We Moved Them To A New School

school classroom
Three and a half years ago we moved away from our home and started a new life in the country. Doing that meant uprooting the girls and moving schools. At the time the eldest two were in years 5 and 4, the younger two in reception and nursey. At those ages it’s wasn’t such a big deal. But, now the eldest girls are in years 9 and 8, and we’ve done it again!
Some Background

Moving your children from one school to another can be a tough decision to make. It’s not one we’ve jumped at and certainly one we’ve not taken lightly. However, here’s why we did it.

When we moved to this area everyone spoke only about one secondary school (“school A“). School A is Ofsted ‘outstanding’ and is always over-subscribed. Many parents from out of catchment try to get their kids in there. We never looked at the alternative, larger school that was “only” Ofsted good (“school B”). L started at school A school in year 7 when she was 11.

Things Seemed Okay

Things seemed okay. But, we always had an odd feeling about the place. Not something I can easily put my finger on but a feeling. They seemed to say all the right things, but that feeling was always there. It could have been the way the teachers, or rather the senior management, spoke at parents. Or, the ever-tightening of rules. Or maybe the switch to a federated school sucking in 3 local primaries. The way it seemed more like it was run as a business that an education institution. Possibly the way they said they weren’t an exam factory but constantly seemed to be testing the kids. Maybe the fact L, and then G when she started a year later, didn’t seem to enjoy school. Even after all that we still have that feeling.

test

But recently things haven’t been great at school. The ever-increasing pressure seemed to be taking its toll but they didn’t seem interested. Sure, they got the school nurse involved but I never got the sense they actually cared. Then there were GCSE options. Oh, what a shame that was. The school is hard-core academic and whilst not enforcing the EBacc, boy-oh-boy did they shove it down all our throats.

This did not sit well with L, or us for that matter. She took her options (avoiding the Ebacc, but not intentionally so) but sadly they didn’t allow her to take all the subjects she had chosen. They were over-subscribed on a couple she had chosen, and while she got one she didn’t get the other. I’ll cover the shambles that is the computer science GCSE in another post.

It wasn’t so much she couldn’t do what she wanted. No, it was the way the school was set up for GCSEs. They set a timetable then fill the slots. However, it’s not like that at the school B.

School B

We never considered school B, a little further in the other direction to school A. We didn’t even go and look at it. But over the years we’ve become friends with other parents whose children go (or went) there. Similarly, the girls have made friends through dance with others that go there too. We also know people who work there, the headteacher is even a regular at the chippy where Helen works. This is how we’ve come to learn a lot about it.

We decided before the Easter holidays to go an have a look for ourselves. Frankly, I was amazed by the feel of the school (there’s that word again). We were there on a non-uniform day, something they do each Monday before a holiday, and this can make school a more rowdy place. Not that we witnessed. It felt amazing and a complete contrast to how we’ve ever felt as visitors school A.

A feeling isn’t everything and there are lots of reasons why we liked school B. They have a different philosophy of education and learning while still challenging students. They have high expectations but also place the happiness of students at the top of the agenda too. The facilities are on par with the current school but one thing makes a key difference. All lessons are 100 minutes in length.

The 100 Minute Lesson

clockThis struck me bluntly. School B has lesson periods per day. However, these periods are 100 minutes each. The contrast to the 5 60 minute lessons at school A is stark. If you take 5 minutes off a lesson at the beginning and end to allow for getting in, settling down, register, packing up etc then that 60 minutes becomes 50. Not a lot of time to get your teeth into the lesson if you ask me.

Decision Made

After visiting school B we had a frank discussion with the girls. Is this a move they want? They were unanimous in saying YES. That was enough for us and we went ahead and applied for an in-year transfer through our local council’s website. It was all very straightforward.

We had resigned ourselves to the fact it was very close to the Easter break and thus would not get processed in time. Ideally, we wanted the girls to go to school B after the break rather than school A. On the last day of term, it all fell into place. I had been quick to judge a potentially archaic system of physical mail from the council to the new school to the old school etc. But no, it was sorted and we were informed they could start at school B immediately after Easter.

This meant getting them all kitted out with their new uniforms and kit during the holidays. It’s a cost we hadn’t budgeted for but you can’t put a price on a child’s happiness.

Scary Decision

change

Sometimes as a parent you face scary decisions that have to be made. In our case, we have focussed on what we feel is best for our girls. It’s natural that we might have thoughts such as “are we doing the right thing” or once they’ve moved “what if they’d stayed at the old school”. But we have made what we feel is the right decision right now. My boss has a motto on his wall that fits this scenario:

“Do what I believe is right as the time, always with good intentions”

You can’t go far wrong in life living by a motto like that. And it’s one I will repeat to anyone that asks about our decision. I know a few other parents have had raised eyebrows about our move. They can’t see past the “Ofsted Outstanding” veneer over the current school, sadly.

Time Will Tell

new school

They have been at school B for more than a half term now and things are going well. They’ve made new friends and we’re already seeing the green shoots that these friendships and good for them. They’ve had some days that have been rougher than others, but that happens to us all. But generally, they appear happier.

Whilst time will tell what the outcome will be we’re confident we made the correct decision. In the not too distant future, we will be looking at D moving up the secondary school and whilst no decision has been made yet we’ll look at both schools and give school B the advantage.

This last week, on the weekly newsletter (that in itself is great, as school A only did a termly newsletter), the head wrote this:

grammar school

“Which makes the news on Friday morning of the Government’s intention to increase the number of grammar school places even more depressing. All the evidence is that intelligence is not fixed yet we have an ideologic decision to separate children at the age of 11 into winners and losers.”

This fits right in with our philosophy that a collective of abilities makes a school stronger. I couldn’t stop smiling when I read this. The headteacher of our girls’ school actually thinks like I do.

We also received a postcard in the mail from L’s geography teacher praising how she has worked to settle in. That a tiny, little thing. But it meant so much. Never, in almost 3 years at school A did we receive anything like that. The girls also talk about how cool some teachers are, even playing background music in lessons. Helen was most impressed one teach played Seasons of Love from Rent – her favourite musical! This just highlights further the difference in styles between the schools and how this one is better for our girls.

What about you?

Have you, dear reader, ever faced such a decision? What did you do? What would you do? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.


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Comments

  1. Laura Dove

    I think it sounds as though you made the right decision. My eldest son moved schools 3 times for various reasons but it was the best thing we ever did! #thatfridaylinky

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  2. John Adams

    Fascinating, utterly fascinating. I’ve long gone with the theory that, if presented with a choice between a Good and Outstanding school, you should go with Good. Your post has spelled out a very good reason. Outstanding schools might produce results, but at what cost? If kids aren’t inspired by their teaching, what’s the point? I also have to ask, is School B a faith school? These are often much more based on community and pastoral care than pushing kids to achieve higher grades.

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  3. Emma T

    Interesting. I think without looking at all the schools you just can’t work out which might be right for your child, personally and practically. Different but similar, our day nursery randomly failed its ofsted which everyone was flumoxed about. The reasons they failed were absurd and not relevant in our area – you can’t increase diversity in a school if you’re in a pretty much white area in the middle of the countryside and people from town don’t want to pay the fees and drive 8 miles to nursery to put their children in there for example. The next ofsted they were back to good. But it was a great nursery, and certainly was a lot better and covered the rules they had to follow a lot better than the nursery school my son also went to. Without children being there and experiencing it you just never know. Because every child feels differently and needs different things from school

    (Personally I think grammar schools are a good thing, although we’re just in catchment for them, N is unlikely to be grammar school material, but our catchment school and those in our county are comps anyway so he won’t be impacted by the winners/losers thing).

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      Dave

      Thanks for commenting. The whole Ofsted inspection racket is irritating. School A in my post was awarded it’s outstanding in 2011 and since then has only had a couple of monitoring visits (i.e. box-ticking exercises and not class monitoring) to retain its outstanding status. How can we have a system whereby a child can pass through a school (5 years in secondary case) and it not be inspected at all?

      My comments on Grammar school was more to highlight the style of the headteacher that express my own opinions in this post about them. I don’t agree with them myself but again there’s not anywhere local to us anyway.

  4. Jeremy@ThirstyDaddy

    our teenager was having a difficult time with the transition to high school and made a decision to move her to a different school with smaller classes and more one on one instruction. It was a move that my wife favored but I did not. Still not sure if the move was the right one, but she has a diploma (eventually) and there isn’t much sense in looking back now. Sometimes we just have to do what we think is best and hope that it all works out #thatfridaylinky

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  5. Sophie

    Omg I love you! I’m a teacher an d a parent of a 16 and 18 year old. I have lived the education system with my own children and work in a primary school. I wish all parents would think like you. I also advise….please, please go with your gut and not the ofsted reports! A school may be the most outstanding school but it may not fit your child. A very academic school did not suit our daughter as she needed a smaller more homely school where she has done amazingly well. All 6 year olds are bright but that does not mean that they will be academically bright when they are 12. #thatfridaylinky

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  6. Enda Sheppard

    Couldn’t agree more. We could have chosen other schools for our two for secondary if academia was all we cared about. We choose our local school (with their backing) because of the feel of the school, and we have not been disappointed,. The school is fine academically, but, more importantly, really good for their all-round development. #TriumphantTales

  7. Kate

    To be honest, I am so confused about education and how the best way to do it is now we have so much information so quickly and readily available unlike when I was at school, The Internet has changed what people need I think so I want my children to have skills and qualities over information. As for intelligence, it is so hard to measure. My oldest brother left school with one o-level in woodwork and became a millionaire. My middle brother got average grades and travelled the world as an opera singer learning languages as he went. As for me, I did Law at Cambridge and in many ways am the least successful of my parents’ children yet I like to think I am bright enough and have emotional intelligence even if I have not used it in traditional professions. Fate plays its part in who we come across and what or who inspires us or gives us chances. You do your best by your children at the time. I have made the decision to home educate two of my children and wobble about that decision every day. Funnily enough your lovely post made me feel better about making choices so thank you. #TwinklyTuesday

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      Dave

      Your family sound like what I’m trying to tell my children each day. What happens at school or GCSE does not and will not define who they are or What they become. Thank you for you lovely comment.

  8. Lianne Harris

    My niece has recently had a similar situation, she didn’t like her school; they only had one break for lunch and there were several issues day to day. The school she would move to not only had three breaks in the day (shorter lunch but same time overall – gives their minds a breather) and more importantly she can use her phone.
    They are of the knowledge that kids are glued to them right now and rather than take a stance of no phones which they know kids will break, then be spotted in class and distract the kids and teacher from learning and rather telling the student off for having said phone. This way they get responsibility for using their phone for work related reasons only i.e. calculator etc. but can concentrate on learning a lot more! For me, I’d prefer my child to go to that school as they’re encouraging maturity but also trust, Trust that the kids won’t abuse the ability to use their phones reasonably in class. This will build relationships between students and teachers and in theory increase learning and grades!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!

  9. Confessions of a New Mummy

    Its certainly not an easy decision to make but it sounds as though you made the right one. My eldest goes up to year 2 in September and I really didn’t know which school to send her to when we chose. The one we sent her to, is the one her Dad went to and it was the right decision so far as we were concerned. Compared to stories of the other two in the area we get lots of feedback and there’s plenty of opportunity for the parents to attend set lessons and other activities for the kids to join in with during lunch and after school. Thanks for sharing and linking up #TwinklyTuesday

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