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Having real trouble choosing between schools (Glos)

(23 Posts)
basin Sun 21-Oct-12 18:51:16

We're lucky to have two good choices, but I can't decide. Ds likes both.

One is a huge, well equipped and Outstanding school with an intake of 300, the other is tiny, friendly and Good, with an intake of just under 100. Ds is average academically but could do better, and has periods when he's really enthusiastic smile

The larger school has an excellent reputation and was very impressive, but I preferred the feel of the smaller, thought it was lovely and feel he'd be noticed more. The larger also has a sixth form, but educationally, I think they're similar.

We may not get either but have to put one first. I feel I'd be passing the opportunity of an amazing school in favour of one which I just liked more and my heart says will suit Ds better.

If anyone has experience of this, please could you advise?

TalkinPeace2 Sun 21-Oct-12 20:03:48

Look outside the curriculum
- lunchtime clubs
- orchestra
- sports teams
- Duke of Edinburgh
- inter school competitions
the things that make the school day less repetitive (for teachers and pupils)

I would prefer a school with a 6th form as they tend to have better teachers (but its not an option in my county)

basin Sun 21-Oct-12 20:44:19

Thanks TalkinPeace for your reply, they're really good things to consider. My dilemma is, more opportunities and teams/clubs or less clubs but more chance of being chosen? He'd love to be picked for sports, but I fear would be quickly put off if he wasn't.

Unfortunately, I can't find info for Duke of Edinburgh for either yet - is it only for sixth formers?

Thanks again though, I'd say the sixth form is a big consideration and could be another worry for the future.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 21-Oct-12 20:49:02

my kids are not ones who will make the school "team" - but DS has much more of a laugh in the B team at the same tournaments (far fewer pushy parents!)

DofE - year 10 onwards : but a good sign of motivated staff

6th form : cross that bridge when you get there . 5 years ago the Ebacc was still a nasty gleam in Gove's eye ... who knows what A level provision will look like by then :-)

iseenodust Sun 21-Oct-12 20:57:41

So the big school has more than 1600 pupils? I would choose the smaller one as averagely academic he may got lost in the masses. I wouldn't say follow your heart but I would follow gut instinct.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 21-Oct-12 21:04:35

big schools are not the issue - Eton has over 1300 after all

its how they handle the numbers in a pastoral way.
My DCs school has 300 per year and yet its data for middle pupils measures up as well as for the top ones.
Some smaller schools (like my catchment one) are dire for everybody.

basin Sun 21-Oct-12 21:45:47

I hadn't remembered B teams, that's a good point - I think he'd be happy too.

The gut instinct is the trouble! He may not be the top set (or may have a better chance tbh) at the smaller school, but I feel he would be happier there - it was cosy and friendly. However, my head says the amazing school would push him and give him more opportunities. I am worried he'd get lost in the masses, (yes it's 1600+, the smaller one is under 500) though know both schools have good pastoral care.

How much does school esteem matter when they are there? The larger school is more prestigious and part of me would love to say he was there - this stupid reason is also clouding my judgement, though I really don't care if he's happy. I do wonder how pupils feel or if it matters to them.

Thanks for your replies. I am changing my mind every five minutes and it's driving me mad.

Lancelottie Sun 21-Oct-12 21:50:03

How many sets at each school? If he's not the top set, does that put him into the bottom set at the smaller school (I've just factored that into our decision for DD, having worked out that 'one top plus three mixed maths sets' really does mean every level in the lower sets from C grade maths down to almost unable to count).

TalkinPeace2 Sun 21-Oct-12 21:53:35

DCs school has two bands of five sets : each of 25-30 pupils
I gather there is MUCH more support as you go down the sets

a school of 500 pupils - yup, much more mixed ability in each class

basin Sun 21-Oct-12 22:21:31

This is the case in the smaller school; four classes, two top and two lower - good at english and bad at maths would put you in lower, I think. The impression (positive) that I received, was that teachers know the pupils well enough to make allowances.
I would worry about the level that they were taught their strong subject though. Mixed ability is definitely something to think about as ds is very happy to be distracted.

I am cheered that more help is given to lower sets, and that is what I saw on the open day.

cece Sun 21-Oct-12 22:31:55

I went for the larger school option. More money, more options for clubs, subjects, friends, sports and facilities and so on... DD is in Y7 so not been there long and she is blossoming. She is confident in herself but a quiet girl.

IMO secondary schools should be big.

cece Sun 21-Oct-12 22:33:14

However, I shoould add my friend went for the smaller school option and she is also happy with her choice but she doesn't think they should be big!

choicedilemma Mon 22-Oct-12 07:51:54

Which does your dc prefer? We have just had to make the choice between outstanding superselective (ds got good enough scores based on previous years) and local good (but very rapidly improving) school. We visited both on a normal day and eventually decided to put the local school first- because of gut instinct and the feeling that ds will be happy here. Very importantly, it felt happy, good pastoral care, excellent range of clubs.

It did feel odd for 5 mins, (having prepped for the exams, getting the scores etc) that we might be passing up a chance many others would bite your hand off for. But then again, we hare happy, ds is happy and someone else will be getting a place at the superselective, so they will be happy!

Madmog Mon 22-Oct-12 11:03:51

My daughter is in Y7 at a school with an intake of 240 and has over 1600 pupils. Initially she got lost trying to find the different classrooms, but that's a short term thing and there was always a teacher/another pupil who would direct her.

She's at the school because it felt so right. Now she's been there 6/7 weeks, I would say it's brilliant for her. She plays violin and there are two lunchtime groups she can do, only joined one though as she wants to do choir as well. There's so much in the way of clubs to do, whether for fun, or things like extra geography, languages if that's their thing. She says the teachers are really friendly. They weren't set for Maths last term, but their teacher split them into 3 groups in the class and my daughter was in the group I would expect, so the teacher was well aware at an early stage of their abilities.

She was lucky to know quite a lot of other girls from her old school and they all hang around on what they call the Y7 steps, which attracted other Y7 girls so great for making friends.

They have to sit a fair banding test to go to her school, so it ensures they have a fair mix of abilities. Because it's a big school, they can very much teach children depending on ability. For example, the top four sets will do two languages. The others only do one. If they really struggle at English, they don't actually do a language and they have extra English lessons while everyone else is doing a language which makes total sense.

At primary school my daughter was very quiet in class and hated to ask. It might be that she's growing up, but she's asked for help if she's got lost in the school, asked to leave a lesson because she had a problem and has admitted to putting her hand up in class which was a rare thing in, so her confidence must be building.

basin Mon 22-Oct-12 20:03:29

Thanks again for your replies, they've all really helped.

I'm nearer to choosing the large school (today anyway) for many of the reasons here, especially the sets. It's not a selective school, but fair-banded like yours, Madmog - in fact your dd's school sounds really similar to this one.

I still have a twinge for the lovely small school, and feel I'm choosing between 5 years of comfortable happiness, or a challenging but exciting environment confused Unfortunately I have never pushed ds hard and he could perhaps learn to make more effort with school.

Choicedilemma, I must say yours was an incredibly brave decision and I'm really glad it has worked so well for you and your ds.

I appreciate the input I've had here as I feel I'm making this huge decision alone, so thanks!

midseasonsale Wed 24-Oct-12 13:58:31

What are the schools called?

crazymum53 Wed 24-Oct-12 15:05:56

Not sure if you have decided yet. We chose a larger school with 220 pupil intake instead of one with 100 pupils intake. One of the reasons for this was that GCSE options were much more limited at the smaller school whereas at the larger school dd will have more choice of subjects. I did O levels at a school with 120 pupils in a year group and possible options were very limited due to a smaller no. of teachers and teaching groups. HTH

basin Wed 24-Oct-12 16:13:19

Yes that does help, thanks crazymum, options is another thing I hadn't considered, though I guess more teachers means more help? Before recently, I wouldn't have believed anyone choosing a large school over a small one, but see why more now. They're both really good and we're lucky to have such a good choice.

I'm veering towards the large school now and feel quite comfortable, though would be happy with either. My mum asked ' how did you decide, who have you been speaking to?' wink

Midseasonsale, they're two schools in the north of Cheltenham smile

iseenodust Wed 24-Oct-12 17:57:48

Don't make assumptions about options. Our larger school option does double science and RE as compulsory where the smaller school offers triple science.

Madmog Thu 25-Oct-12 09:54:33

Basin, if the school is in the north of Cheltenham, it sounds like it could be the school my daughter goes to. We looked at two schools in the north of Cheltenham, one seemed really good, the other really did not compare and the night, so both could be ones your looking at. Putting aside size, I feel we made the right decision for our daughter as it has so much to offer. If there's anything you think would help make your mind up, message me and I will let you know what I think (or my daughter thinks) if that could be of help.

Mutteroo Thu 25-Oct-12 17:51:23

The larger school could work if they have good pastoral support. If you have friends who have children at each school then talk to them and gauge a real opinion and not one offered by the PR savvy schools. DD originally went to a large state comprehensive and had a rotten time. She was perceived as a number rather than a child and was much happier when we moved her to a private school that had as many pupils age 11-18 as we're in one year group at the comprehensive.

Good luck!

EvilTwins Thu 25-Oct-12 18:49:50

OP, which schools are they? PM if you would prefer. I teach in Glos and might be able to offer some insider knowledge wink

basin Thu 25-Oct-12 20:53:24

Madmog and EvilTwins, thanks, I will PM smile (I'm being a bit cowardly by not naming them, but will if it helps anyone else choosing)

Iseenodust, thank you for your posts, they both echo how I feel about the smaller school and also I worry that a more ambitious school will push for results, rather than individual needs. As Mutteroo says too, that Ds will feel like just a number.

I'm becoming convinced from reasons here that the large school (in particular) does support all pupils and also, without giving too much detail, will benefit Ds in showing him a larger, more varied view. I'd be very happy with either school, they're both great. It's so hard confused

I'm glad I posted here thanks

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