Secondary school choice help please(39 Posts)
Dear all, I know this has been done to death but I hoped the wisdom of Mumsnet could give us some perspective. We have just come out of the 11+ experience and have to think about which school to choose.
To put in context, our ds is in year 6 at a large outstanding state primary. He is in top stream and top set Maths. We have been told he is clever but he is a dreamer and when the teacher’s back is turned will stare out of the window and take a while to settle into a task. Therefore he is better when he has someone pushing him. He is happy and comes across as a confident boy (although some of this is show as he can be insecure). He is very articulate so I think he charms people with his rhetoric. He is a lovely, compliant boy in many ways but doesn’t fit the studious self disciplined work ethic (yet) the grammar would expect.
It was no big surprise therefore that he missed the grammar pass mark. He did well but not enough (it seems that a lot of his cohort missed it this year but that is another story).
Anyway we now have a choice of three schools and not sure which would be best to go for. We have a good chance of getting a place at any. He likes all three.
School A: catchment comprehensive. This is our least favoured. Plus points: short walk to school. There will be many people he knows there (maybe even more this year given the 11+ results). Shiny new buildings.
Negatives: top 25% creamed off so not truly comprehensive and they don’t have a good reputation for stretching the top end. We didn’t ‘rate’ the senior teachers at open evening. Not a great start. Teacher retention is a problem.
School B out of borough comprehensive.
Plus points: truly comprehensive with good results. Strong leadership team. Short bus ride. Teacher retention is good. High expectations. Cater well for top end. Some of his friends will go here probably.
Negatives: it is unbelievably huge for a school so the buildings are cavernous (quite old) and he will be just a number. Not sure about this but if he is not as bright as we have been led to believe, he wouldn’t be in top sets, he is easily distracted and our fear is he would sink academically without the pushing he has had to focus.
School C small non-selective private (only private choice in area).
Plus: small class sizes. Lovely Family feel. He would be nurtured and known. Nowhere to hide so would be pushed to stay on task. Loads of other opportunities within school. Head is very impressive. I was educated in a school like this and have happy memories.
Negatives: only goes 11-16. Non- selective so they do well but but don’t have the top end and may not push for A*. Only one or two at most of his friends might go here. Worried it might be too small for him and not give him enough skills to cope with outside world (make him independent etc).
We like B and C very much but want the best outcome. We can afford the fees so that is not a factor but want to make sure we are doing the best rather than making do.
DH was educated in the comprehensive sector and did very well but is open to any of the options.
Sorry for the length of this and thanks in advance.
Sorry am going to be no help OP, but I just wanted to say I’m feeling your pain as I am having sleepless nights about which secondary... so stressful. How are we supposed to know which one??
What does your ds think ? In secondary you really have to take their views,into account as well , after all they have to go there. When we were choosing we had two good options - one outstanding school, good results but huge. One
good school , good results and small. Ds2 really didn't like the huge one . He went to school two and is doing really well. If there isn't much between them, let ds2 decide.
My DC go to a big Comp and I wouldn’t say they are just a number. It all depends on how they organise themselves. Not every teacher will know your son, but his teachers should get to know him.
If you only have two state schools you could choose you should obviously put B first with A also on your list. The private school you need to see if you can afford it, and it will not be a magic bullet. I have seen boys from even a great high performing local private school come out with “disappointing” results.
You might do better saving your money for tutors if necessary.
Also lots of children blossom and secondary as they experience new subjects taught by subject specialists.
How big is the big comp?
And how sure are you that your DS would get into school B?
Their tutor and subject teachers teach the same number of kids as they would in a smaller school. They are known by their tutor, subject teachers and probably Head if year.
Thank you for the replies so far. We really value any opinion to throw into our deliberations!
To answer a couple of questionS: DS likes all three schools which is no help. School A has shiny facilities and is up the road (great cafeteria so straight to his heart). School B he liked and many of his friends want to go there. SchoolC was very friendly and he seemed very impressed. At the moment his preference is B but that is mainly due to the friends.
School B takes 13 forms each year (in comparison with C which will take a maximum of 36 students). We have a good chance we think of getting a place as the have taken at least as far away as 3.5 miles away out of catchment each year and we are under 2 miles away.
I am not so worried about the size of the school so much. It is just his need to be ‘sat on’ to stay focused. This would be more easily managed at the independent school.
It is tough as my head says B but heart says C.
Back to you
36 in a year?!?! at school C? I would worry about friends (claustrophobic or not getting on with) with such a small cohort.
School B will surely divide the 13 class intake into smaller groups? Our nearest big comp has 9 forms per year (around 25 per form), they divide the year group into roughly half, and each half is taught separate from the other.
I would choose B, C then A. I would've chosen C first, but 36 in a year dopant sound great.
School C is so small, 36 in a year is just 17 other boys, not much flexibility for friendships.
13 classes is I guess about 325-350 in a year, that is big but big schools give lots of opportunities, for sport, trips, whatever DS is interested in. His teachers will know him and that's what's important.
I like big schools. More teachers with different interests, specialities and personalities. Plenty of after school stuff going on. Loads of different children.
How far off the 11+ passmark was he? Close enough to appeal?
“He doesn’t fit the studious self disciplined work ethic”
I’m not sure many Y6 boys do. It develops over time.
In A, your ds will be in top sets if he is a near moss for grammar, so I wouldn’t write it off just because the grammar kids are creamed off. For all the schools, I would look at progress 8 and attainment 8, and gcse, attendance rates etc. The private won’t have as much info out there, but it will have some of this. I don’t think it’s clear until you’ve gone onto the government comparison site and checked out the details.
A Progress 8 -0.11, attainment 8 44.7, GCSE 5+ incMaths and English 38%
B progress 8 0.31, attainment 8, 52.7, GCSE 5+ incMaths and English 55%
C no progress 8 score, attainment 8 53.4, GCSE A*-C (inc 4 I think and I know most scores were B) 84%
I would say looking at the different league tables, B andCare close to each other with B edging it. A is way down in comparison.
I think the main dilemma is that B and C couldn’t be more different in educational experience (size mainly). We know DS would fit into either - he is a sociable boy. A bit of a chameleon in that he would adapt his behaviour to fit the environment.
Those are the general school statistics? If you scroll down the page further you can see the breakdown by high/medium and low achievers (probably not for the private school) so I'd suggest looking at how high achievers at school A get on.
Agree with others that 36 children in a year group is way too small. Not only socially but in terms of opportunity.
There are 13 classes in a year group at my DC's school but they organise them into groups of classes, so they don't really feel the "bigness" of the school iyswim.
I actually think bigger is better for secondary. My DD went to a big secondary school and she definitely was not just a number. They really pushed her to exceed her targets. Bigger means more resources in my opinion.
That is very helpful, thank you. School A has 94% A*-C for high prior attainment with English and Maths. More food for thought.
As pp have said school C is too small for a secondary. Very little choice for friendships and the opportunities for extra-curricula must be very limited. Academically your ds may not be stretched due to lack of competition.
School B would be my choice. It sounds like a great school and, in that case, they will want to get the best results they can out of each pupil.
School A has 94% A*-C for high prior attainment with English and Maths
Hmmm.... this is not awesome. 5 Cs should not be a struggle for high prior attainers. Compare with B's scores.
Also look at attainment 8 for high achievers
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