I am writing as a parent of a year 7 Wallington girl. I wanted to write as I know there will be parents this time tomorrow wondering what to do. This post is aimed at those that will be lucky enough to have a place at Wallington Girls and one at an independent. Firstly it is a great position to be in and you should be very proud of your daughter's achievement.
This site was invaluable to me in the time leading up to my daughter sitting the grammar (and independent) school exams, making a decision about which school and then joining last September. I am writing to aid (I hope) others who maybe wondering what the school is really like and making up their minds.
In terms of background this is my first child going to secondary so I have no other secondary school to compare to. My daughter had an offer of a place (and academic scholarship at a very good indi school - though the scholarship was not worth a great deal in monetary terms, we felt it was a real achievement for our daughter). The night the state offers came out last year was spent agonising over whether to go to the indi or wallington girls. Our daughter liked both, and probably would have gone for the indi if it had been closer ( to be honest we probably would have gone with it as well). However the indi would have required her getting a train and would have entailed an early start.
So how is she (and us) finding it?
Well the absolute truth is on a regular basis I thank my lucky stars she got offered a place at wallington and we accepted it. In our opinion (and my daughter read this earlier) these are the keys aspects:
1. In our experience it is not a 'hothouse'. Yes we are only 6 months into it, but that's the overall consensus in our household to date.
2. Homework has not taken over her life. The amount varies from day to day, but she still has plenty of time for other activities (including regularly lying on the sofa and watching tele, playing on the wii, sport, reading non-school related books etc - note that she is the kind of girl that takes homework very seriously). The type of homework varies from the traditional maths textbook questions, to producing leaflets in geography, a model of a cell in science, colouring flags in German and writing and presenting a persuasive speech in English.
3. There are lots of opportunities to participate in non-academic activities, whether they be sport, music or drama etc. Clubs are available every lunchtime and after school. Girls are really encouraged to do at least one club, in fact the HM made a point of asking parents to encourage their daughters to participate at Induction Day. My daughter does about 4. Cannot sing the praises of the sports staff enough, very encouraging to all - my daughter is not naturally sporty but feels valued in the sports she participates in - a very welcome change from primary school.
4. Lots of tests and grading in every subject, including music, sport and art. This was not something that I expected (maybe I should have done). This has taken a little getting used to, but in 6 months it seems 'very normal' to her.
5. I have had little cause to contact her form teacher, but when I did, her form teacher was very prompt in her reply and helpful. I have had an email from the Head of year (for positive reasons!) which was a real surprise as there are 210 girls and I really didn't think I would get something personal like that.
6. The canteen is very small for the number of girls. However on the days my daughter decides to have school lunch she has managed to get it, though there is a lot of queing. When they first start, the year 7s have an early lunch for a week or two to get used to the system and the jostling! She's not overly keen on some of the food, but that's a very personal thing.
7. Little things that have made her happy - following a music lesson she was having a late lunch and as her friends had eaten already she was sat on her own in the canteen. The year 11 head of her house noticed her in the canteen sat alone and came over and asked her if she was ok and sat talking to her. She didn't know this girl and was really touched by this. After the Christmas concert the year 12/13s that run junior orchestra gave all the girls a bag of chocolates each - a lovely touch. The concert itself was amazing, show-casing a lot of musical talent.
8. In the first few weeks my daughter was reduced to tears because she thought she had lost a book. The teachers very early on try and establish what is expected in terms of organisation, behaviour etc. She was upset for a few days, but survived.
9. The first term was not easy. That's not to say it was difficult, it was just different, particularly from the school she had come from.
10. She really enjoys the wide range of technology subjects available - to her they are all new and she really enjoys this time away from the more traditional subjects.
11. Something we haven't personally encountered but I have heard a few comments from some friends about the number of supply teachers for different lessons. My daughter's class has had very few, but others seem to have more - not sure if we have been lucky or they have been unlucky.
12. Her friends are a real mixture from all sorts of backgrounds. I think this is very good for her and I don't think (though I maybe wrong) she would have encountered such a mixture at the indi school.
I showed my daughter this post and she amended very little and considered it to reflect her time so far. I asked her what % she should give Wallington Girls and straightaway she said at least 85%. Thats good enough for me. She is happy. Yes she has days when she comes home and something is not right but equally she has many days when she is absolutely buzzing about something that day.
The bottom line as to why we chose Wallington and not the independent was the journey. Wallington Girls was far far easier than the independent and in my mind is providing her with an excellent all round education.
I hope this helps somebody. It is very personal, but for us I know we made the right decision.
Good luck to all awaiting results tomorrow - I hope you and your daughters get the news you have waited so long for.