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Please help choosing secondary school by 31st

(26 Posts)
secschoolchoice Tue 27-Oct-20 14:59:25

We need to finalize secondary choice by the 31st.

Decision being made without chance for Dd to view any of the schools this year. Our local catchment school is good so I have no real concern if the other options are not successful but DD wants it to be her last choice. However it is quite likely one or both of the other options will be successful and we need to put them in priority order.

One is a brand new school so there is no track record. Dd would be third year of intake so no progress measures etc. Everything is brand new and it is nearer than our other option which has a proven history with best state school GCSE results in the county but is huge and DD wouldnt know anyone in the whole school.

All schools are walking/cycling distance so no buses etc involved and all are mixed sex state schools.

Any factors we may not have considered?

Am keen for it to be DDs decision as all her sisters have made their own choices of schools. Thank you

OP’s posts: |
steppemum Tue 27-Oct-20 15:08:34

you sound as if you have 3 great options.

new schools have strengths and weaknesses. I would never want my dc to be in the first year, as I think that there is a is advantage having older kids in a school. But in year 3, you have older kids, community is growing, not too big and a huge incentive for the head ot make it work. On th eother side no track record.
I woudl want to talk to other parents. We have anew school near us, about the same age, and parents are really really positive about school and head.

As all are good schools, I wonder about other things your dd might be interested in? Sport, music, after school clubs etc.

I wouldn't worry about knowing anyone, most kids make friends with new people in year 7.

Finally, I have 3 at secondary and this year I have been really impressed with how the 2 schools have dealt with Covid. On the ball, common sense, good well done online learning etc etc.
I think that even if Covid is over by next September, we may then have other viruses etc, so a school that has responded well this time is worth having.
Again, parents are good for this.

If you don't know any parents at the schools, phone everyone you know and ask if they know anyone at those schools, and then talk to them. 3 simple questions
Are you happy with the school?
Were you happy with the education you got during lockdown?
Would you recommend this school to your friend for their dd?

SJaneS48 Tue 27-Oct-20 16:01:34

If it was us we’d go for the school with the proven history. The new school might turn out to be great but might have teething issues. A lot of children go to schools we’re they know no one but as others have said - they do make friends relatively quickly and change so much during the teenage years that quite often they have nothing in common with old Primary friends but history.

Local Facebook page might be useful? However I’ve noticed that when parents are asked for their opinion on a particular school quite often you’ll get a polar result, some parents raving about it whereas for others it’s the worst school ever!

SJaneS48 Tue 27-Oct-20 16:02:05

Excuse the typos!

Meredusoleil Tue 27-Oct-20 16:47:06

What's the difference in the PAN/intake numbers per year? I personally prefer smaller and newer secondary schools, all else being equal. But it depends on the numbers iyswim!

secschoolchoice Tue 27-Oct-20 18:21:43

Thanks for all the help. The new school has half the intake of the other school. However small intake is not necessarily advantage for this DD. I dont know how either school have done in lockdown and unfortunately am unlikely to be able to establish that reliably now but will try.

OP’s posts: |
PettsWoodParadise Tue 27-Oct-20 21:13:05

Types of differentiators might include:
Range of languages
Class sizes
GCSEs they offer or plan to offer
Extra curricular and lunch club options
Science - how do they allocate double or triple
Any compulsory subjects such as RPE
Do they set?
Number of teaching staff vacancies

OnTheBenchOfDoom Tue 27-Oct-20 22:40:26

DD wouldnt know anyone in the whole school

Mine didn't either and I know it is scary but they do make friends. There will be other students there who also don't know anybody. I know times are different with Covid but before my sons' started year 7 the school held a specific morning for all those coming from non-feeder schools. It meant they at least had some familiar faces when they did the whole taster day which is usually held in July and all the primary children spend the day with their new form and new class.

Ds1 is introvert and quiet, made a lovely friend in form in day 1 and was with him all the way through to year 11. He had friends from his primary too so there were more friends to be made. Ds2 is quirky, nerdy and I will admit I was more worried for him. Luckily he found a group of equally quirky/nerdy boys and they have been inseparable and are now in year 10 together.

So please don't let this be a factor. A good history of GCSE grades is surely a good thing.

secschoolchoice Tue 27-Oct-20 22:58:08

Thank you. One of my older dds went to a school where they knew no one and it worked fine so it is not a concern to me but it needs to be dds choice.

Pettswood - these factors are unknown in the new school as they only opened 6 months before covid so no idea if they will set or do triple science or offer a 2nd language and dont think they know yet as for example 2nd language has not yet been decided and will depend on teacher recruitment. Most schools round here have stopped setting due to covid so hard to know if the new school would have done so for year 8 or not.

OP’s posts: |
Guymere Wed 28-Oct-20 00:05:07

There is a new school in the small town where my mum lives. It’s just had its first cohort through GCSEs. So it’s been open for 5 years. Mum goes there for Christmas lunch - community outreach programme. She compares it to where my DDs went. The great problem is, in its infancy, there are no older dc as role models. No sports teams in the older age groups. No maturity in music and dance. Mum said it was noticeably poor at performing arts. This would matter to me for my dc. The school looks like a warehouse with unkempt grounds. It’s just not a mature inviting environment that a school should be.

I would go to the bigger school without any hesitation. 10 year olds cannot always see the bigger picture. School community within a school is important.

PettsWoodParadise Wed 28-Oct-20 07:12:57

If the new school doesn’t have a decent enough website that you can’t work out what the current Y7-9 are doing on their curriculum and hence get an idea of subjects available for GCSE then this would be a huge flag of concern for me.

There are a couple of similar schools with just a few years of entry in my borough, both are parts of MATs so seeing other schools in the MAT gives an idea of ethos etc but probably not the detail you’d want to make a decision upon. My nephew was considering a school that just had a few years entry and asking specifically about that school and naming it on chat boards was one route his mum got information.

SJaneS48 Wed 28-Oct-20 07:42:13

I get what you are saying about DDs choice and it’s important that they don’t hate it but the reality is that they are 10/11 and their choices are often based on current friendships rather than an objective over view of performance. Not being able to go round schools doesn’t help either! When it comes to where they do A Levels or go to University I do think it should be DCs choice with our aid, just not at Secondary level. They are still very much children.

Guymere Wed 28-Oct-20 07:59:03

I too would be worried about the lack of info from the new school.

MollyButton Wed 28-Oct-20 08:10:50

You really need to ask around - everyone even people on the check out at supermarkets.
The new school near me has a very good reputation - so much so that people living quite close could struggle to get in. On the other hand another one not too far away doesn't have the same buzz and isn't helped by now being situated quite a way from the community it was supposed to serve.
But also think about what your DD is interested in and what the schools offer.

secschoolchoice Wed 28-Oct-20 08:17:02

Thank you.

Dd definitely wont choose based on friends as being set is very important to her but she is swayed most by her hobby.

The new school does not have a year 9 yet. The year 8 are not doing what they would have done if it were not for covid. They have not decided on 2nd language yet for anyone. I know lots of parents with kids there so I know what it is like now but no idea for GCSE. It was great in year 7, obviously then closed for covid and now working in bubbles and limited extra curricular for year 8 so nothing like the plan.

Website/virtual open evening presentations are amazing for new scchool but I dont want to be misled by this as it is all unproven.

OP’s posts: |
Guymere Wed 28-Oct-20 08:32:08

My DC, and indeed my experiences at school, were that we looked up to the 6th form. No uniform. More freedom. Sporting achievements. Maturity. Great musical offerings at concerts, and, not to be dismissed, roles within the whole school to ensure a cohesive community and ethos. Without older pupils y7 cannot be a complete experience at school. It’s a very narrow experience and rather limiting in vision and aspiration if you never see anyone better than you! This is only acceptable if the alternative is utterly dire.

steppemum Wed 28-Oct-20 09:22:51


Thank you. One of my older dds went to a school where they knew no one and it worked fine so it is not a concern to me but it needs to be dds choice.

Pettswood - these factors are unknown in the new school as they only opened 6 months before covid so no idea if they will set or do triple science or offer a 2nd language and dont think they know yet as for example 2nd language has not yet been decided and will depend on teacher recruitment. Most schools round here have stopped setting due to covid so hard to know if the new school would have done so for year 8 or not.

I think maths should be set form year 7, possibly English as well.
It is a really hard one though. If your chidl is likely to be int h etop set, then you need a school where they set. If your child is not likely to be in the top set, then they are better off not setting.

stats show that most kids do better with no setting, except the top 10% who do worse.

I am astonished that they have 3 year groups in and no language yet! They should be doing languages from year 7, and if they are so dependant on teacher recruitment, what happens if that teacher leaves? They should have a better plan.

If they already have 3 year groups in, then they have year 9s. How can they not know what they are doing about double or triple science if they have kids already in year 9?

I think I would want to be asking these questions. if they have no answers, that would be a no from me.

Smaller schools v. larger schools is a really hard one. Some kids do better with a bigger peer group, others don't. Some depends on how the school provides pastoral care. For example, one lareg school near us has 2 members of staff per year group who stay with them all through the school, so they get to know the kids well, a teacher (year groups head I think) and an admin assistant, who also deals with problems arising (like a support assistant) each year group is 250 kids though.

steppemum Wed 28-Oct-20 09:39:02

OK, I missed your last message, they had year 7 in and then lockdown, so now 7 and 8 and by next sept year 9.

It all feels a bit too new and untested for me. Without Covid, maybe.

SJaneS48 Wed 28-Oct-20 09:42:28

It sounds to me OP like you have already sort of made your mind up about the new school given the number of ?

secschoolchoice Wed 28-Oct-20 11:08:05

Yes I think if it was my choice I would not choose the new school but wanted some other perspectives as every parent around here appears desperate for a place there and are totally swayed by the huge empty brand new facilities and the amazing videos for open evenings.

Having said that everyone who is there says great things but I always find that parents do that if they have not chosen their local school when talking to others but may say something different to each other.

Other school has intake of 300 which is no issue for DD. Setting is hard in new school as there were not enough teachers in first year and now covid has affected setting so hard to know what they will really do in future, they say they will set of course.

OP’s posts: |
admission Wed 28-Oct-20 11:38:21

All things being equal I would go for the school with a PAN of 300. Yes it makes for a big school, which can be off putting for children coming from very small primary schools but if your daughter is OK with that then that issue is no problem. The new school may have the swish new buildings and videos but far more important, in terms of your daughters development as an all round budding adult is the breadth of the curriculum that the large school will be able to offer. That is based on years of experience of running such a system, which the new school cannot do. The fact that the new school is not running language classes would be a major red flag for me because that is a legal requirement. If they are not following the national curriculum then what else are they missing out.
Again I would say ignore the buildings etc and the fact that lots of parents want to get into the school. That always happens. When my secondary school had a complete rebuild, the number of preferences for the school trebled but 3 years later it is back down to just being an over-subscribed school of preference which is full, based on what the school can offer, not the parents and pupils being seduced by the new building.

secschoolchoice Wed 28-Oct-20 12:21:10

Thanks admission, that is my thought too but obviously very different to every other parent i know!! Just to clarify they are offering one language to everyone from year 7 it is just they havent confirmed the 2nd language which they say will be offered in year 9 however most schools offer it in year 8 and they wont decide what it will be until they recruit the teacher. However I wont know if able children will have to do triple science or a language for GCSE whatever they say now.

OP’s posts: |
steppemum Thu 29-Oct-20 11:28:37

totally agree with admission.
great advice

Guymere Thu 29-Oct-20 13:20:52

Don’t you think that parents virtually always support and justify their own decisions? Especially if it’s a fairly recent decision. Yes, they will big up the shiny new facilities and slick appearances but, they are not looking at the bigger picture. They obviously are just thinking about y7 or y8 in total isolation. That would never be how I would judge a school. How can you possibly know what the long haul will be like? Slick and new isn’t the same as tried , tested and established.

steppemum Thu 29-Oct-20 13:54:27

I talk a lot to parents about choosing secondaries as part of my job.

One thing I always remind them is that their child is currently 10/11, but in a few years they will be a teen of 13/14/15/16 and their needs will be different to those of an 11 year old.

Typically parents find it extremely difficult to imagine what their 14 year old will need.
Schools feed in to this. At open evenings I remember so much about how they will help the new year 7's settle in, when I wanted to know what was available for them in a couple of years, including GCSE choices.

I think this is what you are seeing with the parents who like the new school, they are seeing a lovely safe place for an 11 year old. But that is just a tiny part of the secondary experience.

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