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Secondary School Open Evenings

(14 Posts)
Jaijai38 Thu 22-Sep-16 13:52:46


We have a ds in year 6 and the secondary school open evenings start tonight. We live in a city where schools are very oversubscribed and we have a catchment of one school which is considered "the bad" school.

In previous years people have managed to avoid it with appeals and such but there is no guarantee that we would succeed so we have decided to view as many school as possible - and then make an educated gamble on our application form! And then appeal etc.

But what am really asking is apart from OFSTED and the general feel what should we be asking?


Unlockable Thu 22-Sep-16 14:03:41

My feeling is, that you just know.
It's gut feeling. They hand pick the students to be at open evenings at both my dc schools, they have to be invited, so don't just go by their attitude/behaviour alone

I did go to open evenings at my daughters school, but not my sons as I found it better to make an appointment in normal school time to see the school working as it does normally. We were shown round by a 6th former, rather than a teacher and found this very helpful. It gives a much better picture of the normal working day. Open evenings are like sales conferences in my opinion!!

So go to the evening. Keep your eyes open, but really it's best to take your child ( even if it means taking them out of primary to go) to the school to see how they feel and see if your child would fit in there

Ofsted means very little except from how good that school has prepared for the visit in terms of paperwork and what their results are like.

I tried to find schools that had as many children similar to my own children as possible. Both are hard working geeky types and I wanted a school where that was the average, rather than the exception.
I looked at the noise levels in school
The behaviour of students, respect for teachers, uniform continuity, litter all over the place, also how run down the teachers looked!!
The school to avoid may in fact be the one that fits your child. I would read what ofsted said though in terms of safeguarding and how safe the children feel, look at the parent dashboard for feedback from parents. But know that parents generally only respond if they are very happy, or unhappy. Not in the middle
I also drive past both schools at kicking out time to see what the behaviour was like.
So many things, but honestly you just know.

Jaijai38 Thu 22-Sep-16 14:31:25

Thanks - that is very helpful !

Sadly no one want our catchment school as it is mainly pulls from a the" Bad Estate" and the rest from areas that are now mainly student residents so there are not enough kids. So it is now an academy and shiny and new - but still the same pool of students! And not really similar to my son at all

Unlockable Thu 22-Sep-16 15:19:19

You don't live near me, do you?
Our local school is a very sad place. Brand new shiny building, new head, shot tons of money, academy and yet they fail because they can't get the parents to engage
I did go and look at it with my own eyes though, and grilled the HT before deciding that it wasn't the right place for my children.i am now destined to years of driving to a school 10 miles away though and it was a huge decision

Unlockable Thu 22-Sep-16 15:23:20

And honestly. It's not the kids fault. It's their parents. I don't believe kids can be 'bad' as a group just because they come from a certain place, I really hoped it would be OK for my children because the alternative was 11+, appeals and years of uncertainty and stress, let alone 8 years of taxiing them to school, and out of school clubs and friends houses, but I couldn't send them somewhere where they would stick out like a sore thumb. - I live in the same very poor area and my own dc get free schools meals so I'm not some snob.

Badbadbunny Thu 22-Sep-16 15:42:09

Go to the open evenings and gauge how the teachers engage with you and your child.

It's a bad sign if you walk into a classroom and the teachers continue talking to eachother, trying to avoid eye contact with you, and appear to try to avoid talking to you and your child. We had that at a couple - almost made to feel we were intruding! There were activities laid out on tables and on computer screens, but we were left to ourselves to try them out. The teachers really were trying to leave it to the pupils to do the tours and answer our questions.

For us, two schools were very good in that the teachers would pro-actively walk over and engage with our son, show him things, talk to him, some played board games with him, some sat with him on a computer to get him started. A much better atmosphere and my son really liked the way the teachers treated him.

For us, bright new shiny buildings and classrooms full of new kit were just no substitute for the human touch of the teachers he'll be with for the next 7 years!

Jaijai38 Thu 22-Sep-16 17:03:07

Thanks ! I am not sure it is the same area as we have no 11 plus near us! Today's view is a school we have little chance of getting and am out of area so we can go from there! We are on the south coast and they are proposing a free school meal percentage of pupils in each school. Which where we are means it will be like a lottery system in the more deprived areas as to whether you get a good school - no plan it seems to improve the school

smellylittleorange Thu 22-Sep-16 22:42:52

Hi Jaijai I am south coast know a bit about local schools pm me if you like. Dd goes to a school 11 miles away..we visited during school day . A school with a good vibe etc and good range of students and subjects was what we looked for and found it . She is very happy and pastorally the school has been more supportive than I could have imagined

charlestrenet Thu 22-Sep-16 22:54:55

I agree with unlockable that the best way to judge a school is to see it outside of open evenings. When ds1 was moving up his chronic health condition flared up around the time of open evenings so we had to go and look around most of the schools at other times, which was quite different to all the bells and whistles tours and in the end we plumped for a school I'd barely considered before but that we looked round on a Friday afternoon (ie the time when things tend to fall apart if they're going to) and completely changed our minds about it. So it may be worth you saying you can't make it to the open evenings and getting your own little tour at another time. The primary allowed us time away for this purpose with no quibbles.

Jaijai38 Fri 23-Sep-16 08:41:49

Thanks all - we had a good evening seeing two schools - still five more to see!

I could see instantly where my son felt more comfortable - the out of area school. Both open evenings started at 5.30 but we did not get to the first till near seven and the second about 8 which was good as crowds had thinned a lot.

Was very interesting as Badbabbunny said - some teachers avoided conversation and some where so please to see you there and so enthusiastic about their subjects

What I can't get my head round is it all a gamble because of catchments - I like to know everything and we won't - how many kids, how many places, what school is currently fashionable in each part of town!

Unlockable Fri 23-Sep-16 09:37:40

Your LA should publish a leaflet stating all the distances and criteria that children were offered places last year. Mine does and it was very useful. Obviously it's no guarantee of what will happen the next year, but it's a starting point. My daughters school took everyone that applied this year, only because nobody put it as a first choice thinking it would be wasted as its usually very very over subscribed. Bizarrely they still have places, and it's a grammar. Previous years the catchment had ranged from 3-8 miles.

The trick is to use your choices very wisely. One you can pick as a aspirational if I'm very lucky type, one sensible and one very safe bet.
The trouble starts when parents don't include a school that there child is almost guaranteed a place at locally, because then the LA can offer a really unpopular undersubscribed school miles and miles from home
We had 3 choices.
1. Was the one we loved but thought we had zero chance at
2. Was another school we liked but was a bit far away but a reasonable chance of
3. Was a school I could tolerate ( only just!) that wasn't that close to home but would almost certainly get a place at ( we were 8 miles nearer than the furthest place offered for the last 6 years) but was better than the awful school.

We got school 1.
A few parents here are wishing they had put that school down now and are trying to transfer their daughters.

Unlockable Fri 23-Sep-16 09:44:07

And you have my sympathies. I hate uncertainties - especially about the children and education and I started thinking about this and visiting school when ds was in year 5, he's just started year 8 so I've done it 2 years on the run, single sex schools too so no sibling policies and it has been most most unfun. I had to appeal for ds, but won and it's really been a bloody nightmare for nearly 3 years. I nearly cried on March 1 this year when I found out my daughter had got a place at the school next to her brother and it was all over

Unlockable Fri 23-Sep-16 09:55:45

Sorry. One more thing

Please please don't gamble on an appeal being successful, very few are and it's the most stressful thing I've ever done. Unless you have absolute solid grounds like health needs that can only be met at one school, you are unlikely to win. Appeal boards do not care about logistics or transport for example

BackforGood Sat 24-Sep-16 23:56:15

Also, don't get fixated on one detail "they offer 2 MFLs at GCSE" or "All dc get the chance to do separate sciences at GCSE" etc. - the curriculum will change several times before your dc get there, and it's also perfectly possible the member of staff who teaches - say - Spanish will leave and they won't be able to replace them. Pick up on several of these things and count them as only one part of the decision.

If at all possible, get shown round by an older pupil - we've been to schools where they've used Yr7s, 2 weeks into term - totally ridiculoous and can't answer anything except if they felt welcome

When they offer things that sound good, as 'extra curricular', find out how many can do it. DofE, for example is something schools like to talk about, but some schools only sign up 25 people from the whole year group

Think of your child when hearing facts and figures. If the school holds the champions cup for the County at football, that's lovely, but what opportunities are there for your dc if they aren't the in best 16 in the year for football. What about music? They may have the Young Musician of the year at school, but how many dc actually go to choir / band practice / orchestra / drama performances?

Travel? You driving them there on a light September evening is one thing, but how will they travel back after band practice at 5pm on a dark January night?

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