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Top of a small school or middle of a large school academically - Senior schools

(15 Posts)
goodwood Sun 07-Feb-16 17:54:32

We've been offered a place at a small school where our DD would be at the top academically and a place at a much more academic, larger school where she would be middle (perhaps nearer the top in one or two subjects). Both fee paying. In your experience, is a child likely to be stretched more at a larger, more academic school given that many teachers say they teach to the middle of a class?

VegasIsBest Sun 07-Feb-16 17:58:14

Much more likely to be stretched at the bigger school.

senua Sun 07-Feb-16 18:07:24

If she grows up being a big fish in a small pond then she is going to get a shock when she finally meets the real world.
Also, the larger school will probably offer a wider range of GCSE and A Level subjects.

Mathematician Sun 07-Feb-16 18:27:16

Agree, but with the caveat that it depends on the school. I've known a small school do an excellent job of stretching the top pupils.

ErgonomicallyUnsound Sun 07-Feb-16 19:34:28

I'd suggest you read David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. He presents a great case to say that big fish in small ponds do significantly better.

We, however, ignored this and sent our DS to a SS where he wouldn't be top, as we felt he would coast elsewhere and as he's so competitive would rise to the challenge of the SS, which is what seems to be happening thusfar.

I'd say therefore it entirely depends on the individual involved.

HereIAm20 Sun 07-Feb-16 21:58:34

Same; for our son we chose for him to be at a bigger SS where he is top of their set 2 rather than be at the top of top set at the smaller non-selective school. They compete for grades there rather than places and it has made him realise that when he goes into the workplace he won't always be the best. His competitive nature sees him working harder than he ever did at the smaller school where he just coasted. I have heard that coasting is fine up to GCSE level but sometimes means they don't know how to knuckle down to the challenges that the step up to A levels bring.

bojorojo Mon 08-Feb-16 00:54:48

Coasting is never really fine! No school should allow a child to coast!

Also, no teacher should ever just teach to the middle ability range in a class. Challenging work should be set for the more able and a teacher would be failing if they did not do this. In this day and age no school worth its salt, or your money, should not deliver appropriate lessons to all whether the school is large or small. I would want to know what the value added scores were for the low ( if they have any) middle and high attaining cohorts to see that progress was made by all, not just the perceived "middle". Who would put up with schools that did this?

There is some pleasure about being top in a small school. There are, however, drawbacks to very small schools. Will there be enough challenge from the other pupils? Will there be enough like minded pupils? What about orchestras, sport and other activities where more children are desirable? Does that matter or will it be frustrating? Always being top of a small pool can lead to problems later when the pool is bigger and the child is not top. I would choose a school that meets the needs of the child in lots of ways, not just perceived class position.

EricNorthmanSucks Mon 08-Feb-16 07:03:09

Wherever possible ensure your DC have academic peers.

The position of lone outlier is not ( generally) a healthy one.

BoboChic Mon 08-Feb-16 08:01:51

I would always prefer the DCs to be comfortably within, but not right at the top of, the first third of any cohort/class.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 08-Feb-16 09:08:55

I think it depends on the child. My DD is bright, but has low self esteem academically due to dyslexia.
She had a place at a large school where should would have been probably set 2 for Maths and based on year 6 bottom set for English. However, we accepted the place at the smaller school where she was top set Maths and it has absolutely been the right thing. Firstly the school has smaller groups than the large school so they are able to provide more individual help and are more flexible. This has meant the have taken a very creative approach to her English and she is in the top set as for 'lit' this is where she should be, but as there are only 16 in the group the teacher is able to provide her with the 'language' support she needs.
She has blossomed under this approach.
Horses for courses no right answer for all children.

Badbadbunny Mon 08-Feb-16 09:24:15

How do you know she wouldn't be a big fish in the big pond?

We were worried about sending our son to a grammar because we thought he may struggle up against the top academic pupils. We set him a target of being in the top half of his peer group, i.e. anything above average marks in each subject was his aim which we'd have been delighted with when against other bright pupils.

In fact, he's excelled and is in the top 10%, a complete surprise to us. He's really latched on to the top pupils and is competing against them, so is more driven and focussed than we've ever seen him, and the best thing is that he's the one who has decided to reach for the top, without our pressure, so is actually quite enjoying the challenge he's set himself. If he had been around "like minded" average pupils, I don't think he'd have pushed himself and would probably be an average pupil himself.

At the end of the day, you know your child, and you should have done your homework as the various schools available, so just do what you think is best, and more importantly, listen to your child and don't make them do anything they don't want to. They have to love whichever school is chosen so it has to be their decision.

Autumnsky Mon 08-Feb-16 14:03:13

I think it would depend on your DD's personality. If she is quite confident , and enjoys challenge, the bigger school would be better. As long as she is not in the bottom group.

I think the benifit would not only be she will be stretched, but also she will have a big group of friends with similar ability like her, whom they can stimulate each other. And later, most of her friends would go to University, they will keep in touch.

I went to a not very accademic primary school and senior school( not this country), and then a very good high school. most of my classmates in primary school and senior school didn't go to University. But all my high school classmates went to University, now, most of them are doing sucessfully in diferent area. I don't have chance to meet them much, but still keep in touch with them. But majority of my classmates stay in that city, they still meet regularly, it is really good for their career and social life.

roguedad Mon 08-Feb-16 20:29:34

Larger schools often have the resources of offer a wider range of curriculum options and extra-curricular choice. That's a separate matter from the academic stretching. If you think your DD will respond to, rather than be crushed by competition then it's probably a better bet. A lot depends on the individual here.

sunnydayinmay Mon 08-Feb-16 20:46:52

Depends on the child. We sent DS to a secondary where we knew he would be a big fish, rather than a school where he would have had to fight to the top.

But this was because we knew he would fight his way up, and put a stupid amount of pressure on himself in the latter school. In his school, he still puts pressure on himself to achieve, but he is challenging himself, rather than competing with others for a space in the top set etc.

I actually think his grades will be the same, but hopefully he will be more relaxed, and enjoy his school years more.

So, depends on what your DD is likely to do - will she coast or enjoy being ahead?

ohtobeanonymous Sat 20-Feb-16 19:05:31

I agree that it depends on your child's personality. DD1 thrived in a more academically selective school where she was usually pretty 'average' (and
didn't enjoy being 'best' at her previous smaller school) but DD2 prefers being top set in a smaller, less academic school and ironically achieves better results because she has confidence to try.
Which school does your DD prefer? Look at co-curricular and other opportunities - it is these which really enrich school life for students. Good luck!

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