Choosing a Secondary school (from a bad bunch)

(12 Posts)
Harriebabe Mon 11-Feb-13 21:26:42

So, the day has come that I just thought never would ... trying to be all la la la about it just isn't going to work - this year we'll have to select and try and get into a Secondary school for my oldest son (currently Year 5).

I've just read an interesting thread asking about schools in Hampshire, particularly Southampton and Portsmouth and people saying that basically all schools in Hampshire are okay - well, I think, not if you're in Eastleigh!

My son currently attends a junior school which is out of our catchment area. I'm very happy with it and the Infant school which feeds it (my youngest attends) is Outstanding and rightly so - it's fab! However, the feeder secondary is currently not doing so well and the results (I know it's not all about results) are falling quite badly .... all his friends will probably go there, which I think makes it worse for him if we decide he should go elsewhere.

The secondary school which is in our catchment, went from Satisfactory to Good in their last Osted and is small (which I think would suit my son) and seems to be on the up.

I guess I'm after a bit of advice on choosing, visiting, selecting ... the catchment school is really starting to appeal to me as I believe they are really trying to improve but none of his friends will go ...

Basic advice on this stage of our lives please?

tiggytape Mon 11-Feb-13 22:24:14

In most secondary schools friendship groups are split up from day 1. Sometimes this is a deliberate policy. Sometimes it just works out that way because the schools are so big.
If there are 200+ pupils per year, then unless they're in the same form group or academic sets, he will probably barely lay eyes on current friends at all during the school day.
This is certainly true at DS's school (he is Year 7). They seem to quickly make new friends depending on which classes they are put in.

TotallyBS Tue 12-Feb-13 06:58:54

Both my DCs went to a selective while their primary school friends went to the local comp. Inside a month they both had a new circle of mates.

Unless your DC is one of those shy types that finds it difficult to make new friends I wouldn't make it a factor in the decision making process.

VivaLeBeaver Tue 12-Feb-13 07:20:44

Could you move him to a primary near you so he meets people before going to the secondary school?

DD fell out with all her friends at primary school in the last few weeks of Yr 6. They all went to the same secondary but barely talk to her. She's made new friends.

tiggytape Tue 12-Feb-13 07:40:22

Even if they are a 'shy type' they will make new friends at secondary school (assuming it is a large school with a reasonably wide intake). There will be so many other children in the same position that they naturally find each other.

DS started Year 7 knowing nobody at all (he knew a few children in the years above). He is quiet and yet now has plenty of friends. Far more probably than he ever did at primary where he was limited by the fact that 90% of the boys played football every breaktime and he didn't. At a bigger school there are simply more like minded people to pair up with.

lljkk Tue 12-Feb-13 08:05:44

My tuppence:

Friendships should only be a small factor in the choice, easily over-ridden by other factors.

I just had a look at the Eastleigh GCSE league tables and your results are better than most of ours, locally. Our nearest secondary that dived to 30% in 2009 got back to 58% (GCSE with math+English) last year.

One thing that struck me, of the 3 high schools I seriously considered for DD (currently in y6): If I looked at their results 6 years ago, relative positions and reputations compared to each other, and then compared to last year relative positions/results/reports: All Changed. Could not predict the future from the present. No consistent trends. You might want to make the same comparison for your choices.

Our nearest secondary has taken to publishing individual results (sort of). The bottom line is you can see that some kids still get all As/A*s even if the league table results are decidedly mediocre.

I'm afraid that condition of facilities makes a huge impression: dirty & tatty old classrooms are uninviting. There are classrooms that I just think "I wouldn't want to be sitting in here for an hour most days": as if the teacher hasn't made an effort to make it an engaging place to learn. You can pick up on the enthusiasm of staff from chatting, too. Those things are what swayed DD & me.

RedHelenB Tue 12-Feb-13 09:24:20

Go & look around both during the school day if you can. Best way to see what they are actually like.

Harriebabe Tue 12-Feb-13 12:34:18

Thank you all for your advice.

Yes, I realise the best thing is to go and visit - and not just on the Open Evening but try and get a look round when school is in session.

I've also just remembered/realised that I started a new school at 11 with no friends! I was fine, but circumstances were a bit different in that I was the only one from my little junior school (state) going to an independent school and wasn't the only one in that boat as lots of the other girls came in 1s and 2s.

lljkk - many thanks for the league tables, I'd not found it set out like that before. FWIW, our catchment school is Quilley but the feeder school that most of this cohort will attend is Crestwood. We have no chance of getting him into Thornden as it's massively popular (it's a great school) and far out of catchment. I did look back at performance over the last few years and compare and Quilley is the school which is consistently showing improvement.

I agree with you all - being friends is not going to make a great deal of difference in the long run... it's convincing him of that will be the hard thing!

Takver Tue 12-Feb-13 20:52:15

Harriebabe - I would absolutely go and visit, having first read the most recent Ofsted reports thoroughly and asked all the parents of current pupils that you can find how they find the school.

DD is in yr 6, so just had to send off the letter. We had the choice of two secondary schools - on paper one sounds very much better, but having visited we chose the other and I'm reasonably confident that it will be the right choice for her. The other nice thing was that having visited I did feel that either would actually be fine, and I think that is an important thing to remember - unless the school is actively dreadful then if he is well supported at home your ds should be fine.

Waitingaround Wed 13-Feb-13 22:32:49

The smaller school thats rapidly improving sounds like a good idea. I think it's nice to go to the local catchment school too as it helps them to feel part of the local community and helps with friends. Assume your talking about the engineering college by the waysmile

Startail Sun 17-Feb-13 17:47:27

DD2's Y6 class were very close and many went on to her secondary.
However it is three new friends who are coming to birthday tea.

Catchment school, i guess means easy travel and local friends, something living out in the wilds my DDs don't get even at their nearest school. Being a constant taxi is wearing and expensive.

At school on the up with Ofsted your DS is sure to be the only child choosing it despite their friends going else where.

Visit and then decide.

Startail Sun 17-Feb-13 17:49:14

Not to be the only child.

Typo caused by DH shouting at DD that she's late.
As I say running children all over the district gets very very wearing.

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