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Schlepping around potential secondary schools: Anyone else going through it now? Long, sorry!

(5 Posts)
teslagirl Fri 19-Sep-08 11:59:58

Just came back from the second- of possibly four! DS1 is in Y5- but before anyone thinks I'm up myself for doing this so early, the Great British Financial Fiasco, which, in house pricing at least, has seen us renting the 5 years we've been in the UK, means we CAN and MIGHT move house to be in the catchment of a desirable school and as you know, you have to be set up IN catchment AND on the electoral role by Oct of Y6.

Now, the things is, the schools involved are surprisingly different though they are ALL state comps. I thought I had a clear idea about what we wanted for DS1 but I'm getting a bit confused now!

School 1 seemed well run and well managed. Thing is, in many places in the UK it wouldn't have to sell itself at all as it seems to stand by its own merits, BUT it's adjacent to another very good school with which it's sort of competing for pupils (we're talking Winchester, here!). BUT did I see well directed lessons and focused DCs because it IS Winchester and all those middle class DC had been 'well warned' of the consequences on mucking around during open morning? (Though the catchment does encompass a big council estate in Winchester)- Or is it always like that? We didn't witness a 'class changeover' either which I feel we might have expected during the time we were there. We were escorted by Y11 prefects, all a credit to their school, of course. The classrooms weren't that big and many seemed very full, albeit with quiet, concentrating DCs. There are 26 to a tutor group. The Head's talk was more or less 'You know how good we are academically, here's how we help your child pastorally', no video or Powerpoint, but several well put together (but 'for Open Day') exhibits in the classrooms.

School 2 is our local catchmented one (for our house, not DS1's school). It's a rather more of a rough and tumble sort of place, wider range of abilities, plus a recent influx from the rougher end of Southampton. The head gave an 'inspirational talk' complete with video, all a teensy bit 'PR'. We were shown around by Y8s and got caught up in the chaos of changeover! Saw a couple of DCs getting mildly 'told off' for mucking about...! However, walking around the school, all the teachers broke off for a chat with us (and within seconds, some DCs in the class seemed to lose their focus, like you might expect). There are 26 per tutor group, and I did feel the classrooms were bigger, with fewer DCs per class, esp in the upper years. I asked the Head what effect the Southampton influx had had and she conceded there had been some exclusions- which, of course is a good thing for the rest of the DCs.

Now, which is the more 'honest' school? School 1 was a lot slicker but is that because their intake reflects wealthier, better educated families whose DCs will be imbued in the ways of 'behaving when necessary'? But is School 2 actually a lot more true to real life, warts and all?

Incidentally, School 3 is where many of DS1's schoolmates will be going though many of the DCs do go to School 2, being in the same town; I'll visit that next week and I EXPECT it'll feel very much like School 2, sharing a similar demographic etc.

School 4 is a bit of an 'outsider' in that it's STRICTLY catchment only, pretty academic (its GCSE results and OFSTED ascend to heaven to sit at god's right hand...) BUT it barely advertises its open day because a) it's THE good school in its area and b) it's a bit arrogant. The catchment is pretty solidly Middle Class. I go there next week, too, if they can deign to fit me in! We'd have to move 1.5 miles to stand a chance of this school but I wonder what I'll make of it? Does it do 'so well' because they PR it that way ie don't allow DCs to sit exams they won't get an A* in? Should I be thinking "With the 'quality' of their intake, they jolly well SHOULD be pushing out the glorious GCSE results!". Will they cater for my more average DS2? Though of course I would consider a different school for him when the time comes. SHOULD I be thinking like that? I mean, it's not that I'm saying 'DS1 is Grammar material thus will go to a grammar, DS2 to a good comprehensive'- We're talking ALL comps, here!

This has all been a bit of a 'train of thought', post, really, but for anyone doing the same thing, what's struck you about the different schools you've visited? How will you 'choose'?

unhappy Fri 19-Sep-08 13:39:59

Hey girl in SE London doing the same - its a nightmare here - looked at 2 possible very differnt schools got 3 more next week followed by a couple the following week - god only knows in what order we will put them - good luck smile

unhappy Fri 19-Sep-08 13:43:25

Just re-read your post - dont know really - school 1 for us was very quiet calm but very focussed on technology - school 2 was a bit wilder and much bigger but I somehow came out of there feeling happier like my ds would actually enjoy going there - if you get my meaning.

Schools next week include 2 who are probably the best schools in the area and out of catchment - its all a it of a lottery in our area though - fingers crossed - will look at this post next week and see how you are getting on - have a good weekend

Anna8888 Fri 19-Sep-08 13:47:57

teslagirl - could you perhaps structure your thoughts a bit more? Ie make a list of criteria on which you assess a school and then a table with all four schools along the top, the criteria down the side, and then "rate" each school out of ten on each criterion?

teslagirl Fri 19-Sep-08 16:39:42

That's not a bad idea. I think that I shall have to 'sleep' on it for a couple of weeks so my opinions will be more objective.

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