For many local mums and dads in and around Bishopston, they will soon be thinking about making one of the first most important decisions about their children’s education when they start the primary schools admission process in September.
I aim for Bishopston Mum to be a source of information and support for local parents regarding local education. Therefore I regularly post reviews written by parents on local pre-schools, primary schools and secondary schools (Please do contact me if you would like to share an anonymous review on Bishopston Mum on firstname.lastname@example.org).
Today is a review by a local mum who has a daughter at the new Brunel Field Primary School on Ashley Down Road, Horfield. I hope you find her thoughts and experiences helpful.
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What was your personal experience of the primary schools admissions process? Was Brunel your first choice and if so, why?
Our experience was good, we found the application process straightforward (apart from slightly confusing naming of the 2 Ashley Down sites on the online application forms – the Downed Road site was listed as ‘Ashley Down Infants’ and the Brunel one as ‘Ashley Down Primary’ – it would have been useful if they’d had a ‘Brunel Field’ suffix to help applicants be sure they were applying for what they thought they were!
Brunel was our first choice, because we live extremely close to it, but it was also our favourite of the schools we saw anyway.
What qualities & advantages do you feel it has over other schools?
The brand new buildings and facilities mean it does not feel cramped or dated, as it has been designed from the start for the number of pupils it will take. The modern and ‘purpose built’ nature of the school, with plenty of space, make like its a comfortable and calm place for the children to be.
I also feel it has an outstandingly positive feel to it – the staff seem happy to work there and that seems to flow through in their attitude to the children and parents. We did also feel this was the case at the Downend Road site when we visited there too, so can’t say this is necessarily unique but we do feel this positivity is a real plus point of the school.
What do you think of the school building and facilities?
I think the school buildings are great – modern, spacious, bright and airy. The facilities in the classrooms and wider school (sports hall, cooking room etc) are also very good. They have recently improved the facilities in the reception play area which is great.
We’re not as happy with the main playground and feel this needs some changes – money was spent last year on landscaping the playground in a very artistic way which looked lovely for about 3 weeks but was obvious to many parents that had this was not going to be a functional, durable play area suitable for large numbers of children to play in daily. *
For example the grass gets waterlogged and has to be cordoned off after heavy rain, there was a sort of sculpture in the middle that the kids climbed on after school but wasn’t intended to be a climbing frame and has no soft ground underneath, the playground included a ‘bamboo cane’ sculpture, but the sticks had to be removed as inevitably the children ran around with them pretending they were swords etc. We feel the design needs to be more durable and straightforward for a busy school playground.
* Since this review, the outside play area has since been improved and has had new play equipment added.
What do you think of the size of the school?
I think its just right – 2 classes per year is good, any bigger than that I think would have been quite overwhelming for our child, who already found the transition from a small nursery to school quite a big deal.
What do you think of the staff?
I think the teaching and management staff are fantastic, as mentioned above there is a very positive feeling amongst the staff who seem to get on with each other very well and seem to be very happy working there. I can’t praise the reception team highly enough.
They are kind, welcoming, friendly, show an interest in the wider families of their children, they clearly have a lot of affection for the children in their class and are very supportive of parents when they have any concerns etc.
What is your opinion on communication between the school and parents?
Very good – we both get email or text message copies of almost all communications which is great as Dad actually reads them too as they go straight to his inbox!
What are the school’s values and ethos?
I can’t remember the ‘official’ ethos that the school told us about when we looked around. However the ethos that I have picked up is one of positivity, encouragement, kindness and respect – between children, between staff and children, and between staff and parents. I feel the pastoral care of the school is excellent and the ethos is in line with our own values – respecting children as people in their own right who should be included in decisions about their own learning and behaviour.
When we looked around the school they said something along the lines of they aim to teach the children all the skills (personal as well as academic) that will make them highly employable in the future – and this holistic ‘all round’ approach to helping shape positive personal and social skills as well as focusing on academic development is really in line with our own values.
Do kids in reception receive homework/reading/tasks do do at home?
They have reading to do at home, and during the first term they brought home weekly worksheets to practice new letters and numbers (this stopped after Christmas though). They also have a book of ‘keywords’ to practice at home.
However in reception the emphasis is on encouraging a love of learning and so the school are adamant that parents should not push the children to complete work at home when they don’t feel like they want to do it – the teachers are not at all pushy or disapproving if you haven’t done reading at home one week.
While they do give pointers and advice on areas each child may need to focus on, it is done in a very non-pushy way, which has been great for our daughter (who is young in the year and often has been far too tired after school to do much extra reading etc).
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just to say we really would recommend this school to other parents, based on our own experiences so far, and that when any issues have arisen we have been really impressed with the way the staff an the school have handled them.