School choices....worried mum!(24 Posts)
I'm hoping for some reassurance and advice about high school choices.
Basically we have the following in our small town:
Swanky redeveloped school with fantastic facilities.
50% over 5's Maths & English
0.20 progress 8 (above average)
53 Attainment score
Low number of disadvantaged pupils
Heavily oversubscribed and would mean selling / buying house to get a place.
33% over 5's Maths & English
0.84 progress 8 (Well above average)
51 Attainment score
V high number of disadvantaged pupils
We loved School 1. The amazing facilities played a large part in this, it is so impressive. Kids were v well presented (generally from the nicer parts of town).
Large intake (350).I get the feeling not all children would be known personally. Music, Art, Drama facilities outstanding.
Kids seemed v happy but they may have been cherry picked for the open evenings.
Kids seemed to have a v good professional relationship with teachers
Most of their friends will go to this school.
We thought School 2 was ok, very worn but very friendly. Kids were a mixed bag and generally come from the less nice parts of town.
Teachers and pupils seemed to have a very personable relationship - joking together, kids felt free to speak etc.
Not oversubscribed and guaranteed a place without moving house.
Small intake (150) and it's clear every child is known.
Facilities not great. Every child is invited to represent the school at open evenings.
My DC are able but not super bright (currently working at greater depth in Y5).
Could anyone share any experiences with similar sounding schools? I can't help but have concerns about the tired facilities and the social mix at School 2. Does this really matter?
I am worried about friendship groups etc.
Forgot to add, both are rated Outstanding by Ofsted.
Do you want to move house?
School 1 doesn't sound amazing enough to be worth moving for. In fact I really like the sound of school 2, it obviously does very well by its intake on the basis of attainment and progress. Did you ask about how they challenge more able children? What's the makeup of both schools in terms of high/medium/low achievers (this is on the performance tables website)?
Where will your children's friends be most likely to go?
How well do they adjust to new surroundings/people?
In terms of the educational attainment I'm still in A-Cs so that goes way over my head!
Think so much depends on the child. We had a similar choice. Dh and i were impressed with our version of your school 1 but ds is quiet and lackedconfidence. He preferred the smaller schooltwo. We looked into both schools pastoral care and school Two was stronger , helped by the fact it was smaller. Ds went to school two. He is now in yr8 and doing really well. It was the right choice for ds . I would really consider the personalised as well as results.
I would pick school 2. It is smaller, has a significantly higher progress figure. I certainly would not move house.
I'd be picking school 2. They do better with a more challenging intake and the pastoral care sounds great.
My DDs are in a comprehensive that is falling apart - you would not be impressed with the facilities at all. But it is a great school with excellent teachers, the head knows every single pupil by name and they are so hot on bullying it's fabulous. A nice building is just window dressing.
I read it initially wondering if it was our town. I don't think it is for a couple of reasons.
But I know that if it was School 1 is very good at the frontal face. Very good at blowing their own trumpet. But underneath there are a lot of major issues. They refuse to acknowledge them, so they continue-the same major issues are just as bad as they were when we first looked round about 10 years ago because they won't tackle them.
But they can sound great at self-promotion and use lots of phrases that make them sound like they're looking out for the children.
Playing classic FM in the corridors which apparently calms the children and they can produce all sorts of research/anecdotes to prove that. Pity they still try to say that there is no bullying at all in the school when they lose several children a year due to severe bullying because they just refuse to admit it might be bullying.
Progress 8 figure for school 2 is phenomenal. Must be easily in top 5% of schools in the country.
Thank you for all the responses. It's great to read objective opinions as locally School 1 is definitely the 'it' school and School 2 the 'it may be doing ok but I wouldn't send my kid there' School. It's hard not to get sucked in to it all and feel like you should do everything you can to get a place at the 'better' school.
It's great and very reassuring that your children are thriving at similar schools. I was completely wowed by the facilities at school 1 and maybe lost sight that there are more important things to consider.
Moving house would be okish in terms of finances but i imagine it would stressful trying to find a suitable house within budget, in such a small catchment area. We could end up having to rent inbetween which is not something we would want to do at this stage in our lives.
When we bought our house we were in the catchment for School 1 and always assumed that would be our DC's destination. However, lots of new houses have popped up and another high school closed so we have been slowly pushed out of the catchment😟
Dc's friends and most kids from their Primary will go to School 1 as they are comfortably in catchment. DC's would rather go to School 1 with their friends but they understand the situation and have said School 2 would be ok. They do a few out of school activities and whilst quiet they seem to be ok making friends with new people.
The intakes in terms of KS2 achievements are roughly:
School 1: low 10% / med 50% / high 40%
School 2 : low 25% / med 50% / high 25%
Yes, School 2 is top 5% nationally based on their progress figures. This years low over 5's (32%) worried me a bit but I know there has been lots of changes to GCSE's.
Last year's results were School 2 70% above C in comparison to School 1 82% above C.
I hope it's not the same School. Sorry to read that you have had issues with bullying, it's something I am anxious about with any high school.
Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to respond. It's really helped me to gather my thoughts and calm down a little. The head at school 2 welcomes personal tours during the school day so I think I will arrange one and go from there x
I agree with what has been said about school 2. The only issue of concern for me would be how many social problems are brought into school? There can be issues with children whose families do not value education - would your dc be able to take advantage of what the school undoubtedly offers or could they be prone to diversion?
I would look at leavers destinations (where do kids go after GCSEs/A levels), and ask specific questions about educational aspiration and low level disruption. And I suspect the answers would then lead me to move for school 1. But then I'd rather my kids were middle of the pack in a school that placed a high emphasis on educational attainment and further education than have them in the top sets of a school where few aspired to higher education. And that's a very personal choice.
For school 1 if 90 % are medium/ high aceivers 50% 5 and above sounds low.
Looks like both schools previously aimed to get their pupils to a c and now the tables are looking at 5 not 4 they have been caught out. Next year both schools may do better. Ie dancing to the tables.
What is their a/a* rate.
How long ago were their ofsted outstanding. Is the same head still in place?
Profile of school 2 is not far off national "average" for low/medium/high achievers. So if it does have a v high number of disadvantaged children (are you sure it does, or it is just in comparison to the very low number in school 1?) they are disadvantaged children doing pretty well!
School 1 sounds like it could be a school coasting on an able intake - I'd expect much better attainment based on its profile of high/medium/low achievers.
Based on what you've said (new housing etc) I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't see the intake of school 2 changing as other "families like yours" send their DC there. I would be very wary of listening to local gossip - unless it is from parents who actually have DC there. My DC has just left a junior school that apparently no right minded parent would even consider sending their child to - when you ask why, you are either told complete untruths or the school's reputation from 20 years ago is trotted out.
You need to look at progress for where your chlid sits in the high or medium bracket. The GCSE results may be for a year that was not so hot acedemically, but made good progress to get a 4. The lower end of middle achievers would struggle to get a 5. This was the old 4c level and its well known that 4 A*-C grades was difficult for a lot of these children. In addition, it was fifrst year for these exams. They may be more in tune with them next year and have more acemic children in the cohort.
where did you find the intake info for each school?
Thank you for all the really good advice. I have listened to local gossip as I don't know anyone with a child at school 2. I may ask around and see if there are any friends of friends who would be willing to have an honest chat about the school and if friendships groups/ low aspirations are a problem.
It's a good point that the cohort could become more mixed in the coming years. I hope this does happen as it will make things more balanced for both schools.
Thank you for the advice re the disruption and potential social problems. It's the potential social issues that are bothering me about School 2. They are obviously doing a fantastic job with their intake. The school offer free breakfast everyday, kids can stay in school every night until 5.00pm for study / enrichment, on site careers advisor and they run an optional Saturday school every week for the duration of Y11. They really seem to focus on improving life chances and raising aspirations of both kids and parents.
I think my children may be near the top in School 2 and lower down in the top in School 1 if that makes sense.
I'm sure any child would benefit from all the things school 2 offer but part of me feels that maybe mine don't need quite so much nurture from the School and more expectations if that makes sense?
In terms of disadvantaged pupil figures I can only find 2016 data which shows School 2 55% - I assumed this was v high but maybe I'm wrong? In comparison school 1 shows 18% which I assumed v low in comparison.. We live in a disadvantaged area which is 'developing'.
I hadn't considered looking for the high grades data so thank you for the tip.
I have only been able to find this data for School 1 on their website:
Eng Lang 7-9 16%
Eng Lit 7-9 19%
Maths 7-9 27%
Biology A*A 50%
Chemistry A*A 60%
Physics A*A 67%
Science Dual A*-C 77%
I've rounded a little.
These look v good to me but I'm not familiar with the national picture.
I got the data on intakes from the School performance on dofe. It's in the drop down under progress by past performance.
School 1 Ofsted is 7 years old
School 2 Ofsted is within the last 12 months.
I could never have gained these perspectives and opinions locally so it's incredibly helpful x
The only comprehensive study on the matter concluded that children fare best among their own kind (socioeconomically speaking). I.e. Disadvantaged pupils do best in schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils and well off children with other well off children. Students in mixed schools did the worst. Choose the school that will best cater to your children's needs.
Eng Lang 7-9 is 18% NAT and Lit is also below Nat, can't quite remember what it was but we got 26% and were only slightly over. Looks to me that School 1 is coasting in English at least. 7 years is a long time in Education and many staff will have moved on.
Getting outstanding in OFSTED is pretty difficult these days - school 2 must be amazing especially considering its intake.
I think schools that do everything right can get Outstanding but they really have to work for it and from breakfast to enrichment to Saturday revision, they are doing just that! Ofsted outstanding schools don't see Ofsted very often. So 7 years is not that unusual.
For what it's worth, I think children like to have like minded ones to work with and have as friends. The breakfast club will be to help children who don't have breakfast. Saturday club is boosters for exams. That's good, but would your child rather do something else? My children did music Centre orchestra on a Saturday. Others did sport. The school that does all the extra legwork is doing so to "close the gap" between "advantaged" and the "disadvantaged" children. The stats are telling you it's working.
55% pupil premium is huge. This brings in all the extra money for the activities you describe. I am not sure what pp is per child at the moment for secondary but I think it is around £1000 per child. So potentially .5m£ extra.
I would also consider the quality of the extra curricular. Are there decent school plays, sport, music? Or does hardly anyone play an instrument? What are the extras you want as opposed to what you get?
To be an Outstanding school with that progress with 55% disadvantaged kids is genuinely impressive. If you sort schools by their %PP, the schools with the lowest PP are predominantly oustanding, whereas those with the highest PP are predominantly Requires Improvement or Special measures (very disadvantaged children have barriers to learning which schools are, to an extent, powerless to fully address, and those barriers get in the way of progress and thus in the way of Outstanding status Ofsteds). School 2 is bucking the trend and doing very well..
The ONLY reason I would not leap at school 2 is if you know that your child will totally lack a peer group of like-minded pupils there.
My child is at a school which sounds similar to school 2. He is doing very well. He has kept a couple of friends who have gone to the equivalent of your school 1.
The school does not seem to be letting him down as when did yearly national type tests he compared with the top end [nationally] very well. and is making strong progress. He has found friends across the social mix . The school has almost identical PP figures to your school 2.
They work bloody hard to do best by all against a backdrop of local snobbery.
Good luckwhatever your choice op.
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