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Around Newbury/Thatcham Area - Recommendations and feedback on senior schools please

(21 Posts)
CluelessCrapParent Mon 07-Jul-14 15:34:25

We plan to move into the area next year, I'm fixated on St Helens & St Katharines (not sure it is rational) and will try and get dd through the assessment process next year, but now I am having a mini panic about her not getting in and then not having a Plan B. I think I've had my sights on SHSK for so long I cannot see beyond it.

Any first hand feedback and suggestions on senior schools in the area would be much appreciated. I'm especially interested in all girls schools, but am happy to consider co-ed too provided they are not gender biased in STEM subjects.

At the moment, I'm applying to SHSK and am looking into St Gabriel's in Newbury.

Any other recommendations and feedback or advice would be very welcomed.

I'm just having a mini panic right now. brew

happygardening Mon 07-Jul-14 15:51:43

Unless they've moved SHSK since I last looked or your talking about a different school it's not in Newbury or Thatcham it's in Abingdon! I know it's not a million miles away but still a fair distance from Newbury/Thatcham. Would you consider schools in Oxford/Abingdon area e.g. Cokethorpe, the High School, Headington, St a Edwards (mainly boarding)?

CluelessCrapParent Mon 07-Jul-14 16:04:17

Thanks happygarden.

SHSK is very doable logistically from Newbury/Thatcham as they have bus routes coverage from where we plan to live.

Yes, I am considering Abingdon, up the A34.

But Oxford would be a commute too far which is not logistically feasible unless we plan to be in or around Oxford itself.

I'm looking for day schools really - independent or good state.

Cokethorpe? The High School? St a Edwards? Tell me more please, while I go googling now. Heard of Headington but don't know much about it though....

CluelessCrapParent Mon 07-Jul-14 16:12:47

Googled Headington, looks great, but just too far....non of the buses cover all the way down to WEst Berkshire.

happygardening Mon 07-Jul-14 16:21:53

I don't know much TBH. I've got boys! Friends/work colleagues say Cokethorpe is increasingly becoming the fall back for MCS and Abingdon, I understand it has lovely grounds, good pastoral care but not desperately academic. The High School, Headington and St Edwards are all in Oxford itself so not really a goer if you're living Newbury way. A couple of colleagues in a previous job had DC's at state schools in Newbury itself they rate them highly one so much that she moved her DC's from the independent sector to one, the schools are likely to be on the north side of Newbury (which I dont know at all) as they both lived on the other side of the M4 hope this helps.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 07-Jul-14 16:24:24

So I guess you are looking for independents so your options are:

All girls
SHSK - head is changing I was going to move DD there not so certain now. I just can't put my finger on what I feel has changed, but something has.
St Gabriel's - not as selective as SHSK, but still gets good results.
Down House - boarding not for me.
The Abbey - similar level to St Gabriel's different ethos, no buses they need to go on the train or you take them.

Co-ed
Pangbourne - not as selective as the girl's schools, but from what friends say pastoral care is good
Marlborough - again you need to board and it is quite smart (also expensive).
Bradfield - it is possible to do day, but there are no buses so you have got to do all the driving.

If you would consider boarding obviously you can throw the net wider.
I am also taking a look at the state options all four senior schools do well with good levels of A* to B at A-level large numbers of RG university places, all get children into vet and medicine and all get some to Oxbridge.

happygardening Mon 07-Jul-14 16:25:03

Just looked up comprehensives in Newbury to see if I recognised a name. I think one has two DC's at St Bart's her children are doing really well don't know any more than that.

CluelessCrapParent Mon 07-Jul-14 16:27:05

It would be good to know which state schools they were talking about and why they rate them....I'm guessing it is St Barts they are talking about.

happygardening Mon 07-Jul-14 16:28:46

Pangbourne is military orientated the kids wear a military style uniform not for the non conformist rule breaker I suspect.

happygardening Mon 07-Jul-14 16:33:41

Marlborough is not exactly up the road from Newbury either, they do have day children but I wouldn't want to trek back and forward to there from Newbury every day especially as the day children don't go home before 9 PM. Bradfield has a good reputation, solidly academic and good pastoral care boarders are in the majority so again day children might have to stay late and will have to go in on Saturday. Marlborough and Bradfield don't start till yr 9 either.

CluelessCrapParent Mon 07-Jul-14 16:36:47

Thanks lone cat. What's your gut feel about the changes in SHSK? But the new head isn't in place yet, you can sense changes already? Where are you moving your dd from?

Any feedback further on St Gabriels?

Not thought of Pangbourne before - will look into it....meanwhile any further feedback appreciated.

Not so keen on dd being a day pupil within a boarding school really, think it will affect the friendship dynamics definitely.

CluelessCrapParent Mon 07-Jul-14 16:41:49

In addition to being boarding schools, I have a feeling that with Down House, Marlborough and Bradfield that we will be the poor relations.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 07-Jul-14 16:41:53

With the state options you will almost certainly need to be in catchment as these are very tight. St Bart's reduced their intake when they move to the new school so catchment decreased. Realistically you will get in your catchment school, if you live in South Newbury you have a chance at St Bart's if you are in Park House catchment and vice versa. North Newbury and Thatcham you will have to go on waiting list for non-catchment schools.
I take work experience from all the local schools and have to say they all seem to be good.
St Bart's still Grammer style with CCF unit which at some point they ave either join or do community service.
Park house very sports orientated also dance very popular.
Kennet head is Mr Dick who has awesome reputation is also executive head of Trinity they are both in same academy group.
Trinity historically had issues due to two school merging to form this, but that is well in the past now. Has benefited from lovely new facilities partly funded by money from Vodaphone which is across the road.
There is a lot of movement between schools at sixth form and with Universities possibly positively discriminating for state applicants people are moving from independents to state for sixth form.
Currently DD will take the St Gabriel's entrance exam, may take SHSK (we will have St G's result before need to confirm) and I may apply for St Bart's and possibly Trinity. Though I'm doing careers talk at Park House on Friday so may change my mind about it.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 07-Jul-14 16:45:19

Oh she's currently at St G's she is in a very bright cohort which has good and bad points. She really wants to stay and is. Very forthright child who is not above deliberately failing other entrance exams.

CluelessCrapParent Mon 07-Jul-14 17:01:26

That's interesting lonecat. Thank you for the great info.

We will be in catchment for The Downs School definitely. Any feedback on this please? So I guess that will be our default. I didn't know that catchment rules are so tight. I thought you could choose 3 in order of preference....I need to read up on the process really...

So your dd's in St Gab's already and she still has to take an entrance exam to move up into the senior school?

Tell me more about St G's please. What is it like for sports, music and drama? What are the girls like.

CluelessCrapParent Mon 07-Jul-14 17:03:15

Is it the sort of environment where it would be easy for a new girl to join and settle in?

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 07-Jul-14 17:15:39

I've pmed you.

CluelessCrapParent Mon 07-Jul-14 17:39:35

Thanks lone cat. have replied.

AppleSnow Mon 07-Jul-14 18:53:42

My DD has been at SHSK for 5 years and I have been delighted with the school. Strong teaching coupled with good sporting, drama and music opportunities. The new head isn't in place until next January so it's a bit early imo to say things are changing though they have just introduced a house system. If you need any further info OP pm me. DD has friends in Newbury and it is very doable on the school bus.

Cokethorpe is near Witney so you'd be travelling for over an hour to get there. With any of the Oxford schools you'd have to battle with Oxford traffic - not great at the best of times - hellish when there are roadworks.

happygardening Mon 07-Jul-14 19:46:02

Marlborough and Bradfield also don't start till yr 9 so probably not suitable for your DD I less you want to find a prep school.

zingally Tue 08-Jul-14 20:34:55

Thinking about state secondaries, Kennet in Thatcham is highly thought-of. But the Head there, Mr Dick, is very inspirational and highly regarded, and might be the one holding the place together... He must be nearing retirement by now.

In Newbury, St Barts is very popular and academically-minded.

Trinity is very much the poor relation, although I understand they are on the up.

If it were my child, I'd aim for St Barts. I've never met a single person with a bad thing to say about that school.

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