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To move schools or stay put

(16 Posts)
Desertdweller1 Mon 17-Apr-17 14:05:05

Apologies in advance for what became a very long post.

How risky is it to change a teenager's (just 13) school?

After various issues at DDs current school, we are still unconvinced it is the right fit for her. But we are concerned about the risk of her rebelling if we force the issue. We do genuinely believe the alternative school is better and are trying to weight things up.

I posted in the autumn when we were trying to make the same decision following bullying, falling grades, general unhappiness at DDs current school. We decided to turn Down the offer from an alternative school and give it the rest of the academic year to see if things improved.
Well they have: the school's intervention has stopped the bullying and DDs grades and effort ratings are both starting to rise.

BUT we still feel the school may not be the right fit for her and she may be better off, both socially and academically at the other school.
She wants to stay with her friends, of course, yet her friends change a lot and I wouldn't describe any of them as 'besties'. She is a social butterfly.

Our concerns are that the school is too big and expanding with large class sizes (now 10 forms of 26 per year) meaning the school cannot know or track all pupils effectively. We have had major problems trying to pin the school down on policies, monitoring of progress etc and have basically given up trying. Academically we are not sure DD is stretched enough. The school only sets for maths and languages and the ability range in English and science for example is very wide. Teachers don't set the homework the timetable suggests. It is sporadic and often done in class for those who are ahead. Targets are low and the school does not seem to notice when (or didn't when it applied to our DD) a pupil slips in a number of subjects on a report. I feel they only pick up the worst cases.

More importantly is the school environment and the impact this has had in DD. Many of her friends have also been bullied, one is suicidal and has been sent to some sort of institution for the holidays. The school seems to be dominated by cool populars and DD does not fit in. It is not cool to try hard at school so DDs attitudes to school work have deteriorated.
Most importantly she is just not the confident outgoing girl she was in primary school when she had leadership roles and was involved in everything and know ( in a positive way) by all the teachers. Now she is very lacking in confidence and sees the school counsellor. This has helped her cope with the school, but is this good enough? She is not unhappy but neither is she full of enthusiasm.
There is also a lot of questionable and risky behaviour among school pupils (mainly out of school), and older pupils have dragged DD into some very dangerous behaviour recently. It would be great to get DD away from some of these bad influences (though we appreciate with social media his is not 100% possible).

So my questions are is this good enough or could she actually thrive in a different school? Is the fact that she doesn't really want to move schools more important in that we may face rebellion that would outweigh any gains from a school move? Is her personality change just adolescence or primarily a consequence of bullying and the school environment?

The school we had a place at and are on the waiting list for y9 at is approx half the size, has smaller classes, is more of a community school (a 25 min walk or 5 min drive versus a 30-50 minute bus ride) where everyone knows everyone else, has far better academic results also with a mixed ability intake, places pupils in sets for maths, English, science and languages and splits science into the independent disciplines with specialist teachers. DD likes the school and has happy friends there. She also said she would find it easier to study and concentrate there.
It's a great school and not one we could get into for Y7.

Is this enough to justify a move?

Danglingmod Mon 17-Apr-17 16:12:51

I couldn't say for certain whether it would be the right thing to move your dd, but the second school sounds better in almost every aspect.

I'd certainly be considering it very strongly - how likely for dd to get a place now? - especially as she already knows some students there.

Desertdweller1 Mon 17-Apr-17 18:19:33

Hi Danglingmod,

Yes it does sound so much better doesn't it. Bear in mind though that this is quite a biased view - we do now have quite a negative opinion of the current school and are very quick to criticise it! So in some ways it's an unfair comparison. In actual fact they are both rated outstanding, and both highly regarded. I don't recognise the current school in the reports though -'it's certainly not what we've experienced. Goes to show each child has a different experience and no one school suits all children. I am sure the alternative school would also have minus points if DD were actually there. Nowhere is perfect.

Re places, we were told by the school that we have a pretty good chance for September. She has already taken the exams and been accepted, but it's just a question of whether they have space for September and how far they get through the waiting list.
I think being proactive and getting on their radar would help. But I would not do this unless we were sure as we turned their offer down in December.

It's just a case of whether it's worth moving for a better school when your child is (somewhat) settled elsewhere already. Settling in to a new environment can put kids back a bit, so is not always to be recommended, especially if they are likely to hold the decision against you.

Desertdweller1 Mon 17-Apr-17 18:25:18

Just to add, the sport is not as good at the alternative school. DD is very sporty and this is the main reason we chose her current school. We have come to realise that whilst important to some (including DD) the sport is not as crucial as other factors such as pastoral care or academics.

Rudi44 Mon 17-Apr-17 18:58:01

Based on the info you provide and imagining it was my DD, I would whip her out of there so fast her feet wouldn't touch the ground. Regarding the sport, my daughter is very sporty too but gets a lot from her out of school clubs. Ideally you find a School that can cater for academic and pastoral and sports but if I could only tick 2 of the boxes the sport would be the first I would sacrifice as you can cover that off out of school.
Good luck whatever you decide, it sounds like she has had a tough time

Desertdweller1 Mon 17-Apr-17 19:26:33

Agree totally about the sports Rudi. Sport can easily be pursued out of school. And the current school has far too much of a focus on this, and will let in any decent sportsman/woman even if they are troublemakers - they are still revered and can do no wrong!

Judging by your comment perhaps we were crazy to turn down the place for January at the other school. I agree with you and have always wanted her to move. My husband is more cautious and very worried that it might backfire somehow. Somehow I need to convince him that it's worth the risk. Personally I think the risk of having to pull DD out of the current school and whisk her off to boarding school to keep her safe (like quite a few of her friends) is far greater.

MaisyPops Mon 17-Apr-17 19:30:37

Sport can easily be done out of school and it sounds like the 2nd school would be better for your DC.
I'd have a bit if your husbands caution though. There may well be other issues in the smaller school so you need to go into it being aware that just like there are pros/cons to larger schools the same is true for smaller ones.

It sounds from what youve said that it could be a good move.

Danglingmod Mon 17-Apr-17 19:46:28

The other piece of information you need is what GCSE options are available to her at current and new school (and at new school she might get last pick if classes are full).

I still think the new school sounds worth moving for, but a difference in available GCSE options might play a part in the decision.

Desertdweller1 Mon 17-Apr-17 19:53:48

Yes true Maisypops. Small and large schools both have pluses and minuses. Less likelihood of finding friends you click with in a smaller school for example.
And although I know many happy parents of happy kids at the smaller school, there is no way of knowing with certainty whether or not it will work for our particular child. It's all something of a gamble.

Desertdweller1 Mon 17-Apr-17 20:01:36

Danglingmod, there are fewer GCSE options at the smaller school, not surprisingly. But all the important ones are there. What is missing is the large range of less academic subjects such as media studies that DD is unlikely to take anyway.
When we were offered the place, the one major drawback in terms of subjects available was that in the smaller school pupils choose between French and Spanish whereas in the existing school they can (and DD does) both. This was an issue as DD was keen on and good at languages. However, DDs interest seems to be waning somewhat and she will probably drop one next year anyway even if she remains where she is. The school is advising against continuing with both as 'dual linguists' aren't getting as good GCSE grades as those taking just one language. Seems a bit feeble to me, but then I did languages at university.

GU24Mum Mon 17-Apr-17 20:04:22

Your daughter is probably a very similar age to mine. Personally, I wouldn't move her against her will unless I really had to else every last bit of teenage angst and forgotten homework will become your fault. If you think you do really need to move her and it's the right thing...... but as you've asked, this is just my view as to what I'd do with my DD. Good luck - it's really hard knowing what to do for the best sometimes!

Desertdweller1 Mon 17-Apr-17 20:49:49

GU24mum, no we don't NEED to move her, that's what makes it such a hard decision. Though there have been times we felt we may have needed to, like during the bullying episode and more recently when other pupils got her involved in various risky activities.
Teenagers don't like change and in particular don't like being dragged away from their friends, so I understand your point of view totally.
It's a tough one!

Headofthehive55 Tue 18-Apr-17 09:16:34

Smaller schools do have their problems. Mine ended up with much less setting and less choice re options and activities and choice of friends.

Desertdweller1 Tue 18-Apr-17 09:47:07

Headifhive, indeed they do. In our case I don't think options or ECAs is an issue in our case, but certainly a smaller pool of potential friends could be and that's one thing we're thinking about.
By all accounts though (from peopl I know with kids there and DDs friends there) there seem to be far fewer mean girls there.
I really don't understand why this would be the case - why would mean popular girls dominate in one school and not in another? Is It the school size, meaning pupils are more supervised in a smaller environment and therefore tend to behave better?
DD knows someone that made the same school move and they said the pupils were generally nicer.

Headofthehive55 Tue 18-Apr-17 12:05:54

I just think it's luck sometimes. There are plenty of mean girls at ours! I think it depends on whether you are "in" and then you don't recognise the mean girls as they are friends. I don't think smaller means supervised better!

Desertdweller1 Tue 18-Apr-17 12:35:58

You are probably right Headofthehive. It just depends who is on each particular cohort, and yes you wouldn't be aware of mean girls as an issue if you were one of them.
I just wondered though whether a smaller cohort was easier to monitor. Teachers are more likely to know more of the kids and vice Versa. Too easy to fly under the radar in a big school.
But then, this is a generalisation and it must also depend on how well the school is led and run.

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