Primary schools in Whyteleafe/Caterham area (Essendene Lodge, St Francis Catholic, The Hawthorns, Oakhyrst Grange, Oakwood, Cumnor??!!! Which!

(40 Posts)
Pinklady3777 Wed 16-May-12 10:49:49


Would love some advice on primary schools for my daughter in the Whyteleafe area. We were looking at Essendene Lodge but are concerned about financial situation there now maybe? Anyone know anything?

Also, anyone with experience of St Francis Catholic state school?

We don't have masses of money to spend on fees so would ideally love an outstanding state school but there don't seem to be any in our area?! So may have to pay to ensure our dd gets the right start so any thoughts VV welcome!! Thanks!!

Inaflap Wed 16-May-12 12:16:46

Croydon High School Junior Dept is very good (and if she is academic then she will get automatic entry to the Seniors). Open day is tomorrow thursday 9.30 till 12. No need for an appt - just turn up. When you drive into the site, don't be put off by concrete 1960s blocks. It's much better inside. Junior school is the building lower down the site. Upgrades are happening at the moment to the building. Very good for music, PE and Drama - they get all their PE lessons delivered by the Senior PE teachers plus swimming, etc in the sports centre.

Inaflap Wed 16-May-12 12:17:19

Forgot to say - it's not in Croydon but in Selsdon - off the Farleigh Road. Loads of kids go from your neck of the woods.

AngelEyes46 Wed 16-May-12 19:45:20

Friends of mine's dcs went to St Francis RC and really pleased with it. Dad became a governor I think and mum a TA there. From what they told me, I don't know if overly sporty but quite arty and theatrical. Their DS now goes to St bedes and DD is still at St Francis. Although their DS went to a CE school, I think a lot of them go onto RC secondary (John Fisher, Coloma or St Phils).

AngelEyes46 Wed 16-May-12 19:46:57

Also, know a little about Oakwood as RC school - all reports are good. Any reason for going private or just looking at all options?

nowwearefour Wed 16-May-12 19:47:39

The Hawthorns is amazing! I wouldnt trust financial position of Essendene tbh at the moment though is a good school. if i could afford it at junior level my ddswould be at the hawthorns.

Pinklady3777 Wed 16-May-12 20:09:03

Hi all! Thanks so much for replies! Went to see oakwood today and seemed like they have great staff. Don't know about academic achievement there?

Good to know st Francis is good too though. We just want the best possible option for dd but don't have mega bucks!! Going to see The Hawthorns tomorrow so will see how it compares tovOakwood. (quite a bit more expensive!) is it worth the extra 1500 a term do you think? What is it that makes it so amazing?

Also do kids just get a better start at a private/independent school or not?!

Think may have to stay away from Essendens then-wonder what is the situation there?!

Pinklady3777 Wed 16-May-12 20:11:04

Yeah looking at all options- wonder if she would be better looked after in all areas and achieve more at Oakwood?! Would like her to go to Coloma or similar school after so hopefully there would be an end to fees if I did have to pay for primary!!

I went to St Francis many many moons ago.
So unable to comment on how it is doing these days.
Just feeling nostalgic
But there were some girls from my class who went on to Coloma as part of the RC route.
I went to a fab prep school in Oxted afterwards, Laverock.
It has now merged with Hazelwood the school my brother went too
Bet that's worth a look at.

Metabilis3 Wed 16-May-12 22:36:49

My best friend's daughters all went to St Francis - two are now at Coloma, the third is still there. She thinks it's a very good school, she's been very happy with it (for comparison, we both went to Regina Coeli when we were at primary school, to be fair we both thought it was fab at the time. I've no idea what it's like these days)

Ladymuck Thu 17-May-12 09:09:44

Essendene - yes the financial/management situation does seem to be unclear.
Oakhyrst - very good reputation, but most children go onto private schools at secondary.
Hawthorns - bit of a trek from Whyteleafe each morning I would have thought? Again most children will go to private secondary school. I think from your visit that you will be able to see what the extra £1,500 is getting you, though whether you think is necessary or desirable is another matter. But don't underestimate the impact of a long commute.
Oakwood - good reputation, and more of a mix between state and private afterwards.
Cumnor - early days under its new management, but suspect that it is setting itself up to get girls into Sutton grammars (given Old Palace and Croydon High already have their own junior depts). Very few children will go onto faith or comprehensive state schools.
Reedham Park is another private primary school where again there is a mix of state and private school destinations. Ditto St Davids in Purley.
I'm assuming that you're ruling out Caterham Prep on the basis that you don't want Caterham as a secondary school.

If your hope is for state school at secondary level then I would already check through Coloma's entrance requirements. Although they're likely to change over the next 8 years it will give you an idea as to whether you pass the "catholic" test or not. I know for John Fisher the precise age at baptism is pretty critical!

Whilst few parents have made decisions re secondary school at the start of prep school, if you are likely to avoid private school at secondary level, then you will have an easier ride at Oakwood say, then Hawthorns. The focus in the junior years at prep schools is to get into the most appropriate secondary school, and for most fee-paying parents this will be a selective school. If you are the only pupil going to a state school from your prep school, this may have a degree of stigma for your final year.

Some of ds1's friends have joined his school from St Francis. Certainly haven't heard any complaints about it, and the children have passed a selective assessment, and are holding their own. Sorry, can't be more help than that. Ime there is actually a lot less choice in getting a state school space than a private school one.

Pinklady3777 Thu 17-May-12 09:59:13

Thank you do much! That is really really helpful. Off to Hawthorns this morning so will see. Good point about the commute though- we'd be far closer to most of the others.. Would like to visit Oakhyrst Grange too as in the same fee bracket as Oakwood and Essendene (although think we're ruling Essendene out for the mo). I'm a peri music teacher and al it's taught at Caterham Prep although in the end the pupil numbers weren't there. At the time I got quite a bad impression of organisation and facilities at the junior school so for that reason haven't considered it, although this may bot be sensible. Would you recommend?

Very good point about being the only I've not going on to private secondary school and stigma etc. I do worry about not being in the same financial situation as many of private school parents and how that would affect my dd's life at school. At the same time I do want her to be looked after properly so there are lots of state schools I discount. I only work in private schools myself so my experience of what a child gets there colours my decision for my DD.

Ladymuck Thu 17-May-12 10:24:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Pinklady3777 Thu 17-May-12 21:24:03

Yes I think Caterham Senior School is probably a but pricey for us so perhaps the junior school isn't the best option anyway.

Out of interest, having been a parent at 3 of the schools- if you had to choose just one now, which would it be?!

Hawthorns was lovely today-certainly try facilities are wonderful. I wasn't as blown away as I had expected I might be tbh though. Going to visit Oakhyrst in a couple of weeks- they certainly win on the uniform front! More seriously though, it sounds like a happy school but I don't know how well it stands up against the others academically?

As for Oakwood, we were certainly impressed by staff and pupils there. Fewer facilities but children all seemed bright and motivated- more so than some at The Hawthorns maybe... Maybe not.. Difficult to judge of course. I'm catholic myself but wonder if it's a bit 'overly Catholic'/dogmatic about its mottos/aims/ethos or is this a good thing?!

We have yet to visit St Francis so wonder how it will stack up against the rest!!

Pinklady3777 Thu 17-May-12 21:24:29

Yes I think Caterham Senior School is probably a but pricey for us so perhaps the junior school isn't the best option anyway.

Out of interest, having been a parent at 3 of the schools- if you had to choose just one now, which would it be?!

Hawthorns was lovely today-certainly try facilities are wonderful. I wasn't as blown away as I had expected I might be tbh though. Going to visit Oakhyrst in a couple of weeks- they certainly win on the uniform front! More seriously though, it sounds like a happy school but I don't know how well it stands up against the others academically?

As for Oakwood, we were certainly impressed by staff and pupils there. Fewer facilities but children all seemed bright and motivated- more so than some at The Hawthorns maybe... Maybe not.. Difficult to judge of course. I'm catholic myself but wonder if it's a bit 'overly Catholic'/dogmatic about its mottos/aims/ethos or is this a good thing?!

We have yet to visit St Francis so wonder how it will stack up against the rest!!

Ladymuck Thu 17-May-12 22:19:33

I would rank Oakhyrst slightly above Oakwood academically, or at least they seem to do distinctly better in junior entrance exams. But for various reasons I didn't look at them seriously.

The reasons for having children at different schools is primarily down to the class composition, and the different strengths of the children. The schools probably have more in common on the academic front and the differences come in whether say science, sport or music is a particular strength.

So I think that in your position I would be asking for as much information as possible about the intake - what is the balance between boys and girls, and how many are first borns v younger siblings. I think that if you were looking at state school for secondary then I would veer away from Hawthorns and Cumnor. I've certainly heard nothing that would steer me away from St Francis, but again I'm not close to it, so haven't got a personal view on it. The former pupils who are in ds1's class, could not be picked out as being different from their prep school peers.

Sorry that I can't be more specific, but after all the benefit of being able to pay is that you get a wider choice than would be otherwise available, and you should be able to find something that is a good match for your family. If you haven't yet looked at St David's, then do so as well.

Pinklady3777 Fri 18-May-12 06:46:52

Thank you! Really helpful again. So appreciated! Yes my husband did a bit of work at St David's a few years ago so we will consider it. For some reason, perhaps just on prospectus too, it didn't stand out as impressive but perhaps that is wrong ? As musicians we would of course like a school which is striping musically but also as this is our strength perhaps we should be looking at other areas being strong so our dd gets an all round education. Do you know which might be strongest musically? Hawthorns definitely seemed strong on the sports front. I think, realistically, and since we werent dazzled there, it probably won't be a serious option. Is it important to check about siblings at the school as far as admissions are concerned? I suppose it's also an indicator parents are happy with a school. Dd is our first born.

Ladymuck Fri 18-May-12 09:06:41

Will PM you on the music front.

The sibling dynamic is a strange one, but younger siblings tend to grow up more quickly than first borns. Ds1 was in a class of mainly first borns, and not only were all the parents going through sending a child to school for the first time, but the children didn't say have a nintendo ds until they were 7 or 8, a wii until they were 8 or 9 etc. The class bonded exceptionally well together. On the other hand coming into a class of younger siblings means that some playdates etc have been in place for years as families have played together, and your child's peers have been exposed to wii games etc far earlier. Obviously in a single form school there will be some siblings, but as with everything, the balance is important. Would your dd be one of say 3 or 4 "new" children amongst 13 or 14 siblings, or would it be the other way around?

Remember that you can ask St Francis about siblings (I would ask the school secretary as they tend to know everything). Obviously there it isn't as much about class mix but more about how many places there are available for non siblings!

YuliaT Fri 18-May-12 09:31:24

"I would rank Oakhyrst slightly above Oakwood academically, or at least they seem to do distinctly better in junior entrance exams."
Or may be they had been "better" tutored ;) The reason I did not consider Oakhyrst (except the distance) is that their ISI report is not as good as Oakwood's. As I remember they have none "outstanding" marks while Oakwood have almost all "outstanding" marks.
Regarding Essendene - have you visited them?
Actually you can check secondary school transfers for Oakwood on their website (last year results).
Cumnor Girls - lots of parents are very happy with the school (lot's of the girls came from other local private schools), so it worth to check as well. And yes, more "wealthy" parents there.

YuliaT Fri 18-May-12 10:36:16

Have you looked at Reedham park school? A small school with catholic ethos, very limited facilities but very good academic results and VERY affordable (but parents have to help with fund raisings).

Dropdeadfred Fri 18-May-12 14:23:00

Are all the state primary schools way behind the private ones around that area?

Ladymuck Fri 18-May-12 14:45:51

It is one of those "black hole" areas. Either you can get into a faith school, or else you need to live on the doorstep of one of the primary schools. You can list your 6 closest schools and not get into any of them, and thereby get into the nearest undersubscribed school.

Secondary schools are even worse: surrounded by 3 grammar areas which cream off the brightest, then several high performing faith schools. Hence people opt for private primary to get into grammar.

Ladymuck Fri 18-May-12 14:47:14

So no, many of the state schools are very good. Provided you live in the right roads...

maxmillie Fri 18-May-12 14:48:10

The Oakhyrst ISI is very out of date. Their Early Years Ofsted was Outstanding - 2009/10 I think. Also think there was a critisism about space and extracurricular activities but they've built a new building to address that.

Mine go there, they are unlikely to go to private secondary. I'm not sure about stigma but in this year's Y6 quite a few got into the grammars but all pretty much are going private - does worry me slightly but it is not unheard of (since we've been there a few families have left or gone to other schools because of financial issues).

It is a very nice school - kids are very happy and well-looked after. The most heavily tutored kids in the area IME are the ones trying to get into private secondaries from the nearby Reigate state schools. Is quite traditional in teaching methods so depends whether you think that is good or bad. And only one form per year so 18 odd kids in a year only - ditto whether you think good or bad. Tutoring is not common at OGS that I can see - certainly not like Reigate levels - they seem to prepare them pretty well for the private and grammar secondary exams at local schools.

Only other thing to be aware of is wrap around care is not available until Y1 which is a PITA - unlike state schools where it is from Reception.

I agree the uniform is cute - though very expensive and PITA to keep clean I warn you! (blazer) grin

maxmillie Fri 18-May-12 14:50:23

What do you mean by 3 grammar areas Ladymuck? are you talking baout Surrey in general? Round these schools is Sutton only surely?

Ladymuck Fri 18-May-12 14:54:19

Sutton, Bromley and Kent. When you start checking out secondary options there is an amazing network of buses and trains. Not saying that everyone has the choice of all 3, but the existence of all 3 does tend to mean that the very brightest children are not always in the local comps (which of course means that they are not truly comps).

maxmillie Fri 18-May-12 15:03:19

oooo I didnt know about Bromley - that could be doable. What are the Grammars there?

maxmillie Fri 18-May-12 15:04:43

and what's going on at Essendene!

Ladymuck Fri 18-May-12 15:23:12

St Olaves and Newstead Woods. There is a distance criteria (7 or 8 miles I think, can't remember). Tonbridge has good connections and has Judd and Tonbridge Grammar which are superselective.

I don't think that there is necessarily anything untowards at Essendene. Just the new Head seemed to vanish on maternity leave after a short space of time, and the ownership structure is an unusual one. They seem to be hesitant in giving out any financial details whereas you can get the accounts of the other schools from the Charity Commission Website.

Pinklady3777 Fri 18-May-12 22:23:00

Such a good point about siblings- will definitely be more keen to find out the percentages for all potential schools now! School secretaries are definitely the ones with the info! I've found that in my teaching!

Pinklady3777 Fri 18-May-12 22:24:33

We hadnt considered Reedham Park- it does seem to be a unique little one. Not sure it's academic record stands up to the others though?

Duff51 Mon 21-May-12 07:32:22

We left Essendene Lodge about a year ago when we heard most of the teacher were leaving. We are now at Warlingham Park and are really pleased with it.

It is a friendly, welcoming school with a mixture of children going on to state and independent schools.

scoops9 Tue 22-May-12 10:30:50

Essendene is a lovely school with well adjusted children, an excellent Ofsted and no financial issues, contrary to comments on this message board. Not sure where these rumours come from but obviously a case of Chinese whispers. I have 2 happy, academically bright children for which I thank Essendene every day. The wrap around care and holiday clubs are excellent too so invaluable for working mums not catered for by a number of other schools in the area.

Duff51 Sat 26-May-12 08:47:39

We always loved essendene and were very happy there and academically my child thrived beyond our expectations. Then the new head arrived. There were various issues which I won't go into and then she announced her maternity leave before completing 2 terms. It then turned out that almost the entire teaching staff had resigned. Pupils were leaving in droves and we were worried for the financial future of the school, hence we left.

The new deputy head that has stepped up to cover the maternity leave I hear is excellent however the other one is returning sometime in June.

The holiday club was good for the tiny children but didn't offer enough for the older ones so we stopped using it and I understand that alot of the after school clubs that ran have now stopped.

Pupil numbers are so low that they are now merging year groups together but I hear that there are waiting lists for nursery and reception, I sincerely hope that's true and that essendene weathers this storm as we have alot to thank them for and will always have very fond memories of our time there.

LadyKenley Sun 02-Sep-12 13:23:35

Hi - I've read through this with interest. We're thinking of applying to St Francis for our daughter. Does anyone know if it operates an after school club as we can't see any info on its website?


Duff51 Fri 14-Sep-12 08:05:28

I have friends with children at St Francis, I think they have after school clubs which run for half a term at a time and then stop or other children take a turn as the numbers of places don't meet demand, ie cricket in the summer. I'm pretty sure they don't offer wrap around care if that's what you're after.

Catermum Mon 19-Nov-12 14:29:26

My son is 7 and he has been at Essendene since he was 3 and he absolutely thrives there! All the children love going to school. They may not have all the fancy facilities that you pay extra for at schools like Hawthorns but they do have a strong family ethos. They offer wrap around care from 8am to 6pm, school holiday care for a number of weeks during the holidays and a wide of extra curricular activities (lunch-time and after school) inlcuding Strictly Ballroom, Spanish, Computer programming, badminton, gymnastics, football. Their emphasis is on inclusiveness and as such you don't have to sit entrance exams to get in. Pupils get to swim weekly, there is a choir, children get to learn musical intruments and they have an excellent SENCO. Pupils are polite and well-behaved and are keen to do well under the guidance and expert tutilage of the dedicated teaching staff. Pupils go on to a range of schools, some with scholarships, but in any case all pupils leave confident happy pupils, willing and able to achieve. There is a new Headteacher (the previously muched loved deputy head, Mrs Ali) and everyone is extremely settled and happy so if you are looking for a private family orientated school with a caring and inclusive atmosphere then go and see Essendene Lodge. You won't be disappointed smile

Blueninja Thu 10-Jan-13 22:04:48

I can't believe what some people have written about Essendene Lodge. I have had 2 children at the school- 1 still there, 1 now left. Both children have been at the school since they were 2 1/2. Re: staff changes- like any work place, school teachers do move on and are allowed to get new jobs!! From what I understand a couple of years ago a few teachers left for career reasons. As Essendene is a small ( and friendly family run school) it may have seemed that there was a number of teachers leaving at the same time but it was clearly for career reasons. The current head (who started as deputy) is amazing and the school has never been stronger in all the years I have been a parent there. The new staff have made a great addition to the school bringing in fresh blood and ideas and as mentioned it is great for wrap around care from 8-6 for working parents as well as a great selection of clubs. Why people have bad mouthed the school is pathetic and those that left are the ones that have missed out on excellent education for their children. We are very happy we ignored people that don't appear to know the whole story and have two extremely happy and well educated children. With relatively low fees and small class sizes Essendene is fantastic value. Rant over!!

DonderandBlitzen Mon 04-Mar-13 10:36:40

Whyteleafe School is very popular and very good with a strong head who joined a couple of years ago. The year my younger dd joined there were eight first choice applicants for each non sibling place available. So you may have to live very near!

We have been very happy with it. Some excellent teachers. Music is very strong. A music specialist teacher teaches music to all classes and there is an orchestra, choir who sing at the Albert Hall before Christmas. Children have free recorder tuition from Y3 upwards and one year of free clarinet tuition in Y4. Plus paid for instrument tuition available. Good facilities. A swimming pool, so weekly swimming lessons from Y1 onwards. Wrap around care. Lots of clubs. Libraries, Music room, cookery room, lovely grounds. Food cooked from scratch on the premises. Playing fields further up the road. Children are happy and thriving there. smile

orangesmartiequeen Sun 10-Mar-13 20:59:19

I am most disappointed to read the views of Essendene Lodge School, we have been at the school since removing our children from another independent school in the area. The staff at the school are fantastic, the education they provide in my opinion is second to none, they really care about the children and this shows in as much as I never have to battle to get them to school. At the previous school my children would have tears and tantrums about not wanting to go to school and quite frankly the teaching was below parr. As far as I am concerned Essendene was the best move we ever made. People need to deal in facts not speculation.

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