My son is in Year 6 of primary school in Tower Hamlets; there's real anxiety amongst the parents at his school about choosing a secondary school. The local comprehensive, within LA control, despite being radically improved, has a "bad" reputation. All sorts of rumours are floating around about it; students being stabbed there, rampant bullying, drugs. All sorts. Many parents are determined to send their children elsewhere: most of them favour the Academies in nearby Hackney.
And yet, if you actually go around the schools, which one comes out best? The local comp! Why? The facilities are great, the teachers are approachable and the pupils seem very nice. The results are good as well! It has some of the best value-added results in the country.
The rumours are difficult to believe. And yet, they persist. Somebody's brother taught there and says it's monstrous, so and so's sister went there and had a rubbish time and so on. They all create an atmosphere of panic. I think parents need to calm down and stop feeling that there is a magical school out there that doesn't have "issues"; they all do. It's a school's ability to be honest and straight-talking with parents that is most important; that way problems can be sorted out.
My son liked the local comp the best: he felt he could get on with the teachers, he liked the fantastic sports' hall, and thought the lessons seemed good. At the Academies, it felt a bit "wannabe" public school and like there was a bit of "wall" between parents and staff. A defensive attitude.
I want my son to go to the local school where I believe he will get the best education: I believe he will be well taught there, that he will be motivated to learn, and he will feel part of the local community. Overall, I firmly believe he will be happiest there.
However, the warnings are coming thick and fast from parents. I feel though that if there are problems at the local comprehensive, I'll be able to talk to the teachers about it: it's closeby, the teachers are very responsive and they seem to care. Moreover, my whole family will become part of the wider community if he goes to the school: we'll know everyone. Once you are part of a wider community, problems can be solved.
I feel that the school can bring a lot to my son and he, in turn, can bring a lot to the school.