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good but grossly overcrowded local comp on our street versus boys only selective 15 miles away

(76 Posts)
lingle Tue 20-Nov-12 11:35:46

I don't know if anyone can help me here....

I want DS1 to be happy, but I would also like him to fulfill his potential. DS and I both had the experience of going to comps. being top of everything, everyone presuming we'd be off to Oxbridge and then not getting in because we weren't guided in the application process (I applied to read English at Kings Cambridge - the most popular subject+the most popular college - and ended up being put in the "pool"). DS1 is showing at least as much potential as we did......

We are just on the border between our comprehensive area and the neighbouring 11+ area. After Christmas we have to decide whether to start tutoring DS1 (9) for the selective boys only (groan) grammar. My heart isn't in it - I want to believe he can fulfill his potential in the school on our street. But it's grossly overcrowded - we just missed out on the building schools for the future programme. I've been working in the local overcrowded primary this year and I've seen for myself the impact of overcrowding on quality.

Anyone want to talk?

squeezedatbothends Mon 26-Nov-12 19:20:32

APMF - and all through this thread you seemed to be perfectly reasonable...what a nasty snob you turned out to be. Of course I don't read the league tables - why would I read flawed data. And btw, my state educated child is in his second year at Oxford. Sucker indeed.

losingtrust Mon 26-Nov-12 10:39:47

Manchester 48th in the world rankings above the mumsnet favorites of Bristol and Durham.

losingtrust Mon 26-Nov-12 10:36:42

I would have withdrawn a child instantly who was seriously injured in a fight though and surprised the school was not sued.

losingtrust Mon 26-Nov-12 10:35:06

By the way I went to Manchester which had an excellent medical school and offered to most useful languages course at the time. Don't really see an issue with aiming for non-Oxbridge or Leeds. Not everyone works hard enough to go to Oxbridge but can do quite well in red bricks.

losingtrust Mon 26-Nov-12 10:32:01

I had never heard of tiffin before mumsnet but I don't live in London.

mummytime Mon 26-Nov-12 10:13:03

Well I had an enlightening eavesdrop on two private school parents at the weekend. It was obvious that what they wanted from a school and what they were willing to put up with we're wildly different to me and most parents on MN.

They weren't overly worried about academic outcome, in fact in one family neither parent had been to Uni, and were quite impressed that their eldest son was aiming for: Manchester or Leeds. They were also willing to put up with "fighting" and a child being reasonably seriously injured at boarding school and his parents not being informed. What makes their choices of school "better" is quite different to what a lot of people here are looking for. It is why looking for a school for your child has to be a very personal decision.

On the other hand Tiffin might be well known in SW London but it is hardly world famous. Eg. my state school educated son knows of Eton and Charterhouse but has never heard of Tiffin.

APMF Sun 25-Nov-12 23:27:33

You haven't heard of Tiffins???? Are you sure you really read those ranking tables that was referred to earlier?

Anyway, something tells me that those who can afford £20k pa times x children aren't too bothered by the mocking laughter coming from the cheap seats. Especially since elsewhere on MN there are threads about how Oxbridge is disproportionately populated with private school kids and how the top jobs are again disproportionately taken by private school kids. So laugh away dude/dudette at the 'sucker' private school parents.

And you are right. We are going round in circles so bye bye.

squeezedatbothends Sun 25-Nov-12 19:01:38

APMF - I do enjoy laughing at people who spend £20k and more per year on their kids education. It's a bit naughty, I know, but it entertains me. I'm sure you had perfectly good reasons for your choices and you sound like a perfectly sensible person, but I still maintain that it is fear and misinformation that drives people into the private sector. I've never heard of Tiffin - thought it was a lunch box. Also don't know how you can compare the results of a private school with the local comp when the private school or selective grammar creamed off the top pupils when they were 11 simply by looking at the raw data. You'd have to use a CVA analysis and the papers don't tend to publish those, so I'm struggling to follow that argument. Also not sure where you get the idea that our state system is rubbish in comparison to other countries - see all the previous posts about the flaws in PISA data. We seem to be going in circles on this one.

losingtrust Sun 25-Nov-12 18:36:30

You also made the point that comps only bring the weak up to average and this is not true. If a comp did that their added value would be really low and the school would be in special measures. This may have happened when we were young but not anymore.

teacherwith2kids Sun 25-Nov-12 18:28:49

I went local because you claimed that

"All we are saying is that, based on our local state schools and the needs of our respective DCs, the private school is a better option."

which, as I said above, I have no argument with., and hence I discussed my local situation.

It is just that it is not reasonable for you to make a generalisation about the schools that educate 93% of the children of this country on the basis of your personal experience.

losingtrust Sun 25-Nov-12 18:27:55

Going back to the op. I do believe a school feels right for a child and visiting a school outside of open evenings tends to be a good guide. School results for one school does not necessarily mean it is right for your child. It is not possible to tell whether a child is going to be academic or not at the age of 9 and some bright kids don't do well in selectives and some don't do well in non- selectives. Whoever they choose to mix with. My personal view is that selective state schools should not be selected at age 11 but at 14 as 11 too young. Streams in comprehensives tend to leave movement open to accommodate the inevitable changes in progression and then a move to commercial, vocational or academic at 14 when motivation issue arises would be a much better system and seems to be the system in lots of other countries.

APMF Sun 25-Nov-12 18:24:01

I thought that we were having a national debate as opposed to a local one?

But if you want to talk 'local', the comprehensives from my childood 'local area' aren't even mentioned in any of the rankings. They are that bad. All your comparisons prove is that your area is blessed with an abundance of good state and private schools.

So, no, yours is not a fair comparison.

If you have very good state schools in your area then of course most of the bright kids will go there. If I had Tiffins on my doorstep I certainly wouldn't be spending £15k pa x 2 on the indie next door. So why wouldn't you expect the state schools in your area to do better or as well as the private schools in the same area?

If MN postings is an accurate-ish reflection of the Real World then there are large swathes of this country where the state schools are pretty bad. So I don't understand why people who live in areas which has an abundance of excellent state schools are telling ME that my negative experiences are not representative of the real world and that it is THEY who sees things as they really are.

losingtrust Sun 25-Nov-12 17:51:29

In my area there are no grammars and the two independents one mixed and one girls only are 1st and 2nd with the comps next but the difference is so small. The comp next gets 100% gases a-c with 97% including maths and English and all the comps are in the same ball park. I have one of each and therefore the girls is out. To me the extra when you have a bright child just does not seem worth the money. The sports facilities are better at the indie but I have a non-sporty ds and therefore would be wasted on him. The whole borough is music orientated so all schools offer good music which was important for ds. If I had a sporty child it may be different but in the end plumped for him to go to the secondary his school feeds into. It is a bit of an mc ghetto though and all the schools have good results so all much of a muchness, ds school is a science college so very good results on that score but it really is a good school area generally. His school has 88% pass rate in English and maths and then choice of staying on or going to too 500 sixth form college but at that stage we will need to review his options. I guess we are lucky though.

teacherwith2kids Sun 25-Nov-12 17:22:16


If I do your test for the indies and state schools IN MY AREA, the top independents are:


The top selective state schools are:

The top comprehensive state schools are

As some of those are single sex, the best options for a boy are:

Private: 7th and 9th
Selective: 1st and 3rd
Comprehensive: 6th and 8th

Therefore in my area, for my son - and as I think you agreed above, the only sensible comparison is for local schools for your particular children, not sectors as a whole - state selectives are the best choice, with the best comprehensive (well, really a secondary modern due to the presence of grammars) outranking the best private school.

Does this meet your standards as a fair comparison between sectors, on a local level? The private options locally are not 'rich but dim' type schools, the girls' one is internationally known and at least 1 of the other options is a nationally known name.

APMF Sun 25-Nov-12 16:30:06

@squeezed - You seem to delight in taking different points made by proponents of private education and mashing them together and then laughing at the inconsistency of the argument.

Yes SOME parents choose Indies because their DCs have needs that suits a smaller class size. Yet you are having a little snigger at ALL indie parents because you think that they foolishly believe that smaller classes = a better education. As I said upthread, DC's form size is 25 so obviously his indie doesn't believe that smaller sizes = a better education and neither do a lot of the parents.

Also, the indie parents that bemoan class room size in the state sector are saying how crap state schools are compared to other countries and NOT how private schools with small class sizes are crap compared to international schools.

Also part 2, no one is saying that private schools are inherently superior to state schools - there are many that cater for well off but dim DCs. So, it is totally bogus to hold up a high achieving state school against one of these and laugh at the parents who are paying £20k pa for academic results that are inferior to that of Tiffin for example.

Take the top 20 ranked indie. Compare its GCSE / A Level points to the top 20 ranked state schools. Draw your conclusions from that because at the moment you are taking a Premiership football team and comparing it to a 2nd division Spanish team and going - 'Spanish football is over rated'

losingtrust Sun 25-Nov-12 15:50:17

The school my dd is at has just introduced larger class sizes. In reception there were 60 in the class but three teachers plus three teaching assistants. Essentially all the activities were learning through play and there was an outside classroom. It sounds chaotic but the class was divided into little groups for activities due to the difference in ages . A child born in September would be totally different to a child born in August and therefore to teach them all in the same way would be a nonsense. Forest school was also introduced for the year 1 group to enable small groups to work also means children who may be disruptive together can be put into separate groups. There is far more flexibility to work in different ways with the larger group. I use to teach in primary school and found a bigger class much easier and it leads to more independent learning. In other words a table can get on with a task rather than be spoonfed by a teacher all the time. Interestingly my dd particularly excited because the school is being rebuilt at the moment and little groups are being taken round the building site tomorrow. The school will be state of the art when completed. My dd is one of the youngest in the year and lacks confidence but gradually with extra targeted learning she is really coming out of her shell and I admit I am really pleased with the way a large school with two classes of 30 from year 1 has achieved amazing results through creativity and good leadership. That for me is the most important thing in a school private or state. My ds went into the top stream at the feeder secondary and is bring pushed to achieve. I know not all state schools will be as good but it is best never to pre-judge.

teacherwith2kids Sun 25-Nov-12 15:38:05

Squeezed - I have taught a class of 15...but as they spanned 2 Key Stages (R-Yr2), 3 school years and about 7.5 years in terms of 'ability range' it may have saved on marking but did very little for me in terms of planning! It was essentially like planning for 3 classes - one a nursery/special school, 1 a Reception Class, and 1 a year 1/2 class - which somehow felt even worse because the numbers in each were so tiny!

squeezedatbothends Sun 25-Nov-12 15:30:45

Teacherwith2kids, I hear you - there are definitely some kids who might benefit emotionally from smaller classes and this won't show up on stats, but then most state schools set up nurture or family groups for these children (at least the ones I've worked in have). And Blimey, if someone offered me the chance to teach 15 rather than 33 I'd jump at it - imagine the hours saved in marking and planning! It is counter-intuitive. It just makes me laugh sometimes when people argue for private education on these sites on the basis of class sizes and then bemoan the fact that we can't keep up with the international competition. Average class size in Chine? In excess of 40. Of course it's possible to teach huge numbers of children if they are all learning by rote.

teacherwith2kids Sun 25-Nov-12 13:38:21

Lingle, when we removed DS to HE, his head said that she didn't think he would ever be able to return to a mainstream school....

So the fact that he did, and left Year 6 with very high levels and as a relatively confident and outgoing child, was almost miraculous to us...

lingle Sun 25-Nov-12 12:36:57

So it might be that 'large class sizes + good differentiation' has the same statistical outcome as 'small class sizes but no differentiation'?

That's very interesting thank you - it sounds very plausible doesn't it? Yes I suppose that that could be an argument for selective schools in many people's minds.

Differentiation has, as you can imagine, hit me like a train with my "any child any instrument" orchestra. I have a few pupils who are already independent musicians - they can improvise a meaningful solo over the basic riff - so they are easy.
Complete beginners are easy too and I plan around them.
It's the ones in between who are hard!

PS, am glad your decision turned out so well for your child. Our path has also not been easy (at one point we were advised to apply for statement for DS2) and it's a major life experience I think.

teacherwith2kids Sun 25-Nov-12 12:21:29



One of the things that I observed when touring all my local private priaries is that the class sizes were small BUT there was very very little differentiation going on. Perhaps because the class was small, the teacher just taught them 'as a block'.

Whereas in the state schools, the class sizes were bigger BUT the tasks that children were doing were highly differentiated so there might only be 4 or 5 children actually doing a particular thing, others were doing something at a different level.

So it might be that 'large class sizes + good differentiation' has the same statistical outcome as 'small class sizes but no differentiation'?

Or it may be skewed by the fact that state schools with small classes (particularly primaries) are likely to be small schools with mixed-age teaching, which again may be a factor in how fast children progress on average. The smallest class I have taught (of 14) covered 3 school years, and 7.5 years in terms of ability. On the other hand, the school I move to next term has single-year class sizes of 32 or so, but the spread in terms of ability is probably only 2-3 years due to the intake. Therefore, even though the class is larger, the amount of time each child will have being taught at exactly their level is likely to be much larger than if I am trying to spread the same amount of teaching time over such a wide span.

I don't know. It is indeed counter-intuitive.

lingle Sun 25-Nov-12 12:07:23

now reading teacherwith2kids' last post about class sizes..

yes that is counter-intuitive isn't it?

Might we have equal results because our teachers are so highly trained in managing large classes?

I lack formal teacher-training skills but when I do one-to-one it's as easy as falling off a log - all I have to use is intellect, musicianship and tuition skills. I'm thinking about technique, not about the whole "has everyone had a chance to play, will I have to come in for free several times after school this week to prime them again" stuff.

Whereas dealing with 44 loud kids (whose parents often stay and watch - eek!) - it's just at a whole different level, and I feel it's been "good" whether or not individual children have improved their technique........

Translate that to science: if a superb class manager mistakenly tells her class that the speed of sound is faster than the speed of light.... is she a good teacher?

lingle Sun 25-Nov-12 12:03:11

thanks RedHelen, that's clearly what I need to do.

APMF - I hear you about teacher to student ratio for science experiments.

I do music at the primary - sometimes I have 44 kids on 15 different instruments, only half of whom have formal tuition. Am I pretty good at doing this because I somehow make it work? I say hell yes! Would they be better off if there were 22 of them - still with all the variety of instruments but adding the possibility of asking me questions during the session? Oh yes they would.....

teacherwith2kids Sun 25-Nov-12 11:45:07

Squeezed, I would slightly disagree with your point about class sizes...

Only to say that overall, you are right, analysis shows that class sizes do not have a statistically significant effect on educational outcome (however counter-intuitive that feels).

On the other hand, there are a small minority of children who through their temperament and character (not their ability) do find it easier to cope socially and emotionally in a small class environment - e.g. the very shy, those who are hyper-sensitive to noise, those with special needs that have an impact on their social and emotional skills. This is probably particularly true in younger age groups.

So there will be some children who DO benefit from small class sizes - but not because of any academic effect IYSWIM?

squeezedatbothends Sun 25-Nov-12 11:27:44

Sorry wasn't very clear after a couple of glasses of wine! I meant that class sizes make no difference at all to outcome. They make quite a lot of difference to teacher workload of course, but none to the outcome of children's achievements. What the OECD found was that when social class and selection was removed as a factor, state schools outperformed private every time in this country, but other countries' private schools, especially in the US came out better. So it is still relevant to us - a crowded comp can offer a better outcome than a less crowded private school. Especially now that there is such close scrutiny of Uni selection and bias. Frankly, not to undermine my own child, I doubt he'd have got into Oxford if we had sent him to our local private school. In his year, 12 got in from the comp, none from the private Grammar. Times are changing.

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