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How to choose the best from a bad bunch?

(49 Posts)
HairySandwiches Sun 16-Feb-20 20:35:36

Hello everyone

My DS will be starting secondary school in September. Seems like a long way away but I thought I’d start having a look around but now I’m panicking a bit.

We get to choose six preferences which seems like a lot but when we’ve looked into it I don’t even think we will manage to choose six suitable ones.

Our nearest school is frankly, just appalling. 10% GCSE headline figure.

The next closest (less than quarter of a mile) is an exceptionally good CofE school which we haven’t a chance of getting (too far away, we’re not CofE and not attending feeder school).

After that we we get into a bunch of other faith schools for a variety of religions we haven’t got a chance at for same reasons as the CofE school.

The next 2 schools which we would get a place are 11% and 16% GCSE headline figures.

As it seems we are going to be choosing between 3 absolutely dreadful schools, and likelihood is that’s the one we are going to get offered even if we chance the other ones or even ones further away, does anyone have any advice on how to make a decision?

Anyone had to choose the best from a really bad bunch? Is it possible to see the good in the schools and act like it’s good if front of your DS?

OP’s posts: |
Greenandcabbagelooking Sun 16-Feb-20 20:39:40

Is your child starting this September? Because if so, you've missed the deadline to apply for English State schools by about three months! You need to make an application NOW, but you'll probably be allocated whichever school has spaces left after every other child has been allocated a place.

BluebirdHill Sun 16-Feb-20 20:48:18

I was thinking the same. Is this for 2020 or 2021 entry?

Hoppinggreen Sun 16-Feb-20 20:50:18

If it’s September 2020 you will be getting whatever you are allocated as you’ve missed the application deadline by quite a lot

SleeplessWB Sun 16-Feb-20 20:51:41

Exactly what I was wondering! If it is thia September then you will have to take whatever you are given. If it is Sept 2021 and they really are that poor then I would seriously consider moving if that is in any way a possibility. With results that bad behaviour will be appalling and it could be quite a miserable experience for your DC.

HairySandwiches Sun 16-Feb-20 20:54:31

Sorry, I should have been more clear. September 2021.
I was just looking at what was about to get thing started into my head before we had to start looking properly. I knew they weren’t the best, but I was extremely surprised at how poor they are and I’m honestly very worried.

OP’s posts: |
HairySandwiches Sun 16-Feb-20 20:56:05

Sorry I meant: looking to get things started and the process into my head

OP’s posts: |
Wearywithteens Sun 16-Feb-20 20:58:36

You shouldn’t just assume you won’t get into the CofE schools - you need to actually look at their admission policy for their oversubscription criteria. They may take a proportion of their intake on distance.

Nacreous Sun 16-Feb-20 21:00:28

Honestly with figures like that I would be really concerned about whether those schools would give my child the education they needed. what are the progress scores like? How about Ofsted's for classroom discipline etc? Are there any other choices at all? Would you have any chance on appeal at the C of E school as you're close?

BluebirdHill Sun 16-Feb-20 21:04:00

Ok, you need to look at all the schools in your area and their admissions criteria. There will be options beyond the points for church attendance one. Some schools are fully or part selective and have entrance exams for if not the whole intake, a certain number of kids. I know of several in my area that have music or art entrance exams for kids talented at those things. Read it all carefully to see what is out there.

Malmontar Sun 16-Feb-20 21:13:15

Does the cofe 0.4 miles away school have any spaces now? If you moved now they'd have distance and feeder school under your belt which would increase your chances. Seems a bit drastic but your other options are a bit dire.

midwestspring Sun 16-Feb-20 21:13:22

People I know in that situation have moved to the catchment area for better schools to be honest.
If that really is impossible then visiting them and selecting the least worst is all you can do.

HairySandwiches Sun 16-Feb-20 21:29:19

Cut off for CofE for the last 3 years was “attending a feeder school”, which we don’t and I doubt we would get in at this late stage - but I will investigate.
Progress scores for the 3 dreadful schools are all way below average ranging from -1 to -0.8. The OFSTED ratings for 2 of them are inadequate but the one with the worst results is good which surprises me. I haven’t read them in any detail yet though.
There’s a couple of catholic schools which again, we would need to be at a feeder school and baptised catholics. So no luck there.
There’s a Sikh school which is 50/50 faith/non-faith so might look but I know very little about Sikhs or whether a non-religious child would be ok in a Sikh environment but probably worth a look.
Then a couple of others further out which, based on distance, we have no chance.
There are schools further away (more than 3 miles) that took all applicants every year for the last 3 year but travelling to those could be difficult.

I think I’ve just delved into my worst nightmare.

OP’s posts: |
Nacreous Sun 16-Feb-20 21:40:53

Could you get your child a bike and practice cycling so they could get to the further away schools? Obviously that's very traffic and path dependent and a bit of a pain but frankly I would be prepared to put up with quite a lot of inconvenience to avoid really poor schools. This is also a very circular thing, because lots of invested parents will do the same so the poor schools are also likely to have under-invested parent bodies which won't help matters.

I would definitely give the Sikh school a good look.

Do you have any younger ones where there's the option of attending church to get them into the CofE school? I would definitely put them on your list because you can't get a place if you don't apply, and in appeal you have to show that the negative impact on the school from your single child attending is greater than the negative impact on your child than not. That is not an insurmountable bar.

Neim Sun 16-Feb-20 21:49:40

Sounds like your in a horrible position. Can you move house? Go private? Are there grammar schools where you are? Can you get into the feeder schools?
Wild card (appologies if this offends): have you considered christening your DS?

I would be worried if I were you. Those results combined with the OFSTED and progress scores are just screaming at me to stay well away.
Although, if you really have to stick with the bad schools do some digging into why are their results so bad? Why are they inadequate? What else do the schools offer extra-curricular wise? Are there any saving graces? You might just have to go for gut instinct on the least worst.

Do investigate the Sikh school, don’t be put off by religion is this turns out to be the only decent school you have a chance at. Do look at the schools further away. Don’t let the distance put you off , there might be a direct bus route/train route that goes to them, I wouldn’t let a longer journey for a better education sway your decision.

Missarad Sun 16-Feb-20 21:49:55

My child my inlaws local school as we work full time therefore she isnt in feeder school for our comp. I'm sending her to our local comp. After ringing admissions it doesnt matter not at feeder school as this isnt taken into account my daughter is also yr5. We start applying in july. I'm equally as nervous ! Our local comp has always been over subscribed and fantastic however went into special measures other year so it went to academy and haven't been inspected since. Mother in laws school is outstanding but ain't sending her their as I want her at a school she can come home from daily and make friends up here. Dont worry!

thecatfromjapan Sun 16-Feb-20 22:33:08

What are other parents in your current school doing?

I'm in London and in that situation most of the parents I used to know rented in the catchment of an OK school.

And, yes, they also researched entrance criteria like mad.

But I had my children at a slightly bonkers Primary, where a lot of the parents were extra.

To be honest, most researched secondary school options a good 3 years ahead of time. (They were very extra.)

Malmontar Sun 16-Feb-20 22:37:34

I would move them to a feeder. You don't have to be under the same criteria if you're applying as a in year transfer. Although if the secondary situation is so dire it may be difficult to get a spot so late in the game.
However, to put some positive into this, my cousin attended a school that had, at the time, - progress and only 11% pass in GCSEs. It's still the same now. She got really good results and loved her school experience. all her friends passed too. I would still go to those open evenings.

Squidsister Sun 16-Feb-20 22:56:07

OP have you looked at any of the schools or just read the Ofsted/exam results? I wouldn’t make any judgements until you have visited the schools themselves.

If you read Mumsnet secondary education boards you get the impression that every single child is going to private / grammar / super selective / scholarship schools - and obviously that can’t be the case!

My DCs have gone to their local comp schools. They aren’t amazing schools, and probably according to Mumsnet I should have run a mile; but you know what, my kids are happy and doing well.
I weighed up the pros and cons - upheaval of moving house (longer commute for DH), grammar schools (long commute for kids, extra pressure), private (can’t afford it), faith schools (against my principles). We decided to stick with the local schools and to give the DCs extra support / pay for tuition when necessary.
A lot of comprehensive schools have a mix of kids, and if you bring your own children up with their heads screwed on the right way they’ll soon work out which kids to avoid and which to hang around with. Some of the parents were quite stressed when their kids got given the local school, and now they are quite happy with it.
It’s very hard for non-selective schools because they are judged for results when they have no influence over intake.

I would say visit the schools, talk to pupils, talk to parents.

HairySandwiches Mon 17-Feb-20 11:50:27

Having been turned down in reception from a catholic school and CofE school (both closer to our house than the school we got) because of being non-religious I don’t hold much hope for getting a place at those types of schools at secondary.

I am aware that OFSTED means very little (we’re at a requires improvement (was good) primary school which I think is better than the outstanding schools we got turned away from) and it’s really the ethos and culture school itself that should mean more.
I have a younger DD at the same school as DS.

@thecatfromjapan In terms of what other parents think/are doing they fall into a number of categories
A) Some people really just don’t care about education. Unfortunately there are some parents at our primary school who see school as free childcare.
B) They don’t speak English and mix among themselves so I have difficulty communicating with them despite efforts. A lot seem to have come from far away places and are just glad of their children to be receiving an education regardless of the school.
C) They are have been placed in the school because they have moved into the area and their address doesn’t reflect the school they got allocated so they aren’t worried about secondary because they won’t be going to the dreadful ones
D) Families are already religious so aren’t particularly worried
E) Families have recently “found” religion
F) They are panicking like me

Move house: I would love to, but I need to win the lottery first
Go private: see previous comment about winning the lottery
Grammar: it’s an option, but a very slim one, I can’t afford tutoring so DS already at a disadvantage. He plays a musical instrument which he loves and which I pay for. To pay for 11+ tutor he would have to give this up. Doesn’t sound like a good swap to me.
Feeder school: would be good, but too many children and too few schools around here. It’s a scramble for places so very unlikely.
Christen DS: no. If he wants to be christened then that’s his choice to make, not mine.

@Malmontar and @Squidsister thank you for your reassuring comments and advice.

@Nacreous interesting point you make about how it’s a cycle (and also about cycling).

OP’s posts: |
BluebirdHill Mon 17-Feb-20 11:55:42

If he's good at music then definitely look for schools offering music places. I know someone whose child got into a very academically good school this way.

ThisIsBigMoon Mon 17-Feb-20 12:00:25

I would definitely consider the Sikh school. At least look. I used to visit one with work and it had the loveliest atmosphere. They were very focussed on results too.

Chewbecca Mon 17-Feb-20 12:00:47

If you’re in a grammar area & you think he is able, tutor yourself, no need to pay. It isn’t that hard and you’re not too late if you start now. Ensure you have the right materials for the test.

RedskyAtnight Mon 17-Feb-20 12:26:29

Are the results part of a general pattern or have they been similar for years? Schools that Ofsted has graded as inadequate will have to be seen to be improving - you can ask what the school is doing to improve their results. A bad school on an upward spiral may be better than a supposedly better school that is coasting.

Are the results in line with the intake? If the schools start with a weaker cohort, this will be reflected in their results. If you look at the government league tables you can see results broken down by prior learning ability.

if the 3 miles away schools are better, then definitely consider them. my DC have friends that routinely cycle that every day. It really isn't that far to go (depending on the route obviously!)

ticking Mon 17-Feb-20 12:47:28

you move further out to an area with good schools. I'm guessing you are in westish london - many people either go private or move further out to places they can afford with better schools. Or go private in London.

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