There have been a lot of good points made in the comments about schools, so I thought I'd witter a little about my take on it. My experience of education was poor. When I started school in the early 70s they were experimenting with the idea of 'learning through play'. I believe the idea was to encourage children to explore ideas through playing, and I think that in some private schools it is currently very successful. However in the state schools with insufficient training and staffing ratios, it was an epic fail. I can still remember that at the age of eight a teacher had us all come up to the chalkboard to write our names and a massive number couldn't manage it. I learned to read, write, add and subtract at home. We were all very badly prepared for High School.
The first High School I went to was what is now called a sink school. My experience of the first two schools is why I am not totally against testing and rating schools (I don't agree how it is currently done). We were desperately short changed. In the first high school the subjects were more or less glossed over and behaviour was appalling. If you wanted to sit exams you had to stay on an extra year. Otherwise you just got certificates, which would have left you at a real disadvantage when it came to getting a job. When I was around 14 my mother managed to get me to another school. My experience in the first High School meant that I never studied geography or Religious Studies, had half a term of biology lessons and I was floundering in terms of basic maths and grammar. I did okay at O level, and, after teaching myself to write a legible cursive script (no writing was taught at primary apart from making the basic letter shapes), I got really awesome A level results. As a result of my experience, I think schools matter. I don't think it is the most important factor. I think a lot of it is up to bear. But I still think schools matter.
There are two state schools that are relatively near. The nearest is a very good academy that has a lot going for it. It is within decent walking distance, has great reports and bear is likely to do well there. So if bear doesn't pass the exams to the grammar schools, it's okay (and I have made sure bear knows it's okay). He may not. I think he's awesome, but there are a lot of awesome kids out there.
The other state school within reasonable distance is appalling. It has a semi permanent police presence. I know kids that have been so badly bullied there that they have been in danger of real injury. Bear is not going there - I'd home school first and that is definitely a last resort! Whatever happens, I'm sure bear will manage.