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How do we choose...

(13 Posts)
Chilver Mon 28-Sep-20 22:56:23

...the right independant school for our Y4 child for imminent in-year move?

Have to leave current state school as children being failed by school. Have perservered through disastrous Y3 (Covid aside) and beginning of Y4 hoping our previously loved local state school could turn it around. 4 weeks in and it cannot be turned around (lots of reasons and we're not the only ones leaving because of it).

So, able child but has fallen behind (again, NOT because of Covid) and doesn't push herself, takes easy option to get through work, largely left to own devices academically as in 'more able group. Improved over lockdown with home schooling by us. Now back at school and we can't maintain level of input due to jobs and so is falling behind again (in our minds, not said by state school) so looking at local indies.

Two choices:
Option A: Co-ed, very small house like campus, 16 in class, one class per year. Nurturing, focuses on whole child and soft skills as well as academic. Seems to have very 1-to-1 approach which would nurture DD's immediate development. Lots of extras incl. curricular such as weekly forest school all years, swimming, Latin, French, coding and STEAM every week in timetable. Good range of extra curricular. Good academic progress rating and excellent personal development rating from Feb 2020 ISI report. Local, could cycle. Destination schools some of the larger well known academic but mostly smaller selective secondaries.

Option B: single sex, catholic school (we aren't catholic but they have range of faiths), excellent campus and facilities, 20 per class, 2 classes per year. Emphasis on girls finding out themselves and peer development and wanting to do well rather than directly nurtured approach. Good range of subjects but no Latin, swimming, forest school etc. Excellent onsite extra curricular sports options although quite traditional. Excellent academic progress rating with good personal development rating from May 2019 ISI report. Local, could cycle but further (and up a big hill!) than Option A so would end up driving more. Destination schools some of the larger, more well known, selective secondaries.

Option A is what we feel she needs right now but Option B perhaps better overall academically long term through to Y6 (and dreaded 11+) but not sure she would be thrown in deep end having not had the past few years there to get used to this style of working? And single sex vs co-ed, medium vs very small etc etc

Any wise words to help us make this choice from MNers?

OP’s posts: |
MutteringDarkly Mon 28-Sep-20 23:05:40

I'd lean towards B because the slightly larger year group would give more friendship options. Are you able to visit them at the moment to get a feel for them, or has Covid prevented that?

Chilver Mon 28-Sep-20 23:12:54

We have visited them both over the past week. Option A during school hours so she was in the class whilst they were being taught (and already knew 2 kids out of the 15) and decided there and then she wanted to go there.

Option B was after school hours so she had the test with 1 teacher and met the Head but no children unfortunately. And we wouldn't be able to go back in school hours because of Covid.

OP’s posts: |
After8itsgrownuptime Tue 29-Sep-20 06:37:18

We had to make a very similar choice recently and opted for the bigger school (going in to year 6) just because we felt that, when the girls fall out ( and year 4 and 5 seems to be a tricky year for girls relationships) a small class would be harder to get away from any children that she didn’t like it or didn’t getalong with. We also felt that she would potentially put grow it in her teenage years as it’s too small a cohort.
Are either of the schools through schools? I only ask because having gone through the 11+ once, we decided we wanted to dodge it and not put the stress on our second child. And for us option B was the better fit. For what it’s worth we are only 3 weeks in to the new school, but she is very happy and has a 2 form entry of approx 35 girls - so enough to find her tribe and she can stay there until after GCSE if she wants to.

Gunpowder Tue 29-Sep-20 06:40:07

I think A sounds amazing. Wish I could send my DC there.

Chilver Tue 29-Sep-20 07:24:33

Neither are a through school, so the 11+ is likely in her future!

OP’s posts: |
Chilver Tue 29-Sep-20 07:26:56

after8itsgrownuptime interesting what you say about girls falling out and in y4 and y5 - that is my concern and one of the reasons I thought co-ed would be better, although smaller? There are fewer girls in the co-ed class, predominantly boys, and she gets on well with boys and girls so thought it would give her more options? That being said, she has strong social group outside of school which we will continue with (due to outside activities and parent friendships)

OP’s posts: |
Guymere Tue 29-Sep-20 14:09:15

We chose an all girls school for y4 onwards but it had everything you could wish for. Now has a new pool so even better! But it was 400 plus and not just 16 in one year group. In y6 that effectively means no competitive sport, poor music and drama. It’s just very limiting. You don’t need nurturing from y4 to y6. You need far more for your money.

I think you must make provision for secondary education if your DD doesn’t go to a grammar. You won’t want to go back to state now you’ve come out. Unless you are in a super selective area with only a handful of grammars as opposed to a grammar county.

I’m not a fan of all through. DC grow up and want more from school and relish new schools at 11 or 13. In your position it would be school B without hesitation. Way more friend opportunities and surely there are sports teams, music and drama opportunities due to size. It should be a more vibrant atmosphere. You should expect subject teachers, high calibre destination schools and super facilities for sport, art, music etc as well as an inspiring curriculum and teaching. My DD relished a great art department for example. Forest school isn’t a big thing in prep schools around here. Parents prefer other elements in schools such as competitive sport and specialist subject teachers.

The RC element wouldn’t float my boat but it appears you have no choice. But for me, tiny private schools are a worry regarding financial security. Failure to recruit is a Nov issue financially!

Plus: ISI reports are usually glowing. They don’t investigate in the same way that Ofsted do because the info they have isn’t mandatory as state school info is. There’s no government web site with private school data. I have read some that bear little resemblance to reality - including at the senior school my DDs attended. It was a work of pure fiction in some instances! They just repeated what the Head told them. Except it was what was planned instead of what actually happened! It was a very good school but the report was a joke.

screamingchild Tue 29-Sep-20 17:55:53

Girls in year 4 are more mature than boys in year 4. I'd go for the single sex school.

Ericaequites Wed 30-Sep-20 00:52:24

I would choose A because of the broad curriculum with specialists. Musical and drama opportunities can be found outside of school.

Ericaequites Wed 30-Sep-20 00:54:02

Being close to school with the possibility of an independent commute is a huge advantage as well. Consider what senior school or schools you would like; are any of these con A's leaving lists?

Chilver Wed 30-Sep-20 08:24:36

Thanks for the input, hoping to make our final decision today!

It's back to the fact we feel she needs nurturing and developing now (so Option A) but may in a year of 2 Option B would give her more choices?

We agree that some things can be done outside school (she already does dance, hockey, swimming, tennis and music outside school now) and I like the broader curriculum in Option A but Option B has 'slightly' more academic 'push' it feels (despite saying they aren't a hot house) which may give her more options for secondaries schools.

Both so feed to similar secondary schools; Option B would have more though going to bigger selective seniors in the area though and maybe slightly higher academic results? But she might struggle getting up to speed in the short term, hence Option A?

Argh! We are so torn and quite stressed about this (although appreciate it is such a first world problem!!)

OP’s posts: |
Guymere Wed 30-Sep-20 09:48:19

I think you shouldn’t just look at the short term. She’s not y4 for the next 3 years. She will catch up if the teaching is good. She will have far more possibilities for friends in B. I don’t see how a tiny co Ed school with 16 in a year group can possibly offer a rounded educational experience as dc mature. It sounds claustrophobic to me.

Why doesn’t school B offer specialist teaching. Most preps should do this. Latin is neither here nor there if they are not sitting scholarship exams to well known academic independent schools. However you should have art, sport, humanities, maths, English teachers etc. Otherwise what are you paying for?

Often prep school days are much longer and we had all sport offered to a high level in school. Not hockey - lacrosse. However catching up and then doing everything outside school won’t be easy wherever you go. That’s why prep parents I know want everything offered at school. We carried on with dance outside school and it made homework a massive rush twice a week. She will be doing homework so you need to factor in time to do it whereas she currently does a lot of activities in addition to school. But with good teaching, it will help if she can do what’s needed and that might need more time.

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