State vs private schools in St Albans(21 Posts)
My head is spinning because of this! :-(
We live in St Albans and are within the catchment areas for both Sandringham and Beaumont, both excellent state secondaries.
What if any benefit would there be in forking out for a private school for our DS instead of the 2 state options? Is there any real benefit in sending DS to St Albans', St Columbas, Aldenham or Haileybury instead of Sandringham or Beaumont?
Has anyone been in this position and still chosen private over Sandringham or Beaumont - or done the opposite (ie opted for state options over private)? Also, extra tuition is needed for the private schools' entrance exams, not to talk of the crippling fees which we can afford but will mean making a lot of sacrifices for the next few years.
Any help or advice would be much appreciated.
I'd be saving my money for university tuition in your shoes. Unless you feel that your DS will really really benefit from the social contacts aka 'old boys' network' in his professional future, of course.
St Albans is a very rich area and Sandringham looks exceptionally middle class.
The usual difference tends to be in Oxbridge entries - two to Cambridge and a dozen to Oxford from St Albans School, and none to Oxford, one to Cambridge from Sandringham. Five to Oxbridge in past three years combined from Beamount.
Sandringham is an outstanding comprehensive. Its not fair to compare its results with the highly selective St Albans boys. A highly selective school is going to have more children capable of getting Oxbridge grades.
A former boss of mine sent his children to Sandringham and they both got straight As.
Both Sandringham and Beaumont are relatively good comprehensives but they aren't known for being academically pushy. I mean, they rank lower than STAGs and St George academically speaking. However, they are better than the other locals ie Nicholas B and Samuel Ryder. Of the two, I like Sandringham. The new-ish headmaster has really turned things around and if your DC is into performing arts then the standards at S (and facilities) are outstanding.
Re your question about private school, a bright child will always do well regardless of school but an academically pushy school like St Albans Boys will turn a GCSE A into a A* IMO. If you have dreams of Oxbridge or Medicine then this could be what closes the deal.
The whole thing is like Premier seats v standard seats at the cinema. Of course you get more for your money. It's just a question of whether you can afford it and whether the extras are worth the extra expenditure. To some people, a seat is a seat. These people rather spend the money on pop corn :-)
If fees is a major issue then I would pick Sandringham and use money saved on extra curricula stuff and exam cramming and or tutors come GCSE time.
Thanks so much for your invaluable advice :-)
I think Beaumont is very academic particularly at sixth form. They have kids achieving a* a levels with one getting 5 last year.
Abbey boys is just fantastic though for facilities and opportunities - and beautiful inspiring surroundings (if that matters to teenage boys...) their music and sport achievements are amazing and the good states just don't have the funding to match the facilities.
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Even though you are entitled to apply for a place at Beaumont or Sandringham, realistically you will only get a place at one if it is your nearest school. The catchment thing is a bit of an illusion IMHO
The way I see it you have to focus on the outcome you want for your child, how bright and motivated they are.
If you want Oxbridge and a top flight career (eg city bank, top consultants firm etc) or maybe Medicine or Law at a highly selective university (eg Bristol), you definitely need private (unless your child is the stand out genius in his/her year with good self discipline).
If you want a highly selective university and a place on graduation at a FTSE 100 firm, you could get this with state if your child is in the top 10-15% of their year and not easily distracted.
If you feel attending any university and having a normal career in a non-elite organisation for your child would be a outcome you'd be happy with, State will probably be fine.
I know Sandringham quite well. It is fine. But not a patch on STAGs or St Georges or indeed Sir John Laws.
St Albans/Harpenden is a wealthy area but suffers very much from having lot of indies in the area, grammar in the next county and horrific catchment prices for St Gs and Sir Johns.
It leaves a rather tiered system IYSWIM.
Of the private schools, STABS is the most academic and trad. St Columbas is very nurturing. Aldenham is not academic at all. Haileybury is quite a journey but is boarding anyway.
There's also HABS too, if you're interested. Doable journey from St As.
If you have a ds you should also seriously consider Verulam. Head's aim is to make it rival the local private schools. Massive improvement in recent years, 3 boys into Oxbridge last year and the Head has all sorts of new iniatives to encourage more Russell Group applications.
We chose to put this school first even though ds scored very highly on Parmiters academic and had an almost perfect music test score.
You need to go and look. In my experience all the schools have quite a different feel, results at the Verulam, Beaumont and Sandringham now quite equitable and of course, it depends on your dc's character.
I know lovely kids at Verulam very bright
Another thought - if your child gets a place in a good state but you decide later to move him to private you can, but it might be harder the other way - places at the good states are like golddust!
Another thought - I wonder if the recession will mean the states will get even better results in next few years as fewer parents opt for private? We are thinking state with a bit of tutoring if need be
Having done the rounds of all the schools, St Albans School is our preferred indie choice without a doubt. DS is working hard towards the entrance exam next year and is very motivated to get a place there. If he is offered a place, he will be going there.
I agree that you can't compare the opportunities at a school like St Albans School - it's in a different league entirely.
Aldenham is not academic at all as is apparent from past entrance exams available on the school's website. Haileybury costs substantially more than comparable schools and, IMO, is no comparison to St Albans School.
St Columba's was very nurturing but not academic enough. DS is also trying for Habs.
We liked Verulam a lot though and will likely put that down as 1st state sector choice this October. I found the head very inspiring and he had real vision. He was upset when I told him we were also considering St Albans School, though!
Don't forget there is a lot of movement at sixth form. FOr example, St Albans School university destinations include 70 pupils who were educated elsewhere to GCSE, many of them in the state sector.
And don't forget that St Albans School makes its pupils sit General Studies in the 6th form whereas Roundwood Park Comp does not, hence you are not comparing like with like on the A level league tables.
Update on Oxbridge places - apparently Verulam had more going than boys school last year! Ouch. It is worth wondering why more don't get in from private - 5 out of 150 chosen on academic ability is not great?
I'd be more interested in numbers going to top universities overall rather than simply numbers going to Oxbridge. St Albans may be sending lots of boys to places like Imperial and UCL to study Medicine which may account for their lower numbers (I've noticed this in previous yrs) It's not always because pupils couldn't get in. The chosen course also plays a big part in where boys apply to.
19 St Albans pupils have gone to Oxbridge this year, not 5.
We are looking to relocate in St Albans. My son will be in Year 2 in September & I am looking for a school. Any suggestion for a good primary school in the area preferably private? Thank you!
Hi Milenalma - the only private junior school in St Albans is Columbas College prep school - not ideal unless you're planning to send your son to the Senior School! Suggest you look at Alwickbury School in Harpenden and Beechwood School in Markyate but there are also plenty of others in the surrounding area!
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