independent primary schools in and near Clapham

(71 Posts)
Chiana Mon 28-Jul-14 10:52:01

Hi ladies, been lurking for a while but this is my first time posting. DH and I are moving back to London next April after 6 years abroad. DS (7) and DD (5) are thriving in their current British international school, but those are the breaks. We own a home in Clapham, currently let out, but the local state primary does not have a great Ofstead report. We can afford to go independent, so we probably will.

DS is a quiet, shy, sensitive, bookish child, very very bright, so we're looking for a school that will push him academically while still having good pastoral care. I realize every parent thinks their precious snowflake is "sensitive" but trust me, DS really is. Thomas's Clapham or Thomas's Battersea are right out, if Mumsnet postings are anything to go by. They're supposed to be very pressured. If my impression of Thomas's is wrong, please let me know.

DD is a different kettle of fish altogether, fairly bright without being brilliant, and loves sport. Obviously it would be more convenient to have them both in the same school, but given how different their personalities are, I'm wondering if the same school would fit both of them. I'm not picky about single-sex versus mixed. I've heard good things about the Dolphin School, but apparently it's supposed to be quite religious, and we're atheists. I've heard Newton Prep used to be good, especially for gifted kids, but is now going through a "time of transition".

I have heard good things about Parkgate House. The prospectus makes them sound very nurturing. Also heard good stuff about Eaton House the Manor, but that's boys only as I understand it, so would mean finding a different school for DD. From a school run point of view, I'd prefer to have them in one school for convenience's sake, unless there are buses. Are there any other indies in the Clapham area which I've missed?

Obviously I'm going to get the Good Schools Guide and look in there, but I was kind of hoping for any observations from parents who actually know the schools in question as well.

Given that we're moving in April, I highly doubt any of the independent schools will have a mid-year place. The plan is to put them in the local school until the end of the year, and focus on applying to indies for the 2015 - 2016 school year. Another option is that DH may move to London in April, and the kids and me stay abroad until the end of the school year.

There is also the possibility that we could end up moving houses and staying within Clapham but getting a bigger house. So we could end up in the catchment for a great state school. My understanding, though is that catchments get tinier with each passing year.

Thanks in advance!

AuntieStella Mon 28-Jul-14 16:47:35

Eaton House has a parallel girls school, so you don't need to worry about admissions. It's a fairly trad school.

Parkgate House is smaller, and boys tend to leave after the pre-prep.

Have you considered the Roche?

Or Hornsby House?

soddinghormones Mon 28-Jul-14 18:17:32

The best private primaries sort of in that area are Hornsby house and Finton house - Finton is very girl-heavy after 8 but Hornsby is pretty much 50/50 boy/girl all the way through

Both v nurturing but will encourage and extend the brightest, lots of sport, music and drama

Much less pressured than Thomas's (either site), more modern than eaton house and big enough to have good opportunities for sport and friendship

Only problem is they're both very oversubscribed so may not have space but definitely worth a try

(The Roche is in Putney so not that convenient from Clapham plus the children we know who've gone there have been somewhat tricky characters to share a classroom with ...)

Chiana Tue 29-Jul-14 01:17:23

Thanks AuntieStella and SoddingHormones. Hornsby House and Finton House were not previously on my radar (not sure why), but definitely are now. I'll register an interest ASAP, if they're so oversubscribed. I'll put The Roche down in the "possibles" column.

I like the idea of a non-selective school that still gets pretty good academic results. DS is hard enough on himself already without DH and me piling extra pressure on him by insisting he take a bunch of tests for competitive entry at the age of 7. I know, I know, he'll need to toughen up in a few years if he wants to get into a good senior school, but I don't really see the point at this age. I know kids my own children's ages who thrive in high-pressure environments like that, but my kids not so much.

Saganoren Tue 29-Jul-14 09:58:45

You have a better chance of getting a place than you think if you make it clear to the school you're really keen, there is so much movement in London. My dcs are at a super-popular, selective prep but despite its apparently desirable status, children still leave for other countries or so-called "better" schools or because the parents have run out of money or realise however brilliant the school it's not worth a drive across London twice a day, all the time. And you're completely right that there's no rush to get into the super-selective/pushy system right now, children develop at completely different paces. Good luck.

ohtobeanonymous Tue 29-Jul-14 10:09:33

Newton Prep in SW8?? Could be doable depending on which part of Clapham you're in!

KingscoteStaff Tue 29-Jul-14 11:55:24

Yes to Newton Prep. Amazing school.

Chiana Tue 29-Jul-14 15:47:21

The commute to Newton Prep wouldn’t be super convenient, but it wouldn’t be super inconvenient either. And we’ll probably be moving house within a year of moving back to London anyway. If we had the kids settled in a school where they’re happy, we could always choose to move closer to that school. I wasn’t hugely keen on Newton, because it got some decidedly mixed reviews on Mumsnet, but if you give it a good recommendation, I’m certainly willing to fill out registration forms.

PPaka Tue 29-Jul-14 15:50:17

Oliver house?

Needmoresleep Tue 29-Jul-14 15:55:35

Reviews of Newton may be historic. Previous head was not to everyone's taste. Current head is now well settled and is generating some good feedback, as is the Head of Sport. Numbers staying on for Yr7 & 8 are on the rise and there is a good mix of destination schools.

One advantage is that it is close to two mainline ststions so probably just as convenient wherever you move.

Chiana Tue 29-Jul-14 16:26:01

Thanks for the good wishes and the good advice, Saganoren. You’re indeed right that kids develop at different rates and are ready for pressure at different ages. I will make it crystal clear to the admissions secretary that DH and I are super-keen. This is all sort of uncharted territory for me, because I was state-educated, and we left England when DS was toddling, so my only experience of the independent sector has been with international schools abroad.

You mention there’s a lot of movement even out of the very popular schools. Do you find that most kids leave at the end of the school year, or some leave during the school year? I’m wondering if there’s any point even getting my hopes up about mid-year places. See, DH’s work move is start of April 2015. He can’t move earlier unless he looks for a job outside his current employer (which in this economy, he doesn’t want to do). I’ve given my employer notice for March 2015.

We’re moving back to London because my mother is ill. It’s been suggested I stay abroad with the kids until the end of the 2015 school year, but while that would probably be less disruptive for the kids, it would be more disruptive for me. I want to be nearby, and I’d move a lot sooner than next April if I only had myself to consider, not DH and the DCs as well. So we’ll probably move end of March/ beginning of April and put the kids in whichever state school will take them, just as a temporary measure. However, if there’s any chance of getting one or both DCs into our indy of choice mid-year, we’d jump at the chance. I’m just wondering if it’s worth even telling the admissions secretaries we’re interested in mid-year admission, or if we’ll come across as too demanding. Sorry, I wrote an essay!

PPaka, I will look into Oliver House.

Needmoresleep, that's very reassuring to hear about Newton Prep. Thanks!

Saganoren Tue 29-Jul-14 16:58:48

A couple of children left my dc's school at Easter, so mid year is definitely a possibility and most schools would love to fill the place asap and most other parents would want to finish the school year at the current school, so you stand a good chance.

There's a lot of hype about how impossible it is to get into London private schools but it's just that - hype, so you'll be fine, especially if you're open to a range of schools.

Scoobyblue Tue 29-Jul-14 18:42:14

Mid-year places are definitely a possibility in Clapham/South West London as so many people move for work or move out of London. I'm sure that if you are flexible, you will find something suitable.

Scoobyblue Tue 29-Jul-14 18:42:20

Mid-year places are definitely a possibility in Clapham/South West London as so many people move for work or move out of London. I'm sure that if you are flexible, you will find something suitable.

Needmoresleep Wed 30-Jul-14 08:43:35

It is very common for families with Primary aged children to move from central London in search of larger houses and the option of good state secondary schools. One family moving can free up as many as three spaces within a school.

At the same time there is a movement in from overseas, with a trend for Russian and Arab families, to name but two groups, to base their families away from possible instability, plus the general churn of expatriates. So it will more probably be a case of seeing which schools will accept you and then you deciding which suits best. ("Choice" in London Private Schools is very often schools choosing you!)

I would write a "very nice" email to respective registrars explaining your circumstances, saying that you could wait but ideally would have a place as soon as possible. Do let them know that your children are academically able. Also suggest as best you can that they are straightforward, bookish, sporty etc, are coming from the British system, and are likely to stay for the duration. Not surprisingly schools generally prefer to take children who will settle in quickly and who will stay, thereby causing least disruption to the class.

You may strike lucky and find a school which has just lost a family or two and which has immediate places. Others may have long wait lists. Registrars are usually good at giving the right level of encouragement.

Then visit. Schools are very different and each has its fans. Its a bit like houses. You sort of know which one will suit your child.

Newton sounds like a good option. I would not rule out the Thomas' schools before seeing them. When looking round many years ago, Thomas' Battersea really did not appeal. However we have known some very nice children who were happy there, and they get good results. And put post codes in into TfLs journey planner. There are some weird train lines which can make schools in Wimbledon or Dulwich accessible to some bits of Clapham.

Chiana Thu 31-Jul-14 22:58:48

Good point that I shouldn’t dismiss a school sight unseen just because it has a reputation for being pressured. The reputation may be wrong, after all. I will definitely write “very nice” letters to the registrars of the schools on our shortlist, explaining our circumstances and doing my best to big up DS and DD as model students. I feel self-conscious about that part, I must admit. It feels obnoxious to be lauding my kids to the skies.

Do you think I should mention to the registrars that my mum is ill, or leave that out? I don’t want schools thinking the DCs will be under stress because their granny’s ill. Regardless, I will make it very clear that the move back to London is permanent, and we’re not going to pack up and leave again in a few years. We’ve done the expat thing and had fun doing it, but DH’s parents aren’t getting any younger, my mum’s ill, our careers don’t require us to be abroad anymore. Time to come home. And we will definitely tour the schools. I think you’re right, though. The school we “choose” will more likely be the school that chooses us.

soddinghormones Fri 01-Aug-14 09:45:40

Erm in Thomas's case I think the reputation is justified grin

Dd has quite a few friends there who are v happy but I wouldn't put a sensitive child in either the Clapham or Battersea Thomas's

Newton is fine - v big though and the location is very grittily urban

Oliver house is small and very catholic

Dolphin is small (significantly cheaper) and v religious but the v charismatic head has just left so the school may head in a different direction

Parkgate is teeny tiny!

Your other options would be to have them in different schools or head over to Dulwich as that's where a lot of children from sw11 will be going at secondary

Alleyn's is co-ed - the main entry points for the prep are 4+ and 7+ but like all London schools occasional places come up in other year groups. You could then miss the bun fight that is the London 11+ process ..

Personally I wouldn't put a sensitive child into Dulwich prep but your dd sounds like she'd be a perfect fit for JAPS/JAGS

Teds77 Fri 01-Aug-14 09:56:01

If you have not definitely ruled out state it would be worth seeing what might be available. You don't have to attend your nearest primary and there might be other options nearby that are worth investigating. There is huge pressure on places but, for example, my local and hugely popular primary is massively oversubscribed for reception places but I know of three children who were able to get places during the year in years 2 and 3.

Chiana Fri 01-Aug-14 14:56:33

Ah, soddinghormones, re: the rep being justified. DS is a people pleaser and a worrier. As he gets a bit older he's learning to hold it together at school much better, but when he gets home, sometimes he'll be in floods of tears because he's sure he's disappointed the teacher. Bless his neurotic little heart! On the bright side, he used to be worse. When he was 4 or 5, he was a mare to teach with the tears. We got the teacher to back right off, and we backed right off (when he was younger we were a little pushy because he seemed so bright). Now he's 7 he's somewhat less neurotic, which is good, because he used to get teased for being a crier. Probably not a prime candidate for Thomas's, though.

DD, thank God, is much less neurotic. I'm not sure I could cope with having 2 like him. I mean, I love him, don't get me wrong, but he knows how to bring the drama.

irisha Fri 01-Aug-14 18:25:26

What kind of secondary would you like for them - day or boarding? Leaving at 11+ or 13+?

Eaton House, for example, is 13+ only for boys, but 11+ only for girls unlike, e.g Thomas's where you can leave at 11+ or 13+ or Broomwood where girls can leave at 11+ or 13+. Northcote, on the other hand, only 13+ for boys.

From what you describe, I'd say Hornsby House would be perfect for both. Only heard good things and all the kids I know seem to be happy there.

Thomas's could be OK (or even more than OK) for your DD - I have not encountered Thomas's boys but tons of girls during sport (Clapham). If their attitude to sports is anything to go by, it's not really a place for a neurotic/sensitive child. A colleague's DD is at Thomas's Fulham - similarly pushy.

A good suggestion to look at Dulwich schools if you'd be considering them at all at secondary level - both Alleyn's and JAGS may have places mid-year.

I'd say that your chances of getting a place are pretty reasonable since you are not targeting reception. I wouldn't worry about Arabs and Russians - this is more of Central London/Hampstead phenomenon.

Chiana Sat 02-Aug-14 03:24:34

Irisha, definitely, definitely day schools. We have no interest in boarding. I’m sure it works for some people, but it’s not for us. As for 11+ versus 13+, we hadn’t given it a lot of thought up until now, because it seemed so far away. I suppose we should be thinking about it a lot more! DCs are at an international school here, and they have Arab and Russian friends.

Hornsby House sounds perfect, and I’m going to be sending a “very nice” letter to the registrar this weekend. Alas, probably lots of other parents also think it’s perfect, so we must have back-up plans as well. Excellent point that while Thomas’s is not the place for a neurotic/sensitive child, it might fit DD. She likes sport and isn’t remotely phased by pressure. I had hoped to send both DCs to the same school, for convenience if nothing else, but it wouldn’t hurt to apply to Thomas’s for DD. We won’t necessarily succeed in getting places for both of them at the same school.

And I should probably stop calling DS neurotic. He is, but sensitive sounds much better, LOL. And I shouldn’t make him sound like a total train wreck. He’s a nice kid in spite of his neuroses, truly. He’s bright, he works hard, he’s kind to animals and even to his little sister (most of the time, anyway. Not all the time). We could have a much worse kid, and he was much worse, when he was 4 or 5. We just worry that if we put too much pressure on him, he’ll regress to where he was a few years ago, whereas at the moment he’s thriving. There are still times when I want to murder him, but he’s made significant progress.

I will discuss Dulwich possibilities with DH. He’s agin places in Dulwich, for complicated reasons with which I won’t bore you, but we shouldn’t totally dismiss it out of hand.

We haven’t definitely ruled out state options, Teds77. I spoke to a woman at the LEA who was quite unpleasant (perhaps just overworked and having a bad day, but she got my back up), and said we’d have to take whatever the LEA gave us in terms of school places, and be grateful for it. Perhaps if I rang back and spoke to someone else, they might be a little nicer. I realise they probably speak to 100 parents a day, all of whom want the moon for their special snowflakes, but she was plain old rude.

Our housing circumstances are a bit complicated, though. We’re moving spring 2015. We have 2 properties to sell, our house here, and our old flat in Clapham that’s currently let out, before we can buy a house. We want to stay in Clapham because we loved it there and still have friends there. The current plan (though that could change) is to go into short term rented accommodation as of April, somewhere in Clapham. Then buy as soon as the flat is sold, which obviously means moving out of the short term rental, which could theoretically mean moving the kids to a new school if they’re in the state system. Depends on the school and how oversubscribed it is, I suppose. And the ones with good Ofsted reports all seem to be hugely oversubscribed. Funny, that.

Of course, the independent schools with good Ofsted reports all seem to be hugely oversubscribed as well. DH wants to go indy because he thinks it’ll be simpler, and we won’t have to worry about catchments or anything like that. I’m not fussed which system they’re in as long as it’s a good school. DH is a little bit scared of the state system, having been privately educated himself!

Greengrow Sat 02-Aug-14 07:27:06

Work back as most private school parents do - where do you want them to end up and which preps feed to those schools. Don't listen to reputations about pressure - it is often parents whose children cannot pass the tests for good schools who put about rumours about pressure when in fact the children in those schools are not pressured at all. We never found academically selective preps or secondaries which were supposedly pressured at all pressured once the children were there. Instead the school kept going on about taking your free time, doing your hobbies and tried to stop the natural internal pressure the occasional teenager feels from leading to too much work. (We are North London so no use to you on specific school recommendations).

irisha Mon 04-Aug-14 11:44:57

Don't bother about speaking to state schools now - they have no visibility on what the situation is going to be in Spring 2015. They can't offer a place for then even if it's available now. I forgot what it is - I think you have to physically take up your place within 4 weeks of it being offered or it goes away.

So with state schools you should call LEA just before you move back and rather than ask what's available, ask them specifically - do you have 1 Yr1 Place and one Year 2 and one Yr 4 (I made this up, not sure which years they would go in - depends on the date of birth) at the following schools: Belleville, Honeywell, Holy Ghost, etc (this is random - you will obviously have your own list of what's acceptable) and they are obliged to tell you and offer it to you. If wont' have to move the kids even if you move house - once you have the place, it's yours regardless of where you move to.

With private schools, you can start speaking early, but they given there is a one term notice, you may not find out until beginning of January if you have your place. Actually, the timing of your move would be quite good as the kids will have a summer term in a new school and can settle in and you can have playdates and the like over the summer and then they will be old hands by September.

PS my comment about the Russians and the Arabs wasn't meant to be negative, I meant that they wouldn't drive demand for school places in Clapham. Coming from living abroad and kids being at an international school, you may find some schools around Clapham a bit trad and not particularly diverse - Roche and Hornsby are probably among the more diverse ones (both socially and nationality wise) whereas Broomwood/Finton may be less so.

Chiana Mon 04-Aug-14 16:38:38

Work back as most private school parents do - where do you want them to end up and which preps feed to those schools. Don't listen to reputations about pressure - it is often parents whose children cannot pass the tests for good schools who put about rumours about pressure when in fact the children in those schools are not pressured at all. We never found academically selective preps or secondaries which were supposedly pressured at all pressured once the children were there. Instead the school kept going on about taking your free time, doing your hobbies and tried to stop the natural internal pressure the occasional teenager feels from leading to too much work. (We are North London so no use to you on specific school recommendations).

Greengrow, our dream senior school for DS is City of London Boys, for various reasons. However, it's a lot of other people's dream as well. Plus, DS is 7, and we already know that he's very academically able, but we don't know how he'll cope with being in a very selective senior school, stress-wise. He's very very hard on himself, and he used to dissolve into tears in the middle of class when he got too stressed out. Midway through his Reception Year we consulted an Ed Psych, who recommended we back right off and get his teacher to back right off. His behaviour has gradually improved (he's still a stress ball at home, but he holds it together at school most of the time).

We don't know if the waterworks are something he will continue to gradually outgrow (he's just finished Year 2) or whether he'll get worse when he hits puberty. Also, he's head and shoulders above the other kids in his class at most things, but he's in an international school with a mix of abilities and where not all the children speak English as a first language. So it's all very well for us to think he's bright enough and emotionally stable enough for CLSB, but it may turn out we have unrealistic expectations. I'm not trying to talk him down, just be realistic. In all ways except academic ones, he's a very young 7. And as for DD, she's 5. We really truly haven't given her senior school destination much thought, except to think she'll probably want somewhere that's at least somewhat sporty and she doesn't mind about pressure at all.

^ PS my comment about the Russians and the Arabs wasn't meant to be negative, I meant that they wouldn't drive demand for school places in Clapham. Coming from living abroad and kids being at an international school, you may find some schools around Clapham a bit trad and not particularly diverse - Roche and Hornsby are probably among the more diverse ones (both socially and nationality wise) whereas Broomwood/Finton may be less so.^

I didn't take it as a negative comment, Irisha, not to worry. I just meant if there were, DS and DD wouldn't be phased. Thanks for the tips re Roche and Hornsby. I haven't looked very seriously into Roche because it's a bit further away geographically than we were hoping for, but I will take another look.

One thing I was a little stunned by was looking at the leavers' destinations page at Northcote Lodge (Broomwood's brother school), they had first names, destinations and photographs of every school leaver. First off, most of them were going to boarding schools and we're not interested in boarding. Secondly, every single boy was white. My kids are mixed race (I'm White British, DH's parents are originally from Africa), and while I wasn't necessarily expecting to see a black kid, I was at least expecting to see one or two Chinese and/or South Asian boys. I lived in Clapham for several years, and no, it's not the most ethnically diverse area in London, but neither was I expecting an entire class full of white faces. It put me right off Northcote and Broomwood both.

Thanks also for the very useful tips re: dealing with the LEA.

Greengrow Mon 04-Aug-14 17:29:19

North London must be different. 85% of children at my children's selective private school are not white. My son is just about the only child on his sports teams photos who is white.

Our view was get them into the school you want as young as you can. My girls went to their schools at age 5 and then passed to the same school's senior school at 11+. I felt it was easier to get in at 5 than 11 when a lot of the state school pupils apply and it gives you two chances. Not all schools have a junior part however.

City of London has a 10+ entry as well as 11+. I took a steam at the gym with a lady whose son got into City of London last year. She got one son in at 11+ and the others 10+ which did not please the prep school but made things easier for the boys and their family. She was black (Nigerian originally) not that that is relevant to anything particularly. It's a good school. She was so relieved the boys had got in.

soddinghormones Mon 04-Aug-14 18:21:45

You definitely don't want Thomas's then - going on a tour there feels like you've strayed into the set of the Midwich Cuckoos ...

soddinghormones Mon 04-Aug-14 18:26:45

And yes, Xenia greengrow, south London private schools are much more 'white' as a rule certainly at prep stage

It's a bit more diverse at secondary but not at the co-eds which remain pretty homogenous - also lots of families around here are within striking distance of the Sutton and Kingston grammars which skews the intake somewhat

Chiana Mon 04-Aug-14 18:36:50

That's fascinating, Greengrow. Evidently we live in the wrong part of London, LOL! Not that we're planning to move to North London, because my mum and my PIL are within a reasonable distance of Clapham, my mum's ill and PIL aren't getting any younger. And the other schools I've looked at have seem to have a reasonable ethnic mix (based on my oh-so-scientific method of looking at the pictures on the website and counting the non-white children). Perhaps I'm misjudging Northcote Lodge and by some statistical quirk they just happened to have an all-white year. But it does seem a little odd, given the demographics of the area.

I was already aware that City of London Boys had a 10+ entry, and it was one of the many reasons we were intrigued by it. The prep school would probably not be pleased, and rightly so, but oh well. You can't please everybody.

That's a good point you make about getting them in young to a school where they can stay until uni. I looked at Putney High GDST but alas, they don't run a school bus and if DS will be at a different school, that could be enormously tricky. Streatham & Clapham GDST does run a school bus, though. Something for us to think about.

I was talking to DH about what you said about some of the very selective schools actually being quite chill and unpressured once your child gets in. He was very intrigued. We intend to aim high for both kids, but to have lots and lots of back up plans in place in case DS crumbles under pressure or DD turns out less academic than she seems now. And she is only 5, after all.

Chiana Mon 04-Aug-14 18:46:37

Interesting, soddinghormones. All you ladies are a fount of useful information! And I had to laugh at the Midwich Cuckoos! In fact, I had to turn my face very quickly to the side, to avoid spluttering tea on the laptop. New rule: don't drink any liquids whatsoever while reading Mumsnet.

Interesting to know that SW London preps are very white. Because SW London in general isn't that white. Whiter than many parts of the Greater London, admittedly. I hesitate to plunge my kids from their very cosmopolitan international school into an environment where they could be the only non-white faces. Hence me going right off Northcote Lodge.

Greengrow Mon 04-Aug-14 18:47:44

It's always hard to know what to do for the best. My girls have both graduated now and they never felt pressured at their schools. None of my children do but they seem to do a PhD in being laid back. I wish they were a bit more stressed over exams. It probably just depends on the child and the family.

I have heard so many times over the years by outsiders that my daughters' schools are very pressured and yet in the school there is none of that. I suppose if you had been tutored to an inch of your life and were not very bright and should not be there you might feel pressured but one hopes children like that don't get in.

Lots of back up plans is a good idea. My older daughter is slightly dyslexic. She may not have passed the qualifying exam to the seniors at her school so sat for others at 11+ just in case but then got in anyway and did much better in the seniors than juniors. Only 2 girls in her class including her had 4 English born grandparents which is amazing and says a lot about racial mixtures in North London and perhaps how people who come from abroad work harder than those who have never made that move.

irisha Mon 04-Aug-14 19:44:18

Northcote and Broomwood Hall ARE very white, it wasn't a one off. The reason is that both target boarding school as primary destination rather than day and not the most academic either - you won't see Westminster, St Paul's, King's College, etc on the list. Winchester/Wycombe Abbey would be one offs. Hence, the clientele - very trad/boarding background with 20/30% of "other" but not particularly diverse. There are some mixed-raced/international couples, but even they joke about being the "notional" mixed race couple. It's never been a problem thought, not at Broomwood at least, don't know about Northcote.

Finton is very similar.

Thomas's and Eaton House probably as well - mostly because of 13+ again and higher emphasis on boarding than, say, West London or North London schools.

Dulwich schools are more diverse - e.g. Oakfield is 50% multi-ethnic, this is all casual empiricism, nothing scientific - just looking at kids during matches. Similarly, St Dunstan's. Don't know why.

You just need to visit and see for yourself. North London is definitely more diverse - a friend was with daughter at Habs was looking at our yearbook and couldn't believe it. Theirs is like United Nations.

I think if you have a sensitive boy who needs nurturing he'd do better in a co-ed school. In a sense, you could put him into a state school if you can't get Hornsby or similar because if he is going into Year 4 the likelihood of having a place in any state school of your choice is quite high as a lot of boys in SW will leave after Year 3 "state till 8". A state school could be quite a bit more relaxed and you could do extra stuff with him at home by time of 11+ if that's what you decide to do. Wouldn't work with 13+. Basically, sort our the private options now, call LEA closer to the time re state and take it from there. You'll be fine - lots of people do multiple drop-off for kids as they go to different schools.

irisha Mon 04-Aug-14 19:52:21

Do look at Newton Prep - know a few people with DDs at Broomwood but sons at Newton Prep or boys who did lower school at Broomwood and then went to Newton Prep rather than Northcote.

Don't go by old MN threads - the school has changed and the new Headmistress is supposed to be very good.

Newton Prep not great at sports so may not be a good fit for your DD. Thomas's is very sporty - aggressive and hardcore though. They don't smile on the pitch, they are there to win. I think they actually have extra sports practice on Saturdays for A teams. Works for some.

At this year's InLine hockey championships at Alleyn's, Thomas's and Old Vicarage from Richmond got to the finals and every single school cheered for Old Vicarage - tells you something. But T's are head and shoulders above every other local school at sports.

Hornsby is good too if I go by results of school matches.

Chiana Mon 04-Aug-14 20:25:34

We are definitely looking seriously at Newton Prep, irisha. In fact, we've already filled out registration forms for it and Hornsby House, along with registration fees and carefully composed letters explaining our circumstances, and I'm planning on popping them in the post tomorrow morning.

Which is not to say we've stopped looking. We've still got other schools we want to apply to, but Hornsby and Newton are at the top of the list right now. And we're not giving up on state, either. We're casting a wide net, and hopefully we'll catch a fish or two at some point! Thanks.

Johnogroats Mon 04-Aug-14 20:47:57

We moved to Balham 3 years ago, and I had an extremely frustrating time on the phone with Lambeth and Wandsworth LEAs. They were remarkably unhelpful. I had the impression that I was not a priority because I sounded middle class. I emailed everybody...MP, Gove, Cameron....and that was what got traction.

We finally got the boys into state primary 3 mins walk from the house. 3 years on they are doing v well and are v happy.

If you go State, be persistent!

soddinghormones Mon 04-Aug-14 21:24:23

irisha that makes me laugh about all the other schools cheering Thomas's opposition grin

dd's school had a 'friendly' swimming gala against Thomas's Clapham - there was very little sign of 'friendliness' from the Thomas's contingent

dd's school had picked lots of children to take part and tried to give a chance to children who wouldn't necessarily get the opportunity to swim at galas out of school

Thomas's swam to win ... their best swimmers swam every event they could and absolutely trounced dd's school - but even some of the Thomas's parents were embarrassed by it all confused

Chiana Mon 04-Aug-14 23:04:48

Oh dear. DD might be able to handle Thomas's, but perhaps I couldn't.

Needmoresleep Tue 05-Aug-14 09:52:59

That was our problem with Thomas'. Years ago now, but DH wanted to flee half way through the HM speech at the Open Day. But that said, we know plenty of nice children and nice parents who were very happy with both schools, and if you are working back from City, Thomas's has a good track record of preparing children well. Worth a look, even to reject. Schools select, and they know the sort of child who will thrive.

From what you have said your son might be a good fit at Westminster, which caters well for the "quirky" ( a bit of a MN in-joke) and clever. The Under School has entry points at 7+, 8+ and 11+ and though kids will need to be prepared for the tests, the school will be doing their best to filter out the naturally bright from the over-tutored and so it might be worth a go. I agree with an earlier comment. Some schools may have reputations as hot houses, but perhaps only for those children who are either struggling to keep up, or who are ultra competitive and want to be top of the class. DS has really enjoyed being at an academic school. He is naturally studious, enjoys education and failed to notice any pressure.

My comment about the influx of internationals was meant to be illustrative. I was told, though cannot confirm the accuracy, that last year alone there was a net influx of 1,100 school age children seeking private school places. There is now a trend for private equity firms to fund new private schools, and for former sixth form tutorial colleges to start teaching younger age groups. I assume these decisions are market driven and based on figures like the one I heard. Observation only, but my guess is that schools just outside Central London (Thomas' Battersea, Newton, Latymer Prep etc) are seeing a higher proportion of international students. The Thomas' may appear to educate young Midwich Cuckoos but they have always seemed to appeal to European and American banking families.

Slightly sensationalist but the London Evening Standard article below gives some flavour of the increasing pressure on central London schools.


I would not get too hung up about how many visibly ethnic children there are in specific schools. DC's friendship groups have always included friends from a variety of backgrounds, and with a range of skin colours. It has never been an issue. Indeed at one stage DD worried that she seemed to be the only one who wasn't from somewhere. Again observation but when we were at the primary stage some of the private schools with a more traditional approach to education seemed to have greater appeal to Brixton's emerging black middle class, whereas we were looking for something with a lighter touch. So their school had a smaller proportion of black children than some others. On similar lines, single sex private schools are likely to attract more children from Asian backgrounds. City will attract a higher proportion of observant Jewish families than Westminster because it does not have Saturday school, etc. Choose the school that feels right for your children.

Chiana Tue 05-Aug-14 10:32:06

Good golly, Miss Molly, re: the article!

As for Westminster Under School, my instinctive reaction is, "But isn't that really posh?!?!?!" And my second, more sensible reaction is, "But how would we get him there?" DH would be working in Central London and could drop him off mornings on the Tube. It would mean a longer commute for him going via Pimlico, but it could be done. However, there would still be the after school pick up. After we get settled in, I'll be going back to work. We'd assumed we'd be hiring an au pair to handle wraparound care. But if we had DD in school in Clapham, and DS in school in Pimlico, no au pair can split herself in half.

Perhaps we should put WUS on the back burner for now, and look at it again for 11+. DS is definitely quirky! Thanks very much, though.

soddinghormones Tue 05-Aug-14 10:51:46

Don't panic!!! That article is way over the top ... Dd did 11+ this year and sailed through getting hefty scholarships everywhere she applied to and didn't have even a micro-second's worth of tutoring - I trusted her school (one of the ones on your favoured list wink to prepare her well - and they obviously did

Personally I think there is a difference in pressure at prep and pressure at senior schools. Dd is going to a v oversubscribed secondary where all the children will have been in the top maths set at primary level - that will be perfect for her now and I don't think she'll feel pressured at all but she didn't need to be drilled to within an inch of her life to get there which is why we went for a 'gentler' alternative

Needmoresleep Tue 05-Aug-14 11:07:42

I thought you might like the article...

It is not unusual to come across celeb or mega-rich children in London schools. It does not seem to have much impact. Some are lovely and grounded and a credit to their sensible parents. Others inhabit a different world and so don't really mix with those who have more ordinary lives. No need for DD to buy Hello magazine. She just follows the Facebook posts of some of her richer classmates.

Clapham to Westminster is an easy bus journey. Depends where you are but 87, 88 or 344/77 and a walk across Vauxhall Bridge. Also Dulwich schools have a big school bus service covering Clapham, and I think Dulwich College starts at 8+.

We had thought the same about Westminster, but its probably fair to say that it is a lot more clever than posh. There is a party element, but overall a willingness to engage in education is what counts. Being nerdy is fine, and DS seems wrapped up in the interests he shares with his friends (computer games being one) and pretty oblivious to economic, racial or social backgrounds.

11+ is a good entry point often used by children transferring from state Primaries. My own view is that 7+ and 8+ are too early, so only worth trying if a child is clearly top of the class with precocious English and maths skills. Intensive tutoring at this stage is too much for a young child, with the risk that the child is destined for a senior school which is not right for them.

SonorousBip Tue 05-Aug-14 11:28:05

Just an observation about diversity (my dc are at an independent prep a bit further SW than you mention but which plays sports against the schools listed). Their classes are very diverse, but it may not show up in a photo, IYSWIM. DS's class mates are variously Slovenian, Israeli, German, Canadian, American, Argentinian, Venezualen, Greek and South Korean - but only the latter will "look" different in photos.

Greengrow Tue 05-Aug-14 11:46:56

Ch, I dropped off child 2 on my commute to London. We actually enjoyed those tube rides together - we got a seat and she read to me from her school reading book. It did work. Then our nanny (I work full time) collected her by car in the afternoon.

Westminster Under should be top of anyone's list. It's the best boys' prep school in London.

On colour I don't think most children notice, even teenagers the age of my children although at that age they do sometimes discuss those issues. It has been fascinating seeing it from the other point of view - what impact it has on my sons being in a mostly non white private school (a school where they are very happy and doing well so it is not an issue in any way but an interesting reversal of how it often is in private schools.

Chiana Wed 06-Aug-14 02:39:13

SonorousBib, good point.

Greengrow, thanks for the tips.

Needmoresleep, thanks for the tips as well, especially the bus one.

My gut reaction is that I don’t want to subject a child of DS’s age to a big commute, even if we could somehow make the logistics work. I’d be a lot more comfortable with it at 11+. He’s also a shy kid who tends to make friends slowly, so I’d quite like his friends to be reasonably local to us. I don’t want another boy’s DM discouraging a slowly emerging friendship because she doesn’t want to play taxi driver all the way out to Clapham for playdates. We’d be willing to go as far as Putney (we’re also looking at The Roche School), but not as far as Westminster for such a small boy.

Also, DS is far from stupid. If he gets into WUS or similar and then proceeds to crumble under pressure and have to move to a different school, he’s going to realise that it’s a comedown and feel like he’s let DH and me down. Even if we tell him otherwise. There’s going to be enough of a transition next year moving to a new country and adjusting to a new school even if it’s local and unpressured. I’d want to stay away from anywhere conspicuously prestigious until he’s several years older and we’re convinced he can handle it. All of which is assuming he would get in, which is not a certainty by any means. There are plenty of other clever kids out there, and anyway, it’s not just about academic ability, it’s also about emotional maturity.

And I realise that WUS, for example, may not be particularly pressured to the right type of kid, and perhaps DS is the right type of kid. He is, after all, quirky, studious and not very competitive. But we pushed him too hard in Reception, and he fell apart. We don't want to push him too hard again. I'm not making any firm decisions without talking to DH, obviously, but my gut instinct is to wait a few years until we're properly settled in London and try to keep his stress levels low right now.

I feel bad making everything all about DS and hardly mentioning DD. But she’s much more straightforward to parent, and is unlikely to cry herself to sleep because she screwed up and disappointed the teacher. SIL has a theory that DD is going to rebel like crazy as a teenager, as a reaction to being such a level-headed kid now, and also as a reaction to us being preoccupied with her anxious big brother. I really hope SIL’s wrong but fear she may be right! That’s one of the reasons we’ve encouraged the sportiness. It’s something DD’s good at that DS wasn’t good at first.

Sorry, that was an essay!

Saganoren Thu 07-Aug-14 11:51:27

OP, you sound incredibly sensible. I totally agree long commutes are no fun for anyone, least of all young children. As I mentioned much earlier my dcs are at a very prestigious prep but a couple of kids have left because their parents thought a two-hour round trip each day was worth it for the prestige of attending this school and a year or so down the line realised actually no school was worth the stress and exhaustion. The schools you're targeting are good and your ds will stand a great chance at 10 or 11 of CLSB, which is a fantastic school. The boys I know there are lovely, grounded and also - incidentally - from a huge variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Chiana Thu 07-Aug-14 14:20:16

Why thank you, Saganoren. (preens self) You can talk to me anytime!

Spoke with DH, who is in agreement with me re: both the commute and the possible pressure. Now we just have to remember not to mention to my in-laws or my DM that we considered WUS and rejected it sight unseen. There would be howls of protest.

Anybody on here know what the sport is like at Streatham & Clapham High? Considering it as a possible option for DD.

I swear, Mumsnet is far better than education consultants! One of my colleagues, upon hearing that we were going back to England, said we should use a consultant firm and try to convince DH's work to pay for it as part of his relocation package. But I think Mumsnet is much better.

KingscoteStaff Thu 07-Aug-14 16:29:44

Newton has good record of getting boys into WUS at 11+ and Westminster at 13+ plus lots of other London Day schools.

Have you considered JAPS (JAGS junior school) for DD? Great sport + music.

irisha Thu 07-Aug-14 17:56:30

I personally wouldn't consider Streatham and Clapham. I know it's considered to be on the up and becoming more desirable but results aren't that impressive so far. An interesting indicator is that A LOT of their able junior girls leave to go other schools rather than proceed to senior.

Senior school is definitely considered a back up unless you live right next to it and you "might as well."

I struggle to see its value proposition and would certainly choose a good state school over it.

To answer you question, they are not great at sports as a whole school although some talented individual girls.

BTW, you should put your DD on wait lists for sports clubs, e.g. swimming, hockey, gymnastics - depends on what you want her to do, but please keep in mind that they are all terribly oversubscribed in SW London with long wait lists.

soddinghormones Thu 07-Aug-14 18:05:11

Agree with irisha about SCHS - something like 9 girls at dd's school this year got scholarships this year, some quite hefty, but not one of them accepted - some of them preferring full fees places at places like JAGS and Alleyn's instead

The school is actually very good at gymnastics but other than that it's not renowned for sport, especially in the junior school

Chiana Thu 07-Aug-14 20:04:29

Good to know re: Streatham & Clapham. We may pursue it as a fallback option, but it won’t be high on our list.

JAPS is a possibility, but not much more than that, as DH is strongly agin schools in Dulwich, and will only consider them as a backup. It’s complicated. Sigh.

Thanks for the great suggestion re: after school sports clubs and registering soon. DD is into football, karate and swimming, in no particular order. And ever since watching Sochi on TV, she’s been wanting to play ice hockey as well, but fortunately there is nowhere near us for her to indulge that particular passion. Of course, the useful thing about football, karate and swimming is they can all be pursued out of school time, so even if she ends up at a school where sport is backburnered, she can still do them. DH and I are quite bewildered, and occasionally wonder if she was switched at birth, because neither of us is remotely sporty. My late father was very enthusiastic about rugby, so perhaps it skipped a generation.

irisha Thu 07-Aug-14 20:29:12

For swimming, register with Leander swimming club - terribly oversubscribed.

Haven't seen girls playing football here - doesn't seem to be a big thing in England in general and in SW London in particular. May she'll want to try hockey.

There is Netball academy at Emanuel school).

Don't know about karate clubs, but it's a big thing at Broomwood, especially as they get higher up the school and do karate with Northcote boys.

Regarding switching at birth, I wonder that about my DD too, only the other way around - I am super sporty and used to do swimming and fencing at high competitive level, but with DD it's always pushing. Genetics is an interesting thing!

GetMeOut Thu 07-Aug-14 20:59:21

Luckily, you will even be able to indulge DD's winter Olympic fantasy at the new Streatham ice rink......including ice hockey smile

Chiana Thu 07-Aug-14 21:53:02

Oh, goodie. More activities for DH and me to drive her to. Also, just what I want my 5 year old to be doing: wearing knives on her boots so she can whiz around on a slippery surface while whacking other kids with a stick.

soddinghormones Fri 08-Aug-14 07:03:03

One of dd's friends plays football to quite a high standard (her dad is a coach!) - I think she trains at Barnes but could check the name of the club if you're interested

Hornsby do girls football

Unfortunately irisha is right in that many extra-curricular activities around here are hideously over-subscribed with long waiting lists so would be good to start getting your dd's name down on waiting lists before you move

soddinghormones Fri 08-Aug-14 07:05:15

Ps I'd love to know what your DH has against the Dulwich schools as they're all quite different in character

Chiana Fri 08-Aug-14 08:02:25

Have PM-ed you.

I certainly wouldn't mind getting the name of the club from you (via PM if you're not comfortable putting it in the thread). Barnes is a bit of a trek, but possibly do-able if there's nothing suitable locally.

Mind you, DD is only 5 and a half, so it's tough to say how talented she is at this age. We think she's good, but we're not sporty, so what would we know? She enjoys herself is the main thing.

Good to know re: Hornsby and getting on the waiting lists early.

KingscoteStaff Fri 08-Aug-14 09:42:54

Chelsea run holiday football camps in Battersea Park that my DD went to from about 5 or 6.

Also, check out Bedhead Football Club - they train in Battersea and have girls' teams from U7, I think.

Chiana Sat 09-Aug-14 00:49:44

thanks very much, KingscoteStaff

Schoolsearchconsultant Sat 09-Aug-14 20:22:44

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

soundevenfruity Thu 21-Aug-14 08:47:05

Has anybody mentioned Hill House? It's non selective with brilliant results and coed. High percentage of expats so there is movement in the year so might have places in April. Plus it's a lot cheaper than others.The only catch it's not in Clapham but should be doable. I talked to somebody who takes their child there from Wimbledon so theoretically it shouldn't be a problem with absence of local friends. For that you can put them in one local after school activity.

ivpet Fri 05-Sep-14 13:42:13

Hello,I just joined Mumsnet as I saw bad comments about The Roche School.....I have two children there and I can tell you that all other schools are far down towards Roche.It is simply one of the best school.We live in Clapham and my kids are in Roche-Thanks God!School is like a big words to describe how my kids likes school....and not only mine.So whoever said to put Roche down on the list of good schools....sorry that is wrong 100%!

ivpet Fri 05-Sep-14 13:43:53

Just forgot....please see latest Ofsted report for The Roche School-OUTSTANDING in all aspects!

shepsheep Fri 05-Sep-14 16:16:11

me and DH were in a similar situation as Chiana. we moved back to London in 2012 from Dubai and settled in Wimbledon. DH and I had been in Dubai for over 9 years so we were at a loss with which schools to send DS and DD to. We had a look at Harrodian - very nice indeed esp for DD who is very art focused. We liked Newton Prep and Thomas's Clapham as well but finally we settled on Godolphin for DD and KCS for DS. Incidentally, we had next to no support from our school in Dubai - they did not want us to leave given the fees we paid them!!! - very unhelpful, but a friend of ours recommended us to go to a Schools Consultancy with a company in central London. they were excellent and really helped us finalise our choices, especially as we did not know what options were open to us. Now DH has another job offer in Dubai but we are DEF not moving back!!

wandymum Wed 10-Sep-14 17:21:53

Don't rule Broomwood/Northcote out based on earlier comments. It is a very nurturing and friendly school and is becoming increasingly more diverse. DD has chinese, asian and black friends in her class. Also not true that boys don't go on to academic schools - e.g I can think of 3 to KCS this year from a year of under 30 kids and a couple go on to each of Eton and Westminster every year (St Paul's not a popular choice for some reason). Definitely go and have a look around: like you I have a very academic pushy 7yr old DS and a shy quite DD who is 5. Both love the school and are thriving there.

hoorayforsummer Wed 10-Sep-14 17:58:45

Wandy - I question your comments about Northcote (but not Broomwood). They didn't send 3 to KCS - they sent 3 to Kings Canterbury. Only 1 to Eton. None to Westminster since 2009. It is not a school that sends reliably every year to Westminster, SPS, KCS, Eton, Winchester (which is my definition of enabling the most academic boys to access the most selective schools). Very few go to day schools. Friends with DS there say you are signing up to boarding at 13+ (except for the 5% of so that go to either Dulwich or Emanuel - both Jan of yr8 exams). They also comment that it is not diverse and that the upper end of Northcote is "robust".

YakInAMac Thu 11-Sep-14 00:01:34

For a sensitive child, what about Rosemead? It might be too near Dulwich for your DH, but it is co-ed, very caring, children go on to good scholarship places at St Dunstans, and Dulwich College (amongst the kids that I know).

irisha Thu 11-Sep-14 10:30:15

Wandy - please get your facts right before posting. Hooray preceded me, but just to re-iterate, Northcote Lodge is NOT an academic choice. It may well be able to develop academic talents in a smart kid, but it's not why you'd choose it. You'd choose it for other reasons and then hopefully they will be able to give you support to prepare for an academic day school. But it's not the raison d'etre at all.

Nobody is saying Broomwood and Northcote are not good schools, but they will suit a particular set of students and parents - Northcote to a much larger extent than Broomwood, the latter is less marmite I would argue and is a great school if you are happy with the ethos/environment/parent set.

And as for Chinese, Asian and Black kids in your DD class, that would be very much an exception if true. I don't know a single black kid in Broomwood Upper school (may be one or two mixed race), nor can I think of any Chinese - may be one or two mixed race (for the whole school!), just a few Asians. Again, I am not saying it's good or bad, but let's not describe something as diverse when it isn't.

minipie Thu 11-Sep-14 10:47:22

marking place, as we'll be sending DD to one of these schools in a couple of years' time.

OP, you probably know this, but most of these schools have open days in October, around the same time. For example Broomwood 7 Oct, Hornsby 9 Oct (morning), Finton 9 Oct (evening). So if you can manage to be in London that week you could visit quite a few.

leeanedav Mon 15-Sep-14 10:33:57

I have heard very positive things from parents with children at Dulwich; the sports grounds, in London, is a luxury and also they go all the way up to 18

AuntieStella Mon 15-Sep-14 10:51:00

For a clever sensitive boy, it would be worth having a look a Kings College School (they run a coach service, so journey need not be an issue), and in parallel look at Wimbledon High for your DD.

legalalien Thu 18-Sep-14 11:49:48

Has anyone mentioned The White House? Don't know much about it, just that it is in Clapham (am thinking about the schools in our cricket team catchment...).

Happy to provide info on Dulwich Prep if your DH changes his mind. There are now a lot of children attending Dulwich schools from Clapham/Wandsworth/Balham, so playdates and lift sharing not really an issue.

legalalien Thu 18-Sep-14 11:50:39

Also if you are moving towards Dulwich,I've heard good things about the sports provision at Sydenham girls.

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