Big School, Huge Decisions!

Published October 3, 2014 by thefamilyof5

I mentioned a week or so ago that we were currently looking desperately searching, for a big school for Big Girl for next September.

Well the search is over!

I’d love to tell you that we’ve found the perfect school and that I’m totally confident with our decision and that its a school she’ll thrive in, but I cant, Its just the best of what was on offer. When I say ‘best’ I don’t mean it has great achievement records or that all the teachers teach to the highest of standards or that its a school with amazing facilities, In fact in all honestly I have no clue about any of these things because none of these things are important to Big Girl, feeling safe is all that matters, without that, the rest is unimportant. So when I say the ‘best’ school, I simply mean, its the best of the bunch to suit Big Girl’s needs. In fact it is the only school that I think she has even the remotest possibility of managing. So we’ve submitted our application, its a school way outside our catchment area but it is the only school we have put her name down for. All the other schools wouldn’t be manageable for her at all, so we felt there was no point in naming 2 other schools on the application, it really is this or Home School, I really hope she gets a place. She stands a good chance because being adopted, in the same way as being a looked after child, she will get priority over all of the other applications.

I’d like to tell you why we chose this school over all the others, and it really did just come down to size. All of the local high schools here have over 1000 students on the roll, and are situated in very large very complex buildings, this one has less than 450.

This school feels small, in fact when I first arrived I sat in the main reception area and I thought to myself how much it felt like a primary school rather than a high school, the floors were carpeted, the walls nicely decorated, it felt quite homely. So that was the first box ticked.

I was invited to the ‘Student Support’ department which is where I expect big girl will become quite familiar with, It was a small area with small tables and lots of friendly looking staff on hand. Next box ticked.

I was invited to walk around the corridors during one of the ‘class change’ times, I was surprised to see how calm and quiet it was, it wasn’t over crowded like all the other schools Id visited, the ceilings weren’t low, the corridors weren’t narrow, I didn’t feel claustrophobic. Another box ticked.

I was shown pretty much around the entire school which really only took a few minutes, the school is pretty much a square shape and mostly all on 1 level with only a library, staff room and couple of computer rooms on the upper floor, so really easy to navigate and not much chance of getting lost. Another tick in a box.

During my walk around the school I noticed lots and lots of lockers, so no having to struggle with coats and PE kits and bags and books, cause honestly, this would be too much for big girl to manage, she’d be super stressed hauling her stuff between classes and then be expected to sit down and learn. So big tick in the box.

They allow the vulnerable children to spend time in the ‘Student Support’ department during lunch breaks and have specialist staff available in the lunch hall to sit with vulnerable students whilst they eat, so no more feeling scared and lonely for big girl at lunch time. A huge tick in a box.

Just before I left the bell went for morning break time, I walked through the dinner hall and was greeted by lots of hungry kids looking for their morning snacks and toast. I didn’t feel intimidated, cramped or deafened, I felt relaxed, it was calm. Another tick!

I couldn’t tell you what Ofsted think about this school, and I couldn’t tell you what exam results they have produced over the last few years, I don’t know what subjects they specialise in and honestly, I don’t care. I just know that of all the schools I’ve visited, this is the only one she has even the faintest chance of coping with.

I’m not sure when we’ll tell Big Girl, most of the children in her class seem to already know they’re going to the local feeder school, she only knows that she is not.  She isn’t the same as most of the children in her class though, she is emotionally many years behind them so whilst they can manage this information so soon, I’m not sure she can. We wont get confirmation of her place until next March, but I’m not sure we should should wait till then?!  will telling her sooner be too much for her to handle!? I really don’t know when will be the right time to tell her, this is the next hurdle for us to figure out and hope we get right.

So is the this the right school?  did we make the right choice?  have we got it right? I don’t know. But what I do know, is that If big girl manages to see out her full education here, no, in fact if she lasts a year, I’ll be happy with that!





11 comments on “Big School, Huge Decisions!

  • What you say here about the environment and ‘feel’ of the school is so important for so many children. While the policy of successive governments has been to drive up standards through whatever means, it seems the emotional wellbeing of the children rarely figures in the plans and yet, without that, educational achievement is unlikely, however all-singing all-dancing the academic side of the school is. I sincerely hope you get your place.

  • I very much hope you get your place. I’ve worked with many children who don’t fit the expectations from a large, high achieving, secondary school. I applaude your decision to look elsewhere. We have many years until secondary school but I’m concerned about the move to Juniors next year. Luckily our local Juniors is next door to us and is a good environment but I’m worried about the transition and expectations and whether Katie can manage those. Good luck.

    • Yes the expectations for KS2 are much greater aren’t they, baby girl is really struggling with these at the moment I think.
      Transition’s are tricky times, but I’m sure with you supporting Katie so well, she will be well equipped to manage this next move 🙂

      Thanks for your comment and support 🙂

  • My son has only just started year 4 and already I am being ‘forced’ to think about secondary school.He went to a brilliant infant school where nurturing the child was the main focus and education ran along side of it.We had to move him to another infant school just before the end of year 2 so that he could settle in this new school before starting year3.(His old school was just an infant school)This school insists that nurturing is part of their ethos ,but the child’s level of independence is what they focus on.Children who are delayed in their emotional development are supposed to follow the rest and obviously when this doesn’t happen and the inevitable behaviour occurs because they are unable to cope with the expectations ,etc on them the school don’t know what to do and respond only to the behaviour – which results in further escalations of behaviour in response. At the moment I don’t know how he will get through junior school ,let along secondary. I feel I should make a start looking to see what secondary schools are about already .The thought of homeschooling is terrifying ,but also seems to be the only solution if a suitable school can’t be found that will actually tick all the boxes for my child to cope with and learn in.
    The school you have found sounds better with less children in and a calmer environment and support.I hope that things go okay there.Its a hard decision to decide when best to tell tell your daughter.Too soon gives them too long to dwell on something and yet sufficient preparation is also needed.Trying to get the right timing is such a juggling act that I find I’m ‘holding my breath’ to see if I got it right.

    • It’s so hard isn’t it 😦 have you considered asking your school to use some of the Pupil Premium Plus money that your boy is entitled to for some whole school attachment training? It sounds like they could do with some help gaining better understanding.
      When big girl was in year 4 high school wasn’t really on my radar at that time, she has changed so much these last couple of years that I think if i’d looked at schools in year 4 i’d have been looking for something different to what I’m looking for now. So i’d look, but just bare in mind that so much can change in a couple of years and your boys needs could change or take a different direction.
      Thanks so much for your comment and support, I really hope you manage to get some better understanding and support for your boy at his current school, it could make all the difference to his future in education 🙂

  • We’ve got two years. I’m already a nervous wreck about it. Plus we need two different schools because our two are a disaster for each other. Primary school can manage it. But the low supervision levels of Secondary school just wouldn’t be safe. I’ll be looking for the same criteria as you.


    • Yes I think it’s quite likely that we’d look for separate schools for her sisters when their time comes, they’re not physical with each other but they emotionally drain and smother each other and like you say, in primary it’s been easier to manage, but in high school I suspect they’d be drawn to each other like magnets every day :/

      I hope you find a school suitable, do you have anyone you could ask for advice? Perhaps a PAS or Autism Outreach worker? Good luck xx 🙂

  • For those people commenting on home schooling as a possibility I just thought I’d say hi. I homeschool our bc and we are hoping to be matched at panel very soon. Plan is to homeschool all the children. Whilst our bc was at nursery we decided we might want to homeschool. So I joined the local yahoo home school group. I think every area has a yahoo home school group. (some will be called home educating) Through this I had an idea of what went on locally and went to a couple of meet ups. Was also able to ask questions on the boards. In our area there is a local yahoo group we do things with and we have joined other groups in surrounding area and done things with them. We are also part of another group we found in the area. It’s a lovely way of life. There’s different ways of home schooling and it’s finding what works for you and your child.

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