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Another open day - strange atmosphere

(20 Posts)
rcat Mon 13-Nov-17 10:49:57

I’ve been round two other schools with DS1 and he loved the second school (not our local school but still a decent chance of getting in).

We’ve just been round another school and it left us both a bit flat (not sure if that’s a good reason not to put it as one of our choices) although it seems well regarded by many.

The HT showed us round,it seemed quite cramped for the number of pupils and the early years seemed a bit tired and tatty.Its 45 intake for reception and though they are taught in small groups at varying times during the day the HT said they are mainly kept together. The reception outdoor play area looked a bit scruffy.

HT was friendly enough but didn’t ask if I had any questions at the end of the tour instead he asked DSwhat he thought of the school.DS was very quiet the whole time and said nothing!It seemed pretty clear after that that the HT wanted to get on with other things.

I forgot to ask about the after school club and I had a couple of other questions too.

My overall impression was that the school was quite small for the 280 pupils there,DS seemed a bit quiet.I asked him what he thought and he didn’t say anything,he said it was ok.I have to say I felt very much the same,it was all ok but I felt a bit flat after the experience.

It’s our local school so really should be one of our choices,dh thinks it should be but I don’t get a good feeling from the place.Is that a valid reason for not choosing a school?

BowlingShoes Mon 13-Nov-17 10:56:07

I would put it down if it is your closest school, especially if schools tend to be oversubscribed in your area - you don't want to risk being offered a place miles away - but put the schools you prefer as higher preferences.

venys Mon 13-Nov-17 11:02:14

It's tricky because I don't think you can get a real feel of the school in a tour. Half the time the people giving the tour aren't the ones actually doing the teaching, you don't know what is being taught and how it's being taught, and you won't know the other kids there in advance. And to be fair I am not too sure a 4 year old could really tell you in advance if it's a good school. I had reservations about the one DS2 was going to - but we had to pick it for logistics. It turned out it was lovely. If other parents rate it, then it must be good. Space is always an issue for our kids - at least in Greater London it is. But they seem to cope.

rcat Mon 13-Nov-17 11:06:12

Yes i have to say that the fact we could walk there is a big advantage,it’s about 15 minutes on foot.The parking outside the school is horrendous so at least we wouldn’t have to deal with that!

rcat Mon 13-Nov-17 11:12:52

I don’t know why I feel so uneasy about the place.

MiaowTheCat Mon 13-Nov-17 11:34:15

From my experience - listen to your instincts. If it's your most local school put it right down your priorities so you've got it as a solid banker option but put the places you actually WANT much higher up.

Tired wouldn't bother me, tired outdoor area but with stimulating planned provision wouldn't worry me too much (spend enough time with 30+ 4 year olds and tired tends to be high in the repertoire) but a disinterested Head would concern me, and if the outdoor area was like in the kids' old school with nowt out there but some knackered and donated bikes and scooters... I'd be very concerned. I kind of felt like you're feeling now after my first viewing of where DD1 went - put it to one side, wanting to support the local school - and it was a big mistake - we ended up moving at the end of Reception.

rcat Mon 13-Nov-17 11:50:52

Thanks Miaow,it’s a strange feeling I had about the place.Dh thinks I’m crazy because it’s our closest option but happiness is very important!The early years seemed like the poor cousin of the school,a small facility at the back of the school with a tired play area.As you said the tired part is probably down to the use of the toys and equipment by lots of children,it did seem a bit run down.

MiaowTheCat Mon 13-Nov-17 11:59:32

Yeah that's very much the general vibe now (hindsight being a wonderful thing) that I have about the school I pulled my kids from... that the Head likes KS2, loves her year 6 and they get the resourcing and the time - but that the Reception kids were only really wanted to wheel out and look cute for photo opportunities etc.

There were other issues with ours like the staff just having given up trying to look after resources and having the attitude that "stuff lasts a couple of weeks here then gets trashed" which had kind of become endemic as well (I'm secretly impressed with a scooter we donated, which has been left out in all elements - they don't put outdoor equipment away ever -and is still going strong a year later though... and it wasn't a Mini Micro one but a cheapie!)

We ended up at an our of catchment infants so there's no danger of the littlest ones being overlooked and it's been amazing. The Head there's fantastic too - knows absolutely every child in the school by name and their personalities too, nothing gets by her but it's not confrontational like in the old school.

If you want an odd dynamic from a Head... the one at the school we moved from has done such corkers as kicking the kids from their Y2/3 transition day (school takes in at KS2 as well because of how the other schools are in our area) lunch in the dining room - in front of all the new reception intake parents - to finish off in the hall as she wanted to use the room for something; and then standing there telling prospective parents "if you're out of catchment and don't get in - don't bother appealing, we'll make sure you don't win - but it costs us money and we don't like that". An "interesting" woman and I've never met one so universally hated across the entire local area!

rcat Mon 13-Nov-17 12:23:06

The HT at your dc old school sounds awful!

I got the impression that ks2 was favoured,the classrooms were in the main part of the school and looked well kept.Early Years is in a mobile and the play area has a couple of dilapidated old mobiles nearby whic are going to be demolished according to HT.

The Early years is requiring improvements according to Ofsted whilst the rest of the school is rated good.Early years was the last part of the HT tour which I found again a bit odd as with our other tours we went straight to reception.

venys Mon 13-Nov-17 12:38:41

Just one thing though. Do you know if there is building works in the pipeline to freshen things up?

RedSkyAtNight Mon 13-Nov-17 12:41:49

I wouldn't give any weight at all to what your DS thought. Too young at age 4.
Many quite excellent schools look "scruffy" - it's easy to be seduced by great facilities, but it's what sits underneath them that is important.

If Early Years are requiring improvement then you need to ask the school what they are doing to improve - I expect their answer will be illuminating.

My personal view at primary level is that being at the local school has so many intangible benefits that I'd have to massively prefer another school or have serious worries, not to be putting it as first choice.

If you know other people with DC at the school have you asked them for their opinion?

rcat Mon 13-Nov-17 13:00:40

I’ve got two friends whose dc go there and have no problems and seem happy there.

Another friend of mine sent her dc to a different school because she felt the school was scruffy and heard that the behaviour was bad at the school.

The more I go to different schools I realise that it’s more about the personality of the child that matters and how it fits with the school.

MiaowTheCat Mon 13-Nov-17 13:03:43

Yeah - I'll add that the kids had gone to a scruffy as hell looking preschool (they'd been limited until very recently with what they could do with the building) - and the quality of the education they got there was phenomenally good.

RedSkyAtNight Mon 13-Nov-17 13:14:47

So do your friends whose DC go there have DC who are similar to your DS?

I would ignore the "heard the behaviour was bad there" unless it originates from someone who has had a DC at the school in the last few years. People are very quick to rubbish schools they know nothing about.

rcat Mon 13-Nov-17 16:01:09

My friends dcs are great kids and very similar to my ds.i totally agree about the hearsay on bad behaviour,I’d rather go with the advice of people whose dcs are at the school than rumours,strange how rumours play on your mind though when making these decisions!

I phoned the school ds really likes but is slightly further away from us,they have a 35 intake and 14 siblings for next year.My gut is saying take a chance and make it first choice and have the local school as a second choice.

The local school has had a good ofsted since it’s last intake so I’m hoping that it won’t be oversubscribed for the first time.

Dh wants to have the local school as a first choice,he likes the idea of walking to school and having friends close by.

Paddington68 Mon 13-Nov-17 16:07:18

Go to their Christmas Bazaar/Fayre or nativity performance. It will give you a better idea of the school

Davespecifico Mon 13-Nov-17 16:12:48

It’s jmportant to have a lovely nurturing early years setting I think. DD’s School unfortunately mixed reception and nursery for the time she was there. It was a noisy dirty mess and DD at 3.5 was pretttmuch thrown into school rather than nursery.
I still worry that for a sensitive child this was an unlucky start.
You want kind nurturing teachers, plenty of outdoor space and activities and a clearly delineated calm and warm indoor environment.

rcat Mon 13-Nov-17 16:22:05

@Davespecifico

I agree about the nurturing environment,ds went to a preschool which mixed nursery and reception.It was awful and ds hated it,he no longer goes and still has bad dreams about.

tiggytape Mon 13-Nov-17 18:27:55

It’s our local school so really should be one of our choices,dh thinks it should be but I don’t get a good feeling from the place.Is that a valid reason for not choosing a school?

It's a perfectly valid reason not to list it as one of your top preferences if there are other schools that you prefer.
However if you wanted to disregard it completely, you'd have weigh up what other realistic options you get should your top preference schools be unable to offer you a place (eg if they are full up with siblings or people who live closer).

If this is your most local school and your distance means you'd probably get in, I would list it on your form, if only last place, just to have a back-up option.

The alternative if you only list schools that you later fail to meet the criteria for (i.e. they are full up with siblings and people who live closer) is that the council allocates you a school from whatever is left after everyone else is allocated. That might be a poor school, or miles away, or both and you might then think that this local school isn't perfect but better than a similar or worse school miles from home.

rcat Mon 13-Nov-17 20:25:55

@tiggytape

It’s a good point,the school that I like which is further away is oversubscribed usually and it would be a gamble to get in.The last few years they have allocated quite far out from their area so there is a good chance.

The local school is looking more appealing as I’m considering now the travelling time to school in the morning especially with having to consider DS2 who is 18 months.

I think it’s the HT who put me off our local school,he didn’t seem very interested in us on the tour.It was a bit intimidating to start in the HT office with DS1 who was overwhelmed.

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