What influences matter most to a child's secondary school education?

(21 Posts)
IdespairIreallydo Mon 16-Jun-14 10:07:45

We have no choice (bar moving with all the expense/upheaval that takes) but to send our 2 children to the local secondary school which is currently being monitered by Ofsted as it was deemed inadequate last year. Will our (without boasting) bright kids get a good education there? What factors affect how they will get on and how long does it take to see changes in the school if the HT changes ? WWYD - move or suck it and see?

MillyMollyMama Mon 16-Jun-14 10:28:24

It would depend if the Ofsted findings were a blip or a long line of ups and downs for the school. Is it usually bumping along or has it been a school people like in the past? As for moving, will the school you would like your children to go to remain good? If that one is uncertain too, you might find you have spent a lot of money for no reason.

Generally, you need to look at the value added (or no value added as the axe maybe) and how good the teaching and learning is compared to similar schools with similar pupils. All this is available on the school's dashboard on the Government's website. This is a fairly accurate picture of a school and the letters from HMI will tell you how quickly the school is improving. I would also look at the GCSE results for individual subjects if you can, andA level results if they do A levels. This tells if there are bright children in the school, but not ow well they are taught of course! It tells you what subjects do well and where there might be problems. Do lots of people avoid this school? Or do most people retain faith in it?

Having parents who value education is a big factor in doing well. Just growing up in a household where it is seen as 'normal' to want to do well, where they get fed and clothed and get enough sleep and decent food to make use of what a school offers are worth a great deal.

And, Ofsted monitoring means that the school will have a lot of incentive for fixing the things that were problematic.

So, I'd just suck it and see. If you aren't seeing improvements over the first year, then maybe reconsider.

mummytime Mon 16-Jun-14 10:34:48

My DH and I both went to two of the worst schools in the country (when league tables first came out). However we both got first degrees from a Russell Group University, I have a higher degree from Oxford and DH teaches there (part time).
Any school even if bad will have areas of excellence. Often the most deprived can have some exceptionally good teachers, who have a real vocation for teaching.
As a parent the best you can do is: raise them with good morals, instill high self-esteem, explicitly open their horizons - show them people who have done well- and things they could achieve, help them with areas they struggle - including paying for tutors, and enhance the curriculum so do take them to museums and places.

However personally if possible I would move - if it really is that bad.

But to know if it is that bad assess: is this a blip? Or a situation where a lot of time and effort has gone into to changing things - but its never worked?

IdespairIreallydo Mon 16-Jun-14 10:44:14

Thank you both, much appreciated. School has never been great for a few reasons but mainly poor leadership and patchy teaching quality. I know these can alter but I didn't want to chop and change schools if possible as I thought continuity mattered.

My head is swimming from 'parent opinion overload' plus the defeat of two appeals to get into any other school, all performing miles better than our allocated one.

MMM Ofsted are doing Section 8 inspections every six months and have just done a full inspection last week - really want to know how that went. I have heard on the grapevine that the HT is changing but all very 'hush hush' at present. Most people avoid the school if they can but the LA are pushing it as it is half full.

On the plus side, the facilities are great, class sizes smaller and free school bus.

IdespairIreallydo Mon 16-Jun-14 10:46:44

Thanks mummytime - good words but how bad is bad, who knows it it will get better or worse ?I think your second statement is the accurate one - Or a situation where a lot of time and effort has gone into to changing things - but its never worked?

springlamb Mon 16-Jun-14 10:46:46

In addition to the above, ie stable home life/healthy living/parents with an interest in education, I think it is also important to work hard to ensure that school life is not the be all and end all of your dcs life. Encourage them to join clubs and activities that will involve them meeting friends from different schools, from where they can take influences and gain wider life experience.
I have a g & t year 7 who refused point blank to do the 11+ and so attends an Ofsted 'good' mixed secondary (where she is much revered, if you take such shit seriously which we don't).
Although her instinct has been to hunker down with her new school mates, we've pushed her to go to youth clubs/music stuff held at the local grammar (and even private) schools and to sign up for holiday activities at some of these.
I doubt she will suddenly decide at Year 9 to compromise on her over-developed principles and attend selective, but I hope she gains from the different experiences/exam and career paths her wider circle have available, and her interest is some of those paths will be piqued.

springlamb Mon 16-Jun-14 10:51:01

Currently I am encouraging her to join with the air cadets once she turns 13, hopefully she may sign up to the Air Force at 16 and go and live in barracks or whatever they do. It can be tiring living with her and her headstrong principles. I should never have encouraged them to watch the news. The trouble with encouraging your dc to have their own opinions is that one day the buggers actually do start to express their opinions and they're never the same opinions as their parents.

IdespairIreallydo Mon 16-Jun-14 10:51:27

Being honest, it was never highly regarded but has sunk lower over the past four years since academy conversion - despite having vast cash injections.

IdespairIreallydo Mon 16-Jun-14 10:55:25

Oh springlamb I have your DD's twin! Mine is teaching the neighbour's kids Greek myths at present, she is a bright bookworm who soaks up stuff like a sponge. Your words are helpful, thank you.

summerends Mon 16-Jun-14 11:05:33

Things to look out for
Poor pastoral care so that your DCs are continually in survival mode because of bullying
Wrong / incomplete syllabus taught and/or pressure to do the wrong subjects.
For your bright DC insufficient teaching for addressing A / A* type material

Forewarned is forearmed. Apart from the first, the other points you could address with more outside support

CharmQuark Mon 16-Jun-14 11:46:51

DP went to a school so bad it was demolished - bad teaching, terrible, violent, education averse families and children. Schools that bad don't exist any more. He got on with it (also had minimal parental support in terms of their ability to help his education). He made the best of it, esp at A level, when at least those who don't want to be there were no longer there, and went to Uni and has flown ever since.

I would say do all you can to encourage friendships where they are with sensible, dilligent and / or high achieving kids. Encourage all friendships that are to do wth cinstructive extra-curricular activity, e.g music. You will not be the only family with a high achieving kid in this school. I think friends and peers are one of the most influential factors in how kids do in secondary.

Take all opportunities to support enrichment - go to musems when they are studying particular bits of history, take every possible opportunity to build out-of-school learning, where it is fun and also enlightening.

springlamb Mon 16-Jun-14 12:12:19

Perhaps something to look out for in the latest Ofsted recommendations for the school - are they proposing a 'mentors hip' with a local high achieving school? Sometimes this can quite swiftly transform a school. I've seen a school in special measures, where the HT was dismissed for mismanagement/incompetence, turn around within 4 terms and regain it's position as one of the areas top schools.

springlamb Mon 16-Jun-14 12:13:22

Mentorship of course.
I don't have a great interest in hips.

IdespairIreallydo Mon 16-Jun-14 12:43:03

Thanks springlamb smile

Patricia909 Mon 16-Jun-14 17:13:03

I think the biggest influence will be the peer group. I went to a dire state secondary but ended up at an excellent university. This was entirely due to the influence of a small number of other kids who, like me, were desperate to do well. Siblings, equally able, got in with the "wrong crowd" and left without any qualifications to speak of.

Luggagecarousel Mon 16-Jun-14 19:34:41

As a muminscotland said, one of the biggest influences are the parents supporting the school, and valuing education.

The other biggest factors influencing outcomes are innate ability, including ability to control and motivate themselves, plus peer group, particularly the friends they sit with in the class room.

It is very rare indeed for a school situation to actively prevent learning and achievement. I have only come across it once in all the years I've worked in schools.

IdespairIreallydo Thu 19-Jun-14 11:46:06

Thank you all who responded, your comments are appreciated. We have decided to stick with it initially and keep a close eye - any other tips/hints greatly appreciated.

cricketballs Thu 19-Jun-14 17:22:19

As someone who taught in a school that was in special measures, terrible league table results (cause the tables dont rate Value Added...) I echo the posters that say parents! When you have students whose parents value the need for an education and support the school, they will do well.

The school I taught at was in one of the most deprived areas in the city, always bottom of the league tables, ended up shutting - but when past students get into very highly thought of unis, very good jobs etc it shows that its not about Ofsted or league tables

MillyMollyMama Thu 19-Jun-14 23:41:10

There are quite a few schools where insufficient learning takes place and many parents know their children could do better elsewhere! They just cannot get into "elsewhere". Most parents cannot make up for poor teaching and if this school was avoided before and is only half full, I think the parents are speaking fairly loudly and, it appears, are going elsewhere! I would do the same. You can see from the very detailed league tables where a school sits and if there are always problems with the quality of teachers, how can you be sure this will improve? Actually the tables DO rate value added. If you are in a minus position, you can calculate how this could affect your child. Schools with poor leadership never get the best teachers. No-one good wants to work there. I think poor schools also de motivate by having poor music, drama, art, school trips, after school activities and sport. I would look at the whole package not just anecdotes of "I did well at my rubbish school, so your children will too".

senua Fri 20-Jun-14 00:28:14

We have no choice (bar moving with all the expense/upheaval that takes)

Calculate how much it would cost you to move - cost of same house in a more expensive location, Stamp Duty, estate agents, solicitors, removals - and put that amount aside for tutoring when the time comes.
Try not to fret too much about KS3, I think that everyone feels a bit like they are treading water. Encourage good study habits and good friends (though I'm not sure how you do that! You have to trust your DCs' judgement) and hopefully they will blossom at KS4.<mixed metaphor>

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