Looking for London suburbs with good state schools(123 Posts)
My husband and I are considering a move to London from the US with my company from the states. We would both be working in central London but want to find a commutable suburb with good state schools for our children ages 10 (boy) and 8 (girl). The company will not pay for schools so the American schools are out of the question. Our kids go to amazing state schools here in the US and private schools combined with the cost of living in London is out of the question. We also have a big rambunctous dog that makes the thought of living in a tiny flat unbearable! any ideas on lovely suburbs that are within 40 minutes of London with great non fee paying schools? It seems from reading threads on Mumsnet that most people do private/independent schools beyond primary no matter where they are living - that is unless their children are bright enough to get in to selective grammar schools.
Bromley! Bromley is part of Greater LOndon (but actually in Kent) however when I used to live there I worked in the City and could be at work in 30 minutes, door to door! The travel from both Bromley South and Bromley North stations is extremely good, quick and reliable. Because it's actually part of Kent you are a short drive from countryside whilst being so close to LOndon. Bromley has some excellent schools, and house prices are reasonable. I loved living in Bromley and feel quite nostalgic about it! LIve in Berkshire now, but would go back to Bromley in an instant if I could.
Most people do not use independent/private schools! It's just that those that do post a lot about it!
Whereabouts in London will you be working? Which tube line(s) will be most convenient for you? That makes a big difference in terms of which suburbs are going to be easiest to recommend
If you can cope with 1 hour commute, I would look at towns like Guildford or St Albans, some real countryside might suit your dog.
I would try Harpenden or St Albans. Both have very good state schools and fast trains into the city.
Depends where in Central London you'd be working.
I would look at the rail map and work backwards from the London station that you need.
Dulwich. Is lovely and green, but only 30 mins from central London.
I have some friends who moved there from NY and they love it.
Ealing/Hanwell/ 9 minutes into paddington Northfields on piccadilly line
Buckinghamshire? The primary schools in the Chalfonts are supposed to be ace and are on the tube.
I second Bromley, for the same reasons as JellyBelly!
If you move to Dulwich make sure you are in the miniscule catchment area of The Charter School. Otherwise the state school options in this area are poor.
Charter not that great, ime. but a lot better than the other options, I grant you.
Yes, if you have a choice then I wouldn't move to Dulwich at all for the state schools.
strongly recommend that you follow the advice to identify your transport routes first. For example trains from Bromley run into Victoria so that would not be so good if your workplace was near, say, Paddington Station. If you were near Euston then Watford would be an option, and so forth.
thank you so much for the comments! The office is in the chancery lane area so I need to figure out transport. I did look at Guildford but heard the waterloo line can be unreliable. amersham, little chalfont and Beaconsfield were also recommended. I will look at some of the suggestions here as well. I am most concerned about the grammar school entrance. my son is 10 and doing very well in school here in the US. I just hear stories of exams to get in the good grammar schools. Thanks again fellow mums for all the helpful comments. Relocation is daunting. We have done it before but when the kids were young so schools were not an issue.
Well if you want some stats, only 7% of UK children go to independent schools (it's a bit higher for 6th form but not much), and very very few counties have grammar schools. The vast, vast majority of counties only have comprehensive state schools (which include church schools and academies), some of which are outstanding, some good, some OK and some rubbish.
Forget worrying about grammar schools unless you are considering moving to Kent (or Northern Ireland ) as in most other places there won't be any.
If you're going to be in the Chancery Lane area, you COULD consider Cambridge. The train ride is 45 mins to King's Cross, and then another 10 mins or so on the tube to Holborn. And pretty much all the state schools in Cambridge are good schools.
I work in Chancery Lane and commute in from Blackheath, which has some good schools. It also has a village-y feel, with a huge Heath (common) in the middle that my dog loves. It's about 20 mins into Charing Cross, and from there, 10 mins to Chancery Lane area.
You could also consider Greenwich, Brockley and Hither Green areas.
Thanks Doninkillerheels :-). Very helpful!
How about great missenden or prestwood? Looks lovely and not to far from amersham and transport. Husband's work is at barbican station.
Barbican is even closer to King's Cross than Chancery Lane. You seriously need to be considering places with trains/tube that come into King's Cross, Euston, St Pancras (or possibly Liverpool Street).
What about Barnet or Finchley? easy to get into Kings Cross and the schools are good.
Kent (including London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley) and Buckinghamshire have grammar schools.
If your son is 10, when do you arrive? And when is his birthday?
The 11 plus exams for grammar school entry are usually held the 2nd week in September for entrance to the schools the following September. You will find details of the exams on the local authority websites (Kent County Council, Medway Borough Council, London Boro of Bexley & London Boro of Bromley).
I only tell you this because you may well research the 'great' grammar schools in say Kent, Bexley or Bromley and then discover you are simply too late to gain entry anyway.
Chancery Lane is walk able by the way from Charing Cross Station or Cannon Street station in 20 mins. And would save you near on £1000 a year on underground fares. If you get a mainline train into London this is one price and if you then travel further in London using the buses and tubes, this is another price on top. (all on one ticket though)
For Charing Cross & Cannon Street, you are looking at SE London (also recommend Blackheath) London Boro Bexley, parts of London Borough Bromley (Bromley North Station goes here, South doesn't) and vast swathes of Kent.
You can also travel into London Bridge station from most of Sussex and Surrey and then change onto a train into Charing Cross/Cannon Street.
You need to think long and hard about your commute, how long, how much you think it is fair to spend and how quickly you can get home to collect the kids!
I work in Chancery Lane, and IMO the best lines to come in on for both Chancery Lane and Barbican are the First Capital Connect lines (for convenience, although FCC do not have the best reputation! But I survive with them ok).
Here is a route map
Chancery Lane and Barbican are both a short walk from Farringdon or City Thameslink on the Thameslink line, or alternatively (as DonInKillerHeels says) also easy to access from King's Cross / St Pancras / Moorgate.
Here is a good website which shows you information about commuter towns coming into the main stations - www.commutefrom.com/
Personally, what I like about my journey is not needing to use the underground - walking or taking the bus is usually possible in most cases. The only stations I would say are not so good for accessing Chancery Lane / Barbican area are Paddington and Marylebone.
Sorry, got carried away with my geeky transport knowledge Sorry not to have anything helpful to add on schools, but I know lots of MNers have good advice on that front
And being devils advocate, the closer to London you are, the more stressful it is to get school places. So all London boroughs have a squeeze on good primary schools (mostly they are full up). Turnover is however high.
Further out in the surrounding counties, less dense population more likely to have a place at the nearest and hopefully good school!
The Waterloo line was fine for all the 13 years my DH worked in London. For Chancery Lane you could also look out towards Essex.
Thanks Maydaychild. We would be moving in August and my son doesn't turn 10 until December so I think he would have one more year of primary, right?
I mean he will turn 11 in December.
Ealing - great transport connections (central line in your case, but also district, piccadilly and mainline station in case of problems) and great schools.
If you look beyond London you could consider Bishop's Stortford - several good schools, pleasant small town, 45 mins into Liverpool Street, 30 into Cambridge and next to Stansted airport (handy for weekend breaks on Ryanair!)
Just a warning re grammar schools, the test date for the local boys one where I (Richmond) is 27th September and you will need to register before that which you will need to do it before you move over here. I imagine other grammars around the country have entrance exams for 2013 around the same time?
sorry should have said where I live
If you are considering Bucks, then what about Herts. Rickmansworth, Chorleywood etc are on the Met Line, and don't have grammers (although many of the secondaries are part selective).
Telegraph Hill - London SE14. Aim to get something as close to Haberdasher's Aske's Hatcham Academy as you possibly can - by which I mean a few yards away from one of the buildings. The primary schools are all OK round there and Aske's is one of the best state comprehensives in London. However, if you don't live very close indeed, you won't get in. We live well under a mile away and didn't get a place for my son - a few years back, admittedly, but I don't think it's any easier now. Lewisham Education Admissions office could provide advice here. I've heard they're very helpful.
Works for Chancery Lane as you can walk down to Nunhead station and get a train to Blackfriars, City Thameslink or Farringdon (direct or one change) - total time on the train 15-20 minutes. Not too bad a service, I believe. Or you could work out a slightly more convoluted route (but probably very little longer in time) from New Cross Gate station, which is one stop from London Bridge by rail and also on the Overground line from Croydon, passing through Canada Water which means you can switch to the Jubilee line.
Hither Green, Greenwich or Brockley are good choices transport-wise but not for state secondary schools, unless I am misinformed?
Ruislip, Ickenham, Northwood or Pinner(London Borough Hillingdon/Harrow)
Excellent state schools and transport links.
The problem you will have is that even if you do move to an area with good state schools there may not be a primary place available in your immediate locality.
So I would agree on concentrating on being in the catchment for a good secondary. That means a comp which has a strong education for high achieving children (as you say your DS is doing well) but also supports all kids to do what they can do.
I would forget Grammar entrance - a tiny proportion of children in and around London attend grammar or private schools, they just take up a disproportionate amount of space on Mn. Largely due to the immense competition to get in.
Love your name Calming!!!
London west hampstead area - 3 outstanding church primary school - New UCL Academy opening for 2012.
out of london there is a large american community in cobham/esher/weybridge if you are also looking for that....commuting into waterloo fast and not unreliable. Easy to get a bus over the bridge to Holborn onto Chancery Lane, about 10 mins and very regular. But as anywhere if you like the area and a school be sure of catchment areas.
The Kingston/Surbiton/Richmond area is also a possibility. There are regular trains into Waterloo that take 20-30 mins, and then a bus to either the top end or bottom end of Chancery Lane is about another 10 mins, or 15- 20 mins walking.
Richmond upon Thames has a lot of good state primary schools but less so for secondary schools (for boys anyway). Sevenoaks/Tunbridge Wells are commutable to London and have excellent grammar schools in the area.
But what if one of the children does not get into a grammar? What are the non-grammar options like?
I will echo what Calmingmiranda said about finding best secondary school you can.
You need to be moved, registered with a place at primary for you son and two weeks after he starts, he will sit 11+. And all of this in August when the council go to sleep.
I think with the best will in the world, this would be really tough.
If you really do want grammar though, you can get papers online for some preparation.
Bromley has slightly better secondaries than Bexley and Kent because their grammars are super selective 5% whereas Kent and Bexley are 20%. But don't live on the border! All the Bronley bright kids still leave for Bexley or Kent Grammar
Kent is full of grammars that cannot achieve what a good comp like Watford can. Have a look at Watford boys and girls, there is also a tube line nearby. Primary choices also look plentiful.
There are non-super-selectives aplenty that can't serve their allegedly clever pupils as well as good comps, but Kent comes to mind because of their recent expansion plans.
Top quartile always seems far too low a threshold for academic selection, but that is not the point of such grammars, is it?
The UCL academy intake is not based on results - run by university college london/ so excellent science facilities - each child will learn mandarin - art is run by slade school of art experts - if you live near enough you get in.
Hampstead which adjoins with hampstead has a large american community - most of which live her for a few years then go back to america.W
Worth looking at - also Emmanuel school right in the heart of west hampstead will have a brand new school opening september 2012 - they now take half church/half local into each year group - there are spaces in classes further up the school, so you kids would be able to go - oftsted had rated it as outstanding for a good few years.
West hampstead itself has a lovely atmosphere, shops, hairdressers, restaurants a green - has a village sort of atmosphere - everyone knows everyone, west hampstead jubilee line station - take you into bond street/baker street in about 10 mins.
West Hampstead may have some good state primary schools (although you need to attend church to get into Emmanuel), but unless things have changed, there are no good state secondary schools.
Bromley has some excellent primary and secondary schools (including Langley Schools, Beckenham; Hayes) and there is the chance of the two superb grammers (although as was mentioned above, most children are tutored to an inch of their lives to get in because they are so super selective).
As i said Emmanuel has changed it's intake - so they now have 15 church places and 15 local/non-church places/. And there is a brand new secondary school - UCL academy that is opening for september 2012 on finchley road.
Kingston and Sutton worth looking into if your child/children are bright and likely to get into the selective secondaries.
I wouldn't go for west hampstead either despite it being one of my favourite parts of London. Yes, there are 3 good primaries but the rest are not great and you would be taking a risk getting a place in any of them and you may not want a church school anyway. The UCL academy hasn't opened yet and may a) not be very good and b) is a new option amongst a lot of poor options and will most likely be very oversubscribed given there is no decent alternative. You will then feel that you need to move again or else under pressure to pay privately which is upwards of £5k a term in that area. Also, the gardens in west hampstead, assuming you can afford a house at around £1M for a 3 bed terrace are tiny if you have a dog.
I would go for Pinner, eastcote, ruislip, northwood area or for London borough of Barnet which has a wide choice of excellent state primary and secondaries.
Guildford is excellent, and Waterloo line isn't any worse than others (and a darn sight better than First Capital Connect from St Albans, IME). Money generally goes further in terms of house and garden the further out from London you go, but season ticket price and commuting time goes up. Agree with working out the best journey (always trying to ensure that there is an alternative if possible in case the main one fails) then seeing where that suggests to live.
The kKngston and Sutton grammaras are so-called 'super selectives' too.
And you have Bushy Park for the dog
There are plenty of lovely leafy london boroughs, and super places in the commuter belt, with greenery and fab state schools and a great quality of life.
A big question is how much do you have to spend and how big does the house / garden need to be as that will dictate what you can/can't do.
Don't worry though most children in UK attend state schools and majority of them are fine / great / excellent
The schools not the children!
Children are all excellent obv
If you want to look at Bromley, you will need to register for grammars this spring/summer. Look at London borough of Bromley, London borough of Bexley and Kent county council websites. Testing will be in the Autumn.
The grammar for Bromley (boys) is St Olaves. It's a super selective. Likewise for Kent, you would only get super selectives within commuting distance. Depending on where you live, and how well your son does, you may get one of the Bexley Grammars. However, if you do like the look of Bromley, there is a very good boys comprehensive school, called Ravenswood. A very good mixed comprehensive is Darrick Wood. You would have to live quite close to these to get into them.
For your DD, the Bromley girls grammar is Newstead Wood. It's a fantastic school (DD1 is there.) but it is a super selective. Bullers Wood is a very good girls comprehensive, but it could be a bit tricky getting a house close enough to both Bullers Wood and Ravenswood.
In Beckenham (part of Bromley) there is Langley Boys and Langley Girls. The boys school is better, but the girls is good to 16 yrs, after which your DD could move, or maybe you will be back home?
Again, there are good primary schools, but you need to live near them to get a place. Are you religious, at all? If you are, eg Roman Catholic, you may have a chance of getting casual places at a faith school. Check the admissions criteria, as you may want to get proof of church membership from your current church. There are also good CofE schools.
Clare House in Beckenham is good, as are Bickley primary and Scotts Park in Bickley, and Edgebury in Chislehurst. However, you need to live practically next door to get into any of these.
So, if you do choose Bromley, research exactly where you want to live, really well, if you are hoping for a state school.
The commute is important, cutting out the tube (and ideally buses too, fares have gone up) and just doing rail and walking saves a lot of money and stress - tube is hideous (used it for years), buses and traffic not nice at peak times either.
That work location gives you lots of commuting options. Outside london in home counties will be cheaper for housing and more green space etc. Different rail lines have significantly different prices for season tickets (st albans line one of the priciest). Some places have residential areas within walking distance from the station, whereas others (eg guildford) don't, which adds to the commute.
After identifying promising commutable areas and checking out housing on rightmove , I would look into the top comprehensive schools on league tables (dept for education publishes these, bbc website has them in a better format) using GCSE and A-level results, also think there's a report from the sutton trust that lists the top comprehensives in terms of number of pupils going to good universities. Then would look on the relevant councils' websites for admissions reports on distance for getting in, and rent a house or flat very very close to the school!
Selectives would be a challenge as others have said. Forget the "superselectives" in sutton, kingston etc, v v hard to get in, even for v bright DC (mostly v bright DC apply and only a small proportion get in). There is local info on grammars on the eleven plus forum website, gives a sense of the challenges if you do go for selective grammars.
I agree with you dozer that walking at both ends with a train in the middle is the best way of doing it.
I used to live in Ickenham/Ruislip area. Some amazing schools and on the "edge" of London so easy to escape too.
Guildford has plenty of residential areas close to the train! I live in one, and we're not even the closest, they'd be about 5-10 minutes easy walk.
Sorry mummytime, think when looked there - and lots of other places -everything that was within walking distance was out of our price range.
In and around london the most commutable places are also the most expensive, bah!
The commute to St Albans is not one hour but thirty minutes!
OP when looking at commutes don't forget to factor in time to and from the station and waiting etc.
The "headline" commute can often be doubled by a drive / bus to teh station in heavy traffic for eg.
Buckinghamshire (the Chalfonts mentioned above etc, Amersham etc) is popular for academic day schools like Henriette Barnet. I suspect if you buy a house ni Amersham it woudl be cheaper instead to live nearer into London and pay schools though. We do have in effect a school fee within house prices near good state schools so it is not a simple equation. Most children don't get into good selective state schools as they are not clever enough which is nother consideration and in the private sector too.
Our 5 go/went to private schools always and don't forget only 7% of UK chidlren go to fee paying schools. So it is not the case that most people go to private schools at all.
It depends on your price bracket.
Some serious misinformation here.
@ thirdhill - atford Boys/Girls are not comps, they are semi-selective, and to get a distance place you have to live more or less on top of them - not nice esp in case of the girls' school as central Watford is not very pleasant.
Xenia - no way you could travel from Bucks to HBS - no-one at the school travels that kind of distance.
b&b surely the OP if interested will have spotted that sibling policy which includes the boys' school overrides distance, for Watford girls? Isn't Watford boys near public transport and a very nice country park?
yes, b. I was thinking of Dr Challoners I think in Bucks and muddling up with Henrietta B (as I've never used the state system)
Watford grammar by the way is a comprehensive school despite its title although better than some.
Both Barnet and Enfield have very good links to central London and very good secondary schools (non selective). Hertford has excellent non selective secondaries and has two stations, one goes into Liverpool Street and one to Kings Cross/Moorgate.
Ive heard good things about Hertford schools, I think its really expensive though?
No, Xenia, Watford Boys and girls are not comps - they are semi selective - 25% on academic ability, 10% on music, 10% on distance, the rest siblings and any left over again, distance. By the time you've taken into account the 35% who got in by exam and the approx same number who are siblings and probably equivalently bright, you are only looking at a fairly small proprtion of 'random' ability who get in on distance.
thirdhill - yes, the area round the boys' school is nicer than round the girls' school. But you'll have t live v v close to get a place, as the cross-sibling rule is being reintrduced.
The tube from Watfrd into Chancery Lane woould take a long time and cost a lot - suspect Bromley or SE london would be more convenient for OP.
Greenford, ruislip on central line, beautiful green, yet easy easy access to central London via central line and A40
Oh, and Xenia, Watford Girls and Boys are more than 'better than some'. The Girls school got the top rsults at GCSE and A Level at any state schol in Herts - better than many private schools, despite having only 35% entrance on exams.
East herts 30 mins to Totten hale underground and prett much anywhere .Good schools primary and senior infact some of our senior schools out performed and rank higher than private
b rightness i live few miles from Hertford ( same county but differeent towns) and our schools are very good
Watford junction train station is 20 mins to Euston so a very good commute. You could live near Watford , like rickmansworth or other nearby villages and still get into watford grammar or parmiters.
You could - if they were bright enough to pass the v competitive exam. To get a distance place for Watford Grammar Boys you'd have to live within about 500m of the school. For Parmiters it's about 1200m. The exam is vv competitive.
Should add that to do entrance exam for Watford Grammar or Parmiters (same exam), application forms must be in by 14 June this year for your 10 year old. The exam date is 15 Sept. Dates for all grammar schools will be similar this year - they've all been brought back.
Dates for application forms for all other schools will be end of Oct and OPen Days any time from May n. So you'd better be in the country and settled soon r this whole conversation will be a bit academic if you'll excuse the pun!
b&b, yes Watford garmmar is a good state schools. 25% get in by the exam and in proper state grammars that is 100% so a big difference and that plays out in the marks too.
Boys is 87th and girls is 169th in the country (FT tables).
Whereas Haberdashers which is near in the private sector and selective in the proper sense is about 20th.
Dr Challoners state selective grammar 67th.
North London collegiate 5th (girls selective private).
In other words Watford "Grammar" is better than lots of state schools but is certainly not a state grammar and does not do as well as some other local schools (although is heaps better than many local state schools).
I suggest harpenden , hertfordshire,
sir john lawes
google them, harpenden does have a quite a lot of people from the states and canada around.
Bitchin Hitchin has supposedly got the best schools in the country according to the guy I work with from there
Xenia - I'd be rather surprised if a state school that selects only 25% of its intake on exam and spends about a third of what Habs/NLC do achieved identical results to those fully selective schools! As private schools don't publish value-added scores, it is not possible to make a realistic comparison as to whether a bright pupil who attends the former will do better or worse than the equivalent pupil at the latter. 97% of pupils at the WGs scored 5 or more GCSEs A-C and 100% 3 A Levels so hardly very different to Habs/NLC - re league tables, it obviously depends which one you pick, but WG Boys A level scores at 973.4 points per candidate do not seem sufficiently different to Habs at 980.2 points per candidate to be worth 15K per year to me... Depends how deep your pockets are, I suppose.
It does not negate the point that the Watford Grammars are not comps - only a very small number of pupils will get distance places and most of those will have to live very close. Knowing the area, I supect the long drag on the Met line is probably not the easiest route into Chancery Lane. Not knocking the schools - far from it, but suggesting that SE London might be a better choice for this particular OP.
Yes, Watford Grammar schools are good (and like most good schools most people cannot get into them).
Watford Girls is 169th in the country (FT tables).
Haberdashers girls is about 20th.
Value added - if both are pretty selective then they probably start with similar IQs although the Watford grammar entrance is I think a bit complex, 25% only by academics because they have to be comprehensive because they are not in a grammar school area like Bucks
Boys is 87th in the country so better (last year) - I think the FT tables which I like best also do an average over 5 years which is often better for parents to look at as sometimes you just happen in any school to get a better or worse year than another school. Haberdashers boys is probably around 20th or higher. So they seem to be closer by A level results.
Habs girls is about £12k a year and I thought worth every penny, a lovely school.
I agree, a lovely school - my dd's best friend is there, my dd at WGGS. That said, if I was paying 12K a year, I'd wonder why the average diference in A Level point score was so miniscule, given that 75% of WGGS's pupils are not selected on academic grounds - if I had a spare 12K to spare for my bright child, I suspect it would be better spent on some rather nice holidays etc than on school fees when the results for the bright kids at both schools are basically identical.
Maybe the OP should considr Habs - generally agreed to be easier to get into than the semi-selectives, as the competition is only from the wealthy, assuming of course that she has a spare 12K?
The OP has, of course, specifically said that private schools are out of the question.
I know - I only put that in to wind up Xenia, as she has been doing to me. ;)
Hertfordshire has some of the best schools in the country it is also the safest county in England apparently.
It is nice, but is it nicer than W London or Kent or Surrey? Don't know.
W London and Surrey are lovely but Kent ??? its worse than Essex for common accents IMO
Clearly if common accents bother you then stay away from Kent! We have friends who've moved to all 3 of those areas and all seem very pleasant to me. (The areas rather than the friends.)
Re: accents, there's Kent and then Kent.
Think, say, Gravesend vs Tunbridge Wells.
The accents don't show up on the FT A level league tables. I wonder if there is a correlation between strong regional accents and the schools in the lower reaches of the league tables or not. Is the accent of a sttae school pupil at Dr Challoners or whatever better than that of my local comp with their 34% A - C at GCSE most of which is in travel and tourism GCSE?
Do you think they should have an accent league table especially for those parents who fret about such things?
Would everywhere remotely northern automatically cme bottom, or are northern accents deemed OK, just not Essex ones? A fascinating exercise in value judgements...
With the grammars, if you choose to go down that route, look VERY carefully at their individual admission criteria, aside from whether your child might pass the 11 plus itself. One school in Buckinghamshire insists on families being resident in their catchment area for 17 months before the secondary schools 'national offer day' of March 1st (essentially the March before the child joins the school in the following September). So, pretty much 2 years before going to the school itself.
The credit crunch in the UK is putting additional demand for places on grammar schools here, as families are finding it harder to fund private school fees and turning to grammar's as the alternative. So, some grammar's, where demand for places far outstrips supply have created eg additional residency criteria as above.
Loughton/ Buckhurst Hill/ Epping. All on the Central Line (underground) going into Liverpool St (couple of stops from Chancery Lane). Nice areas, very close to countryside and some good schools. Quite expensive, but not a patch on St Albans or Guildford!
West London, Ealing, Chiswick, Acton and Brentford are nice areas. OP will you be looking at Catholic, CofE or other faith schools?
Acton and Brentford are only nice by some stretching of the word.
Agree with angeleyes. Croydon has some fab areas. Check out west Wickham, Woodford or Coumadin op. Good schools and a very fast commute to London bridge too.
BreadandButter The Butts estate and those areas by the river in Brentford are quite lovely and the stretch of Acton towards Ealing Common, Poets Corner and quite large stretches of West Acton are none too shabby.
I have taught in comprehensives in north Hillingdon and also in Harrow - several excellent state comps in these areas; the schools I taught in both had Latin for example if you are looking for a traditional education and over 70% of pupils got 5 A*-C (80% in one of them), both sent pupils to Oxbridge pretty much every year, etc. But also great arts, media, drama, sport and music depts as they are big enough schools to cater for a wide range of interests and extra-curricular activities as well as running a wide range of academic options. I definitely want to send my DC to schools like these, and NW London seems to have a fair number of them.
Interested to read the comments from posters concerned about 'Essex accents'. Essex has some of the best performing state schools in the country.
For the OP, you might consider a move to NE London/ Borough of Redbridge - one of the three highest performing school boroughs in London, central line underground access to Chancery Lane/ the City, similar housing to West London minus the inflated prices, excellent grammer schools (though admittedly extremely competitive entry), low crime and pleasant green spaces.
If the office is in Chancery Lane most commutes will be out of Liverpool Street into places like Essex - don't be put off by media "images" of "Essex girls" and "Essex lads" - depending on where you choose, Essex has some of the most elegant countryside and pleasant suburbs, as well as well rated schools eg Chelmsford and Colchester (secondary schools, ie high schools). There's no different in the accent between London and other Home Counties - it really depends on what kind of school and area you live in. I haven't calculated the commute from the areas, it obviously depends on how far the office is from Liverpool Street (might sometimes be faster to walk from the train station rather than going to Chancery Lane tube, speaking as a former resident of the area.) http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ will give you train times and http://journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk/user/XSLT_TRIP_REQUEST2?language=en will give you some idea of tube routes and times. I would not even contemplate using Waterloo, Paddington or Victoria for Chancery Lane (you'll spend half the morning getting across central London, so to speak) but London Bridge is plausible if you are not happy with Essex or other routes out of Liverpool St. So I would forget Harrow, Acton, Brentford, Berkshire, Oxford, Hillingdon, Buckinghamshire, Middlesex. You're essentially looking at the eastern suburbs and home counties, because of where Chancery Lane is. Also Liverpool St is a very easy station to get in and out of with lots of frequent trains- London Bridge is huge to get across. But check the route planners. London Bridge serves East Surrey, Sussex and Kent which themselves have lovely schools and places to live. Charing Cross is a too far IMHO to get across to Chancery Lane. Cannon Street is good but not many lines, and also consider whether you might need to go into work off peak or at weekends, when Cannon Street has limited or no service (depending on when that is).
If you have a very lively dog who wants space (not to mention your children and yourselves), then the best option is a house in the home counties commuting into a station near work but avoiding the tube, rather than a small house or a flat in a London postcode. Parking in the home counties is often so much easier (and cheaper!!) - London virtually has no free parking left (in practical terms - I don't mean at 2am on a weeknight!), and in London suburbs, parking a car can be a nightmare when you get home sometimes. A short distance on the tube (=London subway) also works out more pricey than a medium distance on the train in terms of the cost of your husband's daily commute. Timewise the train is often faster than the tube because the tube stops at so many stations.
Should also mention that Chancery Lane tube is invariably like a can of sardines at rush hour every weekday.... although it is nice when it's off peak!
OP - I can't remember if you said there were two different offices for both of you or whether it was both of you working at Chancery Lane. Also misread the bit where you said you'd be working in the UK too, so apologies for that. But yes, where the offices are will dictate where you are going. Like Manhattan (but worse) central London is difficult to travel across at rush hour - or any time really, apart from maybe 4am.... so don't pick a pretty suburb that is on the opposite side of the city from your work places.
Found your two posts now! - Barbican for your DH, Chancery Lane for you, apologies for earlier inaccuracy. Yes, stick to Liverpool Street. Maybe London Bridge as a very distant second choice (because you'll need the tube - at least some of the time - to get from London Bridge to the city eg when it's heavy rain). I knew someone who used to walk from Ldn Br (across the bridge) to his office near Barbican (Moorgate) - it's a scenic walk and good exercise) but he left home at 6am to be able to get to work on time, and likewise in the evening. He was tired out when he got home - it's a major lifestyle change, and one that both parents are unlikely to be able to do with schoolgoing kids. Avoid the premature heart attack and go for Liverpool Street and Essex, honestly, that's my recommendation. Several of Essex's schools top the league tables every year for state and grammar school exam results. As someone in the south, am actually a little envious, lol!
Trains from parts of Hertfordshire also come into Liverpool Street, as mentioned above.
@kipper Charing Cross would be ideal for Chancery Lane! 10-15 minute walk and no need for the tube! Similarly with Waterloo (add 5 mins to the walk, but in return you get to see the lovely south bank each day). Sadly of course Charing Cross is a rubbish station for other reasons! Most of my friends and colleagues who work in the immediate area live in either the Surrey/Kent borders, the posh bits of Croydon, or The Harpendon/St Albans area. Or Devon. But those of us who come in from Devon don't do so every day! Thankfully.
@kipper I work a stones throw from the Barbican. The most popular commute by far is from Farringdon out to Harpenden, St Albans, that direction. I say popular, I mean common. The service isn't very popular with anyone who uses it! I don't know anyone who commutes through Liverpool Street although I expect there are some. But best to avoid the tubes. Farringdon is <5mins walk to either barbican or chancery lane. And of course, there is city thameslink also so one person could get off at Farringdon and one could get off at city......either commuting from the St Albans or the Croydon area. Or points in between.
My memories of using the thameslink service aren't entirely happy I will admit, and my sister who still uses it (from croydon) is a bit ruder about it than my close colleagues who use it from st Albans/Harpenden but none of them seem that distressed really.
Telegraph Hill, zone 2 ie central london(New Cross/New Cross Gate, tube and train). Good large homes,great park and good primaries. Also you have an outstanding secondary on your doorstep, Haberdasher's Askes', Hatcham College. It selects its pupils on distance, their website is HAHC.org.uk
Good point Metabilis3 about Farringdon's Thameslink - very near to both. But as you say, it often had problems (maybe because a lot of lines cut through) so I didn't recommend that. Especially when you have to plan for school going kids' schedules too. A lot of City workers came from Essex and its surrounds into Liverpool St - it was a human tide, lol. So many fast and efficient services so it worked very well, ideal for working parents - if your child is feeling wobbly and you need to stay an extra two minutes, you won't have to wait 20 minutes for the next service, more like 3 minutes.
It certainly is less good coming from the south (from Croydon/Brighton) if you are going into Farringdon.
I didn't use Charing Cross as often, but because it is more south than Liv St and Farringdon and further than London Bridge, I am more hesitant about recommending it. A walk from Charing Cross every day - even in storms, wind and hail - to Barbican (admittedly slightly nearer to Chancery Lane) .....hmm.....only for the very robust among us and those with a convenient place to change into and store a work suit I reckon . Actually there is a bus route that could go from CC to B and CL, but heh heh, the traffic doesn't go v fast in rush hour, unfortunately.
@funchum8am which primary state schools in harrow area would you say are the best??
I personally suggest Keston, Kent. 6 mins away from Bromley South. with amazing massive woods and lakes. Just like contryside village nexf to town we have a big Wiemeraner which we take for walks in the woods. It has a lovely Keston CE Primary School and Hayes Local Comprehensive Secondry also Darrick wood. Round the corner is Bromley High (girls privarate) and Ravens Wood (boys comprehensive) then Newstead woods (girls grammar) St Olaves (boys grammar) great little plot.
Re: accents - Xenia did you realise teachers at Habs have cockney accents? Fine by me - but do watch videos on their website (Junior school) for proof - definitely not all RP.
Richmond usually heads the league table for primary schools, and has some good secondary schools. In fact you'd probably be best off in Twickenham to maximise dd's chances of getting into Waldegrave, the best girls' school around. There are fast trains into Waterloo, or the district line direct to Temple which is reasonably close to Chancery Lane.
JellyBelly10 Bromley is not "actually in Kent", you said it is in Greater London, London and Greater London cover the exact same region, it is just the name "Greater London" is used in certain contexts. If you are saying it is in Greater London, then it cannot be in Kent, because they share a border according to the London Government Act 1963. It is binary, if it is in one it cannot be in the other and vice versa.
Richmond Borough primaries are great. I think they have some of the highest stats in the country, too, if that matters to you.
Secondaries I don't really know about yet...
What about Brookman's Park? It is really quite rural and English. You can drive to Potters Bar (10 mins) change at Finsbury Park and take the tube to Chancery Lane (15 mins.) The primary school is good and the secondary options are Dame Alice Owen (partially selective and excellent) or Chancellors (good too, I hear). Beautiful woods full of bluebells for the dog too.
Sorry train Potters Bar to Finsbury Park is 10 mins.
Epsom. Can commute to London Bridge, waterloo and Victoria. Downs and Common plus parks for dog. Glyn School for boys and Rosebery for girls. Both non-selective state schools with good results.
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