Recommended mixed private North Devon Schools for ages 3-18

(87 Posts)
Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 15:44:40

Afternoon, we are thinking of moving down to North Devon and need a mixed school for our son who will be in Reception in September 2014 and our daughter who goes into Year 1 this September. Ideally we would like to be as close to the coast as possible, we have stayed in Woolacombe, but are not sure how practical that would be.
Thanks in advance.

Talkinpeace Sun 04-Aug-13 17:29:28

why private?

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 17:37:12

They are already in private and I would like them to be able to continue to access the same level of curriculum and extra-curricular activities. I would be open to other options, but I am using this as a starting point.

Talkinpeace Sun 04-Aug-13 17:42:34

I think you need to read up a bit more about North Devon compared with where you are moving from
State schools do rather amazing things where they get most of the pupils

jojane Sun 04-Aug-13 17:44:42

There are a few private schools in bideford (I went to edge hill college which merged and is now kingsley school. There were only a few boys in my year as only had recently become co-ed but we are talking ahem 15 years some time ago now so will be pretty mixed by now.
Woolacombe is probably about 45 minutes away but there were some that commuted that far and I think there was a school bus.

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 17:45:28

I will of course, I just know they are thriving and are loving all of the opportunities they have, as I did having benefitted from a private education.

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 17:49:54

Thanks jojane, I spotted that one, and as much as I love Woolacombe I would like to be able to take them to school, primary at least so maybe Westward Ho will be an option for a home? I want them to be able to stay in the same school all the way through.

Sleepyhoglet Sun 04-Aug-13 17:53:29

Taunton Prep may be a bit far, but it is an excellent school. Please do have a look at their website.

Sleepyhoglet Sun 04-Aug-13 17:54:03

Maybe Blundells?

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 17:54:34

Thank you sleepyhoglet I will

jojane Sun 04-Aug-13 18:19:59

I was a boarder so don't really know too much about where's best to live around bideford, Dhs family all live wollacombe and ilfracombe so lots of info on that area! Westward ho is very beachy but my only experience of there is a drunken 18th birthday weekend staying an a chalet!

MrsGSR Sun 04-Aug-13 18:30:21

I grew up in Westward Ho! and loved it. The beach is great for kids. My friend sent her son to Kingsley and was really happy with the school.

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 18:47:49

MrsGSR how does Westward Ho take to non locals moving into the area?

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 18:50:08

jojane we fell in love with Woolacombe but it may be a little far from Kingsley and I don't really want the smalls on a bus at Primary age, won't stop us from going a lot though smile

jojane Sun 04-Aug-13 19:13:51

It's gorgeous in the summer but a bit bleak in the winter when everything's closed down. Everytime we visit we mull over moving down there but jo wise there is nothing in DHs field.

Talkinpeace Sun 04-Aug-13 19:48:57

Agree : Woolacombe is wonderful in July
but in January with the wind whipping in and only three shops open that month and hardly any pubs or eateries open
its a tad desolate
Mortehoe shuts down in November as does Croyde

I could never live there as I could not make a decent living year round

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 19:50:53

That is one of the things that worries me, but I just need to work out if we can cope with it all being so quiet.

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 19:55:38

What about Westward Ho? Is that any better?

Sleepyhoglet Sun 04-Aug-13 19:55:44

Look into exmoor. The countryside is rugged and beautiful but you don't need to be too far from Taunton (easy train away frombristol) or Exeter. Also, Taunton and Wellington have lots of excellent schools. Kings, Queens, Blundells, Wellington School,

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 20:05:26

We really want to be on the coast so we can make the most of it, well us and the kids.

Sleepyhoglet Sun 04-Aug-13 20:11:57

It isn't really the same, but minehead might be another consideration if you thought woolacombe might be to quite in the winter months.

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 20:17:46

It's tough, we want the beach life, but also the best possible education for the kids.

Gatita1980 Sun 04-Aug-13 20:47:33

Does anyone have kids at Kingsley?

MrsGSR Sun 04-Aug-13 21:19:32

Westward Ho! is quieter during the winter, but definitely not dead. There's been some new housing developments recently, in general people are very friendly to people who've just moved in.

MrsDeVere Sun 04-Aug-13 21:27:09

My family are all very beachy but live inland in and around Barnstaple.
They are all surfers/livesavers etc and spend all summer on the beach.

There are some lovely places just outside Barnstaple and they are 'open' all year round.

Gatita1980 Mon 05-Aug-13 08:57:37

Thank you MrsDeVere we only went to Barnstable once, maybe we should take a closer look, can you suggest anywhere in particular?

MrsDeVere Mon 05-Aug-13 09:07:13

Not really. I have not been down for a few years. There are so many villages in the area.

Its a big town for the area so a good place to start. I know nothing about private schools so am a bit rubbish on the whole smile

If I were you I would track down the schools
work out how far I wanted to be from the school and the beach
get a map and mark out a territory to explore.

This worked for me when I was house hunting years ago.

It cuts out so much faffing about.

Gatita1980 Mon 05-Aug-13 09:37:18

The place that keeps popping up is Kingsley, it's obviously a huge move as we are based in the East Midlands, but I would like to get the kids settled in a school where they can stay until the leave after 6th form.

Sleepyhoglet Mon 05-Aug-13 09:47:08

The numbers worry me. Only 47 pupils age 5-11. That averages only 10 pupils on average in a year group. That says problems with recruitment and retention. The small numbers of less than 300 for the entire school from 2-18 are shocking. They will have a very small budget, and morale may be low in the staff.

Of course, I don't know any of this for certain. I am just inferring it from the information in the recent inspection. I will read the rest if the inspection report now. It is good that it is from June 2013. Interesting that the school did not provide a copy on their website.

Sleepyhoglet Mon 05-Aug-13 09:48:35

Sorry, 350 for entire school, but is still very small.

Sleepyhoglet Mon 05-Aug-13 09:49:43

You know what? I'm not wearing my glasses today. It is actually 450 for the whole school! That is probably ok! The prep school numbers are still low though.

Sleepyhoglet Mon 05-Aug-13 09:57:30

I've skimmed the report. It isn't an 'outstanding' school, but it certainly has good features. I like the prospectus as well. I would go and visit it with the children and let them have a taster day. A lot of the good ins pendent schools are closer to Exeter, Dorset or somerset, so this might be your best option if you want to live in North Devon.

Gatita1980 Mon 05-Aug-13 10:18:11

Well spotted sleepyhoglet I will take a closer look

Gatita1980 Mon 05-Aug-13 10:21:47

I found the report on the school website, the numbers are low but my daughter currently only has 34 in her year where she is now, so around 16 max per class. You are right about needing to look around, my teachers head would need to have a good poke about.

Theincidental Mon 05-Aug-13 12:21:54

West buckland near Barnstaple has amazing facilities.

Shebbear college further south and in land also ok.

Blundells is probably the best. Or some of the ones nearer to Exeter.

Sleepyhoglet Mon 05-Aug-13 12:27:32

Ah yes,...forgot about West Buckland!

Gatita1980 Mon 05-Aug-13 13:32:09

Thank you, will go on the website

Gatita1980 Mon 05-Aug-13 14:05:43

It looks lovely, I will show hubby.

teacherwith2kids Mon 05-Aug-13 15:15:07

If I were you, if what youy are looking for is for your children to:
"continue to access the same level of curriculum and extra-curricular activities" as you say, I would look not only at the private schools in the area that you are interested in, but also at the state schools (and extra-curricular opportunities available in the community) to get a fair comparison.

The state: private balance of benefits varies widely across the country, so when moving between two very different places it is often worth at least a quick squizz at both sectors, just for information.

My children, as it happens, are being state educated. However, we moved when they were about the same ages as yours. Where we moved from, I was actively looking into local private schools as the only way to access an education suitable for DS in particular. So I looked at both state and private (and also at facilities for particular interests - football and dance being my DC's passions) where we were moving to.

As it happens, where I now live the local privates aren't as good as the state + community extra curricular options. That doesn't mean that the privates aren't fine - in fact they are very much on a par with the privates where I used to live - just that the state options are very substantially better and the extra-curricular opportunities available in the town and round about are great.

The are you are moving to isn't stuffed with nationally-known top flight private schools (there is nothing, anywhere, in the state sector to match the all-round quality of e.g. Winchester, so the balance is different when such schools are in the equation) so it may be that the balance is slightly different and you may find what you are looking for in state rather than private options.

(I am also interested in your wish for 3-18. IME, children really benefit from the changes in size, scopeand character of schools that occur at a transition, e.g. at 11, and it may well be that the environment that is absolutely right at 3 may be absolutely wrong at 18... )

Tiggles Mon 05-Aug-13 15:17:36

If you happen to be Methodists I would recommend Shebbear.
I really liked the atmosphere when looking around.

Sleepyhoglet Mon 05-Aug-13 15:58:23

teacherwith2kids. The stability can be a plus when you have two children. The OP probably wants Co-ed so the children can attend the same school. If there are not that many schools around and there may be some commuting she won't want to drive to a senior school and a prep school when her children are at different ages.

teacherwith2kids Mon 05-Aug-13 16:45:39

Sleepy - I suppose not, though children all over the country do exactly that because all-through schools that are excellent for all age groups are a relative rarity - with older children travelling by bus or other transport.

I do see the 'convenience' aspect, but it shouldn't over-ride the need for the best fit for children at each age group IF the primary concern when choosing private is excellence of education rather than childcare / convenience.

MrsGSR Mon 05-Aug-13 16:57:37

West Bucklands and Kingsley both have quite good local reputations. There are a few state schools in Barnstaple that used to be quite good, Bideford college has just had a new campus built but doesn't do that well in results takes.

Combe Martin wildlife Park and Paignton zoo are both near Barnstaple and are great days out for kids. There is a soft play Centre in Barnstaple that is great for smaller kids. The big sheep and the milky way are closer to Bideford and are also good. There is a good bowling alley in Barnstaple and a couple of local swimming pools that have a 'fun hour' on Saturdays with inflatable toys etc.

There isn't as much to do as some cities but there is some good days out around.

Gatita1980 Mon 05-Aug-13 19:19:50

teacherwith2kids I appreciate your comments, I also teach and I would like to give my children the most stability I can, along with the best education. I would of course move schools if they were not happy, I would also, where possible like to take them to school, at least whilst they are at Primary, after that I am happy for them to use transport. I would not consider single-sex schools for either of them and would like the continuity of the same school.

burnsie Mon 05-Aug-13 20:26:12

I would suggest coming down here and having a good look at what's on offer.

Also take into account the distance you will be travelling. When mine were in prep we used to do 30 mile round trips twice a day. Add the holiday traffic into the mix and the journey can be quite a challenge.

West Buckland has a wonderful prep and the most fantastic reception teacher.... My kids were very happy.

If you chose not to go down the private route then re are some jolly good local primary schools.

Good luck in your search.

Moving down here was the best decision we made.

Gatita1980 Mon 05-Aug-13 20:32:31

burnsie where did you move to? Are your kids still at West Buckland? My daughter starts Yr 1 in Sept and my son will be in Reception in Sept 14, are you keeping yours there for senior school as well?

burnsie Mon 05-Aug-13 20:49:37

Mine are now in Senior School (going into yrs 10 and 8) and are thriving.

We live about a mile from Saunton Beach and the school supplies a bus from our village every day. There are quite a few kids from Braunton who go.

Kingsley also supply a minibus from the village and has great facilities for children with dyslexia.

I'd suggest booking appointments with both but don't discount the local schools as a very viable option.

burnsie Mon 05-Aug-13 20:51:49

Do you know where you would like to live?

Gilbertus Mon 05-Aug-13 21:06:44

Why north Devon? It's pretty depressing out of season. Blundells is the only decent time private school imo

Gatita1980 Mon 05-Aug-13 21:13:37

Gilbertus we have fallen in love and have always wanted to live on the coast, we stayed in Woolacombe but may look at Westward Ho! as its closer to some of the schools we are thinking about. We will need to come down out of season as well to see how quiet it gets, but the main pull is the sea and the more relaxed way of life.

Gilbertus Mon 05-Aug-13 21:18:36

Are you in a city at the moment?

Gatita1980 Tue 06-Aug-13 07:53:15

On the outskirts, but have always wanted to live on the coast. It would suit us all as we love the sea and all the activities around it. N Devon has lots to do as well as the coast, so it seems like it could work, obviously our priority is the kids and their education.

Gatita1980 Tue 06-Aug-13 15:30:59

Gilbertus I used to live in London but would not do so again, especially with kids, so we are looking for a different pace for us all without compromising education or quality of life.

Gatita1980 Wed 07-Aug-13 17:50:18

If anyone else can help out here I would be very grateful, thanks to those who have already posted smile

IndridCold Wed 07-Aug-13 18:40:24

You have picked an area which is not well served for independent education. If you look at the Good Schools Guide website you will see that all the schools available in the area have already been mentioned. There used to be St Michaels in Tawstock, but it only went up to 13, and anyway it had to close down several years ago.

There is a bigger choice of schools in Exeter, but I don't think you would want that as a daily commute with young children.

One of the best schools in Devon is Mount House in Tavistock, but again it only goes up to 13, and would certainly not be commutable on a daily basis from Woolacombe.

North Devon is lovely, but I have always found (and other MNers can correct me if I'm wrong) that the narrow winding roads add a huge amount of time to any journey that, on the map, doesn't look that far.

Gatita1980 Wed 07-Aug-13 18:58:26

Very true, and with that in mind I have been route planning as I go to get a more accurate idea of timings. Many thanks for this.

IndridCold Wed 07-Aug-13 19:24:45

We moved down about 16 years ago (DH is from Tavistock). It can be important if you need to travel up-country regularly for work as DH does.

Of course it's swings and roundabouts, as it it precisely that (relative) inaccessibility that has kept the area so special smile.

FamiliesShareGerms Wed 07-Aug-13 19:38:29

West Buckland probably the best private co-ed school in the area, but there isn't a lot of competition, and West Buck is pretty remote (but served by good buses) and has lots of boarders. It's where I would send my kids if we were living in N Devon.

Kingsley is not, I understand, as good as the sum of its parts (the two single sex schools merged a little while ago - both had a good reputation but don't seem to have translated it into a new co-ed school, for some reason).

Home wise, if access to the coast is important I'd live in Braunton - although seaside towns are wonderful in summer, they are exceptionally depressing in winter, especially for older children. Bear in mind the amount of ferrying you will need to do as they need to get to extra-curricular events and the poor public transport - Bideford and Braunton are OK-ish for buses, but Woolacombe etc are pretty cut off. Braunton has some good state school provision that you might want to explore, plus easy access to a range of beaches.

Bear in mind that the journey times are not short (there is only one dual carriageway in N .Devon, and that has a 50 mph limit now...) and the branch line from Barnstaple takes ages to get to Exeter, if links to the rest of the country are important to you.

Sleepyhoglet Wed 07-Aug-13 20:03:48


Gatita1980 Wed 07-Aug-13 20:30:01

Thank you familiesShareGerms this has been very useful, we visited Braunton a number of times and enjoyed it and its atmosphere. I had noticed the transport links in the area are somewhat lacking, so this may well be a more practical place to look. As far as the surf goes I am sure we will go where it takes us, although I have always dreamed of living on the coast.....hmm

MrsGSR Wed 07-Aug-13 20:35:07

The link Road between westward Ho!, Bideford and Barnstaple isn't too bad, it's a 60 limit. Getting to some of the smaller villages is a pain though!

teacherwith2kids Wed 07-Aug-13 20:56:46


As this move is very much 'fulfilling a dream', I do think it would be worth trying the waters a little to see if the reality matches up before committing yourself. A week or two booked in November or late Feb, with the intention being simply to test out the reality of life in that area (supermarket shopping, a children's activity or two, even timed trips to proposed schools at appropriate times of day) would be a wise precaution before committing yourself longer term.

jojane Thu 08-Aug-13 01:43:28

We go from south Wales to ilfracombe in about 2 1/2 hours.
We often go down in winter for Xmas etc and although lots of places are shut down we always enjoy our stay but that is because we have lots of family and friends there eg MILs friends annual boxing day party etc etc. if we didn't know anyone there would be a lot less to do.

Gatita1980 Thu 08-Aug-13 10:56:54

teacherwith2kids I know what you mean, we are tied to school holidays and are away in the Oct half term, so maybe we will have to try the Feb half term and see if we can look at some of the schools at the same time. As lovely as Woolacombe is, the transport links are lacking and the roads are tiny, it may be that Braunton is a more practical idea with better access to larger roads.

Gatita1980 Tue 13-Aug-13 14:40:39

I wanted to thank you all for helping, we are going back down later this month and have even managed to get the Headmaster of one of the schools I might consider to show us around whilst we are there!
Watch this space smile

shonas Fri 16-Aug-13 13:34:25

Hi Gaita - bit late joining this thread but I have moved to the area in June (from Hampshire) and enrolled three of my children at Kingsley. It seems a fantastic school - very friendly and nurturing - with lovely parents and happy children. I wouldn't say it was a high pressured, competitive or particularly 'academic' private school - and it obviously depends on what your children are like and what you're looking for - but they have an amazing professional theatre, a dance studio, strong links to the rowing club and offer excellent opportunities in judo and gym (their other two strongest sports). Also a nationally recognised dyslexic unit and they are in the top five percent in the country for VA (value added). Hope that helps. Do get in touch if you want any further info!

shonas Fri 16-Aug-13 13:43:30

Sorry, spelt your name wrong! Also meant to say that there are pockets around here that do close down in winter (I believe Westward Ho! being one) but many other areas that don't and are thriving communities with lots for families with young children to do. In particular, Northam (little village just outside Bideford and about a mile from the school) and then Appledore and Instow - both at the mouth of the estuary of the Torridge river and three miles from Bideford. Incredibly pretty villages with good primary schools and much going on all year..

MrsGSR Fri 16-Aug-13 14:45:28

Westward Ho! is actually part off Northam. It's quieter during the winter but there is still stuff to do, both here and in the surrounding towns.

averyyoungkitten Fri 16-Aug-13 20:21:11

I have just seen this. I live in South Devon and my DC go to school there but I know North Devon. Can I put a word in for Kingsley School? Whilst West Buckland has a reputation as a better school (it is selective), you could do far worse than Kingsley. It will take you DC if needs be from prep to sixth form. Results are excellent.

The school was formed around 4 or 5 years ago from amerger between Grenville College which was opened in 1954 ( I think) as a boys school and Edge Hill which had been a girls school. However, both had been co educational for several years before the merger. Grenville was co educational from around 1994 when it merged with the old Stella Maris school ( a girls school founded in 1929 ). It was a while later when Edge Hill became co educational.

Edge Hill and Grenville were always in very close proximity . The back of Edge Hill being opposite Grenvilles site in Bideford. Grenville was a compact site which didnt allow expansion. Edge Hill had a good site. Edge Hill was on the edge of closure for many years one way or another.

Grenville was more stable but had a few accounting issues in the early 2000's ( or as someone at the time put it," The Bursar has up and left with the teachers pay". But they didnt go under. They were a Woodard School and a good one.

When they merged Grenville took its excellent teachers (and a special unit for dyslexia) and Edge Hill mostly gave them facilities. They became a Methodist affilated School ( which is what Edge Hill was). Its a good school. Most of the Governors are ex Grenville and that includes two ex heads.

The Grenville site is being developed for housing and money is being spent on facilities at Edge Hill. The current Head is due to retire soon but I wouldnt see that as a big problem.

I am biased, I went there. I would send my own DC there if I lived nearer. I will put the word in anyway.

Gatita1980 Sat 17-Aug-13 07:04:26

Thank you for this, I tried to contact Kingsley to set up a meeting but got no response, West Buckland replied in hours and agreed to see us. I will try Kingsley again to try and get a more balanced view x

Gatita1980 Sat 17-Aug-13 07:15:53

shonas could I ask what area you moved to and did you consider West Buckland as well?

fishybits Sat 17-Aug-13 07:16:36

DH and his siblings went to West Buckland. They were all very happy and all went on to RG universities and are doing extremely well for themselves.

Gatita1980 Sun 18-Aug-13 08:41:19

I was put off Kingsley slightly due to the very small size of it, but having read some of your messages, I will give it another look x

shonas Mon 19-Aug-13 07:42:48

We're in Instow - three miles from Bideford at the mouth of the Estuary. I didn't consider West Buckland purely because it is too far from us. Some children locally do take the bus - but it's a one hour school run each way which I just feel is too much. We could have moved inland to be closer to the school (because I have heard it's good) but wanted to live right by the sea! Also, I was happy with Kingsley - it ticks boxes for all of my children - and I feel, on balance, I'd rather they were rowing/surfing on the beach after school than sitting on a bus..

Gatita1980 Mon 19-Aug-13 16:01:44

shonas I have just set up a meeting at Kingsley for when we are down, so now I can compare them both and get the kid's first impressions!

HatherleighFolk Tue 20-Aug-13 22:01:00

I'd broaden your search. Bude and the surrounding areas are fantastic, as are Hartland and Westward Ho. Bude seems far better in winter than some North Devon areas. Shebbear College is the best independent school in the area, though not mentioned much here. Our daughter went there and was extremely happy. I'd definately give them a ring and visit there too. I think you'd see there is no better choice. Good luck..

Gatita1980 Wed 21-Aug-13 19:58:57

I might try that next time, we have some things and places to see already, I will bear it in mind though, many thanks

Gatita1980 Fri 23-Aug-13 21:09:19

Have I over-looked anywhere?

Lilliana Fri 23-Aug-13 21:31:57

Edgehill went co ed in 1991. I was in the first class with boys- all 3 of them!! I'm guessing I might know you can Jo as it sounds like you were there around the same time.

It's obviously changed a bit since then. I guess it depends what you're looking for but there are some great state schools that offer a wide range of extra curricular activities that would be worth looking at.

kalidasa Fri 23-Aug-13 21:54:02

Some of my family are at West Buckland at the moment and seem really happy with it, has served several quite different siblings well.

Gatita1980 Sat 24-Aug-13 14:01:53

We are seeing West Buckland on Monday and Kingsley on Tuesday

Gatita1980 Mon 26-Aug-13 21:17:51

Visited West Buckland today and I have to say we were all quite impressed with it's facilities, let's see how Kingsley fares tomorrow :-)

burnsie Tue 27-Aug-13 20:37:33

Hope the visits went well!

Gatita1980 Fri 30-Aug-13 15:43:39

Yes, thanks, I think we have made a choice, now we need to work out where to live! How far away from a school would you live?

jazzyjd1 Mon 16-Sep-13 17:48:52

Hi Guys
I have been reading your threads very interesting.
I too am looking to move out of the city to relocate in North Devon. I see there seems to be a lot of emphasis on state schools and was wondering if you have some ideas of the good state schools in North Devon. I have two girls a three year old and a five year old. I am aware that there is a Forest School in Clovelly (is it private). Any info would be much appreciated.
Many thanks

nomadwith2plus1 Sun 22-Sep-13 17:55:52

Gatita- Which school did you opt for? We too are looking at Kingsley/ Shebbear for September 2014 entry. Would really appreciate your opinions on both.
Hope your move is going smoothly!

Barwen18 Tue 11-Nov-14 03:07:36


I am new to mumsnet and the first topic I stumbled on was what school to enrol your child.

I would definitely have suggested West Buckland. It is a progressive school with strong leadership and the right balance of tradition. The facilities are excellent with a team of dedicated and approachable teaching staff.

The music department is second to none with an excellent director of music who is an inspiration to the students with her ability to motivate and her all round skill. Drama is another area where West Buckland bring out the best in a child. Not forgetting sport.

The school is forward thinking with outstanding GCSE and A level results throughout the years. See the tables for clarification on this point.

We looked at several schools for our son where he gained scholarships in each one of them but we finally decided on West Buckland and have never looked back.

Reception right through to final year in the upper sixth have been very productive including high academic achievement, music and drama not forgetting pastoral care.

Our son has never had a day when he has not wanted to go to school and that says a lot in West Bucklands favour.

I am sure you will have decided on a school for your child by now and hopefully it was West Buckland. If not you could always come along to one of the the senior school open days where you would be very welcome and your child would be accommodated for a day within one of the classes to give them an idea of the excellent activities that are on offer at the school.

Kind Regards,


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