School places in the UK. Sydney mum.

(41 Posts)
zita99 Fri 15-Feb-13 03:39:32

I have been trying to get my son and daughter into a school in London. When I say London I mean London anywhere as have not worked out where we are going to rent yet. Trying to get into schools first then accomodation second. We are moving over from Sydney. My son moves into year 9 13+, my daughter into year 6. School fees are not a problem. My husband works in London so needs to be within 30-60 mins commute.

No luck so far, no schools will take them. Had to sit four entrance tests so far. Either we are too late applying for some or not at a good enough standard for the others. My son is in the top 5% at his school in Sydney ( top academic boys private school) and is a top debater and chess player in the area and is ranked number 1 in sabre fencing for U13 in Australia.

I am not adding these to show off. I am adding them to ask what more can I do. I understand he needs to get in line and a lot of you will say that, however this is beyond funny.

Are the number of school places in London so stretched that there are simply no places. Some schools will not even talk to me and say I should have applied two years ago.

Is our education system in Australia so far behind the UK that his results are ' not at a good enough standard' ?
Is a twelve year old in Australia who is consided to be smart and wins all the prizes not so bright afterall looking at him from the UK standards ?
Is a ten year old average Australian girl in year 5 considered to be below average in the UK?
Is the testing discriminating against overseas students who have a different curriculum emphasis at different age groups?

Funny how the UK is always trying to get Australian teachers to work in the UK. I am a high school teacher and have been told that I can easily work in London as there is a demand for Australian teachers.

Any way we will send them to the local state school but even here cannot find any information about applying. I don?t think we can apply until we have a local address and can contact the council.

Does anybody know of any schools that actually have places available for start Sep 2013 for two normal kids anywhere in the London area?

Chottie Fri 15-Feb-13 03:57:10

I think I would draw a circle of 30-60 mins commute of where your DH will be working in London. Then look at the various boroughs websites for local schools. You can then look at individual schools websites and also at their OFSTED reports. Once you have narrowed your search down to particular areas and schools, I am sure some MNtters will be able to give you info which you won't find on websites or reports!

Good luck in your search for schools and making a new life in the UK.

Chottie Fri 15-Feb-13 03:58:43

p.s. I hope you don't think I am ignoring some of your post, it is just that my DC left the school system some years ago, so I don't have recent relevant experience and info to pass on. smile

Jiddle Fri 15-Feb-13 04:14:51

Hi OP. the difficulty really is your DS. For 13+ entry into independent schools here it is true that most require a pre-test at 11 and then Common Entrance at 13. The top tier of London day schools are very oversubscribed and so for many having missed the pre-test will be an issue.

However there are some schools around who will be sympathetic and it is just a question of ringing around everywhere. The alternative would be to consider putting him in a state school for one year and then getting him into an independent school for year 10 (which is the start of the GCSE course).

For your DD it will be a lot easier. Many girls' schools will have junior as well as senior schools so if you pick one of these she may be able to do the last year in the junior and then move up to senior with the same cohort of kids rather than changing schools again at 11.

Do you want single sex or co-ed? Or are you not fussy?

I would start with your boy and work back from there. 30-60 mins from London you have Surrey (Guildford, Weybridge, Reigate, all have good independent schools); St Albans (I believe has good schools though I don't know that area - but great train line into London in 20 mins); parts of Kent and Essex.

zita99 Fri 15-Feb-13 07:45:17

Thanks I will just have to keep trying. I am not fussy and really anything would be OK as they are good kids and independent learners. As long as the schools do not have metal detectors and gangs they should be fine. I an always get some tutors for them. Although I am sick of hearing the answer - 'Not worth applying'. I started looking Sep last year 2012 for start Sep 2013.

It seems like with the state schools we have to get a place first and then apply for the schools in that area rather than find a school first and then find somewhere to live.

We have a consultant helping us but she is finding it hard as well.

WishIdbeenatigermum Fri 15-Feb-13 08:06:45

I've heard good things about St Dunstan's- grotty area, but you could live in Dulwich or Sydenham, Sydenham GDST Girls for your daughter and St D for your son, or both. Also in Dulwich is an excellent state school, Charter. Get in touch with them and find out how near you have to be to get in.
There is a real problem in London for Independent boys at 13+ as most of the schools take them from 11, so you're competing for a few places with boys from prep school.
And yes, you might be falling between the cracks age wise- it's not that Australian Schools are easier, it's just as the school year starts in January, your son might be technically in the year below.

LIZS Fri 15-Feb-13 08:15:36

Offers at many independent schools are due out today/next week so you may have more luck for a 13+ place if you call back at beginning of March.

ResponsibleAdult Fri 15-Feb-13 08:28:17

Maybe try identifying an area you might like, then approach the schools with "we are moving to your area in x months and need a school place".
LEA schools have to provide a place somewhere within a reasonable distance.
Independent schools will have filled places for Sept 2013, but there are always waiting lists and people drop out.
The system was tightened last year as parents used to put deposits in several school, then accept only one and forfeit their other deposits. Pre tests were introduced to stop this.
Day places are oversubscribed, some top schools 1700 applicants for 100 places, but flexible or full boarding may have spaces.
Depending on husbands job, identify his route to work, then spread your search from there. He will be doing the daily commute, your children may be doing it weekly or fortnightly.
Bear in mind some places may be geographically further out but are closer in terms of time eg Guildford to SW of London, and St Albans to the N.
Good luck, you will find somewhere.

TotallyBS Fri 15-Feb-13 09:09:05

Haberdashers Boys and Girls (separate schools but next door to each other) in Elstree (or is it Radlett?) are two highly ranked private schools worth looking at. Train service is 30min into St Pancras and from there the City and then London Bridge.

janinlondon Fri 15-Feb-13 09:16:10

Might it be worth telling us which schools your children have done entrance tests for already? Maybe you are aiming at the super selective independents and should be looking at less academically rigorous schools? Would help in suggesting options I think....?

mary21 Fri 15-Feb-13 09:22:10

Hi Radnor House in Twickenham has space for year 9 according to their website. Newland house prep in Twickenham over subscibed at 4 has been known to take relocators in later years so might work for daughter. Good state schools in area also have many relocators moving in and out at various times. Orleans park state secondary has had several overseas pupils start this year again dispute being very oversubscibed at 11. Others to consider in that area Claremont fan court, St James independent boys.

onlychocolatewilldo Fri 15-Feb-13 10:59:19

What about living in Gerrards Cross and considering Thorpe House for your son/Maltmans for your daughter. Thorpe is small and I don't think is full from what I hear locally?

Needmoresleep Fri 15-Feb-13 11:11:41


There was a thread in the autumn with a New Zealand mum in a similar position, though with children trying for occasional places in non traditional entry years.

She was focussed on SW London and tried schools like Ibstock Place, which I knew from other expats is one that relocation agents have steered people towards. (Relatively new school, and growing in reputation but not yet first choice locally.)

Schools are pretty busy at the moment sorting out applications. Many apply to five and until offers have been accepted and state school allocations have been made (the beginning of March) they wont know where they stand.

Some will then find they have places. More places become available at the start of the summer term when people drop out before they become liable for a terms fees as well as their deposit. Schools will also get notice from families whose 13 year olds are leaving just before the start of the summer term, eg Easter.

Expect admissions staff to be completely busy for the next few weeks. You might instead send an email with Relocating Family in the heading, and acknowledge they wont know yet but as them to indicate whether they might have places, and whether it is worth you getting back to them and when.

I would agree with St Dunstans and Radnor House. You should also try Ibstock, perhaps Clapham and Streatham High, Sutton High and Surbiton High (all girls schools). Eltham College (boys). You might also try Harrodian, Kingston Grammar (a sought after school but used as a fall back for the Tiffin state schools, so they could find they got their numbers wrong), St Benedicts in Ealing, and St Augustines Priory if you dont mind Catholic.

These are just south/south west London. there will be plenty more.

One fall back if you are really panicking is Portland Place School in Central London. I think it grew from a sixth form tutorial college to cater for the demand for relocating families with younger children. The children we knew were happy there and did well, but facilities are limited.

Which schools did you try? Some are very very competitive taking only the top 2% and others, especially some of the co-eds, have become a bit of a lottery simply because of the numbers applying. Dont despair everyone gets a place eventually.

Do take out a subscription to the Good Schools Guide. Also discover TfLs journey planner which allows you to work out commuting time by public transport.

Good Luck.

stclemens Fri 15-Feb-13 11:48:18

I suspect it is a combination of very few places available for next year in yr 9 at this stage plus perhaps a difference of curriculum? Your son sounds very smart so please don't feel disheartened. Definitely try again once the madness of 1 March has passed. We liked Radnor, which has the advantage of being co-ed. But it is a small school which you may or may not like (good for our DS, not so good for DD). Also a (very well off!) acquaintance whose children had been based in Sydney and moved here sent his kids here: South bank which might be worth looking at.

Copthallresident Fri 15-Feb-13 11:57:42


Former expat, now in SW London. I think the aussie system is more relaxed especially if you are going to get involved with the 13+ common entrance ratrace, Prep schools get the boys up to all but GCSE standard for it and the exam itself is rather old fashioned, more about regurgitated knowledge than ability. Is that the sort of test your son faced? The irony is that most girls, who move at 11 , would not pass it . I remember looking at it when DD was 13 and at one of the most academic girls schools in London and she would not have been equipped to pass it.

Re State School, unfortunately you do need to be able to demonstrate you are resident at an address before you apply but once you are the LA do have to give you a place. Renting on the doorstep of a good school will give you priority if places come up assuming they admit on distance from school. There have been a few expats moving here who have had threads seeking to identify good state schools so they could use that strategy to get in. Look at the Ofsted ratings to identify the outstanding comps. In South west London Orleans Park and Teddington. Sadly the schools and Local Authorities are disinterested in expats so they are not very helpful.

Hearing good things about Radnor House, new school and so trying to market itself on being supportive, worth a try. Ibstock isn't new!! School created by Froebal Institute as Edwardian experiment!! It used to be very arty crafty but it is now trying to compete on being academic without attracting the academic pupils so hearing some bad things about it becoming a bit of a bootcamp, also parents tend to be a bit smart set. It did used to be a good starting point for expats coming back into UK system from gentler systems but I would not be so sure now. Also worth trying Reeds, Claremont Fan, St James's, Halliford all more likely to have spaces and not be quite so demanding academically in terms of entrance. Harrodian seems to have found space for returning Beckham boys wink

juneau Fri 15-Feb-13 12:05:47

It seems like with the state schools we have to get a place first and then apply for the schools in that area rather than find a school first and then find somewhere to live.

Yes - this is the case. You must have an address - then you can approach your LEA (local educational authority), and they are obliged to find space for your DC within the school district.

As to educational standards/focuses varying from country to country - I'm sure this is true. We used to live in the US and their curriculum/educational standard by year is very different to the UK. I'm sure a bit of tutoring though should solve this if your DC are bright and motivated if the Australian system is somewhat behind the UK.

zita99 Fri 15-Feb-13 12:12:49

Great reposnses. Thanks. We did try Ipstock, Kingston Grammar, Emmanuel, Harrodian ( still has to sit test in Sydney but told hardly any places for year 9 London school for boys ( will not exam overseas), St pauls ( would not talk to us). Thinking maybe going IB ( Dwight - North London School). Plus I rang a whole heap of others as I got desperate and told bascially not to bother.

Maybe we will save on the priavte school fees and rent right next to a really good state school so they can get in.

Anyway I feel a bit better that my kids are not that dumb and that othesr have the same problems. I hope as you suggest that evnetually they will get in somewhere. We will hold off renting until something comes up.

Thanks this is a really great site with great feedback from people.

zita99 Fri 15-Feb-13 12:32:24

Thanks for all the suggestions I am going to start sending emails to schools mentioned in the posts. Hopefully something will come up for us.

Copthallresident Fri 15-Feb-13 12:35:21

I wouldn't give up on trying, at DDs' very academic top 10 school, in DD1s year there was absolutely no movement, and no places came up until sixth form, which would be the norm, but as a result of some difficult characters pupils were moving out of DD2's year all the time, every class ended up with 2 or 3 spaces from Year 8 on. It did mean a few incoming expats had a chance to take up places. The pupils who left found places at schools like Latymer and Godolphin and Latymer. IME the private schools love expats too and will make allowances to get them into the school community. It is worth hanging in there!

Copthallresident Fri 15-Feb-13 12:44:00

Also for your daughter Surbiton High has always had a reputation for moving heaven and earth to make room for desperate expats smile

irisha Fri 15-Feb-13 13:29:52

Zita, try not to give up and go for a less academic school for your son - any academic private school should be happy to have him! I don't think it's such a great idea to just go for any non-academic school just to get a place. Ibstock Place, for example, would be a second or even 3rd choice for people with academic children so it's not the case of a mixed abilities school, e.g. like some boarding ones are, where there are enough kids to make a fantastic top stream.

I think you will have problems with London schools who do pre-test in Year 6 (11+) and then give a conditional offer, subject to Common Entrance in June (CE). Such schools are King's College Wimbledon, St.Paul's Boys, Epsom College, etc.

However, there are plenty of schools that just to 11+ and 13+ in January. You would have missed the test day in January, but they potentially might have places if waiting list moves, etc. Schools like this are Alleyn's (co-ed), Eltham College, Trinity, Whitgift, Dulwich College (I think it's not common entrance but not sure). These are South/SW London which is the area I know about. But I think in North London, it's Highgate and Haberdasher's Boys. There is also Caterham (just out of London, in Surrey, great co-ed school). What I would do is write a letter (rather than call), outlining all achievements (sporting and otherwise) and academic track record, get a reference from the Headmaster, scan all the diplomas, etc and either courier to the Headmaster of School in question or scan and e-mail. And THEN follow up with a call. This will let them see for themselves that they are getting an asset that will help their league tables and contribute to school community.

Regarding your daughter, you can look at Woldingham (Surrey, 35 min from London, it's boarding and day). Or what I would do is put her into a prep that goes to 13+. Lots of girls and co-ed preps go to 13+, but some girls and boys leave at 11+, especially in London. So they should have spaces. That way she can get used to UK system and then transfer to a secondary school at 13+. My daughter is at a school like that. We'll go for 11+ academic schools, if she doesn't get in, she'll stay until 13+ and try again.

Schools like that are Broomwood Hall (girls only, my daughter is there), Thomas's (several sites - Clapham, Battersea, Fulham, Kensington), Newton Prep. These are all in SW London as that's the only one I know about but I am sure there are similar schools in other parts of London.

irisha Fri 15-Feb-13 13:34:48

On your point whether a bright Australian 13 year old is not as bright in the Uk system, it's a matter of the curriculum. If they haven't covered something that was tested in your four tests, he can't do it! Unfortunately, they don't test IQ (VR/non VR) at 13+ so if he didn't cover a Maths topic, he wouldn't be able to answer things on a test. Similar for Science and French/Spanish. Normally, for day schools at 13+ Maths, English, Science and Modern Language get tested. So if you get to the point of sitting a test with some more school, makes sense to buy some KS3 textbooks (year 7,8,9) and see what's covered. Or get ISEB revision guides for Common Entrance - it would have all the syllabus covered by prep school students by end of Year 8. Also, look at ISEB scholarship papers - you can buy these from Galore Park.

irisha Fri 15-Feb-13 13:42:10

Yes, Radnor House and Claremont Fan Court could be options and have places - you could always go on a waiting list for the others (for an occasional vacancy), who might even have a place in September! Things do happen - many case of parents getting a call a few weeks before beginning of term or a few weeks INTO the term with offer of a place. The issue of course is that you'd lose deposit and a term's fees if you already accepted somewhere else and move. But I know people who did that.

Otherwise, can do Year 9,10, 11 at second choice school, get some tutoring to get to right standard, get good grades at GCSE and then apply to a better school for 6th form when there is always movement even in top tier schools.

Schmedz Fri 15-Feb-13 19:03:41

You may have more chance at an indie co-ed than separate single sex schools. And probably more chance at a school slightly out of London than in London which is notoriously competitive! Sutton is an area worth considering, there is Sutton High GDST (to be frank, any GDST School is going to be pretty good and probably less expensive than many other indies) and there are great boys grammar schools which may have some occasional places. I believe the choice of state schools in Kent is also great. OFSTED website will give you some idea of the quality of the school, but best to get in touch with the LEA (local education authority...unlike in NSW there is not 'state education department) who can sometimes place your children on a provisional list (and you then have to prove you fulfil residency requirements within about 6-8 weeks...depending on the LEA)

I am a teacher who is originally from Sydney so please PM if you think I could be helpful!

legalalien Fri 15-Feb-13 19:27:57

Yes, try the se london schools as wishi'dbeenatigermum suggests. Dulwich college, st dunstans, and you could also try whitgift in croydon for your ds. Sydenham girls for your dd... Pm me if you want any advice on the dulwich area, i'm a kiwi but dh is a nsw/act aussie and sil and pils are in sydney....

(Disclaimer, i only know about se london schools, sw london is a whole different ball game!)

Ps if you are catholic there are two new independent secondaries due to open in clapham/ croydon later in the year, see

springrain Fri 15-Feb-13 21:11:32

Zita where abouts in London does DH need to get to? It would help with narrowing down areas.

LIZS Fri 15-Feb-13 21:14:31

I think many schools make exceptional arrangements for those applying from abroad so "normal" timetable and CE may well not apply.

sittinginthesun Fri 15-Feb-13 21:19:55

Where will your DH be working? It might be worth moving out of London into commuter land! I'm in Herts and my DH commutes into London. Lots of school around here - our year 6 (state school) has places at the

Pythonesque Fri 15-Feb-13 22:52:16

Regarding school standards, I was at school in Sydney during the 80s and have now been in the UK over 10 years. Unless your son's current school is one of the few independent boys' schools that works well ahead of typical curricula (Sydney Grammar and Knox spring to mind) then my guess - and it's only a guess - is that he is likely to be "behind" common entrance levels in science and languages, though possibly not in maths if it's one of his strengths. I know my daughter (now at a co-ed non-London prep) will be covering some maths topics by the end of this year - year 5 - that I didn't do until year 7. The science teaching both my children are receiving (year 3 and year 5) is way more structured than anything I had prior to year 7 and that has to lead to more detailed work being possible in year 7-8 for 13+ entrance tests.

I hope some of the suggestions above lead to progress in your school search - must be very stressful.

michaelaB Thu 21-Feb-13 20:42:35

Come and have a look at Ashford School in Kent. Easy 35min commute to St Pancras or less to Stratford. Beautiful countryside.

YouBrokeMySmoulder Thu 21-Feb-13 20:50:32

Do you want somewhere that offers fencing as you will probably need a 13+ school. With that level of skill I would phone up a few and throw yourself on their mercy. Places like Epsom that are sporty and not Kings or St Pauls level of academic may find you a day place. Then you can send dd to Sutton or Surbiton High and try to get her into the same school at 13.

I really dont think occasional places come up that frequently at the superselective 11+ schools and they would be quite hard to adjust to as well I think.

trinity0097 Thu 21-Feb-13 20:57:07

From my experience teaching Australian primary aged children is that they are often a year behind their UK counterparts, to some extent due to the different start date of the academic year in Australia.

If your husband is willing to have a longer commute then consider schools a bit further out in Surrey, e.g. I work in a prep school which would accept your daughter on the surrey/hants border, there are loads of prep schools within a few miles radius all of which I imagine would have a space for a new entrant and there are a number of senior schools that would take your son that would accept the lower tier CE papers if your son wasn't ready for the normal tiers of entry e.g. Cranleigh.

Lizzzar Tue 07-May-13 09:47:15

I'm sorry you are having trouble. The UK private system sometimes
can be quite hard to get into, even with bright children, if you are not already registered in advance, and this could be the problem here. I would
be persistent, as places do come up, but it is generally easier to find a place at the last minute with an international school, as they realize people can be transferred without much warning. If you are considering the IB, TASIS in Surrey has a good reputation, and there is also Southbank School, although I don't know that much about it. Sevenoaks also does the
IB, although it could be overscribed. Marymount International might be another possibility, although quite strongly Catholic. There is also The American School, although it is American curriculum only, not IB, so may not be for you. Several state schools have also started the IB, although I think more in the suburbs than central London. It might be worth enquiring. Good luck and I hope it all works out.

michaelrB Tue 07-May-13 17:57:20

Come have a look at Ashford School for both children. Just 35min from London and even closer to Canary Wharf. Some Aussies have just joined and the school is run by an Aussie.

almapudden Tue 07-May-13 19:31:36

There's a new private school opening in SW London, Kew House, which might be worth investigating.

Don't go near Portland Place. It's where the very un-academic and those with behavioural issues that mean no other day school will touch them, end up.

lljkk Wed 08-May-13 21:35:50

fwiw, you wouldn't have any trouble getting into private school out here in the sticks. Not yr9, anyway.

Xenia Wed 08-May-13 21:55:33

You just need to go a bit further out and go further down the league tables in terms of how good the school is. Every areea of London has schools very very hard to get into like St Paul's and perhaps Haberdashers boys and girls and North London C where mine went and then there are some easier to get a place and those private schools which will take almost anyone as long as they can pay.
May be live in St Albans (very quick commute to London) on very fast trains and there will be lots of private schools near there the children may get into. My boys did common entrance last year - the schools spend a lot of time preparing them for it so it is no reflection on your son if he has not been prepared. Pity you did not have 2 years of notice of the move so you could have got the children ready for English schools.

Kitchencupboards Thu 09-May-13 11:03:28

If you are open to North London try Aldenham in Elstree for your boy and girl. You should get a year 6 place for your girl and it is likely that they may accommodate your boy. Not the most academic school but does well up to GCSE, you might want somewhere else for 6th form but there is much more choice as people move then but it has amazing facilities and is a very strong sports school. Also try Mill Hill school, not Mill Hill county, that is a different school. The prep of Mill Hill is Belmont and if they can't take your DD There are several more state and private schools which should take her for a year.

Lizzzar Fri 10-May-13 13:28:52

Some of the things you say are quite strange, Xenia. My brother and I
went to Westminster School , a school which is usually considered quite
hard to get into, but are far from being brilliantly academic. Still it is a excellent school, if perhaps better for the relatively bright, which has some support for dyslexia as well as for children who find academics no problem, as well as lots of art, drama and music. Probably overscribed, although I think they do accept applications for bursaries reasonably close to the deadline, and certainly some boys coming into the Under School at 11 from state schools are not in the system for pre-registration. Bursary and scholarship exams are certainly competitive though, and it is sometimes possible for intelligent children to underperform if they haven't been specifically prepared - particularly at 13. Xenia is correct in saying that entry at 13 to well known UK private schools is based on Common Entrance, and their may be differences from the syllabus in Australia. Many international schools may not be so overscribed, do to the turnover of an international population, but still have strong academics and good results for University entrance. Schools can be perfectly good schools and not hugely overscribed.

Xenia Fri 10-May-13 13:32:55

Westminster is just about the hardest school in England to get into and is first for A levels Habs, North London, MTS which I know because my children were there are a bit easier but still tricky, often top 10/20. They you roll down from there. Mill hill someone mentioned - easier to get into. Aldenham where people often go if they couldn't get anywhere else and about 700th in school league tables although that doe snot mean those schools are not good for the children who go there.

We were told this was a boy who had not passed exams for London schools presumably St Paul's Westminster etc. He might be in the Dulwich College level or below that are plenty more.

I do not agree that in London schools are very good if they take all comers and no one much wants to get there. I think that is a good indicator that they are not so good just as in the state system.

Lizzzar Fri 10-May-13 16:00:43

I think we may have to agree to disagree on some things, Xenia. If you
want a hugely academic school, selection does contribute - but there are some pretty good comprehensives and middling grammars; it can't be the only thing that makes a school good. The situation isn't totally different in private schools - Westminster is selective, but I don't think it would do as well as it does without good teachers and a good general ethos as well. School should be about more than just exams - though for extras and activities I suppose the fees at Westminster do help.

I've just been on the Sevenoaks website and they do have an alternative to Common Entrance for 13+, which they say is non syllabus specific - just general maths, English and some reasoning.This must be because it is not unusual to have potential pupils who have not been specifically prepared for CE. If it is too late this year, perhaps it could be considered for next year, if another school doesn't work out. Good luck again.

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