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Relocating back to south England. Advice please(24 Posts)
I am an Englishman who has been living in Asia for over 20 years. In about 1.5 to 2.5 years' time, my family (Vietnamese wife, 5 year old son (28/12/2007) and DD, who will be born next week) will be moving to England. The main reasons for moving to England are for a change of life, which I am sure will be easy to attain, and to ensure an excellent, safe environment to bring up our kids.
My wife and I will only be working part time from home so will have plenty of time for our children, consequently boarding at school is not a consideration. Because of location of other family members and friends would only consider living in south England. Money is not too much of an issue so private schooling is a definite possibility.
Think London might be a bit daunting for us and securing nice accommodation there may seriously hamper us financially so wouldn't consider central London. From what I have read about London it seems quite difficult to get your kids in to "good" schools even if you are living there and know exactly how to do it, so this puts me off London. At present we live in a large city so I don't think I would consider living in a conurbation of less than 100,000 people.
DSs dominant language is English (I think his English level is at least that of the average middle class English boy of his age), he also speaks Vietnamese, and has some knowledge of Mandarin. Ideally I would like a school where, as part of the curriculum, he can study French and Mandarin, but this could be dealt with after school, if deemed necessary. My son is quite academic, but I am not looking for a school where he will be "hot housed" (if I understand the term correctly) as we can provide an excellent fun and educational environment at home. Even though I feel we are capable of doing it, I am not considering homeschooling as I want DS to integrate in to England ASAP.
Did consider the Poole/Bournemouth area, but didn't couldn't find any schools I liked. Not in to Steiner and such like. Wife is Catholic and I am officially CofE, but a non-believer. For schooling, religion is not important to us, unless it can work to our advantage. I am not going to attend church in order to get my kids in to a school, but my wife might. If schools have some sort of G and T programme this would be interesting as this may be appropriate for my son, not sure actually?
Have heard of The Good Schools Guide and will purchase if recommended. Am imagining that I will do as many reckies to England as necessary, but need a clear idea of what I will be doing during these reckies before I get on the plane.
From my Internet research Brighton College seems to tick the boxes, so am asking if there are any opinions on Brighton and Brighton College, and or any other suggestions?
Sorry for so much detail, but from following other threads it seems best to get it all out first rather than adding information later. All advice much appreciated!!
First time poster, but have been reading here for a few months.
Brighton College receives the best results in the area but if you are not looking for a hot house may not be the right school for you!
Good luck with your decision
G+T in state schools is pretty meaningless. I wouldn't factor that in.
State schools that teach Mandarin are very rare, I wouldn't factor that in.
I think you'd be better off looking for a city you liked for other reasons & then deciding which schools there you liked best.
Keep in mind if you move suddenly into an area with already over-subbed (state) infant schools you have a low chance of getting your child into a local school; will have to appeal hard or send them elsewhere. So might be best off planning to go private from the start to be sure of a place.
Castle Court and Dumpton have very good reputations in the Poole area and there are Grammar Schools or Canford very close. Dorset is an excellent place for families.
Finding a place at year 2/3 could be tricky in either sector especially if you have no local address to apply from until you arrive. Your ds may need to take an 7+ assessment for a private selective school like BC and worth registering very soon for this and a reception place for your dd at the more popular schools.
There's a lot of changing Head teachers going on in the Wimborne pyramid schools at the moment and I think a couple of fairly decent schools are set to really take off with the new Heads appointed, there are some excellent first schools plus the Grammars and then a couple of catholic schools plus Dumpton and Castle Court for back up.
Things generally change over time but the beauty of being here is there is a decent choice. My DS will probably not be going to any of the same schools as DD as there are 5 years between him and he's very different. We're very lucky to have the choice to a reasonable extent of where to send them. The overwhelming majority go through the state sector here and most patents are very happy with it, as are those who do go the private option (often seen as way into the Grammar).
If you are happy to go private then Guildford, Sevenoaks and Canterbury should all be on your radar. Much better to go for large town outside of London than toward London if private is an option, because the route from pre-prep to prep to senior is much more straightforward. I think there are also some prep good school options around ascot/sunningdale etc but don't know for sure, and might not be urban enough for you.
Callthemidlife, you are right about the Ascot/Sunningdale area. Loads of prep schools. Historically this was an area popular with London parents for boarding preps - it was condidered "country" (fresh air etc) but also relatively close. The schools have adapted over the last 30 years and are predominantly day schools now catering for locals - they were lucky that as the area was "developed" it was also prosperous and could support so many schools.
I believe Handcross Park School teach Mandarin, it's a private co-ed school in Handcross near Crawley, West Sussex who have children going onto a wide variety of local state & private senior schools including Hurst.
Firstly, thank you very much for all comments and suggestions. I will address some of them here:
Will look in to the schools mentioned near Bournemouth
Will look in to the Ascot/Sunningdale area as this sounds interesting. I spent my childhood in Tunbridge Wells so am more up on south of London rather than areas to the north.
Will check out Guildford and Canterbury. Previously considered Sevenoaks, but feel it would be a little too countryside for us.
Thanks for info on G+T and Mandarin.
As we work from home we can pretty much be located anywhere. As we have no traveling needed for work we have no need to overpay for location of property. I feel from all I have read about the difficulty of getting in to schools my son will almost certainly start off private and may well continue right the way through.
I am currently thinking that I would like to find the right school and locate near it rather than the right place and search for the schools. Thanks, once again for all suggestions so far. If anyone has any more suggestions, particularly about specific schools, I would be very eager to know them.
You shouldn't face too much difficulty with private schools IMO at this age. There are lots of 'comprehensive' prep schools that will cover a full range of ability including sending children onto the top private senior schools as well as less selective schools, and for this reason I don't think you'll face any difficulty getting a place.
Unfortunately southern England is a very expensive place to live, even outside London. Surrey has the most private schools but you are looking at £0.5million+ for a house.
To the north of London (Northamptonshire, northern Bucks) would be a lot cheaper. Not sure about schools though. Unfortunately many of the best senior day schools are in London, but there are a few scattered around the rest of the South East - you just wouldn't get the same choice as you would in London/Surrey.
Have you thought about coming West a bit? I live in Bath and it is a lovely part of the world with some really good schools. King Edwards and Kingsdown are more academic (but with a lot of extra-curricular too), Monkton and Prior Park less acadic but with lots to offer.
I was also going to suggest looking at Bath. A lovely city with good links to surrounding areas and direct trains to London if you needed to go there. King Edward's School was also going to be my suggestion, it is a very good academic school, certainly with a great reputation locally. Bristol could be another option, Bristol Grammar School would also be a good choice. Both have their own prep schools.
Yes, I would definitely recommend the Good Schools Guide as a good 'third party' overview rather than an report type review. Would also agree with the Bath recommendation. I live in London but family live in Bath ( children at KES as well) and it is has the great combination of culture /theatre / good jobs but small enough to walk around. It is probably the only town that I would seriously consider living in outside London as it is small, without the small town mentality IYKWIM.
Isn't Handcross Park affiliated to Brighton College ? tbh most IAPS prep schools would be fine but do consider whether you want a traditional style with option to go up to 13 and take Common Entrance to seniors or a co-ed to 11 for example. Some have a more international flavour than others , often those near or in main cities offering boarding from a younger age.
Thanks for suggestions and comments, once more. My comments:
House prices anywhere outside of London should not be an issue for us.
Hand cross looks interesting and yes it does teach Mandarin. Look alike it was bought by Brighton College so maybe this has something to do with why it teaches Mandarin.
Bath does look interesting, but is a bit far away from friends and family, who are mainly in the south east, so I probably won't consider going that far.
Can't reply to all comments yet as it takes time to research them. Tks.
Ooops, realised that I referred to "Kingsdown" school in Bath and meant "Kingswood": sorry, brain-rot has set in
Agree that Bristol has some excellent schools, although Bath is generally a much nicer place to live (Clifton, in Bristol, is lovely, but haven't been sold on the rest).
Although school choice is important, don't forget to think about "time outside of school" too - so parks, kids activities, shopping, safety/security, time spent in the car getting places etc.
I would look at places like Oxford, Guildford, Bath or even Wokingham (quite small, about 30000 people). All of those places have nice schools around and since you are not moving inminently, you should be able to put your names on the waiting lists now and hopefully get a place. But first of all you need to decide where you are going to live. Otherwise the choice is too wide
We looked at Brighton College prep & felt something was missing. Yes it's academic but it didn't feel friendly. I'm sure you'll find parents who loved it, but it wasn't for us. We looked around the senior school a few years later which now had a new Headmaster. Couldn't tolerate the man! Also a friend who worked at Brighton made the comment that the school was "perfect for parents who expected their children to gain A grades". DS is an extremely bright lad who puts himself under enough pressure without the school making it worse.
We picked another Sussex prep school & senior school & were extremely pleased with both. DS gained outstanding GCSE grades which shows if you've a bright child, he'll (hopefully) do well anywhere, as long as you've fantastic pastoral support that is!
There are some excellent schools in mid Sussex - preps like Handcross and all throughs like Ardingly and Hurst, with Brighton College close by. Also a couple of girls schools of single sex appeals for your daughter. You could live in Brighton and commute to many of these schools or live further north and be 15-20 mins of Brighton by train and also within an hour of London. The are so has some excellent state school particularly primaries and a v popular catholic school on Burgess Hill. Might be worth considering. I understand that Brighton state schools are tricky.
There is also Lancing Prep (used to be Mowden) in Hove and St Christophers in Hove also affiliated to Brighton College, plus a few smaller ones such as Deepdene and Windlesham. There is also a GDST High school on Brighton/Hove border if single sex for girls appeals. Ardingly and Hurst are probably perceived as less academic but more all-rounded than BC.
Thank you all for further information, which I am definitely taking note of, just taking me time to research it all.
My favourite locations at present are: Brighton, Bournemouth, Guildford and Canterbury. This will keep me busy for now.
Thank to all.
I live in Guildford, Surrey. It is a very middle class bubble mostly (DDs came back from uni last week and were saying how much guildford is a bubble now they have moved away, but a 'refreshing bubble of familiarity') but also lovely and a great, very pretty town with so much to do. Some fantastic schools in central Guildford- both state and private. There is Guildford High School for girls and RGS for boys which are both in the top few schools in the country. Plus loads of other great ones!
Lots of green space from parks as well as it being right next to the North Downs. I think for such a big town there is a real community within the wards (Well there is in mine!). Beautiful high street, amazing leisure facilities, lots of mums with young children. Great place to bring up children.
If you want a slightly smaller town with similar atmosphere try Godalming or Haslemere both about 10 and 30 mins respectively from Guildford and lots commute to Guildford for secondary school via the amazing train links.
Are you sold yet...!?
Happymum22: thanks for the Guildford info. I will definitely check out the mums in Guildford on my next trip
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