Category Archives: Secondary school application

Fingers Crossed

shooting-star-297120

 

 

 

 

It was with nervous anticipation that I handed over the school application form to my brother yesterday. He decided to make the trip to the admissions office and hand it in personally to ensure its arrival before the deadline.

We stood round the envelope and blew on it for ‘extra good luck’ as instructed by Inny. She even went as far as to perform a little dance just to be sure.

All the school visits are over and nothing more can be done.

Now the long wait begins as we will not hear which secondary school she has been assigned to until March 2014.

Wish us luck! 

 

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Don’t play Secondary School Roulette!

Don't limit your chances!

Don’t limit your chances!

On the recent visit to Walthamstow Academy I sat with my darling friend Sil and a gentleman I shall call Ra. Both have daughters in the same primary school and year as Inny. It’s inevitable that we meet each other at the secondary school open evenings and end up having discussions about our thoughts on the matter.

Ra told us that he was only going to list two schools on the secondary school application form. He had a little stubborn attitude of these are the only two schools that I want her to go to and that’s that.

RISKY!

The two schools he has chosen are great schools and definitely described as oversubscribed.

This strategy is brave……………….or extremely foolish.

We told him as much and asked him to consider carefully before going through with it.

His daughter does not fill the first two criteria for selection in either school. She’s not ‘in’ care and she has no specific medial or special needs.

So it comes down to the third criteria …………. Distance.

Ra lives a mile away from the Academy and just over a mile from the other school of choice.

I spoke to the borough representatives earlier in the visit  and was informed that the 2013 intake of children had come from a mile radius of the school but that the 2014 will most likely be no more than ¾ of a mile radius. Apparently the applicants have increased this year by a third but the available places have remained the same. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that as I lived just over a mile and a half away I would not get a place for my child.

I shared this with Ra and asked him if realised what would happen if he did not get a place at one of the two schools on his list.

He wasn’t sure.

We filled him in.

Someone, in a government office somewhere, will assign a school to his daughter and the chances are it will be the undersubscribed school closest to you.

I’m not sure why anyone would take that risk or think that the system is forced to assign one of the two or three schools listed. I was told by the borough rep of parents who fill in all six slots with the name of one school and end up with a school they’ve neither visited nor looked into.

Not filling out the form with as many viable options for your child is like playing a game of secondary school roulette.

In total I’m visiting nine schools. Four are in the borough that I live in and five are in two other boroughs. At present it seems that my first preference is a school in my borough and the second, third, fourth are in a different borough (two of which are the same distance away!)

It seems I will be listing at least 4 schools, two of which I know she won’t get into., but I’m trying to find suitable schools 5 and 6 to list so that all my bases are covered.

Hopefully Ra will have a rethink on his strategy and give his girl the best possible chance to get into a good school!

Selecting A Secondary School; The Choice You Don’t Really Get To Make

Unfortunately Hogwarts is not in our local borough

Unfortunately Hogwarts is not in our local borough

My daughter and I are currently spending quite a few of my evenings traipsing around secondary schools in north east London trying to decide which one she should attend for the next five to eight academic years from next September.

Now even if we settle on a school that we really like there is absolutely no guarantee that she will be allocated that school.

The English school allocation system works like this;

First you read the Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) reports for the school in your area.

Ofsted grades the schools as follows;

  • Grade 1 Outstanding
  • Grade 2 Good
  • Grade 3 Satisfactory
  • Grade 4 Inadequate

You visit all the schools that you are interested in. The schools have open evenings and mornings so that you can engage with teachers and pupils and really get a feel for them.

Then you fill out an application form. On this you are required to list up to six schools in order of preference.

That’s right six secondary schools.

I’d didn’t even know if there were six in my area but it transpires there are, though two are technically in different boroughs.

Who is going to think that as many as six schools will be right for their child?

Next the school criteria comes into play

Community schools allocation criteria is as follows;

  1. Children in care
  2. Social or Medical reasons
  3. Children with siblings already attending the school
  4. Distance

Faith schools criteria is slightly different and varies from faith to faith but I’ve set out an approximate criteria below;

  1. Children baptised in faith and practice regularly in the local parish
  2. Children baptised in the parish
  3. Children baptised in the faith in surrounding parishes
  4. Children baptised in the faith in the borough
  5. Children in care
  6. Social or Medical reasons
  7. Children baptised in other faiths
  8. Children with siblings already attending the school

With faith schools you can live above their gym and you are not getting in if you don’t fulfill one of the above!

And finally someone somewhere decides which school your child is allocated, cross referenced with the school criteria.

You send your kid there.

Or you dispute the allocation and appeal. There is a hearing and usually an unfavourable out come as you child has been allocated one of the six schools you chose.

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THE SCHOOL VISITS

Gladesmore Community School

http://www.gladesmore.com

Distance

This school is walking distance from our home. Alternatively she could ride the bus for 3 stops and then walk down a residential street to get there. It’s closer than her current primary school and in a nice residential area away from any high street.

Ofsted report

This school is graded as a 1 = Outstanding

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/files/877589/urn/102157.pdf

http://dashboard.ofsted.gov.uk/dash.php?urn=102157

Open Evening

We were met at the entrance by teachers who directed us to the inner door where more teachers and a long queue of students were waiting for us. We signed in and two year seven girls were assigned to take Inny and I around the school. They introduce themselves and really were engaged and animated. They spoke of how much they were enjoying the school, which primary schools they had attended. They told Inny of all the extra-curricular activities they both took part in. one of them was a blue belt in a martial art and the other did dance and drama.

As we walked around the school they explained how the lunch and shop worked, school rules and competitions. We were afforded plenty of time in each room and introduced to teachers. I couldn’t imagine that anyone had better guides than we had yet lots of children were truly engaged with visitors.

The school had ensured that there were refreshments all over the school for everyone as the tour was from 5pm-8pm. At 7 we were lead to a hall where the headmaster and a number of students spoke passionately about life at Gladesmore. The choir and a solo singer entertained us and there were various films shown.

Uniform

A smart blazer, trousers, shirt and tie combination. Nice and smart.

Facilities

It’s a large school and seems very well equipped. Inny was beside herself with joy entering the well-stocked library, food technology and ITC rooms. The design lab was very impressive with computers that rose up out of the desks.  The school was clean and well decorated.

It wasn’t huge or impersonal but had everything one would hope that a great school could have.

Final impression

I think both Inny and I have fallen in love with this school. The atmosphere is very welcoming and inspiring. The students were engaged and attentive and the headmaster spoke with passion and obvious dedication to his school.

The distance and location are perfect for us.

The fact that there are 22 children currently attending who are children of teachers that currently teach at Gladesmore and 10 of the teachers are actually graduates of the school is very encouraging.

Northumberland Park Community School

http://www.northumberlandpark.haringey.sch.uk

Distance

NPCS is a 10 minute bus ride away, about  6 stops and then a walk from the high street to the school.

Ofsted report

Grade 2 Good  (I’m unsure how that was achieved)

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/files/1897741/urn/102155.pdf

http://dashboard.ofsted.gov.uk/dash.php?urn=102155

Open Evening

We entered the school and there were teachers who directed us up the corridor to the dining hall where the tours were starting from. When we entered we were told to sit at a table and that refreshments would be bought to us. After 5 minutes at a table we were briskly told to move to another table as they wanted a table to fill up before they would take that table on the tour.

I dislike clear instruction.

After 10 minutes I asked Inny to go get me a cup of tea from the serving area. When she got there she was snappily told to return to her seat that nibbles and tea would come round.

She dislikes being snapped at.

Finally two year 11 boys were assigned to take us and a woman and her children round the school. These boys did not introduce themselves nor ask anything about Inny or the other child.

I dragged their names and information out of them. It was like pulling teeth.

The head mistress talk contained so many ‘I’s you would have been forgiven for thinking that she ran the school single handed. She also informed us that she too was looking for a secondary school for her child in other parts of north London…………… not sending your own kid to this one then?

Uniform

A smart blazer, trousers, shirt and tie. Nice and smart.

Facilities

This was a large school but desperately in need of some redecorating and modernising. It seemed unkempt, grey and a little shabby. I got depressed as I walked round it.

It had a great swimming pool but an adequate library.

Final impression

Finding our way to the school was enough to put the faint hearted off. Situated behind Tottenham hotspurs football stadium one has to first run the gauntlet of the high road. Past several pubs and chicken shops we walked and were asked for ‘a spare £’ by a junkie.  Awful!

The students seemed a bit disengaged. Several of the girls playing in the band were picking their nails and making no eye contact during the performance and the tour guides were hard work. The head mistress gave off the impression that she wouldn’t take criticism of any kind.

At this school they do ‘bus stop’ duty. this is where teachers go to the local bus stops as school closes to oversee the children’s behaviour as they are leaving. no other school we have visited has had to do this!

Inny has made it very clear that she does not want to attend this school.

Willowfield Community School

http://www.willowfield-school.net

 

Distance

Willowfield is the secondary school that Inny’s current school feeds into. There’s a short walk between them with Willowfield being closer to our home than the primary school. It’s a straight forward bus ride and a short walk round a residential street. It’s away from any high street and near to the tube station. It’s in an excellent location.

We don’t live in the  borough that this school is in which reduces our chances of getting into this school

Ofsted report

Not the best academic results and the school is rated as ‘Good’

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/files/1893609/urn/103100.pdf

http://dashboard.ofsted.gov.uk/dash.php?urn=103100

Open Evening

We were greeted by teachers and a large group of us were assigned two girls to guide us round the school. A stupidly large group.

Many parents from Inny’s primary school were there and we met up with another two mothers and three kids outside, seven of us, we were added to a group of six. These girls were asked to show thirteen people around the school!

My little subgroup were abandoned by the tour guides as we did not move through the rooms quickly and insisted on asking questions of the teachers and participating in the activities

The headmaster’s talk was pleasant enough although it did not feel like an inspirational speech. I wondered how this translated to everyday practice and the ability to teach the children to aspire to reach for their goals.

When it came to statistics I was less than impressed. A to G grades achieved.

I have to ask what a G grade was. I’d never heard of a G grade but apparently it’s the lowest pass mark available.

Uniform

A polo shirt, sweatshirt and trousers. The same as a primary school uniform. Not impressive or progressive at all.

we learnt that when the older children became advocates or prefects they could wear a white shirt and a blazer. I didnt like that at all, the creation of a ‘them and us’ system among the children.

Facilities

This school is quite small and old. Some of the floors were of the beautiful old wood flooring but the ceilings were low and oppressive. Natural daylight was in short supply.

The school has received planning permission and construction has started on a state of the art new building closer to the nearby tube station. as a result the children will not experience any disruption at all.

I have no doubt that the new school will be amazing. They will move into the new building in September 2015. This means that should Inny go to this school she would spend 1 academic year in the old facility.

Final impression

This school is continuously banged on about how the children found it a safe environment. Another mother commented that this was because many children attending come from extremely poor and unsafe back grounds which seem to be the case. I have never heard Inny describe anywhere she is attending as ‘safe’ because everywhere she goes is safe and that is all she knows (admittedly as long as her father is not involved…see  previous  blog posts on McDad)

After discussion both Inny and I agreed that this would not be a major disaster if she were allocated to this school as the most she would have to endure the poor old building would be an academic year. Waltham forest borough has a reputation of pumping lots of money into new schools (inny’s primary school is one and has fantastic facilities)

 

Walthamstow Academy

Distance

This is a two bus journey from our home and simple enough. As Inny already goes part of the way each day it should not be a challenge for her.

Ofsted Report

Simple. This school rates as outstanding. The results are phenomenal and well above the national average

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/files/1930475/urn/132727.pdf

http://dashboard.ofsted.gov.uk/dash.php?urn=132727

Open Evening

This open evening absolutely packed with parents and children. Before anyone even opened their mouth you could tell that this was an oversubscribed school.

We were broken up into groups of between 10-20 people and walked around the school. Due to the volume of people we were restricted to no more than two minutes in each area. Still the tour started at 5.30 and finished at 8pm!

Towards the end of the tour we were lead to the canteen where the cooks had prepared a selection of hot and cold food and drink to partake in before leaving.

It was the best of a bad situation.

Uniform

A smart blazer, trousers, shirt and tie. Nice and smart.

Facilities

All that this  school lacks is a swimming pool; it has everything else! The building is ultra-modern and classroom are well equipped. Corridors are wide and the school is spacious.

Final impression

Inny loved this school. The library was just as she imagined at school library would be and food technology was more than adequate.

I really liked this school to but found it to be a bit factory like. I imagined little clones with the same great grades churning out at the end of 7 years.

Clearly it’s a school where children achieve good things, its aspirational, the children are encouraged to aim high and I would have no problems at all if Inny got a place here.

She will not get a place here.

Firstly the school is not in the same borough that we live in.

I spoke with some staff and the school only took children from a mile radius from the academy last year. This year many more students are applying for places and the estimated radius is ¾ of a mile.

We live just over a mile and a half away.

No chance at all!

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Still to visit

Park View Academy

Hornsey School For Girls

Edmonton County