Leaving Islington for better schools. Commute Hampstead way or a bigger move? Anyone at St Christopher's / Pheonix / Highgate pre-prep - views?

(14 Posts)
dollyphillips Mon 29-Apr-13 22:19:52

DD1 18 months. Who knew you had to decide about schools this early!?

Not overwhelmed by state options in N1. have ruled out the private options (Gower and Children's House as the fees do not reflect their results / feedback from unhappy parents). If we are going to go private, we are keen to find an excellent prep school that will prepare DD1 for 7+ or 11+ (depending on the prep) so that DD1 can then apply to best selective state options or continue private (thinking City of London Girls, Channing, St Paul's for Girls) without the need for extra tuition etc.

Keen for views on good all-round preps and advice on how to secure a place.

How many prep places should we apply to? Is it worth the rat-race from N1 to Hampstead way for the better preps or move? And this begs the bigger question of whether it would be better to move out to St Albans / Herts way for better state and prep options.

We own a flat but are looking to rent a house - it is impossible to know where when we won't know where DD1 will get a place so looking at areas to maximise our chances of securing a good school.

Has anybody left N1 for St Albans / Harpenden / Berkhamsted? Regret it or was it the right move?

Any thoughts on preps / advice on the decision making process welcome. It would also be great to hear from anybody that left Islington because of the schools.

Thanks so much.

Farewelltoarms Tue 30-Apr-13 13:04:31

In an ideal world, do you want to start off state or private? If it's state, then really truly Islington is actually one of the better places to be, which I know runs contrary to popular wisdom. It's one of few areas without a terrible pressure on places and one of the best boroughs in the country in terms of percentage of good/outstanding schools. I wouldn't move to St Albans etc for a state primary unless you wanted to live there anyway (wh maybe you want to). My sister was rather surprised at just how much better my kids' school's sats were than her St A school with more affluent intake.
If you want to go state, you move to the right place before you apply because they select on geography. If you want private, then it's the other way round - apply, see which you get into and then move. I've friends who moved from N1 to Highgate, didn't get into Highgate school and now have the (as terrible) rat-run to Hampstead.
If you want to live outside London, then do it because you want to live there not because you think it makes sense for schools.
Your message seems to be conflating lots of different factors about how you see your family's life panning out. Perhaps if you unpick them, then you'll find it easier. Start by thinking off where you (i.e. you and your partner) would like to live, then move onto the schools. I think it puts too much pressure on education to move just for schools, especially since, at 18 months, you've no idea whether your dd will be a St Pauls type.

frogs Tue 30-Apr-13 14:20:12

There are lots of good primary schools in N1. My dd went to one of them, and not even one of the super-desirable ones, followed by an averagely good secondary school, and has an offer to study Oxford for this autumn. My other two are doing fine too, nice sensible kids who are doing as well as we could hope for.

hth

dollyphillips Tue 30-Apr-13 17:52:05

Thank you v much for the posts - really appreciated. And I do agree Farewelltoarms and probably should have added that a move is required as we are planning on adding to the family in the near future and will need to rent a house (we own a large flat but not enough space for an 18 month old to cause mayhem with a new baby too); this has raised lots of questions: where to move to be sure that we have good state / private options where you can still rent a house for < £1000 per week (Islington rentals have gone crazy!), do we want to be in an area and not have to move again (as v keen for DD1 to build lasting friendships and therefore don't want to uproot her completely at say the 11+ stage), are we ready to make a bigger move out of London and so on.

Can I ask where your kids go? Are you happy with the school? Where have you got in mind for secondary - the real issue in N1!

The decision has only become a difficult one as if we move to a house to be in the catchment area for one of the better state schools in N1 (want to move in next 6 months) we will be moving a few years in advance so the catchment area (and school performance for that matter) could change and we don't want to have to move again, so I have been thinking that it might be better to move to an area where there are a higher number of outstanding state primaries in near proximity - hence St Albans / Herts came up as most of the primaries do very well (based on SAT results) so it wouldn't be the end of the world (and we wouldn't need to move!) if we don't get our first choice. That said, like you say, it would helpful if we could make a decision about where me and my DH want to live and start from there!

This is mixed in with the vast amount of research that I have been doing with regards to the benefits of an excellent primary education (kids learn the most in their first three years of education), in which case my gut is telling me to not risk state, pay for excellent primary education, and then DD1 should (of course this is in no way guaranteed) fly through any 7+ or 11+ if we stayed private and be able to sit any of the selective state options - e.g. Latymer. In which case, it doesn't matter so much where we live now as we would concentrate on applying for really good preps like St Christopher's in Hampstead but I have no idea how you work out whether this would really be worth it!

I also agree on not knowing what type of girl DD1 will be to even be able to select a good prep, let along work out which secondary(!) so I was thinking of only applying to good preps with a reputation for delivering a good, all-round education with small teaching classes and great opportunities.

I am very keen to hear of any good experiences with N1 primary schools or higher and what your plans might be for secondary - getting the views of parents that next stage on is SO helpful!

dollyphillips Tue 30-Apr-13 17:54:12

Congrats Frogs. This restores my faith somewhat in N1 schools. Why do they have such poor reputations?! I don't understand why that is.

Can I ask you which school? And the secondary? V keen to know whether you had to undertake any extra tuition etc. to secure the Oxford place.

CruCru Tue 30-Apr-13 18:31:27

Hi OP. I started a thread called North London N1 - applied to too many schools and got some excellent advice.

Re moving - I have friends and family who moved to Harpenden, which seems to have a terrible schools problem. They have outstanding schools but nowhere near enough places. My friend helped to set up a free school there.

I don't know very much about St Albans.

frogs Tue 30-Apr-13 20:18:42

My older dc were in a school on the Hackney side of N1, we now live in a different area (didn't move for schools but for other reasons). But I'd be happy with most of the good primaries in N1 area - Tyndale, Canonbury, Hanover, Thornhill etc all have good reputations. Less fashionable, but I know people who are/have been happy with Laycock and Rotherfield, and I'm sure there are others.

FWIW I would not spend money on Gower or CH, make of that what you will.

I don't want to name the secondaries that my dc are at, as it's too identifying. They are not the obvious honey-pot selective secondaries, put it that way. But no, we didn't do any extra tutoring, though dd1 did do an Easter revision course for GCSE maths, and I'd consider doing the same for the other dc if they wanted to.

If you need the reassurance of knowing your children are on the private-school track and university, then make the appropriate arrangements to move, you won't be the only ones. But state schools are really not a jungle, the majority of students at RG universities went to state schools. Yes, there are some I wouldn't be keen on, but I know dc who've done well at Highbury Fields, Highbury Grove (when it was much less desirable than it is now), St Mary Mags etc.

Don't make the mistake of assuming the % of dc getting 5+ A-Cs equates to the chance of your dc getting that, because that's not what the statistic tells you. To look at the chance of your child achieving their potential in any given school, you need to look at the number of dc in your child's cohort who are achieving top grades. If there is a reasonable number of kids getting 9 or 10 A*/A grades, then the chances are your child can get those grades too. The fact that other dc are getting much lower grades doesn't really matter - that's to do with the nature of the intake rather than how well the school is doing by its high achievers. As long as there's a decent-sized group of children doing well or really well the odds are that your child will find like-minded friends and be helped to achieve her potential.

Farewelltoarms Wed 01-May-13 11:42:01

Hi Dolly my children are at one of the ones mentioned by Frogs as having a good reputation (it didn't when we applied, very undersubscribed, neighbour telling me 'oh nobody goes there', etc, etc). As for secondary, I'm undecided. I always assumed we'd go private, but the primary school experience has been so great that now I'm not so sure. The school doesn't seem to make as much difference to the outcome as you'd expect.
As to why Islington/'inner city' schools have such a bad rep, I can't say for sure. It's absolutely not born out by the evidence. It does make me ruefully chuckle when people say that they're moving out of London 'for the schools' since London schools absolutely whop most others. The schools here are definitely less middle class (one person said to me of the Gower School in comparison to my kids' school, 'well at least there are no children from council estates there I suppose', without any embarrassment) but given that the cleverest children in my kids' classes seem to be those that you'd never find in a private school (or poss in St Albans!), this isn't a problem.
Frogs speaks a lot of sense about judging schools on their stats.

Parisbanana Wed 01-May-13 14:19:34

Frogs puts very eloquently exactly what I would like to say and speaks so much sense!
Frogs you used to know me under another guise...name changed a year or so ago but you may recognise me smile
Anyway my dd went to one of the primaries frogs mentions (and ds now there), now dd is at one of the Islington secondaries she mentions! They won't necessarily get a huge huge % of children with the magical number of passes including maths and English, but that is because of the nature of the intake. There are children that have made massive strides and will achieve far more than anyone would've expected when they started out.
It is so true what frogs says about looking at cohorts...dd has a large group of like minded friends with similar abilities and they are all on course for 10 or 11 GCSEs with a large proportion of those being A or A*. They have a fabulous ethos in the school, and one of the things that starts in Y7 is Aiming Higher....they encourage children to aim for more than they might have done. So for instance, dd always assumed she would go to uni but maybe just a "standard" one. So they took her, and some others, to Oxford or Cambridge, with the idea that they could certainly be aiming higher.
The other opportunities in both the primary and the secondary have been amazing...in primary no end of extra curricular activities, trips, school journeys (holidays), all children have a year of learning a string instrument followed by woodwind, fabulous art provision....I could go on.
In the secondary, again a vast array of after school activities, an active music and drama department, school holidays all over the world. And when it comes to GCSE preparation, extra classes at lunchtimes, weekends, holidays.

I have never regretted our decision to send our kids to our local schools.
And I haven't even mentioned all the benefits of it being local....but you know those arguments!

dollyphillips Thu 02-May-13 09:50:58

Thanks Parisbanana. I am new to this Mumsnet world of different aliases and the like!

Really encouraging to hear such positive views of the state options - definitely food for thought. I need to book-in a few visits I think and assess them with what I have seen so far in the private sector.

Farewelltoarms Thu 02-May-13 12:45:26

I really didn't want to suggest turning this into a state v private because there's plenty of that already!
I just wanted to counter this knee-jerk 'got to get out of Islington for education' myth. There are plenty of reasons to move out of Islington (crazy rents being an obvious one) but don't do it just for schools.
I'm hearing a lot of angst from you OP (are you sure you're not already pregnant??) It all seems very confusing and all too dependent on other factors. I used to lie in bed thinking 'well if we move here, we could do this and our journey to work would be this' and go around in circles. In the end, all will be fine and none of it really matters as much as you think it might...

dollyphillips Mon 06-May-13 22:51:51

Not angst, just confusion! Too many choices being part of the problem.

I too have been lying in bed doing all of the 'if we move here, we have this state option and this private option and journey will be x', and you then realise that so much can change at every stage that it becomes very circular!

Agree that all will right itself in the end.....

newgirl Tue 07-May-13 19:19:31

Hi did that move 12 years ago! St Albans primaries are excellent but very oversubscribed - Catchments can be 200 metres and less as everyone does the same - moves out from London for the schools.

So do your research really well - you need to be near your favourite school rather than try to be in middle of lots as you won't be near enough. Rent in central St a about 2k for small 3 bed house.

wewontbebulliedanymore Thu 10-Apr-14 14:14:25

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