my wife and I are currently a bit confused by how the English system works and what would be the best course of action for our 2 boys (and if we should even be thinking about it at this stage!). They are only aged 7 and 5, but for some reasons it feels like action needs to be taken from now (I always believed all you need is 3 months to prepare for any exam, but the press and the web can scare the **** out of one's sanity and are starting to make me believe I needed to take action at birth!
We currently live in RG9. When we moved here, we were thinking that:
1- kids could attempt Reading School (GS). If they could make it, great.
2- if not, well, no need to push, they could go to the local comp (Offsted 2) which should be largely sufficient to lead a happy successful life.
Thing is, as we started to learn a bit more about the unspoken mechanics of the system, we started to be a bit scared... how some professions are locked by independent schools.... how fantastic students with lots of As (or is it A*s?) can't make it to Oxbridge because they do not know the unspoken rules to admission only taught in independent and top GS schools... how politicians or even rock bands often come from independent schools, etc....
Then we learned about how some GS and independent school offer so much more in terms of personal development, whether a variety of exciting sports, or with fantastic drama, music or debate classes. How, even if they do not always over-perform the public sector, they at least give kids a very wide breadth of culture, which is what a school should do.
And then how some still teach latin or greek, or classical history (both of us learned these in our respective state schools when it was still the norm that most schools offered them).
Also, a big thing to take into account, my youngest turned out to have a need for SEN.
I always considered that talent should prevail and that options 1 and 2 should be the only ones I offer my kids, because that is the fair choice. But my courage is failing me, and I feel bad that I may not help them achieve as much as they could. If they are "natural" B, shouldn't I help them be B+ or A? If they are A, shouldn't I help them be A+? Shouldn't I give them access to a world of opportunities and culture? Hence I am now wondering whether I should teach them at home to get ready for 11+ (even though I considered that cheating), whether I need to sell both my kidneys and put them in a independent school at 11, whether I should move houses to get near an Offsted 1 school, etc...
My options, as I see them are:
1- follow the initial plan and either Reading School or local comp
2- move to some villages that have a Outstanding comp. That would also save me commute time (assuming I spend the next 12 years in the same company)
3- try for some GS that do not have RG9 in their catchments. There are good ones in Marlow and High Wycomb. But if I understand correctly, they only recruit people from Bucks? And they need to have lived there for a year before the exam? Which means that if I want to take that option, I need to move houses in the next 2 years?
4- go for some of the incredibly expensive independent schools. Quite difficult to compare them as they don't seem to follow Offsted reports and their GCSE / A level results can be odd for some reason. If so much money is going to be spent, how to know that it is "well" spent and that they'll get the confidence, the network, the fun (apart from going to Eton which, as I understand it, would imply selling my lungs too)? If I decide independent schools are a real option that I need to consider, I need to start saving drastically now to be able to have a chance to afford it in 4 years.
5- ruin my kids' childhood by massively training them on some sport or music instrument to get a random level of support at an independent school (is there somewhere where they publish the level of support? All I see are statements "from 10% to 90%" without further explanations)
Whatever above is selected, ideally, the younger brother would be able to join him in order to have some much needed emotional support. He is still too young for us to tell how his needs and skills will evolve, but the plans need to be made on the assumption he may still require his SEN and possibly some teaching assistant. Academically I hope he would have the level for some level of sleection (he is quit gifted for maths). Thing is, I have absolutely no idea whether anything but a comp would offer support? If someone pass the test, are GS obliged by the LEA to a TA (or whatever SEN requirement)? What about independent school? Is it paid on top? Paid by the state? Or simply not an option? Is a comp the only way to keep them in the same school?
Also, should I start training them now for the 11+? The issue is that both of us were academic achievers, and we tend to see the 11+ as ridiculously easy (especially with our adult eyes), but we realise statistics imply it's actually quite tough for the kids. Should I wait till they are 9? Or start helping them now? Really don't want to go the road of a tutor, when we can provide all the needed assistance (unless there are unsaid tricks for the 11+ that are not documented and only passed on from tutor to tutor
Are Offsted Outstanding schools worth it? I read somewhere that 20% of all secondary schools are outstanding, which means that they are actually just decent?
Even though this post may look somehow structured, I realise (and apologise) that upon re-reading it, it's no more than an unstructured construct of fears and uncertainties due to my complete lack of knowledge of the formal and informal rules of English education. Hence why it's titled "confused". I genuinely do not know whether I need to take action now, in 1 year or in 3 years, and what that action(s) should be? I feel I don't even know what my own question is!
Thank you in advance for your feedback and clarifications.