independent primary schools in and near Clapham

(71 Posts)
Chiana Mon 28-Jul-14 10:52:01

Hi ladies, been lurking for a while but this is my first time posting. DH and I are moving back to London next April after 6 years abroad. DS (7) and DD (5) are thriving in their current British international school, but those are the breaks. We own a home in Clapham, currently let out, but the local state primary does not have a great Ofstead report. We can afford to go independent, so we probably will.

DS is a quiet, shy, sensitive, bookish child, very very bright, so we're looking for a school that will push him academically while still having good pastoral care. I realize every parent thinks their precious snowflake is "sensitive" but trust me, DS really is. Thomas's Clapham or Thomas's Battersea are right out, if Mumsnet postings are anything to go by. They're supposed to be very pressured. If my impression of Thomas's is wrong, please let me know.

DD is a different kettle of fish altogether, fairly bright without being brilliant, and loves sport. Obviously it would be more convenient to have them both in the same school, but given how different their personalities are, I'm wondering if the same school would fit both of them. I'm not picky about single-sex versus mixed. I've heard good things about the Dolphin School, but apparently it's supposed to be quite religious, and we're atheists. I've heard Newton Prep used to be good, especially for gifted kids, but is now going through a "time of transition".

I have heard good things about Parkgate House. The prospectus makes them sound very nurturing. Also heard good stuff about Eaton House the Manor, but that's boys only as I understand it, so would mean finding a different school for DD. From a school run point of view, I'd prefer to have them in one school for convenience's sake, unless there are buses. Are there any other indies in the Clapham area which I've missed?

Obviously I'm going to get the Good Schools Guide and look in there, but I was kind of hoping for any observations from parents who actually know the schools in question as well.

Given that we're moving in April, I highly doubt any of the independent schools will have a mid-year place. The plan is to put them in the local school until the end of the year, and focus on applying to indies for the 2015 - 2016 school year. Another option is that DH may move to London in April, and the kids and me stay abroad until the end of the school year.

There is also the possibility that we could end up moving houses and staying within Clapham but getting a bigger house. So we could end up in the catchment for a great state school. My understanding, though is that catchments get tinier with each passing year.

Thanks in advance!

AuntieStella Mon 28-Jul-14 16:47:35

Eaton House has a parallel girls school, so you don't need to worry about admissions. It's a fairly trad school.

Parkgate House is smaller, and boys tend to leave after the pre-prep.

Have you considered the Roche?

Or Hornsby House?

soddinghormones Mon 28-Jul-14 18:17:32

The best private primaries sort of in that area are Hornsby house and Finton house - Finton is very girl-heavy after 8 but Hornsby is pretty much 50/50 boy/girl all the way through

Both v nurturing but will encourage and extend the brightest, lots of sport, music and drama

Much less pressured than Thomas's (either site), more modern than eaton house and big enough to have good opportunities for sport and friendship

Only problem is they're both very oversubscribed so may not have space but definitely worth a try

(The Roche is in Putney so not that convenient from Clapham plus the children we know who've gone there have been somewhat tricky characters to share a classroom with ...)

Chiana Tue 29-Jul-14 01:17:23

Thanks AuntieStella and SoddingHormones. Hornsby House and Finton House were not previously on my radar (not sure why), but definitely are now. I'll register an interest ASAP, if they're so oversubscribed. I'll put The Roche down in the "possibles" column.

I like the idea of a non-selective school that still gets pretty good academic results. DS is hard enough on himself already without DH and me piling extra pressure on him by insisting he take a bunch of tests for competitive entry at the age of 7. I know, I know, he'll need to toughen up in a few years if he wants to get into a good senior school, but I don't really see the point at this age. I know kids my own children's ages who thrive in high-pressure environments like that, but my kids not so much.

Saganoren Tue 29-Jul-14 09:58:45

You have a better chance of getting a place than you think if you make it clear to the school you're really keen, there is so much movement in London. My dcs are at a super-popular, selective prep but despite its apparently desirable status, children still leave for other countries or so-called "better" schools or because the parents have run out of money or realise however brilliant the school it's not worth a drive across London twice a day, all the time. And you're completely right that there's no rush to get into the super-selective/pushy system right now, children develop at completely different paces. Good luck.

ohtobeanonymous Tue 29-Jul-14 10:09:33

Newton Prep in SW8?? Could be doable depending on which part of Clapham you're in!

KingscoteStaff Tue 29-Jul-14 11:55:24

Yes to Newton Prep. Amazing school.

Chiana Tue 29-Jul-14 15:47:21

The commute to Newton Prep wouldn’t be super convenient, but it wouldn’t be super inconvenient either. And we’ll probably be moving house within a year of moving back to London anyway. If we had the kids settled in a school where they’re happy, we could always choose to move closer to that school. I wasn’t hugely keen on Newton, because it got some decidedly mixed reviews on Mumsnet, but if you give it a good recommendation, I’m certainly willing to fill out registration forms.

PPaka Tue 29-Jul-14 15:50:17

Oliver house?

Needmoresleep Tue 29-Jul-14 15:55:35

Reviews of Newton may be historic. Previous head was not to everyone's taste. Current head is now well settled and is generating some good feedback, as is the Head of Sport. Numbers staying on for Yr7 & 8 are on the rise and there is a good mix of destination schools.

One advantage is that it is close to two mainline ststions so probably just as convenient wherever you move.

Chiana Tue 29-Jul-14 16:26:01

Thanks for the good wishes and the good advice, Saganoren. You’re indeed right that kids develop at different rates and are ready for pressure at different ages. I will make it crystal clear to the admissions secretary that DH and I are super-keen. This is all sort of uncharted territory for me, because I was state-educated, and we left England when DS was toddling, so my only experience of the independent sector has been with international schools abroad.

You mention there’s a lot of movement even out of the very popular schools. Do you find that most kids leave at the end of the school year, or some leave during the school year? I’m wondering if there’s any point even getting my hopes up about mid-year places. See, DH’s work move is start of April 2015. He can’t move earlier unless he looks for a job outside his current employer (which in this economy, he doesn’t want to do). I’ve given my employer notice for March 2015.

We’re moving back to London because my mother is ill. It’s been suggested I stay abroad with the kids until the end of the 2015 school year, but while that would probably be less disruptive for the kids, it would be more disruptive for me. I want to be nearby, and I’d move a lot sooner than next April if I only had myself to consider, not DH and the DCs as well. So we’ll probably move end of March/ beginning of April and put the kids in whichever state school will take them, just as a temporary measure. However, if there’s any chance of getting one or both DCs into our indy of choice mid-year, we’d jump at the chance. I’m just wondering if it’s worth even telling the admissions secretaries we’re interested in mid-year admission, or if we’ll come across as too demanding. Sorry, I wrote an essay!

PPaka, I will look into Oliver House.

Needmoresleep, that's very reassuring to hear about Newton Prep. Thanks!

Saganoren Tue 29-Jul-14 16:58:48

A couple of children left my dc's school at Easter, so mid year is definitely a possibility and most schools would love to fill the place asap and most other parents would want to finish the school year at the current school, so you stand a good chance.

There's a lot of hype about how impossible it is to get into London private schools but it's just that - hype, so you'll be fine, especially if you're open to a range of schools.

Scoobyblue Tue 29-Jul-14 18:42:14

Mid-year places are definitely a possibility in Clapham/South West London as so many people move for work or move out of London. I'm sure that if you are flexible, you will find something suitable.

Scoobyblue Tue 29-Jul-14 18:42:20

Mid-year places are definitely a possibility in Clapham/South West London as so many people move for work or move out of London. I'm sure that if you are flexible, you will find something suitable.

Needmoresleep Wed 30-Jul-14 08:43:35

It is very common for families with Primary aged children to move from central London in search of larger houses and the option of good state secondary schools. One family moving can free up as many as three spaces within a school.

At the same time there is a movement in from overseas, with a trend for Russian and Arab families, to name but two groups, to base their families away from possible instability, plus the general churn of expatriates. So it will more probably be a case of seeing which schools will accept you and then you deciding which suits best. ("Choice" in London Private Schools is very often schools choosing you!)

I would write a "very nice" email to respective registrars explaining your circumstances, saying that you could wait but ideally would have a place as soon as possible. Do let them know that your children are academically able. Also suggest as best you can that they are straightforward, bookish, sporty etc, are coming from the British system, and are likely to stay for the duration. Not surprisingly schools generally prefer to take children who will settle in quickly and who will stay, thereby causing least disruption to the class.

You may strike lucky and find a school which has just lost a family or two and which has immediate places. Others may have long wait lists. Registrars are usually good at giving the right level of encouragement.

Then visit. Schools are very different and each has its fans. Its a bit like houses. You sort of know which one will suit your child.

Newton sounds like a good option. I would not rule out the Thomas' schools before seeing them. When looking round many years ago, Thomas' Battersea really did not appeal. However we have known some very nice children who were happy there, and they get good results. And put post codes in into TfLs journey planner. There are some weird train lines which can make schools in Wimbledon or Dulwich accessible to some bits of Clapham.

Chiana Thu 31-Jul-14 22:58:48

Good point that I shouldn’t dismiss a school sight unseen just because it has a reputation for being pressured. The reputation may be wrong, after all. I will definitely write “very nice” letters to the registrars of the schools on our shortlist, explaining our circumstances and doing my best to big up DS and DD as model students. I feel self-conscious about that part, I must admit. It feels obnoxious to be lauding my kids to the skies.

Do you think I should mention to the registrars that my mum is ill, or leave that out? I don’t want schools thinking the DCs will be under stress because their granny’s ill. Regardless, I will make it very clear that the move back to London is permanent, and we’re not going to pack up and leave again in a few years. We’ve done the expat thing and had fun doing it, but DH’s parents aren’t getting any younger, my mum’s ill, our careers don’t require us to be abroad anymore. Time to come home. And we will definitely tour the schools. I think you’re right, though. The school we “choose” will more likely be the school that chooses us.

soddinghormones Fri 01-Aug-14 09:45:40

Erm in Thomas's case I think the reputation is justified grin

Dd has quite a few friends there who are v happy but I wouldn't put a sensitive child in either the Clapham or Battersea Thomas's

Newton is fine - v big though and the location is very grittily urban

Oliver house is small and very catholic

Dolphin is small (significantly cheaper) and v religious but the v charismatic head has just left so the school may head in a different direction

Parkgate is teeny tiny!

Your other options would be to have them in different schools or head over to Dulwich as that's where a lot of children from sw11 will be going at secondary

Alleyn's is co-ed - the main entry points for the prep are 4+ and 7+ but like all London schools occasional places come up in other year groups. You could then miss the bun fight that is the London 11+ process ..

Personally I wouldn't put a sensitive child into Dulwich prep but your dd sounds like she'd be a perfect fit for JAPS/JAGS

Teds77 Fri 01-Aug-14 09:56:01

If you have not definitely ruled out state it would be worth seeing what might be available. You don't have to attend your nearest primary and there might be other options nearby that are worth investigating. There is huge pressure on places but, for example, my local and hugely popular primary is massively oversubscribed for reception places but I know of three children who were able to get places during the year in years 2 and 3.

Chiana Fri 01-Aug-14 14:56:33

Ah, soddinghormones, re: the rep being justified. DS is a people pleaser and a worrier. As he gets a bit older he's learning to hold it together at school much better, but when he gets home, sometimes he'll be in floods of tears because he's sure he's disappointed the teacher. Bless his neurotic little heart! On the bright side, he used to be worse. When he was 4 or 5, he was a mare to teach with the tears. We got the teacher to back right off, and we backed right off (when he was younger we were a little pushy because he seemed so bright). Now he's 7 he's somewhat less neurotic, which is good, because he used to get teased for being a crier. Probably not a prime candidate for Thomas's, though.

DD, thank God, is much less neurotic. I'm not sure I could cope with having 2 like him. I mean, I love him, don't get me wrong, but he knows how to bring the drama.

irisha Fri 01-Aug-14 18:25:26

What kind of secondary would you like for them - day or boarding? Leaving at 11+ or 13+?

Eaton House, for example, is 13+ only for boys, but 11+ only for girls unlike, e.g Thomas's where you can leave at 11+ or 13+ or Broomwood where girls can leave at 11+ or 13+. Northcote, on the other hand, only 13+ for boys.

From what you describe, I'd say Hornsby House would be perfect for both. Only heard good things and all the kids I know seem to be happy there.

Thomas's could be OK (or even more than OK) for your DD - I have not encountered Thomas's boys but tons of girls during sport (Clapham). If their attitude to sports is anything to go by, it's not really a place for a neurotic/sensitive child. A colleague's DD is at Thomas's Fulham - similarly pushy.

A good suggestion to look at Dulwich schools if you'd be considering them at all at secondary level - both Alleyn's and JAGS may have places mid-year.

I'd say that your chances of getting a place are pretty reasonable since you are not targeting reception. I wouldn't worry about Arabs and Russians - this is more of Central London/Hampstead phenomenon.

Chiana Sat 02-Aug-14 03:24:34

Irisha, definitely, definitely day schools. We have no interest in boarding. I’m sure it works for some people, but it’s not for us. As for 11+ versus 13+, we hadn’t given it a lot of thought up until now, because it seemed so far away. I suppose we should be thinking about it a lot more! DCs are at an international school here, and they have Arab and Russian friends.

Hornsby House sounds perfect, and I’m going to be sending a “very nice” letter to the registrar this weekend. Alas, probably lots of other parents also think it’s perfect, so we must have back-up plans as well. Excellent point that while Thomas’s is not the place for a neurotic/sensitive child, it might fit DD. She likes sport and isn’t remotely phased by pressure. I had hoped to send both DCs to the same school, for convenience if nothing else, but it wouldn’t hurt to apply to Thomas’s for DD. We won’t necessarily succeed in getting places for both of them at the same school.

And I should probably stop calling DS neurotic. He is, but sensitive sounds much better, LOL. And I shouldn’t make him sound like a total train wreck. He’s a nice kid in spite of his neuroses, truly. He’s bright, he works hard, he’s kind to animals and even to his little sister (most of the time, anyway. Not all the time). We could have a much worse kid, and he was much worse, when he was 4 or 5. We just worry that if we put too much pressure on him, he’ll regress to where he was a few years ago, whereas at the moment he’s thriving. There are still times when I want to murder him, but he’s made significant progress.

I will discuss Dulwich possibilities with DH. He’s agin places in Dulwich, for complicated reasons with which I won’t bore you, but we shouldn’t totally dismiss it out of hand.

We haven’t definitely ruled out state options, Teds77. I spoke to a woman at the LEA who was quite unpleasant (perhaps just overworked and having a bad day, but she got my back up), and said we’d have to take whatever the LEA gave us in terms of school places, and be grateful for it. Perhaps if I rang back and spoke to someone else, they might be a little nicer. I realise they probably speak to 100 parents a day, all of whom want the moon for their special snowflakes, but she was plain old rude.

Our housing circumstances are a bit complicated, though. We’re moving spring 2015. We have 2 properties to sell, our house here, and our old flat in Clapham that’s currently let out, before we can buy a house. We want to stay in Clapham because we loved it there and still have friends there. The current plan (though that could change) is to go into short term rented accommodation as of April, somewhere in Clapham. Then buy as soon as the flat is sold, which obviously means moving out of the short term rental, which could theoretically mean moving the kids to a new school if they’re in the state system. Depends on the school and how oversubscribed it is, I suppose. And the ones with good Ofsted reports all seem to be hugely oversubscribed. Funny, that.

Of course, the independent schools with good Ofsted reports all seem to be hugely oversubscribed as well. DH wants to go indy because he thinks it’ll be simpler, and we won’t have to worry about catchments or anything like that. I’m not fussed which system they’re in as long as it’s a good school. DH is a little bit scared of the state system, having been privately educated himself!

Greengrow Sat 02-Aug-14 07:27:06

Work back as most private school parents do - where do you want them to end up and which preps feed to those schools. Don't listen to reputations about pressure - it is often parents whose children cannot pass the tests for good schools who put about rumours about pressure when in fact the children in those schools are not pressured at all. We never found academically selective preps or secondaries which were supposedly pressured at all pressured once the children were there. Instead the school kept going on about taking your free time, doing your hobbies and tried to stop the natural internal pressure the occasional teenager feels from leading to too much work. (We are North London so no use to you on specific school recommendations).

irisha Mon 04-Aug-14 11:44:57

Don't bother about speaking to state schools now - they have no visibility on what the situation is going to be in Spring 2015. They can't offer a place for then even if it's available now. I forgot what it is - I think you have to physically take up your place within 4 weeks of it being offered or it goes away.

So with state schools you should call LEA just before you move back and rather than ask what's available, ask them specifically - do you have 1 Yr1 Place and one Year 2 and one Yr 4 (I made this up, not sure which years they would go in - depends on the date of birth) at the following schools: Belleville, Honeywell, Holy Ghost, etc (this is random - you will obviously have your own list of what's acceptable) and they are obliged to tell you and offer it to you. If wont' have to move the kids even if you move house - once you have the place, it's yours regardless of where you move to.

With private schools, you can start speaking early, but they given there is a one term notice, you may not find out until beginning of January if you have your place. Actually, the timing of your move would be quite good as the kids will have a summer term in a new school and can settle in and you can have playdates and the like over the summer and then they will be old hands by September.

PS my comment about the Russians and the Arabs wasn't meant to be negative, I meant that they wouldn't drive demand for school places in Clapham. Coming from living abroad and kids being at an international school, you may find some schools around Clapham a bit trad and not particularly diverse - Roche and Hornsby are probably among the more diverse ones (both socially and nationality wise) whereas Broomwood/Finton may be less so.

Chiana Mon 04-Aug-14 16:38:38

Work back as most private school parents do - where do you want them to end up and which preps feed to those schools. Don't listen to reputations about pressure - it is often parents whose children cannot pass the tests for good schools who put about rumours about pressure when in fact the children in those schools are not pressured at all. We never found academically selective preps or secondaries which were supposedly pressured at all pressured once the children were there. Instead the school kept going on about taking your free time, doing your hobbies and tried to stop the natural internal pressure the occasional teenager feels from leading to too much work. (We are North London so no use to you on specific school recommendations).

Greengrow, our dream senior school for DS is City of London Boys, for various reasons. However, it's a lot of other people's dream as well. Plus, DS is 7, and we already know that he's very academically able, but we don't know how he'll cope with being in a very selective senior school, stress-wise. He's very very hard on himself, and he used to dissolve into tears in the middle of class when he got too stressed out. Midway through his Reception Year we consulted an Ed Psych, who recommended we back right off and get his teacher to back right off. His behaviour has gradually improved (he's still a stress ball at home, but he holds it together at school most of the time).

We don't know if the waterworks are something he will continue to gradually outgrow (he's just finished Year 2) or whether he'll get worse when he hits puberty. Also, he's head and shoulders above the other kids in his class at most things, but he's in an international school with a mix of abilities and where not all the children speak English as a first language. So it's all very well for us to think he's bright enough and emotionally stable enough for CLSB, but it may turn out we have unrealistic expectations. I'm not trying to talk him down, just be realistic. In all ways except academic ones, he's a very young 7. And as for DD, she's 5. We really truly haven't given her senior school destination much thought, except to think she'll probably want somewhere that's at least somewhat sporty and she doesn't mind about pressure at all.

^ PS my comment about the Russians and the Arabs wasn't meant to be negative, I meant that they wouldn't drive demand for school places in Clapham. Coming from living abroad and kids being at an international school, you may find some schools around Clapham a bit trad and not particularly diverse - Roche and Hornsby are probably among the more diverse ones (both socially and nationality wise) whereas Broomwood/Finton may be less so.^

I didn't take it as a negative comment, Irisha, not to worry. I just meant if there were, DS and DD wouldn't be phased. Thanks for the tips re Roche and Hornsby. I haven't looked very seriously into Roche because it's a bit further away geographically than we were hoping for, but I will take another look.

One thing I was a little stunned by was looking at the leavers' destinations page at Northcote Lodge (Broomwood's brother school), they had first names, destinations and photographs of every school leaver. First off, most of them were going to boarding schools and we're not interested in boarding. Secondly, every single boy was white. My kids are mixed race (I'm White British, DH's parents are originally from Africa), and while I wasn't necessarily expecting to see a black kid, I was at least expecting to see one or two Chinese and/or South Asian boys. I lived in Clapham for several years, and no, it's not the most ethnically diverse area in London, but neither was I expecting an entire class full of white faces. It put me right off Northcote and Broomwood both.

Thanks also for the very useful tips re: dealing with the LEA.

Greengrow Mon 04-Aug-14 17:29:19

North London must be different. 85% of children at my children's selective private school are not white. My son is just about the only child on his sports teams photos who is white.

Our view was get them into the school you want as young as you can. My girls went to their schools at age 5 and then passed to the same school's senior school at 11+. I felt it was easier to get in at 5 than 11 when a lot of the state school pupils apply and it gives you two chances. Not all schools have a junior part however.

City of London has a 10+ entry as well as 11+. I took a steam at the gym with a lady whose son got into City of London last year. She got one son in at 11+ and the others 10+ which did not please the prep school but made things easier for the boys and their family. She was black (Nigerian originally) not that that is relevant to anything particularly. It's a good school. She was so relieved the boys had got in.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now