I have been avidly reading this forum over the last few weeks and think it's been a real source of support to those posting and also to us who have just been reading, so firstly thank you.
I have a ds in year 8 at Bexley Grammar. When we chose for him 2 years ago, it was a close call between Beths & BG, but finally we made a decision based on music opportunities (he plays piano) and we prefered co-ed.
He settled very well into life at the school, joining 2 different bands and the science club. He went on to join a couple of other clubs as well. There are so many bands that are available and a large amount of sports, science, cooking and ict clubs that you can join, and I'm sure I haven't listed them all.
He very quickly felt a part of it all and felt valued for taking part. The teachers expect you to work to the best of your ability and give lots of praise as a result. However, if you do give in a piece that is not up to scratch, they also let you know! We found on the whole that our ds tries to go that extra mile. Of course, he has subjects where this may not be the case but it is only a couple!
This year we have looked again at Beths and BG for our next ds. Again, we have found 2 very good schools. We were impressed with both. However, we wanted our ds to have a think for himself and not just choose BG because his older ds was there. Ultimately, he has chosen BG as he is also musical and he "felt" right there, at ease. I think he liked listening to the year 8 & 13 students talking at the heads speech too.
As parents we have found BG caring, supportive and extremely helpful in sorting out any problems that arose during 1st ds year there. They have pushed him and I would say inspired him to want to do it. Quickly after the transition from primary to secondary he became more of an independant learner, his relationship with his teachers helped. As I said there were only a couple of subjects where this may not have applied so much! Yesterday I asked him what makes BG good and he said the community.
So in summing up - BG seems to be very balanced with our 1st ds, he has achieved very well, made new friends and is having lots of fun. However, there still feels like there is so much more to try there, it's just fitting it in!
I honestly think we (the parents) and our dc quite quickly get a feeling for what school feels right for them and it's such a personal thing. Good luck in your decision making, nearly done...