Choosing Secondary Schools

We are currently in the process of choosing a secondary school for our eldest daughter. We live in a county that is heavily influenced by the grammar school system, so most children take the 11+ test at the beginning of year six. This is regardless of whether they are actually grammar school material, but it has become somewhat of a stigma.

Many children are tutored privately throughout year 5, some even earlier in order to prepare for this test. Parents feel the pressure to put their child through the tutoring process in order not to put them at a disadvantage to their peers.

This year the test was changed to make it ‘tutor proof’ and so my daughter decided she wanted to sit it (mainly because all her friends were doing it). I knew she would struggle, but we supported her decision because we felt it would be good experience for her, if nothing else.

The children sat the test just after they started back in September and following that, local secondary schools opened their doors for open evenings and tours. We have until the end of October to make up to four choices and so far we have three. All are Christian comprehensive schools, with outstanding Ofsted ratings and results. I was blown away by these school. They all have a similar ethos of nurturing the children and bringing out the best in them. There was a strong sense of pastoral care that came through when we went to visit each one. For me, this is a very important addition to a strong academic record.

There is an underlying attitude in these parts that if your child doesn’t pass the 11+, there is no where else (decent) for them to go. I don’t know where this comes from, as personally I would put these three schools above the grammar school in every category.This attitude has surrounded me for the last two years, made me worry that I was disadvantaging my daughter by not getting her a tutor, wondering what we were going to do when it came to moving on to year seven. The situation had seemed dire. But I know now that it isn’t like that at all and it’s a relief, to be honest.

Now we are in a new predicament. How do we choose between the three schools? All have their plus and minus points and I would be happy for my daughter to go to any of them. I know she has a strong gut feeling about one of them in particular and it was great to see her get excited about the prospect of moving on to year seven and experiencing new things. My daughter has worried about what school she would be able to go to. She convinced herself that she would fail the eleven plus test before she even sat it and a visit to the grammar school at the end of last term didn’t inspire her to want to pass it either. I know she didn’t see herself there, felt like she didn’t belong in that world. Academically, she doesn’t have the strongest record and confidence wise, she has little to no belief in her own abilities.

The 11+ results are due on the 15th October, but this will have no bearing on our choices. We don’t feel grammar school is the right place for our daughter and it is a relief to think that we are not reliant on this result. What a position to be in though.

Comments (0)

  1. mytravelmonkey 6th October 2014 at 10:56 am

    It must be such a trying time and a worry for parents. I remember it all to clearly myself when I was going through it, the tutors and the upset. But I am glad you’ve come to the conclusion that grammar isn’t the option, it must be a weight offf your shoulders.

    • Nicola Young 6th October 2014 at 11:11 am

      It is so difficult to make the final decision, though, but apparently we put our choices and in theory could end up being offered a place at all three. We won’t know that until March, so we have some time to worry about making the choice.

  2. stressymummy1 9th October 2014 at 10:25 am

    We have grammar schools here but luckily it doesn’t determine the way we apply for schools and I do think that it is a strange system (I know not everyone would agree) that all of the children have to sit the 11 plus as like you rightly said, grammar schools are not for everyone at all. Choosing a school is a huge decision and I think you do have to go with your gut instinct to a certain degree and decide which will be the best place for your child; the other thing to remember is that if you do make the wrong choice there is always the option of moving, My friend was in a similar situation and realised after a couple of months that they had chosen the wrong school and she moved her daughter and they have never looked back. Good luck x

    • Nicola Young 9th October 2014 at 10:33 am

      I do think gut instinct plays a huge part, once you’ve done the visits and checked the academic record etc. It will come down to two choices for us. One is an established school with a proven track record, but it is a 45 minute bus journey away. The other is a new school, with no results, but showing loads of promise and it’s a twenty minute walk away. I am leaning towards the nearer one, but it’s a leap of faith isn’t it?

  3. Jenny 10th October 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Oh dear it’s hard picking isn’t it? I am in the process of picking primary so I am a completely rookie at it all and as an american I am trying to still wrap my head around the english school system. Good luck hun. Thanks for linking up to Share WIth me #sharewithme

  4. sophieblovett 12th October 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Really interesting post – I’m glad you’ve found your local comprehensives so inspiring, because ultimately I firmly believe that a comprehensive environment is so much better for young peoples’ general development. I’m possibly a bit biased, having taught in comps and now being a governor at one (in a grammar school area too) but I just can’t see the advantage of segregating kids for their education! It sounds like any of the three schools will be great so maybe the best thing to do is let your daughter choose – that would be a pretty empowering start to her secondary education 🙂

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