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Choosing the right Secondary School

I thought about the boys future before they were even born.

I looked into primary schools, high schools and nurseries. Obviously, if I was going to raise the next Prime Minister or Richard Branson I was going to have to make sure I made the right decisions with regards to their education. It seemed like it was forever before we would have to make any decisions, yet it has flown by in a blink, and a decade later, here we are.

Throughout the years though, I have realised the most important thing is that they are happy at school. If they are happy the rest should fall into place….right?

Well, that’s what I thought until this year.  With the boys finishing year five in a couple of weeks, and high school choices looming only a few months away, I feel like a huge weight is on my shoulders.

Time has caught up with me and I’m starting to face the reality that there might be more to choosing a secondary school than just making sure the boys are happy.

I was happy at school, too happy. I was happy messing with my friends. I was happy trying out my latest make up technique in science class. I was happy thinking about what lads name I would scribble over my homework book. I was happy planning how to get out of my next PE class. Happiness defiantly didn’t help me knuckle down and get the best GCSEs I could achieve.

I went to my local state secondary school.  It was a good school but like most schools you get out of it what you put in. The expectations never seemed particularly high.  That coupled with my lack of self disapline ment I was a typical ‘doing ok, but could do better’ kid.

Although my life has turned out better than I could have imagined, I know my school days were more of a social education rather than an academic one.

Seventeen years later and I struggle to even help the kids with their homework. I do my nine times table using the ‘finger trick’ and I was convinced my last son shared his name with a historical British King.  Turns out, apparently King Arthur was a legend?!

Please bear this in mind when you read my blog and notice spelling or grammar mistakes 🙈

However, let’s not knock the social skills and enjoyment you need to experience in your teenage years.

I do believe some of the qualities that helped me succeed in my career and help me run our businesses now were created at high school.

With a husband that attended a prestigious private school, we really do have experience at both ends of the British education system.

So this leaves me wondering about the twins. What school would suit them? The big difference between them and me and their dad is that they LOVE learning.

We have taken them to see the school that Mike went too. The building was beautiful and imposing, like Hogwarts, absolutely beautiful. The head masters office was a posh lounge, furnished  with a think cream carpet, a huge fireplace and a large chesterfield sofa. All of this was very impressive but when you are paying £20,000 per year I guess you wouldn’t expect anything less. The children were lovely, the facilities were not unlike the Olympic Park and the exam results spoke for themselves.

People say ‘if a child wants to learn, and they have the support at home they will do well anywhere’….do you agree?

We have looked at our closest local state school and I really liked it. The head mistress seemed strict but fair, she knew all the pupils (three thousand) by name and they seemed to like and respect her. The kids were polite and well presented and the facilities, although not to the standard of the private school, were Impressive.

Mike had a bit of an issue with the dining facilities.  The dining room could barely fit two hundred kids in it.  When he was at school everyone sat down together and ate a civilised lunch.  

I had to give him a lesson in state school lunch etticate. From what I remember, if we were eating in the canteen, it was usually sausage, chips, and beans which you inhaled as quickly as possible to give you time to gossip or flirt on the school field.

Mike wasn’t impressed by this! (Strange considering he became a scaffolder, who usually eat KFC with their feet up on the dash of the lorry!)

It has been quite an eye opener for both of us, learning about each others education.

We are going to look at all the schools again at the open evenings in September. I think, given we are fortunate enough to have great state schools in the area, we will choose one of them. Private school is a huge financial commitment and even if we could afford it, so many sacrifices would have to be made.

Narrowing down the state schools will be hard, they are all good.

All the Ofsted reports are great and when I’ve spoken to parents with kids already at the schools they all seem happy. Realistically there are two that we are in the catchment for. Mikey loves art and drama and Harrison is massivly into sport,  So those subject opportunities will play a big part.

The boys have to have a say aswell.  It’s important to us that they are happy with the choices we make.

Finally, practicality has to come into it.

With four children following them up the ranks I need to know it will be in a location that is practical for us, as a family.  

Not just for the kids, but for me (mum taxi) as well….not always easy when you live on a country lane with no pavement and at least a mile away from the nearest public transport.

My dad has even been researching for me.  I randomly got this text recently.  Anyone that knows my dad won’t find this that surprising 🤣

I asked a few fellow bloggers what they look for when choosing a school.  Here is what they suggest:

“Ask them how they are going to be saving money with the budget cuts. They all have to cut something. Their answers should help you work out if the school is well managed and planning ahead effectively.”

“I’d look at whether the children are well behaved, happy and enjoying school. Also what extra curricular activities are on offer. The overall attitude of the school and whether they instill a love of learning in the children. Plus I must admit I’d be looking at results too”

“Look at the standards in general: uniform, equipment, facilities… It would give you a good idea of the general atmosphere. Of course, look at the kids and try to feel if they are happy but look also at the teachers! Are they knackered and grumpy? It says a lot about the school Plus of course the Ofsted report! :)”

“I spoke to parents with children already in secondary school. Are their kids enjoying being at school and doing well in their studies 🙂 Ofsted and open evenings are important too”

I really struggled with this and ended up choosing a school where my daughter wouldn’t know a single person. ”

“It’s not necessarily about secondary schools – more about any school (primary or secondary just the same) if you are choosing for a child that has additional needs”

Do you have any tips that will help with our decision?

Lots of love,

A ‘trying to stay relaxed Kate

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