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The less good local school or the good one that's hard to get to?

(35 Posts)
melodybear Thu 29-Oct-20 12:07:39

Another last minute which secondary school thread. I have been backwards and forwards over this decision all year and I still don't know what to do. A key factor is that logistically DH and I couldn't take her/pick her up from either school due to the starting and finishing times of our own jobs

School A: Our local catchment school. We would definitely get in. We live in a small town and it is the only school in the town and therefore has a "centre of the community" feel to it. Most children from DC's class will go there. It is walkable at a stretch or there is a relatively straightforward bus journey or several other local parents who drop children there and pick up who would almost certainly give our DC a lift. I went to the open evening last year. They have a newish building, a new head who I really liked and I spoke to some really nice pupils. The main downside - academically their results aren't great. The most recently published results were below average both for the area and nationally. There isn't data available for previous years (it changed to academy status) but I don't think it's ever had the best reputation for academic results. DD is pretty bright and well-supported at home but I wonder if she needs a more academic environment. The school doesn't have a recent Ofsted as it became an academy since the last inspection but over the previous ten years or so it has been RI, then good, then back to RI just before the academisation.

School B: Faith school 4 miles away. We would qualify on the faith basis and are within the furthest distance that was offered last year so would likely get in. It has a good reputation, very good results and an outstanding Ofsted (although it hasn't been inspected for over 10 years). We know someone who worked there for a while and she said the behaviour wasn't as good as she had expected but academically they were very on the ball. It's obviously the better school, but she wouldn't know anyone going there, the intake is from a wide geographic area so less likely to have local friends and most crucially, it is very difficult to get to logistically. It involves me driving her to the station, a train, then bus and short walk, about 45 minutes in total. On the return journey it would be the same except she would also have to get bus or taxi back from the station. It wouldn't bother me so much if she was a bit older or knew other children doing the journey but there are very few local children who go there because of the faith criteria. She is not used to public transport at all, although obviously we'd try to get her used it it. The bus only runs on schooldays so it's not possible to try out the run in the holidays or weekends.

The other option is taxis both ways, which my parents have offered to help with the cost of but it would work out around £4000 a year. Probably within a year or two we'd feel more confident about her getting public transport but it still seems like a crazy amount to spend. I feel like it might be better to go to the local school and then spend money on tutors.

It seems like I'm making the decision based on logistics, rather than just sending her to the best school, which makes me feel guilty.

OP’s posts: |
pisspants Thu 29-Oct-20 12:14:18

I'd go with the local option and look to get a tutor if she struggles in any particular subjects in due course

melodybear Thu 29-Oct-20 12:16:23

Thank you, that's kind of what I was thinking.

OP’s posts: |
canigooutyet Thu 29-Oct-20 12:17:02

I would go for the closer school.
The logistics of the other school aren't worth it. What happens when the train is delayed or they are on strike?
Will she be able to stay for any outside of school things?

How did you both feel at the two schools?
Does your dc have a preference?

CaptainMyCaptain Thu 29-Oct-20 12:17:48

I agree with pisspants. Ofsted doesn't always tell the full story anyway.

JuliaJohnston Thu 29-Oct-20 12:18:32

That's not an insurmountable journey, op. I'd be very wary of deliberately going for an inferior school because it's logistically handier...
She'll be secondary age, you'd be surprised at some of the expeditions some of them make, especially in big cities.
Mine cross London 🤷🏻‍♀️

canigooutyet Thu 29-Oct-20 12:21:17

And as for Ofsted, I personally ignore it because of things like no inspections for several years.
The notice schools get isn't level, some schools get the call as Ofsted are on the way, others get prior warning.

canigooutyet Thu 29-Oct-20 12:25:05

Mine cross London as well. When the tube is on strike there are alternatives.

When there's leaves on the line, the wrong type of rain etc, trains get delayed/cancelled. Until she moved, this used to really piss off one of my dd's, arrive on the platform and the train has been cancelled. Next one in 45 minutes, oh great late for work again!

RedskyAtnight Thu 29-Oct-20 12:25:22

I'd also go for the closest school.

Of course it's fine to choose a school on logistics! If your DC can't practically get there, then you can't consider it. Remember if you go for the faith school you'll also have to be taxi service every time your DD wants to see friends. And social life is important as a teen.

Have you looked at results vs intake? If the schools' results are purely inline with their intakes this doesn't say anything about whether they are better schools or not.

PatriciaHolm Thu 29-Oct-20 12:29:03

Closer school; there are way too many things that can (and will!) go wrong with a journey that requires both a bus and a train. What happens when the train is on strike, broken down so she misses the bus, the bus is late/early, etc. if you can't easily be there to help?

Also presumably that will make it harder for her to do afterschool clubs etc, see friends after school etc.

melodybear Thu 29-Oct-20 12:30:31

I am a teacher so tend to ignore Ofsted anyway grin.

I agree it's not an insurmountable journey - that's part of the problem as then I could discount it! Funnily in some ways I would actually be happier for her to be crossing London. Unfortunately we live in a part of the country where public transport is not very joined up and we don't live within walking distance of the station either.

We managed to get to both open evenings last year luckily as they weren't running this year. I much preferred the local school as it was better organised and they seemed to make much more effort. The other school was very chaotic and they didn't seem to put much into it, but then they are very oversubscribed and they probably don't need to.The local school is also oversubscribed but only because it accepts pupils from a wide area and takes a few children from a nearby town where the local schools have a very poor reputation.

I've managed to speak to 3 parents with kids at the local school: 2 positive, one negative which is not much help!

OP’s posts: |
clary Thu 29-Oct-20 12:40:14

That nightmare journey stops it being the best school though. 45 mind for car, train, bus, walk sounds optimistic to me. Kids near me travel to a school in the next village and have a 30 min walk, 10 muns bus, 5 min walk - but you would allow at least an hour in case of delays, bus not running etc.

Walking to school independently is such a bonus op. How far is the nearer school?

maybelou Thu 29-Oct-20 12:46:28

Which school does your daughter prefer?

saraclara Thu 29-Oct-20 12:48:39

That 'commute' sounds awful. Two forms of public transport (plus your lift) make it painful compared to a 45 minute walk, or walk and one form of transport.

I wouldn't inflict it on myself, never mind an 11 year old.

saraclara Thu 29-Oct-20 12:50:21, a 10 year old OFSTED report isn't worth anything. Things can change hugely in a couple of years, never mind ten! How have they got away with such a long gap?

Thisismylife1 Thu 29-Oct-20 12:50:30

Agree you’re underestimating the journey time - I have a commute to work which involves 4 changes of public transport. There is inevitably a lot of hanging around/missed connections. I’d not feel comfortable with a 11 year old doing that alone, nor to be honest would I feel happy to send her in a taxi alone.

Is moving house an option? If you’re that set on the faith school?

Sewsosew Thu 29-Oct-20 12:55:03

Closer school. We have a lot of secondary schools near us (due to some bizarre town planning) and DD walks to ours with friends. She loves it. It’s the best part of her day and I think it helps her decompress.
Her BF goes to a faith school miles away. Inaccessible by public transport and she is reliant on lifts. It also means she can’t see any of her school friends easily outside of school. I feel a bit sorry for her actually.
As long as the school isn’t terrible I would always pick a school they can travel to independently.

AnotherNewt Thu 29-Oct-20 12:56:03

I much preferred the local school

This should be your answer. I think there is a lot of (subconscious?) pressure to pick the school that has the higher academic reputation (which can be code for bigger parental bragging rights). You describe one school as the 'best' simply because of academic record. You know there is more to a school than this, and that outcomes depend at least in part by direct/indirect selection at 11 (many selective schools had lower VA scores and the the outcome rested on the input)

Does your DD have any opinion on this? Or on the journey?

It's not so much the length of the journey, but how complicated it is (number of changes, would she be able to sit down, what will it really be like on a wet day when she's carrying school bag, PE kit and at least one other random item needed that day). Would your heart sink at getting there on public transport for a parents evening? If yes, then is it fair to inflict it on your DD daily? And what happens if she wants to loaf with her mates for a while after school?

melodybear Thu 29-Oct-20 13:03:29

DD is very laid back and doesn't have a preference either way. Honestly, DH is the main driver for the other school. He is a secondary teacher (although not at a school we want our DD to go to) so to him the academic results are the main thing to look at. However, he hasn't come up with any reasonable solutions to the practicalities so I'm disinclined to listen to him asserting a preference.
I don't feel strongly enough about the other school to consider moving house to get closer and he hasn't suggested it so obviously he doesn't either. Annoyingly, when we moved to our current house 8 years ago, there were school buses directly to the gate of both schools running from down the road but those have been done away with due to funding cuts.

Thank you everyone for your help. I do feel more that I'm right in thinking to go for the local school.

OP’s posts: |
melodybear Thu 29-Oct-20 13:06:10

saraclara, a 10 year old OFSTED report isn't worth anything. Things can change hugely in a couple of years, never mind ten! How have they got away with such a long gap?

I just looked up the exact date and its last Ofsted inspection was in 2007! I can only assume they've been left alone because the results are very consistent. Or maybe they know somebody high up at Ofsted. The whole inspection system is a joke, but as a teacher I know that anyway.

OP’s posts: |
Annebronte Thu 29-Oct-20 13:07:11

Could you move house and live on the bus route to the more academic school?

MadameBlobby Thu 29-Oct-20 13:07:48

That journey sounds like a right pain in the arse for 4 miles. Could she cycle maybe?

I’d just go for the nearest school and then the saved taxi cash can be used for tutoring if she needs it.

TheCuriousMonkey Thu 29-Oct-20 13:11:49

It's a long time ago now, but I went to a school 12 miles away and a similar journey time. Drive to station then two trains. The school in my town sounds similar to yours, although there were a couple of other specific reasons why it was definitely the less good school. School I traveled for was a state comp but academically very high achieving.

The upsides were: the academic side, behaviour of pupils etc were miles better and I was very aware of this (my younger siblings actually went to the local school).

Downside was that all my friends lived a long way from me, and it was quite rural so I had to rely on lifts from parents. To be fair my parents were very obliging! You'd need to consider whether you would be ok with lofts.

I didn't really mind the journey that much. I also didn't mind that only three went from my year to that school. Overall I think it was the right choice for me.

titchy Thu 29-Oct-20 13:12:14

The results of the other kids don't matter to you. Your kid's results are the important ones. Assuming they put kids into sets, are there enough kids in the top set that are around her ability and can be stretched?

If your dc is an A grade kid, but the average attainment in set 1 is B, then she won't be stretched, but if set 1 get As and Astars she should be.

What's their progress 8 for high achievers?

LaPoesieEstDansLaRue Thu 29-Oct-20 13:17:59

I think in your position I'd go for the local school, unless moving closer to the faith school would be a possibility at some point. We don't live within walking distance of DD's school but it's only one form of transport for her to get there. Also, crucially, I and sometimes DP are able to take her there or back when necessary, eg if she's running late, or if bus doesn't turn up, plus picking up from after school clubs or sports fixtures, or if she wants to go to friends' houses or out with friends after school etc. If a fairly complicated public transport journey was the only option I would think really carefully, although as pp said it's true that they do quickly become much more independent. Do any other dc from your local area go to the faith school? Could she travel partway with them? Can you pick their brains about the journey? Or could any other parents give lifts in an emergency?

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