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Comprehensive or weekly boarding?

(32 Posts)
Merlinthefatcat1 Wed 27-Nov-13 13:20:33

I have an 11 year old Year 7 who started at an independent day school in September (after being at a small, low-key, local prep school since nursery age). However, due to a job change, will have to move him at Christmas either to a local comprehensive or to weekly boarding at a well regarded independent school.

The comprehensive (which is quite rough) has recently started a 'pathway 1' route within it for the top 30/32 students in the year group (about top 12% of year group) and has said that my son is of the ability to join that class. However, its still a rough comprehensive with lots of problems (staff absences, cover teachers) and the tendency to fail to stretch the most able is entrenched - hence the new try with this 'pathway 1' idea.

When he went to visit/take the tests for Pathway 1 they didn't know he was coming and the pastoral lady (with lots of piercings said to him 'I bet you wonder what the F is going on!' So you can see the level we are dealing with. However it is very close to our house and is free and the new headmaster is very keen for the school to improve.

The weekly boarding would stretch us to the limit financially and we would also miss our son but as we both work full time it would give him a structured timetable which we can't. I have thought and thought about these two options and I can't decide what would be the best way forward. Has anyone any ideas?

We both attended rough comprehensives in East London in the early 1980s and they were hopeless!

NoArmaniNoPunani Wed 27-Nov-13 13:24:40

Oh you couldn't possibly send him somewhere where the pastoral lady has piercings hmm


MLP Wed 27-Nov-13 14:51:56

Neither sound ideal. Are there absolutely no other options (eg, an independent non-boarding option)? Weekly boarding might be ok but I would be concerned re the financial pressure (and not seeing DS as much). Does he have any opinion on the options? Would he be happy with being away from home during the week?

I don't blame you for not being overwhelmed by the response of the lady at the comp. It sounded pretty unprofessional. However, if they genuinely have a top stream then that might be ok. However, you might want to get a better sense re the general attitude to learning. Are "swotty" kids picked on?

kitnkaboodle Wed 27-Nov-13 14:58:03

We briefly entertained the idea of weekly (or even 'flexi', by which I guess they meant board on odd nights whenever you like) boarding for our DS, until we realised (not having much experience of the private sector) that we would end up not seeing him for most of Saturday as well. So he'd be boarding on Friday night too so as not to miss lessons/sport on the Saturday sad That swung it for us ..

hermioneweasley Wed 27-Nov-13 15:00:54

I don't understand why if he could stay in the comp, why he couldn't go to a day independent school instead of weekly boarding?

In the situation you describe, I would send him to an independent school if you coukd afford it.

Timetoask Wed 27-Nov-13 15:03:12

I don't have teenagers but I think if these are the only 2 choices, I would definitely go with the weekly boarding independent.

If he is to attend the dire comprehensive (the pathway 1 project is yet to be started, who knows if it will work,right?) he will need a strong daily structure and support at home to make sure he achieves well.
If you and your OH work full-time and will not be around to help him with his daily structure, then being at school will probably be best.

There was a thread on here earlier today (I think the poster was velvet something) talking about how her sons are not even getting to school on time, sometimes not turning up, she works full time, etc. I really think that teenagers need someone there encouraging them.

friday16 Wed 27-Nov-13 15:03:28

We both attended rough comprehensives in East London in the early 1980s and they were hopeless!

Although given you are now in jobs such that weekly boarding is even an option they can't have been that useless.

kitnkaboodle Wed 27-Nov-13 15:09:48

noarmani - but how would you feel if one of your child's school staff said 'fuck' to them??

curlew Wed 27-Nov-13 15:14:50

<decides not to rise to the judging of the pastoral lady>

How do high achievers do in the comprehensive? Do they get good GCSE results? Do you know what sort of NC levels your ds is working at now?

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Wed 27-Nov-13 15:15:49

What contact have you already had with the independent school? Are you sure your Ds would get a place there at short notice?

And what does he say about it all? He will have to be fairly robust to weather either of these changes....

Merlinthefatcat1 Wed 27-Nov-13 15:18:06

Many thanks for comments so far. There are no nearby independent schools that are particularly attractive to us - hence looking slightly further afield. Our son is quite enthusiastic about the boarding - he is a very friendly boy - but has never had any experience of this. I am particularly interested in the comment from 'timetoask' as this is exactly what I was concerned about - i.e. needing someone around to provide strong daily structure - and that not being provided by the comprehensive.

Merlinthefatcat1 Wed 27-Nov-13 15:21:55

He does have a place at the independent school - it has been difficult for him - with the indecision - but we are trying very hard to make the right choice for all of us. Last year the comprehensive got a handful of A*s in most subjects at GCSE from an intake of 250 ish - but I know they are trying to improve this going forward.

Merlinthefatcat1 Wed 27-Nov-13 15:30:25

Do you think it would be less disruptive to stay in the private sector - but start boarding - or to stay as a day boy - but change to the state sector? I really don't want to pay for a local independent that I am not happy with - which would be the third option. If he went to the comprehensive there would be more money for holidays and other things which is another issue.

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Wed 27-Nov-13 15:32:33

If your son is friendly (gregarious?) and enthusiastic about boarding already then you should definitely take the second option!

Only I'm concerned that having been slightly bounced into a decision you may indeed have looked further afield but you might not have looked at every single possible suitable school for your Ds.

Have you? It would be frustrating if in a year's time you realise there's a far better school that you just hadn't heard of or got round to investigating. People do usually undertake a massive amount of research before deciding on a school particularly if they're not limited by catchment areas.... (If you say which it is there are sure to be people here who can tell you more.)

Fwiw friendly, gregarious, robust, well supported boys of your Ds's age absolutely love boarding. It's one long sleepover with school thrown in.

friday16 Wed 27-Nov-13 15:33:55

Last year the comprehensive got a handful of Astars in most subjects at GCSE from an intake of 250

The expected number of A*s in, say, English from a 250 intake would be about 8. For maths, you'd expect about 12.

The problem with "high achieving" kids and "low achieving" schools is it's very difficult to know what the outcomes might be. What matters is the results your child gets, not those people who are not comparable get.

Suppose you took a standard, competently run, comp, and an incoming head, keen as mustard, manages to convince everyone who won't get D or better to leave. The percentage A*-C would increase, as would the percentage A*, at a school level. But would any individual who remained at the school do any better? That's hard to predict.

Conversely, suppose the incoming head managed to alienate the parents such that everyone likely to get an A or A* promptly left. The A*-C would drop through the floor, along with (obviously) the A* rate. Would anyone who was left do any worse? Again, it's hard to predict.

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Wed 27-Nov-13 15:34:34

X-ed! I meant the option of the well regarded weekly boarding school. But make sure it is a good school.

curlew Wed 27-Nov-13 15:35:32

Do the high achieving children "make expected progress"? That's the stat you should be looking at.

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Wed 27-Nov-13 15:40:31

And yes - from my own experience and from seeing boys at school now - same age as your DS - it will be far, far less disruptive to stay in the independent sector - particularly given your description of the state school option.

Year 7 is an intense year for peer pressure. And it only gets worse for a few years. He will want to fit in with the boys at his new school, whichever you send him to. Imagine the struggle in his head as he tries on a new shape....

friday16 Wed 27-Nov-13 15:43:42

The other stat that is well worth looking at is to compare, for the high attaining (ie, 5 or better at KS2) portion of the cohort, what proportion of the GCSE-equivalent entries is actually made up of actual GCSEs, and what proportion of the high-attaining intake take, and achieve, EBacc. Neither's definitive, but the former figure shows that they are taking appropriate qualifications for their ability, and the latter that they are taking appropriate subjects.

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Wed 27-Nov-13 15:45:24

curlew I can tell you absolutely, it's not about stats....

It's about how the poor kid will feel as he tries to make new friends, please his parents, excel in the things he's good at, not stick out like a sore thumb.... It's hard to change school at any age and boys that age are alarmingly sensitive. If he goes to this particular comp he will have to be that boy - quickly - and sloughing off his old skin will be horrendously painful.

curlew Wed 27-Nov-13 15:48:51

Of course it's hard to change schools and it's not all about stats. But part of the decision process is how well or otherwise he will do at this school academically, and knowing how high achievers do is an important part of that decision process.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 27-Nov-13 15:49:47

Ah, just as I have guffawed at your Archers predictions on the other thread, sthing, I find I completely disagree with your post above here grin

Op says her son is friendly and gregarious - are we assuming this will hinder rather than help him in state school? Because I'm not really sure why. It is indeed hard to change school - and hard, too, to go from day to boarding in all kinds of ways.

curlew Wed 27-Nov-13 15:49:47

"Imagine the struggle in his head as he tries on a new shape...."

What do you mean?

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Wed 27-Nov-13 16:02:27

Oh, no of course I'm not saying those qualities would hinder him at a state school! (That would be silly...)

But while "boarding school is fun" (direct quote from 11 year old boy last year) it only suits boys with these qualities. I absolutely wouldn't advise boarding for a shy, unconfident homebody.....

Given the available options - and as I say, speaking from past and current experience - it sounds as if the OP's Ds will be much happier going to the weekly boarding school.

Ericaequites Wed 27-Nov-13 16:09:53

I wouldn't send the undergardener's dog to a school wherein staff uses the F word to students. She him to weekly boarding, as it sounds far more suitable. New experiments at crap comprehensives are all well and good, but do you want your son involved with that?

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