Househunting in S.Bucks & Berkshire - how important are catchment areas? help!

(34 Posts)
aniBT Mon 03-Feb-14 22:05:28

Hi all, we're househunting for our 1st family home... (scary!) and I'm wandering HOW important it is to consider the catchment area. I am currently looking in Ascot, Beaconsfield & Windsor (it's so expensive but manageable - just (with sacrifices)!) - I understand they have great schools. Stoke Poges and Burnham on the other have quite average c.ment areas from what I've seen by Ofsted (despite being more reasonably priced). What do I do? Pay more for a house in a 'better' area....? Or not and 'risk' my kids (v small) being sent to a v average school... Sigh. advice much appreciated x

Ragusa Mon 03-Feb-14 22:11:05

It's entirely up to you and a difficult choice most parents who're aspiring homeowners have to make...

BUT don't go on Ofsted only. It's not all that. Most primaries are in reality fine:secondaries, you have to be a bit more careful. Contact the local authority (council) and find out how big the 'catchment' areas really were in previous years. Just being 'in catchment' is not a guarantee of getting a place. Also beware religioys admission criteria which can scupper you if you're not observant/baptised/whatever.

Ragusa Mon 03-Feb-14 22:12:15

And schools can change from great to crap, and vice-versa, inside 4 years or so wink.

bisjo Mon 03-Feb-14 22:12:36

Very and even then you may still not get in (depends on catchment plus distance).

bisjo Mon 03-Feb-14 22:14:32

True about schools changing. Our catchment school went from outstanding to special measures in 4 years and another 9 years on has crawled back to good.

plus3 Mon 03-Feb-14 22:15:28

If you come to Bucks, it is all about the 11+.....such fun.

poisonedbypen Mon 03-Feb-14 22:19:55

I think there are good schools in Burnham & Stoke Poges from what I've heard.

aniBT Mon 03-Feb-14 23:23:30

Thanks all. Really appreciate it. I'm just in a position where I went to really good schools so always wanted to give my kids the same opportunity but we simply can't afford private and I'm clueless about state / grammar schools :s I didn't realize that living in a catchment area didn't guarantee u a place at one of the local schools. Gosh, then how on earth do u decide where to live (esp when estate agents keep going on about catchment areas)! I know secondary school for my 2 is years away but then I prefer not to have to move again in ten years... Esp after the stress & cost of moving! Good point about ratings changing.... Back to the drawing board. If anyone has good recommendations for areas in these counties (easily accessible from London) I'd be v grateful smile thx again x

Ragusa Mon 03-Feb-14 23:34:20

School admissions is a really complex business. Completely ignore what estate agents are telling you. They are not, by and large, experts on admissions to put it mildly

When you find an area you like you can always post again here and we can help you fathom the school options grin

Ragusa Mon 03-Feb-14 23:48:39

But basically : grammars: admit pupils following a competitive test. High demand, many people tutor to get kids i. State comps and primaries - usually base admissions decisions on distance to school - e.g. each year there will be a 'cut off' distance after which kids don't get offered a place. Catchment areas come into play sometimes but distance usually used as a tie-breaker where there are more applicants than places ( almost always case in densely-populated urban areas. Alternatively the school may say priority will be given to CofE/ Catholics/Muslims etc. If there are spare places after all people in that category admitted, then the net is widened...

It comes as a shock to many that there is no right to choose a child's school. Your right is to express a preference and if all your preference schools are full with more eligible children, the council must offer you a place but it doesn't have to even be in borough!

The council will likely produce a booklet on last year's admissions data. That's v broad brush, hope it helps.

aniBT Tue 04-Feb-14 06:51:44

Ragusa - thank you thank you. That helps immensely.

Re all the 'preferred' schools one ones list potentially being full - I thought that was a London problem predominantly which is another reason we're moving away from there & to the 'burbs (in zone 3 now)... Good to know there's that risk.

Maybe I should stop stressing so much now and just pick the house and area that feels right and cross the 2ndary school bridge when I get there.. Thx x

CharlesRyder Tue 04-Feb-14 07:12:36

I would go the other way and pick the secondary school you want. Do you want to bank on getting Burnham Grammar? If so Burnham is not a bad option at all! Close enough for popping to Windsor to shop not to be a hassle and it is brilliant to be 2 minutes from Burnham Beeches when you have little kids. If you join the National Trust it is also like having Cliveden as your back garden!! There are some good primaries in Burnham and Burnham Grammar is fine.

However, the downside of this plan is that I wouldn't touch Burnham Park Academy with a bargepole. You would need to make SURE you picked a house where would have the option of Beechwood if the Grammar plan didn't come off.

The secondaries considered to be great are Charters, for which you have to live over the road, and Ranelagh, for which you must be a practising Christian.

Windsor Boys has traditionally had a great reputation but is having a little wobble right now. I would still be v happy with it if you only have DSs. Windsor Girls is less great I think though.

Pufflemum Tue 04-Feb-14 07:22:00

In the Ascot area there are some very good schools but being in catchment doesn't guarantee you will get in, for Primary. Really check past admissions as often places goes to people within less than 0.5m. I know several people whose children failed to get into the local school despite being able to hear the children outside at playtime. Admittedly that was a very high birth year. Great place to live though.

grovel Tue 04-Feb-14 09:32:28

St Mary's in Winkfield Row followed by Charters. Easy.

Ragusa Tue 04-Feb-14 11:11:52

Yes my view of such things is coloured by living in London: how can you tell?! grin? Things may well be different further out however I suspect it pays to be aware no matter where you live. The council will be able to give you the heads up.

To give an example, we considered moving out to Weybridge. The distance from school criteria is really important there.

handcream Tue 04-Feb-14 11:59:26

I live in S Bucks - be really careful. There is a Sikh school proposal in Stoke Poges. This means that if built your nearest school could well be this one. If you are Sikh that's fine but if you arent you will then struggle. The 11 plus is very competitive and diffciult to pass without tutoring. No one really admits to using a tutor but they do.... Do not believe a word if someone tells you that if your child is bright that they will easily pass the exam with no help. They are fibbing....

Burnham Grammar is not that great. Better are RGS and Beaconsfield High for girls.

I agree with others. Primary and Infant are Ok. Secondaries are not. Basically house prices are really high around here. If you cannot get into the grammar most parents end up releasing some equity and using private rather than using the sec moderns.

difficultpickle Tue 04-Feb-14 12:25:49

Lots of people I know choose prep with a plan for grammar and then either fail to get into grammar or choose to stay private for secondary.

Interestingly Desborough seems to be on the up (boys comp in Maidenhead). I know people who have a range of optiions available actually choosing to send their boys there. It seems that the new head has created a real buzz. It also has a link with Radley College which seems to be having a positive effect. New head came in and got rid of loads of staff.

CQ Tue 04-Feb-14 12:31:41

And Maidenhead is about to get the swanky new CrossRail terminal which will make commuting to anywhere much easier.

If the schools are on the up, I would seriously consider Maidenhead, it's about to boom, I feel. Town centre currently struggling, as are many, with empty shops and lack of atmosphere, and it's always been the poor relation of it's swankier neighbours, Marlow, Henley and Wokingham. But for this reason you get much more bang for your buck in the Maidenhead housing market. But don't know anything about state schools there, sorry!

Have you looked at the Good Schools Guide website? It's a great starting point.

ImSoHappyCauseToday Tue 04-Feb-14 12:35:42

Very.
Be safe. Buy the school caretakers house. ;)
Or better still, oust the head & stage a coup. With you now in charge your children are guaranteed a place.

Or move here. Easy commute & good secondary with option for grammar if you can be bothered.

ImSoHappyCauseToday Tue 04-Feb-14 12:36:32

But no houses. Nothing for sale ever, & you need to bribe the ea to even call you to view. Bastard.

difficultpickle Tue 04-Feb-14 12:43:23

Laughs at the thought of Maidenhead about to boom. They have been saying that for years. What no one has addressed is where everyone will park to access the train service when they close the main forecourt car park and reduce one of the other car parks.

There are more housing choices in Maidenhead but the nice stuff is a similar price to the surrounding areas.

ImSoHappyCauseToday Tue 04-Feb-14 12:48:27

I cannot put an image here.

But another area promised a boom for last 30 years has the most amazing sign.

X is brilliant. Put up by the local council I think. Who see no irony in putting it on a building that has been derelict for last 20 years, if not longer.

handcream Tue 04-Feb-14 13:00:56

Maidenhead is near the river and is a nice area (compared to others). Slough isnt great and Burnham on the outskirts is not particularly attractive however you will get more for your money.

Beaconsfield is very very expensive. Have a house within walking distance of the station and that can add �100-�150k plus to the house price. Parking at station is �7 per day.

Do you need to travel into London every day. if so just check out the season ticket prices My DH pays about �22 per day to travel in ocassionally.

ImSoHappyCauseToday Tue 04-Feb-14 13:05:46

£5k annual ticket & parking combo from here. Every time we wince. But I can see cows from my bedroom. I reckon each cow is worth £1k to me.

difficultpickle Tue 04-Feb-14 13:11:57

ImSo I'm guessing you don't live in Maidenhead if you can see cows from your window!

I think Maidenhead is a dreadful place to commute from. The car parking is expensive, the season ticket is expensive (to get a seat you need to travel first class, which I do and which is utterly ridiculous) and the train service is rubbish.

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