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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:05 pm 
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Location: Birmingham
I have just a few days left to complete the Reception admission application form for my 3 year old to start school next September 2013.
I'm having a great deal of difficulty making a decision and wondered what others' opinions would be.

Our local area is not extremely deprived, but it is more deprived than the national average in terms of home ownership, income, etc.
Our local school previously wasn't that good academically and had a 'satisfactory' Ofsted rating.
My older children therefore attended Primary school in another local authority, so I have now been doing over 9 years of heavy commuting to and from Primary school. In fact, many professional families who live in our area were doing the same, until rising birth rates started to make it too hard to get into out-of-area schools for those without siblings there.

I had planned to simply apply for my youngest to join the same Primary School that my older children have attended, and where I still have 2 children.
I reckon he has about 90% chance of gaining a place there due to sibling priority. (Although children from the village get higher priority than siblings outside, there don't seem to be loads of children in the village).

Funnily enough, he is not at nursery there as his brother was, because although the LA gave him an official place, the school then decided that, despite having had 4 siblings at school (2 still there), he couldn't have a place that would allow me to pay for wrap around care too, as they have put all the village children in the morning slot (where they can access the afternoon wrap around, making up a full day) and the out-of-village children in the afternoon slot (where they can only have 2.5 hours per day, impossible for me as a working mum). I appealed but was told that the school have to prioritise children in the village, even if their mums are not working and they don't even choose the wrap around. So he is currently at a private nursery still.

I really have no major complaint against this school, and some of the teachers in particular are very good, although my minor niggles are that my children have never been able to really feel part of this small, village community, living so far away, tend not to be as wealthy as their peers, are starting to realise that their faith/festivals and background are not recognised, and I'm not convinced of either the school's ambition and organisation in terms of academic achievement, nor, funnily enough, the ambition of many middle class pupils and parents there. I mean that 'culture of supporting education' thing.
The school is now Ofsted judged Good, which I initially felt was due to the new framework's relative harshness, but now I am beginning to see that it was a fair judgement - it just isn't Outstanding any more.

In the meantime, my local school - two streets away - has had new leadership and a sea change. It is now ranked 4th in terms of level 5s at KS2, in my whole local authority, which has over 400 Primary schools.
It has an Outstanding Ofsted that is so poetic in its praise, it is embarrassing. In fact my local school now has around double the % of level 5s compared to the one I commute long hours to, as well as higher level 4 figures.
The curriculum and teaching and learning appear to be very rigorous. The fact that the school achieve results to rival and beat those in far 'better' areas shows the staff must be working extremely hard.

However - these are the catches. Firstly, there are 35% of children on free school meals in my local school, indicating quite an element of deprivation (the village school is 3% FSM). Secondly, Ofsted acknowledges that children arrive at Foundation stage on average below national expectations (in all fairness my youngest is very able - far more so than any of the older four at that age) and thirdly, although they've done their best to make the environment/playground nice, it is an old Victorian building with no green space/playing fields in the grounds.

There's also the issue that if I sent the youngest here, I would probably want to move the others over too, and they would have to move school, which isn't ideal.

Should I just carry on commuting for the next 8 years...and stick with what I know, given that it is still a good school in a nice area, or choose the local school?


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:20 pm 
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Sorry this reply is going to be a bit rushed, but just wanted to say, we moved our children from a high achieving primary some 4 miles across town from home to one with a high deprivation index, higher than average free school meals etc, no idea about the 4s and 5s because it wasn't a factor...because it was within walking distance when we moved house. The advantages of having that school on the doorstep (well, a mile and a bit, but we walked it pretty much every day) were so great that anything else was a bonus. I liked the idea of my children mixing with others from a wide range of backgrounds, and actually both of them (my oldest was already at secondary when we moved) did very well academically too, as it happens.

With hindsight now, I would say take the line of least resistance and do what it easiest for you. Your child will be fine wherever, because you are interested and supportive. For me, a walk was always going to be better than a drive through rush hour traffic, and the children prefer walking too. Make your own life a bit easier and the children will benefit in ways you might not foresee.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:57 pm 
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Amber wrote:

With hindsight now, I would say take the line of least resistance and do what it easiest for you. Your child will be fine wherever, because you are interested and supportive. For me, a walk was always going to be better than a drive through rush hour traffic, and the children prefer walking too. Make your own life a bit easier and the children will benefit in ways you might not foresee.


I 2nd it.

When I applied for my children there was another primary school with an outstanding Ofsted report but it was going to be a long walk.
So I applied to the nearest Primary school as I was working as well and we just wanted a short walk to school and this nearby school was just :D 7 minutes walk which had a good report. It now has an outstanding report. It made our lives easier.

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Last edited by ahap on Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:23 pm 
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Location: Herts
How long have your older children got left at the village school? Could you manage keeping them there & sending your little one to the local school? (I'm guessing that might not work for practical reasons). How would the older ones feel about moving - and does the local school have space for them?

Sorry, only questions. Good luck with your choice.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:49 pm 
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Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 12:06 pm
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Location: Birmingham
One in Yr 5 and one in Yr 1 at the other school.

There are no places for them in our local school at present - I enquired - and they understandably have long waiting lists, but they'd likely be no.1 on the waiting list once the youngest got a place, if I went down that route.
I could appeal for the older one (and probably win, being barely two streets away with a sibling) but the appeals process is not as straightforward for KS1.

I don't think dd in Yr 5 would be bothered about moving to be honest, I don't think it would be a bad thing for her.

Ds in Year 1 certainly finds change more difficult and I would be much more worried about the transition for him. He has had a brilliant teacher for the past two years, but will obviously move on in Year 2 anyway and have to deal with a new teacher. He seems settled in his friendships but certainly doesn't like going to school in the morning - that is just how he is. Although more than anything else he will just want to be with his brother to be honest. It is a strange relationship as the older one 'looks up' to the younger one, and follows him.

I can juggle things with sharing lifts etc. for a term or two, but then I think, I may as well just continue to send the whole lot to the current Primary, ignoring the fact that there's a very good one around the corner.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 4:51 pm 
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Personally I'd take the good one around the corner if you can manage the split between two different schools, and then if places come up for the local school you can make your mind up about that at the time.

Your Year R child will have two school years when the others have all moved on to senior school. It will be nice for him then to be at the the local school, with local friends, walk to school etc etc.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:09 pm 
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Location: Birmingham
Um, I moved my children from a school further away to a nearby one (they literally go down a few doors and cross over a small road). If you like the nearby school then I would say that without a doubt the nearby school is better. Walking to and from school (albeit a very short one) allows so much more time to talk rather than the rush to the car to avoid traffic); mine take part in every after-school activity they are interested in without it causing any inconvenience to me (I dont even bother to collect the older ones if they stay behind); they also make much more friendships too. I literally have to turn them away at the door when they turn up to play without warning and we have had after school / end of term get-togethers and birthday parties where even the teachers have turned up (invited of course, but the children behaved as if we had a celebrity in the house :roll: )

I have also often found that at primary schools, friendships are sometimes as much influenced by the friendships between mothers as much as anything else - and mothers don't always bother to invest their child's friendships with someone who will always be too far for after-school playtime etc. All I can say is that although I am sure you are committed enough to take them across town as you already have, if you don't have to then really: don't bother. You don't know what a pain it is until you stop.

I am doing my form for DS4 too, but he is my last one to go so am not very happy about it :?

UmSusu

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:18 pm 
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Location: caversham
:lol: As I read this thread I changed my mind, initially go for school one, all kids together, then go local.

Either way two good choices and a nice problem to have. :)

Just playing devil's advocate, the local school that has recently improved how sustainable is the improvement, have they had extra resources and funding that may move on to the next project? Sorry cynical me.

If you are convinced the local school will meet the needs then go local. The distant school has to be vastly better to win. :?


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:35 am 
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This is a tricky one Um. I can imagine that with your big family, mornings will be really hectic and the few extra minutes gained by not having to drive miles up the road could be really valuable. However, there will be nothing to be gained by sending your youngest to the local school if your older 2 still need taking to the village school. i suppose you would need to find out what the chances are of places becoming available for the older ones by Sept. Good luck!


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:56 am 
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Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 12:06 pm
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Location: Birmingham
Thanks for all your replies.

I visited the local school this morning.
Their results are absolutely astonishing (you're talking APS of 31-32+ at KS2) but they certainly serve a pretty deprived area (last 'quintile'on RAISEonline)...
It is sandwiched between two busy roads, and you can hear the traffic, and the building and grounds were (in my mind) a little run down although classroom displays and IT equipment were good.
It is a very quick and easy walk, although not a massively pleasant one as I'm afraid the area is a bit run down.

I have just found out that 2 places have suddenly become available in Year 1 so I could rush through an application form...which must be signed by his current Headteacher - although they still may go to siblings if there are siblings ahead of me on the waiting list.

Although this didn't show on google maps, they do actually have a small playing field and a good 'Forest schools' area which have recently been developed. They have absolutely masses of staff - with one or two level 3 teaching assistants in every class.

That's it, really. I am still in a major dilemma over it all.
Is the achievement of my local school sustainable? I guess a school is ultimately as good as its leaders and staff, which are what make this school in particular, very good. The village school has the same issue - if they lose some of their very experienced staff members, who unfortunately look to be getting a little close to retirement, they would also be difficult to replace.

On other other hand, my older children are perfectly ok at the village school, are not experiencing any problems there, and it is a nicer environment with more green space. In terms of 'better the devil you know', I already know the school and the staff very well and there's no major problems. I know it is generally a caring school with good teaching.
Their results are (particularly for level 5) a bit lower than my local school, but still above national average although, given the every different cohort, they should really be higher than they are.
The drive is not easy at all, through heavy traffic for 4 miles, (15-20 mins) but my husband has just bought me an automatic car - and is getting the tax for it today! so that should help quite a bit.
We also do have the opportunity to listen to a lot of audio books in the car.

I cannot say with any certainty that they would gain places at the local school, as I'm just not psychic! They could both be in nest week, or they could languish on the waiting list for years. Once in KS2, I am pretty certain an appeal would be heard favourably.

I guess I'll never know for certain what to do. Still sitting here and wondering :? :? :?


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