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How to assess a good primary/secondary school?

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As I am searching for properties, when it comes to location, I am also trying to take into account the schools and their quality.

I am now finding myself confused more than ever because there seems to be a general view that schools in south of Manchester are better than those in North of Manchester.

News and other reporting avenues usually rank those schools in the top 10 list.

The ranking seems to be based on inspections and their outcome.

However, as I dug deeper, I found that most of these inspections are outdated, even for schools that are ranked in the top 10.

I'd like to purchase a house in the north of Manchester but not sure what's the best way to access these schools now.

Some of the website I've used are as follow
https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/
https://snobe.co.uk/
https://www.locrating.com/

If anyone has some experience on how to search for good schools effectively, please do advise.

Thank you
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Comments

  • pinkshoes
    pinkshoes Posts: 20,142 Forumite
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    A "good" school for one parent is a poor school for another...

    The only way to assess the school is to go and visit it.

    OFSTED reports are a very outdated way of assessing schools. "inadequate" ratings can be given for the most ridiculous things. My kids went to what I would consider an amazing nursery, but their ofsted report gave them a grade 4 (inadequate) because they had a 14' trampoline and let more than one child bounce at a time, and there were some stinging nettles on the (huge) grounds.
    Should've = Should HAVE (not 'of')
    Would've = Would HAVE (not 'of')

    No, I am not perfect, but yes I do judge people on their use of basic English language. If you didn't know the above, then learn it! (If English is your second language, then you are forgiven!)
  • Savvy_Sue
    Savvy_Sue Posts: 46,198 Forumite
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    Agree with pinkshoes, a visit is essential. 

    I twice sent my boys to schools with a poor reputation, raising eyebrows among my friends. I never regretted it. On visits, I found the heads responsive to what was going on in their schools, and happy to show us round. 

    My friend sent hers to 'better' schools, and some of what went on made my hair curl.

    My conclusion at the time was that a school with a good reputation will keep it long after it should have lost it, and a school with a poor reputation will struggle to lose it.
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  • Spendless
    Spendless Posts: 24,206 Forumite
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    Savvy_Sue said:
    Agree with pinkshoes, a visit is essential. 

    I twice sent my boys to schools with a poor reputation, raising eyebrows among my friends. I never regretted it. On visits, I found the heads responsive to what was going on in their schools, and happy to show us round. 

    My friend sent hers to 'better' schools, and some of what went on made my hair curl.

    My conclusion at the time was that a school with a good reputation will keep it long after it should have lost it, and a school with a poor reputation will struggle to lose it.
    Agreed, I sent my kids to my former Secondary school. A place I had fond memories of and still have friends from those days. It was still well thought of in the area. Within a year of my eldest starting there it had got an Outstanding ofsted. At the end of that academic year the Head left, another one started it had become an academy and though DS left before too many changes had taken place, DD was a different matter. She endured bullying (that she didn't tell us about) to the point she was suffering too bad with her mental health (assessed with PTSD, anxiety, depression) to attend. I have only seen signs of recovery recently (and by that I mean in the last few weeks) and she's 19 and it's almost 3 years since she left.

    Ignore Ofsted reports especially if they're old. It's nearly 10 years since my kids school was inspected. Visit but also if you can talk to parents of pupils there and not just those that hav e kids that glide happily through school. You want to know how the school deals with any problems too. 
  • zagfles
    zagfles Posts: 20,378 Forumite
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    Manchester has always had a north/south divide, based on snobbery more than anything else, I'm sure you'll have seen that in house prices. Re schools, some parts of south Manchester eg Trafford, still have state grammar schools, and they will obviously feature high in results lists because they select the most able pupils. Doesn't mean they're better schools. But it's something to consider if you want your kids to go to a state grammar school - I know people who've moved to that area for that reason.
    But there are a lot of good schools in North Manchester - and it changes all the time. Don't take much notice of raw results tables - these can be misleading, eg what happens is
    1. A particular school was seen as best school in the area a few decades ago
    2. So house prices rise in the catchment area
    3. So richer families move into the catchment area
    4. Richer families usually means cleverer/harder working parents as they have higher paid jobs
    5. Kids inherit/learn from these traits and so do better in school
    6. School then gets better results, even if the teaching staff/head/ethos etc change over the years making the school average or worse than average
    Or simply, an average school happens to be in a rich area, so gets "better" pupils and so gets better results. Nothing to do with the quality of the school.
    Also bear in the mind the obsession in universities about "broadening" access, which is effectively postcode discrimination. Google "contextualised admissions" for more on this.

  • Cpu2007
    Cpu2007 Posts: 724 Forumite
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    Thank you guys. I really appreciate all the advice.
    Visiting schools sounds like a good idea but I wonder this can be done effectively.

    I should have pointed that it's going to be a couple of years before my child will be attending school so by then, a school that is currently good, could end up getting worse.

    However, if we put aside the hypothetical situation above. If I was to choose an area, I will need to visit multiple schools so that I can then decide to buy a property close to the school I deem as good, can I do this even if I don't a child currently?
  • zagfles
    zagfles Posts: 20,378 Forumite
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    I don't think visiting schools will tell you that much, it'd be better to get opinions from parents who have kids at the schools. Obviously not easy if you don't know anyone in the area, but you could join local facebook groups etc and ask there.
    But as above things can change rapidly, there's a school near us that was always the go-to top school, was always "outstanding" till a few years ago, but is now in special measures.
  • london21
    london21 Posts: 2,096 Forumite
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    Check the Ofsted report
    visit the schools.

    As others have said, good school is also subdjective.
  • littlegreenparrot
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    Cpu2007 said:
    Thank you guys. I really appreciate all the advice.
    Visiting schools sounds like a good idea but I wonder this can be done effectively.

    I should have pointed that it's going to be a couple of years before my child will be attending school so by then, a school that is currently good, could end up getting worse.
    Unfortunately there is no way you can completely know. 
    Even if you think it's great as a parent, there is no guarantee that your child will. Different things are important to different people, and different children have different needs. 

    I would encourage you to think carefully about what you consider makes a school 'good' - because your opinion will not necessarily be the same as what OFSTED are looking for when they say somewhere is good. 

    For example - a school might get great test results by putting a lot of pressure on children and teaching to the test. Another school might have a broader curriculum with a lot of wonderful music, arts, enrichment, but a bit less time practicing maths. The test scores might be lower, but a child may do better in one or another depending on their strengths and character.  Those tests also don't measure distance travelled, so a child may have made brilliant progress over a year, but still not met a target and therefore 'failed'. 

    OFSTED regularly change the goalposts as to what they consider to be 'good', so a school with a 'good' rating 10 years ago might come out with a lower rating - but still be doing substantially the same things. They are just not doing enough of whatever is currently considered 'good'.
  • pollypenny
    pollypenny Posts: 29,394 Forumite
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    Try to find out if the teachers have their own children there. 

    We moved to this area for the school and I joined it a year later. My kids weren't hassled  because of mum, because it wasn't usual. Lots of teachers and support staff were also parents. 
    Member #14 of SKI-ers club

    Words, words, they're all we have to go by!.

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  • BikingBud
    BikingBud Posts: 1,810 Forumite
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    Interesting first post, lots about "I" but nothing about we, us, the children eg ages, sexes, interests, ability, their own; demeanour, approach, level of dedication or attitude etc. 

    The string is 4359mm!
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