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Still not sure which school to choose

(26 Posts)
Blankmonjay Sat 21-Oct-17 11:42:40

DD still not sure what to for the best. We have the choice of the on the doorstep oversubscribed comp, or grammars about 9 miles away - one mixed, one single sex. We know that whatever is put first on the CAF she will get. She likes and dislikes aspects of them all but hasn't had that emotional ' I just know I want to go here' response to any. They are all good choices. I feel that without strong reason otherwise it is better to stay local.......

NWgirls Sat 21-Oct-17 11:58:52

Progress 8 comparison?

And Attainment 8?

If she can go to the grammars she is obviously high ability - in your shoes I would check very carefully that the local school would have a decent proportion of, and cater very well for, high ability pupils.

And what does the 9 miles mean in terms of journey duration and complexity?

Blankmonjay Sat 21-Oct-17 12:21:53

So for last year where the High Attainer scores are available
Progress 8: Comp 0.06, Grammar A 0.35, Grammar B 0.41
Attainment 8: Comp 64, Grammar A 61, Grammar B 70

The grammars are over the county border and the way it works here only a handful (about 1%) of children don't go locally - so the comp does retain almost all of the brightest.

Journey for grammars would be 20 minute walk plus 35 minute bus plus lots of waiting around time for Grammar A and 20 minute walk plus 40 minute bus plus 15 minute walk for Grammar B. Local school is 10 minute walk.

RedSkyAtNight Sat 21-Oct-17 12:31:21

Based on those journeys and no strong preferences, I'd stick with the local school. Going there immediately frees up around 2 hours a day, plus your child will be less tired ... huge benefits!

Blankmonjay Sat 21-Oct-17 12:57:41

Yes, I think so too.
To be fair if I took her on a 10 minute car journey in the morning/afternoon AND we got a paid for place on the school transport it would cut out all the walking to either school. It wouldn't be quicker but would seem more manageable.

CamperVamp Sat 21-Oct-17 13:57:45

Can you do those journeys? Do you have other kids who need help to and from school!

Will she be the kind of teen who will get up that much earlier in the dark cold winter mornings? A 10 min drive there is 2x20 min return trips for you... How will it work for after school activities and clubs?

How far away will her school friends live? Teens become very free range v quickly, meeting up at weekends etc.

What was your original motivation for taking the 11+? Do these reasons still provide a strong motivation?

Blankmonjay Sat 21-Oct-17 14:07:28

Yes I could do those journeys. However, I think it is better if the child can get to school under their own steam.
The grammars take from a very large area, we are relatively close. Consequently most clubs are held at lunchtime. The public bus system is quite good though so could be used after school - with all the walking in reverse of course.
We did the test mostly to provide a choice. Also she enjoyed the work!

Blankmonjay Sat 21-Oct-17 14:47:26

Other reasons for even looking elsewhere: lack of setting in anything other than maths in any year group; no triple science; time taken up dealing with disruptive behaviour; very poor science A level uptake by girls; huge A level classes with massive ability range. Appreciate you can move elsewhere at 16 though.
The grammar results for the current year are rather better than last.

NWgirls Sat 21-Oct-17 16:24:34


Many thanks for digging out that data. With 2016 high attainer P8 around zero and A8 of 64, it seems to me that the comp is OK but not particularly good in terms of high attainers achieving their potential. (2017 overall P8 is of course also worth including in your view on this). FYI, I am not claiming any particular expert status here, just an interested obsessed and geeky parent...

It is not fair to expect your comp to be on par with the grammars (which should look better, as their intake were selected via additional tests, so presumably an even higher-attaining subgroup of the high attainers), but you may want to compare your comp to other comps in your area, even if there is no way your DD will go there, just to help you gauge your own comp's performance. But therefore let me also say that if the (high ability) A8 of 61 for Grammar A is correct, it hardly seems worth travelling to, compared with your comp! (But if its overall A8 in 2017 is strong, perhaps 2016 was a blip or some measurement or transition issue (e.g. did not fill all 8 buckets, or similar explanation).

I did a quick check of our local comps here (in London - so may be quite different from your area), and the four schools we are keen on have (rounded) 2016 high attainer A8 of 66, 68, 68 and 69 - all with positive P8 overall 2016+2017 and high attainer 2016. Two of these are very oversubscribed with all kinds of hurdles, and two just about fill their spaces, three are Ofsted Outstanding, one Good. Four other local schools that we will not put on our CAF form (for a variety of reasons) have 2016 high attainer A8 of 60, 62, 63 and 65.

Not sure this made anything easier for you, sorry...

Grammar B has a really quite bad commute, but may also perhaps be the best fit for her, ignoring the commute for a moment - especially since you mention that she enjoyed the work, the comp's lack of setting and some disruptive behaviour etc. Also perhaps consider her personality - would be stimulated (or feel dejected?) by academic competition and (perhaps) being middle of the pack at the grammar? Or would she be spurred on (or slack off?) by being near the top of the comp?

One thing is certain, though: If she is going to be slogging her way to and from the grammar every day for years, she needs to own that decision!

Blankmonjay Sat 21-Oct-17 17:21:07

Nw, lots of good points, thankyou.

Without wanting to get too obsessed over the numbers I did check the two next nearest comps and they also have HA A8 scores of 64 (and P8 scores vv close to 0). She would never go to those because there would be no point. And people try to come to our local school in preference to either! Our school has a good all round reputation: sport, DofE, pastoral support, committed staff - it's somewhere teachers actively want to work.

I think she wouldn't enjoy not being one of the top attainers at grammar B. I don't think she would slack off at the comp, but it hard to know. Grammar A had a better year in results terms this year, but I'm not convinced it's enough better to make travel worthwhile.

So, I think I come back to my OP in that there isn't enough good reason in the round to go elsewhere. If she was properly motivated to go to A or B we would support all the way.

karriecreamer Sat 21-Oct-17 18:58:42

Have you been to the open days? Which bits did DD like/not like about each? What was teacher engagement like at each - did the teachers generally approach you and offer help/advice or did they stand around in huddles talking to eachother instead? What general "vibe" did she get at each. When it was my DS choosing, he ended up preferring the old, antiquated school because he liked the teachers, and didn't like the shiny bright new build because the teachers just ignored us.

Blankmonjay Sat 21-Oct-17 19:19:12

Yes, we've been several times in the hope that one would click for her. Teachers were engaging in all. Students were engaging at comp, articulate at grammar B and rather uninformed at grammar A. She can't decide if being single-sex is desirable or not. She likes the idea of having an easy journey. She also likes the idea of 'not having to wait for the slow people'. All the children said they really liked their school and she was excited about each one - whichever we'd just been to was her favorite.

clary Sat 21-Oct-17 19:35:04

OP I went to a grammar school (no choice really where I lived) and my journey was about 45 mins (walk/bus/walk) so less that your DD's would be.

We were about 6 miles away, but one thing I retain from the experience is that my friends were all really far flung. They came from villages all over (rural area) and some lived 20 miles away from me. I barely ever went to their houses or met them outside school. As a result I am in touch with absolutely none of my school friends (I live elsewhere and it was 30+ years ago, but that was true 10 years ago too).

DD (16yo) has spent today at the park and in town with some friends; in the week she was at another friend's house after school. No input (driving) from me needed. She has strong friendships which will I hope last and last.

I know it's different today, you may be more willing to be a taxi than my parents were, social media mean it is easier to be in touch and stay close, but I still think it is a consideration.

The only thing you mention that would give me pause about the nearby school is no triple science. But even that may change and is it a deal breaker? Does she want to be a scientist?

Ttbb Sat 21-Oct-17 19:50:04

Intelligent children are normally happier amongst their own kind. I would choose the grammar.

CamperVamp Sat 21-Oct-17 20:09:37

My intelligent children are very happy in top sets at a comp, and in having a wide range of friends out of school. I think diversity in any and every form is beneficial.

Blankmonjay Sat 21-Oct-17 22:10:46

Clary, yes she particularly likes science, maths & computing. But no, no triple isn't a deal breaker.
Camper, indeed I agree. I wish our school had more top sets to be placed in.

CamperVamp Sun 22-Oct-17 08:59:10

Do they not set from Yr 9 onwards?

Blankmonjay Sun 22-Oct-17 09:05:51

No, just continue to set in maths (and PE).

CamperVamp Sun 22-Oct-17 10:34:19


I am a fan of comps over the grammar system, but that's an easy decision for me as we have a comp that offers a good academic education to all kids, including top sets. I would prefer a science / maths orientated child to do triple science, and for there to be more setting.


NWgirls Sun 22-Oct-17 11:33:46

One more thought: If you, based on grammar test scores (vs. cut-offs and applicant numbers) , school reports / informal teacher feedback, and/or other CAT-like or EP/IQ tests she may have done, feel reasonably confident in where she sits on the ability spectrum, that might make it easier for you (and her) to choose.

If she sits at the top 10-20 percent level, the comp might be OK. But if she sits at the top 1-2 percent level, it is harder to see her being catered well for (and happy?) in a non-setting comp. She would also be likely to be performing above average at the grammar (as discussed earlier).

Blankmonjay Sun 22-Oct-17 12:24:24

We don't have any formal measure other than the 11+ (apart from being 'exceeding' in everything) but we would be confident that she is in the 10-20%, not the 1-2%.
I think that basically we know that if she goes to the comp there is a reasonable chance that she won't perform quite as well academically as she would do at a grammar. But it might be better overall in terms of well-being, mental health, etc. Of course we will never know.

Blankmonjay Sun 22-Oct-17 13:01:29

About 14% of students achieved 7 or more A*/A/7-9 in the summer which may not be high but does show that it is possible.

HorlicksBunny Sun 22-Oct-17 16:17:33

I would choose one of the grammars. From what you say, your DD would prefer "not having to wait for the slow people" but there's no setting apart from maths and PE at the comp - unless the teaching is superb in all other subjects, I think it will mean some "waiting for the slow people" will be inevitable.

My DD goes to a grammar where most people travel under an hour to/from school - even if they're only a few miles away, it's the walk and wait for buses or trains that prolongs the journey. And whilst the geographical spread of friends may be considered a disadvantage, they do make the effort to see each other outside of school and do the whole hanging around town after school socialising. Much of their "socialising" is done through social media as well these days hmm rather than in person.

But it does, of course, help to have parents who can facilitate friendships / extra curricular activities by providing a chauffeur service.

Blankmonjay Sun 22-Oct-17 17:45:05

Oh, it's so hard to know what to do for the best.😕
I do think that ideally she should be more motivated to take on the journey and more resilient to deal with no longer being the brightest.

Blankmonjay Fri 27-Oct-17 18:05:41

Just for completeness I thought I would return to say that after a week of discussion and pondering DD has made the decision to go with the comp. By the start of the week she had ruled out grammar A anyway. We did a dummy run of the journey to B which helped a little. I think she is now genuinely happy with her decision.

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