Pushy parents shun our local school not because of teaching but because of intake.

Marianne Harman's picture
I live in Honiton, a market town in East Devon and our school has recently had a "good, good" in Ofsted, is improving, has academy status and has an excellent head and community links. However, it used to be a secondary modern and suffers from a reputation that "the right sort of people don't send their children there." In order to keep their numbers everyone, including me with a Honiton address has been sent to the school despite the fact that most of us didn't even list it as a choice. Those with resources have appealed and are ferrying their children up to 25 miles each way to avoid going there. It is my belief that the school's reputation is entirely unfounded and after a very successful transition week my son is very happy to be going. However, it is difficult not to feel that I have let him down when everyone I meet is saying that they will move heaven and earth to avoid their child going there, the implication being it's OK for my child but not theirs. The pressure is becoming very difficult although there is nothing I can do. I chose not to appeal because I felt it would be unsuccessful and also unsettling for my son. We cannot afford private and above all he seems positive happy and settled with the decision. Do others feel they have to defend their choice and how to they deal with the barrage of snobbery (the school is in the top 20% of the country for results and rapidly improving, it is a science college and my son is gifted and talented in science so the middle class flight is not based on fact but on perception) and the feeling that by implication if I am prepared to send my child there I come into the category of "not the right sort of person." I am finding it very difficult and feel I have let him down.
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Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 13/07/2011 - 14:38

You haven't let your son down. You say he is happy to be going to the school. If you are also happy then that is enough.

You have hit on a particular problem - that of perception. Sometimes a school gains an unfounded poor reputation. It might be because of the catchment area of a school or it might be because of league table position, for example. It might be because parents think another school in the same neighbourhood is "better". That causes particular problems for those parents who are quite happy to send their children to the school perceived as "poor" because they are then seen as "not-so-good" themselves, or somehow lacking in parental responsibility because they're not prepared to "fight" for a place in the "better" school.

If anyone criticises you (and really it's none of their business), just say you and your son are happy with your choice and leave it at that.

guest's picture
Wed, 13/07/2011 - 18:41

I was in a similar position ten years ago. Tthe A-C GCSE rate ( not including English and Maths) was 27% of the local school we were sending our child to. Its Ofsted report was satisfactory with good features. Our feeling however was that our children would be alright and we understood that the school did well with all children. ( This was later confirmed by CVA data when that started to be published) All our children obtained excellent results ( 3 A*, 7 A's; 11 A*'s; 1A*, 6A, 4 B's). The school now has 45-55 A* - C grades including English and Maths and an outstanding rating. The catchment has not changed since almost all of its children come from about three or four local primaries although I think more parents who may have opted out gradually started to have confidence in the school. The perception of the school changed dramatically over the years. Things were not always perfect but we were positive about the school to our children and were able to talk through issues with them if anything arose. As it was a 11-16 school they had to transfer to other schools for sixth form - to the schools that some of our friends had sent their children at eleven. They had done as well academically as their peers and in many ways had often had opportunities as 'big fish in a little pond' that their friends had not. They also have a better understanding than a lot of their friends of the range of abilities of different children and an appreciation of the difficulties of the lives of some children. I am sure some people thought we had made a mistake or were subjecting our children to our political experiment.

Nigel Ford's picture
Wed, 13/07/2011 - 21:51

There were 5 comprehensive schools in the town I live (now 6) and we sent our kids to the local one despite having inferior GCSE results.

An acquaintance of my wife who lived in our area decided to send her son to the comp furthest away which had good GCSE results. She said she "over her dead body would she send her offspring to the school we chose." In the Easter term of year 7 my daughter was joined by this woman's (eldest) son, as he'd been the victim of bullying at the original school of her choice, and as far as I'm aware he stayed until year 11 without any problems.

Sarah's picture
Thu, 14/07/2011 - 11:23

I think parents often fail to understand that the position of a school in a league table says more about the intake of pupils than it does about the quality of teaching, leadership, governance or anything else. I sent my children to a school that was mid table - having visited it and reassured myself about the ethos - in the confident belief that a bright child with good family support will do well in almost any school regardless of where it is on a league table. My confidence was repaid by good GCES and A level results for both kids who are now at University - one just finishing a Masters in Physics and looking for a PhD place.

Nigel Ford's picture
Thu, 14/07/2011 - 13:17

Recall reading about a comprehensive school in a leafy upmarket area which had excellent GCSE results. Apparently the teaching was dire but all the kids were having private tuition which gave it it's artificial position at the top of the league tables.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Thu, 14/07/2011 - 15:08

I have faced this with my own son, who is going to the local secondary which has a historically poor reputation in the area. It is a much improved school. I do think that everyone benefits when parents "buy in" to their local school, but it's a difficult issue and there are no easy answers.

Melissa Benn's picture
Thu, 14/07/2011 - 18:27

Yes - can I add my experience to this thread. We sent both our daughters to the local comprehensive about which there was enormous nervousness and even greater prejudice, in the local area. Below average results, an intermittently fearsome reputation and far higher numbers of children on free school meals than lived in the area.... but we could see that the school and teachers were working really hard and welcomed keen students - and parents. Jump forward five years, our girls have loved their schooling, the school has slowly changed, the results climbed, our girls have done really well, the extra curricular activities broadened; it's not perfect, no school is, but its a very happy, thriving, open London school, that works incredibly hard for all its pupils. I would echo the sentiments expressed above; that children from stable, hard working families will do well in almost all schools and that active, involved parents - not that keen on pushy as a descriptor - can make a big difference to a school and its community. A brace of pushy p's - see I've given in already - can turn a school around....

Sadly, this government has no political or personal conception of this kind of school - no genuine sense of the challenges nor the very great achievements. As the ridiculous free schools/academy agenda pushes forward, schools like ours are now battling loss of funding.... but interestingly, not suffering demoralisation. Why? Somewhere, deep down, teachers and parents know the value of this kind of state education. Perhaps we/they also sense that the current government agenda simply won't work and if we keep on doing what we do, very well, then we might ride out the destabilising, market led storm..

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