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HELP: Leaving an 'outstanding' school for one 'requiring improvement'

(33 Posts)
JasAnglia94 Tue 11-Jul-17 14:10:01

I'm positing on behalf of my mum and me.


I’m close with my niece. I see her at least four times each week. I take her on UK city breaks (3 per annum), to the theatre every two months, odd day trip etc. I foot the bill. I'm close(ish) with my brother (her parent) - we have an amicable relationship and talk roughly 3 times a week, though not about anything deep.

Niece Age:
14 - year 9. She's looking to start this new school next Sept. She both looks and acts older than she is socially. She’d 9 years younger than me.

Current school:
It's a non-selective, comprehensive girls school. I know lots of girls who left the school 2-5 years ago - not one had a negative experience. The school is in the top 10% of (non-selective) schools in the country. It teaches classics and latin. The GCSE 5 A*-C rate is 92% (across maths, english and science for 2015-2016). The school is very mixed - there are children from all ‘levels’ of society. It has a strong extracurricular activity - puts on shows, offers loads of sports and has (pretty frequent) school trips. The school offers counselling (which she uses) and is big on pastoral care.

Her situation:
She says she is unhappy at her school. She has friends (though she says they are more acquaintances than 'best' friends). She goes out with groups of different girls regularly. If she ‘falls out’ with one group, she switches between them. (This tends to happen quite a bit.) She swears she is not getting bullied (I 100% believe this). She isn't doing 'well' but she isn't 'failing' either. She doesn't “like" the 'culture'. She doesn't like her teachers she says - they're not 'conducive to her achieving'. She has dropped out of nearly every social activity my parents previously provided her - guides, swimming, piano, singing, dancing, acting. They weren't 'her'. She kept ballet after much persuasion. (She has no suggestions for other activities to take up). She has taken up karate (once p/w). She says she 'regrets' giving up piano and swimming. Since last month, she works a half-day as a hairdresser assistant. (Money goes directly on clothes.)

New school:
Clearly 'the arts' aren't for her. However, she wants to go to a UTC that does the core subjects (english, maths, science) and a range of 'performance arts btecs'. To me, this makes no sense. (She gave up acting and singing last year?!) I went to uni recently and know how 'equivalent gcses' in 'soft' subjects are viewed by unis. The school has a GCSE 5 A*-C rate of 60% (across maths, english and science for 2015-2016). Ofsted (inspected last month) said the school requires improvement overall (it did in nearly every criteria.) She isn't naturally bright and isn’t good at independent work/revision/self-study. I know how GCSEs can affect things beyond year 11. She - last year - wanted to be a midwife. (I was happy to hear this!) She now says she would be happy doing a low wage, service job (mentioning jobs averaging £15K).

What do I do?:
I think it’s a bad decision and short sighted. She is not academic but I know she could get Cs easily at her current school. I’m not a snob but I really believe in the value of education.

I’ve run past the statistics to her (they’re shocking). I have drawn on my own horrendous experience at uni and how I persevered (and am happy that I did). I have highlighted the options outside of school to pursue 'arts' interests. I have said she could go to college after GCSEs. I have highlighted the experiences of my friends who had to resit their GCSEs, A levels and go to uni 3/4 years after the rest of us. They 'regretted' their 'initial' choices.

Can I do anything else? She is capable and she goes to an outstanding school. She’s currently directing a play in a school-wide competition. To me, this illustrates how good the school is. Not once has she been reduced to tears over school.

My Brother doesn't understand me at all. He didn't try hard at school and dropped out of sixth form, after truancy. (He's naturally VERY bright.) He had my niece at 18 and is now a single parent (but my parents have always paid for my niece). He did a performing arts degree at a local college and now works part-time in a MW service job (topped up benefits). He lives in a council flat (nothing wrong with this). He say he regrets nothing. However, he is very resentful of old school friends who have (worked and) made money. Our family is privileged - we're in the top 15% financially. My parents and I went to state schools and tried hard.

Any advice for me or my mum (her grandmother)?

JasAnglia94 Tue 11-Jul-17 17:15:59

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Mum's really upset about the situation sad

noblegiraffe Tue 11-Jul-17 17:46:49

You posted two threads and people have responded on the other one!

JasAnglia94 Tue 11-Jul-17 19:02:05


I created this one as I can't locate my previous thread?

noblegiraffe Tue 11-Jul-17 19:16:28

Oh that's annoying, it's been deleted as it was a duplicate. They've deleted the wrong one. I've reported this one to see if they can restore the other one.

Hersetta427 Tue 11-Jul-17 21:48:08

Sounds like two schools in our town. Is it B.S by any chance. Is there room at the other secondary as it may already be full?

JasAnglia94 Wed 12-Jul-17 02:11:19

Hi Hersetta427

I don't think it is... grin

I have sat here for a couple minutes thinking what that acronym could mean but alas it doesn't seem to fit.

My brother and her made progress without my parents knowledge. My niece has had a day visit to the UTC. I found out the UTC confirmed they'd accept her pretty much straight away as well (before visiting the school).

I understand pupil recruitment is a big focus of these UTCs which makes me even more suspect.

Decorhate Wed 12-Jul-17 07:24:26

Could your niece be persuaded to stay where she is for GCSEs & look at moving for 6th form instead?

My dd went to a similar school to your niece's current one. There was nothing "wrong" with it but she really wanted a change for 6th form.

Re UTCs, the one in my area attracted a lot of kids initially but many went back to their original school. There were a lot of behaviour problems & it being less formal/structured didn't help to alleviate that.

However it did really suit a boy I know who did music BTecs there.

If your neice leaves her current school, will she be burning bridges or would they take her back if the UTC didn't work out?

youarenotkiddingme Wed 12-Jul-17 07:32:54

We have a new UTC near us and DS old HT has moved there as head of UTC. It's a Stem one. My ds is autistic and very stem able but struggles academically and socially and also with self directed learning etc.

I thought this school would be ideal for him and HT said to apply for year 9/10 when he could go on intake and he'd also help me to get it named on EHCP.

Except I've been warned against it and their culture for ds by a ton of people!

I've discovered the best way to find out if a school can give a child what they need is to ask them directly "how will you support niece in x y and z".

I actually think schools that RI or are in SM can be great for children and certainly I would avaoid an ofsted outstanding school personally. It's the actual school, their ethos and what they can do for your niece that needs to be the forefront of the decision imo.

JasAnglia94 Wed 12-Jul-17 13:22:43

We've said to her the option to go this UTC after she's sat hers GCSEs at her current school but that doesn't influence her or my brother.

I've said how with 5 A*-Cs, the world will be her Oyster, that she can pick anything she wants - go to this UTC or do pursue anything else if her mind changes.

However - at this UTC - she's 5 times more likely to fail English, 13 times more likely to fail English Lit, 3.5 times more likely to fail science and 3 times more likely to fail maths. These statistics don't seem to do anything.

My parents and I have a strong suspicion that she expects them to supplement her UTC education with private tuition. (She talked about doing lessons outside of school and my brother's friend mentioned this also.) My parents don't think they should supplement a UTC education when she's actively turned down a 'strong' one.

GreenTulips Wed 12-Jul-17 13:30:05

Why is she thinking of moving?

Year 9 is hard on lots of girls - they seem to want to be queen bees and get loud and annoying!!

Without GCSE sets they'll all move around and make different friends

Your brother isn't bothered and you're keen - your niece is caught between a rock and a hard place

JasAnglia94 Wed 12-Jul-17 13:38:16

This is the thing that irritates me. The reason she wants to leave is because she doesn't like the 'culture'. She says the teachers are 'negative'. She doesn't even know if she has these teachers she doesn't like next year but says 'it's likely'. Is this not a poor excuse?

Do you think I'm missing something? We're starting to suspect its boys?

GreenTulips Wed 12-Jul-17 15:12:11

A lot of teachers are negative probably getting them used to what to expect at work!

She's not 5 in need of constant praise - and needs to learn to take some of it on the chin and be more resilient - she sounds needy!!

Lots of girls fall out - they start thinking for themselves and expressing an opinion - which isn't always based on logic!
Boys may well come into it

catslife Wed 12-Jul-17 16:28:03

OP speaking as a parent of a dd a few years older than your dn, Y9 was in many ways quite a difficult year. Many girls do give up long term hobbies at this stage and it's not unusual in any way. Assuming that her current school has a good range of GCSE subjects available then moving for Y10 may not be the best idea, but if they are "making" her do subjects that she isn't really interested in and that she isn't motivated to do won't help no matter how good the school is.
Having said that for my daughter not longer having to study subjects that she didn't like in Y10 made a huge difference for my dd.
You need to be careful about judging a school purely by statistics as these depend on intake as much as teaching. I suspect that most pupils who move schools in Y10 won't be those capable of achieving the best results anyway and sometimes there is a dip when pupils move from one school to another at any stage in their education.
I don't think there is a lot that you and your dm can do to be honest other than to state quite clearly what you have said above about not paying for extra lessons when/if she moves schools.

JasAnglia94 Wed 12-Jul-17 17:03:22

Thanks Catslife.

I'm glad your dd improved when she no longer had to read subject that she hated. Well done to her! smile I understand it can be horrible trying to remain motivated when studying subjects you resent.

However, this doesn't seem to be the reason she dislikes the school. The school offers the following GCSEs:

Art & Design; Business Studies; Catering Studies; Classics; French; Geography; German; History; Information Technology; Latin; Music; Product Design; Religious Studies; Further Science; Sport/PE; Textiles Technology.

Is that not a good range of subject to select from? The UTC offers a very select range of specialist performance-related b-tecs and two of the above GCSEs (ICT and Geography). She would be totally changing her options (which she has picked at her current school). This tells me she has no interest in anything. She doesn't even have a passion for theatre - she dropped all her performance activities?!

I think she will get on better socially at this school because it seems more 'relaxed' (at the expense of grades). Am I placing too much emphasis on academics/subjects/extra-curicular/future prospects?

Decorhate Wed 12-Jul-17 17:23:03

Her current school doesn't begin with L does it?!

I do think it sounds like a good part of the problem is actually your brother. He doesn't seem to have high aspirations for your niece. Perhaps he has never really struggled because your parents have given him a lot of support? Or doesn't want to admit his own life choices could have been better which he would be doing if he encouraged his daughter to work hard etc. If your niece thinks she can support herself independently on £15k a year in an expensive area she is in for a surprise.

However, I also believe that around the age of 15 is very tricky for many teens & keeping them happy & stable through that time is important even if it means their academics suffer.

JasAnglia94 Wed 12-Jul-17 17:44:49

Decorhate, maybe... grin grin I did wonder whether I had given too much detail!

I understand what you say there and my mum identifies with it. I feel my aspirations for my niece are higher than those my brother has for her (which seems weird). My parents are thinking about having a talk with my brother regarding the things you mentioned - support/aspiration etc.

Do you think taking her to a careers fair might help the situation?

LeannePerrins Wed 12-Jul-17 18:28:30

Given that Gove admitted earlier this year that the UTC experiment has failed and that so many of them have had such a rough time with Ofsted I really wouldn't touch one with a bargepole, tbh.

JasAnglia94 Wed 12-Jul-17 19:14:33

Thanks LeannePerrins. I wasn't aware of that but having read Gove's article in the Time this year regarding UTCs, I could cry.

Thing is, I know if I shared this article to my brother, he wouldn't read it and even if he did, would refuse to acknowledge the facts.

SerfTerf Wed 12-Jul-17 19:22:29

Besides the Geography and ICT GCSES presumably the UTC also offer English and Maths as compulsory GCSEs? Also Science? Or not?

catslife Wed 12-Jul-17 19:33:43

I thought that ICT was no longer going to be available as a GCSE or A level as it's been scrapped under GCSE reforms. So either it's a level 2 equivalent (BTEC?) or they are taking the GCSE early in 2018).

JasAnglia94 Wed 12-Jul-17 19:48:01

It does offer the core subjects but does poorly in them. What nearly 40% of kids failed last year? Under GCSE options it lists "Computing Technology GCSE/ I.C.T BTEC".

CookieDoughKid Wed 12-Jul-17 19:55:01

Sorry no. If I was her mum she would absolutely not be moving to the UTC. 60% grade C and above is quite frankly not good at all and I set great store by peer group who want to work hard and get a set of decent results. In plain English it is very very hard getting on the career ladder ifor you don't have good GCSEs. Even basic £16k jobs are highly sought after. She can give it all up after but not till she gets a decent set of GCSES at a minimum.

CookieDoughKid Wed 12-Jul-17 20:00:18

Get your niece to cost up how much it costs a year to live. A don't forget it's not £15 or £16k it's taxed. It has NI taken out of it. Include pension contributions and she'll get f all to live after that. You need to build £250,000 in pension fund just to get what £6k a year on retirement. Do the maths. How much do you need to save to even get that quarter of a million and there's likely to be no state pension when she retires and end up old and working forever. Very sobering indeed.

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 12-Jul-17 21:59:01

I don't understand why you and your parents are so involved in all this tbh. It would drive me mad if I were your brother.

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