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finding a primary school for your children - what was important to you?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Neeha, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. Its coming to that time now when we need to start thinking about primary school for my daughter (I don't know where the time's gone!) and I'd love to hear from other's who have been there/are also starting to think about it!

    What was important to you when you were picking the primary school for your children? Did you decide to send them to the local one or did you move/go private/go to a faith school/home educate?

    The reason I ask is our local school has not got a good reputation with other parents in the area and is very low in the league tables. I went to visit it to get my own opinion and there were advantages and disadvantages - the staff were friendly (although I didn't get to meet the Head) and it seemed like quite a caring and inclusive school (it is really good at helping children with special needs and and pupils with english as a second language to achieve). However I worry that the Ofsted report said it didn't stretch the more able pupils - I think DD is clever and I worry that she could get demotivated or worse bullied. When I asked about the bullying policy the school secretary who showed me round said "any school that tells you there's no bullying is lying" and that was it! I think kids are just kids and would never describe a child as "rough" however some of the parents do worry me.

    Do you think I'm right to be a bit worried or do you think I'm thinking too much about it?

    On the plus side if my daughter went to our local school we could walk to school together, I could continue to work from home and be there for her when she needed me and help her with her school work. I would have time to get involved with the school and she could make local friends.

    But on the negative side I've been to see some other schools that are much much nicer and that's got me thinking!

    One is in a little village about 20 minutes drive away. Its undersubscribed so we'd stand a chance of getting in but do you think that long a drive would be detrimental?

    The other is in a lovely area and is very oversubscribed so we'd definitely have to move to get in. It would be quite tight financially moving and we'd have to really downsize and make cutbacks. No more holidays there!

    The third school I liked was private so I'd definitely have to go back to work and therefore would have less time to spend with my daughter and on things that are important to me.

    I saw plenty of other schools in nice areas that I didn't like... but the things I liked about these schools were the outside space, the lovely teachers and Head, the anti bullying policies and caring feel to the schools, and the way they would stretch (but not pressure) the clever pupils at the same time as not leaving anyone else behind.

    What I worry about in schools in nice areas/private schools is pushy/competitive mums!

    So what I wanted to ask really was what do you think is important? Is lifestyle, being able to afford good food, holidays and also time spent with your own children more important? Or is making cut backs, going back to work and finding the best school more important to you?

    Thank you!
     
  2. slippeddisc

    slippeddisc New commenter

    I personally think a bright child will do well anywhere. It is the attitude of the child and the parents that is important, not the things around them. I also think a local school has the benefit of being on the doorstep of your friends...very important at primary age. I also think it's good for kids to mix with children of other backgrounds.
    As a child I went to schools that had a rough reputation. My parents got involved in the schools...PTA, governors etc and enjoyed it even though they weren't from the same background as most of the other parents. They had very good, well paid jobs but it didn't matter. We all did very well at these schools.
    I currently work at a school that is considered rough. It also has a reputation for bullying. I can genuinely say it is unfounded. We have very little bullying but the parents hear rumours and it spreads like wildfire. Most of our children have difficult homelives and we have 50% on FSM. This does not make a difference to how we treat the children. Our bright children flourish and so do the rest - as long as they work hard and the parents are on board. Do you think the teaching will be poor just because the children aren't from leafy suburb backgrounds? That's just a thought.

     
  3. When our children were about to begin primary school we faced a similar dilemma. We lived right next to a not very successful primary, all other options would have involved travelling 10 -20 minutes. We opted to send the children to the school next door because it would mean better quality time as a family - like you I was working from home. My daughter was the brightest child they had had at the school in all the time the head had been there and she was stretched and challenged to fullfil her potential, they really seemed to relish the challenge of such a bright child. Living so close to the school had extra benefits when my son began school as he was severely asthmatic.I could be at school within 2 minutes if he was taken ill. The other big benefit of being so close is that the children's friends also lived nearby so we could walk to playdates rather than driving. Later on the children were able to go round to friends houses on their own as they were close by.
    Quality of family life by far the most important thing. If you send you daughter to the local school but then think she needs stretching then you will have time to do activities with her or money to finance after school activities for her. If you stretch yourselves financially either by moving or by going into the private sector you may find yourselves to tired or worried to enjoy doing things with her or find that you can't afford the extra activities that she might benefit from. My children are now adults but both look back fondly on their time in primary school, we certainly have noot regretted our decision at all.
     
  4. slippeddisc

    slippeddisc New commenter

    The village school sounds nice by the way and it's worth a consideration.

    I would avoid the private school and one where you'd have to move because at the end of the day your daughter's time with you is important and if that would be less because you'd have to work more - what have you gained? I am sure you can keep her on track and do additional work with her if necessary but it doesn't sound like she'll struggle anyway.
     
  5. I found that my bright child in a complacent school just sat back and cruised where being at the top of the class was good enough. We moved her to a more demanding school where doing less than you were capable of was not good enough. Depends on your child in the end but don't be afraid to change schools if it doesn't work out.
     
  6. gergil4

    gergil4 New commenter

    I'd agree with other posters - local school = more time for you with your child = priceless. Also, give it a try, if it doesn't work then consider moving her.
     
  7. There is no perfect school, where ever your daughter goes she will be happier some years,than others,largly depending on the staff and pupils she is with. Ideally with your support,these fluctuations will help her develop flexibility and resiliance. (I'm not advocating forcing a child to remain in a situation where she is unhappy, just mentioning that no child will always be ecstatic about any school)
    I started my daughter off at the local school,with some reservations. After several happy years I eventually moved her as she was clearly being held back by the lack of English in other pupils, Moving is not to be done lightly, and this was her only move until secondary school. However I don't regret either our original choice, or our eventual decision to move
    I hope this helps

     
  8. vannie

    vannie Lead commenter

    I would send your child to the local school and work with it to make it better to the benefit of your daughter and your whole community.
    A bright child will do well any where and you could be a real asset and encourage other parents like you to send their kids locally as well.


     
  9. I wouldn't pay attention to reputation or league tables, myself, but I'd be concerned that I'd visited the school and hadn't met the Head - even if only briefly. Might be worth making an appointment to see the Head, and ask specifically about the things that concern you, like challenge for more able pupils.
    Reputations are built over time (and take time to fall, too). I don't think you can think too much about entrusting your child to the care of others. I also don't think a 20-minute drive is particularly significant, and based solely on the amount of information supplied in your post, I'd say the village school sounds like a good bet. You liked the school, it's not really that far, and you'd still have time for all the things you want to do together.
    Private schools are as variable as state schools - as are the parents of private school pupils; they aren't all parented by pushy/competitive mums.

     
  10. When our son started school, Germany still worked with catchment areas and you had a choice of state, Catholic or Evangelisch (only those 3 schools). None of those in our catchment area were schools we deemed good ones (the area was not bad, we just didn't approve of the schools).
    For the first two years we went private and had him on a waiting list for another state school (as you could, if working, change catchment areas but there was a waiting list, as those in the catchment area got the places first - that is fair enough, if the system works with catchment areas).
    Then the law changed and we no longer have catchment areas - so we got him into the school we had originally aimed for anyway.
    It is also the one my daughter now attends.
    It is halfway between my home and my ex's home - ideal for both of us and a lovely school.

     
  11. From what you have said, I wouldn't send my child to the local school ... sorry ... that is me though and others may feel differently :)
     
  12. I wouldn't have been unhappy with any of our local schools. I was chummy with the CofE vicar and kept a foot in the door with the RC church. My neighbour's children went to the local state primary and they loved it.
    When the time came - no league tables then - I visited them all formally, went to their open days and hung around outside at kicking out time. The CofE one turned out to be a bit up its own ****, rather regimented; the RC one looked chaotic and the HT flustered; and the alternative state school, the one to which most of their playgroup friends went, turned out to be a bit too alternative for my liking. They were all leafy-lane and middle-class without any real social problems or large numbers of feral kids, not a whole lot to choose between them.
    So we went with the nearest state Primary because I could walk to it easily (didn't drive then) and it had a pleasant civilised feel to it. The fact that the HT shook hands with my son when I introduced him made me smile. And very happy we were with it.
     
  13. My situation was rather different to yours, but my children went to a village primary school about 20 minutes drive away from home. I work in the secondary school in the same village and my husband works away from home most of the time so it made more sense for me to put them in the car and drive them to the same place geographically as me, rather than try to arrange before and after school care nearer to home. There have not been any problems with friendships - they often go home after school with friends for tea or visit friends at weekends and in the holidays. The reward was that they got places in my secondary school because they had been at a feeder primary, whereas they would have been unsuccessful otherwise.
     
  14. my boss is currently fuming because her kids' school ofsted report has slagged off the school for. inter alia, 'not catering for the brightest' on the basis of one lesson. the school has challenged the report, and the inspector has agreed their challenges are valid, but the report stands!
    otoh, i agree with maj - if a school lets children coast, they may do it
    without even realising - a child at the top of the class can think
    they're doing really well, even if they are not, not out of laziness,
    but out of totally misjudging the standard
    on the first hand again, a school with a large sen population can often also do well by the brightest because they're used to being flexible - can you talk to some of the teachers and see how enthusiastic they are?
    if you work at home, you could even go down my self-flagellating route of offering to go in a few hours a week to run/help to run a top/gat group or two
    wrt anti-bullying policy, it should be written down and they should offer you a copy - if they don't when pressed - that would ring alarm bells with me
    have you taken your child round and seen which atmosphere they like best?
    at primary level, private is generally really a last resort - at least if you moved into an expensive area, you'd have the value of the house in 7 years time, barring total economic collapse (yeah - always a possibility)
    oh the joys of 21st century parenthood!
     
  15. Really, how much effect on your child's attainment does a halfway decent Primary make? If they've been thoughtfully brought up and read to and taken places and talked to, what can a primary school really do to screw their chances? The only thing that would have put me off would have been the level of socialisation of the rest of the kids and the amount of time their teachers had to devote to behaviour and stuff I'd already equipped them with.
     
  16. I've been to visit a few primary schools recently (not as a parent but on work experience visits) and went to one that has a cruddy reputation in my local area. Its Ofsted report is also quite negative. However, the pupil that showed me around (she was passing in the corridor and just asked by the receptionist to show me around, not a 'cherry-picked' pupil to give a good impression) was polite, proud of her school and enthusiastic. The uniforms were smart and well-presented, despite the fact the local catchment area is in quite underprivileged; the pupils' work was proudly displayed all over the walls (big paintings and murals presented in glass frames, not just bits of paper stapled to the walls); staff looked motivated and enthusiastic and the pupils looked like they were having a whale of a time! I was really (perhaps stupidly) surprised! The Oftsed report had seemed so negative and down on the place whereas I saw none of the factors they had criticised. I would be pleased to send my own child there now, having seen it.
    By contrast, a school that had received a glowing Ofsted report had a rude receptionist (to the children as well as to me), sullen staff, students who grunted and who wore their uniforms in a very scruffy manner...it didn't seem like they really cared about the pupils. I wouldn't send my child there despite its glowing report!
    If your local school is good and you like it when you look around (and you can get your questions answered satisfactorily), go for it.
    Good luck!
     
  17. We chose the school (the private one as well as the state one) on the atmosphere and the ethos - not on attainment levels (we don't have league tables anyway, although statistics are available).
    The school has a healthy mix - I find that a healthy mix for my kids (son has now moved on to secondary - and we stuck him in a "standard" school, too).

     
  18. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    I didn't realise what a slave driver the school run would be until we started doing it - loading three children (two fighting, and one baby) into the car every day, several times a day got to be such a bind, that it was one reason we moved to be closer to the school. Now that we live 5 mins away it's great. I can be there in a flash if I need to be (if I'm not at work), and, when they are older, there are children locally upon whom they can call.
    It is also important to me, on many levels, that my children walk to school - better for the environment, gets a bit of exercise, they learn independance and road safety etc, as well as us becoming a true part of the community within which we live.
    I think it's a bit odd for the HT not to be there, but maybe they were off the premises (my current boss has been enjoying himself on the Y6 residential this week!!) I would agree with the bullying comment, however - all the policies in the world won't stop it happening. I don't understnad why you seem to be so worried about bullying - there is every reason to think that your daughter won;t be bullied!
    On a personal level, I didn;t enjoy my time as a pupil at a village school - I was unhappy and bullied on and off, and there was nowhere/no-one else for me to be friends with, neither was there a school hall, and I never got to have a go on gym equipment until I went to secondary school. Just a thought.
    I would agree that a bright (and willing - I've got one of the unwilling sort) child will do well anywhere, and that quality time - not time stuck in a car - is key.
    NGedge, getting off that fence :)
     
  19. I have two bright ones. One willing and diligent, one unwilling and bone idle.
    Tis all fun and games!
     
  20. Me too and mine were born 18 minutes apart! I bet you can guess which is the brighter of the two and also which is DD and which is DS!
     

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