Considering move to East Kent but unsure how I feel about the selective school system(100 Posts)
We are lucky enough to be in a position to choose where we move to next (we are currently living in Scotland) although the decision is proving a little daunting. Top of my list of potential locations is Canterbury, Kent, although one major sticking point is the grammar school system they have there. My partner and I were both educated at state comprehensives and I confess to knowing very little about how the grammar school system works. Our kids are only 6 and 2, so this might seem a little premature, but we want to get this move right and feel very ill-informed right now. My main concerns are 1) if the kids were to get in to the local grammar school, would the school be very 'results' driven (ie focusing on academic subjects rather than giving the kids a more 'well-rounded' education, and 2) do the non-selective schools suffer as a result of being in an area where there are several selective state schools? Any advice people could give me on this would be much appreciated. Thank you.
Jeannie, I don't know Kent, but have been considering the same issues about academic schools. TBH, I wouldn't worry. Being in an academic environment doesn't in any way need to be at the expense of a rich life elsewhere. They just spend less time faffing around, and covering ground that bright children grasped weeks ago. As parents, we can make sure our children have lots of fun and variety outside school. What we can't do is govern how well-focused their school day is, except by choosing schools carefully.
I live in west Kent and went to grammar, there was definitely a social divide between my friends at year 7. The grammar was quite pressured but I was happy there. Fast forward 20 years and my younger sister in law is now at grammar and is under a lot of pressure to perform and take gcses early etc. if she gets lower than an a in an assignment then she is made to go to lunchtime lessons until she catches up. They are extremely focused on ffp targets and results. However, she is a bright girl and will come out with good results and get into a good uni I'm sure. She has given up almost all her hobbies to concentrate on school but seems happy.
With regards to targets and results, I think all schools are under huge pressure right now so it may not be a grammar thing as such. I'm a year 6 teacher and I find it sad that even at that age we have to have such ridiculously high expectations.
Thanks for your comments. One of our other options (for a place to move to) is another part of the country where there is just one state comprehensive in the (much smaller) town, which got me thinking about the differences between the two systems. I like the sound of Canterbury in many ways, but I don't really like the idea of my kids having to sit a test at age 11 to determine where they go to school next. I realise that I don't have to make them do the test if I don't think it's right for them, but I feel unsure about the idea of sending them to a non-selective school in a selective area. Does anyone have any experience of this?
Speaking as someone with a child in y5 (and some younger ones too) the selective system is particularly noticeable in this area.
if your child passes then all well and good. If not then the choice of schools is dreadful...not just me being a snob, they really are and it's common knowledge.
IME the grammars are very very good and not overtly pushy - a bit, of course, but there is well rounded stuff going down as well. Loads of art, music, sport.
the non selective schools are almost universally rough as heck. There's one or two with religious access (and for children not of any faith) but even these are far from great.
HTH a bit.
I can recommend you some of the better primaries if that would help too - PM me if you want
oh and the aforementioned is one reason I think ds will be taking the test - because basically if he doesn't, he's relegated to a very poor choice indeed. He may well not pass but it's got to be worth a try though I hate the test system.
When I took it, many years ago there was an instant divide in our class - resentment and guilt and sadness from all quarters. It's a very bad thing imo.
I think on 1) there are enough grammars that you could find one that suits you, but 2) is very definitely an issue.
I would avoid it-only 3% of the country have grammar schools, which leaves a choice of 97%.
Good luck - I think Outsideoverthere summed up the dilemma although I don't live there. As far as I can see one-third of the schools get great results because they are grammars, the other two thirds are below national average on every measure. Although one comprehensive seems to get good Ebacc passes compared to the average. I was talking to a friend who told me that there are comprehensives in Kent which only take children who haven't taken the 11plus so check that out too you may not have a fallback if that is still the case.
Thanks a lot everyone. This confirms my nagging doubts about the school system. My kids are too young for me to know if they are bright enough to get into a grammar school and I don't want them to be relegated to worse-than-average schooling if they don't get into the selective schools. The area sounds great in many other ways (I was born in Canterbury but left when I was a baby so don't know it, but have done a lot of research) but the education question is enough to put us off from moving there. I guess I was hoping that someone might say yes, the grammars are great, but there are some fab non-selective schools too (which concentrate on other things than academic ability, music, sport, art, vocational subjects etc). If that is not the case, then I think moving there might be too big a risk to take.
if you do not have to move to kent, save yourself the stress
Being bright isn't enough - the bright have tutors- it is highly competitive. How would you feel if one passed and the other didn't?
Canterbury is a fantastic place to live, but you are right- the selective system is a disaster. The boy's grammar is changing to become a super-selective too, so will become even harder to get into. Happy to be ruthlessly frank about secondary schools in Canterbury and surrounding towns if you want! Feel free to PM me any question.
Canterbury has some fab non selective schools .....
Yes the High Schools (not comps, you don't get comps in a selective area) have much much lower results but that's mainly because you have the special educational needs children obviously gaining less and lower qualifications. However, you have the mid and top level ability there too who gain average and very good results.
Every area, selective or not, has schools you wouldn't like, with poor results, usually geographically located in lower income areas.
The good thing about selective is that the bright kids in poor areas DO get a chance of a good education.
My DD's friends (grammar) vary from wealthy to very very low income, with the majority average income and below.
I think people don't get it when they don't live in grammar areas. It's just how it is if you were born and bred here!!
FYI, some of the most financially successful adults I know who grew up round here, did NOT go to grammar.
I'm not keen on Grammar schools for the reasons already given. If you want to keep your options open you could look at somewhere with good comprehensives like Hertfordshire, parts of Hertfordshire are close to the Buckinghamshire border and lots of children take the 11+. If they fail to get in they still have a good comprehensive to fall back on.
This is the thing that riles me most of all - of course the bright kids in poor area deserve the chance of a good education - but so do all the rest!!! It is very much 'if you are bright you deserve a chance and leg up, but if you are not bright you must know your place and stay there'!!! I don't think it would go down well with middle class parents of a less bright child in a good area to be told ' we don't need to bother much with your child'.
There are some very good non grammar schools in kent, but they can be as hard to get in as the grammar schools as they can require regular church attendance.
I have children at both grammar and non grammar schools and they both suit the differing needs of the children. Both are very rounded schools and my non academic child wouldn't thrive in the grammar. Non selective schools often run a ' grammar stream' where the more able are pushed and will often achieve very good grades. Passing the 11+ is not the most important thing, finding the right school for your child is.
The one I noticed with good Ebacc results requires church attendance. The other non-selectives/moderns get results below national average for middle and high attainers, apart from one small academy - but it may not be able to provide the full range of Ebacc subjects as well as BTECs and other equivalents for the rest average number of GCSEs is 3-4 or 5 for the brightest).
I hate the grammar school system and I'm in Kent. Friend is in Canterbury and has just appealed and moved her dc (not year 7) from non selec to grammar - tells you something?
One dc at a grammar - extremely pushy. One dc about to sit test as likelihood of getting non -selec secondary i like very slim.
I loathe the grammar school system, the additional costs of tuition some people incur, the conversations between the children, and the mainly 'posh' demographic at the current grammar - huge country houses with pools/ horses for lots of dc's friends.
Do appeals ever work? The league tables give a lot of information and in couple of the grammars there are at least 20 in each who must only have gained level 4 in their primary SATs. Meanwhile there is a similar number who gained Level 5 and went to the comprehensives. Is that out of choice or is all of the primary assessment completely discounted by the grammars? The government takes its SATs seriously enough to force a takeover by academy chain.
Appeals do occasionally work. But grammar school entry is based on the 11+ only-so there will be kids at grammar schools who got not brilliant SATs but passed the test. Not many of them though!
I grew up in Kent, went to a grammar school and it was a thoroughly fab experience. Would not have wanted to stay in the comp that I went to before the 13+ (all 11+ here now I think tho). However, there are good fully comp schools here that are fantastic.
But!!! We used to live in Scotland and now live back in Kent. Still wish we lived in Scotland though. Think s.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y about what on earth you want to move to this overcrowded, underfunded NHS, stressy, expensive place for??? The weather, maybe, but please realise how lucky you are where you are. The kids will have a much better life in the fresh air and outdoor life of Scotland.
I have friends who got into grammar on appeal, but i think the school needs to have places for it to be successful. Depending on where you are in the county, not many have places.
Some of the non selective schools run a lot of vocational courses which I think are great as it gives more options.
You have to understand that with appeals there might be a lot of people appealing for only a couple of places. However good your appeal, it won't get anywhere if there are no places.
But you can apply to move in year 8 for example, I know that our grammar has a procedure for people from secondary moderns to apply.
I think it's great that there are some vocational courses, but some children may prefer certain academic subjects yet don't have that opportunity if their school has limited resources or teaching time. Even for supporters of grammars there seems to be such a big margin of error - 10-15% or 50 'average' children are getting into three grammars, while 150 'high attainers' are divided among six other schools as far as I can see. That"s even if you think children develop at the same rate and can be sorted by 11 into different schools offering different courses at 16.
or just choose a county without selective schools - there are lots
Nearly all the good schools in Kent are over subscribed, not just the grammars.
All the grammars I'm aware of have an excellent offer in terms of arts, sport and other complementary things to academic study, however, their resources are of course much more restricted than the independent sector (I mention that as it's hard not to be aware of the contrast somewhere like Kent). Having said that, some academies/comps/high schools here have had significant investment in their buildings.
About 25% of the whole secondary population go to grammars in Kent so given that you're thinking this over carefully so far ahead, I would have thought your DCs would have as good as chance as anyone of getting in, if that's what you want.
Personally, I think the 11+ is fairer than selection by money, house price or religious belief even if the system is a historical anachronism, but I agree with the poster above that it basically comes down to too many people chasing resources in the SE.
Are there 33 grammars in Kent? To be honest I'm not impressed by the standard if they are taking the top 25%. I'm looking at 'average point score (best 8 GCSEs)' and 'average grade per qualification' and some of the comprehensives in my London borough beat their median score on these measures. Or is it just that some of the grammars on the coast are particularly bad? One of them has an average GCSE grade of C+ for those who would have achieved Level 5 SATs. Something is wrong there.
Kent, Lincolnshire and Buckinghamshire are the only full grammar counties.
much of the rest of the country does just fine without them
I'm not sure why OP would want to put themselves and their kids through that stress
(only on MN is the level of tutoring and pressure deemed acceptable / normal)
Are you sure, muinlondon? Which one is that?
I can believe it - the top Hampshire comps beat the vast majority of Kent Grammars - year after year
Absolutely I can believe that- one of the points I keep making is that a comprehensive school will often get comparable or even better results than the combined results of a grammar and secondary modern with a similar catchment.
But I am at a selective school getting lots of Cs at GcSE.......
I'd have to trawl back through data sets, but yes, there was one.
In the year that Gove bounced the Ebacc onto schools, he expected grammars to come out glowing and there was one that holed the idea below the waterline ....
Mind you, dd's school doesn't do very well at the EBacc- they only do 9 or 10 GCSEs, and loads of them do RE because the department is fantastic, the teachers inspiring and
they hand out chocolate
99% a*-c, though, with practically no Cs. So it depends on the measure,
seeker, it was Dover Boys' (I just hd a trawl through the datasets myself)
Yup, that rings a bell : I lived in Dover for a while. Says more about Dover than the GS system though!
much as it galls me to say that ;-)
25% of the Dover intake does not equal some selective by house price comps.
and Dover is the back end of the back end of a grammar county.
When I lived there, the bright kids were on the train to the Canterbury schools
whereas if they got rid of the age 11 split (the Marsh Academy anybody ...) more kids would stay at school in their home areas, the fee payers would do less business and every child would have a better chance
in fact since the viagra money left its probably got worse round there!
But half the Kent grammars have B+ or below as the average grade qualifications taken by high attainers. If the vast majority have got in on ability, they should be at the top end Level 5/6 so you'd expect mostly A*/As and just a few dropping to Bs (which would probably come out as A- in the table). Most people supporting grammar schools say it gives a chance to poor working class bright (boys) by putting them into the same peer group - so maybe even that is not true then?
Kent is an odd case - look at the shape of it.
The most competitive areas are West and North West Kent.
East Kent (everything east of Stone street - the Roman road that runs down from Canterbury) has a total population of less than 300,000
- has DIRE communications with the rest of the country
- has incredibly high pockets of unemployment
- especially the old mining villages like Betteshanger,
- or Thanet - where all of the London boroughs locate their childrens' homes
and Romney Marsh
rather different from Maidstone, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells which is what MN and Whitehall people think of when you say 'Kent'
but the local politicians kids do well out of the system so nothing will change
And whatever else the intake of grammar schools is, it is not bright disadvantaged children. Have a look at the FSM numbers.
And whatever else the intake of grammar schools is, it is not bright disadvantaged children. Have a look at the FSM numbers.
FSM can be a bit of a red herring as far as indicators of "disadvantage" etc.
I know several people who send DC's to superselectives and have had £30K plus incomes, were well-educated and were supportive of their childrens' education too. All of a sudden, they found themselves in the dole queue long enough to qualify for FSM. They still live in their own homes, still support their kids and are still middle-class in outlook - they're only disadvantaged on one level, ie income. So FSM doesn't necessarily mean children from financially poor, "working class" households, rented accommodation and unsupportive parents But then we all know that, don't we?
Who is to say that we won't be seeing FSM climb in GS due to more and more redundancies in the £30K plus employment areas? As an aside, an adult careers adviser told me the other day that they were seeing more and more "executive" types week-on-week.....
FSM is, however an EXCELLENT indicator of general demographics and unless a school is in an incredibly affluent area, its demographics should reflect those of the area.
Kent Grammars patently fail on this - the Sec Mods have high FSM and the Grammars low - from the same towns
showing that Grammar school has a lot more to do with sharp elbows than it does academic ability
..showing that Grammar school has a lot more to do with sharp elbows than it does academic ability
Blimey, that's a statement and a half - I'd love to see your evidence to prove your case That's kinda dismissed many of the childrens' achivements, too, especially those without sharp-elbowed parents.
Anyway, I'm "g'off", as they say in certain parts - real life beckons
the stats speak for themselves
- demographic mix in grammar schools does NOT reflect their areas
and in superselectives its even more so
the kids who get in are indeed bright, but many bright kids do not get in because they do not have access to tutors
or have unmotivated parents
or have parents who cannot consider the cross London commutes to super selectives financially or time wise
Poodle chops- grammar schools typically have 2-3 % FSM- high schools 17-20%.
In Dover, to take a specific example, the grammar schools are 9%-12% FSM. The regular comps/secondary moderns are 24-35% FSM. The two special schools are 85-92% FSM. The Duke of York's (which is comprehensive but a state boarding school) is only 1% FSM.
Or in Canterbury the grammar schools are 4%-7% FSM, the religiously affiliated comps are 8-10% FSM, and the other comps are 22-36% FSM. The two special schools have 29% FSM and 79% FSM (interesting that there's such a discrepancy between those two; not sure what the reason is).
And as a benchmark, before you get to selective schools,
Adisham primary has 13.6 FSM,
St Marys primary Dover has 29.2% FSM,
Canterbury Primary school has 52% FSM
as parental wealth SHOULD have no bearing on a child's academic potential - OK lets be honest and make it 10%
the grammar school FSM should be within 10% of the local area ....
but its not.
Move to another county
Talkinpeace, just had a look at primaries in Canterbury and realised why I couldn't live there because there would be dilemmas at every stage. It's a bit overwhelming that two-thirds of the primaries are church schools. I wouldn't even consider myself an atheist - just a bit agnostic with no experience of church schools - but I don't go to church and my expectation is for community (non-faith) schools to be the norm. Where I live the majority of children at Catholic primaries go on to Catholic secondaries even if they have to travel. But the Catholic secondaries in Canterbury don't seem to reflect the attainment in primary schools. Do they all try for grammars?
Oh free school meals. well Canterbury Primary is right out on a very poor estate. I'd expect numbers there to be high.
CPS (used to be Beauherne), Parkside, Pilgrims Way are all on poor estates. St Thomas is the only Catholic primary school and thus takes a wide demographic - it's also next to a very poor area in town but all sorts of people send their children there because it's Catholic. (I wouldn't - I went there myself)
there are several schools with much lower FSM I'd imagine than those.
Re the two special schools I don't know the reason for the discrepancy.
Dover is poor - it's a port so has loads and loads of immigrants. It also has its wealthier areas like anywhere.
My DD's grammar has 4% fsm, interesting
Muminlomdon- practically all higher ability take the 11+ and go to grammar schools if they pass, regardless of faith. I have only known a couple of families whose desire for a faith secondary over ruled the desire for a grammar school place.
I concur to a degree but having been to a Catholic primary, there were a fair few families who didn't want their children to take the 11 plus and sent them to the Catholic secondary regardless of ability. Lots of my friends who were pretty smart went there. They just didn't sit the test.
I think you might find that things have changed- particularly now there is less insistence on Catholics education their children in catholic schools. Still applies to some, of course, but I doubt if it's many.
I should add that there isn't currently a 'good' non selective in Canterbury to my knowledge.
There are two that require church attendance - one Catholic, one C of E - and both are regarded as 'Ok' by some parents (better than the other two options - couldn't be worse frankly) and some parents quite like them, but from what I have heard from friends with children there, it's not great.
ie out of control classes, blatant rudeness to teachers, no sense of discipline and can't be bothered attitude by the HT.
One is trying for a scholarship to a paid school. Lots of people do start the church attendance palaver just to get their kids into the C of E, I know that - I wouldn't, I can't be that disingenuous! My folks are thinking of paying if we can get ds1 into the private school - I hate the private education system but at present it's looking like that or HE because I won't send him to the schools in question.
One of the selectives (single sex) has just upped it requirements re 11 plus marks - to limit subscription, it is so popular - the other sometimes takes kids who are borderline 'passes' if it has space so that's another option if he takes the test.
The new academy looks as if it might have something to offer? No?
Saying that, the local comp is only 13% fsm
I haven't heard anything about it. If you have info please tell!
Ifyou mean Canterbury Academy that's just a rebranding. That's one of the two worst. Spires academy is out in a village and is appalling.
OutsideOverThere, I wonder if I know/knew you... How old are you, if it's not an indelicate question?
I know it's a rebranding- just thinking that the new start and lots of money might make a big difference. Decent enough results this year for a challenging catchment, surely. Agree about the other.
Tolliver I'm 39
Seeker - I wouldn't send a child there - however much money they pour into it, the atmosphere and the behaviour remain the same afaik.
The children you see coming out of that place at home time kind of say it all - swearing and gesturing, bullying each other, crossing roads without looking and fingers up to the drivers.
It's so not good. Yes they have excellent facilities particularly sport but that's not everything. JMO.
I'd probably have been a year or two ahead of you on the same primary-secondary route, then...
Oh cool! Are you my sister? <excited to possibly know a MNer>
did you go to slgs?
And seeker looks to be right about the intake for St A's -- if you look at the percentage of high achievers on intake (which I think is down to KS2 SATS results) you get
St A's 14%
Canterbury Academy 11%
St N's 0%
so it's right in the middle of the regular non-selectives. There was a period (after my time and I think probably after yours) when St A's wouldn't consider anyone who'd even sat the Kent Test (as they wanted to be chosen for their Catholic ethos rather than be a back-up option for parents who weren't that bothered about Catholic ethos if they could get into a grammar) but I don't know how long it lasted.
Yes, I was at SLGS 82-89. But probably not your sister unless you are lying about your age, because mine is only 30 (and didn't go to St T's, now I come to think of it, so I'm not your sister unless you are lying about your age and where you went to school).
Ha. I might be but I'm not.
I went there from 85, so you'd have been a fourth year when I started. It's funny to think that we talk to each other as equals now, when in those days I'd have been terrified of you!
Is "high achiever" all level 5s?
I don't know, although that sounds likely. It's probably in the notes somewhere, but there are a lot of notes...
I know! I've tried to find out before and given up......
'high attainers' are those who gained above Level 4 according to this:
So must be Level 5 both for English and Maths. The national average is roughly 33% 'high', 49% 'middle' and 18% 'low' - which is what you'd get at an average comprehensive. If Kent grammars only take the top 25% some of those high attainers would need to go elsewhere. But 'middle' is a really wide group - could include brilliant linguists but bad at maths or fantastic maths/engineers behind in writing skills. Whether it's SATs or 11plus, sorting children at that age is just too crude/cruel in my view.
Actually, you might have been in the same class as one of my brothers at St T's <counts on fingers> although maybe the year above him as he's not 39 until December. And my other brother achieved school-wide notoriety, although that may have been the year after you left.
I am so going to have to NC again now...
Muminlondon- you then end up with high schools with figures like 36% low, 57% middle and 8% high, which is such an unbalanced cohort. Just as unbalanced as the 95% high achievers. It really is a rubbish system!
Sorry, I mean
17% low attainers (Kent = 20.1%)
50% middle attainers (Kent = 46.4%)
33% high attainers (Kent = 33.4%)
25.3% disadvantaged (Kent = 18.5%)
12.5% English not first language (Kent = 5.6%)
That's really interesting - there's a bigger divide between high/low than in the national picture - I wonder if some children just stop trying if they think they won't get to grammar school? The pupil premium isn't going to help them here ...
Also the schools have dual objectives of getting good SATS results and getting good Kent Test results (because parents will be looking at those) so possibly will end up focusing more on the top end of the class (I'm sure most teachers are good and won't do that, but if a few of them do then that could skew the figures).
Also Kent is one of the very few counties with more kids at private primary than secondary - because parents who can afford to send their kids to prep schools to get them into the grammars
again using the grammar system to reduce social mobility rather than increase it .
It's where private and selective mean virtually the same thing then - when people defend the private sector as being vastly superior they are talking about 200 or so ex-direct grant selective schools, while there are hundreds more private secondaries on their coat tails which do not necessarily produce good results. We can't know prior attainment or figures because they don't publish them. But independents in Kent must get the 'middle' intake.
Too right they get the middle intake - DH has worked at several
and the sad thing is that the exceptionally bright kids of unmotivated parents have not got a hope in hell in a non comp area.
Round here the kids arrive at the school and can be moved up the sets to reach their potential ...
There's a private primary in Canterbury whose main selling point is a near perfect 11+ pass rate.
Medway takes 10% on appeal/review. Some grammars are OK (dd is at one for good pastoral support) - non-selective 'comprehensives' are not great - behaviour & bullying poor. Some Kent academy comps are in special measures etc, same in Medway
PS Special schools will always have very high FSM
because disabled children are a HUGE drain on family resources, often prevent one parent from working and where the cause of the SEN is environmental, the parents may well have difficulties themselves.
variations in FSM between special schools can probably track back to the specialism of the school reflecting the demographic of the parents it covers (wheelchairs vs behavioural)
I think OP must have been put right off the city by now....
if OP still thinking about coming then she could do a lot worse than putting her DC in one of the very good primaries (not sure of the current top of the pile, but assume Blean, Bridge, Selling, St Peters still v good?) whilst at same time attending CoE church. Churchgoing in many of the villages round here still seen as far more of a social commitment than a religious one, and church is a brilliant way of integrating into a new area if you have no previous links. In our local village church I estimate that only around a third of churchgoers are 'properly religious', most of the rest go because is expected of them, because they want to support the vicar (tedious as the sermons are) and because it opens up a really nice social scene that crosses all the usual class divides.
Archbishops is then a pretty good (but presumably oversubscribed) fallback option if the kids dont make it to grammar. If OP reasonably wealthy there is of course one very unsnobby private option for secondary (which is well used to bringing in the previously state educated kids who didn't quite make it into grammar). Of course if the kids pass Kent test (which is far more onerous and stressful for the parents than the children) then options are great and schools are very rounded in what they offer (lots of sport and art and drama etc and not just hot houses).
It's a shame the school system here is sooooooo very crap (and even worse to the east of Canterbury), because other than this I would say that Canterbury is a very civilised part of the world to raise your kids in. Sailing, horse riding, woodland everywhere, not far from london. its a nice part of the country.
Does it have to be Canterbury? How about further south - the Folkestone area grammars don't tend to be as competitive - a few years ago, they were about a third full of children who hadn't even passed the test but got in on appeal.
Folkestone has some nice facilities, eg the adventure park near the beach, the Triennale art fest etc.
dd's primary school gets crap Ofsted because it is very good with SEN - hence
low SATS results. But individual children do really well, eg dd So don't base your decision on SATS/Ofsted
I went to one of the grammar schools in Canterbury and was incredibly unhappy. It really wasn't a good fit for me and because I was 'average' with hindsight myself and a group of friends were definitely allowed to drift (as not Oxbridge material and not needing any special help) and my GCSEs were really good but A-levels were mediocre.
I don't really want to name the school but my experience is that there can be definite complacency amongst the grammar schools in this area because of the 'system.'
But as others have said such a nice area!
Thanks everyone for their input. Canterbury is still on my list of possible places to move, but the education issue is a big one for us and we want to get it right. No, GreenShadow, it doesn't have to be Canterbury - it just happened to fit most of the rather long (and probably impossible) list of things we are looking for - I will look into Folkestone, thanks for the suggestion. We are very open to suggestions of other nice places to live. DP is currently in Southwell, Notts, checking it out and we have also looked at Brockenhurst, Hampshire and Ross on Wye, Herefordshire. I'm currently researching Chippenham, Wiltshire. Quite a varied list! It's a tricky decision trying to decide where to move to when you have potentially the whole country at your disposal, well the southern half anyway. We are currently in Scotland and it's lovely but just too cold up here!
We made the move you are contemplating to East Kent a few years ago. We had been in a bad part of London until then and our academically able oldest DC was completely neglected by his primary there. So we unashamedly sought out a grammar area for him and younger sibling, among other factors.
I wouldn't worry about the "pressure" aspect. At DC's school, there's definitely a culture of working hard and taking results seriously, but that's all tied up with a culture of enjoying learning and taking knowledge seriously. I can't speak for every kid, or every school, but certainly he is happy there because he can indulge his geeky side to the max without worry about peer pressure or disruption by others. You can't have it both ways - if you have a kid with that kind of personality who will thrive in that kind of environment, then there's going to be some sense of pressure involved.
As for your second question, I think there is definitely a concern. There are some pretty bad high schools here. But then there are some pretty bad comprehensives in many areas of the country. There are also some that people seem to be really happy with, from what I hear around.
I think if you moved to a nice upper middle class area with comprehensives, you'd be better placed to avoid the risk of bad schools, and if your DC are academically minded they'll probably do pretty much as well as they would in a grammar anyway. The problem with that, however, is that you'd have to pay much higher property prices than in East Kent. The area is unusual in combining extremely high bang for buck property-wise with extremely good schools IF you can get into them!
Ummm hopefully there's no one from Folkestone here ...... I work there, some bits are dead dead rough. I'd look at the villages round.
Hawkinge, Lyminge, Lympne, Saltwood, or go more coastal toward Dymchurch, Ham Street, places like that.
What's on your long and impossible list, OP?
Sorry for delay in replying - have had my head stuck in Ordnance Survey maps and rightmove for far too long, ugh. Tolliver, list of things we are hoping to find (some of) in our location quest are (in no particular order)
- prospect of reasonable jobs close by (although we've both been self-employed in the past so this could be an option for us again). So if it's a small town, there would need to be a larger town within easy striking distance (ideally accessible by bus/train)
- good state schools within walking distance (kids are 6 and 2) so primary age, but also looking ahead to secondary, although I realise a lot can change in the intervening years.
- good fishing river for DP nearby (not fly fishing he informs me, which has cut out lots of lovely sounding towns in Hampshire)- I guess within 5 miles.
- easy access to the countryside for us all (for walking, cycling and generally letting the kids loose). I'd ideally like woods, but in our search we've realised how few places in England actually have woods next to a town.
- nice climate (currently live near St Andrews which is a fabulous town and I would stay here if it wasn't so darned cold most of the year!)
- reasonable range of shops that are walk/cycle-able to. So we're looking to live on the edge of a town somewhere but would ideally want to be within a mile or so of the centre of town (which cuts out the larger towns).
It's quite a hit-list, I know and I realise we will have to compromise on some things. As well as Canterbury, we are currently considering Ross on Wye, which seems lovely but has limited employment opportunities and DP really liked Southwell in Notts after a recent visit there and wants me to go there and check it out too. Chippenham, Wiltshire sounded perfect for us, until we read about plans to expand it further with huge housing estates and a possible ringroad round the other side of it, which has pretty much ruled it out for us as it would make the countryside/town balance hard to achieve without using a car, which we are keen to avoid. So there you go! We've been hunting for somewhere for nearly a year now and will probably have to move in the summer so it will need to be decision time soon. I've been interested to read older threads on MN from people who've had to make similar decisions re moving. Any other advice or opinions gratefully received.
Funnily enough Ringwood was the first place we looked at - we went on a trip there last Easter. We really liked the town and loved the New Forest on the doorstep, but that dual carriageway going through the town . I'm not sure if I'd get used to the noise from that. And the pollution too I suppose. A big shame, as we thought we'd found the perfect place when we first read about it. We reconsidered it recently, having trawled through a lot of other places since then, but that road still came up as a big thorn in its side.
Yup the road is a pig. They will put a speed limit on it after the latest incident.
BUT you do not need to live near it : back edge of Poulner for example ...
What about Fordingbridge ?
Or Ferndown / West Moors
or even New Milton : inland side
Thanks for the suggestions Talkinpeace. We looked at Fordingbridge but decided you'd be too reliant on the car there and the roads seemed very busy (this might be because we've become too used to Scottish roads). We didn't visit Ferndown or West Moors. Is there much of a centre (shops, leisure centre etc) in either of those, or are they mainly residential? I remember visiting Verwood and ruling it out because it hardly had any facilities, although the houses and gardens were nice round there. Yes, we probably do need to think again about the Poulner area. We had a good walk round there when we visited Ringwood. I remember the schools were good. Is it walkable into town from there, do you know, and what would the walk be like? New Milton I don't know anything about - I will go and research it now. Thanks!
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