Failing secondary school - fears. What would you do?

I have a question about secondary schools - but I thought I'd fill you in with a little bit of background first...


I've not long since had to move house to a much cheaper place about 60 miles north of where we used to live. Fortunately, our mortgage company allowed us to be a 'special case' after 5 years of trying!


But - one of the key reasons why it's much cheaper to live here is that we've moved into an area with a failing secondary school.


My kids are still quite young, so there's a few years go yet, but the stories in the news of drugs and knives in this school (which we are firmly in the catchment for), are giving me the heebiegeebies.


There's no chance we can move again, and I'm not sure it would be best for us financially anyway - and I don't want to be one of those parents who move into an area just because of the 'status' of it's schools - when everything else is perfectly OK.



I was wondering if there's anyone out there who puts up with a school where the people you meet say, "I wouldn't send my dog there"?


I know deep down, that it's parents who influence how their kids behave and how aspirational they might want to be - but I worry how much influence I'd have once they're teenagers in a school that benefits from the money it gets for accepting expelled kids from other schools?



Ugh - I expect you're thinking, "What a snob, eh?". Sorry.


Any advice, much appreciated. x
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Comments

  • RADDERS
    RADDERS Posts: 241 Forumite
    First Anniversary
    I have a question about secondary schools - but I thought I'd fill you in with a little bit of background first...


    I've not long since had to move house to a much cheaper place about 60 miles north of where we used to live. Fortunately, our mortgage company allowed us to be a 'special case' after 5 years of trying!


    But - one of the key reasons why it's much cheaper to live here is that we've moved into an area with a failing secondary school.


    My kids are still quite young, so there's a few years go yet, but the stories in the news of drugs and knives in this school (which we are firmly in the catchment for), are giving me the heebiegeebies.


    There's no chance we can move again, and I'm not sure it would be best for us financially anyway - and I don't want to be one of those parents who move into an area just because of the 'status' of it's schools - when everything else is perfectly OK.



    I was wondering if there's anyone out there who puts up with a school where the people you meet say, "I wouldn't send my dog there"?


    I know deep down, that it's parents who influence how their kids behave and how aspirational they might want to be - but I worry how much influence I'd have once they're teenagers in a school that benefits from the money it gets for accepting expelled kids from other schools?



    Ugh - I expect you're thinking, "What a snob, eh?". Sorry.


    Any advice, much appreciated. x

    Talking a few years ago now, but my daughter went to a good secondary school and did well. Onto 6th form and then university.

    My nephew is 6 years younger than her and by the time he came to go to secondary school it was not as good and one of the “failing” schools 6 years previous was now the one to go to.

    So depending on how long it is until your children actually go to secondary school it could have all changed, so I wouldn’t panic just yet. Let them enjoy their primary years.
  • seven-day-weekend
    seven-day-weekend Posts: 36,755 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary Photogenic First Post
    I have a question about secondary schools - but I thought I'd fill you in with a little bit of background first...


    I've not long since had to move house to a much cheaper place about 60 miles north of where we used to live. Fortunately, our mortgage company allowed us to be a 'special case' after 5 years of trying!


    But - one of the key reasons why it's much cheaper to live here is that we've moved into an area with a failing secondary school.


    My kids are still quite young, so there's a few years go yet, but the stories in the news of drugs and knives in this school (which we are firmly in the catchment for), are giving me the heebiegeebies.


    There's no chance we can move again, and I'm not sure it would be best for us financially anyway - and I don't want to be one of those parents who move into an area just because of the 'status' of it's schools - when everything else is perfectly OK.



    I was wondering if there's anyone out there who puts up with a school where the people you meet say, "I wouldn't send my dog there"?


    I know deep down, that it's parents who influence how their kids behave and how aspirational they might want to be - but I worry how much influence I'd have once they're teenagers in a school that benefits from the money it gets for accepting expelled kids from other schools?



    Ugh - I expect you're thinking, "What a snob, eh?". Sorry.


    Any advice, much appreciated. x
    Far from it, you have your childrens' education to think of.
    (AKA HRH_MUngo)
    Member #10 of £2 savers club
    Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology: Terry Eagleton
  • badmemory
    badmemory Posts: 7,774 Forumite
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    If they are failing then there should be measures in place to stop that. A good school can change very quickly into one that isn't so good at all - just by one senior member of staff leaving. I really wouldn't worry too much until the time is closer (yes I know that isn't really going to happen).


    How is the primary school? These are the children your children will be moving up with.
  • Fireflyaway
    Fireflyaway Posts: 2,766 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post
    I used to work in school admissions. There were schools that were consistently good and others that were consistently bad. By bad I mean not just poor academic attainment but drugs, gangs, bullying etc.
    Then there were schools that were quite changeable. I remember when I first started in admissions there was a march and protest because parents couldn't get into my local primary! Around 5 years on, and people who were offered the school were refusing the place. My daughter went there and several of her classmates left part way through as their parents thought it was going downhill! My point is things change and a lot of it is as you say, support at home and the attitude of the child.
    We avoided our local upper school by going independent. If that was not an option id be honest with the child. Tell them they might encounter people who don't want to work. Tell them the importance of telling you about any bullying and instill in them that education and good manners is going to benefit them and give them a good life. Self confidence and the strength to stick to what is right an not be easily influenced will really help. I know kids who have gone both ways.
    The inspection reports etc only give a snapshot. It's like a football team. Change a few players ( teachers) and it can completely change.
    I'd say keep an eye on your child's attainment. I trusted my daughter was at the required level. Never been told differently. We had her independently assessed and found she was around 2 years behind average in writing! I wasn't best pleased. We arranged extra tuition now she is fine but I do know some schools don't expect much and thus some kids don't reach their full potential. Also school is one aspect. My cousin has great qualifications but she was a lazy thing. No work experience. Bad attitude. Difficult with her parents etc etc. Personality and manners count for a lot!
  • walletmoths
    walletmoths Posts: 53 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    The primary school is great, actually. They're all great kids. There are some parents though that I'd say were 'iffy' - which worries me too. I cannot abide folks who swear at their kids. Kids just don't deserve that.
  • walletmoths
    walletmoths Posts: 53 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Thanks for your reply Fireflyaway - and to everyone, actually. You're right - there are 3 years to go until my kids are due to move up to the 'big' school - so I'm worrying unduly at the moment. I'm wondering if, close to the time, if there's anything I can personally do to help the senior school? Can parents play an active part in making a school better?



    I've never heard of independent assessments. I might look into that when the time comes. And yes, being honest with my kids (twins) is a good idea when it comes to characters they'd find challenging. There are some great anti-bullying and confidence building courses out there by Kidscape. When they're old enough, I'll be sure to book them onto one too.
  • Savvy_Sue
    Savvy_Sue Posts: 46,018 Forumite
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    I'm wondering if, close to the time, if there's anything I can personally do to help the senior school? Can parents play an active part in making a school better?
    Yes, and you can start earlier - probably not on your own, but if most of the children from the current primary school move up to the secondary school then starting to get involved now could be worth exploring.

    Community involvement has turned our nearest secondary from a 'wouldn't send my dog there' to a 'first choice' for lots of local families. I know local churches volunteer there - serving tea and coffee at parents' evenings, for example, but also giving some extra-curricular support.
    Signature removed for peace of mind
  • humptydumptybits
    humptydumptybits Posts: 2,992 Forumite
    I don't think OFSTED is a great way to judge a school and I've never been a fan of other people's judgment on schools as if a child is doing well they might say it's great and if child is struggling it is the school's fault.


    My GS goes to a grammar that is supposed to be great, the stories he tells me make me think the school is terrible, I've said to him that he needs to behave at school and he says it doesn't matter as long as your marks are good you get away with it. I don't think it is a good lesson but locally people think it is great, amazing that they take the brightest kids and get good results. I wonder how they manage to get better results than the comp that takes the kids with behaviour problems, learning difficulties?



    I've always picked schools based on a visit and was heavily influenced by the Head, I only went against my judgement of a Head once and it was a mistake and he was an idiot.


    If your children are young then there is every chance things will change. Locally the school that was always regarded as the worst is now over subscribed and getting results that compare very favourably with the grammars.
  • humptydumptybits
    humptydumptybits Posts: 2,992 Forumite
    A friend of mine sent her daughters to a very expensive private school to avoid a local comp with a not great reputation. She told me the drug taking at the school was terrible, when I was surprised she said who do you think has more money for drugs, the well of kids at the expensive school or the comp? It did make sense to me.
  • Slubberd
    Slubberd Posts: 91 Forumite
    We live in an inner city area where many of the schools are failing. A friend of mine said to me years ago, when I had the same fears are you that as long as the child has support at home and friends of the same mind - the league tables mean nothing as the teachers work incredibly hard and will work doubly well for the right students.


    My child got a second choice school and I was devastated. They have just finished their a levels with offers from all 5 Russell Group universities. A lot of the time the schools are not at fault and I think the Ofsted results are skewed and they have a deliberate misunderstanding of how some schools have to operate to succeed. The advice they give is very much one size fits all.


    All I can say it is what they make it. You have some kids that go to really great schools that just don't apply themselves. That isn't the school's fault.


    You aren't being a snob you are being honest about your concerns. It depends what you mean by aspirational. I am very working class on a working class estate. Money has never inspired anything in me - but knowledge does - and I have brought up my child to respect that. Much of the time you will hear lots of people on lots of estates UK wide say that.



    Lots of people warned me off the school my child went to. Her year had the best results in the history of her school. People hear stories and talk rubbish.


    All the very best.
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