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  • The joy of selecting a secondary school
  • Premier Icon spacemonkey
    Free Member

    Who else is finding it a challenge to select a school for their Yr 6 monkey(s)? Open evenings, morning tours and Zoom sessions have filled our diaries over the last 3 weeks, and it’s proving harder than expected to discern which school might provide the best all round package. They’re certainly promoting a more holistic approach with student wellbeing featuring high on their agendas. Trying to decipher results on the Gov school comparison site is starting to make sense, but I definitely need to get my head around things like Attainment 8, EBacc average, Entering EBacc, Progress 8 etc. Most worryingly, national averages seem bloody low, eg pupils attaining Grade 5 in English and Maths GCSE is 43%… and even the respected schools around here (Surrey Hill locale) are hitting only 55%. I know people have argued for years that the system has dumbed down and kids are leaving school with less academic savvy that previous generations – perhaps these results are indicative of that.

    And then we have the stats for 2021, which naturally are somewhat anomalous and do they really shed light on the reality?

    Yes, we’ve listened to friends sharing their experiences of putting their children through our favoured schools, and almost all of those are positive. Maybe my expectations of the academic side are unrealistic? I know it’s not all about that, but I’ll hold my hands up if I’m missing something…

    How are you peeps getting on with your decision making?

    Premier Icon thegeneralist
    Full Member

    How are you peeps getting on with your decision making?

    Just left it to the kids to decide.

    Actually that’s not quite true. The schools decided which of the kids they would accept and then the kids decided from the remainder.

    The whole “choice” thing WRT schools is an abomination of the highest order. Kids should go to their local school. End of.

    Premier Icon longdog
    Free Member

    We had no options, only one school where we are. He’s doing fine.

    Premier Icon andrewreay
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    Maybe you are overthinking it?

    The numbers and stats are not the whole story. If you go to a school and get a good vibe about the place, then you are probably onto a good thing. Pretty much that simple.

    If the school tours are done by pupils, and they can speak freely, that’s also a pretty good indicator in my book.

    The stats can be fudged, and affected by exceptional year groups, so just don’t rely on them one way or the other. Absence data might be the helpful though – good attendance likely indicates that the school is a place the pupils want to be.

    Premier Icon ji
    Free Member

    national averages seem bloody low, eg pupils attaining Grade 5 in English and Maths GCSE is 43%… and even the respected schools around here (Surrey Hill locale) are hitting only 55%

    That does seem low – the worst school in our area was around that, and some in the 80-90% bracket.

    Choice is sometimes a curse – but around here schools have merged and closed, so if we were looking today there are only really 2 or 3 choices (and one of those would require us to drive to and from the school each day, reducing the choice for many, and one other is a selective grammar, so requires an entrance exam pass). So reality now is that there isn’t really a choice.

    Premier Icon Nobeerinthefridge
    Free Member

    Move to Scotland, they go to their local school, and in the vast majority of cases, their results will reflect them, not the school.

    See Martin McMillan and his Nobel prize for evidence, went to school in Airdrie ffs 😄

    Or am I being naive, and the English scramble is the way to go?.

    Premier Icon IHN
    Full Member

    Maybe you are overthinking it?

    This. It’s the befuddlement of choice. Unless your child has particularly exceptional needs, or a school is particularly good/bad (and that’ll be just ‘known’ locally), they’ll be fine.

    Yes, we’ve listened to friends sharing their experiences of putting their children through our favoured schools, and almost all of those are positive.

    I’d go with this over stats on a website.

    Premier Icon gingerflash
    Full Member

    We’ve done the same process, but the difference here has seemed quite stark between those we would realistically get into, so the process has turned out to be less stressful than expected.
    One school had a very poor presentation from the headteacher without one single word about academic achievement, the houses are named after yorkshire sports people who didn’t even go to that school, and their biggest selling point was that a premier league footballer went there. They didn’t even really claim to be much of a sports school so that was a bit odd. There seemed to be no expectation that the students would continue in education beyond 16.
    Two others were much more impressive. Excellent presentations, strong focus on academic and discipline, the schools appeared to be well funded and well equipped, nice well kept premises etc. students all smart, polite, confident.
    We took our boys (11 and 8) to the presentations and fortunately all four of us agreed across the board.
    Only minor issue is that we intend to move a few miles in the next few years, away from the dead-cert, mile-away school and towards the one that is a little less likely for us as we’re about 6 miles away.
    So we have two really good options, one is only preferred because it’s where we want to be living in a couple of years, the other would mean we’re much more limited in where we could move to.

    Premier Icon benpinnick
    Full Member

    Yeah its a royal pain. Currently looking at schools for my Y6 daughter. Reminds me of a story of the guy that asks for directions and the local tells him “I wouldn’t start from here”.

    I now understand why people pick where they move to based on schools. Not doing so (Because you know at the time many years back it didn’t seem quite so important) turns out to be a really ill thought through thing to do.

    Premier Icon gingerflash
    Full Member

    “Not doing so (Because you know at the time many years back it didn’t seem quite so important) turns out to be a really ill thought through thing to do.”

    Agree with that. Several friends have moved out of our area in the last couple of years and are now regretting it, considering their secondary options, now being too far from the better schools and finding that their nearest school is definitely not the one they would have chosen.

    Premier Icon ballsofcottonwool
    Free Member

    Choice is an illusion designed to win elections, at best it creates ghettoes. Wherever you live in the UK house prices reflect the quality of your local school. I live in Scotland where we are lucky to not have a choice other than where to live, the sooner they abolish fee paying schools the better for everyone.

    Premier Icon edhornby
    Full Member

    We are doing this at the moment and there is a lot of guesswork – We’ve come to the conclusion that the competency of the Head seems to be the deciding factor from an adult perspective, and yet Daughter has decided on the local one because all her mates are going there. Which should not be underestimated really because support networks and avoiding bullies makes as much of a difference as the other perceived benefits.

    The idea of moving in planning of a secondary school place also seems risky to me because the desired school could go downhill in the intervening period – or you don’t get it because of overfilling…

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Full Member

    We had no options, only one school where we are.

    Same as that, luckily the school is Ofsted outstanding and a 5 minute walk from the house… so was a no-brainer. We did go to the open evening though, but was a formality.

    Premier Icon jonno101
    Free Member

    Locrating.com

    Premier Icon stumpyjon
    Full Member

    Choice is an illusion designed to win elections, at best it creates ghettoes. Wherever you live in the UK house prices reflect the quality of your local school.

    This, be extremely prepared to get what you’ve been given unless you’re really lucky and genuinely have more than one option.

    In our case the choice was local sink school (in special measures for years, terrible reputation), state grammar school next door or poor comp in the other direction which has a bullying problem. We chose the grammar school and were lucky enough both ours passed the test. The grammar in our case is the solution and the problem, because they weight their entry to the local area (if you pass the test and are from a local primary you get a place, if you’re 15 miles away you fight for one of the few remaining places and they are awarded on achievement in the test) all the brighter kids locally go to the grammar school so the local comp loses has cohort of less intelligent kids from worse backgrounds, which has been compounded by poor teaching and a lack of investment (the school is falling to bits, all the money has been spent on building brand new schools in Burnley to encourage community harmony, the new schools are still as racially and socially divided as the were before).

    Premier Icon scuttler
    Full Member

    Chatting to my Southern mates I’m so glad I don’t have to go through this rigmarole. Up here in my corner of West Yorks, local secondary is great, next local one also great (but not quite as). Some of my southern mates have been creating a pathway to a specific secondary since nursery (and paying heftily for the privilege).

    Headteachers do change though and we did dodge a bullet in that respect (Lord Bizniss and his spreadsheets and management talk came and went in a couple of years). All good now.

    Premier Icon patagonian
    Full Member

    Remember that if a school has low/average marks but a new(ish) headmaster then he/she will be focused on turning that situation around – could be a good time to get onboard.
    For me the way the head comes across would be a big factor.

    Premier Icon gingerflash
    Full Member

    “be extremely prepared to get what you’ve been given unless you’re really lucky ”

    This.

    I can’t describe the relief we felt going to the open evening of our nearest, the near-dead-cert referred to above, and finding that we and our boys loved it.

    We’ve put another as our first choice, but that’s due to wanting to move house in that direction shortly, but we at least know that if we don’t get it, then our second choice will be great for our sons, if a bit less than ideal in terms of housing.

    Premier Icon Spin
    Free Member

    Or am I being naive, and the English scramble is the way to go?

    There’s a whole lot that’s wrong with Scottish education but the fact that the overwhelming majority of kids go to their local secondary is one of its best features.

    Premier Icon mrmonkfinger
    Free Member

    Yes, I just can’t wait for this, too… Fortunately the two local comps are pretty good.

    And then there’s the eleven+ exam… eldest is in year 5 so that’s a bundle of fun to start working on already even though he’s 9.

    Premier Icon mrchrispy
    Full Member

    ah the ‘illusion’ of choice.
    round here you can sure choose which schools to apply to but the reality of getting in is another thing altogether.

    Premier Icon joshvegas
    Free Member

    There’s a whole lot that’s wrong with Scottish education but the fact that the overwhelming majority of kids go to their local secondary is one of its best features.

    Genuine question, what else is wrong with it?

    I’ve always considered to be better than the English system. With everyone mixed in together and able to stream a variety of different subjects and different levels with a real mix of backgrounds. And the teachers need a degree in the subject they teach.

    That’s from someone who was pretty uninspired by school and still doesn’t see a huge benefit of my time there. Just seems logically like a better system.

    Premier Icon MoreCashThanDash
    Full Member

    We sent my lad to the best rated of the local options – also the nearest, and where his mates were going.

    By the time he’d finished his GCSEs it was one inspection away from special measures, and had to be rescued by another academy chain.

    Nothing is certain sadly when making these choices. All I would say is that bright kids will flourish anywhere with proper support at home, poor schools are usually quite good/experienced at dealing with struggling pupils, it’s the ones stuck in the middle who drift and struggle.

    Premier Icon oldtennisshoes
    Full Member

    Genuine question, what else is wrong with it?

    I grew up in the English system and my kids are in the Scottish system.
    The only bit that doesn’t seem to make sense to me is the prep / qualifications for university.

    University places are awarded primarily on the higher results (1st year of A levels ish). The advanced higher qualifications don’t seem to make much difference. Junior has done his highers and is now working towards advanced highers and needs to apply for university in January.
    Of course there is always the possibility that I don’t understand the full picture.

    Premier Icon Spin
    Free Member

    Genuine question, what else is wrong with it?

    To cut a very long story short, the SQA and their unhealthy monopoly. A decade plus of tinkering with qualifications has left us in a worse state than we started in with dumbed down, incoherent, cobbled together qualifications that don’t meet pupils needs.

    There’s a lot of good stuff in Scottish education but the SQA needs to go. The recently announced review offers hope of this but I’m not holding my breath.

    Premier Icon Spin
    Free Member

    The advanced higher qualifications don’t seem to make much difference

    They count for entry but they’re not necessary.

    So basically you are right.

    I’d like to see us move to a two year qualification like A-levels. As they stand now Highers have too little content and while the AH courses I know about are excellent they’re really hard to justify the staffing costs as so few pupils do them.

    Premier Icon joshvegas
    Free Member

    Ah. SQA yeah fair enough!

    Premier Icon Spin
    Free Member

    And the teachers need a degree in the subject they teach

    This is incorrect btw. You need a degree but not necessarily in the subject. The academic qualification for registration in a subject is that you have 80 credits which is roughly equivalent to the first two years of uni. My degree is in Geography but I can and do teach Philosophy by dint of doing it for the first two years of an arts degree. There are also plenty of teachers teaching subjects in Scotland in which they have no academic background usually as a result of insufficient qualified staff being available. I taught History to N5 level for 18 months despite not having studied it since S2 simply because they couldn’t find a History supply teacher to cover a long term absence.

    Premier Icon loum
    Free Member

    The whole “choice” thing WRT schools is an abomination of the highest order. Kids should go to their local school. End of.

    Yeah great.
    Kids education opportunities should be determined by their postcode.
    All determined by the mortgage available.
    Sounds like an estate agents wet dream.

    Premier Icon joshvegas
    Free Member

    Fair enough spin probably getting confused with degree and the credits thing.

    Could never be a teacher in any system I lasted a semester of maths with teaching before I dropped the teaching bit…. And eventually the maths too…

    Premier Icon Spin
    Free Member

    Yeah great.
    Kids education opportunities should be determined by their postcode

    Quite right, it shouldn’t matter what your postcode is, kids should go to the local secondary school secure in the knowledge that it will do well by them.

    Premier Icon MoreCashThanDash
    Full Member

    Yeah great.
    Kids education opportunities should be determined by their postcode.
    All determined by the mortgage available.
    Sounds like an estate agents wet dream.

    Which is what we have already. Though I’m assured that the drugs at the “good” state schools in expensive areas are much better than the crap available at our local school.

    Premier Icon dannybgoode
    Full Member

    I am transfused by the whole process. FGB is in year 5 but all the open days are for year 5/6 where I am so we have had a few notices through.

    However, I am in Sheffield, and using the council’s catchment area thingy we are in the catchment for precisely one secondary school and I know from speaking to my sister and her wife (both teachers in Sheffield) that the chances of you getting into a non-catchment school, unless your child has a SEN statement or compelling reason such as siblings already attending, are essentially zero.

    So there is little point shopping round for a secondary school as he’ll end up in his catchment one anyway.

    We have another year to mull on it anyway – none of the schools in our area particularly appeal to me at this stage in any event 😀

    Premier Icon stumpyjon
    Full Member

    It’s all smoke and mirrors in terms of choice, and it’s alway’s been about where you live, my parents moved house back in the early 80s to get us into the school they wanted (a middle of the road comp where my dad taught).

    The choice thing is a non starter, everyone wants to go to a good school, there’s not enough spaces and even if there was infinite capacity good schools wouldn’t remain good schools (based on peoples perception of good equalling high grades) if they took a full spectrum of ability.

    Premier Icon Nobeerinthefridge
    Free Member

    Yeah great.
    Kids education opportunities should be determined by their postcode.
    All determined by the mortgage available.
    Sounds like an estate agents wet dream

    Face, meet palm.

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Full Member

    I live in the south. All kids in our town go to the same great comp. I’m a teacher and i’ll throw a few thoughts in the mix

    Results are mainly the student, then the teacher then the school. The difference betweem 2 teachers in the same school is bigger than the difference between 2 schools. So don’t her too hung up on results

    If you want something to help choose I’d look at setting and gcse options. These vary massively and there is no single correct best way. Our local school had loads of really good choices at gcse. So he got to do drama, catering and a farm based vocational qualification. He was academic at school but he really liked having at least a lesson a day where he didn’t sit down.

    Premier Icon poah
    Free Member

    There are also plenty of teachers teaching subjects in Scotland in which they have no academic background usually as a result of insufficient qualified staff being available

    Biology teacher qualified but currently teaching 9 maths lessons a week as well as general supply.

    Premier Icon eddd
    Full Member

    I think character/feel is much more important than statistics. Your child will do better if they feel at home and well supported there. Do.you get the feel that it’s a sausage factory to help the head climb the career ladder, or a genuinely nurturing place? Clearly other parents’/kids’ opinions on this will be a good source of info.

    I’d strongly defend your right to choose how/where you educate your kids. They aren’t political footballs for Gavin Williamson/Nadhim Zahawi or whichever crony gets the job next. You should be the one in the driving seat as much as possible.

    Premier Icon Richie_B
    Full Member

    Been through this, got stressed about it, but when it comes down to it, despite the perception of some parents who believe the BS, the schools in our area are pretty similar. The choice is between whether you like rigerously enforced uniforms, fairly sensibly enforced uniforms, or no uniforms. The funding is the same, the value added results completely contradict the local prejudice (but only just). I’ve sat through the same talks about holistic approaches etc once with credulity the second time cynically. It’s what all schools aspire to some just focus more on the PR

    Given the choice again I’d send them where their friends are going in the hope they settle down into the new school more quickly

    Premier Icon ernie
    Full Member

    We are going through the selection pain at the moment. And it is a royal pain and cause of much stress. My daughter has is autistic, the local school SENCO on a teams call said ‘I don’t think this is the right school for your daughter’. This was then re-iterated by the Head of a visit last week. Ignoring the ‘isms on this statement, this leaves us with the quandary ‘how comfortable would we as caring nurturing parents feel sending our daughter to a school that has stated in no uncertain terms that they would not be making any adjustments for her’? Not very is the obvious answer. This leaves us with looking at schools out of catchment which we have done but still leaves us with the uncertainty that we may secure the 1st choice secondary school.
    We are now looking at independent schools; this option provides us with more choice locally. And in the four schools we have looked at, we have gleaned a far more detailed perspective of the care and support offered by the school beyond that of pure academics. Branching outside of the basic curriculum, the optional subjects are significant and of interest to engage and help any child develop to their potential. The ability to flex and adapt outside of what offsted say must be done provides them a significant advantage.
    Should independent schools should be abolished; in our experience to date they offer something a government funded comprehensive can not. So categorically “No”!

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