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Independent secondaries - why do they not seem to value top-of-second-tier all-rounders?

(44 Posts)
MrsSteptoe Thu 20-Sep-12 12:27:49

Traipsing around all these wretched London independents and becoming very dispirited by the idea that if Y5 DS is bright, but not VERY bright - sits in about the top 20% of his class, on target to get all 5s in his SATS in Y6 - but doesn't have some outstanding special interest, they're not right for any of the schools. Maybe I'm just getting a bit depressed today, but they all seem to want these alpha high achieving kids, not my lovely boy who just wants to build Lego. I am teaching him piano (it's OK, I'm qualified to do it) and he did take karate, but he was so desperate to stop doing it - he knew he wasn't very good, and it was affecting his self-esteem. We've honestly got limited stuff available around here, and he needs to go to bed still quite early so homework needs to be fitted in so we are n't doing a huge number of extra curriculars... bother, I'm making myself cry. OK, bad day at the office, that's all. Maybe the schools are just a bit full of bullshit when they're selling themselves and my expectations of a 9YO are too high? Anyone with a bit of common sense out there (and a hanky)?

Hullygully Thu 20-Sep-12 12:33:25

The bit you're missing is that they all lie.

Your ds is a talented all rounder, all round academic with a special interest in (insert whatever he is currently vaguely interested in), keen on martial arts, musically gifted with a special aptitude for the piano, keen on athletics (occasionally runs round the park)...

Hullygully Thu 20-Sep-12 12:34:09

Oh yes, with a keen and early aptidue for design and engineering, loves to design and work out prototypes for projects such as (whatever he builds out of lego)

sadie3 Thu 20-Sep-12 12:46:53

Will it matter if he was good at Judo, piano or whatever when he gets out into the big wide world? Let him be little for as long as he wants, they grow up so fast, I do wish these schools would stop trying to make adults out of 11 year olds.
Don’t be sad you sound like a great Mum

MrsSteptoe Thu 20-Sep-12 12:53:08

Thanks, guys - I knew you would buck me up! I really believe all this business is one of our particular society's great failures - it doesn't just make a mess of our kids' childhoods, it makes a neurotic mess of what should be the lovely experience of parenting! I feel better now!

Farewelltoarms Thu 20-Sep-12 13:20:32

I so agree, my son is never going to be a virtuoso on musical instrument and I just can't be arsed to even try. It's weird this emphasis on music when it's not a factor in anybody (bar professionals) getting a job. My son is like yours academically and it does seem like there's no natural independent secondary for him. He has however won various awards at his school for exceptionally good behaviour. This may sound like maternal delusion, but he's so lovely and compassionate. This makes me proud and then I hate myself for then thinking it means jack shit in comparison to grade 8 on the piano and years at a pushy prep.

Hullygully Thu 20-Sep-12 13:21:46


Get him a few singing lessons and tell them he'll go in the choir.

twentyten Thu 20-Sep-12 13:27:44

So much is hype.He sounds lovely as do you.YOU are the customer... look at the schhols and trust your gut feel about the children you see there.Is that what you want your ds to be?trust his instinct too. When my dd visited her new school she said it felt like home-primary never was. Now yr11,not a perfect school-but where she is happiest and fits and is doing well. Good luck.

adeucalione Thu 20-Sep-12 13:32:34

Your son sounds gorgeous and if they don't want him it is very much their loss - find somewhere that values him for who he is.

But I also agree with hully, in that they all lie. We felt just like you after going to an open day at a local prep, but failed to realise that they were selling a dream of what our child could be if only we were willing to part with the necessary cash - genius, olympic sportsperson and musical prodigy apparently.

I made an appointment with the HT to ask whether it was worth applying or not, and the reality - in terms of the levels of attainment on application - was quite different. The HT met DD, spoke to her - and about her afterwards - very warmly; I was quite reassured. Did you actually speak to staff, or are you basing your opinion on a scary prospectus and open day waffle?

KitKatGirl1 Thu 20-Sep-12 13:32:47

farewelltoarms: It doesn't mean 'jackshit'; it means an awful lot more than a grade 8 piano that your ds is compassionate. My ds has ASD and finds empathy and kindness difficult, but I know whose children I am (sometimes envious) and always vicariously proud of. It's not those who play 3 instruments, but those who come home with a certificate saying 'for always being kind and thinking of others'.

KitKatGirl1 Thu 20-Sep-12 13:34:24

POsted too early. OP's ds sounds gorgeous and happy too. That's what matters. Yay for lego-building boys.

Mintyy Thu 20-Sep-12 13:36:40

Its because they are obsessed with their position in the league tables grin. They've got to justify those fees somehow, given that most children in the top 10% or whatever will get equally good results in a reasonable comp.

SkippyYourFriendEverTrue Thu 20-Sep-12 13:39:55

TBH I think you maybe are looking in the wrong place?

I have visited two schools in Surrey, both of which made it quite clear that they are not hothouse, everyone to Oxbridge, type places.

I agree with the you are the customer sentiment. Ask not what your child can do for them, but what they can do for your child. And if you don't like the answer, widen your search - it seems like the problem is that you are looking at pushy London independents full of pushy, show-off parents.

I have been a private school consumer for six years now, and you quickly see through the marketing BS.

Had more than enough of it tbh.

Is your DS at a prep or state primary?

Hullygully Thu 20-Sep-12 13:42:27

London independents really do want the tippety top pupils, and they have a big pool to pick from, bear that in mind. And they don't give a shit apart from which kids will cover their schools in glory.

scaevola Thu 20-Sep-12 13:44:45

If the school interviews, they usually want to know interests so they can get the DC talking. They don't have to be high achievers, just have some interests. It's not what it is, but how they talk about it that counts.

If you want to add normal childhood things for a DS with a range of interesting things, try Cubs.

Marni23 Thu 20-Sep-12 13:46:12

I am also currently traipsing round the open days in London for my Y6 DS and went through 11+ for independents a few years ago with my DD.

Just to reassure you, whilst she is bright, at that time she didn't play a musical instrument, is crap at sport and basically spent most of her time reading or playing. But she could talk about how much she enjoyed taking part in school plays and singing in the choir etc and I know the school will have mentioned in her reference that she was a hard-working, kind, considerate girl shame she's now a teenager. She received offers from all the schools we applied to, most of which were highly selective. There were DC in her class who had stellar CVs but they did no better in 11+ than my DD.

I honestly don't think the extra-curriculars are that important. Good schools know that not every child has parents with the time or inclination to load activities on their off-spring. I think they are looking for DC who will be up for trying new activities and clubs in secondary, be that Warhammer, Philosophy, Design or whatever, most of which haven't been available to them before anyway. There are many, many girls of the non-alpha variety in DD's very academic school I promise you.

Good luck in your search.

twoterrors Thu 20-Sep-12 13:51:55

I think you are looking at the wrong schools. I've done this for a boy and a girl, albeit a few years ago, and they wanted bright children with potential who would throw themselves into school life, and be interesting and fun to teach. And yes, some super talented sparks in the mix. That was my take anyway. A lot of the kids will be getting some level 5s at the end of yr 5 though, I think.

They know it is parents who organise an pay for extra activities, so as long as he can show he is interested in something, he should be fine. One of my children said at interview something like they wanted to come to school X because there was a cub for everything so even if you weren't very good at things you could probably go. And got in.

The schools you are looking at don't sound very welcoming - I agree with ask what they can do for you!

Chandon Thu 20-Sep-12 13:53:19

Hello, I am outside London but in South East.

I have a 9 year old boy like yours, have kust bought him more lego for his 10th birthday. Only mine is less academic than yours. I feel I am lacking in tiger mumsiness.

I will be looking at private as well as some good state secondaries we are in the catchment of.

As my boy is not bril at sports, and will not get into a super selective private secondary ( dyslexic), I wonder if the local comp may be a better option than a non selective private! ( both have same gcse results)

State schools not an option in London? ( sorry, naive foreigner here)

tharsheblows Thu 20-Sep-12 14:03:47

Where are you looking? It's been my experience that there's a wide range of independent schools in London for all abilities. I guess I'm seriously reluctant to list schools here as, well, I just am, it doesn't seem like a good idea. But if your headteacher isn't able to help you decide which schools would be a good fit for your son, then you might consider talking to someone like the Good Schools Guide. Their website is a little nuts but I think they have a consultancy service and they do seem to know about the schools.

Or, actually, your best bet is to talk to someone who's gone through the process in your area. Just ask them about it and go from there. I'm done with it all and completely don't envy you, it's a horribly stressful time, at least for you!

bradbourne Thu 20-Sep-12 14:03:59

I'm a firm believer in "different schools suit different children". Maybe you just need to look around a bit more until you find the right one for your son. Not all state schools are the same and suit the same type of children - and it's just the same with private schools. I'm sure that somewhere out there will be the right school for your son - you've just got to find it.

bradbourne Thu 20-Sep-12 14:06:31

Oh and, by the way, nothing wrong with playing with logo!

Farewelltoarms Thu 20-Sep-12 14:12:58

An aside: thanks so much kitkat, what a generous thing to say. I am really proud of him and hope that his compassion stands him in good stead wherever he goes to school (and I wonder with his temperament and diligence that might well be our local state).

scampadoodle Thu 20-Sep-12 14:22:46

Your son sounds lovely. And I agree with farewell that I find this obsession with music (in both the private & state sectors) odd. Being good at music is supposed to signify 'brightness' but whilst most musical kids are probably intelligent/clever, surely not all clever children are musical? [discuss]

Anyway OP, which schools have you seen? - dish the dirt! I am in London & have been school-hunting (DS in Y6)

Farewelltoarms Thu 20-Sep-12 14:40:36

Op you're a music teacher! I wasn't saying music is worthless just that I don't see why it is valued so above, for instance, art. And as scampa says that's in both state and private. I have a v musical friend with v musical daughter who is a shoo-in for Camden girls. And it seems so random what forms of selection are acceptable.

Farewelltoarms Thu 20-Sep-12 14:43:10

And yes scampa there is perceived correlation between mathis and music ability. When I can think of plenty of people who disprove that (as anyone who's ever heard my scientist bro sing can testify)

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