JAGS/JAPS or Alleyn's Junior School

(20 Posts)
puchus Sat 23-Jan-16 01:48:42

I know this topic has been discussed ample times on these boards before wondering if someone has a more recent perspective to help us decide. DD has done quite well and is fortunate to have been offered a place at both (incidentally the only two schools we applied to). Now is the time to make the tricky decision!

DD is bright, friendly (but not very social/extrovert), academic & loves reading/art/science/poetry, not too sporty. Goes to the local co-ed primary now but more friendly with girls. She doesn't have a strong preference but a bit more inclined on JAPS due to (i) better rating (she's somehow heard/got this in mind from friends even though we tell here there isn't much difference) and (ii) all girls. She liked both during open days/school visits and found the assessment at Alleyn's a bit more relaxed / fun.

We parents haven't got a strong leaning for either. Both of us have gone to co-eds (in a different country though) but don't feel particularly strongly about single sex vs. co-ed. We liked both during our visits (though did notice some differences along the lines of what each of the school is better known for). Anyhow, our overall impression:

JAPS/JAGS
+ves: great results, we heard the new senior school headteacher and were impressed, liked the prep school head as well, like the emphasis on community & diversity which we could notice, great music & sports, girls seemed happy, know current parents who have been v. happy
-ves: unashamedly academic (which was apparent to DD in the assessment as well but equally we didn't get the impression of a hothouse), didn't feel as communicative as Alleyn's, and an odd point but somehow the overall layout seemed a bit odd to us even though the school has great facilities we know

Alleyn's Junior
+ves: Seemed a bit more relaxed / engaging, great results even though a shade behind JAGS, Junior school seemed more spacious / better facilities than JAPS though surely that's not a big factor, clear focus on the all round aspect
-ves: have to admit that diversity came across as a concern from what we could see on our visits (we are of Asian origin and certainly don't want DD to feel left out/alienated), children seemed happy but a bit shy, the new Junior school head came across as friendly & nice but we weren't overly impressed (asked the diversity question to him as well for a very diplomatic response), and all the stuff about girls having to look good/celeb parents does worry a bit (though we don't know any current parent to affirm it firsthand) - we are both professionals and well to do but certainly not loaded

Overall both DD and us leaning towards JAPS (though only slightly). Really torn otherwise and have to decide quickly (next Wednesday)!! Would very much appreciate any thoughts / views based on recent experience & particularly from current parents.

Many thanks!

hopeful123 Sat 23-Jan-16 22:26:25

not a current parent but know good friend who are.
Diversity an issue at Alleyns- JAPS/JAGS much much better, more grounded

puchus Sat 23-Jan-16 23:13:50

Many thanks hopeful123, that's helpful and in line with what we heard before. Does your friend have dc at JAGS or Alleyn's? Have you heard any views about the academic intensity at JAGS? DD is not overly studious but has a natural inclination towards books and quite diligent, so we are not too concerned about homework etc., but would be helpful to hear firsthand feedback. Also, any feedback on the extra curricular / clubs at JAGS and avenues for socialisation with boys? I know music & sport is great but just can't get out of the head the "well rounded" aspect that gets said about Alleyn's so much. Know one can overthink these things, but such is the case when there's doesn't seem much to choose between the two!

Any other views from current parents at either school (particularly at JAGS/JAPS)? Would be very helpful as need to make up our mind over the next couple of days.

contortionist Sat 23-Jan-16 23:22:50

Really? Offers for 7+ won't be sent out for another 10 days at either school.

puchus Sun 24-Jan-16 00:10:13

Sorry, should have clarified earlier. Talking about 9+ here (and occasional place at JAPS as they don't have the standard intake at that level).

Noitsnotteatimeyet Sun 24-Jan-16 07:32:05

As it's 9+ she'll only be in the junior school for a couple of years so you really need to decide which senior school you prefer.

The biggest difference is obviously mixed vs girls only. The girls do socialise with boys from the other foundation schools but it's not quite the same as getting along with boys on a daily basis.

As far as I can see (I have a child at one and know many at the other) JAGS has a more 'intense' atmosphere than Alleyn's- it will be interesting to see how much of that was down to the previous head who'd been there for ever.

Alleyn's is less ethnically diverse - there are lots of reasons for that not all of the school's making and it is being addressed. Certainly the current lower school has many more children from a diverse range of backgrounds than would have been the case a few years ago.

JAGS is better than most girls' sports apart from water polo, the drama at Alleyn's is outstanding, the music at both is very good.

There's very little difference in results - JAGS is usually fractionally ahead but you'd expect that from a girls' school, but if you have a bright, motivated child at either they'll come out with stellar grades

Interestingly dd loved one of them when she went round to visit and was completely 'meh' about the other to the extent that she didn't even sit the exam. And it wasn't the one I'd have predicted when she was 7/8 ...

ridinghighinapril Sun 24-Jan-16 09:23:23

The new head of JAGS is keen to promote joint extracurricular activities with Dulwich College e.g drama, music. Her overall ethos (based on her experience as a teacher/head elsewhere) is that single sex education is preferable for girls for the standard academic subjects with opportunities to mix during other subjects/activities, which completely aligns with our thoughts but you may feel differently.

Wrt to diversity - in my DD class only one-third of the girls have parents that are both Caucasian. In her year group (2 classes), there are a mix of white-white, white-Asian, Asian-Asian, oriental-white, oriental- oriental, black-white, black-black and everything else in between!

Academics/facilities-wise, there is nothing really to chose between the schools and it would be hard from the outside to pick apart whether the difference was due to pupil/parent motivation or quality of teaching. My DD is in the pre-prep so I can not offer any insight there.

So, I guess it comes down to whether your ideals for her education are similar to the school's, how you feel when you go around the school and your gut feeling. Good luck!

P.s grumpysquash's post on page 3 of "please can we have non-flighty thread about advantages/disadvantages of independent schools" describes what you mentioned about celeb culture and lack of diversity at Alleyn's but I think her experience is from a while back. Things may have changed since then.

puchus Sun 24-Jan-16 12:12:42

Noitsnotteatimeyet thank you very much for your insight and agree that it really is about the senior school for us (and that's the reason that apart from junior school tours, we chose to go around for the senior school open days as well). Also agree that the biggest difference is mixed vs. single sex, however we don't have strong views on either and so does DD albeit with a slight preference for all girls (would've been good in a way if she had a clear choice!). Understand that the lack of ethnic diversity at Alleyn's is potentially for many reasons beyond the school's control (have heard arguments about many ethnicities tending to prefer an all girls for their dds thus leading to a self perpetuating cycle though not sure how true that is anymore for the social strata that typically applies to these schools - noting that we are from one of those supposed ethnic groups). More of a concern was the school's defensiveness when we asked the question rather than acknowledging it is an issue - though understandably it is not an easy one to answer.

ridinghighinapril many thanks for sharing your experience and the specific details, quite reassuring. Couldn't agree more that it comes down to our ideals / values and if they align with the school ethos. Good to hear about the initiatives taken by the new head with DC (also apparent when you look at her Twitter feed!). What do you think of the new head in general and do you see a perceptible difference in her approach vs. the previous one - know it's early days still for her. Also, do you have any feel of the supposed 'intense / pressure' environment at JAGS - know it's not really relevant as your DD is the in pre-prep - but would be helpful to know your impression or what you gather from other parents.

Firefox1066 Sun 24-Jan-16 14:09:47

I know children at both schools and both are excellent choices. However, as I have posted on this forum before, Alleyns ultra defensive attitude to their monoculturality really really put me off the school and thus it isn't a school that I would recommend in this respect.

Give. Your choices, I personally would choose JAPS/JAGS

Firefox1066 Sun 24-Jan-16 14:09:59

*Given

puchus Sun 24-Jan-16 22:45:09

Many thanks Firefox1066. Out of curiosity, did you end up choosing JAGS or another school for your dc?

Firefox1066 Mon 25-Jan-16 06:54:55

Puchus I have DS's and Alleyns was a school we considered for them. We ended up choosing Whitgift for DS1. My close friends however chose a mixture of JAGS and Alleyns hence why I know the schools very well

AnotherNewt Mon 25-Jan-16 07:12:02

Dr Spence told DC parents last year that the new head of JAGS wouldn't stand a chance against his plans for increasing contact between the two schools. Good to see the two are working so well together!

The main difference between JAGS and Alleyns is of course the absence or presence of boys. Do you have any younger DSs to consider? Because if you do not have strong views, then there is no reason to go against her preference.

JAGS looks like a very pressured place from the outside, but you need to offset that by remembering that what looks like a powerhouse academic pace is actually not a problem for a girl who really is clever. Though for some reason I've never been able to fathom, girls schools nearly always seem to set more homework than coed/boys schools.

(BTW, not many change between the foundation schools at 11+, but a few do so you always have that as a fallback)

ridinghighinapril Mon 25-Jan-16 08:08:33

OP - sorry, I have no experience of the old head as she was leaving just as we were starting. The new head seems to be popular with both the parents and pupils (having spoken to a couple of senior school girls).

Re: pressure/hot house - this seems to a common description of JAGS from those on the outside but I have not heard the parents of pupils at the school describe it as such (the caveat being I clearly have not spoken to every parent or pupil!).

puchus Mon 25-Jan-16 23:19:51

AnotherNewt no we don't have any younger DS to consider. Though DD's only has a slight preference for JAGS (she doesn't have a clear favourite), it is at least some indication. Based on whatever feedback we've got from current JAGS parents, I think you are spot on with your comment re. the school appearing pressured from outside whereas it doesn't appear to be so for the girls on the inside!

ridinghighinapril thanks again and re. intense/hothouse, you seem to echo comments made above, so that's reassuring despite the caveat! I think the one thing that the new head could start with is to get someone to improve the website - in terms of quality of info/organisation/ease of use, it just doesn't compare well with either Alleyn's or DC's.

Firefox1066 thanks again and I hope your DS is enjoying Whitgift!

ridinghighinapril Tue 26-Jan-16 18:06:14

I think they have only recently redesigned their website!! grin Unlikely, they will do it again this soon.
I find the new layout quite user friendly and less cluttered/busy than Alleyns'/DC and definitely easier to navigate than their previous. Obviously, I am looking it from a different perspective to you (current vs prospective parent).

Jafek2006 Fri 29-Jan-16 11:53:09

Puchus, has there been an assessment day for 9+ at Jags? My daughter is on the waiting list but we haven't been informed of any assessments since November.

Personally I prefer single sex schools just for the fact that girls have a chance to excel in sciences and boys get to participate in arts without the dominant influence of the other sex being naturally more inclined to the respective subject areas - in the most part.

Needmoresleep Fri 29-Jan-16 16:29:55

"the fact that girls have a chance to excel in sciences"

An odd assertion. In DS year JAGs apparently 7 taking double maths, whilst his co-ed sixth form had 60, of whom at least a third would have been girls. Very few girls schools seem to outperform their co-ed or boy neighbours.

My own experience of a single sex school was that it was seen as rather odd to enjoy maths/science. The clever girls were almost exclusively humanites and MFL. So less stretching and a lot of peer pressure not to be "nerdy".

Jafek2006 Fri 29-Jan-16 17:12:26

That's interesting.
I know I generalised but I just prefer the gender stereotypes to be removed from the equation so that a child of either sex gets to enjoy preferred subjects.

Of course there are external factors that come into play. It's all very subjective.

In my own experience, my daughter's school really encourage maths and sciences.
It's really important that teaching is tailored to engage a girl in the sciences. Methods and techniques vary because the way a boy's brain works is generally different to the way a girl's works so teaching needs to be adapted accordingly. Single sex enables this to happen, in my opinion.

puchus Sun 31-Jan-16 16:38:43

Jafek2006 have sent you a pm

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