OUR LATEST EVENTS:
PREVIOUS EVENTS in 2013:
Meet the Parents with panellists from William Ellis school and Islington Arts and Media school (IAMS) in North London:
October 16th 2013 at Yerbury Primary school
We had about 35 parents for this event and 12 panellists, half of them pupils. For the first time we invited a graduate to join the panel, so parents could see how pupils “turn out” as grown-ups. It worked very well, and we think we will do this again in the future. We could invite one graduate to join us from each school represented on the panel.
The discussion was particularly interesting: both schools came out very postively. There were some thought-provoking points made more generally about how parents choose schools. One panellist suggested that anxiety about secondary schools had more to do with the parents than with the schools under consideration. Another talked of how some parents justify their decision by doing down other schools, and how their children pick up on this and repeat the same negative comments to their peers at school. She spoke of how difficult it was for her own child to go through this, because she was sending him to a school that some other children derided.
The discussion also covered the extent to which people rent to get their children into non-local schools: one panellist remarked that there was a contradiction here. Children are brought up not to steal and yet it is considered good parenting to rent to get your child into the ‘best’ school.
There was a round of applause when the graduate on the panel described his own schooling (which took him to Oxford) being not just about an academic education but a social education. This, he said, was something that his privately educated friends at university had missed out on.
There was also a discussion about the practice of encouraging children to take GCSE’s early, and how this can distort a school’s overall results.
Of the feedback forms filled in by parents, two thirds said they would now go and look at IAMS as a result of the event.
Some more feedback comments:
“An extremely informative and inspiring event. The only downside is that we are presented with more choice – both schools represented seem excellent.”
“I did not really know anything about IAMS beforehand as it wasn’t on my radar – it will be now! I was reassured about William Ellis as I don’t feel the tour I took of the school did it justice compared to the comments and views expressed at this session.”
“Very useful because these are two schools we know very little about.”
“Make the session longer.”
“It has hugely changed my perception of IAMS. I had not really considered it before tonight. Now I have totally shifted perception. Thank you.”
“It has given me a clearer picture of their strengths and weaknesses. This will help build a clearer, balanced view.”
“This has provided information that was not available to me from any other source and will help inform my decision. I found it especially useful to hear from someone who had been to university and could offer a long term perspective.”
60 parents from Years 3 – 6 came to our second year of Meet the Parents events at Yerbury school in North London.
This time we had a much bigger panel – 12 parents and pupils all up from two schools, Acland Burghley and Parliament Hill schools. Each school was represented by three “couples” made up of a parent and their son or daughter.
This meant far more pupils on the panel than last year – it is becoming Meet the Pupils as much as Meet the Parents. It seemed to work really well: it is the students, who are naturally inclined to honesty, whom the primary school parents want to really here from.
Discussions ranged from whether children at these schools are “pushed” (the conclusion was yes, as long as the pupils themselves were willing to go along with it), to the recent downgraded OFSTED for Burghley, to whether looks matter. One parent described Burghley as looking like an “open prison”, but she realised that her son and his friends simply didn’t care what their school looked like, what mattered was what went on inside.
Drayton Park School Meet the Parents event
Parent Penny Rabinger set up the first Meet the Parents event at Drayton Park school in Finsbury Park, North London in September 2013. Here is her account of the evening:
Highbury Grove School (mixed)
Highbury Fields School for Girls
Central Foundation School for Boys
Stoke Newington Arts & Media School and sixth form (mixed)
Islington Arts & Media School (mixed)
The secondary school children were from year eight onwards, many were former Drayton Park students. They all spoke positively about their respective schools as did the parents. There were many common themes including the wide range of extra-curricular activities, the support from the staff and the physical facilities their schools provided. There seemed to be a general consensus that Islington, and surrounding areas have secondary schools that are much improved, making the choices quite difficult!
Some questions asked:
Were there any issues with being in a single sex school?
None of the children felt there were, the girls felt there where less distractions without boys and they could still see them out of school if they wished.
IAMS has had in previous years more boys but this was not a noticeable difference for the students other than in dance classes where some boys had to pair up with other boys!
How do the schools handle bullying?
All the schools have anti-bullying policies and robust systems in place. However it was made clear that bullying can take place in schools and therefore parents and children should be aware of how it is reported and dealt with. There was one experience of bullying and it was felt that once the information came to light it was dealt with in an appropriate way with good communication/support between school and home.
What is an average school day like?
Generally the schools operated a five or six session day of between 50-60 minutes long. There was usually one morning break of between 15-20 minutes and lunch between 40-50 minutes. Some of the schools set aside time during the week for additional activities such as Highbury Grove where year sevens attend a specialist ‘school’ (choice of seven), on a Friday and IAMS ran a curriculum over two weeks rather than one.