Thanks to all for replies. I do absolutely get that this is purely down to personal views and feelings and each person will have a different opinion on the same school. With an outstanding Ofsted they must be doing something right. I guess we had very high expectations of the school based upon what we had been told about it by several people. Sadly this expectation simply wasn't met on the Open Evening.
To address some of the points raised in this thread.
We do plan on going back to have another look as we need to rule this school in or out. I phoned the school yesterday, but they will not arrange any viewings until September as it's the 6th Form who do the tours and they have left. Again, on a personal note this has annoyed us as we now have to wait a couple of months before we can go back.
We have viewed a number of schools during our daughters schooling. Living in Worcestershire we have the 3 tier system (at the moment!) so we viewed 3 First Schools, 3 Middle Schools and now plan to view 3 Grammar/High Schools for the next part of her education. We absolutely believe in first impressions and gut feelings on schools. That is the whole point of Open Evenings and comparing Shottery to AGS is completely valid. As they are both Grammar schools, the way they manage their schools & pupils was clearly very different and this was visible on the Open Evenings. In our opinion Shottery took a lot of pride in the appearance of their school and pupils. Their pupils were immaculately turned out and well spoken. The school was tidy and very well presented and you could tell they had made an effort to show off their school. Our experience of AGS was completely different. The school looked untidy and scruffy. For example School Blazers stuffed into pigeon holes, school bags piled up in corridors. There appeared to be little consistency with the uniform with pupils looking different from one another. Our guides raced around the school as fast as they could eating as they went so it was difficult to understand what they were saying and we ended up losing them and walking around ourselves. Therefore we need to go back to see the school in operation - sadly this will now be in September. Having said that, the facilities in the new buildings were superb as you would expect and the curriculum seemed very comprehensive. They also don't have the vertical tutor groups which Shottery have. We're not against them, but are a bit nervous of them.
Sadly, with the change of Head at AGS, we did not get a sense of the leadership style during the Head Teachers talk. The Vice Principle gave the impression of an army style culture driving hard for results, whereas Shottery felt it had a more nurturing approach. We were also basically told that Year 5's enter bottom of the class in Year 7 so we felt this was demotivating for our daughter to hear and gave the impression the school were putting the children down before they even started.
We have another school to view next week which is a High School so it will be interesting to see how this comes across.
These are just our views based on what we saw and the impressions put in front of us during the open evening. We will go back and look again, but in my opinion we really shouldn't have to. AGS need to work on improving their open evenings to create a better first impression.
If this post feels a little biased towards Shottery, I can assure you this is not the case. We went into the 11+and viewings with the expectation our daughter would go to AGS. We viewed Shottery as a comparison. AGS is much nearer to us than Shottery so would be much more convenient. However, the Open Evenings have changed this and caused confusion to our plans...