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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 12:22 pm 
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I apologise if the answer to this is quite straight forward but the closer we get to looking at schools for my DD the more confused I am getting.

My confusion is what is the difference between an "Academic" school and a "less academic" school? Does it mean pupils are pushed more in an academic school, that teaching is better, is the school more selective in their admissions process - i.e. picking the brightest children? I'm just not sure.

I hear about parents placing schools in an "this school is more academic than that one" and I get confused by this.

I'm thinking that a school like St Margaret's Bushey could provide good academic results but also provide excellent pastoral care? But then wouldn't somewhere else like St Helen's also provide the same?

I get that some schools like St Pauls, Habs and NLCS are very selective but it's the other schools that I find confusing in terms of where they lie in the "ranking" for want of a better word - Royal Masonic, SMB, St Helens, Northwood College. At the moment, we don't want to consider the London schools - simply because of travel and fees will be too much for us.

Can anyone help shed some light in how to process all this information? Ideally, at the moment, I believe the ideal school for my DD would be somewhere where they push/challenged her but not to the extent where it is demanding and soul destroying. Excellent pastoral care is on the top of our list and only by chance we heard about St Margaret's in Bushey which, the more I read about, the more I like.

I look forward to some direction from those who are experienced either a little or a lot!

Thanks in advance.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:05 pm 
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Post deleted. I'm happy not to offer any advice if people would prefer that. I was only trying to help the OP.!


Last edited by Kingfisher on Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:18 pm 
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What an amazing reply - thank you so much!

So much of what you have said has hit home and makes so much sense.

I have heard about the Value Added but now understand it better. You are right about not every child being superclever and how it is so important that they fit well into the right school for them. I was told not so long ago by a teacher at our school that a school like St Pauls is excellent for the right student but absolutely awful for the wrong student.

I would hate for my DD to struggle to keep up. Whilst in top sets in her school at the moment, it is quite possible that this may not be the case in her next school and we need to be realistic about this. She is bright, enthusiastic, likes reading, loves learning especially about nature and the world around us. She likes music and art too. She is quietly confident but still needs a bit of a boost which I am hoping will happen in the next year or so.

I can't thank you enough for such a great reply.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:35 pm 
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Kingfisher wrote:
Teaching styles might be different as well and there is more scope for teachers to deviate and/or go beyond the curriculum. There may be less adherence to the (rubbish in my opinion) structured lesson taught in training colleges. For an excellent teacher this is liberating , for an Newly Qualified Teacher it can be daunting. The teaching is not better, but it will be that the students will cover the material faster and will therefore have time to explore around the prescribed subject.


I'm curious about how qualified you are to make these 'observations' about teaching. There is scope in any school to enhance the curriculum and I find some sort of 'structure' to a lesson enhances the learning. I have been teaching for many years and have continued to develop and research teaching and learning - some of the best practice I have seen has been in non-selective schools.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:43 pm 
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Guest55 wrote:
Kingfisher wrote:
Teaching styles might be different as well and there is more scope for teachers to deviate and/or go beyond the curriculum. There may be less adherence to the (rubbish in my opinion) structured lesson taught in training colleges. For an excellent teacher this is liberating , for an Newly Qualified Teacher it can be daunting. The teaching is not better, but it will be that the students will cover the material faster and will therefore have time to explore around the prescribed subject.


I'm curious about how qualified you are to make these 'observations' about teaching. There is scope in any school to enhance the curriculum and I find some sort of 'structure' to a lesson enhances the learning. I have been teaching for many years and have continued to develop and research teaching and learning - some of the best practice I have seen has been in non-selective schools.
+1
This shocked me a little too - total sweeping generalisations so I would be very curious to know on what they are based. I have only ever (by choice) taught in the state sector and (also by choice) have tended to work with children who are definitely not what you call 'top set material'. My classes have variously had lessons in Swedish and Russian; in natural history and ornithology; and in cookery and current affairs. None of which was on the curriculum.

And fwiw I always did OK OFSTED wise too, and on my dreaded 'impact reports' as the kids managed to pass their exams as well.

For the OP - never discount 'snob value' when looking at some of these schools - there is a hierarchy which may well be self-fulfilling. A bright and motivated child from a supportive home will tend to attain well when in an environment in which she or he is happy, regardless of labels put onto the school.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:15 pm 
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I am extremely qualified - let's leave it at that as I have no desire to give my name. I was specifically referring to other topics with the confines of a particular subject rather than other subjects themselves - sorry for being misleading here.

I am no advocate of 'private is better,' but I was attempting to answer the OP's question in a general way for a non-specialist. As for going through material faster - well, of course they will. This is an issue at my school with interview candidates for teaching posts who frequently run out of material during their lesson; they underestimate how much students might go through. It's the same thing that happens when teaching a higher ability as opposed to a less able set.

It was also not my intention to imply that there is no structure to lessons - it's the rigorous 4/3 part lesson I have an issue with. A colleague in one of the highest rated of the schools the OP names says that he has to have a meeting with all new teachers in September and tell them to forget everything they know about the 4 or 3 part lesson plan. He says it is the hardest thing for them to comprehend - this is also my experience- that and NC Levels, although those have all but gone now.
Sorry for misleading and being over-general, but I thought that was what the OP's post required. Maybe others can add their own perspectives as it's always good for the OP to hear several viewpoints. I am glad that some of it has been useful. I'm only trying to help.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:21 pm 
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Some more really good replies - thank you.

Amber you have made a really good point about "snob-value" and this worries me a lot. Like many families, we are just a normal hard working family who want the best for our DD. I would hate for DD to go to a school where she felt she had to compete with her peers who are wealthy enough to afford the best of the best.

It's such a hard call to make. I do feel that my DD would be happy in a school such as SMB or something similar. Schools like HABS, NLC and some of the other very academic schools do frighten me!

With the open days starting next month, is there anything else I should be aware of? Questions we should ask?

Thanks again all


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:00 pm 
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Kingfisher wrote:
It was also not my intention to imply that there is no structure to lessons - it's the rigorous 4/3 part lesson I have an issue with. A colleague in one of the highest rated of the schools the OP names says that he has to have a meeting with all new teachers in September and tell them to forget everything they know about the 4 or 3 part lesson plan. He says it is the hardest thing for them to comprehend - this is also my experience- that and NC Levels, although those have all but gone now.


I think you totally misunderstood the focus of the National strategy - it was NEVER about a rigid 3 or 4 part lesson - I really don't know where you have got that idea from. Ofsted never expected a particular 'style' of lesson - they are looking for students to make progress.

Teachers need to be flexible ... I would never dream of telling an NQT to 'forget' what they have learned but will encourage them to develop their practice in the way that makes them enthuse and inspire their classes - I don't want clones.


Last edited by Guest55 on Wed Aug 03, 2016 5:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:35 pm 
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Location: East Kent
Teaching a lower ability set often requires more 'material', if someone really doesn't understand you need to think on your feet and approach problem differently. Good teachers constantly retune whatever the ability of the children. I don't know anyone who has been rigid about lessons.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 5:34 pm 
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I just want to say research is key - some more academic schools are inclined to push children to the point where it is "demanding and soul destroying" so it is quite important to bear in mind the environment of the school as well as its results. Then again, some children do very well in these schools. You know your DD best.

I feel some replies may have derailed the post a little.

As mentioned by Amber, in my experience there certainly can be "snob value" in academic schools - it's one of the major issues I have with private schools as a whole. However, this does make students from private & more academic schools inclined to achieve more ( a generalisation, I am aware). However, this is an issue faced across all private schools and would affect all schools mentioned by the OP.

In terms of actual snobbishness and competitiveness over wealth, I have noticed it to be an issue but it tends to be something people grow out of by Year 7 and 8, and usually an agenda pushed forward by an elite clique. When they realise there is a significant proportion of their year and therefore their friendship group from normal homes, they begin to mature and move away from this.


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