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How to choose a school

(9 Posts)
Willmum Wed 12-Jan-11 22:03:47

As title really, just wanted thoughts in how to chose a school.

My son will start school in Sept. Currently at preschool. He will have his statement finalised before he starts. I am having great difficulty over choosing which choosing which school 9Have narrowed it down to a choice of 2). They are both mainstream.

School 1. Has average class size of 23/24 ish. 1 teacher, 1 nursery nurse and 1 class ta, plus my lo should have a ta full time (if I can get lea to word it properly!)so would be 4 adults to 23 ish kids. His best (only friend) is going to this school and the school has a very good reputation.

The head was excellent but left last year with dept currently acting up. She is also senco. Have spoken to her and she is lovely, very helpful and I feel very comfortable talking to her (iykwim).I feel confident that they would take his needs seriously and have said they would appoint a new ta for him.

Downside is facilities not great (although that doesn't really worry me)and I only have good recommendations from parents of nt children and I have already learnt that this does not necessarily mean the school is good with sen children.

School 2. Is not one I would initally have chosen. They have average class size 29/30 in reception with 1 teacher and 1 nursery (although again he would have his ta). So class size generally bigger and adult:child ratio- not so good. It has a resonable reputation generally (not as good as school 1 but again from parents on nt children.)

Currently there are several statemented pupils due to move to upper school so several ta's available who are very experienced. School is also a new build with fantastic facilities (several specific sen classrooms/ sensory room/ distraction free environments etc).

Also my OT has recommended school 2 as she has previously worked with the senco who she says is very good. Incidently my OT was the only person who advised against the pre-school where he is now and she was spot on.

Despite having an outstanding ofsted and fantastic reputation, they have been awful with his issues to say the least. So I place a lot of trust in what she says but in fairness she hasn't worked with school 1 who may be equally good.

So do you go for the school with smaller class sizes, better staff ratio,lovely head/senco who sounds very sincere but with not so good facilities, and prehaps an inexperienced ta, with a senco whose also juggling that role with acting head?

or the school with not such a good reputation locally with larger class sizes, not so good staff ratio, but with an excellent senco and experienced ta's with great facilites and a recommendations from a very experienced ot.

Answers on a postcard please!

Seriously if anyone has made it this far, thank-you so much and any advice would be very gratfully recieved. Hubby is doing his usual advice- 'whatever you think love, you're better than me at that sort of thing'


intothewest Wed 12-Jan-11 22:29:04

O.k....similar comments from dh..moving on ..It is never going to be an easy decision-In all honesty it sounds like you are chosing between 2 good schools which is a good starting place- Your OT seems to be someone you trust so I would listen to her advice. Does you ds need quiet spaces etc-does he need the facilities that sch. 2 offers? I think the main problem with school one is that there is no head in place , so you don't know what is going to happen in that school in the future- sch 2 seems to have experienced staff. I guess the question is why did you discount it in the past- can the schools put you in touch with any parents of sen children who are currently at the school- Go back and visit again-really get the feel of the schools - good luck

Willmum Wed 12-Jan-11 23:01:34

Thank-you, I intially would have discounted school two purely based on my knowledge of the schools generally in terms of results/what other parents generally feel.

I probably won't make this very clear but I have an older child who is nt and very bright and I would not have considered school 2 for her if making a comparison between the two as school 1 has a better reputation and was a smaller school which I felt would have been better for her, but she has no additional needs.

School 2 have offered to put me in touch with other parents. The problem with looking around school 2 is that it's a completely new build which isn't yet finished so I can't look around it yet.

But looking around the school as it is, it seems nice as does school 1. School 1 has more of a 'familiar family feel' if you know what I mean while school two seems quite 'busy', but well run none the less.

BialystockandBloom Wed 12-Jan-11 23:03:22

Hmmm very tricky. We've just done our primary application, so know how confusing it is!

As intothewest said, maybe go back and spend some time in classes (if you can), and picture your ds in each one. What are his specific needs? Which school (regardless of reputation, class size etc) do you think will provide him with the most appropriate support for his needs on a day-to-day basis? Which will work hardest to help him reach his full potential?

Sounds like both would be good though, and as he's got a 1-1 you don't have to worry so much about class sizes.

Good luck with what you decide. It's venturing completely into the unknown isn't it!

cansu Wed 12-Jan-11 23:45:44

I found this really difficult. I made my decision based on the attitude and flexibility of the head and reception teacher. The school we eventually chose seemed to want her! This may sound a bit mad, but others simply made the right noises but were insincere! The school I chose is smallish, has lovely outdoor play areas, is very open to advice, teacher always willing to meet and talk about progress. They are also incredibly flexible, dd2 was able to build up slowly to being full time and thye have also taken on board issues with food and toileting with no problem.

intothewest Thu 13-Jan-11 07:55:09

What is the deadline for your decision ? I would certainly take up the offer of speaking to other parents of children who have SN.Is school 2 in an older building at the moment and being re- built- I would spend some time there if you can;ask lots of questions and I know exactly what CANSU says 'seemed to want her'That is such an important factor

Willmum Thu 13-Jan-11 12:45:10

Dealine ideally is asap. Certainly need to confirm before statement is finalised, and I'm prob already past the point I shold have told them but I have said one fo the two so they know type of school etc.
School 2 was badly flooded and they are partly in temporary acommodation. I goning to ask each school if I could go into to reception class for a couple of hours and get a feel for it. I guess they can only say no.
Thanks for all your help.

auntevil Thu 13-Jan-11 13:45:33

Have you taken your DS with you to both schools? I think that DC have very honest opinions as to what is important to them.
Different friends have had different opinions from their children on schools in our area. What feels warm and welcoming to one child can be over sensory and muddled to another.
Also facilities- although handy if we're talking chillout areas etc, are fairly low down on the list of things. School attitude to SN/SEN is far more important, as is getting the right teacher and 1:1
It's a toughie, but as i have said to friends, who with me are applying for primary this year, if you find you have made a big old mistake, there are opportunities to change school. Although we all want to get it right 1st time! (I didn't, so i speak from experience!)

negligentmummy Thu 13-Jan-11 13:59:07

I too have 2 dcs. None of the schools I considered for DD1 are the same a those for DD2 (NT). Her needs are so different and whilst I am not giving up on her future academic achievements- 11+ results etc are just not on my list of requirements.

I think the head is so important, and also how well the SEN children are integrated into the MS environment.

I have chosen a school for DD1 where the head was previously a SALT, is 5 years into the position, has a SALT in each classroom and where DD1 will not be the only child with her difficulties so she doesn't feel isolated.

Our closest appropriate provision had smaller class sizes, similarly sized speech unit etc but the SEN children were swept under the carpet, and the head was trying to get the uni shut down/ transferred.

Yes, I think class sizes/ adult ratios are important, but a knowledge of teaching SEN children and an enthusiasm for them out weighs it (especially if you have 1:1).

good luck though, it is a hard decision to have to make!

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