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Having doubts about schools preferences at the 11th hour - please help!

(21 Posts)
spanna786 Sun 30-Oct-16 18:28:23


I'd love to have some advice on this last minute panic attack of mine...

I had a first choice school which I saw a few times and was really happy with - but now it's come time to fill out the application form - I'm not so sure. I did a comparison of all the 6 choices I planned on including in the application - and my 1st choice ranks lowest in terms of exam results. My second choice school is way out in front in by over 20%.. and as has been rated 'Outstanding' by Ofsted three inspections in a row.

I saw both 1st and 2nd choice schools, I wasn't as impressed with my visit to the 2nd choice one - but on paper it definitely is the better school.

Should I put the 2nd choice school down as my 1st choice, purely based on the Outstanding rating and the 78% pass rate?

I was so sure of myself until the I bumped into a person who works at the local council. When I told her of my choices her response was "oooh that 1st choice school has a bit of history of being rough.. 2nd choice is much better!!" Now I'm totally unsure of myself. Don't' want to make a decision that's going to screw up my child's chances...

Please advise!

Thank you smile


ClassmateHB Sun 30-Oct-16 18:33:36

It's hard, but 78% v 58% sounds like two schools round here. One of which has a rep as a rough school years ago. We went to see all the secondaries in the area - the school all our friends raved about we hated and havent listed on any of our choices! And our favourite no one else liked, but for me the ethos of the school and the students we met sold it to me.

You need to go with what you and your child want. Take Ofsted and exam results with a pinch of salt. 58% is still acceptable, and all those figures do is measure one particular year group. Your DCs year group could be completely different.

And this is from someone who kept their children in the primary in special measures a few miles away as opposed to going to the most popular oversubscribed high performing one round the corner.....

CthulhuInDisguise Sun 30-Oct-16 18:35:27

Have a look at the trajectory of results - are this year's similar to, better than or worse than previous years at both schools? What does Ofsted say about the capacity for improvement at the 1st choice school - does it have strong leadership? Is the governance strong? If your gut feeling was the 1st choice school was better for your child don't discount that. It is important that they are happy as an unhappy child is less likely to settle and do well.

OddBoots Sun 30-Oct-16 18:37:30

Look at the value added/Progress 8 alongside the actual results to get a more rounded view of the teaching.

Starlight2345 Sun 30-Oct-16 18:42:50

My DS is year 5 so have done visits this year ..But obviously not applying.

I visited 2 schools..Results similar.. I could see my DS in the school I didn't expect to see him in.

The other school I went with a friend and could see her DS there but not mine.

I think ultimately happy kids learn.. What does your DC think ?

TeenAndTween Sun 30-Oct-16 19:00:58

I think you need to look at their progress 8 added value. if similar then keep with gut feel. if second school is way better then I might reconsider.

spanna786 Sun 30-Oct-16 19:07:20

My DS likes the 1st choice now - but originally he liked the 2nd choice as most of his friends from primary would end up there being the closest secondary to us. To be honest, I think he'd be happy in either one.

I think a large part of his choice is based on my reaction to both schools!

PonderingProsecco Sun 30-Oct-16 21:08:09

I made a similar choice last year.
I went on gut and ethos of school.
My ds seems happy though I still occasionally wobble. Think wobbles in year 7 [for parents] not uncommon though!
You will never be 100% sure and a child will probably do well at a number of local schools.
My gut still winning out for the moment and a happy, rounded, successful young man is what I hope for by the end of year 11.

NWgirls Sun 30-Oct-16 21:33:48

As Oddbots suggested, compare the Progress 8 (and Attainment 8) scores - these (provisional) results only came out in mid October, so many parents are not aware - then decide!

Hopefully the school you like has a good results on these measures, which in my view are more useful, robust and valuable than the old % measures. If you are not familiar with these, spend an hour or two reading up on them.

MrGrumpy01 Sun 30-Oct-16 22:07:44

I have put the better preforming school as my 2nd choice. If I was just going on results I would have put it first without a doubt - however my 1st choice school was the one that felt 'right', the one that as soon as I walked in I knew was going to be the 1st choice. It serves us better overall as it is more local and much easier to get to (and gives us much more scoop if/when we move)

I have had a couple of wobbles, I think that is pretty normal, it is a big decision after all. Once tomorrow is over I am hoping I will be more at peace, afterall then there is nothing I can do. I only get 3 choices, and I am disappointed that I can't put my 4th choice down, but it had to be bumped off to allow me to put my banker and least favourite as 3rd choice.

Good luck.

sofatrainer Sun 30-Oct-16 22:10:32

Sorry 58% just isn't good enough for me, it means nearly half the year aren't getting 5 a-c's. The 78% one is a no brainer regardless of other data

HardcoreLadyType Sun 30-Oct-16 22:19:00

Feeling schmeeling!

All else being equal, go by by results, ofsted and local reputation.

PonderingProsecco Mon 31-Oct-16 05:37:47

Interesting thread!
Some people are saying things that others said to me that nearly derailed us from decision op says she is making.
'No brainer'
'local reputation'
No brainer seemed the sheep like response as just going on bottom line results means you don't look deeper at any other school.
Local reputation is dangerous in that if you question further often find views are historical, or again sheep like response.
Interestingly, the ofsted of the school we chose was great but the sheep ignored it as 'local reputation' and 'no brainer' views trumped it.
Wobbling is normal, but don't just do what all peers seem to be doing without acknowledging what you really think when you visit school/ do your own homework etc.
I wish you luck op.
And as for wobbling? Maybe have to expect that whatever decision you make!

sofatrainer Mon 31-Oct-16 09:56:15

I agree reputation is something that one shouldn't take as gospel but if you're a l'm ambitious parent who wants their child to do yet best they possibly can then how can you choose a school where nearly half the cohort don't achieve a minimum of 5 a-c's when you've the option of one where nearly 3/4 of children do. I absolutely accept that a non selective state school will never have 100% a-c and there are always children for whom 5 GCSE's is going to be a challenge or an impossibility but to choose to put your child in a school where good results are the exception rather than the rule, I don't get it. A 78% a-c means that both the top and middle sets plus a fair number of the bottom sets are working at reasonable level. Therefore there should be capacity of support those who aren't.

tiggytape Mon 31-Oct-16 10:41:33

how can you choose a school where nearly half the cohort don't achieve a minimum of 5 a-c's when you've the option of one where nearly 3/4 of children do
A school where 58% of pupils get 5A*-C including English and maths is performing above national average standards. National average is around 53% and of course, for every school doing better than that figure, there will be one doing worse.

A 78% a-c means that both the top and middle sets plus a fair number of the bottom sets are working at reasonable level. Therefore there should be capacity of support those who aren't.
That's trickier to define. The top group in one school may very well be equivalent to the bottom of the middle group in another school. Even at comprehensives with no selective element to the intake at all, the mix can and does vary wildly.
Some schools have a huge proportion of children judged as being of high ability.
Other comprehensives have mainly middle ability or a mix of lower and middle ability children. It may be that all of their high ability children do just as well (or better) than the children in the school with a different intake, there are just far fewer of them to drag up the overall average.
It is about progress from a similar starting point as your own child that matters.

Don't miss the deadline though OP and get it submitted today.

minifingerz Mon 31-Oct-16 11:00:12

My dd's school had a lower headline figure for GCSE's than a competing nearby comp.

Dig a bit deeper in the data and it turns out that the average GCSE grade for high achievers was B+ compared to B at the other school, and that a greater percentage of high achievers made the expected progress in maths and English.

Headline figures for GCSE tell you more about the school's demographic than they do about the teaching, and people who are giving them a lot of weight need to think a bit harder.

stubiff Mon 31-Oct-16 11:27:28

OP, if you wanted to name the schools, we could provide more data.
As others have said, you need to look at Attainment8, Progress8, some data by Gender, particularly as you have a son, and some data by prior attainment.

Autumnsky Mon 31-Oct-16 12:45:25

Definitely choose the one with 78%. From your post, this school is closer to you and your DS's most classmates will go there. Unless you strongly feel it won't suit your DS, I would choose this one. I think if your DS is happy with his current primary school, there is a big chance he will enjoy the school 2 with most his classmates.

A school with 58% is fine if without choice, this is the normal score in our area, the 78% is the normal score in our nearby town, lots student of our area choose to take 45 mintes bus ride to get a school with 78% score. To be honest, the school are quite different.

golfbuggy Mon 31-Oct-16 12:46:37

Exam results are massively linked to intake.
What is the intake of the schools like? As a PP has said 58% is above national average so not bad.

School near us gets much higher A*-C results that other schools BUT much lower A*-B. Would probably be a great school for children who were C/D borderline.

Another school gets great A*-B results - because they severely restrict which children can take specific GCSEs!

I think there's a lot to say for gut feel.
And as always when it comes to heresay - do any of the naysayers have children that go to the school? I'm constantly being quoted "truths" about DD's school that refer to thinks that happened over 10 years ago (and were probably exaggerated then!)

spanna786 Mon 31-Oct-16 16:51:51

Just a quick note to say thanks to everyone for responding to my crisis yesterday. I did check Progress 8 and Attainment 8 and a few more stats. The second choice school (which is also the closest to me) beat all the other schools by a big margin. My first choice schools was actually bottom of my 6 choices. So in the end I used that as a basis for my decision and went with the 2nd choice school first and my first choice school third.

I'm so glad it's all over now - well until they send us the actual offer and then no doubt I'll be back here posting more panic attacks!

Thanks everyone!


Starlight2345 Mon 31-Oct-16 21:32:24

Good luck..Long wait now.

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