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How to compare these two schools? Ofsted and ISI reports.

(21 Posts)
Jamdani Mon 22-Oct-18 13:29:52

We are trying to decide between two schools, and it's really REALLY hard. We liked both of them equally when we visited, although they have slightly different atmospheres. Most complicated of all, one is reviewed by Ofsted and the other by ISI so I don't know how to compare across.

School A: about 150 pupils, selective (child has passed selection test), focused on 11+, ISI report calls it 'good' overall. Has just got a new head who will presumably want to raise the 'good' to 'outstanding' . Children all go on to the grammars and independents. Would be 30 min drive there, or 2 buses taking 50 min.

School B: less than 100 pupils, non-selective, Ofsted report is 'outstanding' for 3 reports in a row. Has had the same head for all that time. Children go on to a wide mixture of schools - state, grammar, independents. Would be 20 min drive there, or one bus taking 30 min.

Any thoughts?? We really did like them equally, though they have slightly different atmospheres (due probably to the difference between selective/ non-selective).

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LIZS Mon 22-Oct-18 13:33:00

Imho both are rather small. What extracurricular activities do they offer - sport, music, drama etc - and what are policies on selection for representing the school? There is much to be said for living closer and having friends locally.

Jamdani Mon 22-Oct-18 13:47:08

They have a similar number and type of extra-curricular - there is no significant difference between them in that sense. I agree that it is good to have friends locally - there will also be no real difference between them in that sense. School A is in an area where there are a lot of other independent schools, and they tend to use each other's facilities etc. so might be better for meeting a range of people. BUt then School B also has inter-school football matches and so on. We do want a small, family-like school, but I do wonder if School B is just a bit TOO small. On the other hand, just one bus is a huge advantage. Going round and round in circles on this!!

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LIZS Mon 22-Oct-18 13:51:48

But at 20 ish in a year are both viable financially? How old is your dc?

Jamdani Mon 22-Oct-18 13:57:04

6 yrs. I think so, at least both have been going for a very long time with no problems, so I don't see why they would start having financial problems now?

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Jamdani Mon 22-Oct-18 13:57:22

We are not in London, if that is relevant.

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cantkeepawayforever Mon 22-Oct-18 14:12:34

How does school B - I assume state - arrange its classes compared with school A?

I would imagine that a private school of 150 would have 1 class of c. 20 per year group.

School B, however, would typically have mixed age classes [state school finances are predicted on 25-30 children paying for 1 class teacher = whole school overheads). So a school of 100 would often have 4 classes - perhaps Reception on its own, but then Y1/Y2; Y3/Y4; Y5/Y6.

Mixed age classes need stronger and more experienced teachers to plan for them, as the ability range and age range is winder and the national curriculum is written by year group so there are some compromises to make as to how it is taught. For an 'average' child, mixed age group is OK - first year lower middle of the class; second year upper middle - but for e.g. an able child, while the first year in each class can be great, they can tread wat6er in the second.

Some schools also split cohorts between classes to keep consistency of class sizes - so another way to arrange the 100 pupils into 4 classes would be R / Y1; Y1/Y2 etc. Those can be very divisive because it is very hard to keep the experiences of the 'split' year group identical in the two classes and thus progress of a given child can be affected (or the 'top' half is seen as 'the clever ones', which can be very bad for self esteem).

100 fr a primary is lovely for a very young child. Can be VERY stifling when they get older. If any larger schools are available, I would definitely have a look.

Jamdani Mon 22-Oct-18 14:18:16

Sorry, I should have been clearer. Both schools are private. It is a choice between these two.

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cantkeepawayforever Mon 22-Oct-18 14:26:02

Ah, OK. Was confused by a private school being inspected by Ofsted.

No other schools at all?

I would probably go for A, if those are the only two choices just because 100 - less than 15 per year group - is too small at 10 / 11, though it might be lovely at 5 or 6. I would especially say A if they are single sex schools, because a small variation in boy: girl ratio in a given class of 14 or 15 can easily leave a child with only 4 or 5 possible friends of the same gender, which is too few especially at 9 or 10 when fallings out and best friend pairings up become more of an issue.

Jamdani Mon 22-Oct-18 14:26:06

One of the things that School B's most recent (2018) ofsted raves about (it is the most lyrical ofsted report I have ever read, lol) is how good it is at teaching mixed age groups. We asked very in-depth questions about this and they were very convincing about how they plan essentially individualised work for each child. I am not sure if it woud be better for our child to be in a group with a wider range of abilities (school B) or to be in a more similar group of abilities all with essentially the same aim of grammar for secondary (school A). I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

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Jamdani Mon 22-Oct-18 14:27:12

Sorry, I crossposted. Both are co-ed. I think you are right about it gettign too small at an older age.

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Soontobe60 Mon 22-Oct-18 14:29:15

School B any day!

Jamdani Mon 22-Oct-18 14:43:40

OK, thanks Soontobe - why? Is it the easier travel or the better report or something else?

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4point2fleet Mon 22-Oct-18 18:10:03

These sound suspiciously like the type of private schools where you really don't get anything for your money that a good state can't provide.

On top of 11+ prep, do they have specialist teaching from Y3, weekly inter-school fixtures across a range of sports (and a good number of minibuses to facilitate this), a theatre/ drama studio and regular shows, science labs, DT workshop, specialist art facilities (kiln etc), a pool, 20 acres+ of land, a range of clubs every night and weekends?

If not, use a state school.

cantkeepawayforever Mon 22-Oct-18 18:18:55

4point2,

I would probably agree with you BUT the fact that the OP is moving their child at the age of 6 implies that either there has been some difficulty with the initial school, they have not been in the conventional school system - e.g. home ed or 'alternative' school - or have moved, in which case these might be the only schools with places.

I may be wrong, but 6 is a slightly unusual age to move, so I wonder whether the initial state school hasn't worked out and the OP is looking for a private school as the most viable alternative.

Jamdani Mon 22-Oct-18 19:33:54

Yes - also, call us weird but we're not looking for all that stuff. smile We're looking for intelligent, excellent teaching in small classes with a high teacher: child ratio, in a school that isn't so desperate for cash that it can't focus on anything else. I and my husband both went to very good private schools and feel that start in life really helped us reach the top of our respective fields, so we do know exactly what kind of school we want. Mere facilities do not make an education. As I said up top (you may have missed it in your eagerness to help) , we are choosing between these two specific schools, not looking for advice on the kind of school you think we should be considering instead.

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cantkeepawayforever Mon 22-Oct-18 20:04:02

I can quite see that you might want to be looking outside the 'arms race of facilities', especially if your child has had a slightly less than ideal start to school life.

Just a couple of things:
- Is school B a company, or a charity? Is there any way you could have a look at its accounts? Do they have space in all years, or are they full to 'normal' capacity with a wiaiting list in some years? It may have avoided financial strain by NOT going over the top on facilities, but 100 is still quite small, and a number of small, nurturing, non-selective private primaries with a set of destinations quite similar to good state schools have suffered financially in recent years. Particularly as you state that not focusing on money is really key for you, it would be as well to make absolutely sure - and having a space at this point in the year may not be great.

- Are all the staff of long standing and well-qualified? Again, going for cheaper, younger teachers can happen through financial strain. However, just to make a different point, as the fashion HAS been for 'higher profile' private schools to go quite 'flashy' in the facilities, the best qualified staff have sometimes (depending on the area of the country) been drawn out of the 'quieter / lower profile' private primaries. A 'naice non-flashy non-selective primary' has also, in my personal experience, sometimes ended up being the home of teachers who don't quite make it in the harsher world of state or higher profile privates. If all the current teachers have been there for years and are obviously excellent, that is fine, but it is just something to watch out for IME.

4point2fleet Tue 23-Oct-18 06:41:44

Well you misinterpret me if you think I meant facilities make a better school.

Specialist teaching = teachers with better subject knowledge.
Fixture list= better quality sports teaching (incentivised)
Stage/ studio= better quality drama teaching= more confidence in public speaking
Science labs= more experiments, less worksheets= better quality Science curriculum
Art/ DT facilities= richer education

etc...

You asked a question in public, my answer is that you could do better than either school. However, if you are keen to pay £15-20k a year purely to halve the class size, fair enough.

4point2fleet Tue 23-Oct-18 06:44:12

Also, for what it's worth, ISI really try to be generous. I would think carefully a school that wasn't 'excellent' across the board. I suspect school A is only 'good' because the curriculum is rather narrow.

MarmotMorning Tue 23-Oct-18 06:50:40

The truth is, it doesn't matter which one you chose. Really.

Loopytiles Tue 23-Oct-18 06:59:13

Both those prep schools sound small: there could be a risk they are not financially viable, so if they are charities would look into their finances.

ISI are far softer than Ofsted, so it sounds like the school with the Ofsted report is better.

Would you or your partner always be driving DC to the school? 50 mins by two buses sounds too far for primary age DC when there is a closer option you like equally.

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