So torn on school preference..

(15 Posts)
MoirasRoses Sat 12-Dec-20 23:02:53

We have two schools that we love in our local area, both of which we’d have a decent chance of getting into. And I cannot decide which to put first, it’s giving me a headache 😩

One is outstanding, it felt spacious, early years was a great play based space, fantastic outdoor space for all year groups. It’s a fab academic performer & what I’d call a completely traditional primary school. I’d be more than happy to send DD there, it felt welcoming & friendly & a great school.

School two is different & it’s the kind of school that is adored by the parents who choose it but a slight marmite choice. It’s a good school ofsted wise & strong performer. It’s smaller, around 18 kids per year on average. It is very well known locally for being quite quirky & non traditional. It doesn’t have a uniform which bothers me more than I expected but I don’t know why! It’s not a Montessori school but it’s pretty similar in many aspects. It is very child focused, very into the arts, very musical & very outdoorsy. The school was covered from head to toe in artwork when we visited. Huge shelves of instruments. Photos of the kids out & about volunteering in the local village. Photos of them doing all kinds of learning outdoors. I’ve never heard a head speak so passionately about kids & their well-being before. It absolutely sung to me in many ways but I’m struggling to decide on traditional school v quirky school. My head says traditional, my heart quirky.

What would you do? Obviously no-one can make my decision but just curious at people’s thoughts!

OP’s posts: |
FestiveChristmasLights Sat 12-Dec-20 23:05:47

When was the Ofsted? A local school here is Outstanding but was last assessed 13 years ago which makes it pointless!

Also, are they feeder schools for a particular secondary?

The second school would be my choice.

cautiouscovidity Sat 12-Dec-20 23:39:11

I have experience of this. We choose a modern quirky small school (loads of outdoor learning, Montessori-style ethos in the early years etc.) and loved it until about yr 4 when it became quite apparent that the different style of learning was leaving my kids behind academically.
We pulled the kids out in yr 5 & 3 in favour of a large local traditional school where they've thrived.
Do I regret my children going to the small school? Not at all. They had an amazing start to their education and the relaxed learning style was exactly what I'd want for my 4-7 year olds. In fact, if I had a preschooler I wouldn't hesitate to send them there now.
But I would most likely seek to move them in KS2. It was the right thing to do for my children and they've coped well with the change. Both schools were local and as they did clubs etc. outside of school they knew some of the children from the new school anyway. A more academic teaching style is suiting them better as they approach secondary school.
So, go with your gut feeling based on what feels right now. You may love it all the way through or you may wish to change. But don't worry about that now.

SatsumaFan Sun 13-Dec-20 00:58:10

Fab advice from @cautiouscovidity

ClearingSpaceOnTheTrophyShelf Sun 13-Dec-20 01:11:12

I think quirky vs traditional is something you'll have to decide for yourself.
Two thoughts though.

My DD's secondary school didn't have a uniform. They had a "dress code" which I absolutely didn't bother to enforce. My thinking being that if they didn't like what my DD wore, bring in a bloody uniform.
Kids (especially at the beginning of school) get VERY messy and dirty - lots of creative play. Just be mindful if that if your child wants to go to school in special or best clothes!

And my other point is around small vs big schools.
My DD went to a school that was 1 form entry when she joined, two form by the time she left, so it grew from around 180 kids to around 4-6 hundred.
My sister's kids went to a tiny village primary.

At first it was brilliant for them.... You wanted to be a leading part in the school play? You will be! You want to be on the school council? No problem!
My DD stood for school and eco council every time the job was on offer. Wrote speeches (practised them). Never got on.
She was so jealous of her cousins.

Then came KS2.
My niece was in a year group of 6 girls. They were a friendship group of 2 x 3. You absolutely couldn't fall out with your best friend, because there was ZERO choice about who else you played with. My niece had a horrible time in Yr 5/6 and couldn't wait to go to secondary school.

ScrapThatThen Sun 13-Dec-20 03:15:17

First one all the way. More likely to have good governance and not go pear shaped because of a charismatic leader with blind spots or a jaded staff group.

MoirasRoses Sun 13-Dec-20 19:44:45

Thanks guys - hugely appreciate different thoughts on it.

Luckily, both schools feed into the same, highly regarded high school so that’s no issue. Also both schools are one form entry so while one is usually full & the other 18-20 kids a year, it’s not a huge difference (although acknowledge the more kids the better potentially in terms of friendship & gender balance).

The head of quirky school has been head for 10 years & really driven up results in his time. I can’t see that he’d be a bad point about the school but worth considering I suppose!

I shall ponder some more with new things to think about!

OP’s posts: |


MoirasRoses Sun 13-Dec-20 19:49:54

Oh & yes, all schools in my town that are outstanding don’t seem to have been ofsteded in years! The two outstanding schools near our new houses were 2014 & 2015. The outstanding school near our old house was 2011! confused I don’t understand why they don’t go back?! In the meanwhile, our outstanding nursery has been ofsteded in 2009, 2014 & 2019?!

OP’s posts: |
Onceuponatimethen Sun 13-Dec-20 20:05:24

I would prioritise the more established school. I chose school 2 type school for my dds. Not sure I would again.

Very important to have structure and reliable academics. Quirky may not be good preparation for senior school entry and art etc is great but they can do all that out of school. Alternative often equates to poorly run.

Bigger schools are better socially.

FestiveChristmasLights Sun 13-Dec-20 21:08:09


Oh & yes, all schools in my town that are outstanding don’t seem to have been ofsteded in years! The two outstanding schools near our new houses were 2014 & 2015. The outstanding school near our old house was 2011! confused I don’t understand why they don’t go back?! In the meanwhile, our outstanding nursery has been ofsteded in 2009, 2014 & 2019?!

Checking Outstanding schools or nurseries was stopped around 2009 to focus on those that weren’t Outstanding, unless someone registered a complaint - so that could be why the nursery has been checked so many times!

Fennelandlovage Sun 13-Dec-20 22:33:43

Love the sound of school two. Agree with pp that if there is the possibility to change it sounds like the perfect KS1 school!

MoirasRoses Sun 13-Dec-20 23:27:57

Ohh interesting re-Ofsted 😳 The nursery changed the menu to vegan in 2019 which didn’t go down very well, I know several parents banded together to write a formal complaint & several others wrote separate ones .. maybe that did it 🙈 It’s still vegan & still outstanding so if it was, didn’t work..

OP’s posts: |
bombaychef Mon 14-Dec-20 00:03:48

School 1. School 2 will be hideous if your child doesn't have shared interests with class mates by juniors. End up with no real best mates. And transition to high school is much harder

user686833 Mon 14-Dec-20 00:07:25

You are in a very lucky position! I would be second school, without a doubt, but I got a strong sense that you prefer choice 1 so I think you should go for that.

Those saying old Ofsted are irrelevant are wrong. They are still reviewed, but not Ofsted'ed if they maintain their outstanding results or a complaint is raised or there is a change in leadership.

Zinnia Mon 14-Dec-20 11:15:49

If a school is reviewed it will be on the Ofsted website. No report or letter of any kind since 2011 (or whenever) means Ofsted haven't been. Any Ofsted report more than 3 or 4 years old or with a different head teacher is pretty meaningless. Some parents place far too much emphasis on "Outstanding" Ofsted status - in fact some of the best schools are graded "Good". It's incredibly difficult right now when it's so hard to visit schools in person, but Ofsted really isn't the be all and end all.

There's a move to change the inspection exemption status for outstanding-rated schools, but it's not quite happened yet because Ofsted like everyone else have had their funding cut in the last 10 years. Oh and Covid obviously.

Regarding your dilemma, OP, if both schools are one form entry state schools I'd be highly alarmed by there only being 18-20 kids in each year at school 2. That would be drastically undersubscribed. That would mean less money, possible loss of teaching staff/ activities, even potential school closure in some areas.

Is there a demographic issue in your area (it would not be unusual if that were the case, current primary rolls are plagued by the post-2012 decline in birth rate)? If the other local schools are full and this one isn't (10-12 empty places in every year is a massive, massive problem for the school, that's 1/3 of the roll!), why is that?

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