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Secondary schools in Swansea

(8 Posts)
ThanksForYourHelp Tue 08-Jan-19 15:44:09

My husband was recently offered a position at Swansea University, and our little family will be moving from the U.S. to Swansea in stages. The first item on my list is to narrow down school options for Macy, who is fourteen years old and currently attends a small Montessori-style middle school in Florida. Her entire grade has nineteen kids in it. Macy and I will finish the school year here and move in late May or early June. (I’ll probably use incorrect terminology as I write about the Welsh educational system; please correct me so I can move forward and not appear to be as ignorant as I am.)

We’re prepared to pay for an independent school, but we'd certainly welcome the financial break if we could place Macy into a state school that’s a good fit. I'm starting from scratch -- less than scratch really, because it's not merely that we don't know the Swansea schools; we also don't know the realities of senior school and college in the U.K. (It's all just high school here, and the word "college" means the same as "university." Ack!) Macy will be fifteen in July, but it already seems to make sense to put her into Grade 10 in the fall.

Anyway, I wonder which schools you do and don't recommend. Macy does well in school, but she works hard for her marks. She's not much liking science and math the past couple of years because of lousy teaching, (lack of) structure in her classroom, and the trend toward digital textbooks, but she's been interested in paleontology ever since she was wee. She loves English, Spanish, and history (though of course she's not up on British history). She is artistic, and she’s always reading several books simultaneously. I could see her with a university degree in literature or geology/paleontology or art and with a career either as a paleo-artist or as a museum curator. (My crystal ball broke several years ago, mind you.)

I'll be grateful for whatever effort you're able to put into your recommendations -- with special interest in must-consider schools and don't-even-think-about-it schools. (My husband will be working at the Bay Campus, and we were wondering whether we ought to be considering Bridgend as well as Swansea.) I'll start contacting the must-consider schools this week so we can initiate applications, though I’m sure we're well past official deadlines and will need special consideration. I figure each independent school will have its own application process, but I could use detailed advice on applying (with the Local Authority?) for state schools. I also don’t understand the role of the Welsh Baccalaureate and could use guidance as to whether we need to pay attention when a school doesn’t offer/include it.

Again, I thank you for whatever help you're able to give.

OP’s posts: |
InAPreviousLife Tue 08-Jan-19 16:12:01

I'm not hot on Swansea schools but my children are in the Welsh education system.

First place for you is the Local Authority website www.swansea.gov.uk/secondaryschools

That will list all of the secondary school information in the Swansea area, including independents.

The inspection body for schools in Wales is called Estyn.

There is also something called the "Real Schools Guide" that looks at varying aspects of schools and assigns them a colour coding:
www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/real-schools-guide-2018-state-14821478

Just a couple of points for consideration:
- Grade 10/Year 10 is the official start of the GCSE curriculum in most schools. Some might start in Year 9 but your daughter shouldn't be too disadvantaged by joining in Year 10.
- GCSEs which are the first main qualifications your child needs to attain are then completed in Year 11
- Progression to 'A' Level might then be through 6th Form (Year 12 & 13) through the school or through a college. This honestly depends on what your child wants to pursue but could also be a consideration for the secondary school you choose
- All pupils in state schools in Wales must learn Welsh, however the academic importance of Welsh for non-fluent children isn't massive so if this is a struggle she won't be disadvantaged by it

If your heart isn't set on Swansea to live, then you could look to Cardiff to live in and your husband commutes. I know quite a few people who commute between the two cities and Cardiff does have some long established private schools including Howells Girls school and Cathedral School in Llandaff.

There are also Welsh medium secondary schools. Whilst these schools won't turn your daughter away as a pupil, you do need to consider that all lessons are in the Welsh language apart from English so probably not suitable for you.

Sorry I've probably given you a bit more reading to do, but it might help you decide how to proceed. It'll also bump the thread so maybe someone from the Swansea area could give more anecdotal experience of the local schools.

DragonMamma Tue 08-Jan-19 16:13:37

I don’t live in Swansea but I’m not a million miles away.

I’ve heard good things about Bishopston Comp, Olchfa and Pontarddulais from people I’ve worked with however.

Where are you planning on living? I think this would have the biggest bearing on schools.

If you’re looking at Bridgend way then it Bryntirion Comp, or Cowbridge. The latter would mean a relatively lengthy commute for your DH though. The M4 motorway near Swansea is pretty busy in both directions of a morning.

Generally speaking, in Wales (I can’t speak for the whole of the UK!), we don’t use grade 10 etc. we just say Year 10/11 etc.

The first set of exams your DD will sit are her GCSE’s and they are taught over Years 10 and 11 (exams being sat the summer of Year 11). Students are required to sit GCSE’s in Maths and English (Language and Literature). More able students tend to sit sciences separately (Chemistry, Biology and Physics), or double award science, if not. Most schools make students take a short course GCSE in Religious Education. The rest are ‘options’, so languages, history, PE, design etc. Most students sit around 10/11 GCSE’s.

The one thing you will notice with most state secondary schools in Wales is the amount of pupils. For context, there were 20 odd pupils in my class at school but there were 6/7 of them. The classes mixed depending on subject and aptitude though.

After GCSE’s pupils move on to A Levels, which are either done in school or college. The Welsh Bacc can be done at this time - I’m not as up to date with it as I’ve had no reason to be but most students I encounter say it’s a pile of rubbish although it does count towards UCAS points (which are what universities use to set entrance requirements to degree courses).

winterishereithink Tue 08-Jan-19 16:40:52

If you're husband is working at the University I would definitely try and live in Swansea- Bridgend, Cardiff etc would be a complete pain to get to.
I like the areas to the West of Swansea best, like Mumbles etc but they are also amongst the more expensive so it depends on your budget.
I may be wrong but I don't think there are any private Senior schools in Swansea. I know a couple of people who go to St Michaels in Llanelli but most people I know go to Bishopston, Olchfa or Bishop Gore. I think Bishopston would be the most oversubscribed out of those so it may just depend on where you can get a space. They are all pretty good schools though.
I had to contact the council about one off places in primary schools a while ago and they were very helpful.

Sadik Tue 08-Jan-19 18:47:40

"I also don’t understand the role of the Welsh Baccalaureate and could use guidance as to whether we need to pay attention when a school doesn’t offer/include it."

Really don't worry about the Welsh bac - it is still compulsory in state schools (don't know about private) but it's not a big deal. There's some voluntary work (dd & friends helped out in a primary school library), an individual project, some stuff about how businesses work, a 'global citizenship' section (dd's group researched anti-muslim discrimination and religious extremism) that sort of thing.

It's all a Good Thing in terms of teaching children broader skills outside the usual subject boundaries but not at all greatly significant for their academic future.

Sadik Tue 08-Jan-19 18:55:07

Your main problem may be the fact that your dd is 15 in July. That would generally mean that she would be going into year 11, not year 10 this coming September

As I'm sure you realise, that wouldn't work at all with the Welsh (and English) exam system - she really does need to go into year 10 as GCSEs are a two year course. So the most important issue will be to find a school that will take her into year 10.

Are you able to visit before you move so that you can go and see the schools that are available? It may be that some just feel a better 'fit' for your dd than others.

lots33 Tue 08-Jan-19 19:00:33

Swansea is a lovely place to live. The west of Swansea is the nicest; and the comprehensives that cover the west of town, Bishopston, Bishop Gore and Olchfa, are all highly regarded. My children are still in primary but I would happily send them to all three, although Mine will go to Bishop Gore. If you live in Sketty or Uplands, your DH could walk to work through the park, with views of Swansea Bay.

Silverbella Tue 08-Jan-19 20:00:58

Swansea is a lovely place to live. I would suggest you look West of Swansea, so areas including sketty, mumbles, newton, three crosses and then down onto Gower. Secondary schools in the area are Bishopston Comprehensive, Bishop Gore and Olchfa. There are 2 independent schools to consider Ffynone House in the Uplands and St Michael's in Llanelli.

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