Secondaries specialising in certain topics - how important is this?

(23 Posts)
Talkinpeace Tue 21-May-13 21:28:50

During the days of Nulabour, specialist schools got up to £50,000 per year per specialism, and they could not have the same specialism as another school within a certain distance.

Backfired rather when rural schools miles from anywhere became specialists in EVERYTHING!

Science was the top of the academic heap, Maths, computing and languages next
then sport and performing arts and technology
and then business

BUT
the money ran out years ago so it makes diddly squat difference now.

gerbilsarefun Tue 21-May-13 17:37:17

My dd goes to a school specialising in science. She has received a great all round education. But the school does forge links with local primaries and involve them in science events (my youngest dd has been on science evenings there). My eldest dd struggled a bit academically in primary but she done really well in all subjects in the 3 years she has been there.

TeenAndTween Tue 21-May-13 17:26:04

I think I read on here before that some specialist schools mandate that their specialism is taken at GCSE. e.g. make a language compulsory, or a tech subject compulsory. (This may be out of date now though). That would put me off a school, as I think options should be as open as possible to reflect children's abilities and interests.

BackforGood Tue 21-May-13 17:22:09

Varies a lot. ds's school had Science and Technology status - meant that ds had to take a technology at GCSE even though he didn't want to / had no interest.
dd's has both language and PE/Sport. The language dept is excellent, but the sport is really not. I'd go so far to say that the facilities are really quite poor, and the opportunities are decidedly limited.
Quite a lot of these 'status's were awarded along time ago and are often not any indication of what things are like now.

Very useful link, thankyou miranpr!

miranpr Tue 21-May-13 16:15:14

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BirdintheWings Tue 21-May-13 12:17:16

Cory -- wise words.

Twiglets: yes, you can visit at other times. In fact, if the school welcomes this, that's a good sign.

me learning to spell pastoral is another priority smile

Pastpral care is my top priority, Cory - and something that's scaring me away from all our local school! I am trying very hard not to be swayed by the opinions of others but it's very hard. I'm sure that all schools are going to have the odd horror story but hearing them is worrying anyway. Can you visit schools before the official open day at the start of Y6, do you know? It feels odd to choose a school based on one visit.

Weegiemum Tue 21-May-13 11:39:18

I'm in Scotland, which probably makes things different.

My dd1 is in s1 (y7) at a school with specialist language provision. In her case (and her 2 siblings case as well) it's a direct feed from a similar primary school - all lessons hat can be (apart from English) are delivered in Scottish Gaelic.

We very much value the extra potential that bilingualism brings, and many children at their school are semi-fluent in French (not just school-level French) as the teacher is a native speaker so they seem to be learning far quicker than I I'd (and I was good at languages!).

It's not a problem to me hat hey might not use the Gaelic when older. Dd1 wants to do something artistic, possibly architecture. Ds plans on a career devising computer games (wish him luck!). Dd2 wants to be a vet or zoo-keeper. But there's no denying the benefits right now of their bilingual status.

cory Tue 21-May-13 11:38:20

In fact, I would make pastoral care my top consideration even for a stable, healthy well behaved child with primarily academic interests.

You don't know what will happen in adolescence- besides, your child will not only be affected by how her own problems are handled but by how the school handles the problems of the people around her.

cory Tue 21-May-13 11:32:47

Also look at things like pastoral care, general atmosphere of the school, when you visit- does it seem like a pleasant place (bearing in mind that any place full of adolescents is going to seem a bit alien to an adult).

BirdintheWings Tue 21-May-13 11:20:27

You know what, OP? I'd go on the school website instead of looking at the specialism, and look at the extracurricular clubs and news items, if any. See if they have a choir or two, a film club, a science club, a write-up about the DofE trip, that sort of thing.

BirdintheWings Tue 21-May-13 11:18:26

Swivel chairs, Jenai? DS would have picked the school just on those grounds! He loves swivel chairs.

exexpat Tue 21-May-13 11:15:53

It doesn't make a huge amount of difference really. There may be more opportunities if your DC is interested in whatever the specialism is, but they will still do all the usual things for children not that way inclined.

Eg a school near me is a specialist performing arts college, which basically seems to mean that all the children have to take dance for the first two or three years, and a higher than normal proportion do qualifications in dance and drama, but the school still has a solid academic reputation. Another near here specialises in languages, which means that they offer a wider range of foreign languages than normal (though some of those are just for one year or one term 'taster' courses, with no opportunity to do GCSE, which seems a bit of a waste of time), and all children are expected to do at least one language GSCSE, but that's about it.

DeWe Tue 21-May-13 11:05:05

Well locally to us we have to choose between two language specialisms and one business specialism. How they can let two schools that obviously are going to be schools that people are choosing between take the same specialism is ridiculous.

What it actually means is that if you really know your dc will do languages it probably is better to choose that school, all other things being equal.
What it means otherwise if they have to do a language at GCSE, spend 8 weeks in year 9 learning one Chinese dialect, and still get fairly poor language results at Alevels. So if anything I think the speciamism for most children is negative.

But I'm sure lots of people would disagree with me.

JenaiMorris Tue 21-May-13 11:02:27

Oh Birdin the extras I saw at one local 'business college' was an office suite, with spotlights and weeping figs. I seem to recall some smoked glass somewhere, but I could have been imagining that. There were definately swivel chairs.

JenaiMorris Tue 21-May-13 10:58:56

I thought the specialist status thing was no more - or at least that schools no longer got the extra funding.

BirdintheWings Tue 21-May-13 10:29:47

Experience of three secondaries here.

One is a specialist sports college, which worried us, given our very unathletic child. It was great though -- because they had lots of sports facilities, not everyone had to do football and hockey. Instead they could choose gym, or swimming, or cycling, or table tennis.

One was a 'business college'. No idea what extras that gave it, as we didn't stay long enough to find out!

The third was a specialist science college, and does have a lovely new science block to show for it, but I'd say science is one of its weaker subject areas and it's stronger in performing arts.

That's a relief, thank you smile DD is sadly unrealistic in her career choices - at the moment she wants to be a popstar hmm Having heard her sing, this is NOT going to happen smile

Wolfiefan Tue 21-May-13 10:11:16

I would take no notice. Schools apply for special status to get more money. It doesn't mean all lessons have a Science or media bias. It doesn't automatically mean teaching will be better.
Visit the school, talk to parents and even students. Look at the dreaded OFSTED (but take with a pinch of salt!) Consider results and ask about SEN if relevant.

cory Tue 21-May-13 10:09:08

It only means they will have extra resources for that particular area and may offer extra options, not that they will not be teaching the national curriculum subjects to national standards.

So if it's a technology college, you could expect fancy plastic-cutting machines, extra facilities for metalworking, maybe contacts with some relevant work experience providers. But you should still expect the same standards in English lit and maths as elsewhere.

A college specialising in performing arts might have a fancy stage and put on a lot of shows. They might even offer an extra BTech in dance or something. But the other secondaries in the area will also be teaching GCSE drama.

A school specialising in MFL might offer a wider range of languages than the other schools.

Any school should provide a general education. (whether it's a good one will depend on the school, but not on its specialisation)

Starting to look at secondaries for Y5 DD and I notice that some are 'media and arts-focussed' or 'specialising in technology' etc. How are you supposed to pick one when neither you or your child have any idea about what they want to do when they're older?! All state schools teach all subjects, yes? If there is a national curriculum then how can one school specialise in a certain subject - could it mean that facilities might be better but teaching is the same?

I'm finding it stressful that I feel like I've got to map out my daughter's future life at only 10yo!

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