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Primary School Angst

(19 Posts)
PlummyBrummy Tue 14-Mar-17 18:47:52

I know that there will be plenty of similar threads in the past and no doubt plenty coming up soon - but I'm looking for some kindly words from fellow mums. We live in a little town that has two schools and one slightly further out. The further one is rural, tiny (only 12 places) and has a 50% CoE admission policy. It's our first choice because it's excellent and we're only 1.5 miles away. However, everyone else is v keen on it too and it currently has some 80+ applicants for sept 2017 intake. I know that, rationally, we haven't a snowball's chance in hell of getting in. We're not CoE, the rest of the town lies between us and the school (so they're closer) and the sheer pressure of numbers makes it highly unlikely we'll get in. Our second choice is also a very good school, very close, but weirdly undersubscribed for the past couple of years.
I guess I'd be willing to submit to the luck of the draw if I knew it was a fair playing field, but it's not. Three other couples I know have applied as well and have had their kids baptised and pretended to be faithful (CoE) every couple of weekends for the last couple of years to get in the school. There's a bit of me that commends them for the effort but I'm also shocked that people would do that.
I don't know what I'm trying to achieve with this post other than asking for other people's experiences and perhaps some consolation about the second choice being better in the end?!

squiggletea Tue 14-Mar-17 20:22:21

We moved to a new area where all the people we met sent their children to the naice (c of e as it happens) schools and made patronising comments about our 'choice ' of school- the one with spaces!
Both DSs have done brilliantly; the school is now high in the league tables and always oversubscribed (the naice schools pick up the leftovers!)

We're smugly proud of our school!

Also embarrassed and amused at how much worrying we did.

Disclaimer: the other schools are all good too - we just didn't need to get stressed about it!

Campfiresmoke Tue 14-Mar-17 21:16:12

is it a possibility that the other couples who got their children Baptised and have been going to church every couple of weekends for the last few years might actually be Christian? Just a thought.
Small schools aren't always the best. There can be difficulty finding friends if you are shy and there can be limited choices for activities or before/after school care. Often year groups are combined which can mean 2 years with a teacher the child may not gel with. Small classes can be dominated by the louder children and playground politics can be harsh if you are unlucky as there isn't the numbers to dilute trouble.

PlummyBrummy Tue 14-Mar-17 22:02:57

Thanks for your responses ladies. I very much hope I've got over myself and am laughing about this in a year's time, squiggletea! I also suspect I may well feel the same way about our eventual school as you do as it's been a good for a long time.

The people I know are quite open about going along to church purely for schools, campfiresmoke. Like I said, I quite admire the effort but I'm a bit shocked too.

squiggletea Tue 14-Mar-17 22:27:28

I agree with everything campfire says about small schools. They can be great if your DC fit but the chances of meeting like minded friends are so much greater at larger schools.

PlummyBrummy Wed 15-Mar-17 06:44:41

Yes I hadn't thought about the numbers thing like that before. That's something to consider certainly.

2014newme Thu 16-Mar-17 17:11:56

Being in a tiny school with a class of 12 can have a lot of downsides. There Are often threads on here to that effect.
You mention "luck of the draw" but it doesn't sound like places are allocated at the small school by draw as they are in some, it sounds like there are clear criteria. It is a level playing field because you could have joined the church too, but chose not to. You aren't c of e so really those that are, whether they motivated by a love of god or a desire for a school place, should get priority.
School admissions are not a" level playing field " all schools have oversubscription criteria which will favour some groups over others.
It sounds like the bigger school would be better for you.

WhiskyTangoFoxtrot Thu 16-Mar-17 17:14:41

Even if all 12 places (after siblings) were on community criteria, you wouldn't stand a chance if it's a popular school on the other side of a whole town.

2014newme Thu 16-Mar-17 17:22:19


smellyboot Fri 17-Mar-17 23:17:36

Id run a mile from a PAN of 12. Look up threads re tiny and small schools.

Lowdoorinthewal1 Sat 18-Mar-17 20:23:56

It won't be classes of 12 though, it will be mixed age classes. These are more difficult to teach as more differentiation is needed and can be more difficult socially as there is more of a range of social maturity.

IM (humble) O, the ideal size for a primary school is 2 form entry. Big enough to offer lots of opportunities (variety of clubs etc), they have more money so they can usually afford more management time and specialist staff and the teachers work in pairs which helps with planning and their workload.

At 1 class of 12 and 3 classes of 24 the funding will be absolutely skeletal.

squiggletea Sat 18-Mar-17 22:24:43

Low door is absolutely right. Resources are stretched in small schools. Clubs are minimal as staff already have more responsibilities. If it works though, the camaraderie can be great.

I have fab experiences of both! The 2 form entry DS1 started at still had a villagey feel. We also have
fantastic experiences of small schools. But... we fitted in.

One school I looked at for DS1 would have suited him when he was in a class with a child older than him (friends outside school). The next year he would have been lost. (Not being pfb, there were only 2 other boys.)

There can be great

Astro55 Sat 18-Mar-17 22:33:55

Well if you his school only admits 12 kids then the local school will still have a brilliant mix of children!

Doesn't sound like your chances are high though! Have you visited both schools?

PlummyBrummy Thu 13-Apr-17 12:28:20

I'm so sorry to have missed these later messages!
With D-Day coming up so fast, I'm pretty much resigned to our second choice (which is still a really good school). I've visited both and they're both excellent, but the little rural one just edges it for me in their attitude and the vibe there. They are an academy (saved from complete closure a couple of years ago) and they have an excellent staff/TA to pupil ratio (one teacher and at least one TA to each class). The second choice offers a much wider range of classes, before and after school clubs, holiday cover, etc, etc. In my head it's absolutely right but in my heart I will always be a little bit sorry that we didn't get into the tinier school....

GoodStuffAnnie Thu 13-Apr-17 14:04:43

Just let the other school go. Back the other school. Honestly, I have three dc, I would never go for a school that small, even if it had golden gates !

NotCitrus Thu 13-Apr-17 14:42:51

We didn't get into our first two choices (first is 50% CofE priority, second just distance, after siblings etc). Never occurred to me to look at any others but I put more on my form anyway.

School 3 has luckily turned out to be great - 3 form entry but seems smaller, lots of ability and support groups, etc. Both schools 1 and 2 have lost heads and had major changes, so tbh it's all a lottery - individual class teachers and children will be more relevant than anything else.

Charmatt Thu 13-Apr-17 14:53:10

The grading and reputation of a school is just a snapshot in time. You should make your own mind up about a school. For instance, in the MAT I work for, there are 2 neighbouring schools. I went to one as a child but the catchment area was redrawn and it became the social housing school of the village(not my words - the words of snobby parents). We lived in the catchment of the other school and sent our children there. The school was graded outstanding 9 years ago and never reinspected. The first school was graded good by Ofsted.

Both schools are now led by the same headteacher who came after the inspections. I now work in the school I went to as a child and it is equally as good as the one my children go to but attracts far fewer pupils. I love working there and would happily send my children there knowing what I do now,

deadlegs Thu 13-Apr-17 15:32:07

I was almost in your shoes a few years ago with my school choice. We were pretty much equidistant from 2 different schools, one being our defined catchment school, and we were very much torn at the time as to which one to choose.

School 1: Not our catchment school. Single form intake (30 admissions). Preferred choice of many local families, and perceived as one of the best schools in the local area. Most of my extended circle of friends sent their children here (and therefore it would be the school for most my DS's friendship group at the time). The local childcare setting could guarantee pick-up from the school, which we needed as working full time with no local support.

School 2: Catchment school. Small intake (12 pupils). Didn't know anyone with children attending this school and didn't know much about its reputation other than it having a significant number of SEN children. The local childcare setting could not at the time of application guarantee whether they would be able to pick-up from this school as they didn't at that point in time, and would only commit if there was demand for it.

I visited both schools, and both were great, but I was surprised that I got a much better vibe about school 2 during the visit - much more welcoming, the children seemed much better behaved, and happy and confident to interact with visitors. So when it came to the application process I was torn, and ended up putting school 1 as first choice and school 2 as 2nd, primarily due to the need for the after-school childcare.

We didn't get a place at school 1 - it was oversubscribed that year for the first time in years, so we accepted the place at our second choice....and haven't looked back. I'm so glad that the choice was made for us - we now have 2 children at the school and they are both thriving there. It's a very mixed (albeit small) intake, which means that my two are mixing with children of all abilities and social backgrounds which I believe will set them up well for life in general. Also because of the relatively high level of SEN in the school - there is excellent support structure in place in terms of both staff, and identifying individual children's needs.

Meanwhile I often hear parents who are unhappy with school 1 - not sure if this is actually the case or whether it's just high expectations by parents.

My recommendation would be whatever the outcome, embrace the school and don't think about "what could have been"- it sounds as though your second choice is still a very good school anyway.

AllPizzasGreatAndSmall Thu 13-Apr-17 21:30:39

I agree with a previous poster in that I really would not want my child to go to a school with a PAN of 12.

Socially they are very limited. Yes I know boys and girls can play together, but in reality imagine being in a year group of e.g. 10 girls and 2 boys and you are one of the boys.
Educationally there will be limited resources because of financial constraints. Your child will always be taught in mixed year group classes. They may have the same teacher for successive years, which may or may not be a problem.
Small schools are limited in the extra-curricular activities they can offer, either because of staff numbers, pupil numbers or resources, so sports teams or an orchestra may not be possible.
I know some people are attracted to the idea that everybody knows everyone else and it's all very cosy, but it wouldn't appeal to me.

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