We have a lovely dilemma but would really appreciate any feedback from current Dartford Grammar (boys) parents....
My son scored highly in Kent and Bexley and we have narrowed down our top two choices to Dartford and the Judd, with Dartford currrently top of his list. We live near Orpington but didn't feel that any of our closer options were a good 'fit' for him. He would take the school coach to Dartford, a long but straightforward journey.
Academically it looks great and we have been impressed with their open events. However, does anyone have any views - good or bad - on pastoral care and general well-being of the boys? Are staff alert to signs of stress or problems? Are boys helped along if struggling with a subject? Are boys generally competitive (academically) or supportive of each other? Is classroom behaviour generally good? Are the shy ones given space to find their feet or are they thrust into activities to 'bring them out of their shells'?
Apologies for all the questions - would be so helpful to hear any first hand experiences before we submit our CAF.
I guess you have been to see them all? Tonight is the last open evening. Have you worked out the logistics? Is one school easier to get to than the other?
My son goes to Dartford Grammar and he is very happy there. We are out of area, but his journey is direct and easy on the train. He also travels with friends and this is great for him. I know there are boys from Orpington who travel by coach. I believe the coach leaves them at the school early and they have time to play football before classes start. The journey by coach and the early drop off can give great opportunities for socialising.
In spite of being from out of area, my son has made great friends and they often meet at Bluewater during the holidays. I think it depends on the child.
About the school itself, well, it is great. I like the fact that it is a truly international school were languages and science are very important. Dartford Grammar is one of few schools were ALL students are entered to take TWO languages at GCSE level. So, their statistics are not just great scores for the few who got entered for the exam. Many schools manipulate their results by not letting children sit exams they may either fail or not get the results they want. They are very professional, conscientious and very well organised. The teachers are excellent and treat the children well. Having said that, discipline is also enforced and at the beginning, the teachers appear to be very strict. They loosen up later!
There are lots of school clubs and the boys are encouraged to attend at least one. All clubs are free.
They test them regularly and give them grades for effort as well as attainment. Should your child's grades, behaviour or effort slip in any way, the teacher will phone you immediately! I really liked the personal touch that the headmaster reads and sings all reports. I was even more impressed to see a handwritten comment from the head to my son.
At the school they are very keen on rugby and all students in year seven must attend rugby practice on Saturdays for the first few months.
You may also know that they do the International Baccalaureate.
Do you have other sons? At Dartford there is no sibling policy and if you are out of area, your other son would need to achieve a high score. This, of course, may not be an issue for you.
About pastoral care, the teacher in charge is very nice. All the teachers treated my son very well when we had a family crisis with both my husband and I spending a long time at hospital when my younger son was in hospital following an accident.
About the boys being competitive, most of them are. To quote the headmaster "Life is a competition". The odd thing is that they do not divide children into sets and to quote the headmaster again "All our children are gifted". Having said that, some are more "gifted" than others and if you do well in a subject, they put you on a "gifted and talented" program for that subject. Your son then would participate in activities which will stretch him. These sessions normally combine more than one subject and your son would have to catch up on the lessons he may miss.
My son is an extrovert, so, I would not know what would happen to a shy boy. Most of his friends are extroverts, but I can think of one who definitely seems shy. Normally, whilst they are in year 6, one of the head assistants or deputies visits the boys and asks them a lot of questions about their personality and the subjects they enjoy or not enjoy so much. This, I believe, is to place them in their houses with like minded children. I have asked my son whether there is anyone without friends in his class and he says that there is one boy who is quite demanding and can be unpleasant, but even he has a friend.
At the end of the day, you need to find what is best for your son. League tables and statistics do not mean anything as they do not predict how well your son will do or how happy he will be.
I don't know what else to tell you, but feel free to ask anything else. Whatever you decide, I think will be a good choice.