Moving to Harpenden/St Albans

(51 Posts)
oneluke Mon 08-Jun-09 14:13:14

We have taken the plunge and decided to move out of central London to Harpenden or St Albans. There are a couple of threads which discuss the good schools, but as these are now a bit out of date, wondered if anyone has any advice? We are currently leaning towards Harpenden as a location. Primary schools are most relevant now, but hope not to have to move for secondary either!

Does anyone know which primary schools are the best/which are less well thought of? In particular, it would be good to know any thoughts on The Grove?

Also, does anyone have any advice about Hatching Green as a location compared to Harpenden proper?

CMOTdibbler Mon 08-Jun-09 15:19:36

Friends daugher is at Crabtree junior school, and is very pleased with it. Her now 15 yr old went through them too, and has done very well.

midnightexpress Mon 08-Jun-09 15:22:25

My niece is at Beaumont in St Albans and seems to be doing very well. She's 15, and took GCSE French 2 years early last year - got an A. And, perhaps more importantly, she's very civilized, for a 15 year-old wink.

Swedes Mon 08-Jun-09 15:31:57

oneluke - All three state secondaries in Harpenden are amongst the best state schools in the country. They beat a lot of independent schools resultswise and they aren't selective - other than by house price.

I live in central Harpenden and have had a child recently leave a Harpenden primary. Feel free to CAT me.

Good choice by the way. grin

edam Mon 08-Jun-09 16:02:34

I hear The Grove is v. good, people are keen to get their kids in. (Not my side of Harpenden so no personal knowledge.)

The only primary that is less than desirable in Harpenden is The Lea - not sure why as I don't have a child there, but am told by people who were offered it that it has a very high proportion of children with SN (one mother, who is a teacher, asked the head 'So how would you meet my dd's - not SN - needs' and apparently didn't really get an answer). N.B. I have nothing against children with SN myself, just reporting what I hear on the local grapevine.

Sauncey Wood used to be thought of as not v. good compared to all the others but it does seem to be improving fast, I gather. Tbh it would probably be sought after anywhere else, but Harpenden is lucky enough to have lots of great schools. And there's probably an element of snobbery as the catchment includes a council estate.

Ones that everyone wants are Roundwood, Wood End, St Nicholas's (CofE). Think Manland, The Grove, Crabtree, High Beeches are also good. St Dominic's RC is in demand but a parent I know took her children away - she was unhappy they were mixing reception/Yr 1.

Crabtree is fine, some of my friends kids' go there, although the last Ofsted said it was coasting after previous v. successful head left (previously had glowing Ofsted). And the (ex)treasurer of the PTA is standing trial for allegedly fiddling the funds!

edam Mon 08-Jun-09 16:04:01

Hatching Green is v. nice, btw, although you'd have to drive to the station. BUT not sure whether children would get into a good state school - suspect everyone who can afford to live there goes private!

Swedes Mon 08-Jun-09 17:37:51

Edam - I don't think there's anything wrong with the Lea Primary at all. Some people in Harpenden are just sniffy because it is catchment for Harpenden's v small council estate. If you compare it to the national average it is probably above average. The mother of one of DSa's classmates teaches as the Lea, I must ask her about the SN thing. It's probably myth.

edam Mon 08-Jun-09 18:06:25

Ah, I see. Suspected that might be the case. Have heard people being a bit sniffy about The Grove and Sauncey Wood re. the council estate thing. Although The Grove is now really in demand!

The mother who had the conversation with the headteacher at The Lea is someone who is normally a reasonable person (mind you, she used to teach at City of London girls so state primary probably not really her thing. She's also the person who took her son out of St Dominics. Both her school-age children now go private!)

verygreenlawn Mon 08-Jun-09 18:41:22

One of my neighbours teaches at St Dominics - now very much in demand, yet only a few years ago she tells me they used to fill the places with children from as far afield as Luton! Just shows how much things can change.

For the OP, if you see what looks like a very ordinary house marketed at a couple of hundred thousand over a near-identical house a mile or so away, you know the agent is whacking on a premium for the school. Beware! Just because the agent says it's in the "catchment" for a particular school, doesn't mean your dc will get in! You really have to be careful of falling in with the masses in this area in terms of what is classed as a "good" school - a friend of mine recently withdrew her daughter from Harpenden's so-called top primary and sent her to one a mile or so away, where she is happier and where (in my friend's opinion) the teaching is of better quality smile

pooter Mon 08-Jun-09 18:45:41

ooh Harpenden! DH and i really want to live there, but could only afford a garden shed - quite a spacious shed, but a shed nonetheless.grin

no advice, just jealousy envy - hope it all works out for you!

verygreenlawn Mon 08-Jun-09 18:47:58

Mind out for the old folk crossing the road there, though - it's the jaywalking capital of the South East.

No really I love Harpenden - where else could you join an organisation called SHAGS?

(South Harpenden Allotment and Gardening Society)!

Swedes Mon 08-Jun-09 20:00:08

Verygreenlawn - Harpenden has a very young demographic. It has a huge number of families with young children and few elderly people. You can get all this info on

verygreenlawn Mon 08-Jun-09 20:09:52

There may only be a few of them, but I swear they throw themselves in front of my car on a regular basis .... that bit in front of Sainsburys is lethal.

Swedes Mon 08-Jun-09 20:14:07

Verygreenlawn grin I rarely drive into town as we live v centrally.

cookielove Mon 08-Jun-09 20:23:16

Since no one has said about St.Albans, and i am 100% byast (sp?) since i was born and raised there, i went to garden fields as did both of my siblings, it is a very good school, i went onto S.T.A.G.S along with my sister and my brother to St.Georges in harpenden which are both very good schools as well. And there are lots of lovely primarys, in st.albans,

Swedes Mon 08-Jun-09 20:34:22

St Albans is v lovely too. But it has fewer families and fewer good family houses (and parking is always an issue if you want to live a reasonable distance from the station). And the schools are not as consistently good as Harpenden, but still v v good. A lot of people move from St Albans to Harpenden but I don't know any who have moved from Harpenden to St Albans.

OP - Are you moving from Belsize Park, Highgate or Muswell Hill? There is mass immigration into Harpenden from those postcodes.

Merrylegs Mon 08-Jun-09 21:04:04

What? St Albans has tons of families!

Ever been to Verulamium Park on a weekend? Heaving.

St Albans is v.v. expensive and Harpenden is v.v.v. expensive.

There is more 'to' St Albans in terms of town centre, cathedral, amenieties etc.

Harpenden is a more 'drive through and you miss it' kind of place (too many big houses behind gates!)

cookielove Mon 08-Jun-09 21:07:37

yeah i totally agree with merrylegs,

GreatGooglyMoogly Mon 08-Jun-09 21:14:13

I think Harpenden schools are even more oversubscribed than St Albans - something to bear in mind.

Swedes Mon 08-Jun-09 21:21:28

Merrylegs - Harp has more young families and fewer childless working young things. People from Flamstead and Markyate come to V park on a weekend. grin

JamInMyWellies Mon 08-Jun-09 21:22:20

I moved to Harpenden when I was 14 and attended Roundwood Park Senior fab school. O then went on to nanny in Haprpenden for 10yrs during this time I also did my training and subsequently worked in some if the Primary Schools. My knowledge of the following schoold id noe a few yrs out of date but anyway.

Wood End - fantastic school brill teachers. Great outdoor space they really encourage learnig through play and loads of outside activities.

Roundwood Junior & Infants again great had a bit of a facelift a few years ago.

Manland great school Lovely big classrooms did have a fairly large teaching staff turnaround a few years ago so not sure what the current staff are like.

The Grove - good school used to serve most of South Harpenden.

Crabtree really good, the head teacher there subsequently moved to The Lea I think to pull it up by its bootstraps.

The senior schools all have great reputations and do extremely well in the national league tables.

Dont really know the other schools. But I can say you wont go wrong Harpenden is a great little town have to disagree with theprevious posters drive through and you miss it. Great selection of resteraunts and pubs also good collection of shops. Rothamstead Park is lovely and the sports center has lots of childrens activites, a gym and swiming pool. Plus there is the tennis club.

Swedes Mon 08-Jun-09 21:22:59

GreatGooglyMoogly - Are you sure that's true. I've never heard of anyone who lives in Harpenden not getting a Harpenden school place. It's more myth stuff I think.

JamInMyWellies Mon 08-Jun-09 21:27:07

Clearly dont judge the teaching on my spelling or grammar am mumsnetting while watching the telly. grin

Merrylegs Mon 08-Jun-09 21:48:37

Yes. But Snorbens has...


(bigup for us STAGS girls, cookie! Please tell me it's not still known by the local lads as the LWH on the H...?? It's bin a long time...)

cookielove Mon 08-Jun-09 21:50:20

LWH whats that mean? i assume on the h means on the hill?

oh batchwood you gotta love it

JamInMyWellies Mon 08-Jun-09 21:57:30

Oh god we used to call Batchwood - Snatchwood and STAGS used to be called SLAGS <snigger>

verygreenlawn Mon 08-Jun-09 22:04:50

JamInMyWellies, we clearly used to move in the same circles! I remember Snatchwood and Slags! Anyone else remember Batchwood burning down "accidentally" some years back?!

We've moved between St A and Harpenden for many years now, really just comes down (for us) to the availability of the right house at the right time when we happen to be moving. Schools not an issue for us, I'm currently looking at another move to Harpenden as it happens ....

cookielove Mon 08-Jun-09 22:09:48

i'm sorry to form youthat stags is sometimes called whores on the hill, as is another school in st.albans

i'm to young to know about the burning down, wasn't it called kiss before it burnt down?

i thinki was 13 when it was set fire to

Merrylegs Mon 08-Jun-09 22:22:47

Yep - that was it: Little Whore House on the Hill.


Twas the local lads, thinking they was well funny.

Coz it was like a Girls' School

On a hill.

I know. Vile, eh?

(God, forgot about Batchwood and the burning!)

(Sorry oneluke, we have gone orf topic somewhat. As you were...)

Swedes Tue 09-Jun-09 07:13:39

Edam - Here are the league table results for The Lea Primary school which is widely regarded as Harpenden's poorest school]] I can think of lots of people who would find it perfectly acceptable. sad

And here are the league table results for the Grove school that you were raving about [[ their attainment results are v v similar.]]
And interestingly 13% of the Lea's pupils have SEN and over 30% of the Grove's pupils have SEN - so it would seem the rumour that the Lea has a high proportion of children with SEN is incorrect. I don't personally see what would be offputting about SEN anyway.

We are completely spoilt for choice in Harpenden for schools at all ages compared with eleswhere.

Swedes Tue 09-Jun-09 07:17:58

<note to self - do not make packed lunches whilst mumsnetting>

Edam sorry grin. Here are the links

the Lea Primary School

the Grove Primary School

Dearthworm Tue 09-Jun-09 07:18:26

Harpendon is just like mooncups: I had never heard of it till I joined MN, but on MN everybody seems familiar with it. There seem to be loads of MNers in Harpendon.

(Sorry for pointless hijack.grin)

JamInMyWellies Tue 09-Jun-09 08:41:23

Oh yes I had forgotten about the accidental burning down.

Vergreenlawn I wonder if we knew each other in a previous life. hmm

usernametaken Tue 09-Jun-09 09:42:15

The Lea is situated in a mixed catchment area but still a good school in comparison to the rest of the country...just not for the lot who live in Harpenden!

You can't go wrong with any of the schools in Harpenden.

EachPeachPearMum Tue 09-Jun-09 09:49:05

Lol dearthworm!

princessmel Tue 09-Jun-09 09:59:33

I remember the burning down of Kiss. I was supposed to go that night but went to a party in Harpenden instead! I don't think I knew the guy who's party it was...

We all had to go to Kudos and Visage till it was re opened.

I met dh in Batchwood a few years later

Went last year, on a whim after a Virgin Vie party and loads of wine...!! I felt OLD grin

There is a lot of 'friendly' rivalry between stA and Harps schools at 6th form age especially. Both are nice. I prefer StA, I've lived here for ever though so I would. Better toen for shopping, eating, mooching etc.

Sorry nothing about schools there grin grin

stripeypineapple Tue 09-Jun-09 09:59:48

We live in St Albans, on Napsbury Park anyway (some lovely houses for sale here...) just outside of town and my DD goes to Fleetville Infants which is good, we do have to drive there but unless you're RC the schools closer to here aren't up to much.

There's also Cunningham Hill Primary which has a cracking ofsted and a groovy purple uniform, they're a bit closer to us but they didn't have space because we joined later in the year.

I'm ever so pleased we moved to St Albans, it's a lovely town, I'm not familiar with Harpenden yet but I'm sure you won't regret your move whichever you opt for.

kkey21 Tue 09-Jun-09 10:14:44

And also wherever you do decide to go to-theres a fabulous very experienced babysitter who can get to both areas! grin

Both areas are lovely for their very own reasons. I have nannied in both for a number of years. I would say Harpenden is my favourite but then that maybe because i spent 4 years there nannying it became my second home!

Roundwood was a favourite school then amongst the Mums i knew, but my charge went private.

Clockface Tue 09-Jun-09 10:24:04

Just to throw something in...

I used to work at a state secondary on a deprived council estae in Hemel Hempstead. A couple of years ago (I think) there was a furore because a large-ish number of people from Harpenden did not get into Harpenden schools (overstuffed) and were sent to my school in Hemel instead. THey were not best please as you can imagine. I think mots of them managed to get out on apeal but that dose go to show how oversubscribed the Harpenden / Snorbens schools are.

Most of the kids on the Hemel estate whose parents have got the nouse get into the CofE school in Snorbs, Townsend. They go to church for three weeks when their dc are in yr 5 and hope to get in on that basis... hmm

Clockface Tue 09-Jun-09 10:25:06

BTW My nephew is about to start in the 6th form at Roundwood (having been through independent school thus far). He had to have an interview...cripes!

Litchick Tue 09-Jun-09 10:30:23

Clockface - would the school be AC?

Clockface Tue 09-Jun-09 10:30:50

Yup! grin

Clockface Tue 09-Jun-09 10:36:40

Jut to add - slightly tangentially - I have a lot of time for the Hemel school. It has some fantastic staff and some lovely kids. But there are a lot who come from v. challenging backgrounds and with much lower than average literacy / numercay skills (and general life skills).

I can see why parents would want for their dc not to go there because of that but being an idealistic socialist I do wish the state system was fairer all round and there wasn't such an obvious 'haves and have-nots' dichotomy of so-called comprehensive schools - which unfortuntaly is the same all over Herts.

Swedes Tue 09-Jun-09 10:39:18

Clockface - I think that's more urban myth if you live in Harpenden proper. I know lots of people who live in Redbourn who got places at Harpenden secondary schools so it wouldn't make sense that people from Harpenden proper get rejected. But I do know Wheathamstead and surrounding villages sometimes get allocated Welwyn Garden City schools which doesn't please them. And I have heard that years ago people from West Commmon and Hatching Green (which are not Harpenden proper) had problems with state school allocations. But I think that has been resolved.

Also Harpenden has a huge number of children who attend independent schools. When you apply for a place at a selective independent you also apply for a state school place as back up, even though most people will not take it up. Therefore at first allocation there are always a huuuuuuge number of rejected places at Harpenden state secondaries. We got allocated our first choice state secondary school and rejected it because DS1 was offered a place at an selective independent.

Clockface Tue 09-Jun-09 10:41:57

Three was one particular year when it all kicked off. I can't honestly remember when that was, and it was seen as an abberation.

I taught some kids there from the villages around, but never from Harpenden town. So maybe it was a storm in a teacup. Who knows?

verygreenlawn Tue 09-Jun-09 11:07:52

That's so true about the independents, they can drastically change the dynamic as people will wait to see what state school they get allocated. We were on the waiting list at Aldwickbury for ds1 - in fact we were miles down the list - but the head said we would definitely get a place after Easter once all the state school allocations had been firmed up. Sure enough the place came up at Easter (though by then we'd decided we preferred another school anyway ....).

QueenofHerts Tue 09-Jun-09 16:39:40

There were certainly a fair number of children in Harpenden (Southdown mainly, I think) without ranked secondary places this year. Same happens in St Albans too. Not sure what the situtation is at Primary level - but in central St Albans there are simply not enough primary places at the moment - there's stuff about this in the mnet local threads.

Remember that though Harpenden has 3 excellent state secondaries, one of them is a church school with a churchgoing requirement; so if you're not into church your choice at secondary level is more limited ... though many tend to miraculously rediscover their lost faith 2 years before application day. And lose it again 1 day after admission results day. wink

JLo2 Tue 09-Jun-09 16:45:09

I'm completely biased as I live in St Albans so I will try not to get into a debate about which is best wink The only thing I would say is the two towns have a very different 'feel' about them and the one that will suit you is the one that feels right for you. It really depends on what you are like and what you are looking for in a town.
Both have excellent and very sought after schools, although getting a place in them is the fun bit hmm I certainly don't agree with St Albans having fewer families - they are having to expand the number of primary school places because there are so many.

oneluke Tue 09-Jun-09 17:19:54

Thanks for all the advice!

Does anyone have any views on Redborn or Wheathampstead, both in terms of location and schools. Seems like you might get more for your money there!

Also, does anyone park at the station and know whether this works out ok (other than the extortionate cost). Is driving to the station in the morning practical or is traffic horrendous?

QueenofHerts Tue 09-Jun-09 17:31:28

Redbourn & Wheathampstead - lovely villages but you will have to drive to either Harpenden or St Albans for all facilities. May be fine when kids younger but more problematic when teens

Unless you plan on going private, a very high percentage of children from these villages do not get a ranked secondary school, and end up allocated a school in special measures in Hatfield, Hemel or st albans. Some do get a good school eventually, but only after months on waiting list. It's a big local issue and makes the news in local press every year.

There may be mnetters from either village who would give a better view on this and the drive to the station.

BellaBear Tue 09-Jun-09 17:37:21

I love living in ST Albans, but agree with what many posters have said re schools - it dominates the local press and loads of kids haven't got into any of their three choices (google Herts Advertiser) and been allocated a school miles from where they live

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