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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:42 am 
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OK so this has been prompted by the fact that DS has just sat a couple of indie exams. One is known as an academic school and very competitive to get into and the other is seen by some as less academic and a second choice school.

Now we probably like the second choice school more than the first (though its pretty close) but the fact that it's known as less academic is worrying me slightly. It has got me wondering why a school is less academic. Is it just the inherent ability of the children who go there - i.e. if a school has a reputation of being less "pushy," are less academically inclined children more likely to go there and so the chain continues?

Does this mean that a bright child will do less well there than at a "more academic" school. Surely if the teaching is good, the child should do just as well? Or perhaps expectations are lower and so results are lower?

It may just be a chicken and egg kind of thing but I would welcome any thoughts :D


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:03 am 
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Suspect a bit chicken and egg... when I took the 11+ (many decades ago) there were 3 GS available for each gender - there were

-one single gender,
one mixed and
one ex technical school (single gender)

Academically they were in that order... why? well possibly because that was people tended to put them in that order on the application form, so apart from a few who wanted mixed or whose sibs went to the ex techs then the brightest went to the first then the next to the second etc.... self fulfilling prophecy.


re schools now - there are some that are known as less academic (tend to be called more rounded... maybe the lunches are good :oops: ), of course you can't try the experiment twice and it may well be that the school is very good at ensuring that all kids reach their potential - possibly a very academic school may not appreciate those who have no achieved as much and only praise the most academic ... very trying for some. ultimately it comes down to the schools - you need to chat to parents of the pupils there i think


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:07 am 
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I think it's a bit 'chicken and egg' and also different schools suit different children even of the same ability. Some like to be the brightest in their class, others benefit from being stretched.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:45 am 
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We chose for our DD to go to a 'less academic' school as we felt that she would benefit from the nurturing environment there, and needed a confidence boost. That was 6 years ago and she has just moved to one of the most academic schools in the country for sixth form, having pulled off an impressive string of top grade GCSEs at the 'less academic' school. Some children just do not want to be 'stretched, challenged and pushed' from the time they are 11; nor to feel that they are struggling to make their mark or keep up, even though they might be just as bright as those who do. DD is now a very confident young lady, which I really don't think would have been the outcome (though of course as Herman says you don't know for sure) if she had been in a highly competitive environment from the word 'go'.

If you like the school and feel it will suit your child, go for it. Don't take any notice of other people who may have all kinds of personal agendas in trying to influence you.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:01 pm 
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Location: RBK
I am interested in the original question too. How one say which school is more or less academic than other school?

Is it due to:
emphasis on certain subjects?
emphasis on extra-curricular activities, subject choices being the same?
student intake?
school/teachers attitude - harsh, stretching, easy going etc?
students' university destinations?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:08 pm 
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DD started off her secondary school career at a "less academic" (non selective) indie. She thrived there due to being at the top of the class and being seen as one of their high fliers - it gave her confidence in her abilities. In the end we had to move her for other reasons,but it gae her a good start. As always, I think it's a case of finding the right school for your child, regardless of the perceived reputation.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:24 pm 
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Thanks all - it can be offputting though when people always seem to think you would only pick a particular school because your DC wouldn't get into any other :roll:

I am interested though in a couple of your comments about stretching children (not literally of course :lol: ) Do you think the pace of less academic schools is slower, less homework, less testing etc? I've seen the pace at the grammar my others go to and although the homework is not horrendous, they do move pretty quickly through the curriculum and there is an enormous amount of testing - almost constantly. I'm very happy for pace to be slower - in fact more than happy - if the outcome down the line is the same :D

It really feels like I'm wading around in the dark here. We're potentially first time users of independent schools and it's really difficult to know what you should be getting for your money when you've got nothing to compare it too :?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:08 pm 
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Hi 2outof3, I know what you mean. Dd is sitting for indies at the moment and our top choice is the local less academic school. I'm sure some people could read that as not stretching dd enough or covering ourselves just in case she doesn't get an offer from the more academic schools, but really it's about choosing the school where I think she will be best suited - its local, slightly less pushy I think, softer somehow. And after all an independent school can be described as less academic and still have pretty impressive results - it's all relative. I think there are a lot of sheep jumping into the so called academic schools, just choosing by league table which is a self fulfilling prophecy, but not actually about fitting the child to the school.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:17 pm 
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I think certain independent schools have a reputation more for pastoral care and focusing on 'the whole child' rather than concentrating solely on academic results. They may also give more time to 'softer subjects' and/or offer a broader curriculum. Whether this suits any given child is likely to depend on the child – and also what the parents wants from school I guess - but it is no less valid an approach.

Children can achieve very highly in spite of attending a so-called 'less academic' school, as several posters here have evidenced; likewise there is no guarantee that a highly academic school will de facto suit everybody, even an academically gifted child.

There also may be a certain, whisper it, snob value to attending a particular school, which is all about the parent and not the child.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:24 pm 
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Can only speak for the schools local to us, but the one that's less academic certainly takes boys who scored lower in exams (still 65%, but the very academic ones go for 75% or 85% averages in tests.)
Having visited them, I also noticed the expectations were lower. In both academic schools, Yr 6 study Shakespeare. In the less academic school, he's not touched on until Yr 8 or 9.

The less academic school places equal emphasis on achievement in all subjects. If you shine at sport or art or D&T or drama, it's not a lesser accomplishment. Whereas at the academic schools, the core subjects take centre stage. The less academic school allows pupils to get Bs and even Cs. I have heard that a B means you resit the exam at one school round here. For the academic schools, exam scores are paramount. Their reputations depend on high scores and high Oxbridge placements. The less academic schools don't have or exert that pressure.


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