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!
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.
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.
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
This 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.
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.
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
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:
“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.