The Headteacher column: Making the right choice of school

The Market Weighton School headteacher Richard Harrison.
The Market Weighton School headteacher Richard Harrison.

It is a little over a week since what has become known as ‘National Offer Day’ when parents of Year Six children find out if they have been allocated the secondary school of their choice.

We are lucky in the East Riding that the vast majority of children will have gained a place in their school of choice.

Almost all of the new Year 6 students allocated a place at Market Weighton had made the school their first choice.

Almost all of the new Year 6 students allocated a place at Market Weighton had made the school their first choice.

Almost all of the 107 new Year Six students allocated a place at The Market Weighton School made the school their first choice and, from the figures I have seen, I know this is the case in other secondary schools in the region.

However, this is not the case in London where demand for places in some schools has increased so much that it has been reported that you would have to live within 800m of the school to be guaranteed a place, or within 200m for one school in Nottinghamshire. So much for parental choice in those areas!

It must make the transition from primary to secondary school very difficult for any 11-year-old having to attend a school away from friends that parents have not chosen, or have concerns about.

We may ask if choice is really helpful in such circumstances and if parents are making their choices based on the right information.

All of the secondary schools in the East Riding are working hard to improve and ensure all students maximise their potential.

This is certainly true of the staff and students at TMWS where Year 11 students have just finished their second set of trial exams and are completing the last few controlled assessments before the final push for the summer exams begins. This will be the last year, however, that exam results can be reported as the percentage achieving five A*-C grades including English and Maths. Next summer when the current Year 10 sit GCSEs in Maths and English they will be awarded grades on a one to nine scale, with nine being higher than the current A* and one being equivalent to the current G grade. Other GCSEs follow suit over the next two years and overall secondary school performance will be measured in a new way called ‘Progress Eight’. Schools will be judged on the progress students make in eight subjects and not on an arbitrary level of attainment in five.

It will be just as important to increase current grade F to an E as it will be to move from an A to A*. This method should create a more level playing field for schools; those with a higher ability intake will not retain the advantage they currently have and as such this should be a better guide of performance for parents, once it becomes more widely understood.

There are, of course, many other factors that make a good school and there is no greater compliment than being trusted with the education and development of a young person. We are looking forward to meeting all of our new students and parents in their current schools and when they visit us for three days in July.