Westfield school, Newcastle

(31 Posts)
summersblue Wed 01-Jan-14 10:48:16

I'm seriously considering Westfield for DD who has due to start Reception in September. Does anyone here have DC there?

Right now we're actually debating between Westfield and Central Newcastle High but I know that Central is merging with Church High and will be Newcastle High School for girls in September. I think Central does better academically than Westfield but Westfield is smaller which I think I prefer.

I've heard that both of them can be quite cliquey but not sure if there's any truth to that.

We're also considering Newcastle School for Boys for DS but he's only five months at the moment so we have a while to make any decisions regarding him. Still if anyone has DC there it will be interesting to hear their experiences.

IALW Thu 09-Jan-14 21:37:05

Hi there

I'm in a similar position to you. My DD is 2 so is due to start nursery in September. We have looked around Dame Allan's, Westfield and Newcastle High School for Girls. I actually attended Westfield from the age of 3 to 13 and then went on to Dame Allan's where I stayed until after 6th form. However I'm 35 now and things do change.

My thoughts/feelings after looking around all 3 and doing a bit of research are as follows:

Westfield - the same head mistress (Mrs Farndale) is still there as when I attended although she does retire at the end of this school year. My DH and I really liked the atmosphere of the school however the school is literally dropping to bits IMO. It is exactly the same as when I was there and has had very little investment. On the day I visited, nursery and reception were in one room together as there simply wasn't enough children to have them separated. This concerns me more from the point of view of the reception class children. Are they really getting what the need when nursery children are being catered for in the same classroom? I also have concerns over the long term viability of the school. My intention is to find the right school for my DD and for her to follow through that school all the way to 18. I quizzed the head about this and she assured me that Westfield was financially sound and will be here for a long time to come. However I know that pupil numbers in the school have been falling and I have downloaded the accounts for Westfield from the companies house website for the last few years (I'm an accountant BTW) and I'm just not convinced that Westfield will be here in 15 years time. They are loss making year on year and whilst they do own the Gosforth site with some outstanding mortgage I don't know how much longer they will keep the school going unless they manage to increase numbers. My other concern goes back to my personal experience. The vast majority of the girls I know who continued on at Westfield to 18 don't really have what I would call professional careers. I don't mean this in an awful way but quite a few went on the be cabin crew or work on beauty counters. My main concern in the DD is happy and if this is what she decides to do then that's fine but I do want all possible options to be open to her. I always enjoyed my time at Westfield and didn't find it to be too cliquey and IMO you could get this at absolutely any school.

Dame Allan's - we looked round the new junior school at Hunters Moor. Again I have personal experience of the school and was always happy there. I won't include much about Dame Allan's as I'm not sure you're interested in this one. Briefly, the new school building is amazing and facilities are second to none. My main concerns here are that I'm not convinced that the pastoral care will be on the same level as that given by Westfield and Newcastle High School for Girls. I fear that DD could just be a number. In addition I have reviewed the last independent schools inspection report for Dame Allans (carried out in 2011) and this concerns me greatly. It is nowhere near as good as the inspection reports for both Westfield and Central High/Church High. On the flip side the vast majority of my year group are all in professional careers (doctors, dentists, vets, solicitors, accountants etc).

Newcastle High School for Girls - I don't know why but I really didn't expect to like this school when I looked round and TBH only really looked round for completeness sakes. However, both my husband and I loved the school. Our daughter seemed to instantly settle there. The school building was fully renovated last year and is fabulous inside with fantastic facilities. It had a great feel about it and all the girls were lovely and you can tell from the interaction between the children and teachers that there was a real level of caring there. Obviously the school Newcastle High School for girls doesn't actually exist until September 2014 so I looked at the independent schools inspection reports for Central High and Church High both of which are excellent. I'm assuming that since Central High is the much larger school and it s the head of Central that is taking over the new school that it is the culture of Central that will largely prevail over the new school.

We have yet to make a final decision and plan to look around again but at the moment we are leaning toward Newcastle High School for Girls.

I hope this helps.

If anyone else has any other opinions I would be very interested to hear also.

Highlander Fri 10-Jan-14 22:41:53

Church parents are pretty hacked off with the Central merger, as Church is generally where girls are sent for a bit of TLC. When La Sagesse closed, most f the girls that were a bit quiet/had SEN went there. Central is regarded as a bit of a bitchy hot house, especially in Seniors.

NSB OK, mass exodus to RGS fir Yr 3 and Yr 7.

NPS lovely, as is Dame Allens; never heard any parent say a bad word about them.

I have a DS who went fom state to RGS at Yr3; ther DS is sitting fir RGS soon. I'd send him to NPS otherwise.

I don't see how Westfield is going to survive. Private schools are closing like mad in Newcastle. RGS is expanding, although I think they have physically reached their limit now.

GirlsTimesThree Sat 11-Jan-14 09:59:17

I have (had) three girls at Central (seniors) over the past three years and recognise nothing of the bitchy hothouse, Highlander.
DD2 moved at a critical time in her schooling and has had nothing but fantastic support from both staff and girls. All the girls were immediately accepted into already established friendship groups and they have all been/are very happy there.
We have 'done' six schools over my daughters' school careers, four if them girls' schools, and there is no more bitching at Central than any of the others they've attended and, according to my daughters, less angst and stress amongst the girls. When there was a suggestion that my youngest was having a bit of a problem, I emailed her form teacher, had a reply within the hour and it was all sorted by the next day.
We couldn't have asked for any more as parents than what our girls are receiving from the school.
It's a shame if the Church parents aren't happy about the merger (there are parents at Central who feel the same), but from what I can see, it seems to be being handled well. I'm not in the least bit worried about it.
I pm'd you op.

MiaowTheCat Tue 14-Jan-14 12:52:04

I'm out of the loop regarding the whys and wherefores of most of the Newcastle schools now - but I'd be wary of any with low pupil numbers as I know they were getting absolutely decimated as the senior schools reached further and further down the age range in previous years (I worked at one which closed in such circumstances).

There is one teacher at RGS who I wouldn't let within 100 feet of my kids though - she used to fairly regularly refer to children in her classes as "little scroats" from within the privacy of the staff room...

summersblue Wed 15-Jan-14 21:42:29

After thinking about it, I don't think Westfield actually sounds that great. Is it a small school because it wants to be that way, ie they only let a certain number of girls in each year or because people are opting for other private schools in the area over Westfield? I know it does pride itself on being a small school.

I have thought about Dame Allens. I like the fact that it's co-ed in the junior school, single sex in secondary and co-ed again in sixth form so the students get the advantage of learning in a single sex environment whilst still mixing with the opposite sex. It means that both DS and DD could go there. I've also thought about RGS - that's supposed to be an excellent school and it's the first school that comes to mind when I think of private schools in the area. RGS doesn't accept student until Year 3 though so we'd need to find another school in the mean time anyways.

I like the thought of an all girl school for DD though. Central is meant to be a very good school although I have heard it can be a bitchy hot house like someone else mentioned above but GirlsTimesThree didn't have that experience. It's just it's merger with Church High to form Newcastle High School for Girls which is putting me off slightly as we can't predict that it will keep that up when it becomes a bigger school. I assume that even though Central is bigger than Westfield that classes are still kept reasonably small?

Oh yeah, how do I check PM's. [feels stupid]

GirlsTimesThree Thu 16-Jan-14 17:11:27

I think you go to the purple box 'My Mumsnet', click and you get a drop down menu.... I think, but I'm a bit dim with anything technological...

josiejo1877 Tue 11-Mar-14 14:25:25

Hi All, We just had a meeting at Westfield school this morning. We had originally intended on sending our daughter to Church high. At the open day 2 years ago we were told admission was a formality and we did not need to worry about her getting in. Church High has since merged. My daughter had her pre-admission day last Friday at what will be " Newcastle high school for girls" We were told yesterday that they would not consider her for a place due to her academic level. You can imagine our shock!!! Our daughter is an average pupil in her "outstanding" first school in Northumberland. We were told her maths is very concerning!!! We have since found out that Newcastle high has a very different ethos to church high and is seen as a very elite school who only take very highly academic girls. Had we known this we would not have put our daughter through the admission process.
After viewing Westfield we feel it would be much better for our daughter who will not be an academic flyer but will excel in many areas. We felt Westfield was much more nurturing in their approach. Yes the building is somewhat old but the pupils were all very happy and there isn't a feeling of academic pressure. My daughter is going for a pre admission day next week, so fingers crossed she gets a place.
After reading comments on her I think we will rule out RGS as I do not think she will pass their entrance exam. I never thought we would be in a position where we want our daughter to go to a private school, funding isn't a problem, but schools won't take her unless she is an academic genius!!!!

kawaii Tue 11-Mar-14 18:44:55

Wow josiejo1877 your post has shocked me too. I have DD name down for central for entry in 2017. I have been told by admissions that entry is just a formality and although they are assessed it is just to see what level they are at!! Obviously this is not the case...

I may put DD's name down for Dame Allens too as although a bright little girl I am not sure if she is showing signs of been über academic.

kawaii Tue 11-Mar-14 18:54:27

Sorry posted to soon

I so far haven't considered Westfield but I may now think about it as I'm worried Central may not be for us. We live on the coast and Westfield and Dame Allens would be quite a commute.

Have you considered NPS? I am on a waiting list for that school... I haven't yet been to look around but it has a good reputation. Although with no senior school I don't know what is the normal progression route. Possibly RGS?

josiejo1877 Tue 11-Mar-14 19:16:51

We were told the same thing Kawaii. We have spent 12 months talking about central high as my daughter wants to go to her local state school with her friends, which is normal. We finally convinced her that Newcastle High School for girls would be fab and she enjoyed her day. today we had to tell her she hadn't got a place. The irony is her headteacher at her first school says Rebecca is in top sets for her literacy, her maths is average and she is a bright young girl. According to Newcastle high School her maths is very concerning and her literacy is not of the standard of their lowest ability groups! Very disappointing and we were very angry with how this has been dealt with.
However, we are now angry that we didn't view Westfield before making a decision. I know RGS is very academic and I know there are only 12 places for this September for Year 5 so we will not be putting her through the exam. DA is another option although they do maths and English assessments so also not sure she would pass. Fingers crossed she gets into Westfield smile

kawaii Tue 11-Mar-14 19:55:11

Fingers crossed your DD gets into Westfield *josiejo1877*. My neighbour who is about 25 attended Westfield and absolutely loved it and is always encouraging me to send DD there.

As I said before, the commute is a bit much but I better now add it to the list of schools to view. It is such a shame Church has merged with Central as I think Church would have been perfect for DD in terms of ambiance and location. Pastoral care is my number one priority as DD can be quite sensitive so a pushy environment wouldn't be for us.

ACatCalledColin Mon 24-Mar-14 22:46:47

Sorry for bumping this thread but just thought I'd put my input in.

My sister is currently in Year 9 at Church High, she's been there since Year 7 and she's been very happy there and has loved her time there. So of course she is devastated that it's now merging with Central. We all are as she had a bit of a rough time in her primary school and was extremely unhappy there so we were pleased that she settled into Church so well.

She isn't going to be returning when it becomes Newcastle High School for Girls in September as we do feel that it is pretty much a takeover by Central rather than a merger. As mentioned above, Newcastle High appears to have very different ethos to Church High and is going to be a school for academic high flyer's, pretty much like Central is. My sister is bright but not overly academic and can be a bit sensitive and shy so we feel a pushy academic environment will not be for her.

She is going to be going to Westfield for her GCSE years and presumably A Levels if she wants to do them. The building is old, however as mentioned above the girls do seem happy there and it appears to be a very nurturing school. From what my mum and sister have also said, it isn't a pushy hothouse sort of school and whilst they encourage girls who are academic, they don't leave out those who aren't. Pastoral care seems good and yes, it's a very small school which might put off some people but this would be perfect for my sister.

My sister is of course sad that she has to leave Church High as it will be no more soon but she is adamant that she doesn't want to go to Newcastle High School for Girls and is looking forward to going to Westfield.

As for which school is best? Well that depends on the child. If you have an outgoing daughter who would thrive in a more pushy atmosphere then Newcastle High School for Girls would probably be best. If you have a quieter, less academic child then Westfield would probably be better. Obviously if your dd is only going into Reception in September it might be hard to predict what category she would fall into.

I really do feel you need to visit the schools in person though.

Have you considered Newcastle Prep school? That has a good reputation, although most enter Royal Grammar School for Year 7.

kawaii Tue 25-Mar-14 16:05:04

Thanks ACatCalledColin that's really interesting. In confirms what I suspected about the merger and that Newcastle High is going to have the ethos of Central.

It's hard for me to know which school would suit DD at such a young age but I know I would be much more suited to the Westfield / Churh High environment.

A small school is to me is a great selling point, so I must go and look around Westfield.

DD is on the waiting list for NPS. Do you know anything more about NPS and RGS. Would you say RGS is more along the lines of Central/Newcastle High? Thanks again for your insight, very interesting.

ACatCalledColin Tue 25-Mar-14 22:41:43

I would love to know what made them decide to merge the two schools. Both of them are very good, but for different reasons and suit different types of girls so I don't really know why anyone would think they would need to become one school. A couple of other girls from Church High are transferring to Westfield I believe and some to other schools.

RGS has a reputation for being a sporty and academic hot house, pretty much like Central. So I wouldn't recommend that to a non academic child or/and a shy sensitive child. NPS has a good reputation but despite being co-ed there are still more boys than girls there. Most pupils go to the RGS for secondary, with a few going to other independent schools in the area and some to state. I have friends with DC at NPS and their children are very happy there. They say it's not pushy and is very nurturing but seeing as most pupils go to RGS afterwards I'd imagine most of the children there are academic. It seems to do a good job of getting pupils into their chosen secondary school though so it might be a good foundation for secondary school.

kawaii Fri 28-Mar-14 16:46:56

Thank you ACatCalledColin, I am choosing a school for my DD, and have very little knowledge of the independent schools in Newcastle.

NPS sounds nice although I'm a little less keen on the sound of RGS so I may look to put DD down for Westfield too. Then make the decision between that and Newcastle High.

Thanks again for the info.

BethanyBoobs Fri 04-Apr-14 19:38:51

I haven't really got anything useful to add to this post, but just wanted to say that I find it a little bit sad that Central is merging. Which is silly because I never went there and don't know anyone who does/did. Whenever I go to Jesmond to visit my sister I always end up having to walk past it and I've always thought that the school was very pretty with the purple doors, purple signs, etc (to match the uniforms I guess) and I understand Newcastle High School for Girls will eventually be moved to the Church High site after it's been renovated. I just hope it's as aesthetically as pleasing as Centrals current site. (although there'll be no purple uniform). grin

Just a general question about Newcastle School for Boys though as you barely ever seem to hear much about that one. Would you say it's the boy equivalent of Westfield? It is a small school, like Westfield, but is it more academic and pushy or a more relaxed environment like Westfield? Somehow I doubt it's the equivalent of Central.

Out of all the private schools in Newcastle, you seem to hear about Westfield and Newcastle School for Boys the least.

BethanyBoobs Fri 04-Apr-14 19:40:11

^aesthetically pleasing that was meant to be.

JaneinReading Sat 05-Apr-14 16:46:13

I went there. I did feel a bit isolated particularly at sixth form level in those days. I was pretty bright (well ....very actually) and most people weren't who were there. Our brother was at RGS. I have been very successful in career terms. It was then known as the "school for posh duds". Classes were small. The attention was good from the teachers, some of whom were very good. I am not sure it was really the best choice for me - Central High would have been better but who can say with hindsight? We all 3 did exceptionally well in high paid careers and the schools will have played their part in that.

With my own children (no longer in Newcastle) we went for the RGS/Central High route equivalent - most academic schools we could find that they could get into. Depends on the parents and the children of course. It would be a shame if Westfield were having difficulties (not that I know that it is) but the country has been in an awful recession so not surprisingly fewer parents are paying fees. I am sure things will pick up.

MiaowTheCat Thu 10-Apr-14 08:32:38

I would love to know what made them decide to merge the two schools.

Lots of the Newcastle independents particularly with heavy intakes at the younger end of the age spectrum have been struggling for a good long while now (the school I used to teach at was one of a couple that closed one year). Don't think the recession has helped - but also just as the traditional big hitters have expanded further down the age range it's taken a lot of kids out of the pool of potential pupils much earlier. It's all been happening for a while as lots of the smaller operators have either closed or merged.

ACatCalledColin Thu 10-Apr-14 11:18:54

Merging for financial reasons does seem to make sense and seems more likely. The schools do deny it's a financial move though.

ACatCalledColin Thu 10-Apr-14 12:46:39

Although quite a few parents think otherwise.

KeelRow Thu 10-Apr-14 13:41:43

I went to Central High (have NC for this) and am reasonably up on the merger.

What I heard is that Church High unexpectedly approached Central to talk about the possibility of a merger because it was struggling financially. Central was quite surprised I think but it was a good opportunity for them because they are struggling for space in their present site - they have expanded every which way they can but are bursting at the seams. Moving to Church's site means they have a lot more room. They also have a massive grant from the GDST to develop the new site so facilities should be top notch, and they will have the lovely John Dobson building.

My sense is that the new school will have more of the academic ethos of Central. I don't know if I'd ever have described Central as a 'hothouse'. It is determined to be the academic leader in the NE, but it's still not exactly St Paul's Girls. I would say it is similar to RGS. I think it's fair to say I was one of the academic high flyers there, but I don't think you have to be uber brainy to be happy there - I think any reasonably bright girl would be fine. It wasn't like we were all stabbing each other in the back over who came top in exams or whatever at all.

I also don't recognise the bitchiness people talk about. I wasn't super popular but it was a place where everybody could find a group of friends and things that interested them. I am still in touch with my closest friends from Central.

One thing I would say is that when I was there it was INCREDIBLY sporty - you were more likely to exist on the social fringes like me if you were not into sport. I remember art and science as being particularly strong too.

MotherDuck365 Thu 15-May-14 14:12:19

Hi,
I found this conversation really useful because I have just agonised where to send my DD.
I went to Westfield, as did my sister and we both did well there (Lawyer and GP ....and no one in my class ended up as a beautician or a trolley dolly!)
I liked NPS but they are full and even have a waiting list, so no luck there.
The Church/Central merger worries me as I think that the nurturing nature of Church will be lost as the girls are subsumed into Central culture and ethos.
Dame Allan's has a lovely shiny new building but the staff seemed disinterested in us as prospective parents and didn't really engage with us when we had our visit.
Westfield Junior School is in an older building, but I've heard a rumour that it's about to undergo an upgrade. I suppose there is only so much that you can do with older style buildings. I can't get my DD in until September as the nursery class is apparently full on some days of the week - 17 children I think they said, so I'm not sure about the previous post about classes being so small that they had to be brought together. They make a big play about having no more than 20 in each class which appeals to me.
My husband is ex RGS. The school has fabulous facilities but doesn’t take pupils from reception age, so they are not in the mix. I did notice that the ratio of boys to girls was much higher there too, which is bit off putting.
So, finally decided on Westfield and wanted to get a place there in September before Church/Central merger physically takes place in case, as I suspect, there will be a mass exodus of Church girls to the other schools once they get there and don’t like it.
Difficult decisions…. I wonder if my parents agonised over where to send us at the time!

ACatCalledColin Tue 27-May-14 22:02:20

MotherDuck you're not entirely wrong about Church High girls moving on to Westfield. My sister is moving from Church High to Westfield and according to her and my mum some of the other girls are too although there are apparently some going elsewhere. I know it's been said up thread that Westfield is very small and might struggle to survive in the current economical climate due to small numbers however I do wonder whether the Church High/Central merger will change this somewhat, with the maybe quite a few of the less academic girls from Church going there instead.

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