My DS is in year 8 at KE Aston. He got in off the waiting list after originally being offered a place at a school more local to us which was co-Ed and much larger having over 2000 pupils. We chose Aston because of its small size as it suits my DS better than being swallowed up in a large school. I must say he loves the school, is very comfortable there, has a great diversity of friends and is making fantastic progress academically. A benefit of its small size is that most of the boys in all years know and look out for each other.
The pastoral care is amazing and is far better than that experienced by my DD at Camp Hill girls, which I find a more impersonal school. If there is a problem whether it be personal or academic there is always someone a boy can go to for help and support. Discipline there is also excellent with a reward scheme which sees all boys who get enough 'achievement points' taking part in rewards afternoons throughout the year and winning prizes for the most points at the end of term etc. This is a great motivator.
Any concerns I might have had about its location were quickly forgotten. Whilst my son has been at the school there has not been one incident of 'a pupil mugging' or anything similar. And knowing parents of boys who have been there several years I am not aware of this happening in recent times. I agree that when you are told at school open events about the safe route it sets 'alarm bells' ringing. however, the safe route was brought in several years ago and I truly believe the area around the school to be much safer now. Many of the boys choose to get trains to and from school which means walking to Aston station and I am not aware of any of them having been attacked (a lot of them never 'stick' to the safe route either
). I live in the Solihull area and I can tell you there are definitely more problems there than I have seen at Aston e.g school children being mugged or attacked on the way home in Tudor Grange park and approached outside school by strangers trying to 'pick them up'. Also whilst at Camp Hill my daughter has seen one or two 'fights' between Camp Hill students and those from other local schools and a year or so ago there was a stabbing close by. My point is no area is truly safe these days, fortunately these incidents are rare.
Yes the school may look a bit rough around the edges and it hasn't got the lovely surroundings of schools like Five Ways but I would tell to not discount it as it is a truly great school with a wonderful atmosphere. At the end of the day buildings do not 'make' a school, it's the teachers, the ethos of the school and the pupils.