i think he got missed out and slowly slipped behind to the problems he has now with maths. he didn't know his timetables. You just presume that this must be how most kids are!

nat - that's so frustrating. i'm not sure the NQT is good enough, she's very sweet but that class needs someone who they really respect and listen to. I asked her if DD could move up in her spellings (my older child has just been identified as gifted and talented at literacy and the school were amazed no one had told me before) - I think she is similar as her reading is advanced and writing. The NQT said "ooh do you think she should, ok do you want me to move her up". I said "well , i want you as the teacher to tell me your view from your assessment - surely we should both be contributing to this decision". Gah.

Our parents are similar re SAT scores, we seem to be part of a very small group asking the school for answers and for transparency.

fingers crossed for your school visit after half term. I just don't know how you make that final decision. DD would not be happy at all, but I know we have to decide what's best for her and take short term pain for long term benefits. Our other school is very strict, they get great results but I need to find out more from the parents as to whether this is balanced with play..

nat73 Fri 17-Feb-17 13:04:09

Yes the NQT does not fill you with confidence...

A friend of ours has also said someone is bullied at the school but then I asked another parent and she said there is no bullying (maybe her child is the bully ;-)?)

Has your child tried a 'taster' day at the other school yet? I would give that a go if you are serious about it. I am not sure how we would 'sell' moving to our child as she would go from a year group of 16 to 6 so socially it doesnt seem very enticing? If we do move them it wont be til the start of the new academic year.

hattyyellow123 Fri 17-Feb-17 13:08:34

It's such an individual thing isn't it, you can speak to two parents and get totally different views..

New school have suggested taster day and I'm thinking of booking this, that's a big change for your you know any of the other children?

All schools we've seen suggestd moving our DD before end of year. They felt if teaching had been poor, better to catch up now and that she would also just worry all summer (she has a tendency to worry) so better to move her before the long holidays so it wouldn't be such a big thing in the autumn...would this be possible for you or do you feel better to wait..

nat73 Fri 17-Feb-17 13:22:43

It could be an option to move for the last week of the summer term? So they have a kind of extended taster before next year. I rather she finishes KS1 then we move half way through the academic year.

hattyyellow123 Fri 17-Feb-17 13:31:25

good idea..

bojorojo Fri 17-Feb-17 18:54:42

Gosh - a lot going on re this thread!

RI is Requires Improvement and is an Ofsted judgement. Any school in the bottom 10% is highly likely to require improvement.

The new curriculum required changes to be made to assessment of progress because the old levels disappeared. Schools could invent their own assessment methods, buy one or wait for their Local Authority or Academy Trust to produce one. It seems your school just didn't do anything until the new Head came along. This is very very late. There is also a training need for using a new method and no-one finds it easy!

Regarding an NQT - a school can have a NQT but I am surprised they are a supply teacher because they are not qualified! A NQT has time off to do training and is closely monitored in the classroom. I wonder if this happens to an NQT not on the payroll? I have never heard of this so I would want to know how the teacher will qualify.

No teacher is an island. They work as a team and NQTs need support from SLT or other experienced teachers.

If a Y6 child does not know tables - are they SEN? How would you know what their attainment is? If you think this child is average, then they are in trouble!

I hope school visits go well. You can get a feel by looking at the work in books and on the walls.

Astro55 Fri 17-Feb-17 19:17:41

I'd move sooner rather than later - DD moved in spring - so they had chance to asses and had her scores etc - the term after Easter is always a bit more relaxed - fun stuff trips etc - gives her chance to make friends rather than the full on work/friends find your way round etc plus new rules new rewards etc

bojorojo Fri 17-Feb-17 20:14:43

I forgot to mention that it is not always possible to recruit an experienced Head. It rather depends who applies or who can be persuaded to move. An inexperienced Head is not always a bad thing but they need high level management skills and abilities. Hopefully they worked with a top
class Head elsewhere.

Astro55 Fri 17-Feb-17 21:09:34

They do have school advisors to help new head teachers adjust - they aren't slung in the deep end

hattyyellow123 Thu 02-Mar-17 08:15:49

So sorry for delay in replying - been caught up with other family issues. Spoke to several parents at the school we were most interested in, 3 different accounts of bullying there that we've now heard sad - at a small school I'd say that was statistically viable..

Have a meeting with the Governors in a couple of weeks which is good hopefully - I'd really like them to reassure me that all will be fine but I guess I've lost my trust in them as they always said all was fine before..

Nat - how are you getting on with your decision?
Bojoro - thanks so much for your knowledgeable advice - the teacher is short term contract not supply apparently - does that make a difference with NQT'S?

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