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Choosing a primary school (state school, London)

(13 Posts)
MagnaWiles Sat 13-Jan-18 16:41:16

Help! I'm really struggling with which one to put first in our application. There's a good chance that we will get into either one, so I really have to make sure that the one we put first is genuinely our first choice. I can make six choices in total and all of our 'back up' options are fine, it's just the order of the top two that I am struggling with.

The options are:

A church school

Pros: Single form entry, lovely family feel -- eg everyone knows the receptionist, the receptionist knows what is going on everywhere in the school, all the teachers look happy and smile, children also look happy. Has been an outstanding school for many many years, recommended in the Good Schools Guide, and is well-established including leadership team and teaching staff. The current head teacher is passionate about it but hasn't yet been there so long she is likely to leave soon.

Cons: Further away - a 30 minute journey on a bad day, including the bus. Friends may not be so local to us. Fewer of the 'shiny' opportunities from partnerships the other school has? Less funding? Big downside: no breakfast club from 8 am. Children needing childcare get carted off by an external provider to a local sports centre after school -- not sure of the quality but does limit access to afterschool clubs, of which there aren't a vast number anyhow.

A brand-new academy

Pros: Well funded and supported (by the commercial land development it's a part of). Inspirational head teacher, very driven to make a success of the school. Relatively close - a 15 minute walk (but no bus if it's raining!). Amazing opportunities with organisations that partner with the school to do art, theatre, music, technology etc. Big upside: Breakfast club from 8 am, and school-run childcare after school until 6 pm which includes the opportunity (from reception) to take part in a wide range of clubs including languages, dance, sport. People I know are very happy with the childcare quality.

Cons: Not really a family feel, eg receptionists seem to change often and not reply to messages. Not sure how emotionally nurturing. Not sure of the quality of the education although current parents are clearly very happy with it. Not yet well-established, and no Ofsted rating yet (but clearly aiming for an outstanding one and the parents I know with children there seem sure it will get one).

If I had a lot of money, I suspect would pick the first school and pay somebody really nice to pick up the kids from school and do fun things with them after clubs. But I don't, so the options on offer are what we would go for.

sirfredfredgeorge Sat 13-Jan-18 17:26:07

unquestionably the second of those two choices, the commute and the single form are both negatives, before you even get to the lack of non-school activities, which whilst not essential of course, are often a lot easier than doing the same elsewhere.

Odd that you can guarantee you'll get into an outstanding single form london school yet are 30minutes away, I thought that was supposed to be difficult.

brownelephant Sat 13-Jan-18 17:30:12

you don't have a choice. (unless going private).
you voice your preference and then get allocated the nearest suitable school.

make sure you read about additional requirements (esp faith schools)

MagnaWiles Sat 13-Jan-18 17:47:32

@brownelephant I think I made it fairly clear in my post that I'm choosing how to order my preferences. If we get a place at our first preference, that's that - so it's important to get the order right.

We meet the faith requirements for the first school, which is why we might well get in despite being a mile away -- we'd have got a place based on last year's catchment range. Can't guarantee getting in at either school but we would have last year based on distance and faith requirements.

London is actually pretty amazing for schools and there are a number of outstanding primaries with large catchments (for various reasons). We are lucky.

Thanks @sirfredfredgeorge, that's helpful. I think I'm a bit blinded by my emotional reaction to the first school, but you are right that a single form could be a downside and about clubs.

Whizziwig Sat 13-Jan-18 17:51:17

I have had a bad experience with a shiny academy and would much prefer the sound of the first school were it not for the 30 minute commute. All local schools would have to be dire for me to consider travelling 30 minutes.

DoublyTroubly Sat 13-Jan-18 18:20:07

I would definitely go for the 2nd school, for all the same reasons as sirfred

However, one thing I’m surprised that you haven’t mentioned is the faith aspect. How important is it to you that your kids are educated in your faith or would you prefer a more neutral (if that’s the right word) education?

AveEldon Sat 13-Jan-18 18:46:40

30 mins is a long way in my part of London
Why is their catchment so big?
Playdates/ friends could be far far away

viques Sat 13-Jan-18 18:48:24

I am a bit surprised that a one form entry outstanding church school in a London Borough is able to offer places to children who are not living on the doorstep! Allowing for sibling, looked after, and statemented children there are probably less than 20 available places. I would not get my hopes up! Also don't forget a 30 minute journey in the morning is also a 30minute journey at home time as well. And buses can be delayed or cancelled .An extra hour of travelling is a long timewhen you are only little.

sirfredfredgeorge Sat 13-Jan-18 20:44:51

If it's 1 mile, are you sure it's 30 minutes, okay it might be now with a 4 year old, but would it still be when he can ride a bike or scooter, I'm assuming you're mobile enough if you say the other is a 15 minute walk? So it might be that the commute does get faster later, lessening the difference.

Of course, I'd still prefer easier and clubs.

For us, the school is minutes away, it's so useful as no-one needs to be up before 8am, if you're a family that's up earlier anyway it's not so relevant. The clubs are useful, DD does lots of clubs at a higher standard than the school ones, but the variety of things she can try every term are useful, especially with the proximity.

For the majority of school life, your ideas cannot possibly know, it's mostly about how your child meshes with their peers and the teachers, neither of which you can possibly predict. Which is why not going for the easiest needs such a high standard.

My part of london it's also easy to move - as the population is so mobile, spaces do open up all the time.

RainAndRoses Sat 13-Jan-18 21:16:47

Hi Magna - just to empathise as also having a really hard time choosing (have another thread running on our dilemma at the mo.. )

HeadBasher2018 Sat 13-Jan-18 21:41:22

When I first read the OP my immediate reaction was the first school, but on reflection the academy sounds better overall, the proximity and the extra-curricular lessons and childcare would swing it for me.

I understand it seems a bit risky since it has not had proven academic results yet or an ofsted rating though.

Maybe the academy will develop a family feel over time as more staff have settled in for longer and get to know siblings and parents. I don’t have kids at school yet so am not sure how important the friendliness of the staff is to the child/parents as time goes on.

A difficult decision! They are both good options though so you are lucky to have both. Good luck!

MagnaWiles Tue 16-Jan-18 20:48:48

Thanks for the advice, everyone. It was really helpful. I went back and looked at the church school again (informally) and also asked around about after-school care at both schools.

I ended up putting the church school first, and the academy second on our application. After speaking to a parent with kids at the academy, it sounds as if the after-school clubs are great but incredibly over-subscribed -- and the after-school care is ok but not really significantly different from what's provided by the external after-school club at the church school. So although the distance would be a downside, otherwise I just felt happier about the church school and happy putting it first. Now she probably won't get in anyway and all of this agonising will have been for nothing! grin

DivisionBelle Tue 16-Jan-18 21:32:51

"you voice your preference and then get allocated the nearest suitable school"

That's not an accurate description of the process. It may be shorthand - but just pointing it out as there is enough confusion about the Equal Preference System.

Good luck OP!

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