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choosing a secondary school at yr 6...

(41 Posts)
MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 15:20:16

we are going to see the second of 2 local secondary schools next week. The first is quite big (990 on roll) and it looks as though many of ds' classmates will be choosing it. His particular friend has just started there in yr 7.
The other school is a bit smaller (812) and ds' primary is not a feeder school for it, nor are we in catchment area. Both though are about same walking distance from home and both roughly equally good academically.
The first seemed huge to me and a bit overwhelming - obv compared to cosy primary school - so how do we choose ?
obviously ds will have a say, plus I usually go on gut instinct/ vibes etc. He is a quiet, gentle boy so don't want him lost among the crowds. Any sage advice gratefully welcomed !

MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 15:24:17

will bump it in case anyone is watching !

MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 15:27:09


MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 15:53:34

oh dear, none is answering !

Tinker Wed 12-Sep-07 15:58:19

Will you have a decent chance of getting into teh 2nd one? Having a sibling there is the ist criteria in my LA

Tinker Wed 12-Sep-07 15:58:29


christywhisty Wed 12-Sep-07 16:13:54

Ds has just started secondary and we went on gut feeling and a little bit on parent feedback.Also Ds fell in love with school.

We are 5 miles away but managed to get in on a apptitude for technology test.If there are apptitude tests they are usually only allowed to take 10% of their intake this way.
I think you need to find out how realistic your chances are of getting into 2nd school.

ejt1764 Wed 12-Sep-07 16:19:12

990 is not a particularly big school ... the comp I teach at is 950 on roll, and is one of the smaller schools in Cardiff.

TBH, go on your gut feeling, and which one ds prefers ...

frogs Wed 12-Sep-07 16:30:09

The difference between a school of 812 and 990 is not that great tbh, when you spread it across 7 school years. Much of the difference may be in the 6th form anyway, so might only mean a few extra kids per year group in Y7-11. Round here annual intakes of 180 kids per year are standard, and many school have more.

Find out how the pastoral care is structured -- how many tutor groups do they have per year group, and how many kids in each. Do they have heads of year, or heads of key stage? What are the settling-in arrangments?

For example, dd1's school which has an intake of 96 children per year (which is small for here) do a new Y7 day in July when they meet their new form tutor and classmates, and check out the layout of the school. They follow that up with a new Y7 families barbeque on a Sunday in July, where they can meet their classmates again informally, and parents can meet other parents.

In September they start the new Y7 a day early to ease them in gently with a special welcome assembly to which parents are invited, and give each newbie a Y8 girl and a Y12 girl to keep an eye on them. Early on in the year they do a Y7 trip to an activity centre (raft-building, high ropes, that kind of thing) and have an information evening for all Y7 parents to tell you what the expectations are, and to allow you to meet the staff and other parents (again).

That is at the extreme end of what can be done, but gives you an idea of what to look out for in terms of pastoral care.

As for whether you'd get into school 2, check the LEA website and see what the admissions arrangements are, and what the cut-off distance was for the previous year.


MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 17:20:19

thanks all - that is very helpful - frogs - your dd's school sounds lovely - very welcoming to yr 7s !
There's no reason to think that he won't get into the first school, unless of course everyone wants to go there.He has no other siblings already there though, unlike several classmates. I'd be happy with either I think. I want to see how I feel (and ds) next week when we go to the open evening.

Blandmum Wed 12-Sep-07 17:27:35

990, isn't that big for a secondary, I teach in a school of 1300.

remember that he will not just be 'loose' in the school, he will be in a form, with a form tutor. He will be in a Year group (or other division of the school, different places, do it different ways) and there will be a member of staff in charge of that larger collection of children, so I wouldn't worry. It is amazing how well they settle in by the first half term.

Look at the walls, are the full of ythe kids work, look at the staff, do they interact with the students in a positive and supportive way. Check the loos! grin

Go on your gut feeling and ask yourself which school suits you son first

seeker Wed 12-Sep-07 17:28:59

I would go by instinct - we thought we had our list sorted, then completely changed our minds after we visited. The school dd has just started is the biggest in the area at over 1000 girls but felt the calmest and friendliest of the lot.
Don't forget to see if you can visit during a normal school day as well as the open day - the way schools react to this request is very revealing. We tried it on 3, one said a flat no, one asked us to make an appointment, the third said yes come any time.

Oh,Maryanne - tell me about the pony book you're looking for - I have hundreds and I might know it!

MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 17:30:27

thanks MB - yes, the first one had a lovely open evening with very friendly teachers - we did science ezperiments, tasted cakes in food tech. and ds made a keyring in the design dept-didn't look in the loos though ! lots of stuff up on the walls too.

Blandmum Wed 12-Sep-07 17:32:43

just so long as your ds realises that he will not do all of the stuff he saw being demonstrated all in the first week! grin

And also that just because it doesn't have a bunsenburner in it, a science lesson can still be fun wink

MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 17:33:27

seeker - the pony book was set in Wales, with these children going to spend a holiday at a house, but when they got there it was deserted - can't remember much more about it,except there were ponies and they had to make a damper (which intruiged meas I'd never heard of them before) out of flour and water as there was no food ! That's it really...they stayed somewhere with a Welsh name - possibly Llyn Glas ?

MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 17:35:04

actually he was quite scared of the bunsen burner and I had to do the explosive bit !!! The music dept (it's a music specialist school) was fab and the school band was playing which always makes me emotional !

kittylouise Wed 12-Sep-07 17:35:58

DD has just started senior school with over 1300 students (including 6th form). The size of the school wasn't a major concern to me, in fact the smaller schools (approx 500-600 kids) around here are the ones with the poorer reputations.

I think good large school make an effort to ease the transistion from years 6 to 7, so have a look and see if they have any special provision for this, and ask how they settle the new year 7s in. DD's school has a separate canteen, and also have a large amount of older students providing mentoring. There are also special 'badged' students who are stationed around the school at lesson changeover and breaktimes, in order to answer questions from lost kids and to make sure there is no funny business.

She has settled in marvellously and doesn't seem intimidated at all.

kittylouise Wed 12-Sep-07 17:37:58

Martianbishop - my dd was convinced that bunsen burners would be used in every Science lesson!! Had to put her straight on that one.

MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 17:40:11

I was terrified of bunsen burners all through my school career, which was a bit of a strain as I did Biology A level and Chemistry O level...

MaryAnnSingleton Wed 12-Sep-07 17:41:17

thanks too kitty - that is very reassuring ! I think I am the one fretting more than ds, in fact he isn't bothered at the mo.

Blandmum Wed 12-Sep-07 17:43:57

I once had a parent complain to be that her dd wasn't doing enough practicals in the lessons.

I had to point out that we were doing geology at the time, and that her dd had examined different rock types, looked at the effect of time of cooling on crystal formation, 'made' a fossil, looed at examples of sedimentation etc, all of which was 'practical work'

Plus I couldn't actually arange for molten rock in the classroom! smile

But as far as the kids are concerned experiment = bunsen burner = blow things up

kittylouise Wed 12-Sep-07 17:44:12

Fret away, I certainly did! And sending her off to school with her new blazer on last week felt just the same as her very first day at school - she looks ^too young^ to be going to big school!

But she has taken it all in her stride and the only side effect is her being v tired in the evenings.

You have my sympathies, the choosing school thing is a bit of a nightmare, especially when some are oversubscribed and have byzantine selection criteria. Good luck!

seeker Wed 12-Sep-07 17:46:00

Thank your lucky stars you don't live in an 11&divid; area. THEN you'd know what 'stress'means!

kittylouise Wed 12-Sep-07 17:46:07

I loved bunsen burners and the whole burning/boiling of things.

But I was kicked out of GCSE Electronics for making holes in a student's shoes with a soldering iron (irresponsible).

portonovo Wed 12-Sep-07 18:21:04

990 is really small for a secondary school.

The two we had to choose between are 1700 and 1500 - we chose the larger but really it doesn't feel that big. Still has family & community feel to it, and the pastoral care is superb so no-one gets lost in a crowd. There are 280 in a year, and my children were both impressed and slightly scared at how quickly their head of year and deputy head of year seemed to know everyone by name!

How are the 2 schools organised? Ours is split so that the 'right' side of the year learns German and the 'left' side French, and the two sides don't mix at all for lessons - that is obviously partly for timetabling purposes, but also has the benefit of reducing the whole scale of things. So pupils spend most of their time with their half. Obviously, as time goes on they do mix with pupils from the 'other' side, but it does mean things aren't too overwhelming at first.

If you think both are similar academically, and you think you have a good chance of getting into either, use your visits to get a gut feeling for the general atmosphere and ethos at both.

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