St Albans / Guilford - Where to live????

(47 Posts)
AurRevoirMesAmis Sun 21-Nov-10 00:01:01

Hi there everyone. I am a complete newbie. My DH, DC and I are moving back to the UK after 4 years abroad. We are looking to move to a place that has a town feel to it, excellent connections to Central London and excellent state schools (private is not an option at all).

I have a 6 year old DS and a 3 year old DD.

By some friends suggestion, we initially started looking in Guilford. We liked the town, but not so much the areas where we would have to live in order to be within George Abbot's catchment area. The houses are all fairly new builds and just lack the appeal that period houses have (and the reason I've always loved London so much!). You also don't seem to get much for our budget of £630K as people are prepared to pay over the odds to be in George Abbots catchment area. This has sort of put me off this area a little bit but I wonder if I'm missing something.

Somebody has also suggested St Albans. Before we make a trip to the UK to see the area and view some houses, I was wondering if somebody may be able to suggest some specific areas within St Albans, good schools, etc. Obviously primary schools are important but we're also very much thinking about secondary even though my DS will only be in Year 3 next sept.

Finally, if anybody out there may be able to put forward other suggestions for alternative areas, I'd certainly look into them. We have already visited Godalming and found it pleasant but way too small and really not for us at all.

Many many thanks!

AurRevoirMesAmis Sun 21-Nov-10 07:55:38

Hi, did I post this in the right thread? smile

petelly Sun 21-Nov-10 09:50:35

My db lives in St Albans and raves about it - he doesn't have children so can't help you with that. You should maybe look at the website/OFSTEDS of some schools and then ask about them?

What I wanted to warn you about though is the difficulty you may have with your ds1. Basically, it's very likely that all the popular schools will be over-subscribed. In other words, you may move next door to the school but if there's not a place, then there's not a place. You may be at the top of the waiting list, with place on the waiting list usually allocated according to entrance criteria eg sibling, distance etc, but you will still have to wait for a child to leave in order to go there. Obviously, the bigger the school, the greater the chance a child will move.

Your best strategy is probably to move to an area with a number of good schools - but be prepared that it may take a little while for things to settle down. Also, try to get on the waiting lists ASAP. You can do that from when you exchange contracts so better to do that and then leave time until actual moving.

Have you considered faith schools? If so, check now with the school how you could meet their criteria from the country where you are.

AurRevoirMesAmis Sun 21-Nov-10 10:03:11

Petelly, thank you for your very helpful advice. I'm starting to get really stressed out!

Faith schools would not be our top preference to be completely honest.

edam Sun 21-Nov-10 10:09:56

St Albans does indeed have some very good schools. Make sure you don't buy near Francis Bacon, though, that's the one everyone avoids (so it always has spare places). New head, though, so maybe it's prejudice rather than fact.

How about Harpenden? One stop North of St Albans, five minutes extra on the train, and three very sought-after secondaries (although one is CofE). Avoid the edge of town nearest St Albans, though, every year there are a handful of children who don't get into Harpenden schools from there (and are given Francis Bacon because it has spare places). Also avoid the villages for the same reason.

Big enough to have plenty of shops and stuff going on, small enough to have a community feel, very good for families and ten minutes drive from St Albans.

lou33 Sun 21-Nov-10 10:14:59

Rodborough school which is about 7miles south of guildford is v good and also the area has good primary and 6th form.

Nice villages and local town,still on a3 and on the Portsmouth to Waterloo train route

petelly Sun 21-Nov-10 10:18:46

Aurevoir

I'm sorry - I wish I had more reassuring words. We went through it when we moved back to the UK 2 years ago. If it's any consolation, we did eventually get a place at one of the schools we wanted after some time at a school we didn't want. It's a really tough system for anyone moving.

AurRevoirMesAmis Sun 21-Nov-10 15:28:53

All the information I am getting here helps us a great deal so thank you all so much and please keep the information coming. I am going to look up all the locations suggested. I guess I am particularly in trouble because I don't drive so if my DC didn't get a school next to where we live, I might struggle to take them to whatever they get allocated... So many things to consider...

AurRevoirMesAmis Mon 22-Nov-10 09:53:41

Hi sorry, bumping again, I really need this thread to stay alive for a while longer, hope nobody minds... blush grin

Cortina Mon 22-Nov-10 10:34:31

Those I know in Guildford area are all in the private system, a few use catholic schools in the Godalming area. I think good independent schools abound in this area at the expense of numerous excellent state options, but could be wrong.

I think you might have more choice if state is your only option in St Albans or the surrounding area.

Would you consider other parts of Herts? I think there are other areas that have excellent Comps etc from what I hear. Others may be able to advise.

lou33 Mon 22-Nov-10 11:18:21

Like i said, there are v good state schools in my area, and it is only 6 mins further on by train

Jajas Mon 22-Nov-10 11:24:04

Harpenden is very expensive and extreme yummy mummy land. St Albans does have more of a mixed feel although a lot bigger and very built up/busy.

How about Hemel Hempstead? Cheaper (not as nice) or Berkhamsted? Bit like Harpenden but further out still good links to London though. Tring is nice smile. Don't know about schools I'm afraid as don't live anywhere near there any more (prob not much help at all soz blush) just didn't want your thread to die!

thekidsmom Mon 22-Nov-10 12:01:05

Good luck with your move.

I live near Guildford and its a lovely place to live BUT if I had my time again I would live in a county that has state grammar schools - Kent or Berkshire, probably.

mummytime Belgium Mon 22-Nov-10 12:32:01

I would never go for Grammar. Guildford has good state schools despite good private ones too. The Catholic school for Godalming is in Guildford too, pity the OP isn't Catholic as you can live in a wider area than George Abbot and get in there. St Peters the Catholic is a good choice, and has a lovely new sixth form. Guildford County is the other Good school, not quite the same as George Abbot, but you can live in the town centre with its wider range of houses and get in.
Otherwise have you considered the Horsleys and Howard of Effingham. East Horsley is a big village with good shops and a train station.
Or just wait for an older property you can afford in Burpham/Merrow?

willali Mon 22-Nov-10 12:41:47

Au REvoir - can't help on schools as mine are in Private sector but alarm bells are ringing about your inability to drive. Anywhere in Surrey really needs you to be able to drive - public transport very few and far between especially later at night if you are relying on buses (trains better but nowhere near things like supermarkets etc). School runs, activities, parties for your DC's etc etc etc - I don't envy you without a car.....

Fiddledee Mon 22-Nov-10 14:06:18

I do agree Surrey is out if you don't drive and St Albans. How about Teddington it has period houses and still has tranpsort into Kingston/Waterloo/Richmond. You need to live practically right next to a primary school that is a feeder school into Teddington secondary school. As Teddington is one of the few decent secondary schools in west London prices are shooting up. There is alot of movement so places in other than reception do tend to come up although tend to full year 5 and 6 as everybody piles in from the rest of the borough.

Maybe learn to drive/learn to like non period houses (out of London they are much less common)

Effjay Mon 22-Nov-10 14:17:15

I've lived in both St. Albans and Guildford. I currently live in the George Abbot catchment area of Guildford, in a very nice period house. There are those type of properties available, but you need to be able to act quickly. My advice would be to rent in the GA catchment and wait for a property to come on the market that suits you. There are some lovely roads and Guildford is a fab place.

We rented in St. Albans for 18 months due to a work relocation. While I liked it, I never liked it quite as much as Guildford. The traffic is an absolute nightmare. It's in the crux of the M1/M25 junction, so if anything happens on those roads, the traffic piles off those roads seeking alternative routes out of it. However, it has a fantastic Cathedral and surrounding park (wish I could have lifted that up and brought it back to Guildford smile. I don't know much about the schools as DS1 was only 18months at the time.

flabbyapronbelly Mon 22-Nov-10 14:42:13

May I also suggest Leighton Buzzard? Trains take 35 mins into London Euston. Schools are good, especially if you move to Linslade (catchment for Cedars school). There are several outstanding lower schools so am sure your son would get a place at one. You would get an awful lot for your money for £630k as well.

ottoline Mon 22-Nov-10 19:18:54

I've lived and taught in maintained schools in St Albans and Guildford. State schools are better in St Albans and there are a decent number of very strong schools at primary and secondary levels, not just a few. Look at the county league tables to get an idea. Popular ones are: Maple, Abbey (church), Wheatfields, Bernards Heath, Garden Fields, Aboyne Lodge, Park St...Others are good too - I just know/remember less about them or am not sure how perceptions will have changed since I lived there.

AurRevoirMesAmis Tue 23-Nov-10 16:04:31

Hi there everyone. So much information to digest!! Many many thanks.

I understand your concerns about the driving thing; I can legally drive, I'm just scared of doing so and would prefer to avoid it, specially with my children! I only passed my test a couple of years ago (and I am 40 blush ) and I haven't driven ever since! But I understand I might have to end up driving my children to school...

Lou33, sorry, which area exactly are you referring to? Is it Rodborough or is that just the name of the school?

Jajas, Fiddledee and flabbyapronbelly, I am making notes and researching into all the areas you have mentioned. Thank you!

thekidsmom and mummy time, could you expand a little on your reasons pro/against grammars?

Effjay, what's the name of your road??grin

ottoline, a few names of schools to get me started with some research, super helpful, thanks so much.

Honestly, thank you all so much, sorry if I don't respond straight away, there's just so much to do!
Thanks again xx

Jajas Tue 23-Nov-10 17:23:46

I think if you lived in any of the cities like St Albans, Leighton Buzzard (not a city but big enough) that you could get away without driving and rely on public transport. It's when you get out into the villages that it begins to be a problem but you would say the same of anywhere really.

Decorhate Tue 23-Nov-10 17:37:58

One thing to bear in mind - an area can be great for primary school but slightly too far from the best secondaries. St Albans, for example, has many good primaries in the city centre and you could possibly manage to live there without driving. Most of the period houses you like are also in the centre.

However, most of the secondary schools are on the outskirts and people living in the city centre can find it harder to get a place, esp if they want a co-ed school.

lou33 Tue 23-Nov-10 19:21:29

rodborough is the name of the school (rodborough technology college)

i live in the godalming / milford / witley area

godalming college is now in the top 20% of 6th form colleges i believe, and rodborough is the top secondary school for the waverley (council) area

lou33 Tue 23-Nov-10 19:23:52

also if you do live in this area and attend those schools, they are all walkable or easily reached for them by a short bus journey

there are also specific buses laid on to the college , secondary school, and my local primary school, to and from certain areas

hth

AurRevoirMesAmis Tue 23-Nov-10 19:29:27

Yes it definitely helps, thank you; actually, we visited Godalming and thought it was stunning but we felt it was too small for us, not enough restaurants, shops, etc. I guess that's why we liked Guilford... Are Milford and Witley also small-ish?

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